“Waiting On” Wednesday: Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

Waiting On Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Playlist for the Dead big Playlist for the Dead
by Michelle Falkoff
Publication date: January 27, 2015 from HarperTeen

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately the Milk Fortunately, The Milk
by Neil Gaiman

ISBN-13: 9-781408-841792
Publication: September 2013 from HarperCollins
Source: BEA 2013
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

When a father runs out to buy milk for his children’s breakfast cereal, the last thing he expects is to be abducted by aliens. He soon finds himself transported through time and space on an extraordinary adventure where the fate of the universe depends on him, a time-traveling Stegosaurus (in a balloon), and, fortunately, the milk.

This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Milk. Also it has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, and wumpires in it (but not the handsome, misunderstood kind), not to mention a Volcano God.

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Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman is a hilariously ridiculous story about a dad who steps out to buy milk and takes quite a while about it. When he returns and his children ask where he had been (talking to a neighbour, most likely) their father spins an amazing tale of aliens, dinosaur police, a volcano god, pirates, wumpires, ponies, piranhas, and a hot air balloon.

The story of how the father winds up captured by aliens and then time traveling with Professor Steg, a dinosaur of some intelligence, in a hot air balloon all while avoiding nefarious pirates and wumpires and other nasties by aid of the milk (the milk is always there to save the day it seems) is extremely entertaining. Punctuated by remarks from his children that seem to both question and help further the story they’re being told, and accompanied by amazing illustrations that help you visualize the father’s journey, Fortunately, The Milk is very much a tale of “believe it or not.”

5 heart

At the end, we’re first immediately aware (through the children’s observations) that the story is completely made up. But than the father produces the milk and the last illustration makes you really think twice about whether the father was actually on this amazing journey. Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman is a perfect bedtime or classroom story. Even without the aliens and pirates and everything else, the dinosaurs alone would make this story great. Dinosaurs are always a good choice. This is one book that can definitely be enjoyed by anyone and everyone – I loved it!

ARC received at Book Expo America 2013 from HarperCollins. Thank you!

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars small For Darkness Shows the Stars
by Diana Peterfreund

ISBN-13: 9-780062-006141
Publication: June 2012 from Balzer + Bray
Source: BEA 2012
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth – an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret – one that could change their society…or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

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For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund smashed all my expectations to pieces. I obviously underestimated how much I should hope to love this book, because all I could do when I finished it was stare at the last page with that silly little grin you get when you’ve just been immersed in an amazing fictional world and now find yourself back in reality – but you don’t care because your time away was amazing and you know you’ll visit again.

Instead of a straight narrative, the regular chapters in For Darkness Shows the Stars are interspersed with letters back and forth from our two main characters, Elliot and Kai. And they are not in chronological order, either. Rather, the letters jump about in time (four years ago, one year ago, ten years ago, etc.) as they help explain the plot in current time. The letters give the background to Elliot and Kai’s relationship, Elliot’s life and even how this new society works. And speaking of new society, the world Diana Peterfreund has created is one in the future, after Earth and its population have been devastated by what seems to be a disease of some sort, brought on by human genetic tinkering. It’s intriguing in the fact that though we learn about the world as the story progresses, it’s still very incomplete. We only find out as much about it as the characters think or talk about, and I liked that. It was very real.

While it’s mostly Elliot and her relationship with Kai that is the focus of the story, there are numerous secondary characters that are wonderfully fleshed out. Elliot’s father is a real piece of work, very controlling and quite mean. Her sister is better, but still fairly awful. I enjoyed the other members of Cloud Fleet, and Elliot of course. She’s quite a strong character, though she has her doubts and insecurities. She makes the best out of what she has to work with, and honestly cares for the people around her. It is through Elliot that we the reader question how the Luddite society is run. Her letters to Kai highlight her curious nature and the events that unfold really take Elliot through a change of not only ideals, but her very faith.

5 heart

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is such a unique sci-fi in the fact that it doesn’t play out like what you would expect of a traditional science fiction story…no outer space, no cyborgs, no flying cars. Just a very interesting farming estate society with an underground idea and past of genetic modification and the experimenting that caused it to all change. The technology present is interesting and captivating, as is the slow burn reacquaintance romance between Elliot and Kai, the questions Elliot possesses about society and what is right, and whether or not humanity should play with genetics. It’s an intense, amazing read that I highly recommend to anyone.

Hardcover copy obtained at BEA 2012 through author signing.

Book Excerpt: Undone by Elizabeth Norris

Hello everyone! Tonight I’m very excited to be bringing you an excerpt for the novella Undone by Elizabeth Norris that contains three short stories set in the world of her novel Unraveling.

Undone PROLOGUE

Certain moments in my life are imprinted in my memory.

They’re easy to recall with perfect clarify whether I want to remember them or not. Any small thing can trigger them: a phrase, a smell, a thought. It brings everything back like I’m reliving that moment, a brief scene in the movie of my life, complete with how horrible I felt at the time. And I usually felt horrible in those moments, because for some reason it’s the moments that I want to forget that stick around.

Like in eighth grade when I had my first kiss with Jane Sheriden and my arm got stuck awkwardly between her head and couch: just thinking about it still makes me cringe. Or when Ms. Wittak caught me cheating in Algebra freshman year because I’d saved the formulas I needed to remember in a fake game on my graphing calculator, and she tore up my test in front of the whole class.

Then there were memories that were more significant.

The pivotal moments that changed everything.

Those I don’t want to forget. Now that I’ve had too much time to think about them, to replay them over and over again in my mind, they’re the things I wouldn’t take back, that I wouldn’t do over.

Because of Janelle.

She saved my life when we were ten. She anchored me by being who she was, and somewhere along the line, I fell in love with her.

In just about every significant moment in my life, she’s there. Whether she knew it or not.

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Unraveling – available now!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Undone – available now!
Single click shopping through HarperCollins’ Website

Unbreakable – available for pre-order, coming April 23, 2013
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Books of Wonder in NYC is also offering a a pre-order opportunity, where if you pre-order Unbreakable before April 23rd, it will be signed and come with swag! Click for details.

Thanks so much to Wiley from AuthorsOnTheWeb.

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

Chicken Soup with Rice Chicken Soup with Rice
by Maurice Sendak

ISBN-13: 9-780064-432535
Publisher: HarperCollins

Each month is gay,
each season nice,
when eating
chicken soup
with rice.

Teachable Moment

Books listed in each section of the fiction Touchstone Books have particular characteristics. For the section Known or Familiar Sequence, the books are all built around common knowledge that a student should already be in possession of. Think days of the week, months, time, etc. Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak is a small book (literally. It’s only about 6 inches tall) that revolves around the twelve months of the year. Each month consists of a small poem of about ten lines that fits in with the characteristics of that month (snow in winter, sun in summer) and talks about chicken soup with rice – our main characters favourite food, by the looks of it. It’s a very cute rhyming book that could also fit into the section of Repetition.

Chicken Soup with Rice is an exact match to the description of its section. At the top of each small poem is the name of the month it corresponds with, and so children will be able to make the connection with the poem subject matter to the month it represents (ex. skating or snowmen. The pictures will let students see right away that the poem they are going to read is one of the winter months). The illustrations will help with subject and text comprehension, while the rhyming aspects of the poems will help with fluency, and the repetition about the chicken soup with rice at the end of each poem will help with word recognition. This book would work well for children in grades primary (kindergarten), one and two.

Lesson/Activity
Grade: two
Time: 1 hour

Materials:
Chart Paper
Month Worksheets

Lesson:
Conduct a read aloud with students. Talk about poetry with the students, since each page is a small poem. Discuss how some poems rhyme, and are made up of short sentences. After reading the first month poem (January), have students state which month comes next each time you move on.
– If wanting to use this book for primary/kindergarten, this is a good teaching tool to help teach the order of the months.

Have them predict subject matter for each month by looking at the illustrations.
What do you think this poem is going to be about?
Why do you think the author picked [the subject] to go with [the month]?

After reading a couple of the poems talk with students about how the rhyming aspect of the poetry makes it seem almost like a song – it flows well and is easy to remember. Once the book has been read, have students brainstorm a list of activities/subjects that could go with each month and write them on the chart paper. Make sure to have at least one or two descriptors for each month.

While the students are still in the reading group, explain the activity. They will be given worksheets with twelve squares and they are to draw a picture to describe each month. Underneath each square, there will be space for the student to write down what their picture is representing (ex. a rain cloud – April showers).

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster

City of a Thousand Dolls City of a Thousand Dolls
by Miriam Forster

ISBN-13: 9-780062-121301
Publication: February 2013 from Harper Teen
Source: purchased
Rating: 5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I loved it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a little girl. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. She makes her way as Matron’s errand girl, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls – but also her life.

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City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster had me happily entranced from page one. The quickest way to my bookish heart is to write a story that takes place in a complete fantasy world (though with hints of the familiar from our own world, which was neat) so City of a Thousand Dolls was wonderful imagination-sparking brain-food. Only thing to make it better would have been a map of the City! The Dramatis Personae was nice to have, though, especially since I referred to it more than once just to make sure I had all the names straight.

Right away, the reader is swept up in main character Nisha’s mysterious past and ability to talk to the cats roaming the grounds of the city. We get a good sense of what the city is like, and who Nisha is (as well as her love interest) before dropped right into the murder mystery aspect of the plot. Nisha – independent, capable, calm, scared and strong Nisha – is slowly swept up in trying to solve the murders in an effort not just to save more girls from dieing, but to save herself from being sold. Yupp, being sold. The City of a Thousand Dolls takes in orphan girls and basically (very basically. The book has MUCH more detail on this caste system) “sells” them. Usually as brides, but sometimes to apprenticeships and even bondage (slavery) if they owe a debt. They can be groomed for any caste, and can I just say I loved this world? I was completely intrigued by the history, caste system, the way the City functions and the court intrigue that is slowly spilling into the City.

Nisha has a rough time a head of her solving the murders (and it’s one of those books where you think you might know who the murderer is, but there are very few clues, just feelings, and you hope you’re wrong!), but she has the cats to help (love Jerrit, and holy revelations at the end!), and the will to succeed. The romance found in City of a Thousand Dolls is very minor, and secondary to the story of Nisha and the City. The intrigue, suspense, fear and worry that spans the novel is amazingly well presented, and I adored the twists and turns that the plot took in regards to where Nisha came from, who’s killing the girls, and what is in store for Nisha after the Redeeming (a ceremony where the girls 16 years old basically are spoken for and money is exchanged).

5 heart

City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster is an amazing debut novel. The scenes att he end are so crazy good – I loved the Court, Redeeming and wrap up of the mystery. Emotional and beautifully written, City of a Thousand Dolls is so much more than a murder mystery. It explores what it means to have a sense of identity (where you belong and where you come from), friendship, loyalty and what someone will do to keep what they think they is theirs. Miriam Forster has written a richly realized fantasy novel and I definitely recommend it!

Review: Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan & Justine Larbalestier

Team Human
by Sarah Rees Brennan & Justine Larbalestier

ISBN-13: 9-780062-089649
Publication: July 2012 from HarperTeen
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!
Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn’t mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she stays in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It’s up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity.

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants her to or not), Mal is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier is a hilarious, yet somehow still serious, story about one girl’s decision to save her friend from a fate worse than death – falling in love with, and becoming, a vampire.

Mel lives in a town founded, and populated, by vampires. Though she recognizes that they exist and have a place in their town, that does not mean she wants to see her best friend become one. When vampire Francis shows up at school and Cathy is immediately intrigued and smitten, Mel despairs. She is wary of why a vampire over a hundred years old would suddenly want to join high school and can’t believe how much attention he is getting from the student body. A line on page sixteen had me laughing out loud, though my mom didn’t quite get the humour when I insisted on reading her the scene and line. But come on, how can “It seemed to me like there was an urgent need for someone to yell, ‘Anyone who licks that vampire gets a detention!'” not be funny? Mel has a great sense of humour and is extremely loyal to her friends and family. She can be a bit prejudiced against the vampires, but acknowledges her flaw and is working on her perception of them. She can be a little impatient and reckless, but she genuinely tries to help and cares for those close to her.

In a more serious narrative (wherein the vampire and human falling in love is the whole plot point), Cathy and Francis’ insta-love would have immediately turned me off of the book. Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier, however, have made it so that the instant connection between the two is the hurdle that Mel has to overcome in her friendship with Cathy, since Mel sees the whole thing as fairly ridiculous. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Cathy. Who makes the decision to turn into a vampire for a guy after only knowing them a few weeks? Team Human isn’t just about Mel coming to terms with Cathy and Francis, though. There is an interesting side mystery involving Mel’s friend Anna, Anna’s mother and Anna’s father who supposedly ran off to be with a vampire (who had been his patient. Vampires have psychologists. Who knew?), and a love story for Mel herself after she meets Kit, a human who belongs to Francis’ shade (nest, if we channel Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and has the best sense of humour and can’t drive to save his life.

Team Human by Sarah Rees Brenna and Justine Larbalestier showcases some very interesting vampire mythology. The humour, antics, characters, exploration of prejudice through vampires and zombies (did I forget to mention the zombies?) make Team Human a hard book to put down. There are crazy hijinks from Mel and Kit while trying to help Anna solve the mystery of her missing father and increasingly weird-behaviour mother, a really touching scene at the end that revolves around Cathy, and all the little details present in the story (ex. space-like suits for vampires to venture out during the day) help create an attention grabbing plot and world. If you like to laugh and want a new outlook on the whole vampire genre, definitely pick up Team Human!