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Looking Back on 2011

At the beginning of the year (oh, shiny New Year!) I wrote a post about my goals for 2011. Now it's time to be held accountable.

My first goal was to finish the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. GOOOOOAAAAAL! I read and reviewed 12 debut YA novels.

I actually read a total of 322 books this year, the vast majority of which were picture books. But there were three non-debut novels and two adult non-fiction books as well.

My second goal was to finish my WIP. This goal wasn't met, but I am up to Draft #7. It's taken me awhile, but I've finally realized that I started in the wrong place. So I've chucked the first forty pages. I know what the problem is and how to fix it. I've just got to do it.

Which means my third goal to query agents didn't happen. But I've continued to add to my list of researched agents.

I also had some mini-goals. One was to start a YA critique group. That didn't happen either. My regular crit group, which is YA and MG, is in flux right…

Merry Christmas to All

I happen to be sitting in a bar in Maui right now. I can see the waves heading lazily to shore and soft breezes drift through the open lanai windows. It seems as un-Christmaslike as possible.

But I want to wish all of you a very merry Christmas. And my gift to you is a cute cat video.


How to Wrap a Cat for Christmas:





Mele Kalikimaka!

Merry Christmas!

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy Book Review

Title: How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy
Author: Crystal Allen
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
ISBN-10: 0061992720

288 pp.

Reading copy via local library

I started reading Lamar's Bad Prank during the summer but got distracted by, you know, life. But I'm glad I picked up Lamar's story again because it's a flat-out great read.

--> Lamar is a 13-year-old bowling fanatic living in a working class neighborhood in Indiana. His older brother Xavier is a basketball phenom and in his basketball crazy town, Lamar doesn't get any respect for being the King of Striker's, the local bowling alley. But Bubba Sanders, Lamar's bowling hero, is coming to Striker's on the Fourth of July and Lamar is planning on having the best summer ever.
Of course it all goes horribly wrong. Lamar's history with pulling pranks hinders his wooing of a local girl. Lamar begins hanging out with Billy Jenks, a decidedly bad influence who …

Taking the 2012 Debut Author Challenge

As promised, here's my list of books that I'm picking for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

This list is not binding. As the year progresses, I will switch out titles based on availability and mood. 

My completely unscientific criteria for picking a title is simple:
Early buzzAvailability from NetgalleyIntriguing titleI met the author at the SCBWI conference this summerJanuary: Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Early buzz! Available from Netgalley!)

February: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen (Available from Netgalley!)

March: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig (I met the author at the SCBWI conference this summer! Available from Netgalley!)

April: A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont (Intriguing title! Available from Netgalley!)

After April, I don't know yet what's available from Netgalley, so I'm going with title alone.

May: What She Left Behind by Tracy Bilen (sounds like it might be a ghost story)

June: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (sounds like YA contemp)

July: Insignia by S.J. Kin…

Debut Author Challenge - November Update

Wow, the year's almost over and the 2011 Debut Author Challenge will soon be completed. It's been a great year of reading and next week I'll share my completely unscientific choices for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge. (Of course I'm doing it again. I'm hooked.)

Last month I read and reviewed The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. In other reading news, I also managed to finish Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell and I'm almost done reading Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Montgomery. I'll admit it ... I never read Anne of Green Gables before, although I adore the miniseries starring Megan Follows. The book is just as charming as I thought it'd be.

Bonus Video: Anne of Green Gables trailer



What classic novel haven't you read (yet)? What debut book did you read this year that you think will become a classic? (I'm putting my money on Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.)

Random Cat Videos

This is a photograph of my cat Jasmine, who passed away earlier this year. She was 17 years old and I adopted her when she was 5, so that's 12 years I'm very grateful I got to spend with her.

Because it's Thanksgiving weekend and we've all got places to be, things to do, and leftovers to eat, this week I've collected a series of random cat videos for your entertainment and in honor of Jasmine.

Pepper, An Actor's Life:



Ninja Cat:



I'm a Kitty Cat:



An Engineer's Guide to Cats:







5 Teen Movies You Probably Haven't Seen (and why you should)

I recently saw Hanna, an action movie that came out earlier this year about a 16-year-old assassin. I thought it did a great job of using YA tropes (friendship, boys, identity), plus it's a pretty kick-ass movie.

Hanna wasn't a mega-budget film and wasn't a mega-blockbuster, but there are good performances by Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett (if you can get past her Southern accent). And Saoirse Ronan as Hanna is amazing. (Oh, there's a pretty kick-ass soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers, too.) It's definitely worth renting, streaming, or putting on your Netflix queue if you missed it in theaters.

Here's the trailer for Hanna:



Hanna also got me thinking about some teen-centric movies you may have missed entirely, because I almost did. These are indie movies that didn't have wide distribution and that I stumbled upon, either through recommendations or dumb luck.

The Chumscrubber stars Jamie Bell as a teen in suburbia whose drug-dealing friend commits suicide. The …

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Book Review

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1442421769

446 pp.

Reading copy via local library


This book had a lot of buzz pre-publication and I can see why. Way cool cover. Intriguing premise of is-she/isn't-she crazy. And it almost delivers.  It kind of bums me that I didn't L-O-V-E it like I thought I would, but it's still a good read.

Mara Dyer (not her real name as we learn in a prologue) wakes up in the hospital after an accident has killed her best friend Rachel, frenemy Claire, and boyfriend Jude. Mara has no memory of the accident and starts seeing Claire and Jude. Mara tries to convince herself that she has post-traumatic stress disorder and these sightings are merely hallucinations.

Mara also convinces her family that what she really needs is to get away from places that remind her of her friends, so the whole family moves to Florida. There she enters a prep school and mee…

Debut Author Challenge - October Update

It rained this morning, I'm wearing my favorite red sweater, and I'm drinking a bigass cup of coffee. Fall is very much in the air.

The year has zoomed by, but I've managed to keep on track with the Debut Author Challenge. Last month, I read and reviewed Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (and guys, seriously, read this book). And I'm almost done with The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (review forthcoming).

Alas, I haven't had time to go back and finish any of the other books I'm reading. So I'm going to choose one of them to complete for my December read. One thing I've learned during the year is that unless I can get an egalley before the publication date, I just don't have the time to read a book during the month it's published. Fetching by Kiera Stewart, which was my December read choice so very long ago, ended up being published in November, and I missed the egalley boat.

But I'm halfway through How Lamar's Bad Pran…

This Is Halloween

I finally made it to LACMA's Tim Burton exhibit, which was all the awesome that I was expecting. No one is allowed to take a camera into the exhibit, but people are permitted to take a photo of the entrance, which is suitably twisted.

I am a huge Tim Burton fan, although I acknowledge that his work has been uneven (Planet of the Apes, anyone?). But in the spirit of Halloween, I thought I'd share some Tim Burton love.

First of all, Cakewrecks recently highlighted Tim Burton themed cakes that you just have to see to believe.

Secondly, I stumbled upon the original version of The Nightmare Before Christmas poem, narrated by Christopher Lee, and here for you to enjoy:



Finally, here's a sneak peek at Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, which releases next year. (Yes, I have ridiculously high expectations.)



Bonus video: And because it's Halloween, I have to include Neil Gaiman's (why isn't Tim Burton directing The Graveyard Book?) pitch for All Hallow's Read.



Happy Hal…

Between Shades of Gray Book Review

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0399254123

344 pp.

Reading copy purchased at SCBWI conference

I've read several really awesome books this year because of the Debut Author Challenge, but none have affected me as deeply as Between Shades of Gray.

Lina is a fifteen year old art student in Lithuania during the outbreak of World War II. One night, she's rounded up along with her mother and younger brother and sent to a work camp in Russia. It's a harrowing story full of hardship and tragedy, but there is also kindness, hope, and even romance.

Ruta Sepetys created a story inspired by her own family history and shined a light on a dark corner of our shared human history. It is a powerful read and, believe me, you will need some Kleenex handy.

I would recommend Between Shades of Gray to readers who enjoyed Witness by Karen Hesse or Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Bonus Video: Ruta Sepetys shares how s…

Men of the Stacks

I've mentioned the website Hot Guys Reading Books before, which pretty much delivers what it says it does.

Now there's another website you need to check out: Men of the Stacks.

It gives "sexy librarian" a new meaning as male librarians get their very own pin-up calendar!

There are a couple of beefcakey shots (Mr. January is a yowza), but most are of fully clothed cute guy librarians.

 All proceeds from the calendar go to the It Gets Better Project, the brainchild of author Dan Savage to help LGBTQ teens who are bullied.

You may have seen one of the It Gets Better videos. Everyone from celebrities to politicians to CEOs to ordinary people have taped messages of support to LGBTQ teens to let them know that they are important and loved and awesome things wait for them.

One of my favorite It Gets Better videos is from Tim Gunn:



Consider buying the Men of the Stacks 2012 calendar as a Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus present!

Debut Author Challenge - September Update (plus bonus video)

September went by in a flash, but I stayed on course and read Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard. I also read half of the remarkably fun How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen, and I hope I get to finish that soon. And I've started Rupta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray, a heart-wrenching story about Stalin's forced deportation of a Lithuanian girl and her family to Siberia.
On the non-debut side, I'm reading Sarah Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes, a nonficiton book about the annexation of Hawaii. Sarah Vowell has a quirky style that I love and is best shown here:

The books on my current reading list continues grow, but I'm not really complaining. What's on your reading list for October?

Paper Covers Rock Book Review

Title: Paper Covers Rock
Author: Jenny Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 14, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0385740555

192 pp.

Reading copy via local library


If you're in the mood for a thoughtful, lovely little novel, then pick up a copy of Jenny Hubbard'sPaper Covers Rock.

Alex is a 16 year old student at a boarding school circa 1982. After his best friend Thomas dies in an accident, there are secrets to be kept and lies to be told. There is also English teacher Miss Dovecott, who tries to help Alex with his grief by encouraging him to write poetry. The fact that Alex falls in love with Miss Dovecott just complicates things more.

The novel is written as Alex's journal, an almost stream of consciousness confession of Alex's fears and dreams. There are many literary allusions, primarily Melville's Moby Dick, but Alex's self-mocking at his own pretentiousness makes them accessible to readers not familiar with these works.

The pretty boy …

How Many Banned Books Have You Read?

In honor of Banned Books Week, which is Sept. 24-Oct. 1, I thought I'd see how subversive I am by checking how many banned books I've read (only 17).

If you want to see how subversive you've been by reading books other people think you (or your kids) shouldn't read, I've created a poll.

The books listed are the top 100 banned or challenged (that's librarianspeak for trying to get a book banned) from 2000-2009, as compiled by the American Librarian Association. (You can read more about Banned Books Week here.)

YA Confidential Blog Launch and Contest Alert

YA Confidential is a new blog hosted by 6 YA authors, bringing you (nearly) daily tips and news from the YAsphere. What I'm really excited about is Teen Spy Tuesdays because teens will be talking about their lives and what they're excited about (see this recent interview with 15-year-old Kacey).

And to celebrate their launch, YA Confidential is giving away mega-prizes. Agent critiques! ARCs! Books! All for following an awesome blog. Read all the deets here.

The contest is international and runs until Friday, October 7, 2011. Sekrit prizes will also be awarded for leaving a comment with your sekrit code name. (I think I'm going with Spookygirl.)

When You Shouldn't Read Your Work Out Loud

Revision is a bitch. I'm plugging away on Draft 7 of my WIP and it totally seems like a one-step-forward, two-steps-back endeavor.

But there are tools that writers use to help during revision hell. Critique groups give valuable feedback. Outlining the plot chapter by chapter helps figure out pacing. Another tool writers use is to read their work out loud.  It helps them catch clunky dialog and awkward phrasing.

But I want to put a big ole caveat on the "reading your work out loud" advice. Don't get me wrong. I think reading your work out loud is great advice. But not always.

I have a writer friend who was frustrated after a critique. Someone had slammed her dialog and suggested she read her work out loud. The thing is, my friend had read her work out loud. She felt insulted and hurt that she was already doing what she was "supposed" to be doing and it didn't seem to help with her dialog.

I have a theory why reading out loud wasn't working for my fr…

Debut Author Challenge - August Update

I am happy to report that I am caught up for the Debut Author Challenge! I have read eight books by new authors this year, plus the bonus anthology Teeth: Vampire Tales. I even started the nonfiction book Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. Life has been good.

What I didn't get a chance to do was my own version of summer reading, which meant reading poetry, plays, and graphic novels. You know, to expand my reading horizons. Oh well. Maybe I'll get a chance in the fall now that summer reading is over.

Speaking of fall, I've got some good books to look forward to. I've started Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard (review forthcoming). And Between Shades of Gray by Rupta Sepetys is still sitting on my TBR pile from the SCBWI conference.

What are you looking forward to reading this fall?




Teeth: Vampire Tales Book Review

Title: Teeth: Vampire Tales
Editors: Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0061935145

480 pp.

Reading copy via local library

This anthology of 17 vampire short stories (and 2 poems) isn't part of the Debut Author Challenge since many of the contributors are well-established authors such as Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Melissa Marr, and Tanith Lee. But it was sitting so seductively on the shelf that I had to read it.

I'm glad I did.

I totally missed the Twilight bandwagon, and I wanted to see what other authors had to say about vampires. And this collection has all kinds of vampires. Funny vampires, gay vampires, creepy vampires, psychotic vampires, and regular teenage angsty vampires.

I'm just going to list my top five favorites stories, but almost all stories are extremely strong (only one did I find a little clunky and I wasn't that interested in the two poems that are include…

Book Review: How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend

Title: How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend
Author: Gary Ghislain
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: June 8, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0811874601

208 pp.

Reading copy from local library


Yeah, it's funny. Yeah, there's a sci-fi twist. No, there's no actual Johnny Depp. But don't let that stop you from reading Gary Ghislain's hilarious, hi-jinks filled book.

David is a 14 year old living in France with his dad, a shrink for troubled kids. And when Zelda, a superhot girl who is supertrouble, becomes his dad's latest patient, David can't stay away from her. Even though she says she's from outer space. And on a mission to find her Chosen One. Who happens to be Johnny Depp.

There's a ton of action, lots of laughs, and a French sensibility. By that I mean there is implied sex, although it works as both a plot point and character development. But this may be icky to some readers (especially given that David is 14; if he were 16, I think the ick-…

2011 SCBWI Summer Conference, or What I Did Over Summer Vacation

There are lots and lots of great blogs about the conference, but definitely check the Official Conference Blog. I can't chew gum and blog at the same time, so I left it to these speedy bloggers to give the play-by-play action.

What I do better is ruminate and then sum up. So here's an overview at my time at the 2011 SCBWI Summer Conference.

Day One: Friday

I live in the area, so I skipped all the early morning sessions and showed up in time for the first keynote. Bruce Coville is all kinds of awesome, and I loved his speech about why what we do matters and how what we do affect others in ways we can never know.

Jerry Pinkney's keynote was accompanied by personal photos and drawings and how to bring a sense of place to your work. Awe. Some.

My first breakout session was Donna Jo Napoli's "Sources of Tension and How to Use Them." She did a very interactive session, taking suggestions from the audience how what were the elements of tension. But lessons I learn…

Debut Author Challenge - July Update

It's been a busy, busy summer. Summer reading is going on full swing and I've probably read over 100 picture books. But that's not quite the Debut Author Challenge, is it?

I did read Through Her Eyes, which hasn't gotten the buzz of some other new releases and really should be a must read. I also read Wildefire, which was muy caliente and another must read.

So I'm caught up for the year, which gives me the warm fuzzies. I've started How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend, a hilarious read so far (and review forthcoming).

I picked up a boatload of books at the SCBWI conference last week (thoughts on that forthcoming), and the first to be read from that pile will be Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray. Ruta signed my copy of the novel at the conference, and she was so gracious and sweet!

That's all for now. Enjoy the rest of of your summer reading!


Wildefire Book Review

Title:Wildefire
Author: Karsten Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: July 26, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1442421172
400 pp.

Advanced reading copy via Galley Grab

Wowohwowohwowohwow.

Wildefire grabs you by the throat and doesn't let you go. There's action! Untimely death! Cute boys! Crazy-ass sisters! (not necessarily in that order)

Ashline and her big sis Eve were adopted from an Polynesian orphanage and they've grown up in an upper middle class Jewish family in upstate New York. They were close ... until Eve runs away from home. And when she returns, bad stuff happens. Really. Bad. Stuff. Stuff so bad that Ashline decides her only chance at normalcy is to transfer to a boarding school across the country.

And that's when stuff starts to get really weird.

There are too many twists and turns to give away the plot, but the long and short of it is that Ashline discovers that she's the reincarnation of a volcano goddess. And her new friends at boarding school? Also …

6 Favorite Harry Potter Videos

My husband thinks I'm a total Harry Potter nerd, but that's not true. I've never:

gone to a midnight book release partydressed up in characterread one of the books in a single daycreated a fan video
Now that the final movie has come out, I find myself unwilling to say good-bye. So I've collected some of my favorite Harry Potter videos to watch (over and over) again. (And it's quicker than re-reading all the books.)

Enjoy!


Harry Potter in 99 Seconds: The entire series for those with ADD.



Literal Deathly Hallows Movie Trailer: Now that I've seen both parts, this is even funnier.




A Very Potter Musical: This is just the first part, but worth watching the entire musical (with Glee's Darren Criss as Harry!)




Gandalf vs. Dumbledore Epic Rap Battles of History: OMFG. Hilarious.



Potter Puppet Pals: There's a slew of these very funny videos, but I heart this one the most.



Harry Potter and the Brokeback Goblet: There's no shortage of slash-themed videos…

Through Her Eyes Book Review

Title: Through Her Eyes
Author: Jennifer Archer
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0061834585
384pp.

Reading copy through public library

When I was thirteen, my parents moved our family from our suburban home to a small desert town. Let's just say that I was not happy with this new arrangement. Which means I instantly sympathized with Tansy Piper, the protagonist of Through Her Eyes.

Tansy is used to moving from town to town since her mom is a writer and likes to live in the cities where she sets her books. But instead of some place like Austin or Memphis or San Francisco, Tansy ends up in Cedar Canyon, Texas, the small town her grandfather grew up in. She loves her Papa Dan, who lives with her and her mom, since he's the one who understands her best and has been her best friend no matter where they are. But Papa Dan isn't doing well, rarely talking and barely eating. And moving into their creepy new home seems to be making Papa Dan worse.

Tansy f…

Debut Author Challenge - June Update

Summer has officially started and I managed half of my reading goals for June. As reviewed here, I did finish Possession by Elana Johnson, but I didn't get to reading a play for the month. (I checked out Invention of Love by Tom Stoppard, and it still sits forlornly on my bookshelf.)

I've started Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer, which I'm really enjoying. The book review will be up soon. This, of course, still leaves me a month behind. I'm hoping to catch up with Wildefire by Karsten Knight, which I pulled from Galley Grab. I started the first couple of chapters of that and all I can say is ... wow.

And that's about it for June. The days are longer, but it seems like I have less time to do stuff.

How has your summer reading been going?

7 Query Resources

I recently won a query critique from an agented author in a charity auction. The feedback that I received was very positive. That made me feel fantastic. The author had a few notes for me (of course), but thought I was almost there. Yay me!

How was I able to achieve such positive results? First, I've written the query at least a bajillion times (not a precise number), trying out different approaches until I felt I finally nailed the main question of my book in the shortest amount of words. (Hint: queries are about setting up the question of "what happens next" ... it doesn't give away the whole story).

Second, I've had my critique group go over it, giving second and third and fourth pairs of eyes to help me see things I had missed.

Third, research, research, research. There are a bajillion (again, not a precise number) different blog entries, websites, tweets, etc. about queries. Going through it all is time-consuming, so I've narrowed down some of the best for …

One World, Many Stories - Film Edition

Summer reading programs are starting and as I've mentioned before, the theme at the libraries where I work is One World, Many Stories.

In addition to the books that I've previously listed, there are also some fabulous movies with multicultural stories that you might be interested in.

Bend It Like Beckham: A Pakistani teen in London defies her parents by playing soccer.

The Chorus (Les Choristes): At a school for troubled boys in France, a music teacher changes their lives.

Empire of the Sun: A young English boy tries to survive in a Japanese POW camp during World War II.

Into the West: Two Traveller brothers find a mysterious white horse in their Irish slum.

Osama: A 12-year-old girl disguises herself as boy after the Taliban takes over Afghanistan.

Quinceanera: Magdalena gets kicked out of her home when she finds out she's pregnant, but finds a new home with her grandfather and gay cousin.

Rabbit-Proof Fence: Three aboriginal girls escape government custody and attempt to walk ac…

Possession Book Review

Title:Possession
Author: Elana Johnson
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1442421257
416 pp.

Reading copy from publisher via Galley Grab


I don't give stars for my reviews, but if I did, I'd give 3 out of 5 for Possession by Elana Johnson. It fell in the middle for me ... somewhere between Across the Universe by Beth Revis, which I L-O-V-E-D and Bumped by Megan McCafferty, which I didn't finish.

The basic story is that Violet (aka Vi) lives in the Goodlands, but she doesn't think much of being a Goodie. She breaks the rules of this particular dystopian world and ends up in prison with Jag, the swaggering and sexy Baddie from the Badlands. She breaks out of prison with Jag and finds out there's a Resistance, which she may or may not want to join. And then there's Zenn, the boy Vi was matched with back when she was a Goodie. He may be trying to help her, or he may be keeping her away from Jag. Vi doesn't know who to trust or what do, …

Debut Author Challenge - May Update

One thing that I've realized doing the challenge is that it's okay to make changes on the fly. I started this as something fun to do and I wasn't very scientific on how I chose what titles to read. So if one title wasn't readily available, I would switch out with a title that was. Which is why Entwined was my May read instead of How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend.

And really, I'm behind a month. There was no April read. But I figure if I read 12 debut books by the end of the year, I'm good. Right? (Please say right.)

To complicate matters more, I'm itching to read Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell, which isn't YA or debut. But Sarah Vowell is pretty awesome and the book is sitting on my coffee table looking all wistful and lonely, like a older cat at a pet adoption who isn't even going to try to compete with the kittens.

To complicate matters even more, last year I started a summer reading program for myself to get out the fiction/nonficti…

One World, Many Stories

Summer reading programs are kicking off soon at the libraries where I work, and this year's theme is "One World, Many Stories."

As I've mentioned before, I believe multicultural stories aren't just for people of color and I love that so many kids will have the opportunity to learn about the big, beautiful world we all share.

Here's a short list of books about people from the four corners the world, including right here in the USA.

Picture Books

Angel City by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Carole Byard
An African-American man adopts a Latino boy and when tragedy strikes this unlikely family, love is what keeps them going. Not for younger readers, but older children can appreciate the book’s message of tolerance and compassion.

D Is for Dragon Dance by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by YongSheng Xuan
Vibrant illustrations celebrate the traditions of Chinese New Year one letter at a time.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Entwined Book Review

Title:Entwined
Author: Heather Dixon
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: March 29, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780062001030
480 pp.

Reading copy from local library

There's romance and then there's Romance. Lower case "r" romance is what most people think of when they think of the word, which is pretty much anything the new Old Spice guy offers you in one of his commercials. (You know, walks on the beach, diamonds, tickets to that thing you love.)

Capital "R" romance goes back to the Romantics, the literary and artistic movement in the early 19th century that took off the neatly coiffed wig of the Enlightenment and let its luscious locks get windswept in the moors. Capital "R" romance favors emotion over logic and nature over order. Capital "R" romantics are Byron, Keats, Shelley. And Heather Dixon.

While there is more than a touch of lower case "r" romance in Entwined, it is, at its heart, an unabashed capital "R" romance. Ba…

In Which I Profess My Love for Doctor Who and Neil Gaiman

Two of my favorite things are making a convergence this weekend. Neil Gaiman has written the episode of Doctor Who that will air this Saturday, May 14th. To say I am excited is to understate the level of squee this fangirl is capable of.
If you haven't seen Doctor Who since, oh, the 20th century, don't let preconceptions of bad special effects and cheesy aliens stop you from enjoying the reboot of the franchise that began in 2005.
Christopher Eccleston starred as the Ninth Doctor, bringing a edginess to the role. David Tennant took over as the sexy Tenth Doctor from 2006-2010. Matt Smith, the goofiest doctor I've ever seen, now stars as the Eleventh Doctor.
The BBC obviously upped the budget, but what made a new generation of viewers fans of the show is the remarkable storytelling. These stories are smart, funny, tragic, and scary, often at the same moment. Not every episode is an A+, but rarely is an episode anything less than a B.
I highly suggest that you start watchin…