by velocibadgergirl

Friday, September 17, 2010

BBAW: Future Treasures

(Don't miss the giveaway at the end of this post!)

When I think of Future Treasures, I think about the books that I'll be able to share with my son as he grows. He already has an entire shelf on his bookcase full of books for when he gets a little bit older and less prone to chewing on everything he can grab. At eight months old, he's only ready to be unsupervised with board books, but I do read him several picture books each night before bed. We participated in the Summer Reading Program at our library, reading 52 books over the course of June and July, an experience that showed me once and for all that not all kids' books are created equal.

Some have great art but the text is cumbersome to read or not all that engaging. Some are cleverly written but have so-so art on the pages. The ones I like best, of course, have good art and are well-written with a good flow to the words. I prefer books with a bit of rhyme to the text, since I feel like they sound nice and are easy to read aloud. Here are my (and Nico's) top five picture book picks from our first summer of reading:

1. Bear Snores On
by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

2. Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?
by Bill Martin and Eric Carle

3. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

4. The Hound From the Pound
by Jessica Swaim and Jill McElmurry

Guess How Much I Love You?
by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram


Even though Nico will be picture-book-aged for quite a while longer, I'm always on the lookout for books to save for when he's older. I was offered the chance to review Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer by Dawn Menge and Heath Rhoades. Since I'm a fan of astronomy, I was excited about a book that will allow me to share it with Nico.

In the third Queen Vernita book, the titular monarch hosts Sir HeathyBean the astronomer and Cora the Teacher for a year at her castle. Each month, a different guest comes to call and learns about a planet or celestial object. The book is packed with great facts about the planets and other Solar System objects, and I think it would be a great book for a kid already interested in the planets or to spark interest in a kid who hasn't really thought much about them.

I was hoping to end BBAW with a giveaway, but didn't want to give up our copy of the book, so I wrote to the author to see if she'd be willing to provide a second copy. She graciously agreed to send not only another copy of Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer, but also copies of the first two Queen Vernita books. To win all three, leave a comment on this post with a favorite kids' book of yours...either one you like to read to a child in your life or one you remember from your own childhood. Comments will remain open until midnight CST on Thursday, September 30, at which point I will use to select a winner. US & Canada only, please!

And don't forget to leave a comment on Monday's post for a chance to win a copy of Alexa Stevenson's excellent memoir, Half Baked or on Tuesday's post for a chance to win a book of irreverent advice by Carla Collins. I'm extending the deadlines on my three giveaways so people have a chance to work their way through the plethora of BBAW posts and giveaways.

I received a free advance review copy of Queen Vernita Meets Sir HeathyBean the Astronomer through the author. I am not being compensated for this review.

Congrats to Hendy!

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

BBAW: Forgotten Treasure

The BBAW theme for Thursday is Forgotten Treasure: "Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction. This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!"

Contrary to what you might expect, I actually don't buy a lot of books these days. I used to be a serial book-buyer, but in the past few years I've really reined myself in due to dwindling bookshelf space and increasing financial responsibilities. When I do buy books, I tend to buy things that I've read and loved and want to eventually read again. But a few weeks ago, I went to Barnes & Noble with the intention of buying Alexa's book. I was feeling uncharacteristically flush since I'd found a leftover Christmas gift card in my purse, and on the way out, Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow caught my eye (the power of a flashy cover!). I was feeling fond of werewolves, having just finished Maggie Stiefvater's Linger, and the back-cover writeup was promising. I had Nico with me and he was rapidly turning into a pumpkin, so I bought it and then set it aside for a couple of weeks while I read other things.

When I did pick it up, I flipped it open and stopped to stare, stomach sinking. It's a free verse novel, as in poetry. And I don't do poetry, in general. I considered returning it, but I was on my way to work and didn't have another book handy to take to read on my breaks, so I decided to give it a shot. I'm happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. The text reads as smoothly as prose, with an interesting crispness to it. The story takes place in LA and is populated with werewolves who can (and do) pass for dogs and can transform at will. The characters range from sweet dogcatcher Anthony and the girl werewolf he unwittingly falls in love with to calculating pack leader Lark to bridge cardsharks Cutter and Blue to surfer girl/wolf Annie to mysterious Mr. Venable and his associate Goyo (who reminded me strongly of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere). The story is sharp and at times violent, but ultimately I really enjoyed it. I must say, sometimes it can be satisfying to have one's first impression of a book proved so very wrong.

Don't forget to leave comments on my Monday and Tuesday posts for a chance to win Half Baked by Alexa Stevenson or Angels, Vampires & Douche Bags by Carla Collins!

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW: Unexpected Treasure

The challenge for the third day of BBAW:  We invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger. What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?

I previously featured Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater at Number 2 on my list of books to read after (or instead of) the Twilight saga.

Back then I said:  I read this book on the recommendation of the fabulous Kerri Anne, and I loved it. LOVED it. The book makes a significant but not unwelcome change to the archetype, featuring werewolves whose transformation is triggered not by the full moon, but by the coming of winter. Unfortunately, the werewolves in question live in Minnesota, where winter doesn't screw around. Fantastic, believable characters and a tightly-woven plot made for a serious page-turner. I had this book with me the day I had to sit in the waiting room at the lab for four hours to have blood draws done, and the time flew. If that's not a hardcore endorsement, I don't know what is.

Shiver centers on the relationship between Sam, a teenager by summer and a wolf by winter, and Grace, the girl he saved from his wolf pack when they were both twelve-ish. He has watched her from the woods every winter since their first encounter, and she has loved him with a depth she doesn't understand since he started watching. When Grace meets human Sam, their relationship is finally set in motion. Stiefvater has written a tight, believable story, and despite her characters' youth, I didn't find their "true love" tale as hard to believe as I usually do with teenaged characters (because, come on...finding "the one" at sixteen?). As the only child of inattentive parents, Grace has basically raised herself, and Sam was raised from a young age by his pack of grown wolves / men, giving both characters a maturity beyond their years. While Grace and Sam are dealing with the problem of Sam's impending transformation, he is also coming face to face with the harsh truth of his entrance into the pack. There are some dark surprises and some tender moments to be had, and the tension of the subplot involving some new and unwelcome werewolves kept me turning pages.

Last month I read the sequel, Linger, which picks up where Shiver left off. I don't want to spoil anything from the first book, but I don't think it's giving too much away to say that Stiefvater expands the scope in Linger, adding chapters in two other characters' voices besides Sam & Grace's. Sam is thrust into the role of human pack leader and forced to deal head-on with some questionable decisions made by his surrogate father and former leader Beck, while Grace finds her health suddenly deteriorating. By the end of the book, it's clear that Stiefvater intends to stray further from the path of the clichéd moon-fueled werewolf mythos, and I frankly can't wait to see where she goes with it. Linger exposes one of my only regrets about discovering a great new series while it's still in's always so hard to wait for the next book.

Don't forget to leave comments on my Monday and Tuesday posts for a chance to win Half Baked by Alexa Stevenson or Angels, Vampires & Douche Bags by Carla Collins!

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW: New Treasure

Tuesday's BBAW theme is "New Treasure." The official plan is to swap blogger interviews, but I didn't sign up for that option so I'm going to wing it and post a second giveaway.

Back in June I posted a mini review of Angels, Vampires & Douche Bags by Carla Collins:

This one was pitched as a "comedic motivational book," and I almost passed on it due to my distate for motivational books of any kind. It turned out to be more of an advice-meets-memoir book. In it, Collins explains how she divides the world into three kinds of people -- the angels who help and support us, the vampires who suck out our money or energy or emotional reserves, and the douchebags who act douchebaggy. She weaves in stories of angels, vampires, and douchebags from her own life and shares anecdotes that don't always relate to the theme of the book but nearly always amuse. The pace of the writing was often frenetic, as if I was reading the transcript of a stand-up act instead of a book, and while it was a bit tiring at times it did keep things interesting. I got a good chuckle every few pages, too.

I was surprised by how much I liked the book, and it was a pleasant treat. For a chance to win my advance review copy of Angels, Vampires & Douche Bags, leave a comment on this post and tell me about a book that was better than you expected (US & Canada only, please!). Comments will be accepted until midnight Central Standard Time on Sunday, September 19 Thursday, September 30, at which point I will use to choose a winner. Good luck!

And don't forget to leave a comment on Monday's post for a chance to win a copy of Alexa Stevenson's excellent memoir, Half Baked.

I received a free advance review copy of Angels, Vampires & Douche Bags through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review.

Congrats to Lori L. at she treads softly!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

BBAW: First Treasure

Today is the kickoff of Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010. I hope to have a new post up each day (and some will include giveaways) to celebrate. The official theme for Monday is First Treasure, but instead of writing about the first book blog I discovered, I'm going to write about a blogger's first book.

I began reading Alexa Stevenson's blog Flotsam in late 2007, just before her son Ames died and the tense wait for her daughter Simone's early birth began. Even though I've been following the story of Alexa and Simone -- now a healthy two year old -- since then, Alexa's memoir is so much more than a rehashing of things she'd already written. Half Baked:  the story of my nerves, my newborn, and how we both learned to breathe is an enveloping page-turner of a book, the kind that actually merits the statement "I couldn't put it down." Even though I knew the beginning and the end of the story, I found myself wrapped tightly in the weaving of the tale.

After several miscarriages and a struggle with infertility, Alexa and her husband conceived twins via IVF. She found herself uniquely qualified for the heightened worry of pregnancy after a lifetime of anxiety and an adulthood spent developing the ability to over-research anything. But as the back-cover writeup admits, Alexa had spent most of her life preparing for the wrong disasters. At 22 weeks and 2 days, after having been told the sexes of her babies and that they looked "ideal," Alexa received the devastating news that Ames had died. For three more weeks, the goal is to keep Simone inside and healthy as long as possible. Then Simone is born, and Alexa is plunged into a motherhood she never expected.

She finds that the personality quirks that once left her nervous and paralyzed have left her uniquely equipped for the numbers and stats that dominate NICU life. The ups and downs of Simone's long hospital stay are relayed with stark honesty and surprising humor. One doesn't usually expect to laugh out loud while reading a story of a very early baby, but Alexa has written that kind of book. The good and the bad, the transcendent and the mundane, the heartbreaking and the unexpectedly funny, Alexa lays it all out and turns it into a fantastic and immensely enjoyable read.

Because she's awesome, Alexa is going to send one commenter a signed copy of Half Baked. For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post before midnight CST on Sunday, September 19 Thursday, September 30. In the spirit of BBAW, please include a link to one of your favorite blogs so I can discover some new great sites! Residents of the US & Canada only, please.

Congrats to Amy S. at Atypical Musings!

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Saturday, September 04, 2010