Friday, July 30, 2010

Author Event - Maggie Stiefvater

This past Monday (July 26th), I had a phenomenal opportunity to participate n the Maggie Stiefvater author event. Maggie was in Southern California for several book signings. Borders/Glendale (CA) had the great honor to host one of the book signings. The Glendale Borders has some great staff. Lita, Amber and Alethea had been planning for this for weeks. They had prepped by making lots and lots of paper cranes. For those of you who have read Linger, you will get the significance of the paper cranes. Janelle and I helped Alethea decorate the store with balloons and cranes. Here is Alethea with a string of cranes.

Thanks to a number of fans who arrived early, we were able to finish putting up all the cranes in time for Maggie's visit. Participants were also encouraged to bring fan art for a contest.

I was excited to have an opportunity to hang with the staff in the back while Maggie signed stock copies of Shiver and Linger. Here we all are just before Maggie went out to meet all her fans. (From left to right:Janelle, Lita, Maggie, Amber, Alethea, and me.)

Maggie did a phenomenal job entertaining everyone. She has these amazing stories, a great sense of humor and wonderful rapport with her fans. I wasn't able to figure out how to edit my video clip or I would have inserted it into this post. Imagine Maggie doing a "stand-up comedy routine." Yah, it was funnier in person. :-)

Maggie, Amber, and Lita were the judges for the fan art contest. There was art work, a film poster, edible art (cupcakes) and one fan even wrote and sang a song. She was really good (and brave to sing in front of everyone). One lucky winner won all 4 of Maggie's books. Isn't her work beautiful?!

Anyway, I had a blast at the signing. Not only did I get my books signed by Maggie, but I got a paper crane signed, and my ARC of Linger signed, too. Of course, I got to hang with new and old friends and meet one of my favorite authors. Here I am with Maggie and my friend Juli.

To celebrate the release of Linger, I am giving away my signed ARC (it has been gently read). You can read my review here.

To enter the contest please complete the entry form (<-- click here).

1. All entrants must be 13 or older.
2. International participants are welcome to enter.
3. You will get one entry for commenting about why you want to win a copy of Linger and completing the entry form. (Note: both are required to officially enter)
4. Ways to earn additional entries (and increase your opportunity of winning): Tweet this contest, flow this blog, post it on your blog sidebar or facebook page.

Contest ends on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. PDT.

Good luck with the contest.
- Aly

Monday, July 26, 2010

Flight Explorer, Volume I

Author/Editor: Kazu Kibuishi
Publisher: Villard (March 25, 2008)
Pages: 112
Reading Level: Grades 4 to 8
Source: Library
Rating: 4 Stars (Enjoy and recommend)

This summer I have been exploring the world of graphic novels and manga. Though I may have determined that manga isn't my thing (no offense to the 1000's who love it), I have come to really love graphic novels. I have been particularly on the hunt for good graphic novels to share with middle grade students. Flight Explorer, Vol. 1 by Kazu Kibuishi (editor/contributor) is definitely one of my favorite finds.

Kazu Kibuishi has followed up his popular adult graphic novel series, Flight, with this Middle Grades version. This collection of 10 stories are engaging, humorous, and beautifully illustrated. Though the stories do not appear to have the same connection to the theme of flight as in the version for older readers, the pieces each seem to have an element of adventure.

Two of my favorites included one about a young girl and a friendly monster who go out to explore a snowstorm together, and one about a boy (Cooper) and a dog who leap from giant mushroom top to mushroom top only to learn that they aren't mushrooms but something fully alive.

Kibuishi has created another graphic novel about Cooper and his smart dog which came out earlier this year and I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. I have also been working my way through Kibuishi's Middle Grade graphic novel series The Amulet as well which I would also recommend.

If you are looking for a series of graphic novels to engage and entertain reluctant upper elementary grade students, I would highly encourage you to check out Flight Explorer or any of Kibuishi's other offerings.

Grab a book, read, tell me about it...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fantasy Friday: Manifest

Manifest, by Artist Arthur

Published by: KimaniTru (Harlequin) (ARC)
Pages: 256
Reading Level: 14 and Up
Enjoyment Level: Medium-High

I’m very excited to review this book mainly because it’s one of the first imprints that (looks like it) will be exclusively for African American main characters in the teen market. I was more than happy to read the book and I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

From the publisher:

Fifteen-year-old Krystal Bentley is royally miffed. Why her mom had to divorce her dad and drag her from New York City to the middle-of-nowhere Connecticut is beyond her. She's never lived outside of The City and doesn't know what to expect. But there's one thing she never could have expected: the cute dead boy standing in her bedroom asking for help.

As she juggles being the new girl, resisting the requests of Ricky, the transparent dead boy, to find his killer, and dodging the demands of every other ghost on the planet, she can barely find time to hate her mother's new husband.

When she begins to think it's all too much, she finds comfort in a bizarre friendship with Sasha, a disappearing socialite and Jake, the telekinetic boy from the wrong side of the tracks. They both bear the same M shaped birthmark as her and the alliance of their powers seems to have a history that dates back to the 1700s.

But what are their powers for? Can they be used to get themselves out of the dangerous mess they're currently in, or will they prove to be more dangerous than anything they've ever imagined?

I did have some trouble seeing this character in my mind sometimes, but her reactions did feel natural to me. The author didn’t change Krystal’s attitude immediately just because she found out she had some new powers, which was nice to see. Often in YA, I feel like the characters don’t develop out of their depression in a way that makes sense. Krystal grew up in the right time and place. She may not be easily relatable to some readers, but she’ll be especially understandable for anyone who’s gone through parents’ divorce.

This also felt to me more like an exploration of character, rather than plot. There is a plot, definitely, but the mysteries are few and far between up until the last few chapters. I can’t even really say that I found a lot of places I felt were foreshadowing. The mystery of the birthmarks didn’t feel like part of the plot, either, but like the introduction of an overarching idea for the series.

So it’s not the plot that kept me reading. Not really. The mystery of the kids and their birthmarks overshadowed everything, and that, along with Krystal’s development made it all interesting. And I liked the resolution found for Krystal and her parents. The mystery of her new ghost friend’s death ended the book nicely and showed the three kids coming more into their powers.

Manifest will be out in stores August 1, 2010. Fans of fantasy will enjoy the urban quality and interesting premise. I definitely suggest picking this one up!

Until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review of Infinitus2010 and a Raffle!

I got back Monday evening from a fabulous vacation in Orlando, Florida! Last weekend was the much-anticipated Infinitus 2010 (by HPEF), and I had a great time.

The convention was held in Orlando this year to celebrate the opening of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yes, I got to go and it was fabulous! But I don't want to get ahead of myself here... I won't go day-by-day and give you a rundown of what transpired, but I do want to mention that my roundtable discussion on Thursday night was amazing and there were a lot more people attending than I thought there'd be (I was up against a few hours of Wrock, yikes!).

So as not to bore anyone, I'll just say that overall, I enjoyed the con, but it did have it's bad points. I felt (and I'm not the only one) that the con was overpacked with formal and informal programming. There were a lot of things I couldn't get to because it was up against something else I wanted to see. Not just in terms of presentations, but also some of the Wrock concerts and other informal programming. It was especially difficult when the overcrowded schedule also ended up with late starts. It felt more disorganized than the last two cons I've been to.

That being said, I loved the formal programming I got to. I saw some amazing papers presented by extremely talented speakers. I enjoyed the Wrock I got to see, and the ball at the end was very fun. Not only that, but I loved being in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter after the public (also known as Muggles) left. (I do have to mention, though, that I am extremely disappointed in the park people for keeping us waiting for 45 minutes in the sauna-like humidity before letting us in.)

Of course I met wonderful people and I loved being surrounded by (2400) Harry Potter fans. It's definitely not an experience I would've missed, despite a few setbacks. And the hotel was soooo cushy!

Now, at the end of the con (the Leaving Feast), I happened to end up with a broom at the auction. It was kind of unplanned, but I think I've made the best of it by having the cast of A Very Potter Musical sign the handle. It's a piece of fandom that is one of a kind, and I'm giving everyone the opportunity to win it!

Due to space (and time) constraints, I'm going to direct everyone over to the website where you can get all of the details. RAFFLE DETAILS HERE! Half of every dollar YALR receives in the raffle will be going to the Kids Need to Read foundation, so get your entries in and help support YALR and charity! Good luck to everyone!!

~ Vilate

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teen Fiction Tuesday: In Your Room

In Your Room, by Jordanna Fraiberg

Publisher: Razor Bill
Pages: 208
Reading Level: 13 and up
Enjoyment Level: medium

Another one of these random books I find while at Barnes and Noble. I wanted a quick book to read with a nice love story and I got it.

Molly and Charlie have fallen head over heels in love—even though they've never met Molly is a fashion-conscious city girl in L.A. Charlie is an earthy, mountain-biking dude from Boulder, Colorado. Each of them has big plans with their respective friends for the summer—until they discover that their parents decided to swap houses!

Luckily there's no amount of homesickness that a bit of snooping can't cure. Charlie and Molly begin crawling under beds and poking around in closets to find out a little more about each other—and they like what they find.

Can Charlie and Molly's long-distance romance survive jealousy, misunderstandings—and the thousand miles between them?

I liked that this was a different story. I hadn’t read any other books where two families switch houses and their kids fall in love. It wasn’t complicated or over-dressed; it was just cute. The author did a good job of making a weird scenario not so weird-I believed her. There were no surprises, just a simple love story and I appreciate that from time to time.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good love story!

: Thyra :

Monday, July 19, 2010

Middle Grade Mondays: Out of My Mind

Author: Sharon M. Draper
Publisher: Antheneum (March 9, 2010)
Pages: 295
Reading Level: Grades 4 to 8
Source: Personal Copy

Description from GoodReads:

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school - but no one knows it. Most people - her teachers and doctors included - don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again.

If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows... but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.
Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind - that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice... but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you'll never, ever forget.

For several years, I was a special education teacher working with young children with severe disabilities. Several of my students had severe cerebral palsy and others had Autism, or other Special Needs. I remember the challenges and frustration in trying to find a way for one of my students to communicate even simple thoughts or wants and needs. Also, I remember the challenges that the parents faced daily.

When I picked up Sharon Draper's OUT OF MY MIND, I was blown away at how she captured so many of the emotions, questions, frustrations, challenges facing children with cerebral palsy and the parents who love them. As I read Melody's story, I kept thinking "yes, I remember that" or "wow, that is so right on". Granted with any book that attempts to address these issues, there are some things that readers may challenge as not being portrayed appropriately, but I would have to remind readers that 1. This is a fictional novel and 2. Every child with a disability and his/her family has a different story.

While reading every chapter, I kept thinking that this book should be required reading for every special education and general education teacher out there. Though I think we are making more and more progress in addressing discrimination in many areas, I still believe we as a society still participate and support many attitudes and practices that enforce inappropriate stereotypes of children and adults with special needs. Draper has created an amazingly poignant story about discrimination and perceptions that still occur in present day. Her book will make you laugh, and cry. But most importantly it will likely make you think differently about a person trapped within a body that does not function with ease.

I highly encourage everyone to read OUT OF MY MIND. I have no doubt that it will be a contender for an ALA/Schneider Family Award (MG) for a character with a disability. This is going on my read aloud list for my students this fall.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chasing Brooklyn Contest has a Winner!

Congratulations to Vicky N. (@celeste576012)on winning the signed copy of Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder. Hope you enjoy the book. It is definitely one of my favorites.

- Aly

Monday, July 12, 2010

Middle Grade Mondays: A Place For Delta

Author: Melissa Walker
Illustrator: Richard Walker
Publisher: Whale Tale Press (June 1, 2010)
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12 years
Source: Publisher for Review

Description from GoodReads:
Joseph can hardly believe what he has been asked to do. His Aunt Kate, a wildlife biologist, is waiting for him at a research station and needs his help taking care of an orphaned polar bear cub only a few months old. He will leave his friends and family and venture to the farthest northern town in the United States. As the adventure unfolds, Joseph and his newfound Eskimo friend Ada find mysteries wherever they look. The bear cub, Delta, remains in danger. Who would want a polar bear dead? Joseph will have to look to the North Georgia woods to save Delta. When his parents were kids, they too embarked on an excursion into the unknown. Their encounters with the wilderness beyond their backyard have shaped the future for Joseph and Delta. A Place for Delta is about one family's journey—a passage born in the Appalachian Mountains and leading to the Arctic.

I have mixed feelings about this book. When I read books that are directed at Middle Grade Readers (Ages 9 to 12), I really try and consider that age group while I read it. I realize that what I enjoy as an adult reader of Children's and YA literature may not be the same as the targeted audience.

Let me start with the positives:
I really loved the concept of this book. Joseph, an eleven year old boy, gets to spend the summer in Alaska assisting his Aunt Kate in caring for a Polar Bear cub. While there, Joseph gets involved in solving a few mysteries including who killed Delta's (polar bear cub) mother. The book is divided into 4 sections and the time in Alaska is contained in Section II. Joseph's relationship with his aunt and the other members of the science team is very positive. Joseph also meets the niece of one of the local crew members and together he and Ada find ways to eavesdrop on people to discover information necessary to solve several mysteries. Their friendship and enthusiasm for detective work is a great aspect of the story.

Now for my mixed feelings:
There wasn't enough of the parts that I really loved. I expected that the book would spend most of it's focus on the time in Alaska and the mysteries, but it doesn't. There is about 45 pages of background history prior to Joseph's trip that is nice information but I felt slowed the book down and unfortunately this seemed to happen again once Joseph left Alaska and returned to Georgia. There were another 40 pages that seemed to focus more on telling the reader how a new environment was created for Delta but slowed down the pace. And yet, there was a great ending to the book.

Though I am not sure that I would have just picked this one up on my own, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to read A Place For Delta. Additionally, I think children and adults with a real interest in the effects of Global Warming, and Wildlife preservation will enjoy this story. My suggestion to teachers or parents who have a reluctant reader who might be interested in the topic of this book but might not be motivated to stick with the background information would be to have the child read the Prologue and Chapter 1 and then skip to section II to get into the heart of the story. Though I don't normally recommend skipping pages, I do advocate for creative ways to keep children interested in reading a book.

Overall I enjoyed the book, but would recommend it with some reservations depending on the reader.

Happy Summer Reading,

Friday, July 9, 2010

Three Viewpoint Thursday: The Summer Before

On Thursdays, Renee, Aly and I get together and chat about one book. It's always an interesting time, even if we don't always agree about aspects of whatever we're reading. We were split this week as we discussed Ann M Martin's pre-quel to the Baby-sitters Club series, The Summer Before. Please enjoy the resulting chat! (And my apologies that this Thursday post is actually on a Friday.)

Vilate: We're talking, today, about The Summer Before by Ann M Martin. The book is the pre-quel to the Baby-sitters Club series. It's actually our first official Middle-Grade book on Three Viewpoint Thursdays... What are your initial impressions?

Renee: Well, I usually don't read middle grade books, but looking at this objectively (and not in terms of my personal interests) I found it mediocre. There were some characters and situations that made sense and seemed believable, but others that were just boring or felt out of context. It wasn't terrible, and I did like some parts, but I just feel kind of indifferent to it.

Aly: I, on the other hand, actually read a fair amount of Middle Grade books. And recently just finished one that I loved and it was so well written. I'm not sure but maybe that really influenced me while I was reading this one. I couldn't tell if my reasons for not really liking the book had to do with not having read the series as a "kid" and having an understanding as well as an emotional connection to the book or if it was just awkwardly executed by the author. I feel like I need to reserve some judgment because I haven't read the other books. Unfortunately, the prequel isn't making me want to run out and read the BSC.

Vilate: Being the one who has read the series as a child, I'll of course be the one who loves this book a lot. :) I'm not sure I can see why someone wouldn't like it, but I'm certainly not unbiased on that front. I felt like it was a definite extension of the series and I got exactly what I expected from reading it. That said, I do think that it's more for those of us who have read the rest of the series, although I know that the author really hopes that it can be something passed on to new readers from old readers.

Renee: Part of my lack of enthusiasm was a lack of character development and exposition (which I guess, if you are already a fan of the series, you already know who everyone is and what they are like). I LOVE coming-of-age stories, so I really related to Kristy's dealing with her absentee dad and Claudia's first "romance," but I felt like Mary Anne didn't really have a voice or a story worth telling (in this book) and with Stacey being in NY for most of the novel, her sections always felt like a break from the real story. For me, some parts really worked and others felt unfinished.

Vilate: I can see that. Mary Anne doesn't really come out of her shell, though, for the first few books in the series so, for me, I felt that it was natural for her to sort of fade out. I also felt like Stacey's parts were a break in the flow, but I also felt like that was natural because her story was meant to be apart from the other three at the beginning. I understand, though, that it can be jarring or 'meh' to some people. What did you think about the four viewpoints in the book, Aly? Did you like one more than others?

Aly: I think with a prequel you should be able to jump in even if you don't know the story. Technically this is the beginning and we are talking Middle Grade fiction not something more advanced. However, I felt like the “voice of the characters" were off. I kept trying to imagine these conversations happening with the sixth/seventh graders that I know. Something wasn't working for me. I understand the whole - everyone develops/matures at their own rate - which is true - but something still felt off. And I did wish Stacey's character could have been developed a little more. Not knowing the series I can't say whether it would have been better to start it more when she arrived rather than while she was still in NYC? *shrugs*

Aly: And I also liked the issues that the girls were struggling with in terms of Kristy and her dad or Claudia and boys - which are very realistic. Though Mary Anne and her father seemed strange. It seemed somewhat 1950's - ish. I wanted to like it but after reading several other MG novels that were so much better developed I had a hard time with this one. It was simple enough to read but maybe that was part of the problem.

Renee: I agree... The "voices" didn't always seem age appropriate, and they weren't always distinguishable from one another. I find that when there is alternating first person POV separating each voice is usually a problem, unless there is a guy and a girl...

Vilate: I'll admit that I'm disappointed that the two of you didn't enjoy the story more. Since I'm not able to separate this book from the others, I can just say that I felt that the characters stayed true to form with the rest of the series. Granted, there was a lot of growth for them over the course of the 100+ books, but this starting-off point jives with the first four books in the series. I liked seeing the four girls in their different stages of development, and I liked seeing them work out some of their issues here.

Vilate: Kristy was never my favorite sitter, but I felt more connected to her in this book and I thought her story was pretty strong. Mary Anne was always my favorite and seeing her starting-off point was great for me, but it was rather frustrating at parts. Claudia and I never got along as well as I read the other books, so she did annoy me a little in this one, although I still liked reading her views. Stacey was my other favorite and I definitely felt some empathy towards her situation

Aly: I wondered as I was reading it if I would see Nancy Drew differently today if I went back to read the original books. I also wonder if an adult just picked up a Nancy Drew book and hadn't read it as a 9 year old girl would they think "OMG, this is horrible". So I knew that going into this book that I might have a strange reaction. I also read the reviews on GoodReads because I was curious to see what people thought. Most of the people who read it as children (which were all the reviewers) loved the BSC and hence loved this book. However, a few of them did seem to be able to look at this one more objectively and questioned the writing.

Aly: Overall though I think most of the readers connected back with the series that they loved and I think in that way the author did her job. And I could see how as a 9 or 10 year old girl you might love these books. And find certain ones that you connect with - either because of their personality or because of the issues that they struggled with.

Aly: Just curious, did the girls age in the series or did they stay in Middle School?

Vilate: They aged over 7th and 8th grade, but after a certain point, they really just stayed in 8th grade until the last book in the series. They were in 8th for 90% of the series, I'd say. Which Ann Martin commented on when I interviewed her. I remember thinking it was weird, but as a child I liked the series too much to worry about it.

Renee: I think the personality of some characters and their stories did endear the story to "outsiders" of the BSC fan base, but I agree with Aly that having no emotional connection to the phenomena of the Baby Sitter's Club, I couldn't appreciate it to its max. (I know personally I have revisited some childhood TV shows and books this summer that seem completely foreign to me now, esp. since I usually read stories with characters at least 15/16 years old).

Aly: You were saying that it was weird that they stayed in 8th grade for 90% of the series...think about this...Nancy Drew has been 18 for 80 years with the same boyfriend too. :)

Vilate: lol! I know there are plenty of series that have the same thing about age. Honestly, I've re-read the books (especially a few of my favorites) as an adult and I still really enjoy them. But I think we've pretty much covered what we thought about plot/characters/etc., for this book. I'll give this over to final thoughts, and would you recommend the book to anyone? I think you know that I'd be more than willing to give this out to middle-graders.

Renee: Sure. If you are a fan of middle-grade books and series like THE SISTERHOOD OF TRAVELING PANTS (Ann Brashares) or the THE INTERNET GIRLS series (Lauren Myracle) books or any of Jaclyn Moriarty’s stuff, I think I might recommend it.

Aly: Oh, I can see where girls who like this type of story would love this especially if they already have read some of the books in the BSC series. So I would still pass it on. With 9 to 12 year olds, anything that gets them reading and pulls them in is fine by me.

Vilate: It's great to hear that. Great chat tonight!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Forgive My Fins Contest Winner

We did the contest a little differently this time around. Everyone who entered had to give a brief paragraph about what they'd be like as a mermaid. So first of all, thanks to everyone who participated! I had a tough time deciding which paragraph to feature, but I did find a winner.

Congratulations to Erin, aka Little Dhampir91! And for everyone's enjoyment, here's her winning entry all about what she'd be like as a mermaid:

If I were a mermaid, I would mostly likely be the adventurous one under the sea. You would always find me exploring the deeper depths of shipwrecks, seeking for long lost treasure that once belonged to some explorer and/or someone important, and also go to great lengths to see a whole new, forbidden world beyond the waters – such as human land. In other words, I’d be exactly like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, wanting to know as much as I can about the mermaid and human worlds.

Thanks again, Erin and congrats! We hope you enjoy reading Forgive My Fins.

~ Vilate

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: Chasing Brooklyn

Author: Lisa Schroeder
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (January 10, 2010)
Pages: 412
Reading Level: YA
Source: Own

Description from GoodReads:
Restless souls and empty hearts.

Brooklyn can’t sleep. Her boyfriend, Lucca died a year ago, and now their friend Gabe has died of an overdose. Every time she closes her eyes, Gabe's ghost is there, waiting for her. She has no idea what he wants or why it isn't Lucca chasing her through her dreams.

Nico can’t stop. He’s always running, trying so hard not to feel the pain of missing Lucca. But when he begins receiving messages from his dead brother, telling him to help Brooklyn, emotions come crashing to the surface.

As the nightmares escalate and the messages become relentless, Nico reaches out to Brooklyn. But neither of them can admit that they're being haunted. Until they learn to let each other in, not one soul will be able to rest.

A few months ago I read and reviewed Lisa Schroeder’s IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES. You can read my review here. I had her YA books I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME and FAR FROM YOU and CHASING BROOKLYN on my TBR list. In preparation for her book signing at Vroman’s (check out my post on her visit here), I delved into I HEART YOU and found myself completely absorbed in Ava’s story. It was my first novel in verse and I had been hesitant to read “novels in verse” before since I tend to really not like poetry. Yet Schroeder managed to capture the emotions and mood with amazing clarity and depth. I wanted to go around handing out copies of it because it was such a powerful little story.

Next I quickly picked up FAR FROM YOU and found myself just as absorbed. I kept thinking I need to go to sleep and instead I kept turning pages wanting to know what was going to happen to Ali and her family. The emotions and feelings so real but tapered with so much hope.

I saved CHASING BROOKLYN until after Lisa’s signing. I discovered from listening to her talk about how her books came about that CHASING BROOKLYN is technically a companion novel to I HEART YOU. Schroeder indicated that her editor felt that Ava from the first book was left in a good place and was there another story that could be explored. The result was Schroeder’s story of Nico and Brooklyn which became a gift for fans of I HEART YOU. Set in the same world the story further explores loss, love, grief, and healing from a slightly different angle. Without spoiling the story for anyone, Brooklyn’s boyfriend Lucca died in a car accident. As she struggles to deal with her loss, Lucca’s brother Nico reaches out to her based on what he believes is the prompting of his brother. I will stop there because anything further will spoil it for you. However, I will say, I have a new fictional crush – Nico has some wonderful qualities and he cooks.

It was fun to watch Schroeder’s growth as a writer but how throughout all 3 books you see these deep emotions that are so beautifully paired with a message of hope. I would highly recommend her books to any teen and even reluctant readers will find her stories easy to read but with powerful lessons/messages. I have also mentioned Schroeder’s books to several counselors that I know because of the topics and how I can see the books being beneficial to a reader who is dealing with loss and grief.

I am already pining for Schroeder’s next book which she hasn’t even finished writing, but until then, I just might have to re-read Chasing Brooklyn.

As a special treat to readers of our blog, I asked Lisa Schroeder to sign a copy of CHASING BROOKLYN that I could give away in a contest. You have a chance to win a signed hard cover copy of CHASING BROOKLYN, a postcard showing all three covers, and an I HEART YOU bookmark.

To Enter the Contest:
1. You must fill out the form below.
2. You must be 14 years or older to enter the contest.
3. You must submit the form prior to 11:59 p.m. PDT on Sunday, July 11, 2010
For Extra Entries:
- Leave a comment in the comment section about why you want to read Chasing Brooklyn (1 extra entry)
- Tweet it, Blog about it, or post it on your blog or Facebook page (each item will earn you 2 extra entries)
- Follow the Blog (New followers will get 1 extra entry, Current Followers will get 2 extra entries)

Click Here to Complete the Entry Form

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review of The Hoboken Chicken Emergency

Author: Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Illustrator: Tony Auth
Publisher: Aladdin
Pages: 112
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12

Description from GoodReads:
Arthur is sent to find a Thanksgiving turkey, but returns with a 266-pound chicken with a mind of its own in a fresh new look at everyone's favorite feathered tale. B&W illustrations throughout.

Part of my reading goals this summer is to catch up on reading a number of middle grade books on my "To Be Read" list. So far I have read about six Middle Grade books and have really enjoyed nearly every one of them. Here is one of the six that just kept me laughing...

Daniel Pinwater's The Hoboken Chicken Emergency was recommended to me a few months ago. I'm not certain but I think it might have been originally released in 1977. However, it is one of those stories that continues to work even years later. To elaborate on the GoodReads description the story is basically a tale of friendship between a boy named Arthur and a 266 lb. 6 foot tall chicken named Henrietta. Shortly after Arthur brings Henrietta home, his father tells him to take her back to her original owner. It seems that in the short time that the two were together they bonded and now Henrietta wants to find Arthur. In Henrietta's attempt to find Arthur, she proceeds to scare the residents of Hoboken and cause utter chaos. Will Arthur find Henrietta in time?

This book is funny. You can't help laughing at Arthur's attempts to train Henrietta or how everyone mistakes Henrietta for everything from a polar bear to some kind of alien life-form. The mayor and city councils' attempt to capture Henrietta is just plain comical. However, I truly admire any writer who can write humor for elementary age students. You have to have just the right combination of making it seem real and funny without going too far over the edge. Pinkwater does a great job with the humor in this story. It is funny, touching, and just an enjoyable little book.

If you are looking for a fun read for girls or boys (though boys might appreciate it more) this summer, I would add this to your list. The reading level recommendation states 9 to 12 year olds but it can easily be read by 7 & 8 year olds. The humor and easy writing style will appeal to reluctant readers as well.

Have a great summer and don't forget to grab a book and read,

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fantasy Friday (and Contest!): Forgive My Fins

Forgive My Fins, by Tera Lynn Childs

Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 293
Reading Level: 13 and Up
Enjoyment Level: High

I usually read an author’s book before I interview them, but I’m glad I waited on this one. I was actually more interested in reading it after I did the interview. (You can find the interview at

From GoodReads:

Lily Sanderson has a secret, and it’s not that she has a huge crush on gorgeous swimming god Brody Bennett, who makes her heart beat flipper-fast. Unrequited love is hard enough when you’re a normal teenage girl, but when you’re half human, half mermaid like Lily, there’s no such thing as a simple crush.

Lily’s mermaid identity is a secret that can’t get out, since she’s not just any mermaid – she’s a Thalassinian princess. When Lily found out three years ago that her mother was actually a human, she finally realized why she didn’t feel quite at home in Thalassinia, and she’s been living on land and going to Seaview high school ever since, hoping to find where she truly belongs. Sure, land has its problems – like her obnoxious, biker boy neighbor Quince Fletcher – but it has that one major perk – Brody. The problem is, mermaids aren’t really the casual dating type – when they “bond,” it’s for life.

When Lily’s attempt to win Brody’s love leads to a tsunami-sized case of mistaken identity, she is in for a tidal wave of relationship drama, and she finds out, quick as a tailfin flick, that happily-ever-after never sails quite as smoothly as you planned.

What I enjoyed most about the book was the imaginative portrayal of the mermaids. The images the author used were amazing and it was easy to see everything (especially in Thalassinia). The mythology is great and very believable. I wanted to be a mermaid after reading this!

The characters are good, too. I’ve heard some people mention that they didn’t like Lily’s sea-inspired slang, but it didn’t bother me. I prefer it when slang and swearing coincide with a character’s background. It made Lily feel more realistic. Her reactions to conflict were also natural for someone in her position. Her co-star, Quince, is the quintessential foil for Lily. They played off each other pretty well.

Here’s a slight spoiler alert, though, so be warned. I can’t address the aspect of the book I didn’t like as much without giving a little away…

On GoodReads, I only gave this four stars because I’m really tired of the right guy/wrong guy thing. It’s been done to death and I wish that there was some way around making the guy a character despises into the guy she loves. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like the book, and I’m interested in reading the next one – I’m just done reading book with this cliché in them for a while.

All in all, this was a fun read. If you like the teen fantasy/romance, you should definitely pick this up. And here’s your opportunity… I’m giving away a signed copy of Forgive My Fins!

To enter:

1. Tweet and/or Facebook a comment and link to this contest.
2. Leave a comment here on the blog with your name, age, and a link to your Tweet/Facebook.
3. Email a brief paragraph about what you’d be like as a mermaid.

The contest winner will be chosen by the emailed paragraph, so have fun and be creative with it. You can include anything you’d like about being a mermaid (how it would be underwater, interacting with other people, finding a mermate, etc.). You have until July 7th to enter. The contest winner will be announced that day and a blog post with the winning paragraph will be posted on the blog.

Good luck! And until next time, go read something!

~ Vilate