Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen (2008) Book Review

SWMEAOE

meows, awes, owes, same, seem, some, swam, woes, sea, was, so

AWESOME

Awkwardness. We’ve all been there. I had feet the size of skiis, cookie monster eyebrows, and the thickest frizziest mop of hair. For 12-year-Ambrose of Word Nerd, his problems lie deeper than his physical appearance and his purple corduroys.  His over-protective single mom has moved him around Western Canada (Edmonton, Regina, Kelowna, and now Vancouver) making it impossible to make friends. It doesn’t help that Ambrose is socially awkward, making him a target of bullying. With a deathly allergy to peanuts, his bullies almost kill Ambrose when they slip a peanut in his sandwich. His newest way of coping with a new school and social difficulties is through a series of lies and by attending a Scrabble Club with the ex-con son of his Greek landlords.

Check out author Susin Nielsen describing her book and reading a section from Word Nerd.

🙂

-Love, love, love that the entire book was oozing with Canadian content, including: The Mercer report, Luke Doucet, Bryan Adams, CBC’s The National with Peter Mansbridge

-The author Susin Nielson wrote episodes for Ready or Not and Degrassi. Who doesn’t love those shows?!! Common! Bonus cool points right there.

-Nielson knows teens. It was especially impressive that she wrote from a 12 year old nerdy boy perspective. His reactions to things, his thinking, the things he says and how he behaves is extremely believable.  

-Great read for reluctant boy readers. It was a quick, fun read. However, due to the frank talk about male sexual thoughts (erections, boobs), I would recommend this book for older tweens (11-13).  

-Won the Ontario Library Association’s Red Maple Award (Grades 7/8) for 2010.

😦

-The only possible negative comment I could say is that it reminded me a little too much of ‘About a Boy’. Instead of music, the characters share a love of words.

***After I read this book, I felt inspired to get out my old Scrabble board. To my opponents disbelief I was able to use some of the words in the Glossary featured at the end of the book. Who knew Aa is a rough, cindery lava? Or Qi means ‘breath’ in Chinese?

4.5 big stars out of 5.

Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti was like ‘okay, whatev’.

After my depressingly sad read of By the Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead, I was looking for something a little more uplifting. From my ‘TO READ’ pile, I chose Waiting For You after reading the excerpt. I knew it would be about teen relationships, but I was not expecting the multi layers of family drama and anxiety disorders/depression to be thrown in too.

Book Description: At the beginning of her sophomore year, Marisa is ready for a fresh start and, more importantly, a boyfriend. So when the handsome and popular Derek asks her out, Marisa thinks her long wait for happiness is over. But several bumps in the road test Marisa’s ability to maintain her new outlook. Only the anonymous DJ, whose underground podcasts have the school’s ear, seems to understand what Marisa is going through. But she has no idea who he is—or does she?

Sad face 😦

-I understand that Colansanti was trying to use ‘teen’ language, but there was waaaay to much use of ‘like, whatever’ vocabulary throughout the book. I find it almost insulting to teen’s intellect.

-Again with the female character having depression/suicidal thoughts. Marisa also described possible options to end her life. However, her bout with depression could have been more thoroughly described. I felt like it was just thrown in and not fully executed properly.

-Took a while to get into the book. I didn’t even know the female characters name for the longest time. Also, Colansanti’s lacked at physically describing her characters. I like to visualize what the characters look like in my head and I hated not being able to.

-Predictable. The “mystery” DJ isn’t very much of a mystery.

Happy face 🙂

-Pop culture references.  This book is clearly here in the now. Includes references of:Grey’s Anatomy, Ipod, Arcade Fire, Wii and many others! Like Marisa, I too believe that John Mayer songs can solve all of our life’s problems. 

-Short chapters. In a long 320 page book, short chapters (and there are 55 of them!) persuade the reader into thinking they accomplished much reading. I would find myself continually reading more than usual because I’d think to myself ‘oh, one more chapter’ since every chapter is 3-5 pages.  Well one chapter easily turned into 10 more.

-Relatable for teens going through the dramas of high school: family problems, friend drama, crazy siblings, and boys.  There are lots of sub-plots to keep you interested.

-Shallow. ** SPOILER** Although the author tries to convey the message that being shallow and choosing the ‘perfect’ guy based solely on looks is wrong, she ultimately fails in the end when Marisa chooses Nash the dork when he begins to change his style, wear product in his hair, and other girls notice him. 

Overall, I would rate this book 3.5 stars out of 5. An okay read, but nothing extra-ordinary.

My Personal Library-PHOTOS! :)

Many readers discover new titles by browsing their friend’s shelves! I know I do!

That’s why I was so happy to find the Bookshelf Project via Flickr http://www.flickr.com/groups/bookshelf .  Inspired, I have added some photos of my personal shelves (click to enlarge photos). Although I prefer to borrow my books from the library, I obtained the majority of these books through charity book sales or as presents. Overall, I have read almost all of the titles, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask! Enjoy!

By The Time You Read This I’ll Be Dead- Review

Ok, I admit it. I chose a book by its cover. When exploring the teen section at Chapters the cover of By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters really stood out.  I don’t usually gravitate toward depressing reads, but the combination of the eerie title and cover art drew me in.

PLOT: Although Daelyn Rice has attempted to commit suicide multiple times, she is determined to get it right. After years of bulling and torment, Daelyn joins the Through the Light website for ‘completers’ to share stories, and discuss ways to end your life. She is given 23 days until her ‘Date of Determination’.  During this time she prepares her death more carefully, and promises not to get caught or saved like her past failed efforts (including the last botched attempt when she drank ammonia bleach and severely burned her vocal chords). However, during this countdown, she hadn’t planned on meeting a very special home-schooled boy named Santana, who has taken quite a liking to Daelyn (whether she likes it or not).

What I DIDN’T like about the book:

-Reading the detailed descriptions of ways to commit suicide. Each possible suicide method includes: effectiveness, time, availability, pain, and notes. Are such descriptions necessary? Could this possible give teens ideas? It just seemed that the author was trying too hard to be controversial.

-Authenticity of characters.  I LOVED the character of Satana, even more so than Daelyn. However, I am not sure how realistic it is for a teen boy to persist someone who ignores him, uses him for his computer, and even stab him with a pencil.

-Open ending. I understand that some readers love endings that are open to interpretation, but I prefer stories that demonstrate how the characters wind up. I re-read the ending several times, and although I hope Daelyn chose life over death, I remain unsure. Especially after connecting with some of Daelyn’s struggles and inner-thoughts, it would be really difficult and heart-breaking to interpret her ‘heading into the light’ as death.  I would have liked some closure.

What I DID like about the book:

-Insightful information about teens dealing with suicidal thoughts.  Readers can understand just how bullying can send individuals over the edge.  Can be used a discussion starter.

-The character of Santana. He was hilarious, and I found myself wishing for more of Santana.  I hope the author continues his story.

 -Resources. I think it’s important to include resources when dealing with difficult topics, especially suicide. I thought that the Through the Light website was ficticious, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is a website version of the discussion guide, facts and hotlines that are available at the back of the book.

Although I’m glad I read Daelyn’s story, I’m happy to be moving on in my ever-growing stack of YA novels.

Book Review: The Know-It-All

The Know-It-All: One Man’s HUMBLE QUEST to Become the SMARTEST PERSON in the World. By A.J Jacobs

                                                        

I just finished this enlightening yet laugh-out-loud hilarious book chronicling Jacob’s quest to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z. By effortlessly combining anecdotes of his personal life (including working at Esquire, his relationship with his wife, and their fertility problems) with the informational entries, Jacobs successfully transforms trivial facts into an entertaining read! Throughout his quest, readers follow Jacobs as he utilizes his newfound knowledge to join Mensa, interview Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, and compete on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. An impressive achievement, indeed!

To understand the style of Jacob’s entries, I’ll include a taste of some of my favourites:

Bobsledding-“comes from the early belief—and probably mistaken—belief that if the sledders bobbed their heads back and forth, it would increase the speed.”

Casanova-“ the famous 18th century lothario ended his life as a librarian. Libraries could use that to sex up their image. “

Dance- “In a tribe on the island of Santa Maria, old men used to stand by with bows and arrows and shoot every dancer who made a mistake. The perfect way to raise the stakes on American Idol.”

Divorce- “the easiest divorce around: Pueblo Indian women leave their husband’s moccasins on the doorstep and—that’s it’—they’re divorced. Simple as that. No lawyers, no fault, no socks, just shoes.”

Elf- “Not the cute creatures we’ve been spoon fed by the media. Elves in traditional folklore sat on people’s chests while they slept to give them bad dreams. They also stole human children and substituted deformed fairy children. Wonder if Santa is really a crack dealer.”

 I enjoyed Jacob’s writing style, and am interested to read his other books, including: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible and The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment.

Before diving into more adult material, I have a list of YA books I am dying to read. I went to Chapters last night and got way too excited in the Teen section! My favourite YA book ever, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is now available in paperback for $10!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE. I’ve convinced many of my friends (including my boyfriend, who is NOT a reader) to read this amazing book! I cannot wait until August for Mockingjay! Now that I have a new list of YA books to read, keep your eye out for reviews coming soon!

PS-For those of you who don’t know- YA=Young Adult.

Read Kiddo Read!

It is with much excitement that I share with you my new favourite library-related webpage!

James Patterson’s READKIDDOREAD.COM is ‘dedicated to making kids readers for life’. 

I really loved the links in ‘LISTS’ and ‘LESSON PLANS’.  Under ‘lists’ there is an article by Judy Freeman entitled ’12 Tried and True Ways to Get Your Kiddo’s Reading’.  (plz click on each suggestion to read more!)

1. READ ALOUD SOMETHING EVERY DAY
2. LAUGH A LOT AS YOU FOOL AROUND WITH LANGUAGE
3. ACT OUT STORIES.
4. TELL STORIES.
5. ENCOURAGE DRAWING.
6. LEARN A NEW FACT EVERY DAY.
7. ASK AND ENCOURAGE QUESTIONS.
8. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE.
9. LOVE YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR LIBRARY.
10. LOOK FOR OLDIES BUT GOODIES.
11. LOOK FOR WHAT’S NEXT
12. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

Also, under ‘lesson plans’, teachers and librarians can click on popular books for children/youth for suggestions and activities to use in classrooms/libraries. I was super impressed by the majority of the activities, especially the one for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!  I will be using this resource to exchange ideas with other librarians for possible programs and activities.

Bite Sized Marketing

Bite Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Overworked Librarian (2010) By Nancy Dowd, Mary Evangeliste, & Jonathon Silberman

I just finished this wonderful resource book for librarians. Although I have a bit of practice with marketing summer library programs, I am always looking for ways to improve my skills.

What I liked about the book:

  • Written by library related professionals & published by ALA
  • Up to Date-2010!!!
  • Broken up into sections of different types of Marketing (WOMM, Bringing Your Library to life with a story, How to Market Electronic Resources, Public Relations 101, Outreach, Advocacy, The New Marketing Tools, Design, Branding, Marketing Best Practices).
  • Informative and easy to follow directions
  • Included examples

So what is WOMM, you ask?

According to the authors, WOMM is ‘Word of Mouth Marketing’.  WOMM is the idea that 10 percent of the population influences the other 90%. We just have to reach the 10 percent, influence them and give them the tools to share the info. Hmmm… interesting.  Do people really trust information from people they know over a stranger? YES, of course. It all makes sense.  It reminds me of this movie we watched in University called ‘Merchants of Cool’ where the ‘cool kids’ influence the other kids, so marketing groups try to attract these cool kids and get them to wear and support their clothing.  THIS ISN’T A NEW IDEA.  So, how do libraries get such ‘influencers’ on board? The text suggests that we need to create a product that people can be passionate about, then get it into the hands of those people whose opinion other people respect. According to the authors, influencers are easy to identify. “Look for people with a charismatic personality and persuasive communication style and with a social network. Having influencers spread your message will dramatically increase your ability to get buy-in for your campaign (p.9)”. They may be leaders of social groups, influential bloggers, or community leaders, but don’t forget the kid on MySpace or leading discussions on message boards.

It is also equally important to give the influencers the tools to share their satisfaction, and let them influence people they know and drive people to use your product. Thankfully, libraries have now realized that they must keep up with trends to stay relevant. Since Web 2.0 technology (Facebook, Twitter, etc) has replaced the need for expensive marketing budgets, the new style of word of mouth marketing has emerged. These tools are great to reach any audience (especially teens) with messages about programs and services. When examining online library spaces for youth via Web 2.0, it is clear that influencers do exist. Giving young people an opportunity to voice their opinions will no doubt yield powerful results for your library.

How do you choose your books?

Even the most avid readers will only read a fraction of the material out there in their lifetime. Since reading a book is a time investment, we must choose our reading material carefully.  As kids, our reading selections are often chose for us by curriculum standards, or our parents. As we age, our reading is often shaped by favourite authors, and recommendations by friends. Please take this poll and let me know how you choose your books!

Win one of five Jennifer Weiner libraries

Jennifer Weiner is the author of six novels: Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, which was made into a major motion picture, Little Earthquakes, Goodnight Nobody, Certain Girls, and Best Friends Forever, as well as the short story collection, The Guy Not Taken.

Click HERE to enter the Simon & Schuster Canada contest! Good Luck!

I’ve read a couple of her books, including In Her Shoes.  I find that they are quick-read, witty, entertaining chick-lit (better than the avg stuff out there!). In this insane heat, this would be the perfect time to pick up one of Jennifer Weiner’s books and head toward the beach!

Eclipse Movie Review and Twilight Read-alikes

Last night I went to the movies to see Eclipse. I had read and watched the first two titles in the series- Twilight and New Moon, yet failed to get through the third. I just couldn’t get into the whole over-dramatic, back and forth love between a human, vampire and werewolf.  I suppose that if you love Stephenie Meyer’s characters already, you would be thrilled to spend more time with them (like, OMG, it was the BEST movie ever! Edward is sooo hot!) I, on the other hand, still don’t get what all the fuss is about (and believe me, I’ve tried). Even for my Readers Advisory class, I chose the ever-popular Twilight to further explore and discover read-alikes. After researching appeal factors, I limited the titles down to 5 best read-alikes (I will discuss 3 in depth). 

In Review: In 2005, Stephenie Meyer became an international best selling author of the highly popular novel Twilight. This fast paced story of romance and suspense introduces seventeen year old Isabella “Bella” Swan who moves from Arizona to Forks, Washington and finds her life in danger when she falls in love with a vampire, Edward Cullen. Perhaps the popularity of the novel stems from the fact that although the novel is marketed at young adult readers, it has the ability to cross age barriers and satisfy both teenagers and adults alike. Moreover, the novel reaches across multiple reading interests through including aspects of the genres: romance, fantasy and action. In turn, the novel received great reviews, including Hillias J. Martin of School Library Journal who praised the novel, saying, “Realistic, subtle, succinct, and easy to follow, Twilight will have readers dying to sink their teeth into it”. In fact, readers became so addicted to Twilight, that they followed Bella and Edward’s story throughout the Twilight series of Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.  However, after reading the complete series, many readers were left to wonder what to read next. Using a range of reading advisory tools (electronic, print, human), one can utilize the many genres and subgenres of Twilight to link the novel to other similar titles or read-a-likes.

My Recommended Titles

Novel # 1- The House of Night Series

Through the use of the electronic database NoveList, I searched for Twilight (via author search) and then clicked on the hand crafted ‘recommended reads- if you like…Twilight’. Seventeen titles of ‘compelling love stories with light horror and some humour’ appeared, and from that list I narrowed down my selection by sorting by popularity and examining the Lexile scores. In the end, after reading the summaries and various professional reviews, I chose two titles that I felt were most similar in genres to Twilight.  The first was the paranormal series, House of Night co-authored by P.C Cast and Kristin Cast (2007).

According to the NoveList summary, “Sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird is marked as a fledging vampyre and joins the House of Night where she will train to become an adult vampire”. At the House of Night, Zoey finds true friendship, loyalty, and romance as well as mistrust and deception. Through this description, it is evident that this young adult series mixes elements of the J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and Meyer’s Twilight to create a new thrilling world of teen drama and supernatural suspense. Certainly, The House of Night Series fits the majority of subject headings associated with Twilight. Such headings include: teenage girls, vampires, supernatural, friendship, teenage boy/girl relations, schools and social acceptance. However, although both series are classified as young adult novels and include vampires, the similarities end there. In Twilight, the relationship between Bella and Edward is emphasized in the storyline; whereas The House of Night books are based on actions, not relationships.

Despite this storyline difference, the authors Cast and Meyer have been recognized for their ability to mix paranormal, romance, and suspense genre elements to entertain their readers. In turn, they have received multiple prestigious awards and recognition from the literary realm. This is an important appeal element as distinguished and award winning titles appeal to the majority of readers.

Novel #2- The Uglies Series

Through exploring possible Twilight theme links (teenage girls, friendship, and social acceptance) the electronic database NoveList also recommended the series Uglies by Scott Westefeld. Uglies is a science fiction novel set in a future world in which everyone will be transformed into beauties through extreme cosmetic surgery upon reaching the age of sixteen. It follows the story of fifteen year old Tally Youngblood who is eagerly awaiting the day she can become pretty. However, her best friend Shay is not looking forward to the operation and likes herself the way she is-ugly. When Shay runs away, Tally must decide whether to find and turn her in, or run away from the city and never get the operation to become pretty at all.  

A review by the School Library Journal recognizes Uglies as a “complicated and thought-provoking fable” that gives the reader a “thrilling, provocative look at a high-tech world” and “much to think about as they devour a well-paced novel.” Indeed, the fast pacing of the book is just one aspect why Meyer and Westerfeld’s writing styles are similar. Both authors use an easy to follow writing style that is packed with action and suspense so the books are impossible to put down. They leave the readers wanting to get their hands on the next book in the series to fulfill their curiosity in what happens next. Moreover, their characters are well developed and relatable on many levels (especially for teens). Both Bella and Tally are dealing with the typical issues of conformity, body image, individuality and peer pressure that all teenage readers can associate with. 

Novel #3- The Southern Vampire Mysteries

 Through utilizing my human resources of Twilight readers and a local librarian, the eight book series titled, The Southern Vampire Mysteries (also known to readers as the Sookie Stackhouse series) was recommended time and time again. According to NoveList, The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris is about Sookie Stackhouse, a cocktail waitress in rural Louisiana who keeps to herself because of her ability to read minds, and Bill, a tall, dark, and handsome vampire with ties to a creepy crowd that may be responsible for the death of one of Sookie’s coworkers”.  Even from this simple description, the theme and character similarities between Twilight and The Southern Vampire Mysteries are evident. Although both series are obviously about vampires; the similarities do not end there.

In terms of characterization, Sookie Stackhouse (like Bella Swan) gives a first person account of her life as a young woman in a small town. Although there is a focus on the heroine in both novels, the secondary characters are equally developed. The storyline of The Southern Vampire Mysteries details the love triangle between Sookie, Bill and Sam. Sookie falls in love with a vampire (Bill) while Sam (a dog-man) maintains his love for Sookie. This storyline is almost identical to Twilight’s where a human female has the love of two men-a vampire and a werewolf. For both titles, the fast paced action begins on the first page and continues throughout the series. There is a balanced mix of both dialogue and description to keep readers interested and wanting more. 

Lastly, readers who enjoy the adaptation of books to film would appreciate the option of watching these characters and storylines come to life. Although most readers were aware of Twilight’s much anticipated film release last year, less individuals recognize that the popular HBO series “True Blood” is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries.

Despite the uncanny similarities between the two novels and the recent controversy over whether Twilight’s author Stephenie Meyer copied the idea for her novel from Harris’s series, there are differences. For example, the Twilight series is a classified romance, and while The Southern Vampire Mysteries series has romantic elements, the focus is more mystery than love. Moreover, although Twilight readers vary in age, it is considered a young-adult novel, whereas the Southern Vampire Mysteries is classified as an adult novel due to the sexual content. Overall, I think that mature Twilight fans will appreciate the various similarities offered by The Southern Vampire Mysteries to fulfill their vampire fix.

My final recommendations were:  The Golden Compass- Phillip Pullman, & The Host– Stephenie Meyer

Any other suggestions?

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