Tag Archive | Blogathon2012

On ARCs, review timing, and niches (reflective) – my blog = my choices & recommendations

sketch of black cat reading a sheet of paper
from OpenClipart.org

After I left my High School library 3 years ago, I seriously missed being able to connect the right books with the right readers. Thankfully, a shout-out from Barb Langridge on LM_NET (school librarians’ listserv) let me start writing recommendations of great books for babies, kids, tweens, and teens on her site www.abookandahug.com. (Try the “Which Reading Superhero Are You?” quiz – it’s spot on!)

Then on May 1, 2011, I started BooksYALove as part of the WordCount Blogathon so that I could add my own personal observations and relevant info links to my recommendations. Despite other bloggers’ urging, I have NOT ‘monetized’ this blog – no referral links to online book retailers or ads. I will often point readers to sites where they can search for local library or independent bookseller – sales taxes support essential services where we live, ya know.

I want BooksYALove to be a repository of recommendations for books that YA readers might miss – those great ones from first-time authors, small publishers, and smaller imprints of major publishing houses. The books must be available in a bricks-and-mortar store (even if by special order) and from more than one source online if in electronic formats = I won’t point YA readers toward any book that requires a credit card in order to obtain it, so I’m not accepting self-published works currently.

My TBR (to be read) stacks of printed ARCs and new books require additional bookshelves now, while my downloaded ARCs need some sort of pinging alarm system to remind me of their digital expiration dates.

BooksYALove is a niche blog, so I’m picky about the ARCs that I choose, whether it’s at Texas Library Conference or directly from publishers. And as for the ARCs themselves, I admit to having a love/hate relationship: 
I love being able to get ARCs so that I can read and recommend the best works from debut authors and smaller presses, but I hate the pile-up of non-sellable books (if print format) and the too-quick expiration of most digital ARCs.

Yes, I realize that publishers are wary of allowing digital-format ARCs to be “out in the wild” once the works are actually published, but I don’t want to be forced to write a recommendation during their preset publicity schedule! Yes, word-of-mouth publicity just prior to publication date helps create “buzz” for a new book, but you’d think that publishers would like to also build up a groundswell of sales during the months (or years) following a book’s birthday.

Best-case scenario for me is to read the book and write a recommendation during the digital ARC’s open-time, then publish it on my schedule. So thanks to the urging of Bekka at Pretty Deadly Reviews, I’m signing up for the Netgalley Knockdown in July, trying to read all of the digital ARCs currently in my queue with Netgalley, Edelweiss, and directly from publishers, write up at least the barebones of any recommendations (since not every interesting-sounding book makes the cut for BooksYALove, you know), then decide when I want to blog them.

I’ll keep choosing just the best ARCs to place on my real and virtual TBR shelves for books you won’t want to miss. Lots of great reading ahead, y’all!
**kmm

"We now return to our regular programming" (reflective) – BooksYALove posting schedule update

drawing of black cat reading a paper original from Diamond Dye advertisement
from Library of Congress *

We did it!

I wrote and y’all read every BooksYALove post through April’s AtoZ Blog Challenge and May’s WordCount 2012 Blogathon (at least, I hope you read them all).

Highlighting so many great YA books in a such a short time has indeed been challenging. I read books quickly, but really take my time writing recommendations to give readers a good taste of the book without revealing any vital plot twists or the ending (I personally hate spoilers in reviews!).

So BooksYALove goes back to its normal posting pattern on June 1; you’ll get lots of great books to choose from, but on a more-relaxed summertime schedule.

Watch for Mysterious Mondays and tales of the paranormal, fantasy, whodunits, and such – like Wizard of Dark Street, Between Sea and Sky,  and Hereafter.

We’ll have World Wednesdays, with historical and contemporary books set in places outside the United States, including Australia (Butterflies  and Dying to Tell Me), Africa (Now is the Time for Running  and Mamba Point), and Southeast Asia (Nowhere Girl  and Dogtag Summer).

Fun Fridays can bring humorous books, crazy settings, and non-fiction faves, from yummy Insanewiches  and Ask Elizabeth about anything, to the summertime wackiness of Withering Tights  and Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots.

Occasionally, books will slip in on other days of the week, especially for “book birthdays” (marking their first day of sale) and holidays. So many great books being published this summer and fall – just you wait!

So, which BooksYALove titles have been your favorites? What sorts of young adult books do you want to see more of? Which upcoming titles have you bouncing on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting their publication? Let me know, and I’ll see what I can wrangle from the publishers…
**kmm

* Black Cat reading, from vintage Diamond Dye advertisement, Public Domain image uploaded to http://openclipart.org, available for creative reuse with no fees or restrictions.

Word Cloud Day! (reflective) – important words and the big picture

heart shaped word cloud of BooksYALove blogpost words made using Tagxedo

Making word clouds is so much fun!

Today’s WordCount Blogathon challenge was to create a word cloud using our recent blog posts.

The more often that a word is used in the text selection submitted to the word cloud generator, the larger that the word appears in the word cloud. You can omit extra-common or extraneous words from the word list, choose one or more fonts to use, horizontal or vertical or mixed-up word orientation, and other creative options.

LOVE shaped word cloud of words used on BooksYALove blog created with Tagxedo
Using the free online Tagxedo word cloud generator allowed me to go past the original cloud-shaped display that Wordle makes and select from dozens of shapes, including four different hearts and the iconic LOVE graphic.

I couldn’t choose only one Tagxedo, just like I can’t limit myself to just one YA book beyond the bestsellers to recommend per week!
**kmm

Advice to Graduates & all of us (reflective) – in which Neil Gaiman is quoted, because he said it best

Dear friends who are graduating (and everyone else, too),
I hope you’ve already seen this video of author Neil Gaiman addressing the University of the Arts Class of 2012 at their graduation.

I hope you’ve listened to it more than once, especially if you’re finishing school (at any level) and are about to go out into the big wide world of work and responsibility and joy and distress and the chance to make a difference.

“Make. Good. Art,” says Gaiman. Even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body, those words are meant for you: whatever it is that you are passionate about, do it well, and keep on doing it – through good times or bad, whether it’s your vocation or avocation.

It may be your “day job” which fulfills you (like Maggie in Paper Daughter) or something after hours (like Haven in Illuminate).

It may be the first thing you try which makes the biggest impact in the lives of others (like Lex in Croak) or maybe the tenth (like Mercy).

It may be something that you’ve studied and trained for which turns out to be your best gift to those around you (like Sage in The False Prince) or perhaps not (like Ismae in Grave Mercy).

I hope you’ll listen to this talk again when you need a reminder of what you can do to make the world better – just one person, doing whatever it is that you love to do best, finding satisfaction in the doing, not just the result (like Mitch in Payback Time).

Listen well – Make good art, in whatever manner your talent for increasing the world’s happiness leads you.
Whether you’re a new graduate or older and worldly-wise, remember that every sunrise brings you a new chance to begin to make good art.
**kmm

If BooksYALove started today… (reflective) – blogging lessons learned in a year

old catalog drawing of manual typewriter

not my typewriter

Today, the 2012 WordCount Blogathon theme asks us to consider what we’d do differently with our blogs: “If I started blogging today I would….”

Hmmm… I’d compare WordPress and Blogger more closely before deciding which one to use. I started BooksYALove just hours before the 2011 Blogathon began, so I went with Blogger where I already had a personal blog for an online technology update course and it was a snap to add another blog.

From reading other bloggers’ experiences with plugins, going to self-hosted blog platform, etc., it sounds like WordPress has an edge over Blogger once it’s time to take off the blogging-training-wheels. But I have gotten used to Blogger’s interface (even when it changed right in the middle of a blog challenge for me) and really like the theme colors and layout that I selected, so I’m staying with Blogger for now.

I wish I’d had enough time and confidence to register my domain name from day one so that all my outreach, publicity, and business cards had pointed to that web address from the very start. I probably will go self-hosted soon to give me more control over my own writings, since BooksYALove is meant to be a searchable archive of great books for young adult book fans.

Some things that I wouldn’t change: I was immensely fortunate in finding my first choice of blog name available; the “YA” in the middle can mean “young adult” which is the book category that I cover or “ya” like the casual “you” since I’m writing recommendations directly to young adult book readers (rather than to librarians or those who purchase books for others).  And every book has to be one that a significant group of readers will love – I don’t review every YA book that I read – so only the books that would rank 4-5 stars get the nod for BooksYALove.

During my first month of blogging in May 2011, I settled on a blog format that suited my writing style, taking some of my YA recommendations posted on Barb Langridge’s www.abookandahug.com website and adding commentary with relevant subject links. Since I hate reading reviews that give away the ending or significant plot twists, I vowed to never do that to my readers – so, no spoilers, ever!

Longtime followers/subscribers have probably noticed some stylistic changes on BooksYALove in recent weeks, as I adjusted font sizes for better readability, added a new logo and blog background (courtesy of my talented daughter, the graphic designer), and started some easy-click book lists in tabs at the top of the page.

And I’ll continue to participate each May in WordCount Blogathons, where I’ve found community (some of us posted in the Blogathon GoogleGroup for an entire year, not just the month of May!), advice, support, and the spark that set me off on this blogging adventure in the first place. Thanks, Michelle & the whole Blogathon crew!
**kmm

(clipart of antique typewriter courtesy of Florida Center for Instructional Technology, University of South Florida)

Haiku (reflective) – the sun and not-the-sun

2012 annular solar eclipse seen at sunset near buildings

courtesy of techeblog.com

It’s Haiku Day for the WordCount 2012 Blogathon, so I took yesterday’s (invisible-from-Florida) annular eclipse as inspiration:

Strangest afternoon,
Sun-disk nibbled by the moon –
Hiding in plain sight.

Yes, I know that haiku isn’t supposed to rhyme – it just happened…
**kmm

(annular solar eclipse photo (c) http://www.techeblog.com/index.php/tech-gadget/solar-eclipse-2012-ring-of-fire-pictures)

Getting lost in the story (reflective) – why reading can make us better people

young man sitting on top of bookshelves reading a book

You’ve probably heard readers say things like “Reading that book was like being in that world myself” or

“I was so wrapped up in the story that I lost track of time” or

“That’s the last book in the series?
I want to know more about those characters!”

In the very best sort of books, we lose sight of ourselves, our surroundings, our own troubles, as we immerse ourselves in someone else’s world and struggles and victories. It can be a realistic book or the highest fantasy, a short story or a tome as thick as your leg – if the story and characters feel real to us, then we are transported away from our own existence without moving at all.

A recent research study also showed that reading a compelling story can also improve our own behavior and attitudes, even after our reading is done! “Feeling the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were their own,” also known as “experience-taking” was studied by Ohio State University researchers in several reading experiments with college students.

OSU assistant professor Lisa Libby noted the difference between  experience-taking and perspective-taking, which is more like looking through a window at someone else’s situation. “Experience-taking is much more immersive — you’ve replaced yourself with the other,” she said. With the right story, readers don’t feel like they are manipulated into being inside the character’s head. “Experience-taking can be very powerful because people don’t even realize it is happening to them. It is an unconscious process,” Libby said.

As you choose to read books with characters who are different from you, you’re giving yourself more ways become a more empathic person, more understanding of differences, more able to see other viewpoints than your own.

And what about reading books filled with people much like you? Then you have opportunities to “try on” their reactions to situations you may not have faced, to take their experiences and learn from them – without having to live through the troubles, trials, and joys yourself.

Here’s to “getting lost in a good book” and to finding our better selves along the way!
**kmm

Ohio State University (2012, May 7). ‘Losing yourself’ in a fictional character can affect your real life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 19, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/05/120507131948.htm

Photo of man sitting on bookshelves reading a book: (c) Microsoft Office clipart.

Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery, by Keren David (book review) – teens, money, fiscal mayhem

book cover of Lias Guide to Winning the Lottery by Keren David published by Frances LincolnOooh… winning 8 million pounds in the lottery at age 16!
That’s over 12 million US dollars – in a lump sum!
Lia has so many plans for that money…
too bad that everyone else seems to have plans for it, too.

Yes, in the U.K., 16-year-olds can buy lottery tickets (it’s 18 to 21 in US states which hold a lottery).
Yes, the winner’s proceeds are deposited in the bank all at once.
Yes, Lia is sure that everything will be wonderful now…

If you won a big lottery prize, would you hold a press conference as Lia did, or keep it quiet? Could you handle sudden wealth on your own, or would you hire impartial financial advisors?

On this Fun Friday, join Lia on a wild romp from her dreary London suburb to the top shops, as she learns some life-lessons about finance and friendship in this funny novel from Keren David, who brought us the more-serious story of Ty in When I Was Joe (my review) and Almost True (my review); book 3 in that series, Another Life, arrives in the USA in October 2012.
**kmm

Book info: Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery / Keren David. Frances Lincoln Books, 2012. [author’s website]   [book website]     [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: If her mum would just shut up, Lia could hear the lottery numbers announced. At the internet café, the teen learns that she did indeed win a huge jackpot! Now all her troubles are over…until the new problems begin.

And just who should revive her from her fainting spell at the internet café but the mysterious and handsome Raf, whom she’s been eyeing at school since he arrived at mid-term. Her best friend Shaz was in the middle of family dinner or Lia would have gone to her house to check that last lottery number. Eight million pounds! She dreams about what she’ll do with all that lovely money… move to her own apartment, travel away from their boring London suburb, start living life right away instead of wasting time in high school and university.

The lottery people assign her a financial adviser and a personal banker as her winnings are paid all at once, there’s a big press conference, and suddenly Lia is super-popular at school. Her parents keep saying “we won the lottery” – why don’t they understand that Lia won, not them? Of course some money would help bolster the family bakery business, competing with the new superstores, but it is Lia’s money, thankyouverymuch.

Her pal Jack bought her the lottery ticket as a birthday gift, so his mum thinks he’s entitled to half the money – Jack just wants a motorcycle, never mind that he can’t get a license until he’s 17. Lia spreads around the wealth a bit more, treating a limo full of school chums to a clothes shopping spree, funding vocal lessons for 14-year-old sister Natasha. More time with Raf would be nice, instead of him working two jobs after school.

When Shaz says that she can’t accept anything from Lia because her faith states that gambling is immoral, Lia is a bit shocked – can money change friendship so much?
Why is Raf trying to keep that suave gentleman from talking to Lia?
Can Jack’s mum really sue Lia for a share of the winnings?
Why isn’t Natasha home from that party yet and who’s the threatening voice on the phone?

Chapter headings of keen advice for lottery winners contrast vividly with Lia’s comical rush to make the most of her lottery experience, despite everyone’s efforts to help her. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Project Jackalope, by Emily Ecton (book review) – mad scientist, secret agents, crazy science fair

book cover of Project Jackalope by Emily Ecton published by Chronicle BooksResearchers think up lots of unusual things,
like cyborg insects
and tracking devices smaller than a grain of rice.
Some stay on the drawing board forever and some don’t.

So, why not develop a jackalope?  Reputed to have a vicious personality, the ability to mimic human voices, and savage killer instincts, jackalopes would make terrible pets – but might be terrifying weapons as well.

You’ll have to read Project Jackalope  for yourself to see if the Professor has created a true jackalope or if Jeremy and Agatha can keep it away from the scary guys in suits or if Jeremy finally passes science with his science fair project! Find this funny middle-grade book at your local library or independent bookstore.
**kmm

Book info: Project Jackalope / Emily Ecton. Chronicle Books, 2012.  [author’s website]   [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Something is breathing in the clothes hamper! Why did Professor Twitchett leave his super-secret project in Jeremy’s bedroom and then disappear? It was one thing to run errands for the Professor, but this note about “keeping the experiment safe” is crazy. Can it really be… a jackalope?!

Jeremy’s idea of a science fair project is Styrofoam planets, but Professor Twitchett downstairs is a real scientist, even if he tries to keep things hush-hush. Mom is allergic to furry things, so Jeremy has to let classmate Agatha in on the secret so she can keep the jackalope in her apartment. When government agent-type guys in suits start questioning everyone in their building, Jeremy knows in his gut that he can’t give them the sharp-antlered rabbit.

The Professor’s assistant at the zoo research center hasn’t seen him lately, and his desk is suspiciously neat.  Ditzy old Mrs. Simmons thinks he’s bringing her a dog in a bag when Jeremy hides in her apartment for a minute. The suits show up at the junior high school, intent on getting answers from Jack. Soon Agatha and Jack are on the run, taking the jackalope along, of course.

How long can they elude the scary guys in suits?
When will the jackalope start using his cloth-shredding antlers on them?
Can jackalopes really imitate human voices to confuse their prey?
Why did the Professor create a killer mutant bunny in the first place?

When everyone interested in the jackalope arrives at the junior high science fair, the results are epic! (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis (book review) – fairy tales with a twist

book cover of Enchanted by Alethea Kontis published by Harcourt

Seventh daughter of a seventh son and seventh daughter,
named for her birth-day, according to the traditional rhyme,
Sunday is accustomed to odd things in the Wood,
so a talking frog is rather expected.
But there’s nothing everyday about falling in love with him.

You’ll nod your head as you recognize the many fairy tales found in the early chapters of Enchanted, from the shape of the Woodcutter family home to the fate of sister Tuesday of the red shoes.

But there’s more to this tale than just homage to nursery rhymes and fairy tales, as Sunday strives to find her own way in the world rather than what’s been previously written, Rumbold tries to undo the actions of his impetuous younger days, and the King has his own sinister agenda.

Enchanted  was just published on May 8, 2012, so look for it at your local independent bookstore or library now. Kontis tells us that book two is in the works, giving readers a preview with a short story featuring one of its key characters, Ashes-in-the-Wind.
**kmm

Book info: Enchanted (The Woodcutter, book 1) / Alethea Kontis. Harcourt, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk:  A talking frog, a cow traded for beans that grow a sky-high beanstalk, a house shaped like a shoe – for Sunday, it’s just life as usual in the Wood. But when her friend Grumble disappears and the King seeks a new wife, old tales of evil spells are remembered, and Sunday tries to change what has been foretold.

Seventh daughter Sunday writes that she’s “doomed to a happy life,” but would rather be interesting than good and boring. Of course, wishes made in an enchanted land usually lead to adventures, so life in the Woodcutter family’s odd-shaped house is often more chaotic than taciturn Mama would like, despite the curlicued brightness of Papa’s stories from the Wood.

The ten Woodcutter siblings are children no more, although adopted Trix looks just as he did at age 12, thanks to his fairy blood. Ever since oldest brother Jack Jr. disappeared while in the King’s service, their family has stayed well away from the Arrilard palace, its sole prince, and its rumored curses.

Meeting Grumble by the fairy well was certainly more interesting than doing her chores, doubly so because the frog liked to listen to her stories, appreciative in his praise. Of course, any talking frog in the Wood must have been human first, so Sunday hopes that someday Grumble will tell her how he became cursed into frog form. She’d have to be careful about writing down his tale, as anything that she wrote had a strong chance of coming true, but he left the well without even saying goodbye.

Released from the froggy spell suddenly, Prince Rumbold finds himself in the palace, weak and confused. Who are his friends and who is against him? Why does he hear spirit voices in the palace night asking for death? What was the name of the girl who kissed him beside the well? His cold and regal father does allow Rumbold to invite all the eligible women of the kingdom to a grand ball at the palace, staying in his tower throne room to invoke magic for himself alone.

Will Rumbold find Sunday among all the people at the ball?
Will Sunday recognize Rumbold out of his froggy skin?
Will the Prince or the King choose a bride at the ball?

This bright-and-dark story about family, loyalty, and love in an Enchanted  land reminds us that even the simplest fairy tales and nursery rhymes can carry the power of mighty words. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)