Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

It's Tuesday, and that means Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic:  Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Attention.  Of course, my list is focused on unsung authors of kids' and teen/YA books:

  • Sharon E. MacKay, author of Thunder Over Kandahar - I have no idea what else, if anything, she's written, but I was bowled over by this novel set in Afghanistan.
  • D.J. MacHale, author of the Pendragon series - anyone who reads this blog regularly knows my son and I go ga-ga over this incredible adventure series!
  • Neal Schusterman, author of Unwind and the Everlost series - I just can't get enough of him!
  • Katy Grant, author of Hide and Seek - our whole family loved this suspense novel.
  • Rachel Ward, author of Num8ers - I really enjoyed this teen/YA novel.
  • Catherine Fisher, author of Incarceron - we all loved this unique teen/YA fantasy novel and can't wait to listen to book 2 on spring break next month.
  • Caroline Lawrence, author of The Roman Mysteries - I LOVE this middle-grade mystery series set in Ancient Rome - the author just told me her new series is set in the Wild West and will be released next spring in the U.S.
  • Mary Calhoun, author of Katie John - I have no idea what other books she's written, but this was my favorite book when I was a kid.
  • Zizou Corder, mother-daughter author team of Lionboy, a middle-grade series that captivated my family.
  • Watt Key, author of Alabama Moon, one of my family's all-time middle-grade favorites!

The funny thing is, if you had asked me this question two years ago, one of my top choices would have been Suzanne Collins, because my family are huge fans of her middle-grade series, The Underland Chronicles...but now, since The Hunger Games, she has plenty of recognition! 

Which lesser known authors do you think need more recognition?

(If you're interested in my Top Ten list for grown-up books, check out Book By Book).

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Monday 3/28! What Are You Reading?

Monday already?  We spent the entire weekend working on our tax return (and still haven't finished) - doesn't feel like we really had a weekend at all!

I had to take a little break from blogging the second half of last week - just too far behind in too many things and feeling overwhelmed.  So, I apologize if I didn't get a chance to visit your blog last week.  I'm hoping this week will be better, in many ways!

We did manage some reading last week, though:
  • I am still reading Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, a fascinating and compelling story about an Olympic runner who was a POW in World War II Japan.  Besides being captivated by the tale, I'm learning a lot - I really knew very little about Japan's role in WW II.
  • I finished listening to 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Gralik on audio.  I really loved this book and hope to review it here soon.
  • My husband is on a sci fi run lately.  He first read an old favorite, Riverworld by Philip Jose Farmer.  He told me a bit about it - a world of resurrection, where every person who has ever lived goes after death - and it sounds interesting.
  • He's now reading a new sci fi release we found at the library, Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova.  This was just a spontaneous pick from the library's new release shelf, but he says it's pretty good so far, a classic life-on-another-planet sci fi story.
  • Jamie, 16, read Goldstrike, the teen techo-thriller sequel to Icecore by Matt Whyman, and loved it.  I'll have to check that one out, since I enjoyed Icecore, too.
  • He's now reading Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull, a new release from a favorite author (author of the Fablehaven books).
  • Jamie is also reading The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane for his American Lit class.
  • Craig, 13, is reading Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain for his English class - now there's a school assignment anyone could love!  We've listened to some great audio books of Tom Sawyer, but this is the first time he's read it on his own.
Before I went into overload and had to take a blogging break, I posted a review of Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran and my list of Top Five Bookish Pet Peeves at my grown-up book blog, Book By Book.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  Thanks for giving me something to look forward to on Mondays, Sheila!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Katniss Cast for Hunger Games Movie!

Big news in the teen/YA book world yesterday: 

Lionsgate announced that they have cast Jennifer Lawrence for the role of Katniss in the upcoming movie adaptation of The Hunger Games.

I'm not familiar with Lawrence, but apparently, she was recently nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Winter's Bone, so she's a good actress.  There's already some buzz about the fact that her appearance doesn't match Katniss' description in the book, but Hollywood can usually find a way around that.

If you're interested in more information about the upcoming movie and the casting, Book Page posted a great article on their blog yesterday.

Can't wait for March 2012!

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Monday 3/21! What Are You Reading?

Happy Spring!  Pouring rain here today, so it sure feels like spring.  And the thunder last night woke us all up and shook the house.  At least the weekend was nice and sunny.

Busy week here (aren't they all?), but we enjoyed some good books:
  • I finished Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card, his latest sci fi novel for teens/YA.  Jamie and I both LOVED this book!  Even though I finished it a few days ago, I keep thinking about it.  I cheered when I read in his acknowledgments that there is a sequel!
  • Now I'm reading one of my Christmas gifts, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  She's a hero to me, since she has written her two amazing books while completely disabled by the same chronic illness I have.  She is a remarkable, inspiring person, as is the subject of her latest book.
  • My husband, Ken, read a nice, lightweight paperback last week since he was traveling: Indigo Slam by Robert Crais, one of his favorite authors.
  • Jamie, 16, is rereading Icecore by Matt Whyman, in preparation for reading its sequel.  He and I both enjoyed this teen techno-thriller.
Last week, I posted a review of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, an audio book I enjoyed, at Book By Book.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

A sure sign of spring spotted in my neighborhood yesterday:

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Monday 3/14! What Are You Reading?

Ugh...I hate Spring Forward.  And my husband is out of town today, so it was a double-whammy for me:  I had to get up at 6 am to get the kiddos off to school AND it felt like 5 am!  I don't like getting up when it's still completely dark outside!  On the other hand, I did enjoy a walk yesterday at 5 pm with the sun still shining...

Well, my older son returned to school last week, and my younger son ended up missing the whole week because of a severe case of bronchitis and a sinus infection!  Today is the first time in weeks that they've both been in school (hurray!) - I am really looking forward to life returning to normal this week (or as normal as it ever gets...)
  • I finished reading Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran and enjoyed a very lively discussion with my book group last week.  Everyone enjoyed it.
  • I am now reading Pathfinder, Orson Scott Card's latest release for teens/YA.  So far, it is just as good as Jamie told me it was!  It's a time traveling story with lots of secrets and twists from one of our favorite authors.
  • I just started listening to 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Gralik on audio.  I'm only on chapter 2, but it has already grabbed my attention.  I'm a big fan of gratitude :)
  • My husband, Ken, finished Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.  This was Crichton's last published novel; the manuscript was discovered after his death.  Ken said it was good but different than the typical Crichton approach of taking some new scientific tidbit and building a story around it.  Instead, this novel is an old-fashioned pirate story.
  • Jamie, 16, continued reading some old favorites with The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book Three: Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud.  He loves this series.
  • Craig, 13, was very sick all last week but started working on make-up work this weekend.  He's reading an O. Henry short story, A Retrieved Reformation, for his English class.
With another sick week here, I didn't have much spare time for either writing or reading blogs last week, but I did manage to write two reviews:  Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson at Book By Book and  an excellent teen/YA audio, Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

The only good thing about turning the clocks ahead?  It means spring is on the way, as do these snowdrops blooming in my neighborhood.  Now can I go back to bed??

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Thunder Over Kandahar

In an odd coincidence, I began listening to Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay (which happened to be the next audio in my stack) at the same time that I was reading Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson, a nonfiction book about helping to build schools for girls in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.   Thunder Over Kandahar covers some of the same ground, only from the perspective of teen/YA fiction.  It was a happy coincidence, and each book helped to increase my enjoyment of the other.  This is a fabulous novel, filled with action, adventure, and the warmth of friendship.

Fourteen-year old Yasmine has grown up in England, living the life of any British schoolgirl.  Her whole world changes when her parents decide to return to their homeland, Afghanistan, to add their support to efforts to rebuild the war-torn country.  She is plunged into an unfamiliar world filled with rules and restrictions, where women have few rights or freedoms.  When her family moves to a remote village, she meets Tamanna, a girl her own age with whom she feels an immediate connection.

Tamanna’s world is strange to Yasmine.  She has grown up surrounded by war and the threat of the Taliban, and is absolutely entranced by Yasmine and her kind, educated parents.  The girls are thrilled when an American group builds a new school in their village that will be open to both boys and girls (see the overlap?). 

Things go terribly wrong, though, when the Taliban come to town.  Yasmine’s family is targeted for their Western ways, and Tamanna is promised to an older man in an arranged marriage.  Things get bad enough that the girls decide they must flee, but it is a long, dangerous journey through the Taliban-infested mountains.

There is non-stop action in this novel, much of it violent, but the main theme woven throughout is the strength of the girls’ friendship and what they are willing to do to protect each other. Thunder Over Kandahar deals honestly with the realities of war, including violence and death, but in a thoughtful and thought-provoking way.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this audio book that transported me to a completely foreign place, populated with familiar emotions. 

264 pages, Annick Press
I listened to the audio book, produced by Listening Library/Random House Audio.

Where Are You Reading 2011:  Although the book takes place in multiple locations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I added my pin to Kandahar, which is near the girls' village.

Listen to an excerpt:

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's Monday 3/7! What Are You Reading?

Happy Mardi Gras!  Well, Mardi Gras Day is actually tomorrow, but we're in the midst of the height of the celebrations.  We used to live in New Orleans, so Mardi Gras is one of our favorite holidays.  We had a small party Saturday night, including several friends who used to live in New Orleans when we did, and have been enjoying jambalaya, red beans & rice, shrimp, bread pudding, and King Cake all weekend!

All the party preparations (plus two kids home sick most of last week) didn't leave much time for reading, but we did manage some:
  • I am reading Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran for my neighborhood book group this week.  I struggled with it a bit at first because I couldn't keep the characters straight (lots of similar names and lots of changing partners!), but I am enjoying it very much now.
  • I finally finished Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay, a teen/YA audio book that I've been listening to for quite a few weeks, about two young girls in Afghanistan.  It was absolutely wonderful, one of the best teen books I've read/heard in years.
  • Jamie, 16, finished The Awakening by Kate Chopin for his American Literature class.  He said it was terrible - I guess a passionate story of female awakening just isn't his style!  He also said he didn't like the ending.
  • While home sick, Jamie turned to some comfort reading - re-reading one of his all-time favorite series, The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.  He read Book 1: The Amulet of Samarkand and Book 2: The Golem's Eye and is moving onto Book 3.
  • Craig, 13, prefers TV to books when he is sick!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton.  He says it's good but not the typical type of Crichton novel (the back cover says the manuscript was found after his death, so who knows what his plans for it were!)
Last week, I posted a review of Between Home and School: Letters, Notes and E-Mails by Bill Harley, a slim but wonderful book about a boy growing up at Book By Book and a review of Blank Confession by Pete Hautman, a teen/YA suspense novel.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Teen/YA Fiction Review: Blank Confession

 Pete Hautman’s Blank Confession is an unusual sort of teen/YA murder mystery because the murderer confesses in the very first chapter, but we don’t know who he killed or why until the end of the book.

The novel opens when 16-year old Shayne Blank walks into his local police station and confesses to murder to Detective Rawls, who tries to figure out what happened:

“Who did you kill?”

The kid didn’t say anything, same as the first time Rawls had asked him that question – instead he reached for the metal ring attached to a hinge bolted to the tabletop and ran his fingers over it.  The ring was there so that a potentially violent suspect could be handcuffed to the steel table, which was bolted to the floor.  Rawls sat back and looked at his watch: 5:09.  It didn’t matter.  This time he was going to wait for the kid to speak, no matter how long it took.

It took two minutes and thirteen seconds.  The kid flopped the ring back and forth: Clank. Clank. Clank.

“It’s kind of a long story,” the kid said.

Yes, it is.  The rest of the book alternates between Shayne telling his story to Detective Rawls and Shayne’s only friend, Mikey, telling his version of the events that led to Shayne walking into the police station.  It’s a fairly convoluted story, but Shayne seems like a good guy, so there’s plenty of suspense involved as the reader wonders how events could have led to murder.  Despite his confession, you find yourself rooting for Shayne.  It’s a quick, satisfying read.

170 pages, Simon & Schuster