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Look What I Made

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Last Friday we went on a little double date with some friends at a paint your own pottery place. I knew I wanted to create something bookish but couldn’t decide on the Vladimir Tod smiley or the Hunger Games mockingjay. Well, as you can see I decided to attempt the majorly more detailed mockingjay.

I was so nervous about it coming out right because it was a detailed process. I had to draw it, then trace it on tracing paper. Then I had to tape it on the mug, trace over it with a felt marker, then remove the paper and paint the design. I think it came out pretty good!

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Just Enough: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Hello, and how are you today?  Lets talk The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is pure dystopian fiction; and I love it!  My husband and I listened to the audiobook together (just like we did for The Hunger Games series) and we’re pumped to start the sequel, The Scorch Trials!

So, as much as I hate doing this I must make a comparison to The Giver by Lois Lowery, but its a super positive comparison, so never fear!  One aspect I loved about The Maze Runner, and also appreciated in The Giver, is the way in which the reader and the narrator are finding things out at the same time.  Because Thomas wakes up in an elevator with no memory except his name (I mean just imagine that!) he knows absolutely nothing about the situation he’s about to enter, which is exactly how it is for the reader.  In some way, this technique made me really feel as though I was actually Thomas experiencing everything about The Glade for the first time.

Dashner’s writing completely captures you from the very beginning.  Here see for yourself,

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale dusty air.  Metal ground against metal; a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath him.  He fell down at the sudden movement and shuffled backward on his hands and feet, drops of sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool air.

Boom!  I was hooked!  Dashner had me concerned for the main character within the first few sentences.  Plus, the world he creates in The Glade is so well thought out he even introduces new vocabulary (shuck, greenie, shank, slopper) that is used by The Gladers, further sucking you into this new and creepy world.   My husband and I loved the Glader slang so much we even started incorporating into our own conversations (we’re not nerds or anything!).

In The Glade, the Gladers never really feel safe because they have no idea why they were there and who was watching.  As a reader you completely get this feeling of danger and insecurity around every corner because  you’re there right alongside the characters, learning everything as they do. This ties in to how strong a writer Dasher is.  He manages to tell you just enough, without telling you so much that it ruins it.  Just enough to creep you out and make you want more at the same time.  For example, Dashner never over describes the way the Grievers look.  He writes just enough detail and information to give you the basic idea of them and let your mind do the rest.  It’s like he understands that our minds can form more horrific images than anyone could ever put into words.  The creators of Signs, (you know the Mel Gibson alien movie) should have taken some tips from Dashner and never have shown us exactly what the aliens looked like because that was the exact moment it stopped being scary for me.

Okay, I have to make a comparison to another classic book; The Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  In Lord of the Flies, you have teenagers on their own forced to create their own mini society with no adults, which is exactly what you have in The Maze Runner.  Golding’s approach has the society swiftly falling apart and melting into mass chaos, where as Dasher does the exact opposite.  The society that forms in The Glade, is one based on organization and hard work.  The older teens, who’ve been in the Glade the longest, know that without this organization and work, everyone would go crazy with fear, so it’s a necessity to keep them all sane and alive.  I like this take on an only teen civilization.  Although I work in a middle school and sometimes believe the Lord of the Flies scenario is much closer to what would actually happen if adults suddenly ceased to exist, I appreciated the idea that maybe I’m wrong.

Honestly, I hope a production company picks The Maze Runner up and makes it into a movie.  I really think the style of this book could easily work into a film; as long as they don’t show me too much of the Grievers!  If you’re a fan of dystopian lit, definitely don’t pass up The Maze Runner. I think it could be slightly scary for younger middle school readers, but could be enjoyed by anyone older.

I’m excited to read the rest of the series!

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Listening Library; Unabridged edition (October 6, 2009)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 10 hrs, and 50 mins

Series: First in a trilogy

YA/MG: Young Adult

Buy the Book: The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1)

 

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Currently Reading

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For some reason it’s been taking me some
time to finish these books! Not that there’s anything wrong with them, I’ve just been really busy. So, as of today I’m currently reading/listening to four books:

-13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. (YA)

-Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, audiobook (YA)

-Halflings by Heather Burch, e-book (YA/MG)

-Tempest by Julie Cross, audiobook (YA)

With the help of my reading buddy, my goal is to finish one of these today!

What are you reading?

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Book Trailer of the Week: The Underdogs

I’m always on the hunt for middle grades books for boys and Mike Lupica never disappoints.  The Underdogs by Mike LupicaThis week’s highlighted book trailer is Lupica’s The Underdogs.  It was published in fall of 2011, so its been out for a little while already.  I’m going to have to add this one to the next purchase I make for my school’s Media Center.   To learn more about the book watch the trailer!

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Kami Kinard (The Boy Project): Author Interview And Giveaway

One of my bookish/blogger goals for 2012 was to host a giveaway. Well, the year is still young and I decided to try it out.

The Boy Project by Kami KinardSo I will be giving away an Advanced Reader Copy of The Boy Project by Kami Kinard! This is Kinard’s debut into middle grades fiction and I really enjoyed it. Plus, author Kami Kinard is really awesome and agreed to answer some interview questions for us!

What are some of the authors or books that influenced you in any way as a writer?

Probably the most influential writers were the ones whose books I read as a child – the ones who made me fall in love with reading! I read every Nancy Drew book, every Hardy Boys, every Bobbsey Twins, and even every Beverly Gray mystery. I liked the sense of adventure.

As an adult, I think I’ve been influenced by all of the good writers I read. I try to pay attention to what they do that works. I really admire JK Rowling’s characterization and Cornelia Funke’s fabulous imagination and world building, for example. I love the way Jeff Kinney uses humor to bring us back to middle school.

What was your favorite scene in The Boy Project to write and why?

I like the scene where Kara and Tabbi are on the phone and Tabbi mentions that she likes Kara’s crush. This is written like a script, so I had to find a way to put beats into it. I think it worked out well.

Throughout the book Kara is focused on getting her first boyfriend. Tell us a little about your first boyfriend.

I try to forget about my first boyfriend! But I will say this: I was a lot older than Kara when I dated him!

Your website says you used your middle school journals to get into character for writing Kara. How are you are Kara similar and different?

Kara is a lot like who I was in middle school. She’s creative, fairly smart, likes to read, wants good grades, and, of course, a boyfriend. We are different in that Kara is much braver than I ever was. (Maybe this is why it took me a few more years to realize my middle school dream of achieving girlfriend status! ) Also, I would have NEVER waited until the last minute to throw together a science fair project! And I would have never ever ever tried to hide in a boys’ room.

Will you be writing more middle grades fiction in the future? Can you give us any hints?

I am working on another humorous middle grade now about a girl who has an identity crisis. So far it involves chorus class, a name change, a rock-star-wannabe dad, and a tuba. If I tell you any more, it’ll give it away!

———-

A huge thank you to Kami for taking the time to answer some questions! For more info on Kami Kinard check out her website!

On to the giveaway!

This is my first giveaway and I think it’s a pretty fun one! The Boy Project Prize Pack

One winner will receive an Advanced Reader Copy of The Boy Project by Kami Kinard and a fun prize pack full of bookmarks, tattoos, and bracelets (Thanks to Kami for sending these). I love the bracelets!

Okay! So, how do you enter this giveaway? Well, just leave a comment on this post between today, Thursday Jan. 19, 2012 through Wednesday Jan. 25, 2012 (midnight eastern time) and you’ll be automatically entered to win.

This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents. I will announce the winner on Thursday Jan 26, 2012 on a special winner post. That person will have 48 hours to email me their mailing address or I will select another winner.

I’m super excited and hope you are too!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Titles From My To Read Stack

My To Read Stack

I always have a huge To Read stack, so I decided it was time to feature its presence in my life! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday are ten titles in my To Read stack. Now, as you can see there are not ten books in the stack above, and that’s because I also have some e-books on my Kindle that are technically in this category. So many delicious books, so little time! Anyway, here we go!

The Scorpio Races by Maggie StiefvaterThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Miracle Wimp by Erik P. KraftMiracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft (ignore the giant puppy paw!)

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie PerkinsLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

My Most Excellent Year by Steve KlugerMy Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day GeorgeTuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

The Boy Book by E. LockhartThe Boy Book by E. Lockhart

Heist Society by Ally CarterHeist Society by Ally Carter

Tempest by Julie CrossTempest (audiobook) by Julie Cross (ARC)

May B. by Caroline Starr RoseMay B.: A Novel by Caroline Starr Rose (e-book)

In Too Deep by Amanda GraceIn Too Deep by Amanda Grace (ARC)

Of course I’ll let you know when I get to these; I just wish I could read them all right now, but alas its not possible! What titles are waiting for you in your To Read stack?

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Already On My To Buy List: The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani

Hello!  I read this book as part of the 2012 Debut Authors Challenge.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera HiranandaniAfter her father loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni, half Indian and half Jewish American, finds herself yanked out of private school and thrown into the unfamiliar world of public education. For the first time, Sonia’s mixed heritage makes her classmates ask questions—questions Sonia doesn’t always know how to answer—as she navigates between a group of popular girls who want her to try out for the cheerleading squad and other students who aren’t part of the “in” crowd.

At the same time that Sonia is trying to make new friends, she’s dealing with what it means to have an out-of-work parent—it’s hard for her family to adjust to their changed circumstances. And then, one day, Sonia’s father goes missing. Now Sonia wonders if she ever really knew him. As she begins to look for answers, she must decide what really matters and who her true friends are—and whether her two halves, no matter how different, can make her a whole.

I have to say that I was captivated with this story from the start; I started it and didn’t want to put it down (although work, and real life actually did force me to!).

The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a coming of age story centered around a girl in middle school at a point in her life when everything (and I mean everything!) gets turned upside down. Sonia’s father looses his job, she has to go to a different school, her mother has to work more, her father is struggling with depression, she is trying to make new friends, and all while kids at school are making fun of her.

Hiranandani writes a story so real that it hurts at times.  The more I read, the more my mind was flooded with my own memories from this age.  Kids are not just dealing with one problem, but  are often blindsided by a multitude all at once, making the transition from child to teenager that much more challenging.  I appreciate the way this book illustrates the complexity of family issues, relationship struggles and the difficulty that comes with discovering one’s own (ethnic/religious) identity. There was potential for Sonia’s story to be easily clichéd or stereotyped, but Hiranandani manages to keep the story balanced and realistic while at the same time incredibly touching. And I think that Hiranandani does a wonderful job of writing about such deep issues, while also maintaining the middle grade appropriateness.

As a main character Sonia is both likable and easy to connect with.  In the midst of all the changes, Sonia is really trying to make sense of everything the best she can.  I especially like how realistically flawed Hiranandani writes Sonia, as exemplified in how she handles her new friendships at her new school.  Through much of the book, Sonia puts real friendship on the back-burner, instead turning her attention to the more superficial and in turn hurts some people.  Although its a mistake I understand why Sonia would do this; her life is so much upheaval she just focuses on whats easy for a while; going with the flow.  Eventually, however she realizes that going with the flow isn’t always the healthiest of practices, especially when it comes to who you spend your time with. Who, when faced with such difficult times, wouldn’t make the easy choice for a little while?

Overall, I was impressed with how moving Sonia’s story was and highly recommend it to any reader preteen and up.   The Whole Story of Half a Girl is already on my Too Buy list for my Media Center!

Author: Veera Hiranandani

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Format: Advanced Reader Copy (e-book)

Pages: 224

Series: Stand alone debut

YA/MG: Middle Grades

Buy the Book: The Whole Story of Half a Girl

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Book Trailer of the Week: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green In celebration of the release of John Green’s new title, The Fault in Our Stars, lets take a look at its gorgeous book trailer!  I have yet to ready anything by John Green, although I plan on rectifying that soon.  I really, really like this cover and the trailer definitely did its job; it made me go look up more information about the book.  See for yourself!

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In My Mailbox

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This week has been incredibly busy at work with tons I planning for upcoming events. Needless to say, I’m ready for the upcoming three day weekend!

So, it was really exciting to see a package waiting for me when I got home! Thank you to Macmillan Audio for this audiobook of Tempest by Julie Cross! I can’t wait to listen to it because I’ve heard good stuff!

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.