Feature Fun Friday - ThePianoGuys "Bach is Back"

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Tua Bethlehem Def by Aled Jones.

No, this hasn't a thing to do with books, but this is just too [insert word of epic praise here] not to share. And besides, it's fun to break out of the mold sometimes. :) And if you think this is good, check out their other ones (like... actually, just all of them). Happy Holidays!

(psst. Watch for 2:35. He throws the bow to himself. And they have outtakes).

Review: BookSpeak! Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): And Thou Bethlehem by Mychael Danna [Nativity Story soundtrack].

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 bestselling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

BookSpeak! Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas (author) & Josee Bisaillon (illustrator)
Published: October 25, 2011
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 32
Current Amazon Rank: #216,438

Author's Website: Laura Purdis Salas, Josee Bisaillon
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:

Calling All Readers

My Take:

This book is a wonderful little gem, especially for any readers/lovers of words in your life. It is both more and exactly what it seems. The illustrations are vivid and whimsical, but also offer a hidden depth the more you lose yourself in them. Another thing I loved, like Zorgamazoo the typography plays a key part, making this a visual feast. And the words. These seemingly simple poems are something to savor, a joy to let them roll over your tongue and drift over your mind.

There are 21 poems here, each one taking on a different personality of aspect of a book, say, a character left on a cliffhanger, a cover, an index, or a bookplate.

Book Plate

I don't need your napkin.
I'm not your soup bowl's mate.
I don't want your peas or bread.

I'm not that kind of plate!

Write your name upon me.
I'm a paper love tattoo.
Paste me in your book to show

that I belong to you.

--Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

These voices, like the index arguing why it is the best while gently slamming the table of contents or the banter of the middle part of a novel with the beginning and the end both surprised and delighted me. I have at least one other book of poetry based on books (I really need to review it for you soon) but I knew I had to have this one the moment I finished reading it. There was something that resonated about these words and made only brighter by the illustrations. Often I had to set the book down and pause for a moment after reading one. A beautiful collection and highly recommended if you love pictures or poems. (And not a bad gift if you don't get what you want for Christmas). ;)

The Final Word:

Wonderful, unique illustration enhance an even more powerful set of poems touching every aspect of a story. It positively delighted me. Fun, thoughtful, and powerful, I knew I had to have this one the moment I finished.

See Concept Art for The Girl Who Was On Fire

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): I Saw Three Ships by Jon Schmidt.

My brain is scrambled and a half, but I'm hoping to do a full week of posts for you. And here I have a real treat. Two, in fact. You know how I love when mediums bridge gaps between each other. InStyle recently reached out to some of their favorite fashion designers to see how they would visualize the iconic first costume Katniss wore and the one that gave her the nickname "the girl who was on fire" - the fire dress. Yes, that's right. Professional artists who are no doubt at the height of their career conceptualizing a YA book. Some of their interpretations stick true to the description while others take a much more interpretative approach (below are Tadashi Shoji, Charlotte Ronson, and Nicole Miller's conceptual art, from right to left). Either way it is a fascinating look at some very talented individuals and a bit of a geekfest. Which is not a problem by me. (For those wanting to hunt for the "How to Create a Book Character Costume" I'll link to it right here and save you a step so you can start your 2012 planning early). I think a literary fashion show would be fantastic, but that could just be me. Anyone have any connections to Milan?

The other little pre-Christmas delight. The British Library is releasing ebooks of some of its most beloved treasures in their original folio prints (appropriately titled "ebook Treasures."). 75 titles over the next two years with ones like a "Medieval Bestiary," Lewis Carrol's "Alice's Adventures Underground," William Tyndale's translation of "The New Testament" and the just recently released William Shakespeare's "First Folio" - printed seven years after his death including audio extracts from the plays with 17th century pronunciation already available? Well worth the British price for those that are research fiends or book lovers alike in my opinion. I don't have an ereader yet, but this is just one more temptation for me.

Feature Fun Friday - Simon's Cat "Double Trouble"

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Rocking Carol by Roger Whitaker.

Because I love storytelling in all of its forms, I'm sharing a new delight with you I've just discovered. More than likely a fair few of you already know of this since his videos do average more than 6,000,000 views apiece. It is called Simon's Cat and it may be my new favorite treat if I am being a very good girl that day, which may or may not include things like showering on that list. This one is called Double Trouble, and I'm told this is what cat's really do act like. Anyone care to corroborate? :) Have a great weekend, everyone!

A Most Wonderful Giveaway

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Atmosphere by Mree.

For those of you who don't know Beth Revis, you should. Not only is she an amazing, vivacious person, she also writes some good books. Her second book is launching in less than a month and she has a contest unlike any I've ever seen.

Not only does she have books, ARCs and customized swag bursting out the seams (I so have dibs on that limited edition koi print, personally done by her former student who was the inspiration for a key character in her book. How cool is that?!), but she also has something very special going on for this contest.

I want to spread the love simply for the reason that she is matching every. entry. with a full dollar donation to World Vision. She is up to 1,200 entries already and no sign of stopping. That is some serious commitment, and one of the reasons I love her so much as an author and a person. It's incredible. I've never seen a giveaway quite like it (if you have, please tell me. I would love to compile a post of amazing authors who do things like this on a reference post). So if for no other reason than you wanting a very easy but very real way to help someone across the world this season, go enter her contest. And you can win stuff some great stuff on top of it. There is no losing here. It's not even a contest. You just sign up. I'm not getting an "extra entry" for posting this.

Ah, I love this time of year. It puts me in such a good mood!

Happy Everything that you might be celebrating. :)

Monday's Muse, 44th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Reminiscence by Michiru Oshima [Fullmetal Alchemist soundtrack].

The idea of Monday's Muse is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch.

In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two-thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing--and their lives--forever.

The Eleventh Hour: A Curious Mystery by Graeme Base.

This picture book is a puzzle mystery written in verse. When Horace the elephant turns 11, he decides to throw an elaborate birthday party and invites 11 friends. The animal guests arrive in costume, and entertain themselves with a variety of activities until it is time to eat. When the 11th hour arrives, however, they are horrified to find that the entire feast has been eaten. All guests protest their innocence, and Horace comes through with sandwiches to save the day. What remains is for readers to discover the culprit. "The Inside Story," a sealed section of pages containing the solution to the mystery and explanations of the plethora of clues and puzzles in the book, follows the story. Intricate watercolor and acrylic paintings in vibrant colors crowd each page, assaulting readers with activity and detail. Both text and paintings are framed by black-and-white decorative borders that provide still more detail. After either breaking a code through careful observation (very, very careful, one must assume) or checking "The Inside Story," readers will uncover the identity of the villains. They are hidden everywhere: in the borders and in the body of the illustrations, but only very patient, persistent children will be motivated to detect every one of them. --Corinne Camarata, Port Washington Public Library, NY, School Library Journal.

[WriterGirl's Note: This is a completely awesome book. I stayed up all night figuring this out. The second I realized one of the borders of the pictures was in Morse code, I was hooked. I had to find every clue. And the pictures are gorgeous. They are something to be lost in. WriterGirl out.]

Discordia: The Eleventh Dimension by Dena K. Salmon.

For Lance (level 19 zombie sorcerer), and his friend, MrsKeller ( level 23 hobgoblin brigand), life’s a battle, and then you die. And then you rez. And then you battle again. At least that’s how it is in Discordia, the addictive online game that makes real life seem dreary in comparison.

At his new school, Lance feels weird and out of place, but in beautiful and complex Discordia, his zombie sorcerer is doing great: leveling fast, learning new skills, and making friends. He’s even met a level 60 toon, TheGreatOne, who has recruited him and MrsKeller into his guild: Awoken Myths.

Lance wishes he could spend all his time in the game – until TheGreatOne transports Lance and MrsKeller to the real Discordia, the perilous world in the eleventh dimension which inspired the game. Before they’re allowed to leave, they must complete a high-level quest that may determine Discordia’s survival – and Lance’s, too.

If they don’t get out soon, Lance could permanently mutate into the character he plays in the game: a zombie. The friends accept TheGreatOne’s quest and meet Rayva, a runaway who may have been lured into Discordia against her will. The three make their way through a country on the brink of war, fighting monsters, traitors and spies – yet their greatest danger may be Lance himself.

The Rules of Magic - The ULTIMATE Chart

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): A New World by Harry Gregson-Williams [Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack]

This is so amazingly cool, I can't not share. For fantasy writers or lovers anywhere, hear my voice and unite! io9 has put together perhaps the coolest thing since sliced bread. The Rules of Magic from 50 of some of the most well known fantasies in books and movies (okay, I'm not sure you can argue Hocus Pocus in there, but it is still cool they have it!). Places like Narnia, The Abhorsen Trilogy, Mistborn, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Earthsea and Blue Sword are all there! And more, oh so much more. I'm getting giddy just thinking about it. (clicky picture to embiggen. And it's only a sample ^_^).

Review - Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Smooth Criminal by 2CELLOS.

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 bestselling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Published: November 11, 2010
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 352
Current Amazon Rank: #101,327

Author's Website: here
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:

For the record, I wasn't around the day they decided to become Dumb.

My Take:

I love this book. There are so many reasons why I love this book that it is hard to know where to begin. How about because it features a deaf main character, which I've never heard of before (and in fact I've only read one other novel that had a deaf character in it at all. And it wasn't very good. Believe me), plus, though not pictured on the cover (they pretty much captured Piper by the way) there are two POC - "person(s) of color", or different ethnicities - portrayed in the book, one who is the love interest? Or the fact that Antony John really did his research, not only in rock history and culture, but also on Deaf culture? He nailed it, in fact.

You see, I took sign language for three years in high school. My teacher, who had a deaf sister, made sure we integrated Deaf culture (yes, there is such a thing) into our studies. And let me tell you, Mr. John did his homework.

Not only did he brush up on places like Gallaudet University, he also understood the conflicts that often exists on so many levels in this community. For example, to learn sign language or no signing? Lip reading only or in conjunction with sign? Cochlear implant (a device to help some deaf regain partial hearing) or no? Does it destroy your identity or fix you? DOES something need to be fixed? Not only did he understand it, he integrated it into the story and I loved that. It made the story that much richer. I am really trying not to go overboard on all there is, but I am positively bursting because again, I have never seen a book like this, and not only that, one that handles the topic so well and yet so naturally. It never felt like a lesson on Deaf culture, it felt like a story, with one heck of a protagonist.

Here is a little blip from the description glimpsing into some of the characters:

How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl?

(Can I also just say that it is awesome he made Piper's family an active part of her life? No parents vanishing mysteriously here. Yay for dodging that trope bullet). And I loved her brother, Finn. In fact, I loved almost every character in this book.

But beyond hitting all of these points so well (in my opinion), the story rocks. I mean, a deaf girl who agrees to find a paying gig for a high school rock band she can't even tell if they are any good? It sounded amazing. It was amazing. And Piper's voice rings out loud and clear from the very first page.

Granted, I didn't get all of the rock history references, but he does an admirable job of navigating the novices like me through. He made me want to look up more about Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain after I was done. And also worthy of nit-picky note, Piper also does something to alter her appearance partway through the book and it felt sudden to me, but I grew to accept it by the end.

This story is tight and clean and moves at a great clip (beware, there is some language for my gentle readers). This is a fantastic story I would recommend highly to almost anyone. It is different than anything else you've read.

The Final Word:

A top notch read that is so unique and vastly refreshing than anything else I've come across. In fact, I am hard pressed to find another book to compare it to. Fun, engaging and so wildly different. I would love to see more stories like this.

Feature Fun Friday - Hugo Trailer

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Patapan - God Rest Ye - Monneye/Roth by Mannheim Steamroller.

This movie looks so good. I've been dying to see it since I first saw the trailer (I'm always a bit wary until I see a trailer for a book adaptation) and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why it has made only 15.4 million. Total. That is the death sentence for movies. What isn't there to grab you and suck you in? A visual feast, a romp of clean adventure, Jude Law as a father (hee) and a score by the same man that did Lord of the Rings? Sold! I'm worried for it. If going head to head with Arthur Christmas and Arthur Christmas is winning, I fear for my love of good clean movies in the future. You bet I'm seeing it this week. Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

EDIT: All names have now been corrected. Thank you, Alysa!

(Based on the Caldecott winner The Invention of Huge Cabret).

A Reader's Thanks

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Life in Technicolor ii by Coldplay.

Last week was Thanksgiving and twitter for a brief time became abuzz with what, and who, we are grateful for as readers. These are just a few I managed to collect.