Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Review: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

Title: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

Author: Jordan Sonnenblick

Pages: 273

Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads Summary: From first-time novelist Jordan Sonnenblick, a brave and beautiful story that will make readers laugh and break their hearts at the same time.

Thirteen-year-old Steven has a totally normal life: he plays drums in the All-Star Jazz band, has a crush on the hottest girl in the school, and is constantly annoyed by his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey. But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven's world is turned upside down. He is forced to deal with his brother's illness and his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece. Salted with humor and peppered with devastating realities, DRUMS, GIRLS, AND DANGEROUS PIE is a heartwarming journey through a year in the life of a family in crisis.

My Thoughts:  This book is amazing!! I read it with my 6th grade class during my first year teaching. It goes into some serious stuff, but it maintains its wit and comicality, so despite the heavy topics, it's still an enjoyable read. All of my students were really into the book, completely engrossed in the audio read aloud while following along with their own paper copy - I tell you, it's an amazing thing to see 20 sixth grade students turn book pages in unison like that, with everyone so caught up in the storyline.

I'm not usually into audio books, but this book's audio version is fantastic. The narrator is great! He changes up his voice well for all the different characters, and he pulls off the 13-year-old's sense of humor perfectly! 

I'm very thankful for the humorous tone in this book - stories with this kind of topic can really take their toll on me, but Steven's mildly sardonic tone kept it light enough for me so that I wasn't too overwhelmed. It was very interesting reading some of his thoughts on the common reactions people have when they find out someone has cancer, and how those reactions are usually the opposite of what the people going through such an awful situation really want or need to hear.

A lot of good discussions can come out of this book . . .

I highly recommend this one!!

Review: Famous Last Words

Image result for famous last words book  
    Title: Famous Last Word

   Author: Katie Alender

   Pages: 320

   Rating: 3.5 stars

Goodreads Summary: Hollywood history, mystery, murder, mayhem, and delicious romance collide in this unputdownable thriller from master storyteller Katie Alender.

Willa is freaking out. It seems like she's seeing things. Like a dead body in her swimming pool. Frantic messages on her walls. A reflection that is not her own. It's almost as if someone -- or something -- is trying to send her a message.

Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Los Angeles -- a killer who reenacts famous movie murder scenes. Could Willa's strange visions have to do with these unsolved murders? Or is she going crazy? And who can she confide in? There's Marnie, her new friend who may not be totally trustworthy. And there's Reed, who's ridiculously handsome and seems to get Willa. There's also Wyatt, who's super smart but unhealthily obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.

All Willa knows is, she has to confront the possible-ghost in her house, or she just might lose her mind . . . or her life.

Acclaimed author Katie Alender puts an unforgettable twist on this spine-chilling tale of murder, mystery, mayhem -- and the movies. 

My Thoughts: This book would probably have been 4 or 5 stars if I had read it a few years back when I was really into YA. I've, unfortunately, outgrown the genre, but there are the rare exceptions that I still find surprisingly entertaining, and so I continue adding YA books that I think sound interesting to my to-read list. They are often a quick fluff read that can be a nice way to pass a lazy afternoon, if anything, but there have been more and more that turn out to just be a waste of time - I don't think that means the YA genre is getting worse, but just that I'm getting over it.

I am more willing to try ghost stories, though, such as this one. The haunting scenes were some of the best in the book (if this had been a more serious book, I think it could have verged into a psychological thriller, as well, once Willa began to doubt her sanity after having so many 'hallucinations' and 'episodes'). I found the twists really predictable, but Willa was refreshingly realistic and well-written. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy paranormal YA and YA murder mysteries.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - 10th Anniversary - Closing Survey

1) Which hour was most daunting for you?

Probably Hour 16 or so, which was around 11:00pm my time. I started getting really sleepy, although I did manage to wake myself up enough to carry on for another couple hours. I conked out during Hour 18 (which seems to be a pattern for me during the RAT). I need to make it a goal to read at least to Hour 20. I don't think I've made it that far yet - with the exception of the time I slept in during the RAT and didn't start participating until Hour 5-6.

2) Tell us all the books you read!

I only finished one book - The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I read some of House of Leaves but didn't get as far into that book as I was hoping . . . and I never did get to the graphic novels or Scary Stories book . . . I don't think starting out reading an adult literary fiction book is the best game plan for me. I should stick with quick, YA reads. I can end the RAT feeling more accomplished that way. ;-)

3) Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners?

The Westing Game made a great RAT book. It held my interest all the way through and was an easy, quick read (185 pages).

4) What's a really rad thing we can do during the next read-a-thon that would make you smile?

It seemed like there were a few mini-challenges that required Twitter/Instagram or some other social media account that I didn't have, so I was unable to participate. 

It would be great if all of the mini-challenges could be arranged so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in them, in some way. Such as, if you don't have a social media account, there should be a way to participate by commenting on the Dewey blog or something (just have multiple ways to participate  in the challenges in order to include as many read-a-thoners as possible so that no one feels excluded). 

Of course, that may have been an option all along and I was just unaware of it??

**Also - The Goodreads cheerleading challenge gave me an idea . . . Perhaps you can have an all-day cheerleading challenge for the read-a-thoners where we can use the random # generator to select 5 read-a-thoners from the Master Linky and post a cheer to them . . . then a couple winners can be selected every 5 hours or so . . . I know we all love (and miss) the cheerleaders, so I'm trying to think of something we can do to try and bring that back.

5) How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?

I will definitely be participating again as a reader. I've also been considering donating a couple prizes for the RAT sometime . . . probably in the form of used but "like new" condition books - if that's accepted - that I can mail out to the winners afterward if that prize is chosen. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mid-Event Survey

1) What are you reading right now?

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

2) How many books have you read so far?

I haven't finished a book yet. I started out reading House of Leaves, but it was more slow going than I was expecting (a good read, but slow) . . . I switched to The Westing Game a couple hours ago.

3) What book are you most looking forward to in the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I think I'm most looking forward to Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories. I haven't read that collection since I was ten.

4) Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

I've had two "interruptions." I walked my dogs for an hour this afternoon, and I attended a church fundraising dinner this evening, from 5-7pm. As soon as I got back home from these "interruptions," I went right back to reading.

5) What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I'm surprised I haven't made as much progress by this point. I've been reading steadily for about 5 hours or so, but the first third of House of Leaves is taking a while to get through (large pages with small print). I'm zooming through The Westing Game right now, though. Once I'm finished with that one, I plan to move on to the 2 graphic novels I have in my stack, Smile and Out from Boneville, as well as Scary Stories. Those should be quick reads, so hopefully I can say I finished 3-4 books by the end of the read-a-thon (fingers crossed!).

If there's still some time after all that (and I'm not feeling dead alive by that point), I may go back to HoL and see how much more I can read of that tome before the end. ;-)

10 years in 10 Books Readathon Challenge

2017 - Faithful by Alice Hoffman (this is the only book on this list that I haven't read - I haven't read any new books this year - but Hoffman is one of my favorite authors. Although, shamefully, I haven't read any of her books that were published after 2010. That definitely needs to be rectified!)

2016 - Brotherhood in Death by J.D. Robb (I only had a couple to choose from for this year, but I love the In Death series, and this was a really good one despite being the 42nd(!) book in the series so far)

2015 - The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I loved this book . . . every time I read a mystery/thriller as good as this one, I have to kick myself a little bit for not reading more of this genre)

2014 - My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories by various authors

2013 - Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

2012 - Every Day by David Levithan (an absolutely amazing, unforgettable book!)

2011 - Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

        It was very difficult to pick a favorite book I'd read that was published in 2011 because there were so many! I had no idea so many great books came out of the year 2011 until I started looking through my book list for this challenge. It was so hard to choose, in fact, that I decided I would add a runners-up list of books for 2011 as well:

       - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
       - Across the Universe by Beth Revis (amazing sci-fi YA series!)
       - Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol (a graphic novel and always a top rec of mine for the RAT)
       - Significance by Shelly Crane (I was completely obsessed with this e-book series when I first                  discovered it, and read all the books in one week)
       - Where She Went by Gayle Forman (I loved this sequel even more than the first book)

2010 - Dark Life by Kat Falls (another great YA series)

2009 - Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (apparently, this is a love it or hate it book, and I, of course, loved it :)

2008 - The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (my favorite YA series of the bunch)

2007 - Animal's People by Indra Sinha

Decades of Reading Mini-Challenge

For this challenge, tell me a book that represents your reading from each decade in which you have been able to read. (Decades on the calendar - 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, etc.)  For some of you, this will only require two or three books.  Since I'm a more "experienced" reader, I need six books. The book can be your favorite, one of a favorite series, a sample of a genre you liked, or whatever you feel describes your reading during that calendar decade.

This was a tough one to answer and required a lot of thought. Here's what I came up with:

1990s - Sweet Valley series (this decade was a no brainer)

2000s - The World According to Garp (to express my interest in more literary fiction during high school and college - this was the toughest decade for me because I was actually reading quite a variety of genres at that time)

2010s - Twilight series (the series that got me interested in YA, especially paranormal and "insta-love" stories ;-)

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - Opening Meme

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am reading from Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, USA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Tough question, but I would say either BFG by Roald Dahl (I try to make sure to have a Dahl book in my stack for every readathon), or House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, which I have been looking forward to reading for years and am finally getting to it right in time for the Halloween season.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to the chicken stew and oyster stew. The weather is finally cooling down now, plus I have a bit of a sore throat from a small cold I've just gotten over, so soup and hot tea will be consumed a lot today.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself.

I am an elementary Special Education teacher. I do reading and math interventions for K-5 students who have mild to moderate learning disabilities.  

I have two dogs, Liberty and Nova, who will be keeping me company today . . .

5) If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do different today?

I think this is my 5th or 6th readathon, and I pretty much have my preferred routine down now - I stick mostly with books from my home library. . . I like to read YA and graphic novels, but I also try and finish up books that I only have 100-200 pages left to read . . . I'll check out the memes, other blogs and some mini-challenges periodically throughout the day when I need a brain break.

Although, I suppose something that's a little different this time is that I have more 'adult' novels in my stack than usual - House of Leaves, The Shining, Eating Animals, ect. . . although, most of those books I have already started, and I would just like to try and see how many of them I can finish today.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon End Event


End of Event Meme:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 5, sadly enough. This happens every read-a-thon . . . I'll read for a few hours in the morning, but then I'll start feeling really sleepy, decide to lay down for a "cat nap," and then wake up around Hour 8 or 9. ;-/

I really didn't hit a good momentum in my reading until Hour 10 (6 p.m. my time).

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I sped through Coraline, the graphic novel. This was a great book to keep me up for a couple of hours more.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

I wish the cheerleaders could cheer on the blogs again. I don't have a twitter account, so I wasn't able to sign up for that, but I understand if cheering on blogs got too difficult with so many participants now.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I liked the mini-challenges that I participated in. They were nice, short breaks from all the reading, and fun to do.

5. How many books did you read?

I only read two, and I didn't even get to City of Bones like I'd planned

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Obsession in Death by J.D. Robb
Coraline: the graphic novel adaptation by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Coraline was certainly the fastest read, and it really kept my interest, even though I was quite tired by that point. However, I think I'll say I enjoyed Obsession in Death a bit more. This is the 40th (40th!!) book in the series, and the author still manages to come up with some really great story lines. I think Obsession is one of my favorites in the series now, honestly.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

I don't have a least favorite. I only read two books and I enjoyed both of them a lot

9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

Very likely! I'm just going to be a reader again next time. Hopefully, I can meet my 800-pages goal in October! ;-)