Friday, October 30, 2009


Welcome to Poetry Friday! Please leave a comment with your link and I'll update throughout the day!

For my own entry...

Street Love Walter Dean Myers

In this verse novel, we get to hear the voices of many characters. Damien has a house on Sugar Hill and a scholarship to Brown. Junice's mother has just been arrested and she's doing everything she can to keep her family together. Their love is against the odds and we hear their lives, those of their friends and family, people in their neighborhood, and even Junice's social worker.

While the terseness of the verse novel form doesn't work as well for bringing the reader along as Damien and Junice find each other, I do really like how Myers has a very distinctive voice for each character. Damien's actions in the end of the book drove me UP A WALL, but I loved how strong Junice was, doing everything she could to keep her family and life together. She refused to be victimized by her circumstances and did what she could to keep it together.

My favorite poem is in the voice of Junice's grandmother, Miss Ruby, whose mind is coming and going:

Yeah, it's hard baby
It's hard right down to the bone
I said Oh, it's hard baby
It's hard right down to the very bone
It's hard when you're a woman
And you find yourself all alone
I've been flapping and scrapping
And running from door to door
You know I've been flapping and scrapping, honey
Running from door to door
I ain't what I used to be, ain't really Miss Ruby anymore

Book Provided by... my local library

ARGH! I had most of the roundup done and then my computer shut down and ATE IT. Grrrrr...

Anyway, bear with me! I'm working on it!

Ok, it's almost lunch time, here's what we have so for! Keep your links coming and I'll update again in a few hours!

Round two of the round up has been added! I need to go pick up my Cybils holds from my local library (which isn't the library that employs me) but I'll be back before dinner for more poetry fun!

Round three has been added. If I get many more entries, I'll add 'em before bed!

Round 4 is up! Thanks everyone for a great poetry Friday!

Lots of Halloween Poetry and related posts today! (Which reminds me, I should get candy before tomorrow, shouldn't I?)

Sally at Paper Tigers has a review of Halloween Poems selected by Myra Cohn Livingston and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

Elaine from Wild Rose Reader has a round up of Halloween Poetry books to share with kids.

Elaine at Bluestockings shares Shakespeare's "Song of the Witches" from Macbeth.

Gregory K. from GottaBook has an original Halloween zeno!

Laura from Writing the World for Kids has a some zombie haiku.

Sara at Read Write Believe shares a poem by Jacqueline Jules about Harry Houdini who died on Halloween.

April from Teaching Authors offers up Halloween lesson plans with original Halloween poetry AND illustrations.

Liz from Liz in Ink shares "All Hallows" by Louise Gl├╝ck

Gisele from Reflective Ink shares an original Vampire Haiku.

Pam from MotherReader shares "Folloween" by Adam Rex.

Charles from Father Goose gives us an original, "A Ghostly Night."

MsMac from Check It Out shares some of her students' spooky zenos.

Michelle from The Cat and Fiddle shares a Halloween word poem and how to make our own!

Julie from She-Smoke offers up some Halloween food poetry, including her original "Trick or Treat"

Barbara at The Write Sisters shares "The Erl-King" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Kelly Polark gives us an original Halloween parody.

Priya from Book Crumbs shares "Jack-o'-Lanterns" by Ann Pedtke

Janet from All About Books gives us "Hallowe'en" from The Little Hill by Harry Behn.

I'm not the only one doing book reviews today!

Mary Ann from Great Kid Books has a review of the new edition of Edward Lear's The Duck and the Kangaroo, illustrated by Jane Wattenberg.

The Stenhouse Blog looks at Metaphors and Analogies by Rick Wormeli and explores how do define poetry with a metaphor.

Lots of great original poetry is being shared:

Elaine at Political Voices shares "Paean to a Bovine Beauty"

Julie from the Drift Record gives us two original zenos.

Laura from Writing the World for Kids also gives us a round-up of this week's 15-words-or-less poems.

Diane from Random Noodling shares an Emily Dickinson poem and her own, "With Apologies to Emily."

Jen and Colin from Coolhead Luke share some of the poems and pictures from their books.

Over at Deo Writer MsMac shares her own zeno.

Lorie Ann from On Point shares her haiku "Harvest"

And a plethora of wonderful poems by others!

Janet from Across the Page shares "These Are the Days when Birds Come Back" by Emily Dickinson

Kurious Kitty from Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet shares "The Excrement Poem" by Maxine Kumin.

Jama from Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup shares "Autumn Song" by Katherine Mansfield.

Little Willow from Bildungsroman shares "The Rose of Battle" by W. B. Yeats.

Sherry from Semicolon shares "The Children's Hour" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Tricia from The Miss Rumphius Effect gives us "Spelt from Sybil's Leaves" by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Mary Lee from A Year of Reading shares "Fall" by Edward Hirsch.

Lorie Ann at Readertotz gives us the full text of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (Did you know there are 5 stanzas?!)

Lisa from Lisa in Little Rock gives the traditional English ballad "Scarborough Fair"

Sylvia from Poetry for Children explains the new zeno form and gives some examples by the creator, J. Patrick Lewis.

Don't forget to leave your Poetry Friday link below!!!!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Forgive the complete lack of book content.

But, here, in several easy steps, is how to have the greatest night EVER!

1. Have a super-busy, under-staffed, generally not-so-awesome day at work.

2. Stop by the fancy-schmancy grocery store on the way home and treat yourself to a nice piece of cheese.

3. Unpack the groceries, leaving those intended for dinner (Which is said nice cheese, some bread, and a pomegranate the size of your face)

4. Make a few phone calls.

5. Go to eat dinner and realize the cheese is missing.

6. Tear the house apart looking for it. Enlist the help of your husband. Don't succeed.

7. Conclude the only logical place for said cheese is in the dogs stomach.

8. Be annoyed the dog ate your dinner.

9. Be TERRIFIED over the fact that in addition to the cheese, the dog ate all the saran wrap and labeling!

10. Shove a bottle of hydrogen peroxide down dog's throat to induce vomiting.

I will skip the next several steps but include these highlights:

15. Find the saran wrap and cheese labeling in a pile of dog vomit and hold it up triumphantly.

16. Have the dog leap up, grab it out of your hand and RE EAT the @$#^%*^%%#^#@$!@$#%^^ Saran wrap.


20. Buy more hydrogen peroxide.


32. Give up and monitor her closely for the next 24 hours.

Yeah. It's been a good day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two of my OWN challenges

So, for my China Challenge, if you're doing the Silk Road Trek level, you have to do 3 out of 10 China-related tasks. I've done 2!

One involves making a Chinese recipe that you've never made before. Done and Done. I highly recommend the Green Tea Steamed Shrimp Dumplings from Ying Chang Compestine's new book, A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts: A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales.

Another one is to listen to some lessons on Chinese Pod and learn some Mandarin. I actually spent my birthday money this year to buy a subscription to this site because I haven't kept my Mandarin up at all and that makes me sad. When I signed up, they had a sale, so I was upgraded to the guided level, which means I have a teacher who tells me which lessons to study and the calls me once a week from Shanghai! This level is so great because that means I HAVE to study.

It's funny though, because one thing I've realized is that I remember weird idiomatic things, but not how to say the days of the week. It's interesting what sticks and what doesn't...

And look! I actually read a book for my Guardian Challenge!

The Golden Compass Philip Pullman

Can you believe I hadn't read this yet?! There's a reason I put it on my gaps list.

For those you don't know (which I certainly didn't. All I knew was that there was a talking polar bear, a girl named Lyra, an evil monkey, and everyone had these animal spirit things)

Lyra has been raised by the scholars of Jordan College, part of Oxford University. She pretty much has her run of the place and the town. Her uncle comes to visit and Lyra saves him from being poisoned. Kids start disappearing up and down the countryside and Lyra goes to live with the beautiful Mrs. Coulter. Lyra then discovers Mrs. Coulter is behind the disappearing kids AND she's the one holding Lyra's uncle prisoner. So, with a band of gyptians, she goes to Lapland to save the day.

Pretty good adventure story. Plus, there's lot of stuff about Dust and the role of the daemon (the animal spirit thing that everyone has.) I know Pullman wrote this as an atheist Narnia and I don't mind that one bit. But... when he starts trying to criticize the Church (because it's obviously based on the Catholic Church) that's where the story got weak and I got annoyed. Just like I get annoyed when authors impart LARGE MORAL LESSONS into their works, it annoyed me. Luckily, there wasn't *too* much of it. And usually, the Church bits read a bit like a Dan Brown conspiracy, which I happen to really enjoy. But, at the same time, if you really wanted to criticize the Church, reading a bit like a Dan Brown conspiracy while great for my reading tastes doesn't say much about your criticism.

I'm torn on whether or not to read the next two books. Someone I really respect told me not to and where I really liked this, I wasn't compelled to run over and get the next ones right away, probably because the bit at the back of the book where it tells you to read the next two says that it takes place in a different universe. That makes total sense in relation to the book, but lessens my desire to read further, for some reason I can't fully put my finger on. THAT'S JUST ME. I AM WEIRD.

But, I am really, really glad I read this. And while the Guardian list has "His Dark Materials" on its list, I'm thinking that I don't have to read this whole series, just this.

Book Provided by... my library

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday!

I and I Bob Marley Tony Medina

This is under 100 pages, but I'm reviewing it because it's a Cybils nominee, and so I have to think critically about it. Also, so I have a record of my thoughts when we get to making the short list in a few months.

I and I is a verse biography of Bob Marley. Several of the poems fall into the reggae rhythm. Even better, at the end, there is a lot of information explaining each poem and giving further information about Marley's life. Each poem is also beautifully illustrated in full-color paintings.

After reading this, many Marley lyrics suddenly make more sense or have more meaning (including all of "Three Little Birds" and the bit in "No Woman No Cry" about being in a government yard in Trenchtown.) But, these connections aren't made for the reader and I'm not sure how many kids of the intended audience are overly familiar with Marley's work. I could have used more of Marley's own music and words to really paint his life.

Also, I'm not sure how I feel about verse biographies in general as an example of awesome nonfiction. Sometimes, I think they would be more accurately shelved in 811 (which is where poetry lives, for those of you who don't automatically think in Dewey) instead of Biography. On the other hand, telling the life of a poet or songwriter in poetry is an intriguing concept and I've seen some that are done really, really well.

Overall, when it comes to I and I, the back matter is very good, but I just wanted more from the overall package, especially in the main body of the work.

Book Provided by... my local library

Nonfiction Monday roundup is over at Wrapped in Foil!

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hour 23

Hours Spent Reading: 9.5
# of books read: 5 complete, 1 partial
# of pages read: 1009
# of mini-challenges completed: 8

Mood: So so so so so so so so so sleeeeeeeeeepy
Listening to: "Warwick Avenue" by Duffy

Ok all, I'm out. I can't keep my eyes open for the last two hours, these past weeks and the first part of this weekend can only be described as "crazy pants" and I just need to sleep now.

So, I'm off to bed, but it was super fun!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Read a Thon Book Review

Ballet Family by Jean Estoril

When Joan's mother suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she's taken from her Northern England home to her aunt and uncle's house in London. Her aunt is a famous ballet dancer, her uncle conducts the orchestra of the same ballet company, their oldest child has just joined the corps of the company and the younger three are all students at the company school.

Joan cannot understand their ballet-obsessed world, and the family, especially Anne, who's closest to Joan in age, cannot understand someone from so backwards a place as Rochdale and lacks the culture and sophistication to truly understand ballet.

Overall, it's a story of both sides kinda meeting in the middle to find peace, but honestly, the Garland family were absolutely horrible to Joan when she arrived. They're so self-obsessed and wrapped up in their own world that no one gave her time to properly mourn her mother and their whole attitude about her lack of knowledge and interest in ballet was "well, you'll learn." It was a bit appalling actually.

I do like though that there are two protagonists that we follow, Joan and Anne. I also liked the subplot of Delphine, the youngest child who is horribly spoiled and, frankly, a bit like Queenie Rothington for those who've read the Drina books. She's painted as a horrible attention hog with an overly inflated sense of self, but at the same time, she's always been told she's the best and she's part of this near-mythical ballet dynasty and she's the very youngest, and I think a lot of her actions are actually driven by fear that she's not good enough, not worthy of her last name.

I'm off to read the sequel.

Book Provided by... my wallet. I own it.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 22

Hours Spent Reading: 8.5
# of books read: 5
# of pages read: 945
# of mini-challenges completed: 8

Mood: Second-windy
Listening to: "Unison" by Bjork

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 21

Hours Spent Reading: 8.5
# of books read: 4 complete, 1 partial
# of pages read: 848
# of mini-challenges completed: 8

Mood: Peaceful
Listening to: "I seraillets have" by Willhelm Stenhamer, performed by the Grinnell College Singers

Read A Thon Mini Challenge

Stella is challenging us to post pictures about the books we're reading! Usually I don't put in links and pictures while doing any sort of read-a-thon thing and instead go back and add them in later, but, if you want pictures, by Jove, I'll give you something to look at.

I'm reading Ballet Family by Jean Estoril, which is about ballet in London and was originally published in 1963. The above picture (which I blatantly stole from the Independent Newspaper) is from a 1960 production of "La fille mal gardee" at Covent Garden.

And, because the main character comes from Rochdale, which her London cousins look down on (because everything in the North and bleak and horrible if you're from London. Grrrrr) Here's a picture of Rochdale!

Rochdale is part of Greater Manchester (oh, city of my heart!) Often, when reading about the North, it talks about groddy canals. I'm pretty sure the canals used to be gross, but they've done wonderful restoration work on them and now they're positively lovely. Here's the Rochdale Canal:

Here are some more random canal pictures that I took in Manchester this spring. They're not of the Rochdale canal, but various ones around town as we wandered...

And... some more ballet:

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 20

Hours Spent Reading: 7.5
# of books read: 4 complete, 1 partial
# of pages read: 802
# of mini-challenges completed: 7

Mood: Peaceful
Listening to: "What Is Love" by the Shangri-Las

Currently reading The Ballet Family by Jean Estoril which has the maddening hilarity of London snobbishness for the North, especially the Manchester area. So typical, even to this day, but I'd like to once again state for the record that Manchester is one of my favorite places on Earth.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Read a Thon Book Review

Vogelein: Clockwork Faerie Jane Irwin with Jeff Berndt

Vogelein is a clockwork faerie, designed to be a small dancing automaton that the faeries gave a bit of soul to, to make her real. She still needs to be wound on a regular basis, or she dies and forgets everything. Not only her memories of life events, but things like how to speak, or fly.

Her guardian, Jacob, has passed away and she must find a human she can trust to care for her, without making her a prisoner or a plaything. Along the way, she meets some real faeries.

Lovely. I especially liked Midhir, and how much our modern world has corrupted him. The line, "even the iron doesn't hurt me the way it once did" broke my heart.

This is a graphic novel. The visuals are black-and-white and hand drawn and beautiful.

Also, most excellent back matter.

Book Provided by...ummm... i can't remember. I think I got this from the author at ALA a few years ago, but it's been on my shelf FOREVER and I'm not 100% where it came from.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 19

Hours Spent Reading: 6.5
# of books read: 3 complete, 1 partial
# of pages read: 694
# of mini-challenges completed: 6

Mood: Peaceful
Listening to: "Buddy Holly" by Weezer

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Read a Thon Book Review

Betsy-Tacy Maud Hart Lovelace

Well! I finally read a Betsy-Tacy book. Liz B raves about them. My friend Mary gushed about them when she visited this summer. Meg Cabot is obsessed. And, it's one of the Anita Silvey's Best 100 children's books and counts for several of my reading goals this year.

Betsy and Tacy are the best of friends and this story follows the adventures they have at the age of 5 in Minnesota at the turn of the century. When you think of "old fashioned" books, this is what you think of. Very episodic with their silly and fun stories about made-up adventures...

In general, this is not my favorite type of story, BUT, I do want to read more, because, well, the characters are 5 and they have lovely 5-year-old type adventures. Such things are not my favorite, but I could see myself really enjoying their 10-year-old type adventures, plus they grow up and get married and things. I think I'll like those stories, so I'm definitely looking out for the rest of this series.

Book Provided by... purchased copy from the library booksale.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 18

Hours Spent Reading: 5.5
# of books read: 2 complete, 1 partial
# of pages read: 515
# of mini-challenges completed: 6

Mood: Energized! (Thanks to the Dance-a-Thon mini-challenge)
Listening to: "First Love" by Adele

So, I read the new Jack of Fables book, The Big Book of War, by Bill Willingham. I'm not going to review it right now, because I have a big Fables post in the works, so I'm saving it for then. Meanwhile, I've started Betsy-Tacy!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Read A Thon Mini Challenge

Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile wants are top 5 children's books, off the top of our heads. I'm doing the my top 5 from birth-6th grade. PLEASE NOTE: These WERE my favs when I was that age. Trying to do it now would be too hard.

1. Richard Scarry's Biggest Word Book Ever!
2. The Secret Garden
3. Snowbound (Baby-Sitters Club Super Special, 7)
4. Ballet for Drina
5. Two Moons in August

Update 10/27/2009OMG! I was adding in the links and just saw that Two Moons in August is back in print! GO READ IT NOW!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 17

Hours Spent Reading: 4.5
# of books read: 1 complete, 1 partial
# of pages read: 437
# of mini-challenges completed: 5

Mood: Content
Listening to: the episode of "Law and Order" Dan's watching in the other room, the washing machine

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Read a Thon Book Review

Life As We Knew It Susan Beth Pfeffer

When an asteroid hits the moon, it knocks its orbit closer to the Earth. The increased gravitational pull causes tides to be massive tidal waves. Within the hour, Cape Cod, Staten Island, Rhode Island and Hawaii are just... gone. Earthquakes. Long dormant volcanoes and not dormant volcanoes start erupting and don't stop, sending the planet into thermal winter.

Miranda and her family are in a Howell, Pennsylvania, living almost in the country. They keep water longer, as they have a well. They have a wood stove, so when the gas and heating oil run out, they still can cook and get some warmth.

But the food dwindles and epidemic sweep through town and life will never return to normal.

Overall, a gripping book that I loved. I had a few questions about it (the premise alone is a little whack and at one point Miranda asks why the army didn't blow up the moon when they had the chance and I wonder why they didn't blow up the moon once it got too close) but I did really like it. Miranda doesn't always cope well. She annoyed me sometimes. I wasn't sure I'm ok with how religion was portrayed (the preacher got fat while his congregation starved and demanded repentance instead of offering comfort). I like how we didn't find out what happened to a lot of people.

A good read.

Book Provided by... my local library!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 16

Hours Spent Reading: 5.5 3.5
# of books read: 1 partial
# of pages read: 316
# of mini-challenges completed: 3

Mood: Content
Listening to: "You Were Right About Everything" Erin McKeown

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 15

Hours Spent Reading: 2.5
# of books read: 1 partial
# of pages read: 200
# of mini-challenges completed: 3

Mood: A little freaked out (because of the plot line of my book)
Listening to: "Music is the Victim" Scissor Sisters

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.


Fizzy Thoughts is asking us to talk about music and reading.

I always think of Puffy Ami Yumi when I think reading challenge. I have a Puffy Ami Yumi station on Pandora and I always listen to is during the lat night/wee morning hours portions of challenges, because it's peppy and bouncy and keeps me both awake AND happy.

I almost always listen to music while reading. Some other fun things are music inspired by books.

There's the whole Wizard Rock phenomenon (Some of my favorite songs are "Harry You're a Hottie" by Ginny and the Heartbreakers, "Hermione" by the Moaning Myrtles and "Red Hair" by the Weasel King) But also be sure to check out the album Rebel Princess by Switchblade Kittens, which is all songs about Meg Cabot books! And bouncy-happy making.

Happy listening!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 14

Hours Spent Reading: 1.5
# of books read: 1 partial
# of pages read: 133
# of mini-challenges completed: 2

Mood: Very full
Listening to: "Maybe" from Annie

Ok, so that was a longer dinner break than normal, but the lamb was going to go off, so I had to use it and I bought it to make dumplings, which take a while. OMG though, BEST DUMPLINGS EVER.

It was my own recipe and I wasn't too keen on the measuring of things, but roughly

1 lb ground lamb
1/2 cup soy sauce plus a bit
2 tbsp minced ginger
5 scallions, minced (white bits only)
dash of chili oil
dash of toasted sesame oil
bigger dash of rice wine vinegar
about 1/4 c mirin
1 package of wonton wrappers

Beat everything (NOT the wonton wrappers) together (I beat with chopsticks) until the mixture is slushy.

Boil a pot of water (I put it on while mixing and chopping). I line my bamboo steamer with bok choy leaves, but parchment paper (with slits cut in for ventilation) or even a disk of carrot for each dumpling will do.

I have a shallow bowl of water near where I'm assembling and dip each edge of the wonton wrapper in, then hold the wrapper flat on the palm of my hand and drop on about 1 tsp of dumpling filling. Bring the 4 corners of the dumpling skin together and pinch all edges closed. When the steamer tray is full, steam, covered, on the pot of boiling water until skins are translucent and the lamb is cooked through. About 10-15 minutes.

I have a two steamer trays, so I'm usually prepping one while the other is steaming and then switch them out until I run out of dumpling-makings.

I used fattier lamb than usual, which I didn't take into account, so the dumplings were rather juicy, like a soup dumpling. In my mind, this made it more tasty, but if you don't want that, don't use as much liquid if you're using fattier lamb (although it'll be harder to get it to the right consistency) or use a leaner lamb.

Making dumplings takes practice, but I really like doing it. Also, steaming is SO MUCH EASIER than boiling or frying.

Back to reading!

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Hour 13

Hours Spent Reading: 1
# of books read: 1 partial
# of pages read: 110
# of mini-challenges completed: 2

Mood: Hungry
Listening to: Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads

Ok, I was miscounting hours earlier (hours finished, instead of which hour it is) but here we are at the right time.

I'm partway into Life As We Knew It, which is pretty good and an engrossing read, but I'm about to take a break to make dinner.

Hour 11

Well, I'm back home now and reading! I managed to get about 50 pages read of Life As We Knew It today. It was the only book on my reading list that I didn't finish in time for our book discussions, but I'm reading it now.

Hour 8

I thought I would blog the conference but it was busy!

Lots of talking about great books with librarians teachers and REAL! LIVE! TEENS! Plus seeing my library friends from around the state and getting all the good library gossip (this year its mainly about which systems are cutting what because of the economy.) I've even seen people that I met last weekend at kidlitcon!

Jessica Abel is finishing up her talk right now. Then I'm heading back down to DC. I'm hoping to catch the tailend of a friend's baby shower and then its all about the reading!

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Dewey's read a thon

Well it's 9:30 so we're an hour and a half into the read a thon.

So far, I've spent me time driving up to Baltimore for the Books for the Beast YA lit conference.

The first part of my read a thon day will be spent discussing books instead of reading them.

But, before the discussions start, Jacqueline Woodson is here and about to give her lecture!

Ps. I'm emailing these posts in and reception is a bit spotty so who knows when they'll post!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reviewing something I normally don't read...

Bad Connection (The Secret Life Samantha McGregor) Melody Carlson

I don't read much Christian fiction and many of the Christian fiction readers that I work with don't want anything supernatural or fantasy because it conflicts with how they practice their faith--to the point where I've had long conversations saying that yes, it was OK for a Christian school to assign The Chronicles of Narnia. (It's about Jesus! I promise!)

So, imagine my surprise when I find out that Samantha McGregor is about a girl who receives visions of the future from God. Both Carlson (via author note) and Samantha (via text) are very careful to say that she is NOT psychic and that these visions are from God, complete with scriptural text to provide back-up that it could happen.

In this book, Samantha's friend has gone missing. She's run away before, but Samantha has seen visions to lead her to believe that this isn't a case Kayla running away from home, that something much more sinister is going on. Samantha can't control the visions and doesn't necessarily want the burden of such a gift, but maybe she can use them to help save her friend.

I'm always a little wary of Christian fiction because I've been really turned off with some explorations of faith in that "all people who don't agree with my view on religion are fundamentally evil, evil people and will all go to Hell. The End." (Left Behind, I'm looking at you) Also, I just have a lot of general angst about being non-Christian in a rather Christian environment. But, I really enjoyed Carlson's very personal (to the character) approach in the way religion was dealt with in how each character approaches his or her faith (or lack thereof). Samantha and her more religious friends got some good-natured ribbing for praying at lunch, but in general their faith was respected, and, at the same time, Samantha didn't condemn those around her who didn't believe. This makes the book much more realistic (at least in my experience with my very observant friends).

The mystery/adventure was also very enjoyable completely separate from the religious aspects, but I loved the explorations of Samantha's struggles with her gifts, and with God for giving them to her/saddling her with them.

Book Provided by... my library

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Weekly Geeks! 2-in-1 Special Edition

Last week's Weekly Geeks was asking for recommendations.

Abby's been waffling about NaNo this year. I'm not waffling. I have an idea. My only waffle is how many characters are in my group of friends. And what their names are.

But, I'm still thinking about last year's NaNo (and the one before that. And the one before that.) The earlier ones I have ideas on how to fix. Last year's though... I really like the concept and want to continue to play in this world I built. BUT! It turns out I can't write political and court intrigue. AT ALL. So, maybe if I read more books that handled such things really well (especially political and court intrigue set in medieval or slightly fantasy-esque) then I could get some ideas on how to fix my NaNo, so... if you have some titles, lay 'em on me.

This week asks us about the tricks of the trade to help us with our blogging. I'd be lost with out 2 things:

1. My reading notebooks (I did a post about my reading journal last spring, when I was looking for a new one. I also just have a small notebook that I can jot down thoughts and awesome quotations as I read)

2. My GoogleDocs spread sheets. Books to review, ARCS to read, challenge lists, books to read etc etc)

I am an avid user of LibraryThing, but I use that to organize the books I own, which doesn't always relate to the books I read.

But, what keeps me going isn't my reading journal or my obsessively color-coded spread sheets. Those are actually rather recent additions to my blogging life. What makes me keep going is you, dear reader. (Yeah, I'm going there. Sorry for the schmaltz.) After the super-inspiring kidlit conference this weekend, it really affirmed how important the community is for me. It's why I started blogging in the first place. If the knitting bloggers were such a cool community, surely there were book people blogging, too! And there were. It took me a while to find my place and to find my friends, but here I am and here you are and that's why I'm sticking around.


It's kinda crazy how amazingly wonderful awesome this weekend was. Lots of good ideas and tips and inspiration. And gimlets. There were also lots of good gimlets.

I changed a few things in my FAQ and disclosure statements based on things I learned. I also learned how to add some text to every post to remind me about the things I always need or want to disclose. (I deleted it for this post though, because it wasn't relevant.)

The first two things were things I learned in panels and talks by fellow bloggers (and an FTC rep! Who was really nice and prepared and answered all our questions!) and the last was something I learned in just chatting.

I got to put faces with blogs and talk to this great community and just had a really good time.

And even after I fangirl squeeed all over Elizabeth Scott, she still got in a car that had me behind the wheel! MULTIPLE TIMES.

I should say more but I'm still processing a lot of it, and got thrown head first into some big things in real life (seriously, 4 conferences in 2 weeks is a little insane, even if they are all mostly awesome ones.)

The only bad thing is that now I can't NOT go next year.

One thing that was stressed was giving credit where credit is due, so a big round of applause for MotherReader for organizing such an awesome weekend.

Also, the theme across many panels was good advice for all--the internet is public and forever. Behave.

Oh, and on more thing, I apologize to all the out-of-towners. Monday and today have been absolutely gorgeous!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Urban Fiction for Teens

This spring, I read some urban fiction, especially that aimed at teens. For those who don't know, urban fiction (also called street lit, because it got started with self-published authors selling their books on the streets) deals with characters in lower-income urban areas. It's gotten really popular and there's quite a range these days. (Sometimes I compare it with romance, there's Jane Austen and there are bodice-rippers with Fabio on the cover. They're both romance but they're VERY different types of books with very different readership bases!) When one usually thinks of more "classic" urban fiction, it tends to be more plot and less character driven. This type is not a genre I normally read or normally enjoy, so please keep that in mind when reading these reviews. It's not my cup of tea. BUT! It's really popular with the people I work with and sometimes it's good to get out of your comfort zone, so that's why I pick it up from time to time.

Bluford High: Lost and Found Anne Schraff

Darcy is not having an easy time of it. After her grandmother had her stroke, Darcy and her little sister are growing apart. Darcy doesn't like the crowd her sister is hanging out with and the music she's listening to. To top it off, her science teacher as paired her with a a real nobody for their big project. Darcy needs to maintain a good GPA to get out of her neighborhood, but how can she when she's working with Tara?

To make matters worse, she's pretty sure that someone has been following her for a few days. And a threatening note was left on her desk.

Bluford High is super-popular at my library. They're short, fast reads that focus more on plot than character development. Bluford High is in a rougher part of town--the kids are poorer. Darcy's dealing with absent parents--her dad's long gone and her mom works nights at the hospital. BUT they're pretty clean. They're great books for kids who want urban fiction but aren't ready for some of issues/situations/language usually found in urban fic. (For instance, one Bluford title, The Bully, was the principals "book of the month" at the local junior high last fall.) Excellent for reluctant readers, especially.

UPDATE 10/14/2009 Sorry, this new policy of saying where EVERY book came from is going to take awhile to get used to! Copy from: the library!

Hotlanta Denene Millner and Mitzi Miller

Sydney and Lauren Duke may be twins, but they're as different as night and day. It's been years since their mother remarried and took them out of the ghetto and into the stratosphere of Atlanta's African-American elite, but something is happening to pull the Duke twins back to their old neighborhood. Sydney wants to reconnect with her father, who just got out of jail and Lauren has met a guy she can finally trust and open up to, even if he isn't from the wrong side of the tracks.

What the twins find are secrets--small petty high school stuff they keep from each other, and big ones that threaten to tear their family apart. When somebody turns up dead, everything threatens to blow.

The mystery doesn't get resolved in this book, it basically just gets set up. And I don't really care and I'm not going to pick up the next book in the series. It was pretty obvious that the surprise bad guy was going to be the surprise bad guy. I didn't connect with any of the characters and while it was a fairly breezy read, I forgot most of it as soon as I set it down. It's an interesting mix of genres--Rich Mean Girl and Urban Fiction that I know a lot of teens love (and I know a lot of teens who love love love this series), but it just didn't do anything for me.

UPDATE 10/14/2009 Sorry, this new policy of saying where EVERY book came from is going to take awhile to get used to! Copy from: the library!

This Month in the World of Jennie

Some super-awesome-fun things on my horizon:

Thursday I'm going to be at the Maryland Library Association's Kids Are Customers, Too! conference. I've gone the last few years and it's always fun with lots of great information and ideas. Also, I will help announce this year's winners of The Blue Crab Award and say goodbye to a year and a half's worth of committee work! It was fun though and I'm excited about our winners and just hoping that I remember to bring the Power Point slides. (They're already in my bag, so maybe I should instead hope that I remember which special pocket I put my thumb drive in?)

Then on Friday, we're having a Diary of a Wimpy Kid party at the library and then that night is the beginning of the Kidlitosphere Conference! Huzzah!

I'll be Kidlit-ing it up on Saturday as well, and am still soliciting questions about blogging issues and concerns for my panel discussion.

Also, kidlit on Sunday morning.

Back to work on Monday with a week that involves a school field trip (coming to the library) and my 9-12 year old book discussion club (we're reading some of the My Weird School books.) And an all-staff inservice day.

THEN! I'm off on Friday because Saturday brings us the most awesome Books for the Beast conference! (And a baby shower if I get back to town in time.)

Of course, wi'll I'm up booking the beasties, Dewey's 24-Hour-Read-a-Thon will start, so after the baby shower, I'll be curled up at home, reading madly.


Things slow down after that. Kinda.

At least it's all things I'm very much looking forward too! I love October!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lady Grace!

I love the Lady Grace Mysteries. It appears it's going to be a 26-volume series (one for each letter of the alphabet) but, alas! after Feud, they stopped being published in the US. When I was in London in April, I raided the bookstore for G-K. L is coming out soon, but only for British readers.

Gold! Lady Grace Cavendish

Big things are happening at court! Lady Penelope is getting married and the palace is a tizzy with preparations and celebrations. But, in the middle of it all, the gold that is part of the Queen's loan from France is stolen. Every witness has a different story and none of the clues match up. Can Lady Grace solve this one?

Yay for Lady Grace! I love this series so much and was so happy to find more of it in London. (Even though I could have ordered them from the Book Depository with free shipping. I'll have to do that for later volumes. The link above is so you can get them through there, too. If you want. I'm not affiliated with them, I just think they're a great place to buy books you can't get in the states and wanted to share the love.)

Grace is a headstrong girl that might be too independent for her time, but look at who her guardian is-- Queen Elizabeth I. Also I love the way the authors of this series work in so much historical detail so seamlessly. It never interferes with the actual story. There's also a great glossary and author's note.

An excellent addition to an excellent Middle Grade Mystery series.

Where I got the Book: Own copy.

Me and the FTC

The Federal Trade Commission has ruled about bloggers receiving product for manufacturers.

This includes book blogs receiving books from publishers and authors. The FTC seems to think that books are income and bloggers need to disclose where the book came from or give the book away. Also, if the blogger includes a link to a place like Amazon, then the review is an "advertisement" for the book and that needs to be disclosed. I have a lot of problems with this new policy but I'm not going to get in them here (mainly because right now my thought process is STUPID STUPID SO STUPID! Why is my government wasting time on this?! Especially in light of this article. It makes it painfully obvious that not only does the FTC not understand the way book blogging works, he also fundamentally misunderstands how book reviewing in general works.)

UPDATE 10/20/2009 At the KidLitCon this weekend, Mary Engle, a FTC lawyer cleared some things up. Basically, as an independent reviewer, I don't need to disclose my ARCS, even if I keep them. BUT! I still will, because I always have, because I'm all about transparency and I have nothing to hide. Plus, it's then easier for you to decide how independent I really am. I *do* need to disclose my Amazon Affiliation and not just in my disclosure statement, so look for some stock text in my reviews!

So, just to keep things all above board, I'm making a few changes here at Biblio File.

Main points first:

1. If the book came from a publisher for this blog, I always disclose that, whether or not I keep the book. This is not a change in policy at all, I'm just reiterating it.

2. If I have a link to Amazon, and you click on that link and purchase anything then I get a percentage of the sale. How big of a percentage depends on how many items are purchased through my blog per month. I do this because as a blog reader, I want easy access to information about the book and maybe purchasing info if the book sounds good. It's also one of the easiest ways for people who enjoy my blog to support it. It's not a huge money maker for me, (in the summer of 2009, I made enough money to buy one CD.) Sometimes, if a book is not available through Amazon, I will link to another place to buy it. Usually, it will be The Book Depository. At this point, I have no affiliation with the Book Depository, except being a very satisfied customer. One again, not a change in policy at all, just a reiteration.

Other points:

In light of the FTC ruling, I will now be disclosing where EVERY book I read/review comes from. Here are the designations:

Own Copy: This is a book I (or Dan) own. We either purchased it ourselves, acquired it through something like BookMooch, or it was given to us as a present by friends or family (who are disinterested parties as far as publishing is concerned.)

Library Copy: A book I checked out from the library.

Borrowed Copy: This is a book that I borrowed from someone that isn't the library, such as a friend.

ARC/Copy provided by_____: An ARC or finished copy of a book provided by the author or publisher or another party for the express purpose of review in this blog OR in another medium, such as LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program, which I am also a member of. If it says at my request that means I approached the sending party instead of them approaching me. (If a someone says "are you interested in any of these books" then they send me the books I request, that will not be labeled as "at my request." If an author says "I have X copies of my new book for book bloggers and I say "ooo! Me!" or if I write to a publisher and say "I would like to review X book if you have any copies available" then they'll be labled as "at my request.")

ARC/Copy provided by other: I often get ARCS or other review copies for reasons that have nothing to do with Biblio File. Usually, this involves the fact that I'm a Youth Services librarian in my day job. When I go to work conferences, sometimes publishers are there with ARCS to give to librarians. The YA Collection Development librarian in my system is very nice about lending ARCS that she gets because (a) I can't wait for the book or (b) she wants a second opinion. These things have nothing to do with this blog except for the fact I try to review everything I read, so it will appear here eventually.

Please let me know if you have any more questions, comments or ideas on how to comply with this ruling. I'm sure this will be updated at some point as we get used to it.

Written on 10/12/2009

Monday, October 05, 2009

Guardian Challenge, October Reviews

Get your October links in down below!

I picked up some prizes when I was in London last month, so I'll be drawing for those! There will be 4 prizes, two of which will be drawn from all reviews since the challenge opened, and two of which will be drawn from reviews posted since the last prize draw (so May-October). Every review you post gets you an entry, so get reading!

China Challenge, October Reviews

Add your October Reviews to Mr. Linky below!

Challenge Update

Now comes the monthly post where I list all the reading challenges I'm participating in and how I'm doing...

TBR challenge, where I make a list of 12 books (and 12 backup) and read at least 12 by the end of the year. I've done 3.2:

Octavian Nothing II, Kingdom on the Waves
Frog Princess
High Fidelity

The .2 is part of Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out

For the 1% challenge, I need to read 13 books by March 31. I've done 2:

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

For the Buy Books Challenge, I need to buy and read 12 books by the end of the year.

I've purchased 39, read 12, and reviewed 7!

Turning Pages
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Forever Princess
Frog Princess
Dead is So Last Year
Don't Judge a Girl by her Cover
Living Dead Girl
Diamond Secret
Harry Potter Should Have Died
Fables: Dark Ages
Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?

Also, I purchased a copy of Mao's Last Revolution but I read and reviewed that last year, so does it count? Does it not? I'm going to say no, just because I've purchased so many other things...

Along the same lines, I purchased Lonely Planet: Paris but I'm not going to review that.

For the Chunkster Challenge, I have to read 6 adult books of 450+ pages by November 15, 2009. I've done 1.4

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

That .4 is part of Atlas Shrugged and part of Life and Death are Wearing Me Out

There's the Fill in the Gaps challenge, where I came up with a list of 100 books and commit to finishing 75 of them within 5 years. 4.5 years in, I've done 7.2!

Julie of the Wolves
Whale Talk
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
The Dark is Rising
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Golden Compass

Once again, that .2 is Atlas Shrugged.

And then there's my own Guardian Challenge, which has me reading 10 books by February 1. I've done 3.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (which is filed under "comedy")
The Golden Compass (which is filed under "scifi/fantasy")
The Bottle Factory Outing (which is filed under "comedy" AND is a book I had never heard of before coming across it on this list.)

There's also my goal to read at least 50 of the books I owned but hadn't read as of January 1 by next January 1. I've done 15.4

Octavian Nothing II
Crazy Lady
Frog Princess
A Girl, A Boy, and a Monster Cat
A Girl, A Boy, and Three Robbers
Glass Castle
High Fidelity
North of Beautiful
Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies
Rapunzel's Revenge
Revolution is Not a Dinner Party
Rouge of the North
Story of Sushi
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Whale Talk

Once again, .4 is part of Atlas Shrugged and part of Life and Death are Wearing Me Out.

Then there is me trying to finish Anita Silvey's 100 Best Books for Children, of which I had 26 left. I've read 4!

Millions of Cats
Julie of the Wolves
The Dark is Rising
Snowflake Bentley

There's the

Japanese Literature Challenge
so I have to read one book of Japanese literature by January 30.

Nothing yet.

The Random Reading Challenge has me taking my TBR pile (or a segment thereof) assigning a number to each book, and then using a random number generator to pick my next book. I have to read 12 this way by July 31. I've read 2! Both were chosen from a list that had all by TBR books that were ON HAND (so books that I own, review copies, and books that were currently checked out from the library.)

A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers
Rouge of the North

And there is my own China Challenge. I'm going to read 12 books and do 3 China-related activities between now and September 1, 2010.

Well... there's that .2 of Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.

New since last month are Callapidder Day's Fall Into Reading Challenge, where I make a list of books I want to read before the end of the year. I've read 2.4!

Al Capone Shines my Shoes
Snowflake Bentley

We all know what that .4 is by now, right?

And, S. Krishna's Clear off Your Shelves Challenge, which sees me reading 38 books I own by the end of November. Cross your fingers for me.

Nothing yet, but it just started on Thursday.

Friday, October 02, 2009

SLJ Review

The new issue of School Library Journal is available online, as well as a review I wrote for them. (Scroll down to LASKY)

Hannah (Daughters Of The Sea) Kathryn Lasky

You'll have to click over to actually read it but basic thoughts: End is rushed but readers will like the main character.

Further thoughts (with slight spoilers): Hannah's true nature is blindingly obvious and I needed to her to discover it already so we could get on with the story. BUT! I really did like the Upstairs/Downstairs feel to most of the book as Hannah figures out how to be a good scullery maid and servant and the life of the servants and their view on the family. REALLY liked that aspect.

Some More Fairy Tales

Here are some more Fairy Tale books.

The first is one I read for Dewey's 24-Hour-Read-a-Thon in April. Are you going to do the October Read-a-thon? I am. It starts a 5am Pacific, October 24th, which is 8am in my world. I also have a big conference I'm going to on the 24th. BUT! It's a YA lit conference, so when I'm not reading, I'll be talking about books and listening to awesome authors talk about books. I'm excited!

Also, don't forget, the weekend before is KidLitCon and there's still time to sign up, so you should totally go do that NOW. Go on. I'll wait.

All signed up? Good. Now, for those book reviews:

The Sisters Grimm: The Everafter War Michael Buckley

War's a-coming in Ferryport, but Daphne and Sabrina might not be around to join it. Their parents woke up and their dad wants them out of all this mess PRONTO.

Daphne and Sabrina still aren't getting along. All Sabrina wanted was for her parents to wake up and life to go back to normal. But when they do wake up, it's obvious life can't return to how it was and it's hard to go forward when your parents think you're a good two years younger than you actually are and don't realize the importance of what's happening right at home.

And then we find out who the leader of the Scarlet Hand is! OMFG.

This book is war, both familial and actual. It's gritty and sad and we lose some beloved characters. The only comic relief is Puck's revenge on Sabrina for infecting him with the horrible disease known as puberty. More spoiler-y comments here.

The Sisters Grimm: The Inside Story will be out in May.

The Frog Princess ED Baker

So, in this twist, when the Princess kisses the frog, she turns into a frog herself. The two then embark on an adventure to find the witch that cast the original spell in order to return to their royal-human selves.

Do you know when I don't mind talking animals in books? In fairy tales. The rest of the time, talking animals can take a hike. I don't know why this is, it just is.

Anyway, this is a fun little book, especially for the banter between Emma and Eadric (our enchanted frogs). It doesn't play much with the traditional fairy tales beyond the initial set up. I'm interested in reading the rest of the series.