Monday, May 31, 2010

Mailbox Monday -- What I got at BEA


I'm jumping in to Mailbox Monday at The Printed Page for the first time this week. Carrie and I heard about this at the Book Blogger Convention at BEA, and she posted her list at 5 Minutes for Books, but I went right from BEA goodness to a family camping trip, so I decided to go ahead and put up a late post here about the review copies I got from BEA/Book Blogger Con.

However, we do plan on posting each week at 5 Minutes for Books. I think it will be fun.

I heard a lot of YA book buzz, and a good 1/3 of what I brought home was YA. I also picked up some interesting children's books, and a few novels/memoirs.

Young Adult:

Suite Scarlett (audiobook from Brilliance Audio) -- The author Maureen Johnson was our Book Blogger Con keynote speaker, and she was hilarious, so I can't wait to sample her fiction

I, Q by Roland Smith -- I picked this up at the Sleeping Bear Press booth. Carrie and I were sure to stop by to meet our contact, because we LOVE Sleeping Bear Press. I was surprised that they carried novels for kids/teens, and when I brought this one home, Amanda (my 11-year-old) was excited about it. I was actually so intrigued that I read it right away, and Amanda is halfway through it now. The second is coming out soon.

The Fat Boy Chronicles is another Sleeping Bear Press title. Looks very interesting.

Firelight by Sophie Jordan is a Fantasy novel that grabbed my interest when I heard her read from it.

Matched by Ally Condie is the book that most excites me. It doesn't come out until November, but it's more dystopian YA goodness.

Another huge score was a signed Rick Riordan audiobook copy of The Red Pyramid.

Fiction:

The Stuff that Never Happened by Maddie Dawson
Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson
A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell
Nemesis by Philip Roth

Memoir:

Promise Me by Nancy Brinker
The Bucolic Plague is an interesting book that is also going to be a Discovery TV show about some city guys who started a farm.
Summer at Tiffany's (which Carrie already read on the way home and loved)
Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What is actually on my nightstand

Because of lack of time (I'm getting ready for Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Con, in addition to hosting and meeting Carrie), and also in an effort to do something different, I thought I'd look at the books that are really and truly on my nightstand, that I'm reading right now.

Finny: A Novel -- Justin Kramon, the author, is going to be at the Book Blogger Con author reception, so even though this book doesn't release until July, I wanted to read it, and boy, am I glad I did. It pulled me in on page one. Truly delightful.

LEGO: A Love Story -- This book is pretty good -- great, if you are truly a LEGO fan. There is lots of history, and it's aimed at AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO).

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
-- This book is well written and on target about how the American Christian lifestyle has probably started to drift from Biblical truth and commands. It's very interesting. Thought-provoking, but not guilt-inducing, which is a fine line that David Platt is walking well.

As for what I hope to read this month -- I really don't know.

I have two non-fiction books from my Spring Reading Thing list that I would still like to tackle in order to read all of that nonfiction that I had waiting for me. There are also three novels left on that list, but one I started and decided not to finish.

I'd sort of like to read a Hardy Boys book that I have lying around for the last month of the Children's Classics Reading Challenge. We'll see.

I intend to be tempted (and to give in to that temptation) at BEA this week, so who knows what I'll come home with?

See what others are reading at 5 Minutes for Books What's on Your Nightstand carnival the 4th Tuesday of every month.




Thursday, May 20, 2010

Teen TV and Movies

I recently watched some Molly Ringwald 80's teen movies (that I watched as an 80's teen). I was a little shocked. Actually a few books that I've read lately showed that drug and alcohol use in the early 80's was very high, and then lowered a good bit. I think that "just say 'no'" actually worked -- thank you, Nancy Reagan.

Anyway, we were discussing over dinner how explicit 16 Candles was (in parent-code, which probably isn't so secret) for a PG movie especially.

This must have been PG in the pre-PG-13 era. This movie had full front female nudity and many swear words, and of course all the sexual talk you might expect in a teen drama.

When Terry and I were talking about it at the dinner table, Kyle asked, "What's PG-13?" and the 11 1/2-year-old expert jumped in and said, "Those are movies that you can't see until you are 13."

I said, "Just so you know, you probably won't be seeing many PG-13 movies when you are 13," knowing that over the years PG-13's have moved even closer to the R spectrum.

Terry and I were in agreement without having talked about it specifically, "That will give you something to worry and complain about for the next year and a half," he added.

Pretty in Pink actually is rated PG-13, but didn't have any nudity and not nearly as many swear words.

Personally I like the Disney version of teendom. Zack and Cody get close to kissing the girl, but they never show it on screen. The issue of Lily and Oliver "coupling" has never come up on Hannah Montana. I know that's because these shows, while featuring teenagers, are really aimed at a tween audience (and watched by 6-year-olds, including -- ahem -- mine). But why can't movies show the clean side of being a teen? It is out there. In fact, a friend of mine was just saying that her high school senior was upset because so many people were drinking at Prom. She doesn't, and she doesn't associate with those who do. It's her choice, and there are many who make that choice.

My teen life was also more Disney-fied than John Hughesesque, but I still enjoyed watching the old Molly Ringwald movies (back then, and now). Check out my reviews at 5 Minutes for Books, and then read my Molly Ringwald interview at 5 Minutes for Mom and enter to win a copy of her new book Getting the Pretty Back.

What about you? Do movie ratings help you? Do you think that teen movies accurately portray teen behavior or provide a platform for discussing the issues that teens face? Do you/will you let your kids watch them?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tantalizing Tuesday TV

AMERICAN IDOL

Can I just remind you all that I liked Lee from the beginning. That's it.

I haven't written about Idol in the last few weeks, but I think that Lee has been gaining steam while Crystal has sort of lost it. Even tonight she was a little wavery on some of her notes. I did like Ellen's song choice for her, although I was surprised that none of the judges commented on her ability to relate to the song when she kept singing over and over "Maybe I'm a man. . . ."

And I totally agree that Casey made a bad choice, and though he sounded good, I think that Kara and Randy made a boring choice for him.

If it's not Lee and Crystal I'll be super surprised. Anyone could win, but I'm pulling for Lee.


GLEE -- live blogged

Oh we start off with what I've been waiting for -- good ol' Neil Patrick Harris.

With a mullet no less.

Doing magic.

I am smiling. I love NPH. And just for the record, Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester, has a little somethin' too, especially when he's doing white boy rap.

Terry was astounded when he found out that it was Cory Monteith's, Finn's, birthday last week and that he just turned 28. He does look young, but it doesn't surprise me. It also doesn't surprise me to find out that he's Canadian. He does look Canadian.

Looking at in these scenes, I'm feeling the need to wikipedia Jonathan Groff/Jessie, because he has a few lines on his face. And he's only 25. And openly gay, which I knew, because there was a big Newsweek article last week where the writer doubted if actors like Groff could play straight. I think that Jessie doesn't seem too gay to be straight on the show at all. Ironically, the article also mentions NPH, but says that he pulls it off (although I have to say that he's not seeming too hetero in this episode). And I'm tired of him playing jerks. I want to see his sensitive side.

By the way, today I got my Glee Soundtrack, Volume 3, that just released today, since I pre-ordered it.

And we're back. Now are are combining another love of mine -- Billy Joel. Even Terry is smiling now as NPH belts it out.

Dream On. I have not watched these clips, nor listened to the song on my new CD, so it would be fresh. And it's good. Seriously, Matthew Morrison is awesome. I found out that he was in South Pacific on Broadway right before he started Glee, and I had to dig out my Playbill and see if I actually saw him live, but he had already gone when we saw it.

I really, really, like Artie as well. Good number here with "Safety Dance."

Oooh, interesting plot twist with Jessie here. And Idina Menzel, who makes me think of Wicked, which I also love so very much. Very interesting.

Les Mis is awesome, too. May have to get my CDs out.

Great show. Loved last week too. Total Gleek.

Tunnels

When I asked Amanda which book she wanted to share with Kids' Picks, she said, "Well, I'm not finished with it yet, but definitely Tunnels" (by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams).

Here's 6th grader Amanda's review:

Will Burroughs is 14. His dad always built tunnels with him. One day his dad disappears, and he tries to find him. While he is trying to find him, he finds a whole underground community and gets put in jail.

This book would be good for people who enjoy fantasy books.

There are two more books in the series too.
Amanda generally picks up books that she sees other people reading and enjoying. That is how she got turned on to this one. Apparently it is published by the same person who "discovered" J.K. Rowling. Amanda did say that the first part was slow, but she's hooked now, and is almost finished.

Kyle brought home a book on Dinosaurs from his school library. He liked it so much that he renewed it, so we could keep reading. It was heavy on facts. I have a feeling that this type of book is in our future. I couldn't find the exact book, but I'm pretty sure it was a DK book, and it may have been this one.

Click over to 5 Minutes for Books to read more recommendations from other kids.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Green Grass and Red Dirt


Who would have guessed it? I'm loving Little League. Perhaps it has something to do with a particular adorable baseball player.

The first few weeks, it was all about rolling in the grass and kicking in the dirt. There's still a fair bit of that, but after Kyle came in off the field last Thursday, he told another parent, "I didn't even write in the dirt that time." He also made his first play on Thursday. He was at third base, "down and ready," and the ball rolled right into his glove. He was shocked, but went to his base where there was a force "out" (they encourage them to make the play, but the runner stays on base). That heartened him so much that he actually went for the next grounder headed toward him and caught it. Unfortunately, it was not a force out at 3rd, so he didn't get the "out."

Read more of my surprising thoughts about little league in my Patch article, I Like Little League?



I'm not quite sure we'll go as far as to say "I'm a Baseball Fan," but Terry got tickets at work for the Yankees game on Sunday, and we enjoyed it. It was a beautiful spring day, we had awesome seats, and it was a good time. It might have been a little more about hot dogs and ice cream than baseball, but that's okay, right?

Before the game started, they were spraying down the dirt. Both Kyle and Amanda asked why they were doing it. Terry said to Kyle, "You know how when you run in the dirt, and it is all dusty? They spray it so that doesn't happen." I'm sure that dashed any plans Kyle had of playing professional ball. What's the fun of baseball if you can't kick up some dirt? He did see one runner slide and get all dirty, as well as a few rolling in the grass catches in the outfield, so maybe that made up for it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When I'm Not Blogging

Natasha at Maw Books shares "When I'm Not Blogging," usually about pursuits that are not of a bookish nature. Things have been quiet here, but it feels odd to me, because I actually have been writing -- a lot.

I have an editing job that I do from home, which sometimes takes only a few hours a week, but has required more than that the last several weeks (with more to be done). My new writing gig for Patch has taken me to interesting places, word-wise (with more to do be done). In the last few weeks, I've written articles on

I spent a good bit of April cleaning, and waiting for carpet -- carpet that was ordered improperly and was supposed to be installed mid-April, which was finally installed last week. It looks gorgeous, it was worth it, but there is still a lot of work to be done as I get rid of the stash of stuff that I brought downstairs to get ready for installation (a trip to Goodwill is definitely in order).

I also have spent a lot of time the last two weeks in the car. We've had band concerts, school events, extra rehearsals etc etc. I love my children, and I love that they are involved, but I do NOT like being "Mom's taxi." It's probably my very least favorite thing.

What about you? Has this been a busy spring?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

I don't expect much on Mother's Day. I don't ever receive nor really want expensive gifts. I would probably like a heartfelt card, but have long since gotten over being disappointed by not receiving one. I usually get taken out for a nice meal and get some extra hugs and kisses and "I love you's," which are fully appreciated.

The one thing I ask for is that once a year, Terry try to get a decent picture of me with my offspring. This morning I braced myself for the grouchiness that usually ensues. Terry doesn't really like snapping the photos, and he doesn't like my helpful suggestions, and it's the morning, so we are usually rushed (even though I specifically restate my request each year that I want time to take some pictures before we leave for church). It's not a good way to start the day. And today -- the results, not so good. In addition to an impatient photographer and a weird 5-year-old, I wondered why I didn't schedule my much-needed haircut before this annual tradition.





Today we tried to breakfast at our favorite spot here in town -- a spot that we don't frequent because of long lines and fairly high prices (for breakfast -- it's a treat, not a weekly meal). We thought if we went before church, arriving shortly after 8:00 a.m., we would not run into crowds. How wrong we were!! We ended up at Panera instead.

After church Amanda and I were signed up to help at the nursing home (something we do about once a month with our church). Before we had to be there, we had time to squeeze in a trip to the mall to get some things she "needed."

Honestly spending those few hours with Amanda was an excellent way to spend my special day.

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon at home, and she and Terry cooperated on dinner as well, grilling out hamburgers.

All in all, a pretty simple day, which is exactly the way I like it.

How did you spend your Mother's Day?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

My Father's Dragon

This month I took advantage of some excellent recommendations from avid readers for my children. I'm linking this up to "I Read It!" at 5 Minutes for Books where we share our thoughts of books that others' have recommended. Join in or see what others have to say.

Of course, Amanda and I were continuing to read aloud the Mysterious Benedict Society books, at Carrie's recommendations, but when Dawn jumped on the bandwagon as well, as an enthusiastic adult reader of this delightful series, it was confirmed. We finished the third book in record time -- only a few weeks, which is not bad for a read-aloud with over 300 pages (both links above are to their thoughts on the books). I grew to love the characters more and more with each installment, and am quite sure I'll pick up whatever Trenton Lee Stewart writes next. Some say MBS is over, but I think that there's still hope for more! Although I'd love to meet some new characters as well.

Kyle and I enjoyed reading a true Children's Classic -- My Father's Dragon. Dawn read it with her kids back in January, and I knew it would be perfect for Kyle and I to read, since he is ready for longer and more complex books. I also remembered that Lauren has it on a list of all-time faves to read with children.

My intentions were good month after month, but it was never available at the library, so I finally bought it. It really is a perfect book to transition into chapters. Warning -- it's an old-fashioned non-PC whitewashed sort of book. For example, the animals actually want to EAT the boy! But of course, he outwits them time and time again.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Nonfiction Review and Wrap Up

You may be tired of hearing about my "month of nonfiction." Or maybe you aren't. I just thought that it was a interesting experiment, and one that I sort of appreciated. I'm thinking of doing something similar over the summer -- perhaps a month of e-reading.

I've posted further thoughts and my results -- numbers of books and pages read -- over in the On Reading column at 5 Minutes for Books. Check it out.

I wanted to post a final review here:

Confessions of a Rebel Debutante by Anna Fields is funny and sassy and slightly rebellious.

I was looking forward to more variety, since the promo materials mentioned that she went from the South to New York City, even being an assistant to one of the Real Housewives and Diana Ross (when she was in L.A.). I would say it's about 2/3 about her growing up in the South, mostly her tween and teen "rebel deb" years. If you know anything about debutante culture, you will definitely laugh along with her. The boarding school years are funny too.

She goes from North Carolina to Brown university, and again sticks out like a sore thumb. She discovers a love of writing and performing and experiences her first love.

From Brown to L.A., where she dishes a bit on some celebrities, and then a slightly more substantial section on NYC.

The reviews at amazon so far are great, but I've come to expect more from memoir. If you are looking for an entertaining summer read, you've got it. It's funny and even touching in places. If you are looking for that "special can't quite name it" element that a really great memoir has, this is missing it.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Have I mentioned I love New York?

Carrie and I are going to BEA in about a month. Carrie is coming here all the way from her home far away, and I'm so excited to meet her, and show her NYC. We'll be commuting from here on Wednesday, but then Thursday we'll spend the night to be able to enjoy some more time in New York on Thursday evening, and be ready for the Book Blogger Con on Friday.

So, she'll get to meet my family, and live in the squalor with us (setting expectations low helps guests to feel pleasantly surprised), but in addition to three days of being surrounded by books, authors, and people who love books and authors, Carrie is going to see New York City for the first time.

We've lived here in Connecticut for almost 6 years, and we love it. We love our small town, the country roads, the four seasons, but living within 70 miles of New York City is another reason that we absolutely adore where we currently live.

In preparation for attending the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the heart and soul of publishing (isn't it?), Carrie has checked out some New York picture books. Check out her reviews over at 5 Minutes for Books. I tagged on a review for another really creative picture book featuring New York City as well.

There may be certain sights that you think you can't miss, and yes, if you have time, it's worth seeing the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, etc, but my love of New York City is in just experiencing the city.

Especially if you only have a few hours of free time if you are considering a conference or something, here's what I recommend. Get out. Walk around. Eat some local food. Some of my favorite NYC activities:
  • Times Square -- of course! Just walk around. It's great in the daylight and at night. If you are looking for a place to take a load off and have a drink, there are plenty of places here for you to do this. The McDonald's on West 42 St (near Broadway) has a lot of seating on the second floor and floor to ceiling windows. There are a few Starbucks here as well. They can be crowded, but we've found that if you venture a block or two outside of Times Square, you can sometimes get a seat. There's one we like to go to that might be a 7th and 50th.
  • Several locations in New York (Times Square, Bryant Park, Grand Central): Crumbs cupcakes. Yum. I'm a bit of a coffee snob, and used to go to Starbucks to get my coffee to accompany my cupcake, but
  • Walk down 5th avenue -- from Times Square to Central Park (it's quite a walk). This is a must if you are there at Christmas when all the stores are decorated, but even if not, it's a nice way to experience the sights and sounds of the city.
  • If you're hungry (are you beginning to understand me?), one of Amanda's favorite New York Experiences is to eat a "street dog." Stop at any cart and get a $2 hot dog. You can also get a pretzel or in some places k-bobs or gyros.
  • Ride the Staten Island Ferry. It's free, and it's another chance to take a load off (we do a LOT of walking when we are there). You get a great view of lower Manhattan as you float away, and you go right by the Statue of Liberty. It's about a 20 minute ride. When you dock on Staten Island, you have to get right off and walk quickly back to the departing ferry, and you ride right back. Otherwise you get stuck in the terminal waiting for the next one.
  • Ground Zero -- it's not worth seeing. There's nothing there. Everyone wants to see it and somehow give tribute, but it's a big construction site with a big fence around it so you can't even see in. However, if you do plan to ride the ferry, you aren't far from this area, so it would be an easy detour if you have your heart set on it.
  • I'd be remiss if I don't mention Broadway shows (linked to all the ones I've seen). I love Broadway, and if you have time (and money) it's a great NY experience. You can stand in line at the TKTS booth to get a discount day of show, but you can get year-round discounts by signing up at Playbill.com. Giving them your email address authorizes you to use their discount codes. You can buy tickets in advance. It's awesome!
  • And bookstores, I must mention bookstores too. The Strand is awesome. So great. They have new books, and then in the basement some discounted books (I have sort of figured out that they are promo copies, not ARCs but finished ones, that people sell). It's in Union Square, which is also a fun place to hang out and people watch (are you beginning to understand me?). Not too far away from The Strand (you can walk it), is an excellent children's bookstore: Books of Wonder. They sell cupcakes there too. I'm just sayin'. In addition to these unique stores, there are Barnes & Noble stores all over town, most of which contain a Starbucks Cafe inside, and sometimes have more seating than the others, so if you need to rest, get caffed up, or duck out of the heat, cold, or rain, it's a good option.
For more, see my other posts about traveling to NYC.