Booknotized

A place to think, reflect, and talk (mostly to myself) about books I love…and a few that I don't.

Working With the 100: An Epic Adventure January 9, 2012

 
Now, I know how it looks. I’ve been fairly quiet over the last two months.
 
But that’s only because I’ve been consulting on what was probably the most exciting project ever: Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine’s 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature.

I knew when I took the job that it might mean I had to stay quiet on the blogging front for a little while, but, I mean, who could turn it down?
 
For several solid months, I got to spend my nights and weekends reading, thinking and writing about my absolute favorite topic—books for young people (which I would have been doing anyway…shhh!)—as I worked to curate the list with the expert contributors and amazing editorial team at P&C.
 
In short, I had a blast.
 
While this took up most of my extracurricular reading time, I also couldn’t really post about it: it was TOP secret. Well, at least until the website went live! (At which point I collapsed into a heap and was transported unconsciously to the land of turkey and gift wrap.) Hence my (unusually) un-loquacious state.
 
Despite my tardiness in posting, however, I couldn’t be prouder of the final product. Not only does it cover 100 of the best books written and in print for Ages 0-12 (culled from a list of over 500 titles suggested by literacy experts, Scholastic editors, and parents!), but the website is a TON of fun to play with!
 

Check out the interactive website where 10 books will be revealed every week in the countdown to the mysterious #1!

Be sure to investigate all the widgets and enter for a chance to win a copy of 1 of the titles every week.

 

 
 
You can sort by Fiction/Nonfiction (and fiction type), Age Group, Award Winners, and more. Once you have your list, click on the book covers to find out more about each individual title.
 

 
As an added treat, the magazine editors and I chose 10 books throughout the list that grabbed our attention for various reasons, such as “Best Bedtime Book,” “Most Exciting Ending,” and “Favorite Fantastic Setting.”
 
Click here to find out more about the 100 Greatest Books for Kids feature: why we did it, how we did it, what’s up next, and more.
 
Then, be sure to subscribe to P&C asap if you want to receive a print copy of the March issue that will contain all of this and more.
 
 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * GIVEAWAY! * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

 
Now, I want to hear from you. Let me know: what books would YOU have put on the list? What would have been your number one? Be sure to include your email address with your answer! (Or leave a comment on this post.) One lucky winner will get a copy of one of the books from the list in their age group of choice. (Book to be supplied by moi, and this giveaway is in no way affiliated with Parent & Child.)
 

 

 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? December 12, 2011

Filed under: Books — Booknotized @ 1:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As you may have noticed, I’m not quite as active as usual this last couple of weeks.
Due to an overabundance of work, I have had to take a small sabbatical from blogging (which I love!)
to do money-making (which I also enjoy, but is more of a must).

Ironically, this overload hasn’t dampened my reading spirit in the least, so upcoming are some exciting
posts about the following books – one of which is to be published Jan 3!

I thought the fun, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme by the lovely
Shelia at Book Journey would be a fun way to catch up.

Watch out for posts on all of these in the new few weeks.

 

Series Review: Incarceron / Sapphique by Catherin Fisher November 4, 2011

Publisher: Dial
Release Date: January 26, 2010; December 28, 2010
Age Group: YA (utterly gratuitous mature language; mild graphic violence)
Pages: 448; 480
Rating: Idea 5★; Execution 2★
Genre: dystopia, sci-fi, & (some) fantasy with overtones of steampunk
 

★★1/2

Claudia lives in The Realm—a place where an Era of Victorianesque habit and aesthetic is enforced by a malevolent monarchy. She dreams only of escape from the life that has been planned for her. Her only solace is her tutor, Jared, who has been more of a father to her than her own morose parent, John Arlexa the Warden of Incarceron. At least she is Outside.

Inside, Finn lives, and has lived for the three long years of his life that he is able to remember. He, too, longs to Escape from the miserable existence within the great sentient, malevolent Prison to which he—and all others deemed undesirable or superfluous by the aristocracy—have been sentenced.

All too quickly, as age-old plots and schemes come to fruition, Finn and Claudia’s fates are thrust together. The future of both worlds, it seems, depends on their ability to unlock the secrets that lie deep within.
 

________________________________________________________________________________

 

As I tweeted the other night, I have rarely been as frustrated or disillusioned by a book or series as I was when I closed the cover on this one.

The idea is magnificent—something like The Matrix, something like The Scarlet Pimpernel, and still something like Mad Max and Blade Runner.

However, the idea’s execution in writing was deplorable, cheap, and utterly unsatisfying. You know how it was with Lost? Where the opening was fairly explosive and mysterious, but as the seasons dragged on it slowly became apparent that the writers had no long-term plan for the plot? No real ingenious answer to the mystery?

And everyone remained hopeful, despite being dragged on for eons by endlessly convenient twists, turns, and dramatic fluff, because they thought there surely would be some masterfully big reveal to tie it all together in the end?

★★1/2

Well, that was exactly my experience with these books, except without the hunky actors and special effects to tide a girl over. Full of fluff; unartful writing; and bad, see-through dialogue; impromptu/incongruous twists when the plot looked sure to dead-end; flat characters who neither were fully explained nor grew a millimeter over the course of 928 pages, and were often self-contradictory…

And, then, like the Lost finale, no questions answered. If anything, more were introduced, as if to cover the tracks of an MIA direction—yet again.
 
I am almost angry at myself for reading it. I knew at the end of Incarceron (bk. 1) that the execution was shoddy (I even tweeted my feelings), but was so curious about how the idea would come together that I convinced myself to keep going. I remained hopeful to the very end—past elements that didn’t really work in the world (the “Incarceron” beast; the “chain gang,” children born—as opposed to healed or reconstructed—with metal parts), or with the characters (Keiro’s fickleness; the Queen’s pseudo-evilness; the Warden’s loss of the key vs. the trio’s ability to keep the glove; the Prison’s simultaneous omnipotence and impotence, whichever suited the moment; etc), but were instead just convenient to the goose-chase of a plot.

I even clung on through the last few pages when things got really weird, and it seemed impossible that it could ever be satisfactorily pulled together, all the while thinking, Surely; surely no one would have published an idea this ambitious without a real, clever, mind-blowing ending.

This book has gotten lots of buzz. Taylor Lautner is starring in the movie, for goodness sake. Surely they wouldn’t…

But they did.

 
I think—if someone figures out how to salvage the plot/ending—it will be a truly wicked movie. But, as a book?

There are so many good, strong, dystopian/steampunk novels out there—The Hunger Games (bk 1), Birthmarked, Fever Crumb, etc. I would normally never do this—I am a book champion—but I suggest spending your reading time on the above and waiting to see Incarceron on screen.

 

Books, Authors, and Crazy, Crazy Fans October 31, 2011

 

The last month has been a whirlwind of book-related activity. High time I sat down to post about it!

First things first…

 
In reality, it all started back in February or March, when my good friend Shanella said, “Hey, you want to go to Hogwarts?” And I said, “Are you KIDDING? Of COURSE I do.”
 

There was only one small problem: we hadn’t received our invitation letters…yet.

We made our reservations and patiently waited. And waited. And waited.

 

With only 3 days to go, I realized we were going to have to take matters into our own hands. So, I found Dumbledore’s email address and sure enough, he said there had been an owl strike – something to do with Weasley’s Wildfire Whiz-bangs – and he had them faxed over straight away.

 

Since toting a faxed invitation around with us would have been totally lame, we had them put on t-shirts instead.

 

 

We were the coolest kids in school.

(No, seriously, 18 – or was it 16? – different people stopped us in the middle of the park to ask where we’d gotten them.
Others simply took pictures without our permission. It felt good to be popular.)

 

Hogwarts itself, however, was WAY cooler.
(If you don’t see the slide show below, you can click to go to my Hogwarts photo album instead.)

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 


 

 

Just before we left for Hogwarts, we went to see Maureen Johnson at Books of Wonder, which was downright awesome. It was the release of her new book The Name of the Star, a Jack the Ripper ghost story set in modern England. There were even 2 Jacks present. Spooky!

 

Maureen’s very fun in person…which one would probably gather from her not-in-person outlets, such as her Twitter @maureenjohnson. Check her out. You’ll see what I mean. If you’re familiar with the #yasaves hashtag, then you already know who I’m talking about. *wink*

 

 

(Sorry the pic is so grainy. I left my camera at home that day…and well, let’s just say my iPhone is a “circa babyboomers” gen.)

 

 

Finally, just last week there was the amazing Fantastic Fiction event at the self-same Books of Wonder  (best bookstore in the city!), starring authors Scott Westerfeld, Maryrose Wood, Jeff Hirsch, Sarah Beth Durst, Jon Skovron, Gabrielle Zevin, and Alison Goodman.

 

I snagged copies of Westerfeld’s and Hirsch’s books, and then some photo ops with the gents while they were signing.

 

 

 

 

Lost in conversation with Scott (sorry, may I call you Scott?), I failed to noticed that Shanella was trying to get my attention and take a picture.
 
Thankfully, she was persistent.
 

 

Only bad thing about going to these AWESOME author events?
TBR list now has 3 new additions . . .

 

Up next: Halloween, YA Lit style. (Hint: think ultramarine)

 

My Personal Bookprint October 22, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, as part of a side project I’ve been working on with a parenting magazine, I happened to be collecting data from a website that prompted me to stop and think about the 5 books that have influenced me most, or my “bookprint,” as it was called.

This will be easy, I thought. So, I settled in to my couch cushion, and began what I assumed would be a quick process of popping in a few titles and moving on. One hour and one sleeping leg later, This is really hard, was going through my mind. And, I think most people who have read consistently throughout their lives will probably have a similar experience.

However, it was totally worthwhile. So worthwhile, in fact, that I wanted to take a few minutes to share my results and encourage others to do the same. What the exercise did was twofold: it not only made me stop and remember all of the wonderful books that have made an impact on me throughout my life – those little explosions of awe that were bright enough to still be echoing around in my mind – but also caused me to see myself somewhat differently, to understand myself better. You see, the process of elimination (because you can only have 5), really made me stop and think if I’m being honest, truly, transparently honest, then which books, which reading experiences really define me? and why?

Some of the results were expected. A couple of them surprised even me.

What didn’t surprise me all that much was that all of the books that ended up on the final list were ones I read as a young person (before 15). After all, that’s when we’re most impressionable, it’s when the basis of our personalities, outlook, and worldview are formed. It’s also an era of books I have yet to let go…and may never. I am what I read, then and now.

 
The website was Scholastic’s You Are What You Read. It’s a part of their “Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life” campaign, which is in turn coupled to their very unique Reading Bill of Rights document. “Literacy – the ability to read, write and understand – is the birthright of every child in the world…” meant a lot to me before this little exercise. But, having had the opportunity to think more deeply about how books have shaped who I am today, I find it now means a whole lot more.
 
Think about it: Who would we (as human beings) be without books?
 
 

Here’s my bookprint. What’s yours?

 
1) The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter books (my own love of them and their phenomenal success worldwide) inspired me to think – and write my masters thesis – about the ways in which literary society is forming and reforming around and apart from postmodernism, expanding into something new. I think that the HP books have shaped our culture irrevocably, and for the better. They’ve opened us back up to “positive possibility” (as opposed to the “negative possibility” promoted by much of theory in the last 100 years) and that is saying something.

 
2) Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I saw (and subsequently developed) a lot of myself in Anne: using big words, being feisty and independent, doing everything “to the max,” and loving wholeheartedly. She helped me understand that those were good qualities, and that I should always be true to that piece of my nature.

On a humorous side note, I asked for the films for Christmas last year, and got Anne of Avonlea from my sister. We (my sisters, brother, husband, and I) stayed up all night watching the 4-hr, 2-disc classic, most of which I was convinced my husband would miss. I just didn’t think it was his kind of thing. However, when the closing credits came on, he was still wide awake, staring thoughtfully at the screen. Then, he turns slowly toward me and studies my face for a moment before saying, “Hhh. Now I understand you,” and stands up to head to bed.

 
3) Gone With the Wind by Margarett Mitchell

This was actually a last-minute substitution. It bumped The Chronicles of Narnia (*gasp!*), which I did not think was possible. However, when I stopped to examine myself more closely, I realized that a lot of Scarlett – like Anne – lives on in me. She taught me that women can be strong, brash even, and still be desirable; make mistakes and recover from them; march on through the difficulties that life, society, and a patriarchal system have handed her, and be ok enough to look forward to “tomorrow.”

 
4) The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Another surprise for me, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. I can still, very clearly, recall my mother reading this book to us. She, through this book, provided me with a mantra (and philosophy) that has lasted a lifetime. “I think I can,” has gotten me through some of the toughest times of my life, and I am definitely a different person for it.

 
5) Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Eugene Field

Finally, this book (or, poem, I really should say), though it might surprise some that I included it, didn’t surprise me. At least not this year. I actually realized that this work belonged on my list many years ago during an undergraduate course that was partially on children’s literature. First introduced to me in an elementary school spelling book, Field’s elegant poem opened my eyes to the world of beautiful text and the power of metaphor. It helped shape the books I read thereafter, and is an important piece of the reader, writer, and editor that I am today.

 
 

Finally, because it’s really just not fair to leave them out, here are the books that didn’t make it in, but really should be up there, too:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swam by E. B. White
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
Green Eggs and Ham and Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nihm by Robert C. O’Brien
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mother Goose
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Where the Wild Things Areby Maurice Sendak
The Wind the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
. . . and many, many, many more.

 

Books for Sale August 17, 2011

 

It is true, that adage about the early worm.

 

This one just cleaned up royally at the annual “doling of the novels” for the operations department’s
catalog review meeting…for which she magnanimously volunteers her personal time.
 
Only question is…

 

Where should I start???

 

 

 
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