Monday, March 30, 2009

Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine

Books Written: Ella Enchanted, Dave at Night, The Fairy's Mistake, The Princess Test, Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, The Wish, The Two Princess of Bamarre, Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, The Fairy's Return, For Biddle's Sake, Betsy Who Cried Wolf, Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, Fairest, Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand, Ever
Notable Awards:
For Ella Enchanted (there are a lot so I listed some of the more "well-known"): Newberry Honor Book, California Young Reader Medal, ALA Notable Children's book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, ALA Booklist Editors' Choice, Publisher's Weekly Best Book
Dave at Night: School Library Journal Best Book, ALA Notable Children's Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, Publisher's Weekly Best Book, Book Sense Pick
For Fairest: School Library Journal Best Book, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, Publishers Weekly Best Book
For Writing Magic: Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts
For The Two Princesses of Bamarre: VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, Beehive Award
Books Adapted into Films: Ella Enchanted, starring Anne Hathaway
Her Niche: She is a fairytale re-teller. She takes the basic fairytales and spins them into something even more lovable and fun to read. Every time I've picked up one of her books, I've entered into a land of fun and adventure. Levine does a great job taking the reader into a faraway land, and paving the way for a fun, lighthearted journey.
Why I like her (a lot) and why I think you should too: Almost every book I've read by Levine, I've loved. I always know that if I'm looking for a good an enjoyable, quick read, she's the one I turn to. Even if you don't like retold fairytales, her stories morph more into tales about princesses and true love. Her books may be girly, but they are lots of fun.
Which of her books I've read: Ella Enchanted, The Fairy's Mistake, The Princess Test, Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep, The Two Princess of Bamarre, Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, The Fairy's Return, For Biddle's Sake, Fairest, Ever. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being "This book was sent by the gods for us mere mortals to read" and 1 being "This book wouldn't even make good toilet paper") here's how they rate:
Ella Enchanted: 4
The Fairy's Mistake: 4
The Princess Test: 4
Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep: 4
The Two Princess of Bamarre: 4.5
Cinderellis and the Glass Hill: 4
The Fairy's Return: 4
For Biddle's Sake: 4
Fairest: 4.5
Ever: 2.5

Laurie Halse Anderson is so COOL!

Me and Laurie Halse Anderson

So this past Thursday evening I had the opportunity to meet Laurie Halse Anderson at the King's English Bookstore in Salt Lake City. It was so much fun! It's a really tiny bookstore in a residential area (which was a little hard to find), and the store had just enough people to be cozy enough; I was surprised to see that not that many people were there. I guess I can't blame anyone for not following author's book tours like I do.

So I was in line, anxiously waiting to get my books signed (I bought Wintergirls while I was there, and I brought Speak from home) when finally, it was my turn. She signed my books, and I told her how I saw that on her book tour dates she went to San Francisco the Sunday previous, and I started cursing myself that I didn't live at home, when I saw that she was coming to Salt Lake, and I jumped for joy. I told her that I drove up from Provo to see her, and she got so excited and grateful that I came. I couldn't believe how genuine and honest she was! (Not like I think authors are selfish and are lying to me when they say they're glad I came to see them, but she was truly sincere).

The girl before me had asked Anderson what her tattoo stood for (it's a tattoo on the inside of her right wrist of the word "Hwaet" which is the first word from the first line of Beowulf). She told them this explanation, and that when it was spoken by the storyteller, it was a calling to others to listen- she said it was really painful to put it on so that way she won't forget it and will continue telling stories. After hearing her tattoo story I told her that I am currently in a Medieval lit. class and so recognized the meaning of her tattoo prior to her explaining it (because I'm just that big of a nerd).

We took a picture together, and then I went on my merry way (after telling her that her books are totally amazing!). I hung around the bookstore for a while more because I heard that she would be speaking a little bit later, and as I was waiting I started chatting with Sara Zarr (author of Sweethearts- which I've read- and Story of a Girl) and James Dashner (author of The 13th Reality series as well as the Jimmy Fincher series). It was a lot of fun, and the info that I gleaned from our conversations are thus:
  • Sara Zarr really likes Friday Night Lights
  • She's super excited when fans recognize her and start telling her how wonderful and amazing she (and her books) is (are)
  • James Dashner always meets his deadlines, and wouldn't dream of missing them
  • He tries to write 1500 words a day
  • He doesn't edit his writing as he goes along
  • As of Thursday night at the book signing, he had never read any of Anderson's books, though he planned on starting with Twisted and then planned on moving to Speak
I promise I'm not a stalker, and don't want you to think that I am by putting these facts up as potential stalker material, but I thought these tidbits would be fun to know, and would make the authors seem more personable.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joann Fluke was a good one. This is the first book in a new murder mystery series that I've been told is amazing (by my mother and my library co-workers). Last summer I started getting into mysteries once I started reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, and the Sammy Keyes series by Wendelin VanDraanen (both series are equally entertaining). Though it's going to take me a little bit more time to get into this series, just because they're new and I need to get to know the characters better. However, for the first book in the series, it was pretty delectable- pun intended.

So to get things going: Hannah Swensen is the oldest of three daughters and owns a cookie/coffee shop in a small town in Minnesota. And since this is a "chick lit" mystery, her mother drives her up the wall (what mom doesn't?), she lives with a cat, and is avoiding getting into a relationship (especially with men her mom sets her up with). Hannah leads a pretty ordinary life, and loves what she does, up until her milkman gets murdered right outside her store. Though this is good for business (everyone flocks to her store for gossip and comfort cookies), she's a little hesitant to turn her lights off at night at her apartment knowing she was the last person to see him alive. Hannah's younger (and slimmer and prettier and married) younger sister is married to one of the policemen in town, and since he's trying to make detective, he asks for Hannah's help to catch the killer (since she is their main witness, and she has a keen eye for observation). What proceeds next is a fun romp through Hannah's small town as she questions what seems like every resident, tries to avoid (unsuccessfully) her mother's phone calls, and deals with a nice-guy dentist that her mother set her up with.

I enjoyed reading Hannah's adventure- it was a fun mystery that wasn't predictable. It was fun to see her run around with her sister, hoping that neither one of them got caught in their nightly escapades. Plus it didn't hurt that there were several recipes for cookies (I made the chocolate chip crunchies- they were really good!). I'm definitely going to continue with the series, and I expect it to be as much fun, if not more so, than the first!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Notes From the Midnight Driver

This is one funny book by Jordan Sonneblick. Not so much laugh out loud funny (though there were parts like that), but situational funny that you're glad you don't have to take part in. I can't remember how it was that I came across it, but I know I saw something about it on amazon. This is the story about Alex, a decapitated lawn gnome and a old spiteful Yiddish man.

With the opening of the book, Alex has just gotten himself smashed on his parent's vodka, hops into his mom's minivan and attempts to drive to his dad's house to confront him about dating his third-grade teacher. However, one block after he's started driving, he ends up on his neighbors front lawn with a headless gnome underneath the bumper of the minivan. (I just have to say that when I read this opening paragraph I started laughing out loud, especially when the police man lets Alex know he's just decapitated someone and he thinks he means a real person- wow it was funny!) Obviously, Alex ends up getting arrested, and ends up having his day in court and is sentenced with serving 100 hours of community service at the convalescent home his mom works at- she chooses an ornery old man for him to "help" because none of the on-call nurses can handle him.

Of course this is a coming of age story, but with a funnier twist: Alex is one sarcastic and satirical kid and so his inner thoughts and monologue are very funny to listen to. Because he's so witty and gets away with lots of things, Alex makes excuses for everything wrong he does. Sol (the Yiddish old man) quickly preys upon this and "helps" Alex grow up in a sense (more like making fun of him until he bucks up). A connection is made between the two unlikely friends through their guitar playing and conversation, and Alex learns what responsibility is and what it means to be a friend.

I really liked reading this book for its general humor and charm. I did read it within a time period of 32 hours, so you can see that it kept my focus. It's definitely worth reading today, if you're looking for something fun and light.

Book Buying Obsession

I've decided to start recording all the books I've bought in the past month. Some of the book blogs I follow started this (though they do it every week), and I thought it would be interesting to inform the masses just how many books I end up buying every month. So, for March (thus far)...

From the Bookstore-
Sold- by Patricia McCormick
The Truth about Forever- by Sarah Dessen
Honey, Baby, Sweetheart- by Deb Caletti
A Bargain for Francis- by Russell Hoban
Madame Bovary; C'est Moi- the great characters of literature and where they came from- by Andre Bernard
Keturah and Lord Death- by Martine Leavitt
Wintergirls- by Laurie Halse Anderson

From the Provo City Library Booksale-
Dreamland- by Sarah Dessen
Water Shaper- by Laura Williams McCaffrey
Twice Upon a Time series- Sleeping Beauty; the one who took the really long nap- by Wendy Mass
Buried Onions-by Gary Soto
Sparks Fly Upward- by Carol Matas

Soon to be books owned by myself-
Chains- by Laurie Halse Anderson
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary- by Brandon Mull

This is a sad addiction that I have and I'm sure I'm going to kick myself later for buying all these, but sometimes you need a good pick me up to your day, and going to a bookstore to buy a book (or getting a package from is an inexpensive way to get some cheap thrills. Lets be honest- I could have more serious addictions that would cost me so much more.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Authors I've Met

So I realized that I haven't written about any of the authors I've met. So, here goes:

Meg Cabot
Orson Scott Card
Rick Riordan
Stephenie Meyer
Shannon Hale
Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Mull
Gail Carson Levine
Michael O. Tunnel
Chris Crowe- who was my YA lit professor
James S. Jacobs- who was my Children' lit professor (currently working on a Lloyd Alexander bio)

I'm going to meet Laurie Halse Anderson this coming Thursday in Salt Lake also. I am SO excited! I can't believe she's coming here, and that I'll get to see her. YAY!

Friday, March 20, 2009

3 Willows

So I finished reading 3 Willows by Ann Brashares last night (or I should say this morning). It's been in my stack of books to read, and since it came out fairly recently I wanted to hurry and get it read so that I could get a review up. When I say that I stayed up into the early hours of the morning to finish the book, that may not mean that I necessarily found so good I couldn't put it down. This would actually be the opposite. I thought it was okay. I probably won't ever read it again, and will most likely never buy it, which I'm sad to say because I love Ann Brashares. This was a disappointing start to a new series that seems too caught up in the rediscovering of friendship between 3 girls that it looses its charm (and my interest). I appreciate that Brashares has begun a new series, and so bravely after her successful Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but this one flopped. I had high hopes for this book and was so ecstatic to get a copy of it at the library, but found quickly why there weren't as many people on hold for it as I thought there would be.

3 Willows
tells the story of three girls who used to be good friends: Jo, Ama, and Polly. Each girl is doing something different for the summer - Jo is going to her family's beach house, Ama is accepted into an outdoor scholastic camping program, and Polly is contemplating modeling camp. At the start of the novel you realize that each girl has fallen out of their friendship threesome, and now only have awakward run-ins with one another. However, the way in which the stories tie together seem to promise a friendship reunion. Each storyline is unique and individual to the girl, but the only part of the novel that I liked was when one of the main characters ends up making a special connection with her dad. That was just about the only part of the book that I could relate to and that I found interesting whatsoever. This book wasn't my cup of tea, but who knows, it could be yours.

*Also, a side note, the original Sisterhood members (Lena, Carmen, Bridget, and Tibby) are mentioned (and one of them makes a cameo), and Lena's younger sister Effie has a small role in one of the girl's summers. It was really weird to read their commentary about how obsessed they were with finding an object, like the pants, that could help solidify their friendship. My policy on things like this is that authors shouldn't mention characters from their previous works, even if the setting is in the same town and school, unless they're writing sequels. It just doesn't work out- it makes the author look like they can't write/sell anything after their greatest success without mentioning it, and it just leaves that reader frustrated, especially if the current book being read isn't that great.

Something Cool...

So I meant to write about this last Friday, but forgot and then I had a crazy school week, so here it is: I got to handle a book that was from the early 1400's. It was so cool! For my Medieval lit class we took a trip to the special collections department of the BYU library, which has all the manuscripts and items that are too valuable and old to keep on the main floors. It was so cool to see different folios of old manuscripts, and actual items that were from centuries past. The book that I got to touch was a book written in Middle English from Toledo, Spain (the curators have no idea how it ended up in Spain) with the original leather bindings and gold-leafing. The pages were vellum (which is really thin animal skin), and on some of the pages you could see the remnant hairs from the fur. The book itself was at least 6 inches thick, though with time and wear it had become a little bit bigger than its original size. The subject of the book was a bishop's liturgy complete with almanacs and sundials on the front couple pages; the illustrations throughout the book were so detailed and small that it seemed like a Where's Waldo hunt. Some of the funnier illustrations included a dragon with a man's head, and a stork with a baby's head on it, which was quite humorous.
All I can say after taking that little fieldtrip is that I'm fast becoming a nerd when it comes to all things Medieval. Watch out Medieval club, here I come.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

E.L. (Elaine Lobl) Konigsburg

E.L. Konigsburg

I can't find an author website for her, but this is a link to her main publisher's website:
Books Written: Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth (all one book), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, About the B'nai Bagels, George, All Together, One at a Time (all one book), A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, The Second Mrs. Giaconda, Father's Arcane Daughter, Throwing Shadows, Journey to an 800 Number, Up from Jericho Tel, T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat, and Suit (all one book), Talk Talk, The View from Saturday, Silent to the Bone, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, The Myterious Edge of the Heroic World, My Father's Daughter
Notable Awards:For Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth: Newbery Honor Book
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: Newbery Medal, Lewis Carrol Shelf Award, William Allen White Children's Book Award
The View from Saturday: Newbery Medal
Other Awards: Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from Carnegie Mellon University
Her Niche: It's been a while since I've read her books, but from what I can remember, she writes about younger children facing their own personal problems, whether big or small. She does write for a younger audience (elementary-middle school) but I still enjoy reading her books today. I remember reading four of her books in one summer because they were so good (and seeing as she's won the Newbery twice, it's a no-brainer that her books are amazing).
Why I like her (a lot) and why I think you should too: Konigsburg has a way of capturing her audience within the first couple pages. Her characters go through personal adventures that ultimately help them grow up a little in the process. For myself, I attribute her books to summer reading because of two different reasons: first, I would walk to the library and read her books in the nice air conditioning before the walk home, and second, a lot of the time her books are focused in the summer months because she writes about a younger audience and that's the prime time for them to go on adventures.
The funny thing about my relationship with E.L. Konigsburg is that I never meant to pick up any of her books. My mom and I went to Barnes and Noble to get some books one evening; I wanted the Chronicles of Narnia books but my mom was hesitant due to the covers (go figure). She then had a sales associate help us find more "suitable" books for me and he suggested From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I never thought his suggestion would actually be worthwhile, but here I am, years later, and in love with her writing.
Which of her books I've read: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Second Mrs. Giaconda, T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat, and Suit, The View from Saturday (twice). On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being "This book was sent by the gods for us mere mortals to read" and 1 being "This book wouldn't even make good toilet paper") here's how they rate:
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: 5
The Second Mrs. Giaconda: 4
T-Backs, T-Shirts, Coat, and Suit: 4.5
The View from Saturday: 5
Obviously, Konigsburg's books don't disappoint.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book reviews are coming soon

Don't worry- I'm reading and will continue posting book reviews as well as author reviews, it's just that I've been so busy with school and work, I feel as if I don't have time anymore. Reading has kind of been on the back burner with having to run ridiculous amounts of errands, even though I'm trying to win this book race thing. My life is crazy busy. And I'm sure it doesn't help that I'm rereading items and not getting to the things that I really want to read because I'm trying to finish reading the series before moving on to bigger and brighter things. My life is so complicated.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A book marathon to end all book marathons

My speed reader roommate and I are having a book marathon this month. You may ask what a book marathon is, and frankly, I don't know; we kind of made it up as a pick-me-up for this month so that we can have something to look forward to each day. What we've decided to do is read as many books as we can this month (we made what we call a "batting" list- books each of us picked out for ourselves and each other to read). To get us started and fired up about it we went to the Provo library tonight and browsed the shelves for books we've read, or ones that looked good, and created our own stacks of reading material. Within our personal stacks are recommendations for each other, and 2 "required" books to read. To be a little more specific, here are the rules:
  1. We have until midnight on March 31st to read as much as we can
  2. To decide the winner of the marathon, the number of pages you read equals your points, and the one with the most points wins (obviously)
  3. You must read the 2 picked out "mandatory" books the other person chose for you from your personal stacks to be eligible to win
  4. Books that we're currently reading prior to the marathon starting count for our page count
  5. We take tallies of what we've read at the end of each week to figure out where each person is at.
  6. Prizes for the winner (most likely my roommate) will be determined at a later date
  7. (This rule is just for me) Post book reviews for each book I finish
The mandatory books I chose for my roommate to read are: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, and Whirligig by Paul Fleischman. Consequently she chose Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, and Capt. Hook by James Hart. We'll see how things square up. I'll try to post updates weekly so you can see what form my losing takes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins renewed my fervor in late night/early morning reading. Let me tell you- it's been a long time since I've read anything this good. Prior to reading Hunger Games, I felt as if I was in a reading rut. Almost all of my reading selection for a couple months previous to Hunger Games consisted of material that was "so-so" and felt like nothing special. Then this little book came along and it punched my senses alive. So to kick off this summary, here goes (it may get a little confusing though, but stick with it):

The best way to describe this book is that it's a combination of these key elements: gladiators, reality tv, and Lord of the Flies (with a little love story thrown in). I know this sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Collins did an amazing job of creating a melting pot of a story. So for some back story: Katniss (yes, that is the name of a girl, and try not to let her name send thoughts of "cat piss" into your mind like it did for me) is the main character living in a world of chaos. The story is based in a futuristic version of the US with the country being separated into 12 districts each monitored by the capital (set loosely in the Rocky Mountains) with the first district being the closest to the capital, and then the second next to that, and so on. Each district specializes in a certain occupation with the first district being the most lavish and the twelfth getting the lucky job of mining coal. Katniss is one of the lucky children living within the 12th district, fighting a rough war against starvation for herself and her family.

The world is like this and set up into districts that the government could care less about because decades ago all the people tried to revolt against the capital and stage a coup that backfired and resulted in the Hunger Games that is meant to keep each district in line. Every year the hunger games take place, which consist of a boy and girl ages 12-18 from each district being selected to compete on live tv to fight for their lives. Everyone is required to watch the games, even those whose children are fighting for their lives. The winner of the games is essentially the last person standing, and that individual gets riches and wealth not only given to their family, but showered upon their district for the entire year (which includes food-the most important thing for district 12 since they have little).

Katniss ends up being selected to participate in the games and is whisked to the capital to begin "training" for tv interviews, skill appraisal, and national appearances a week prior to the games starting. Since Katniss has had to poach illegally from the capital's forest for game for her family, she's skilled with a bow and arrow which ends up marking her a higher ranking contender for when the games are to start.

I don't want to give anything else away because it would give away too much, but know that this book sucked me in with its premise and the feelings of hopelessness and the struggle for survival that the contenders have. Collins is an excellent writer and did a great job of setting up an eventful story. Though the content may seem a little "adult" with the idea of fighting to the death, the story is definitely appropriate for younger teen or tween readers. I've recommended this book to anyone I can and I hope you pick it up at your local library or book store (though you may be put on a waiting list for it because it's being endorsed by Stephenie Meyer).

Joan Bauer

Joan Bauer

Books Written: Squashed, Rules of the Road, Stand Tall, Thwonk, Peeled, Best Foot Forward, Hope Was Here, Backwater, Sticks
Notable Awards:
For Squashed: Delacorte Prize for First Young Adult Novel
For Rules of the Road: American Library Association (ALA) Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults selection
For Hope Was Here: Newbery Honor Book

Other Awards and Honors: LA Times Book Prize, Christopher Award, Golden Kite Award, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Honor, Michigan Thumbs-Up! Award for Children's Literature, New England Bookseller's Award, Literary Light Award, Boston Public Library Honor.
Her Niche: Bauer does a great job writing about small town rural life. She is a great teen author that shows the "prettier" side of growing up in high school and coming of age for her characters. Every time I've read one of her books I've felt as if there's much greater hope in the teen world than I think there is. Not to be taken in a bad way, but her books could be described as "cute" and leave you with "warm fuzzies".
Why I like her ( a lot) and why I think you should too: Like I said, Bauer does an excellent job of writing about the small town rural and creating a great story. Her ideas are simplistic and basic, though don’t think that her story will be boring at all- her stories are full of depth and “life lessons” and are a lesser dose of a coming of age story. Bauer does a great job of connecting her main characters with a parental figure- most times it is a parent or relative that they end up connecting with, but occasionally the connection is with a figure that becomes a mentor throughout the story. Something interesting about her that kind of tells a little background of her stories: if she wasn't a writer she would like to either own a restaurant, make independent films, or be a pastor.
Which of her books I've read: Squashed, and Peeled. Though I've only read two of her books, I do own Rules of the Road and Thwonk, and I do plan on reading them in the near future. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being "This book was sent by the gods for us mere mortals to read" and 1 being "This book wouldn't even make good toilet paper") here's how they rate:
Squashed- 3.5
Peeled- 4.5