Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Voices of Dragons
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Publication: HarperTeen (March 16, 2010)
Description: On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity's deepest fears: dragons.

Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she's breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she'd rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, the rules are abruptly shattered, and a secret friendship grows between them.

But suspicion and terror are the legacy of human and dragon inter­actions, and the fragile truce that has maintained peace between the species is unraveling. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war?
My Thoughts: This was a quick, enjoyable read by Carrie Vaughn. Kay is an adventure junkie. She is free-climbing one day very near the border of Dragon when she falls into a rushing mountain stream and is saved by a young dragon who wants to practice his English. Kay and Artegal become friends. They have much in common including a desire to push the rules and have adventures. But the tensions between humans and dragons are growing. They haven't spoken since the truce 60 years in the past. The humans have been developing weapons and the military wants to use them. The military forces a confrontation with dragons. Dragons strike back. It looks like a full-fledged war is inevitable. Kay and Artegal come up with a plan to restore the truce by staging a "virgin" sacrifice.
I liked this book. It was very easy to get into the world. It was the 21st Century with cell phones, Homecoming Dance, teenage rebellion, decisions about sex. However, there were also dragons as tall as two-story buildings and dragon drills at the schools. This book would be good for middle school and high school readers who are fascinated by dragons. It would also be good for readers who like stories about friendship.
Challenges: 2010 YA Debut Author Challenge, 2010 YA Reading Challenge, RYOB Challenge

Musing Monday (March 29)

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about multitasking.
Do you – or are you even able – to do other things while you read? Do you knit, hold a conversation, keep an eye on the TV? Anything?
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post at Just One More Page, or share your opinion in a comment there (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!
This is a difficult topic for me because it depends on the situation and what I am reading.
I generally prefer it to be quiet and distraction-free when I read. Depending on how absorbing the book is, I may read without breaks or put the book down frequently to do other things (like laundry or blogging).

If there is something I want to watch on television, I will have the TV on and a book in my hands. I can read during slow moments or commercials. The baseball season is coming. I often read while watching baseball games. I haven't figured out how to do any handicrafts while reading because my hands are already busy with my book.

I am not a good multitasker. If I am reading something that requires concentration, like books I read for work, I can't have any sounds or people around me. I don't understand how my students can study while listening to their iPods. The music would destroy my concentration. Nor do I understand how people can read when surrounded by a busy environment like a coffee shop or a Mall. I spend too much time people watching to really get into my book. (Either that or I'm paranoid and don't want to let anyone sneak up on me.)

Can you multitask? 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Over the Top Award

Trillian at A Trillian Books has given me the Over the Top Award. Be sure to check out her fantastic blog.

This award comes with a bunch of questions. I can't do one-word answers (impossible) but I will try to answer each as briefly as possible.
Your cell phone? What cellphone?
Your hair? white/grey
Your mother? passed away 2006
Your father? passed away 2006
Your favorite food? patty melts
Your dream last night? don't remember it
Your favorite drink? Diet Pepsi
Your dream/goal? to read all my TBR pile
What room are you in? Living
Your hobby? reading
Your fear? claustrophobia
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Retired
Where were you last night? Home
Something that you aren't? young
Muffins? Blueberry!
Wish list item? cellphone
Where did you grow up? Duluth MN USA
Last thing you did? Read on my Kindle
Your TV? playing NCAA basketball games
Your pets? stuffed animals only
Friends? awesome
Your mood? content
Missing someone? Not really
Vehicle? Honda Civic
Something you aren't wearing? shoes
Your favorite store?
Your favorite color? Pink
When was the last time you laughed? Yesterday
Last time you cried? Umm, don't remember
Your best friend? talked to today
One place you go to over and over again? Black Bear Casino
Facebook? easy to ignore
Favorite place to eat? Outback Steakhouse
I would like to pass this along to any of my followers who would like to play. Leave me a link so that I can find out some random bits of information about you too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In My Mailbox (March 28, 2010)

The weekly In My Mailbox post is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is fun to see what everyone else gets in their mailboxes, shopping bags, and library visits. Click on the link to The Story Siren's site to see the rules and join in the fun.

I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the cool books everyone gets. You will discover lots of wonderful blogs and lots of books that you won't be able to live without.

I had a pretty empty mailbox until Saturday this week but I got what I hope is quality rather than quantity. I received three new books by 2010 YA Debut Authors so that I can work on that challenge.

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken -- This sounded like an interesting fantasy and I love the cover.

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder was chosen because I love her Poison and Magic series books. This one sounds a little more dystopian than I usually like but Maria's name made me choose it anyway.

Mistwood by Leah Cypess -- I won this ARC in a contest and was wonderfully surprised when it came. This one also sounds like it will be an interesting fantasy in the tradition of Graceling.

These books arrived on Saturday.

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner is the next in the Attolia series that began with The Thief.

A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane is the next in the series that began with So You Want to Be a Wizard.

I also got a couple of books that are reference or professional materials.

Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens has some contributions by some of the bloggers I follow and has excellent list of blogs by teens and lists of award winning books. I don't think I'll use it as a journal but it will definitely be used as a resource.

The Socially Networked Classroom: Teaching in the New Media Age by William Kist will also provide me with some good information to use with my students.

The title links go to Amazon where you can read a more complete description of each title. The author's names are linked to their websites.

This is what make it to my mailbox this week. What made it to yours?


Friday, March 26, 2010

Review: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

The Body Finder
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publication: HarperCollins; 1 edition (March 16, 2010)

Description: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies-or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers. Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him. Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer-and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

My Thoughts: I found this to be a very enjoyable read. I thought Violet was an interesting and realistic character. I could completely understand her confusion as her feelings for her best friend are changing from buddies to boyfriend-girlfriend. Jay Heaton is a great character too. He is protective, someone she can always talk to, and he knows her secret. It is also fun to see that he has become a hunk and is attracting all the most popular girls at school. He seems to Violet to almost be oblivious to his new popularity. But we see later that he is aware but just doesn't care because he really cares for Violet. Violet's ability is well-described. Being able to feel the echoes left behind by things that die and seeing the imprint on the predators is an ability that I hadn't ever considered and is a new paranormal ability to me. It was interesting to also have sections from the predators point of view. The predator in the story was a bit of an unexpected twist.

I think this book will appeal to both fans of romance and fans of mystery/suspense types of books. I expect it to do well in the HS Media Center. I just have one question -- Can someone explain the book cover to me? While pretty, I just don't see what it has to do with the story.

Challenges: 2010 YA Debut Author Challenge, 2010 YA Reading Challenge, RYOB Reading Challenge


Book Blog Hop (March 26, 2010)

Jennifer from Crazy for Books has come up with a great new meme that I will be taking part in. It follows in the spirit of Friday Follow but it is specifically for book bloggers! I am very excited about this blog hop as it will give me a chance to find out about lots of other book blogs that I might not have known about otherwise.

If you want to join in the fun, all you have to do is visit Crazy for Books and sign up with McLinky. Then just have a look through the other blogs that are signed up and hopefully make lots of new bloggy friends!

If you find my site through the Book Blogger Hop leave a comment here and I will come and visit your blog.

Happy blog hopping!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: How Do I Choose?

I have a major dilemma. I have too many good books to pick from and I don't know what to read next. Here are the books that fit into the YA Debut Author Challenge that I haven't had time to read yet.

Should I read the ones that have been on the pile the longest?

Wish by Alexandra Bullen

Freaksville by Kitty Keswick

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard

Or should I read the ones I got last week?

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

The Body Finder by Kim Derting

Or should I read the ones that arrived already this week?

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Mistwood by Leah Cypess (ARC that I won in a contest)

The last book I read was emotionally wrenching. Do I want my next book to be light? Maybe Princess for Hire will be the right choice. Do I want to read the first YA book by an author that I know? I have read and enjoyed the adult books by Carrie Vaughn and Maria V. Snyder. I just read a nice review of The Secret Year. Should I read that one next? I have heard nothing by good things about The Body Finder. Should it be my next book?

I think I may just have to close my eyes and grab or maybe toss a coin. Help me out! Which one would you choose first and why?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Have you heard?

I just found out about two wonderful contests today.

Faye at Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm is having a "Can I be your book fairy contest?" and giving away ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). You can choose 12 or more if they fit into the box. The selection is wonderful. The contest ends on April 25. So visit her website and enter today.

Stephanie at Juciliciousss Reviews is doing a Random Big Giveaway. Here is what she is doing in her own words: "This time, I'll have two winners and for both of them, I'll basically stuff as many YA books as I can or a limit of 8-9? books (haven't decided on how many books should be the limit but...) whichever comes first into a USPS ReadyPost Medium Box. This means that for both winners, they'll each receive about 8-9(!!!) newly released or not-even-released YA novels. Of course, they won't know what they get until they open the boxes but that's the whole gist of it. Sounds great, right?" This contest ends on April 21st.

What a great chance to get to read some of the newest books. Good luck!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break Reading Challenger - Last But Not Least

Our task today is to post about 5 books about winter. These are the first five I thought of.

Time of the Great Freeze by Robert Silverberg -- This is one of the books that made me a science fiction fan. I read it while sitting in the Duluth Public Library after school each day. It tells the story of an underground city which submerged to live through a world-wide glacial event. Seven men make radio contact with another city and are expelled as this is against the law. The men must make their way across the ice covered land to find shelter in another underground city. But they find that there is much more than just ice going on in the world.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- The adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family continue as Pa, Ma, Laura, Mary, Carrie, and little Grace bravely face the hard winter of 1880-81 in their little house in the Dakota Territory. Blizzards cover the little town with snow, cutting off all supplies from the outside. Soon there is almost no food left, so young Almanzo Wilder and a friend make a dangerous trip across the prairie to find some wheat. Finally a joyous Christmas is celebrated in a very unusual way in this most exciting of all the Little House books. I have read this book a few times over the years and really like this episode in Laura's life.

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst -- When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe. Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back -- if Cassie will agree to be his bride.That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her -- until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice. I like fairy tale retellings and keep meaning to read this book but I haven't done so yet.

Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America by Jim Murphy -- I like his writing style. It is always great to find readable and interesting nonfiction. Snow began falling over New York City on March 12, 1888. All around town, people struggled along slippery streets and sidewalks -- some seeking the warmth of their homes, some to get to work or to care for the less fortunate, and some to experience what they assumed would be the last little snowfall of one of the warmest winters on record. What no one realized was that in a very few hours, the wind and snow would bury the city in nearly 21 inches of snow and bring it to a ferocious standstill.

Snow Day by Lynn Plourde -- An appealing succession of activities on a snowy day results in a memorable family adventure. Beginning with a small girl awakened by her mother to a winter wonderland, this unpretentious book is a series of vignettes filled with the many diversions of a snowstorm that interrupt the normal flow of daily life. Various activities take place inside and out on this momentous occasion: reading books, playing cards, sledding, shoveling, eating, and sitting in front of a roaring fire. All of the senses are satisfied in this simple tale of old-fashioned fun. Onomatopoetic wordplay reveals all the varied sounds that are part of the unforgettable storm, while the changeable day is defined by numerous adjectives: yummy, fierce, playful, bundly, shivery, snuggly, and sleepy, to name a few. Warm, clear illustrations in acrylic reveal a close, loving family of four enjoying one another's company during a special day packed with shared amusements. The large, double-spread paintings make the book ideal for group reading. The story will evoke pleasant memories in adults and heighten the seasonal enjoyment in children. Because sometimes we have to remember that getting lots of snow can be fun.

Now I'll go look and see what everyone else picked.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In My Mailbox (March 21, 2010)

The weekly In My Mailbox post is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is fun to see what everyone else gets in their mailboxes, shopping bags, and library visits.

Click on the link to The Story Siren's site to see the rules and join in the fun. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the cool books everyone gets. You will discover lots of wonderful blogs and lots of books that you won't be able to live without.


This was a good week for me. I added a number of YA books to my TBR stack this week. These are by YA Debut Authors.

The Body Finder by Kim Derting has been on my wishlist since I first saw reviews months ago. It is finally out and finally mine.

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt has had a number of positive reviews. The cover and blurb are cute. And I love the pink. It is a little outside of my usual taste but looks like fun.

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn is the first YA release by an author that I already read. I am looking forward to see how she combines modern life and dragons.

I also got these other new YAs this week because I have heard so much about them on the blogsphere and thought they would be interesting for me and my students.

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry has great cover. I think I bought the book for that alone.

Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser had an intriguing blurb. I have seen Todd Strasser's books around but don't think I have ever read one.

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker just sounded so interesting. I think I have bunches of students who will like this one.

I have heard good things about the Conspiracy 365 books by Gabrielle Lord and thought I would try January and February out. They sound comparable to the 39 Clues books that my students are really enjoying. I had to get these from the Book Depository as Amazon couldn't ship them. I was very pleased with the rapid delivery and will be buying books there again.

I also ordered Instead of Three Wishes by Megan Whalen Turner for my Kindle. I didn't know she had written that book. I have read the Attolia series and donated the books to my HS Media Center. I loved them. In fact, I loved them so much that I bought the Kindle versions for myself this week.

I also borrowed some books from our most recent book order at the Elementary Media Center.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Linn is an award winner this year that I have been curious about.

Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett J. Krosoczka intrigued me when I saw it on someone's blog recently.  Graphic novels are very popular in both my media centers. I am not a big fan - but I do like librarians.

Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix is the sequel to Found which I have read and did enjoy. I am eager to see what happens next.

That is my mailbox. What was in yours this week?

SBRC Activity 9 -- What Floats Your Boat?

Today's challenge asks us to look at our book choices as demonstators of our reading taste.

We all have different tastes. Today's activity is meant to help you get to know a little more about each other and talk about your favorite genre at the same time. Here is what I want you to do:

1. Create a post about your favorite genre. What do you read the most and why? Look at the books you've read this year so far? How many of those book are ones that fit in your favorite genre?

2. Come back here and link your post to Mr. Linky.

3. After some other people have posted about their favorite genres, go by and visit them. At least a couple to say hello.
So, I went to LibraryThing and looked at the titles of the 49 books I have read so far this year. I have read Middle Grade books, YA books and adult books. Most have a paranormal theme of one sort or the other. But the underlying theme for the books I choose is romance.

I like a good love story whether it be sweet or hot, wrapped around a mystery or taking place in an ordinary life, taking me to the past or the future. Romance is where it is at. It doesn't have to be a typical romance but most books I read that I remember and love have at least a romantic sub-plot.

Most of the time these days I want more than just the romance to carry the book. I want the paranormal or an exotic setting or a mystery to enhance the romance.

My favorite recent reads are Fantasy in Death by J. D. Robb because I love the relationship between Eve and Roarke and the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller because, besides the politics, danger, and adventure, there is a strong love story too. I just finished Mouse and Dragon and Local Custom and I am currently reading Scout's Progress. I have lost track of the number of times I have read Local Custom and Scout's Progress. I must read them at least a couple of times each year.

That's my story and my theme. Vive la romance!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break Reading Challenge Activity 8: Progress Report

Here is a brief summary of what I have done since March 12.
  • I have worked every day. We have April 2 and April 5 for Spring Break this year.
  • I had a meeting with my insurance agent to make sure I'm covered properly.
  • As a result, I have contacted the people at the Driver's Improvement Center to get documentation that I have taken the safe driver course to reduce my insurance rates.
  • I have met with my tax preparer to do this year's taxes.
  • I have contacted one of my financial advisors to get questions answered for tax preparer.*
  • I have met with second financial advisor for annual meeting to assess goals and strategies.*
  • I have contacted my doctor to get a prescription for a new medication since one I currently take is on backorder at pharmacy.
  • I will meet again after school today with my tax preparer to finalize my taxes for this year.
This is what I have read. (My Kindle has been getting a workout.)
  • I finished Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep.
  • I read the eARC of Mouse and Dragon by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  • I read Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix (the only print book this week).
  • I read Local Custom by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  • I read Wolf Signs: Granite Lake Wolves, Book 1 by Vivian Arend
  • I am currently reading Scandal Sheet by Gemma Halliday.
  • I began reading Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver; read 48 pages and gave up; I picked it up again and got to page 186 before I abandoned it a second time. It was not holding my attention.

I have participated in all the Spring Break Reading Challenge activities and posted a Teaser Tuesday and Friday 56. I posted reviews of Spider's Bite and Mouse and Dragon on my Inside of a Dog blog. I reviewed Claim to Fame on this blog.

Other than that, it has been a quiet relaxing week. **Insert major sarcasm here.** This weekend should be quieter, I hope. I want some relaxing time to read.

* No I am not "Ms. Megabucks". When I changed school districts, I had to change the company that does my tax deferred annuity because my new district didn't support the old company. Therefore, I have two small annuities to manage

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Break Reading Challenge Activity 6 -- Book Cover and Blurb

Today's activity for the Spring Break Reading Challenge:
Today is all about creativity. Follow the directions below and post your cover and synopsis on your blog then link back here using Mr. Linky. I can't wait to see what you guys create.
1 – Go to “Fake Name Generator” or click
The name that appears is your author name.
2 – Go to “Random Word Generator” or click
The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.
3 – Go to “FlickrCC” or click
Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.
4 – Use Picnik, or something similar to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in.
In terms of the activity for the Reading Challenge, I’m asking the participants to create the cover and write a short synopsis to go along with it. Check out my cover from the Holiday Break Reading Challenge for an example.

I found a better choice of verbs at Random Word Generator (Plus).

Cancelled is a richly humorous book of poetry that examines what happens when a small community is corrupted by a greedy developer trying to sell off the town beach to build a high priced resort. Poems are told from the point of view of the developer, the business owners, and even the kids who play on the beach.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Break Reading Challenge #5: Obstacles

Spring Break Reading Challenge:
For today's Activity, 1) create a blog post talking about the things that prevent you from getting things done. It could be reading, updating your blog, or anything else you try to do and 2) can you come up with a plan to get past your obstacle?

I don't really have any obstacles beyond my own procrastination. For example, I have been thinking about getting organized for my taxes since late January but didn't do anything until Sunday night. I set my tax appointment for Wednesday and knew I had to finally reached "the last minute".

I have plenty of time for reading, blogging and web surfing. However, I do find that all the reading and writing of blogs that I am doing is cutting into my time for reading the fiction I love. I feel like I am reading less than I did before I became so involved with keeping my blogs updated and following so many wonderful blogs.

I really should spend some more time at work this weekend processing some new books that have been received. Of course, I have been saying that for the last 2 weekends too and have not gotten to work. I get sucked into blogging and reading blogs (especially the Saturday Network and the IMM posts at the Story Siren) and barely leave my couch let alone my house. This will have to become a prority soon because I still need to make up 2.5 hours because of a day off due to snow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break Reading Challenge #4: Blog Designs and Widgets

Your task:

Create a post explaining what it is you would like to be able to do on your blog.
  • Is there something you really want to create, but don't know how?
  • Would you like your blog design to be different?
  • What about organization? Is there something about the arrangement you want to change?
If you feel comfortable enough with the blog use you, feel free to take this time to make some changes and tell us what you did.

I'm currently really happy with the design of my blog. I have made the changes that I think I need to make to make it "designed" enough for me. There are a number of sources of information I use when I want to make a design change.

Kate at The Neverending Shelf runs an ocassional feature called Design It Up that gives me good ideas for tweaks. I have learned to create a labels dropdown menu and learned how to put my signature at the end of my posts automatically. I use My Live Signature for that.

I also follow a blog named Blogger Sentral for design tips. I learned how to put widgets into scroll boxes there.

I am not afraid to search the web for html language to do various things or to ask other bloggers for assistance. I was seeing progress bars on people's posts and wanted to know how to do it. So I asked the blogger what she used. She directed me to the Nonowrimo word-meter and told me how to change it.

I did an internet search for free blogger backgrounds to choose my current background. And I added a bunch of other sites with free backgrounds to my Delicious account so that I could change it up if I got tired of this one.

Somewhere I even have instructions to make an interactive buttons like Karin is talking about. I don't know Photoshop and have never used it. That would be something to learn for the future.

I did change my signature this weekend just for a little tweak.