Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

This book is written using the same basic idea as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Cohn and Levithan write alternating chapters following the adventures of Dash and Lily. Cohn writes Lily, Levithan writes Dash. Their characters spend most of the book writing to each other in a red moleskine notebook. The twist: they don't know each other.

Feeling lonely at Christmas, Lily allows herself to be convinced by her brother to start a notebook featuring a series of dares and hide it at a bookstore. Self-professed "word-nerd" Dash stumbles upon it, and quickly accomplishes the first series of dares and sends Lily on a dare of his own. The dares continue back and forth as the two characters get to know each other through creativity and a red notebook.

I'll admit the other books written by Cohn and Levithan held no interest for me. However, this one caught my attention. Two strangers writing each other in a notebook found in a bookstore? How could I pass it up? It's like the bookish, teenage, low-tech version of You've Got Mail.

Both characters were well-written and, unlike some books with two narrators, I found I liked them both equally. I liked the setting and the scavenger hunt romp through New York City. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares will definitely become a book I visit again during future Christmas seasons, just like Let it Snow did a few years back.

All in all, I found this book totally enjoyable. I love the bookishness of the story and the vocabulary used (Dash's chapters are particularly full of excellent words while Lily's have a charming turn of phrase throughout). While no heavy themes are being explored, I know I'll recommend it to teen readers and probably pick it up again myself.

Perhaps I should gives Cohn and Levithan's other collaborations a second chance.


I just read on Rachel Cohn's Twitter that Dash and Lily's Book of Dares has been optioned for a movie. I love this idea! Find out more here, in an interview with Cohn and Levithan about the book. Also, as a bonus, there's a bunch of jokes about Justin Bieber.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

White Cat by Holly Black, or Why Twitter is Awesome

A long time ago I finished White Cat by Holly Black. I haven't discussed it here, because- honestly- everything else comes before this blog, it seems.

White Cat is an excellent book. I hadn't read anything else by Holly Black, but her new book has put her on my favorite authors list. It is one of the best things I've read so far this year.

And yes, it's paranormal. I thought I was tired of all that.

Cassel is just a normal guy. If by normal you mean that he is the only non-worker in a family of them and you know, being a worker is illegal... so he's really just the normal kid in a family of criminals. And he once killed a girl. Oh, not just any girl, the daughter of one of the most powerful workers in the country. So yeah, when he starts having dreams about a mysterious white cat and sleep walking, it's just another day in his normal life.

That's all I'll say about the plot.

And now onto the awesome of twitter!

While reading White Cat (I had an ARC copy, so I read it about a month before it came out) I tweeted this:

"Whoa. I just finished chapter 7 in White Cat by @hollyblack. Critical, gasp worthy plot elements just occurred! Must keep reading!"

And Holly Black replied:

"@RachReads muahahaha."

Which I thought was amazing and hilarious.

Then I tweeted this:

Just finished @hollyblack's White Cat. Comes out in May. Everyone- read. this. book."

Which I truly mean. You, reader of this blog, should read White Cat.

And the wonderful Holly Black said:

@RachReads thank you so much for the kind words!!"

So, people, why is Twitter awesome (and WAY better than Facebook)?

Because it connects you with people you would have never been connected with otherwise, and also, you know, your friends. Without Twitter Holly Black would have never been able to see my enthusiasm for her new book, and I wouldn't have heard back from her. How cool is it that we can connect so directly with authors?!

Also, I've found that the authors I follow on Twitter are the most entertaining people I follow. And they've become my favorite authors. So, go now and get yourself a Twitter account. And read White Cat. You really don't know what you are missing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quick Update!

Since my last post, weeks ago, I've finished reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (read my review of it here), The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart, Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, and I've listened to the 4th Gregor book by Suzanne Collins.

I just got back from the Public Library Association conference where I picked up a few advanced reader's copies of books that I will hopefully read soon, but next on my to-read list is The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan.

I've had the pleasure of reading an advanced reader's copy of Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. Once the pub date for that one comes along I will give you all more details. I honestly cannot wait to talk about it with someone. I loved Martel's Life of Pi, it truly was one of those books that affected my outlook on life, and his new book has left me with a lot to think about. More on that later, hopefully.

In other book news, School Library Journal is in the midst of their "Battle of the Kids Books." When this occurred last year around this time I followed it with interest, hoping my favorite would win. This year they've up the stakes and have place it on it's own website ( The structure this year is easier to follow than last year's, and the judges are excellent. It is also hilarious. This post, for example, had me laughing out loud. Though it might be funny because I've read and loved The Hunger Games.

Tales from Outer Suburbia has made through its brackets to the second to last round, so I picked that one up from the library today. The book I wanted to win is already out, but it might "come back from the dead" to compete in the last round (fingers crossed).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Zombie Love and The Underland

Okay, it has been a long time. In the time while I've been gone I've started a couple of books- The Blue Shoe, a book that made me instantly want to read it aloud, and When the Whistle Blows. Also, I need to read Wintergirls. So, I'm working on those.

And I've finished Generation Dead by Daniel Waters and will now give you a quick review:

I liked it. It reminded me of Twilight- except with zombies and a bit more interesting. Just a typical human girl falls for paranormal-creature-boy all while juggling high school kind of story. I thought the end was particularly well plotted and once I was done reading I really wanted to know what happened next. However, I wont be reading the sequel... so take that as you will, readers.

I've also had the time to visit the Underland three times. I never set a rule for audio books, as far as my count for this year. I've just made the decision to add them to the list; they take time to listen to (sometimes more than it would take to read the book itself) and are an important part of library collections. It will be good for me to be able to recommend audio books, just like I would regular books. So, any story I get to experience this year will be counted.

(The Underland Chronicles are kind of old news, but I'm going to talk about them anyway.)

I've now listened to Gregor the Overlander, Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane, and Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods written by Suzanne Collins. I LOVE these books! I also really enjoy the audio productions- I get taken to the Underland and it is a relief to just listen sometimes. Paul Boehmer is an excellent narrator, giving believable voices to each of the characters. My favorite character voice is Mareth's- it's booming, joyful, and prefect.

The Underland Chronicles are about so much more than just a lost eleven year old boy (I guess I should have expected that from the author of The Hunger Games). Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods, for example, is a interesting and thoughtful look at the consequences of biological warfare.

I highly recommend The Underland Chronicles, particularly to readers who enjoyed Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games.

As far as blogging during the rest of February and March, I can't promise much. I've got The Dreaded Test until the first week of March and then I'm heading off to the PLA Conference in Portland!

So, until then tell me what you're reading and how you feel about it!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reviews in other places...

If anyone is interested, I wrote a review for the Wausau Daily Herald about the fabulous book Beautiful Creatures written by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl.

You can find it here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Homer P. Figg- A Newbery Honor Book

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick is a great book. It's got adventure, thieves, epic balloon rides... I mean, it's got it all. Any book that has a sentence like: "Once in the heat of summer an old rooster got up in the hay and died, and Harold and me thought it was the worst smell ever, but that's before I made the acquaintance of Stink Mullins," is a book I want to read and recommend- particularly to boys.

It was also surprisingly educational and heartfelt. When Homer's 17-year-old brother is sold into becoming a soldier for the Union Army, Homer follows after in an effort to free him. Though Homer is only 12, he knows his brother has been sold unjustly and for profit, and that he is too young to fight. The account Homer gives of his journey, though only "mostly" true, is a great first hand account of the Civil War and what it was like for children during that time.


Homer runs into the Underground Railroad, becomes a part of a medicine show, takes an accidental balloon ride over the battlefields, rides a pony through a battle, witnesses the gruesome practices of a Civil War hospital, and assists in the battle of Gettysburg. At least, he does according to his account (we can't rely on him fully because his adventures are "mostly" true). When faced with the possibility that his brother may die in battle he says, "They say that even in the worst battles some of the troops survive. Please, Dear Lord, let that someone be my big brother, that's all I'm asking. Don't let him die in a pony cart hammed with the wounded, or tied to a plank while they saw his limbs off, one by one, or carried home in a casket wagon." Homer's account of the Civil War is a new and unique look at a dark era in American history, which is somehow filled with a nice balance of humor and heart.

HOWEVER, this book is horribly hindered by its ridiculous cover:

In my opinion, this cartoonish cover is a poor representation of the book and it totally turns me off it. What's with the halo!? Why does Homer look like a NickToons character!? If the book hadn't won the Newbery Honor, I would have never picked it up. Honestly, I don't see a child being all that interested in it either. It looks outdated and a bit childish. Luckily, this book will get read because librarians and teachers will be recommending to kids- encouraging them to look past the cover and allow the story to speak for itself.

Book covers matter. A lot. If the cover isn't attractive we wont pick the book up, it's just a fact of life. Many a great book has fallen by the wayside because of its awful cover. It is truly a sad thing when bad covers happen to great books.

All in all, though, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg was a great, surprising read. I would recommend it for children who love adventures stories and historical fiction. It would also fit in well in a classroom as a read aloud or assigned reading.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Wondeful (wonderful! wonderful!) Wizard of Oz

Graphic interpretation of classics is nothing new, but this interpretation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young stands out. The art is beautiful, the characters are cute, and the writing is well done. I loved the colors; they are stunning and perfect for Oz! Opening the book is like taking the first bite of a piece of cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory: rich and delicious.

I'm somewhat a novice to graphic novels, and it took me awhile to get used to the pacing of it. Once I got the hang of it, though, I really enjoyed reading it. I hope I'll get a chance to read more graphic novels this year.

The end notes included were an interesting look at the process of styling characters and the trial and error it takes to get a graphic novel right. They are very informative and valuable.

If you'd like to revisit Oz, this graphic novel is the way to do it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Make Lemonade

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff is a beautiful little novel.

(Spoilers... sort of...)

This book is a story of the human spirit. Sometimes we live our lives half-way; we go to work unengaged... not really caring whether we are great at it, we wash the dishes but never dry them, we don't bother to make the bed, we turn the TV on for lack of a better thing to do, we allow the center of our lives to be something insignificant. In Make Lemonade, LaVaughn tells us of her encounter with someone who is chronically living half-way: Jolly. Jolly is seventeen, has two babies under the age of three, and has no income. It takes the influence of fourteen-year-old LaVaughn for Jolly to start changing. LaVaughn has big goals and takes the babysitting job to help her save for college. Under LaVaughn's influence Jolly goes back to school and starts take control of her life.

This story is one about making the best of things, but also about making things better. Nothing can change unless you make it change. Jolly had to get to the bottom before she would allow change in her life, but when she put her mind to it she took hold of her life and made it better. The truth is, we all can do that if we want. We are totally capable. There is always hope, always a way.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Comfort Books

What week am I on?

Well, January is not even over and I've lost count. I do know that I haven't finished a book since the beginning of the year. And I don't really have great excuses. So, there you have it.

Do you have comfort books? A book you always turn to when things are bad, or you're tired, or whatever? I do. Harry Potter. But also, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

If you haven't read it- run out and get it. Now. Seriously. It is a wonderful book. Written in letters, it takes place right after WWII and follows the correspondence of a writer named Juliet. It's a lovely book about changing times, friends and relationships, and love. It ended the way all comfort books should end- tied up nicely, with nothing left to chance and everything in its place.

During this time while I haven't been reading new books I've been rereading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I pick it up and read a letter or two, starting anywhere I open it. If you haven't gathered this yet, I love this book. While reading it I feel like I'm getting a hug or holding a warm cup of coffee in both hands. Simple coziness, that's what it gives me.

Readers, if you're out there, what are your comfort books?

In other book news: the awards have been announced and so my list of books to read has grown. I was delighted that When You Reach Me won the Newbery, I really enjoyed that book. I'm happy for Libba Bray who won the Printz award for Going Bovine, I loved her Gemma Doyle series. Here's the official press release for all the winners. Make sure to add a couple to your reading list. They're the best from 2009.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Just a quick update...

Okay, so I've missed a few weeks. The truth is I've decided not to finish Flygirl and, while it's within my rights as a reader to not finish a book, it doesn't help for this goal. Flygirl was good, but it lost my attention- I'm sorry to say.

I was hoping to get some reading done this weekend, but had my wisdom teeth out on Friday and I've been sitting around half awake watching Veronica Mars, season one.

I've also decided to add graphic novels/manga to the list of things that I need to read this year. I'm starting with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that Marvel recently published. So far it has been super enjoyable. I love the colors they used.

Anyway, this is just an update. Tomorrow is a big day and will add a bunch of books to my list. Which books will be the new Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz medal winners??

Monday, January 4, 2010

Angels and Demons

Well, I finished Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. Being that I've read the other two Robert Langdon books, this was sort of more of the same. But it was nice to get some background knowledge of how this normal Harvard professor becomes something more akin to Indiana Jones, than an actually professor... hey, wasn't Indiana Jones also a professor?

All three of the books has a girl, and I liked this one a lot- more than the Da Vinci Code girl, but less than the Lost Symbol girl. It sort of bothers me that none of these girls last more than one book. They are smart, awesome people- why can't they be the sidekick for more than one story?

But anyway, the book was mostly a page turner (as it was designed to be) and I would probably read another one, if Dan Brown writes one.

Honestly, I feel like there's not much more to say about Angels and Demons. It was good. I wanted to continue reading. I found myself looking up the artwork so I could understand what Robert Langdon was babbling on about. Ultimately, I think all of those things are the mark of a highly readable book that many have obviously already devoured.

What's your take on these books? Who's your favorite girl sidekick? Let me know in the comments!

Currently reading: Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Books left: 49
Weeks left: 52

Saturday, January 2, 2010

An introduction of sorts...

Long ago, I registered this blog name... unsure of what I was going to do with it. But last night I had a brilliant idea half inspired by the movie Julie and Julia and half inspired by caffeine. I am going to read 50 books in 52 weeks and blog about them. I'll review them, try to provide read-alikes, and in general discuss what I thought. Now, I'm fully aware that this may not be interesting to any one else but me, and that's fine. This blog will hopefully help me stay on track and keep a record of what I've read this year.

First, maybe I should introduce myself. I'm Rachel. Hi.

I go to school online through University Wisconsin-Milwaukee in hopes of becoming a world-class librarian someday. I'm turning 26 this month.

I will try to always warn you about spoilers, I promise.

So... here's a short list of books I'm looking forward to reading when they come out this year:

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
The Hunger Games, book 3 by Suzanne Collins

Also, whatever wins the Newbery and the Printz awards... if I haven't already read them.

My reading philosophy has a lot to do with The Rights of the Reader:

I particularly like #6: the right to mistake a book for real life. Because I'm still waiting for my Hogwarts letter.

Oh yeah, in the comments- this week, leave book suggestions. What's your favorite book? I'm dying to know!

Currently reading: Angels and Demons (don't judge-- it was an airplane book...)
Books left: 50
Weeks left: 52