Tag Archive | Blogathon2013

Whoosh! 11 years of BooksYALove, a decade of April A2Z!

text reads: reflection- Blogging from A to Z April (2021) Challenge http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Like that snowball rolling downhill toward a cartoon character, growing larger and faster as it goes, time seems to pass more swiftly as the calendar pages flip over.

Eleven years ago today, I stepped out into the then-new world of blogging, thanks to the encouragement of Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon in the early 2010s and the repository of book recommendations that I had written for Barb Langridge’s awesome kids’ book discovery site www.abookandahug.com (still going strong – be sure to take the Reader Personality Type quiz here!).

Ten years ago today, I looked back at a whole month of posts (every day but Sunday) pegged alphabetically from A to Z – wow, I really could create content on a daily basis… for at least one month of the year during the April AtoZ Challenge!

At the end of March every year since, I’ve pondered whether I could really complete another AtoZ, not missing a single alphabetical day (X is so hard). And for 10 years straight, I’ve decided that I should try, and I have succeeded!

Book bloggers don’t get medals or awards for our work promoting books, authors, and illustrators.

Most of us don’t get any money for our writing, some of us get review copies from publishers (thank you, thank you!), and many of us pay out of pocket to host our sites.

We all spend innumerable hours reading, deciding which books to write about, looking at our growing TBR (to-be-read) piles of books…and the books waiting for a review.

Book reviewers may never know whether our recommendation of a specific book led someone to read it… but one review and one book may be what makes life better for one reader – and that is enough for me as I begin my 12th year of BooksYALove.

Have you read any of the 1000+ books that I’ve recommended?

Bubble World, by Carol Snow (book review) – virtual world, real love?

book cover of Bubble World by Carol Snow published by Henry HoltParties, cute clothes!
More friend-time, less classwork.
Perfect world – or total illusion?

Freesia’s parents think she’s getting the best education available (and have the big tuition bills to prove it), the teen and her friendlies on Agalinas think school is a big party, and all of them are completely wrong!

This just-published novel starts off as frothy as Freesia’s favorite fruity beverage, but the secrets of Bubble World  are dark and deep. Ask for it at your favorite local library or independent bookstore and see if anyone escapes this school misadventure unscathed!

Is it wrong to want to run away from real life when it bores you to death?

Book info: Bubble World / Carol Snow. Henry Holt, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Immersion classes and mega-parties on a tropical island – high school in paradise, with shopping, ziplines, and the cutest itty-cars! Freesia and her friendlies love being here, but these recent power outages are so wackacchino, like something is going wrong on Agalinas. Um, like what went wrong on the mainland?

Freesia’s parents and adoring little sister know the beautiful high schooler needs lots of time to be with her friendlies (and keep tabs on her enemies via bubble) and lots of shells to spend on clothes. Her bubble helps with Attire Assistance for her extensive wardrobe, holds her Outfit Registry (wear an outfit more than once every 4 months? Never!), and keeps her Chase Bennett music playing.

Her teachers match the snacks to the class, like bimbimbop and kimchee for Korean immersion and culture, but they don’t make the students wear themselves out speaking the language or doing homework. More time for parties and waterslides and shopping!

With exquisite houses and perfect beaches for these gorgeous teens, no one wonders why there’s no airport or passenger boat service to the mainland… but Freesia and best friend Ricky start to wonder about the more-frequent outages and discover startling things about Agalinas Island and Bubble World.

When one outage doesn’t reboot like normal, Freesia finds herself on the mainland, in her real non-beautiful body as Francine, in her family’s real house in the desert! What her parents thought about her virtual school is nowhere close to its reality; what Freesia thought was reality is closed off from her now.

How can Francine/Freesia cope with Phoenix instead of paradise?
Do her Agalinas friendlies miss her as much as she misses them?
How can she get back to the island??

Identity, reality, and friendship get spun and twisted around in this near-future tale of trying to use the digital world to avoid coping with the real world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Blogathon & TBR wrapup = busy month of June!

The WordCount Blogathon I Did It 2013 participant badge
Whew! June just raced by, and we’re done with WordCount Blogathon for another year.

We had guest bloggers (hi, Alison!) and theme days for 5 favorites and haiku and word cloud  (I skipped the video day; it just wasn’t working out).

I found lots of interesting blogs to follow and tried to be supportive for those whose subjects aren’t on my current interest radar.

And I can’t wait to do it again next year! If you’re a blogger or want to start blogging, mark your calendar for the May sign-up for next year’s Blogathon. The community of support is great, and we keep sustaining one another through the next 11 months of blogging (although not posting every single day, thank goodness!).

Since I was concentrating on the many NetGalley electronic-format ARCs with upcoming expiration dates during Blogathon, I only recommended 3 books with publication dates of 2012 or earlier for the ongoing TBR2012 Challenge this month:

Ghost Knight,  by Cornelia Funke

Spy School,  by Stuart Gibbs

Stealing Kevin’s Heart,  by M. Scott Carter

So with my 46 TBR2012 titles read during the first five months of the year, that brings my total to 49, just under 2 “older” books a week recommended on BooksYALove… not too bad.

How’s your TBR shelf looking these days?

WordCloud Day – I see a theme here…

wordcloud of BooksYALove terms in heart shapeWordCount Blogathon 2013 is complete – 30 posts in 30 days, theme days, guest blogger, and all that good stuff.

For our final day is my favorite theme day: Word Cloud Day.

I just love Tagxedo – easy to use, lots of color and font choices, nifty shapes (and free)!

Many thanks to Michelle Rafter for starting Blogathon and to Jan Udlock for assisting this year.

I already have “Blogathon Sign-up” on my May 2014 calendar!

Did you add a favorite from this month’s recommendations on BooksYALove to your To-Be-Read shelf?

Raising the dead with free SYNC audiobooks!

This week’s free audiobooks from SYNC are deadly delights, as we hear tales of a grave-robber and a mad scientist…

Remember that although each download is only available from Thursday through Wednesday, you have free use of the audiobooks for as long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device

We have several more weeks of full-length audiobooks to look forward to this summer. Have you bookmarked the SYNC site yet?  http://www.audiobooksync.com/
CD audiobook cover of Rotters by Daniel Kraus read by Kirby Heyborne published by Listening LibraryRotters
By Daniel Kraus
Read by Kirby Heyborne
Published by Listening Library



FrankensteinCD cover of audiobook Frankenstein by Mary Shelley read by Jim Weiss published by Listening Library
By Mary Shelley
Read by Jim Weiss
Published by Listening Library

Do you dare listen to these creepy tales before bedtime?

Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays (book review) – YA authors write essays worth reading!

book cover of Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe published by Roaring Brook“Which five historical figures would you invite to dinner?”
“Describe a time when you lied for a good reason.”

Ah, the dreaded essay-writing assignment in school or for a contest or for college admissions

Thank goodness essays really don’t have to be five perfect paragraphs or written in third person or even written in words!

In this collection, 37 contemporary YA authors, from The Candymakers‘  Wendy Mass to The Apothecary‘s  Maile Meloy, have tackled classic essay prompts and brought us a great assortment of personal, persuasive, and literary essays that will make you ponder, nod in appreciation, and shake your head in disbelief.

Read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children  author Ransom Riggs’ essay “Camp Dread or How to Survive a Shockingly Awful Summer”  here as he answers the prompt “Describe a time you had to do something you really didn’t want to do.”

All the authors have waived their usual royalty payments for their work on this book, instead having the money sent to international education charity Free the Children.

Any other truly creative essays out there that we should be reading?

Book info: Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays / Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe, editors. Roaring Brook Press, 2013.  [publisher site]  [book FB page]

My book talk: Got the boring essay blues? Well, current authors of young adult and middle grade books take aim at humdrum school essays as the writers set essays free from traditional 5-paragraph format in response to a variety of common prompts in this new collection.

Read “Princess Leia is an Awesome Role Model” by Cecil Castellucci and see if she truly does “compare and contrast two characters from the same story” as per her assignment, then follow along as Ned Vizzini argues intelligently about “Why We Need Tails” as the best trait we could steal from animals.

Dip into an author’s personal history as Elizabeth Winthrop recounts “My Life Before Television” in a before and after essay and Laurel Snyder writes about “a time a friend helped” her with “A Good Lie.”

Chris Higgins argues with himself quite convincingly, writing both the title essay “Breakfast on Mars: Why We Should Colonize the Red Planet” as well as its rebuttal “Robots Only: Why We Shouldn’t Colonize Mars.”

For the essay prompt of “Take a belief that is widely accepted, and then debunk it” Scott Westerfeld gives us fair “Warning: This Essay Does Not Contain Pictures” in discussing why modern novels have no pictures as they did in Dickens’ day.

Nick Abadsiz remakes the classic “if you could change one moment in history” essay by drawing his responses as “Laika Endings” about the Russian cosmonaut dog.

Improve your own non-fiction writing range, get glimpses into the real lives and opinions of fiction authors, and learn some neat stuff along the way as you consider Breakfast on Mars. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnick (book review) – beauty more than skin deep?

book cover of Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick published by Scholastic
Red dress, white dress,
duckling becomes swan!
One day will she awaken
to find the magic gone?

Stepping cautiously out of her trailer park and into Tom Kelly’s heady world of high fashion and celebrity, shy Becky puts on the first dress he creates for her and instantly becomes Rebecca, the most beautiful woman in the world. Of course, such a magical transformation comes at a price…

Paul Rudnick has written essays, plays, movies (Addams Family Values and others), but this is his first young adult book – and he nails it! Read the first two chapters here for free, and you’ll be hooked! Find Gorgeous at your local public library or independent bookstore to see if Rebecca/Becky succeeds.

If you had one year to do something extraordinary, what would you choose to do?

Book info: Gorgeous / Paul Rudnick. Scholastic Press, 2013 [author NPR  interview]  [publisher site] [book Facebook page]

My book talk: After her mom dies suddenly, Becky calls the mysterious phone number she left, and designer Tom Kelly swears he can transform the shy teen into the most beautiful woman in the world – how could she say no? If she’d only foreseen the consequences…

What made her sweet, funny mom hide in their trailer house and overeat herself to death, Becky never knew. As she gathers up Mom’s clothes for charity, the 18-year-old finds a ring box containing just a phone number. When she dials it, the lady answering sends her a plane ticket to New York – the world’s most famous designer must see her, right now!

Her first plane trip, first limo ride, first time out of Missouri – suddenly Becky is swept into a sophisticated glass mansion overlooking the New York skyline. Tom Kelly knew her mother (why didn’t Mom ever tell her?) and promises that if Becky will wear the 3 dresses he designs for her then she’ll be the most beautiful woman in the world. There is a catch – she must fall in love and get married within one year.

Agreeing to his idea, she finds herself being measured, fitted, and fabulously attired in the most amazing red dress as Rebecca. When she accompanies Tom into the city, the reporters and bloggers go wild – who is she? The reclusive designer escorts Rebecca to her Vogue cover photo shoot, to the opera where her unearthly beauty upstages the diva. When anyone else is around, Rebecca is stunningly beautiful, but when she’s alone, the mirror shows shy, dumpy Becky is still there.

Whisked away on a motorcycle by her teen idol Jate, Rebecca effortlessly becomes a movie star in his latest action adventure. Her best friend Rocher from home joins her as she tours the world as the face of Tom Kelly Designs. When Rebecca meets and charms Prince Gregory as they open a London children’s hospital, she decides that he’s the one for her.

Will Gregory fall in love with her, too?
Could the British public accept an American as wife of the royal heir?
Can Rebecca slow down time so her year lasts long enough?

More than a Cinderella fashion story, Gorgeous  takes aim at our insatiable appetite for who’s who, beauty,and the latest style in everything, as Becky/Rebecca tries to discover her true self during twelve too-short months. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Anthem for Jackson Dawes, by Celia Grant (book review) – cancer, friendship, music, and love

book cover of Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Grant published by Bloomsbury Books for Young ReadersCancer?
Stuck in a pediatric ward?
What 13-year-old wants any of that?

When her friends don’t make the trip into London to visit her in the hospital, when the first clumps of her hair start falling out during chemo, only Jackson’s brilliant smile can start to cheer up Megan.

Grab some tissues when you get this memorable book from your local library or independent bookstore for the happy-sad story.

Is our time together here on Earth ever really long enough?

Book info: Anthem for Jackson Dawes / Celia Grant.  Bloomsbury Books for Children, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]

My book talk: Stuck in the children’s ward of a London hospital, teens Megan and Jackson battle cancer, boredom, and their unknown futures as they forge a friendship that could be more.

Megan knew these horrible headaches weren’t normal for 13-year-olds, but she’d never have dreamed that a cancerous brain tumor was causing them. Her doctors are quick to order chemo, quick to hustle her into the first available hospital spot, not so quick to realize that being in a noisy ward with little kids isn’t very healing for teenagers… thank goodness she’ll be there a few weeks, then home for a while before the next round. And her friends will come in from the suburbs to visit her, right?

The brightest spot in the whole whirlwind of noise, nausea and IVs is Jackson, another teen like her, stuck in the kiddie ward as he fights off a rare cancer with more and more experimental treatments. But Jackson isn’t like anyone else. Tall, thin, blackest skin, brightest smile, he roams the hospital at all hours, especially where he shouldn’t be going. When Meg is at her lowest, he’ll tell her stories in his late Jamaican grandfather’s accent, sing the songs the two Jacksons shared, for music is his greatest passion.

When she’s home between treatments, Megan is so tired from the chemo that she can’t even go back to school half-days – and forget about playing soccer on the school team as she used to do. Her friends come over, but no one knows what to talk about – cancer will do that, Jackson says. If only Dad wasn’t working so far away, if Granddad could travel to the hospital to cheer everyone up…

Every time Jackson or Megan goes home from the hospital, they miss one another terribly and worry that they won’t be in for treatment at the same time next round. As Megan’s tumor shrinks and her surgery approaches, the pair escapes the ward nightly to wander through the hospital… in search of what?

How many of the kids in their ward will beat their cancer?
Why can’t Megan’s friends understand that it’s still her under the wig?
Are their days and nights in hospital all the time that Megan and Jackson will ever have together?

Full of heart and feeling, but never sentimental, Anthem for Jackson Dawes  pays tribute to all the youngsters who fight full-force against cancer, their caregivers and parents, and their schoolmates and siblings who watch bewildered from the sidelines.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Nobody’s Secret, by Michaela MacColl (book review) – Emily Dickinson, death, and a mystery

book cover of Nobodys Secret by Michaela MacColl published by Chroncicle BooksSmall-town secrets, small-town minds,
Can’t be bothered  too much about a dead stranger,
But young Emily can’t forget meeting him… Mr. Nobody.

Yes, teenaged Emily Dickinson can’t ignore the obvious clues left at Mr. Nobody’s purported death scene, even when warned away by her fastidious mother and local law officials.

A mystery threaded through with first drafts of her poems, from those earlier days when she would venture out of her house alone – and perhaps a mystery that solves the mystery of why her older self kept so much to herself.

Do you like novels which “star” real people?

Book info: Nobody’s Secret / Michaela MacColl. Chronicle Books, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My book talk: When Emily meets a young man who charmingly declines to tell her his name, she’s intrigued. When he’s found dead in her family’s pond, she’s aghast. When she decides to discover who he is and why he died, she’s in danger from more than just society’s disapproval.

Of course, she knows that Mama wants her to stay indoors with sister Vinnie, doing their chores while not in school. But the meadows and clouds call to Emily’s poetic soul, which is why the young man from elsewhere finds her out among the flowers. As they don’t properly exchange names, they call one another “Nobody” with laughter. A chance meeting in town shows Mr. Nobody less than cheerful about family business which brought him to the law office of Emily’s father in Amherst.

Imagine the shock of finding him drowned in the Dickinson family pond later! But he’s clad in rough workman’s wear instead of the city clothes Emily remembered, and no one in town knows his name, so his body is being kept in the church basement until he can be identified.

Emily takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery surrounding him so that the young man may at least be buried under his own name. But Amherst is a small town, and everyone knows what everyone else is doing, so it may be more difficult than she first thought.

Why did Mr. Nobody say he’d leave as soon as he cleared up this family business?
If he has family nearby, why haven’t they claimed his body?
Why don’t the stories that Emily uncovers add up to the truth?

As the fifteen-year-old tries to understand what happened to the young man she wanted to know better, she jots down impressions which become the unique poetry seen later by the larger world, as Mr. Nobody predicted, in this original and clever mystery featuring Emily Dickinson.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.

Haiku Day – oh, the writing life!

Teachers Write project 2013 logo

It’s Haiku Day for Blogathon2013!

(Coincidentally, it’s also the first day of TeachersWrite, an online summer camp where great kidlit authors are coaching teachers and librarians in their own writing, so they can better teach their students about writing, revising, and such. Yes, I’m doing it, too!)

Jane Reichold’s many articles on haiku include her overview of several techniques which can be used in crafting the just-right haiku.

So I wrote this haiku about BooksYALove:

Images, pages,
so many, varied and deep,
Stories yet to share.