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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Reading, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 1,895
26. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Book Review

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown Author: Holly Black Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication Date: September 3, 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0316213103 432 pp. ARC provided by publisher Tana wakes one morning to find that while she was passed out in the bathtub, everyone else at the party has died. Horribly. Well, not everyone has died. There's her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, tied

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27. 'Sure, the book is awful, but at least they're reading something.' - Clementine Beauvais

Is it better to read 'anything' rather than 'nothing'?

Like most people interested in children's literature, and like many authors, I like asking booksellers, librarians, teachers and parents what children and teenagers are currently reading a lot of. And like many children's literature academics, I don't conceal my disappointment and my judgement when they tell me that a lot of children are reading what I consider, subjectively of course, but still with (I hope) some good reasons, to be trash; bad literature; literature that is facile, bland, formulaic; literature that relies on easy responses from young readers; literature that doesn't count on the intelligence of its readers to be understood.

In response, people often say, 'Sure, I agree with you - these books are awful. But at least they're reading.'

'At least'. At least they're reading. This is such a minimal kind of success that it doesn't, in my view, actually qualify as any kind of success. At least they're reading! hallelujah... When do you ever hear people who care about children say: 'Oh, they love fries and cheeseburgers. Sure, McDonalds food is awful, but at least they're eating.' ?

It's like 'reading' is a monolithic 'thing' that one 'should' do, that it is always good to do. It's like there's no other alternative. Reading instead of doing what?

If the other option is going around throwing puppies off cliffs, sure, I'd rather they be reading. If the alternative is watching reality TV, would I still prefer them to be reading? To be entirely honest, I wouldn't really care either way. Undemanding, unsophisticated TV is equivalent to undemanding, unsophisticated books in my mind. If the alternative is watching the latest Pixar film, I'd much rather they watched that. But comparing activities is, on the whole, a fairly fruitless debate.

The myth that all reading is good is associated to the myth of trashy reading as 'gateway' to better reading: 'But then they'll read more sophisticated books!'. I doubt it.  

Reading sophisticated, demanding books is not the 'next step' on the same literary ladder as trashy, unsophisticated fiction. It's a different kind of reading altogether. It follows the reading of sophisticated, demanding children's fiction, not the reading of undemanding, unsophisticated children's fiction. It's a type of reading which requires a specific, rather ascetic mindset, a mindset which cannot be a comfortable step away from trashy literature. A mindset which, I would argue, is in fact directly at odds with the one cultivated by trashy literature. 

However, it could be a sidestep, or a parallel step, to the watching of demanding, sophisticated films, or the playing of demanding, sophisticated video games.

To me, there is no value, and I do mean zero value, in reading books which (most adults agree) are of low quality - lazy, unoriginal, facile and immediately appealing. It is dishonest, I think, to keep asserting that it is a good thing in itself.

Oh, I'm aware, by the way, that all of the above makes me sound like a horrible snob. I'm also aware that it is a frequently-debated issue, and that people have very strong feelings about it.

It's important that we keep having this discussion. There are problematic ideological and economic reasons why so many well-meaning adults (who would never be content to see children swallow down huge quantities of junk food) just go 'Oh well!' and smile when they see them gulping down the literary equivalent of junk food.

The relativistic myth that obviously, 'all reading is good', followed by the idea that obviously, 'trashy reading will lead to better reading', is hugely convenient, in both financial and political terms, to a lot of people.

So let's keep talking about it, because in these benevolent sentences there are transparent values, much too 'obvious' to be benign.


Clementine Beauvais writes children's books in both French and English. The former are of all kinds and shapes, and the latter, a humour/adventure detective series, the Sesame Seade mysteries. She blogs here about children's literature and academia and is on Twitter @blueclementine.

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28. Friday Feature: Divergent

Divergent (Divergent, #1)In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

My thoughts:
I won this book a long time ago on Medeia Sharif's blog but it's been sitting on my bookshelf. Why? As much as I wanted to read it, I was worried about all the hype. I thought it wouldn't live up to it. But I finally decided to give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. Tris is a character I could identify with from the start because she felt so real. She doesn't fit in with her family or her faction. And when her simulation says she's Divergent and confirms that she doesn't fit in anywhere, she has to make a big decision. Being Divergent is dangerous. If people found out, she would be killed. So Tris makes a big decision and leaves her faction for one she thinks will save her.

I was really glad that Tris struggled a lot in her new faction. Things were tough, yet she'd have small victories along the way. I thought it was the perfect balance. She also develops some great relationships, though not all end well for her. While it's obvious that there's going to be something between Tris and Four, there were plenty of surprises there too, and I loved seeing what was going to happen next.

I wish I didn't put this serious off for so long, and I'm looking forward to the movie adaptation and book two.

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29. The Adventures of Odysseus

Today we’re honored once again to have Hannah Rials guest blog posting for us.
As a family we love the Greek myths but we especially love this edition of Odysseus. The story is written in a way that my family of varying ages can grasp it and the illustrations are simply stunning and brilliantly colorful.
Oddysseus Cover
Here’s a look at Hannah’s journey into “The Odyssey” :
This is the tale of the wise, brave Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who nineteen long years ago went to fight in the Trojan War for ten years. These past nine years have been his attempt to return to his home, his wife, Penelope, and his son, Telemachus, who was just a baby when he left.
oddyseus 2
He washes up on the shore of King Alcinous. His daughter, Princess Nausicaa finds Odysseus and brings him back to her father. From here he tells the court of his difficult journey from Troy. He blinded the enormous cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, angering the God of the seas. He then lands on the island of circe, where all of his men are turned into pigs, showing their true nature, but thanks to Hermes, Odysseus is immune to her power. After staying on her island for a year, Circe sends the men off with plentiful provisions and a plan for Odysseus to travel into the Underworld to visit the blind poet Tiresias. Here, he learns what he must do to earn Poseidon’s forgiveness. He must listen to the sirens’ song as his men row the boat past them.
Odysseus 1
Next they come to Scylla’s domain, and Odysseus and his men watch helplessly as six men are devoured to save the rest of the crew. They are left to mourn their fellow crewman shipwrecked on Hyperion’s island, home to his sacred animals. The number one rule: do not touch the animals. What do his men do? Roast two animals. So their fates are cursed. They sail off into Chrybdis, and everyone except Odysseus dies. He washes up on the shore of the nymph Calypso, who holds him hostage on her island for seven years.
Eventually at the bidding of Athena, Calypso allows him to build a raft, but Poseidon’s waves destroy his raft and this is when he ends up on Alcinous’s island. The king then provides Odysseus with new clothes, treasure and a ship to see him home. When he gets to his home in Ithaca, the goddess Athena appears to him and turns him into an old beggar man, because a happy welcome does not await him. Suitors have ravaged his home for these long years in hopes that Penelope will pick them as a new home. Telemachus has been gone searching for news of his father, and he arrives just as Odysseus does. They are both told to go to the herdsman Eumaeus, where they are reunited at last.
After they arrive back at their home, Penelope has been discovered unweaving the shawl that she is making for Odysseus’s father, so now she must pick a husband. She decides that the man that can string Odysseus’s bow and shoot it through twelve axes will be her new husband. They all try and they all fail, until Odysseus, still disguised as the beggar, succeeds, and he and Telemachus kill all the greedy suitors. After a test that only Odysseus would know the answer to, Penelope welcomes him with open arms and his family is reunited once more.
I loved this retelling of this classic tale. It is much easier to comprehend than the high school’s copy! The illustrations are beautiful and really remind me of Greek art! Including two complete discs, this is a must read for the family. I can picture reading this in sections, that way the next night, you will have to recap everything you read the night before until you know the entire story by heart!
odysseus 4
Grab your copy of The Adventures of Odysseus and other amazing Barefoot Book titles HERE.

Something To Do:

How funny is this!? Cyclops Polyphemus TP Roll Craft from DLTK Kids:
Cyclops craft


What animal would Circe turn you into? (from What Animal Am I?)
Become an Ancient Greek at Crafty HomeSchool Mama
Become Greek Gods
Food of the Gods from BrownieLocks.com
**some of these links are affiliate links
Hannah Rials
Born in the hills of Louisiana and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, Hannah Rials is a seventeen year old aspiring author and editor. She’s been writing short stories since she was a little girl, but for the past several years, she has been writing, editing, and reediting a novel of her own that she hopes to publish in the near future. Hannah will be attending college in the fall 2014 as an English major with the hopes of becoming an editor, but for now, she is enjoying her time at Jump Into a Book as a columnist and intern!

The post The Adventures of Odysseus appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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30. Writer Wednesday: The Monster Within ARC and Teaser

On Monday I got a nice surprise in my mailbox. 
My ARC of The Monster Within! Yay! I spent yesterday proofreading it. I never get tired of reading this book because Sam and Ethan are very special to me. And of course I made a teaser video for you. Enjoy!

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31. Anthropology of Reading

Anybody catch Tim Parks’ NYRB blog post last week Where I’m Reading From? In the essay he wonders about why people aren’t more interested in the anthropology of reading, who reads what and why. He thinks it would be good for there to be a public website or database or something where those who write about books professionally provide a brief account of “how we came to hold the views we do on books, or at least how we think we came to hold them” in order to throw some light on disagreements about books. Parks then goes on to write his personal contribution.

All this reminds me of W. H. Auden who created a long list of questions he thought critics should answer so that we readers would have some insight into how said critic might have come to have such an opinion. Auden’s questions aren’t all about books, which is good because our opinions about what we read are tied up with how we see, act and understand the world in other ways too. In fact, Auden wanted critics to write about what they thought Eden would be. I answered the questions in case you are curious. Parks is also aware that our judgments about books are built of many things, and while his piece focuses on how he came to read what he does, he looks at how his parents influence his reading choices, what kind of environment they created for him to grow up in, how they nurtured him or not. He even pulls his brother and sister into the mix.

Toward the end of the essay Parks provides a few examples of books he read and how his formative years influenced his response to, and opinion of, them. The point to all of it being, he finally decides, not just information for the reader to be able to judge his opinion, but also for himself. If you are aware of your habits you are better able to recognize your own bias and, if not correct it, at least own up to it.

Of course the Parks essay has gotten me thinking about why I read what I do. Why do I not really care for crime novels or mysteries but science fiction and fantasy are pretty darn awesome? Why do I tend to stay away from straight-up commercial fiction preferring literary fiction instead? Why do I get excited by books that challenge me in some way? And poetry, how the heck did I come to enjoy reading that so much? And what about the large chunk of my reading that is dedicated to nonfiction? What’s that all about? I don’t know how to answer those questions. I have suspicions of course. I’ll have to think about it a bit more and if I come up with anything satisfactory, I’ll share.

What about you? Do you know why you read what you read?

Filed under: Books, Reading

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32. What Would You Re-read for the First Time

By Julie Daines

I've been thinking recently about all the books I love. I re-read book a lot. A LOT. And there's something different I get out of each re-read. Some books never get old to me.

But at the same time, there are certain books I wish I could go back in time an re-read for the first time. If that makes sense.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to get sucked in to the world of Harry Potter all over again.

And what I wouldn't give to be able to experience The Road again for the first time.

To discover Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë for the first time.

If you could go back in time, what books would you want to read again for the first time?

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33. Monday Mishmash 3/24/14

Happy Monday! Here's my mishmash of thoughts:

1. Touch of Death for $0.99!!! Yes, you read that correctly. Touch of Death is only $0.99 on Kindle. Get it here.

2. Need To Read  I've created a new meme over at YA Bound called Need To Read. On the first Tuesday of each month, I'll feature releases from that month that I'm excited to read. You can join me by grabbing the button and posting your Need To Read list on the first Tuesday of each month.

3. Catching up on my TBR list  I have three books to review this week as I try to catch up on my TBR pile.

4. Drafting  I'm drafting a new idea but I'm doing it between a lot of other stuff, which is not typical for me. I hope this works. lol

5. My Tethered Soul Cover Reveal  Dorothy Dreyer had a cover reveal on Friday. Check out the cover and blurb for My Tethered Soul. (I'm looking forward to this one!)

It’s been months since Zadie faced her sister’s Reaper, months during which she’s been under her mentor’s magical protection. But now that she’s turning seventeen, that protection is about to run out.

When dark forces lure Zadie to wander at night, she’s manipulated into committing unspeakable acts. With her friends and family at risk, Zadie must try to use her powers to break free from the Reaper’s grasp, or surrender to the Reaper’s Rite, which can only lead to death.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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34. Can you Fart at Cotillion?

My two oldest are in the show, Bye-Bye Birdie and a rather uncomfortable situation presented itself on opening night. I took my dancer daughter and sat in the patron’s section, making sure to look down upon the common folk in general admission. I don’t get to be a snob in my town very often as most of the houses around here are twice the size of mine. But with two in the high school drama program, the dues required made it about the same as paying to be a patron, so we joined the club and now enjoy reserved seating.

Last night I learned it is not advisable to eat risky foods prior to a two hour show. I love spicy foods and had been able to savor two distinct ethnic cuisines on this particular day. I don’t know exactly which one was the aggressor, but one of them crossed the line, instigating a border war deep inside. It started midway through act 1 and I did everything possible to keep the war contained to one front. At some point during the second act, one of the combatants wanted more territory like Hitler invading Russia and tried to open an eastern theater. I shifted in my chair so many times the poor guy behind me probably thought I was dancing with the actors, even when there was no music. Somehow, I managed to keep the entire battle to myself.

After the final bows, Dancer and I congratulated her sisters and friends on a wonderful show, took pictures, and left. I explained the raging war of the past two hours to my thirteen year-old, who rolled her eyes and said, “Dad, you need to go to Cotillion.”


I have only approximate knowledge of Cotillion. I looked it up and found out that it is classes designed to educate children on social skills, proper etiquette, manners and dance. As an adult, I am all for manners, especially for the boys who someday might want to date my daughters. The boy inside of me can think of nothing I would hate worse, though. I wonder what happens if you have to pass gas there. Do they have Cotillion police to escort you out immediately?

On a note related to boyhood, I got a fantastic review from a children’s lit blogger this week. Since I had sent the book in December, it came by surprise, precisely at a time when my spirits needed it. LINK.  In her review, she ponders this question:

This book captures the essence of boyhood very well. I had to laugh numerous times at how well the author knows what it means to be a young boy. He either has a very good memory, or he never grew up, I’m not sure which one.

I would like to thank Mrs. McMahon for taking the time to read Virge and write such a glowing review. I can put her question to rest in two ways. First, my memory is terrible except for completely irrelevant movie and song trivia. Second, take a look at the title of this post.

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35. Friday Feature: Aire by Lena Goldfinch

Principessa Annalisia is stunned and conscience-stricken when an unknown enemy mistakenly abducts her maidservant. Determined to find the girl, Annalisia disguises herself as plain Anna and slips away from the palace. She tracks down Jovanni, her maidservant's daring older brother, and they soon begin to search together. As they uncover clues, Anna also discovers a kindred spirit in Jovanni. But would he be so free with her if he knew who she really was? Doubtful. Even so, she reveals her secret gift of visions to him, and in so doing disobeys the orders of her beloved grandmother, the queen.With Jovanni, Anna can almost imagine she’s like any other seventeen-year-old girl, free to pursue the longings of her heart. When she learns that he also has a secret—he's a sentinel, an ancient shapeshifter who can take the form of a falcon—it seems as if they were destined to be together, as in the legends of il Sentiro. Though Anna is tempted to wish otherwise, she can’t forget that she’s a princess and it's her duty to marry another. Meanwhile, their hunt leads Anna ever closer to danger, for she herself is being hunted.

My thoughts:
When I started reading this it reminded me of the TV series Reign, which I love, so I eagerly jumped right in. Anna isn't your typical princess. She cares a lot about the people around her and she has visions, which she can use to save those very people. I loved the emotion throughout the story. I felt like I could feel what Anna was feeling every step of the way, and her connection to Jovanni only made that stronger. But the thing I really liked was that this isn't just about a princess finding the man she loves versus the one she's supposed to marry. Anna's special gift lets her do so much more, and she never loses focus of that. 

Overall, this is a fast read filled with tension, action, and lots of emotion.

This blog tour has a giveaway too! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you read Aire or any other books by Lena?

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36. BWFBC: Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls (1966) (Update)

Welcome to our first Bestselling Women’s Fiction Book Club. We’re very excited to get the ball rolling with Susann’s Valley of the Doll.

For the discussion on Twitter we’ll be using the hashtag #VofD #BWFBC. You can also leave a comment below. We love it when you leave comments.

If you haven’t read the book yet be warned there are many spoilers below.

Enough housekeeping here’s what we thought:

Kate Elliott (KE): So to begin, I have some initial impressions.

The pacing is just as fast as today. There is no messing around. Susann gets straight to the point.To that end it is very heavy on dialogue scenes.

I’m struck by the fascinating and obviously deliberate contrast between the absolute and immediate acceptance and attention Anne gets from men because of her stunning looks, and the interior life and intentions revealed by her pov. Her competence is assumed by the narrative because it is from her point of view, and I have to assume that the men who all admire and trust and respect her do so in large part because she has proven her level-headedness and competence.

I flinch at the casual use of the word fag, but I also note that no one so far in the text thinks twice about the presence of homosexual men in the entertainment industry. They’re there. Everyone knows it. In an odd way it is simply not a big deal (not yet, anyway).

JL: LOVE ANNE. Loving this book. Have so much to do but just want to read it. You are so right about the fast pace. Zooooom!

You’re right the homophobia is ridiculous. Tempted to keep a “fag” count. Barely a page goes by without it. Though as you say at least they’re not invisible. Why there are even lesbians in this book. Queen Victoria would faint.

I did find it very comfortable being in Anne’s pov for so long. The switch to Neely and Jennifer’s povs was quite a wrench. They’re much more uncomfortable places to be. Though once Anne was hopelessly in love with Lyon Burke, the biggest arsehole in the book, she became pretty uncomfortable too.

God, the men are awful. ALL OF THEM.

I’m a bit weirded out by the lack of scene breaks. I’m wondering if that’s an idiosyncracy of the book or something that wasn’t done as much back then or peculiar to the publisher or what? I don’t remember the last time I read a book where scenes changed with nothing more than a paragraph break. Odd.

KE: Yes. I keep waiting for a chapter or scene break and there is NOTHING. I have no idea why.

I sometimes think these “women’s novels” are about the deepest social commentary of all.

Because the men are all awful (so far). AWFUL. But I don’t find them “unrealistic.”

JL: No, they’re completely believable. Alas. Everything is so well observed. Painfully well observed. I feel like all the women are suffering from Stockholm syndrome except for Anne.

I finished. The subtitle of this book should be Patriarchy Destroys Everyone. :-(

KE: I’m also finished. It’s compulsively readable.

There were several points in the narrative where I started getting worn out with the endless pointlessness of it all and just wanted there to be sword fighting and dragons.

JL: Poor Anne. Don’t think dragons or swords would’ve helped. So glad I wasn’t born until after this book takes place.

It’s very interesting to me how very sympathetic Anne is. I suspect that the fact that she doesn’t just get by on her looks for a big chunk of the novel is a big part of that. As opposed to Jennifer.

All three women’s lives do, however, wind up being almost entirely governed by how they look. Anne becomes a model. Jennifer models and acts. Neely becomes a singing movie star ordered to lose weight by the studio. It does not work out well for any of them.

Fascinating, isn’t it that Neely’s happiest moments after she’s famous are when she’s out of rehab and has gained a lot of weight and everyone’s freaked out by it. But the minute she loses the weight again she’s back to being a monster.

Then there’s Jennifer’s face lift because at the ancient age of 37 or whatever it is she cannot possibly face Hollywood’s glare without one. One of a million depressing moments.

It’s really shocking to me how truly awful the men are. I kept wondering if they were meant to be awful or if were supposed to like some of them. There really is not a single good guy. And they’re all so desperately unhappy. Who in this book is happy for more than a nanosecond?

I love that the women are miserable no matter what choice they make. Get married, be supportive spouse, (Jennifer in Hollywood) = utter misery. Pursue career = utter misery. Pursue career with supportive husband = utter misery. Marry the guy of your dreams = utter misery. Whatever you choose = utter misery.

Where are the happy role models? Where are the happy relationships? The book basically says that in a misogynistic, homphobic, patriarchal world everyone is miserable.

The unhappy endings. Pulling this out of my arse but the books I read now that are labelled “women’s fiction” tend to have happy endings in a way these earlier books don’t. My sample size for this pronouncement is ludicriously small. And I’m probably wrong.

KE: No one in this book has an intact family of any kind or any sort of healthy familial relationships. As far as I can tell there are two healthy relationships shown in the book:

1) Anne’s friendship with Jennifer, and 2) Anne’s friendship with Henry Bellamy (which has issues but seems to be based on mutual respect).

I would add there is a suggestion that Neely’s second husband Ted apparently goes on to have a happy marriage to the girl he was sexing in the pool although that can’t be confirmed.

Not a single person has an intact relationship with parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts & uncles, long-time friends, etc. They are all startlingly isolated and, to that degree, vulnerable.

JL: Right. They really are adrift. This is the world that the breakdown of the extended family and the rise of the broken nuclear family has led to. AND IT IS SO WRONG!

1) I’m not sure how healthy it is Anne and Jennifer’s friendship is. So much they don’t tell each other. But, yes, within the context of the book it’s not too bad. 2) And as for her relationship with Bellamy: but he lies to her! But, again, yes, compared to all the other relationships it’s not too bad. Henry Bellamy would be my nomination for most decent guy in the book and what a low bar that is.

Of all the awful men Anne’s husband, Lyon Burke, was the very worst. He’s who I’d stab.

I actually felt bad for Tony the mentally impaired singer. I liked his sister Miriam. Loved that he showed up at the sanitorium to sing with Neely. I’m a sook. That was one of my favourite bits.

Oh, also DRUGS ARE BAD. In fact, I’m never so much as looking at a drug ever again. Not even aspirin.

The ending left me really bummed. Poor Anne. May she discover feminism, quit the drugs, and leave the bastard soon.

I loved that it’s a book about work. As so many of these women’s fiction titles are. (Again small sample size. But it feels true.)

KE: I have a few other comments.

We both noticed the utter lack of people of color in the book (unless there is a mention of a maid or other servant that I flashed past because I was reading so fast). There are Catholics and Jews; other than that I guess it is presumed everyone is a white Protestant as the representation of the Standard Person.

There is a lot of sex in this book, and a lot of sexism—and constant measuring of women against regressive standards of weight, age, appearance, and so on (nothing new, and certainly standards that continue today, but it permeates the book so alarmingly and despairingly). The women engage in a lot of sex, often (mostly?) out of wedlock, and what I felt I did NOT see was reductive slut-shaming. It is assumed that women have sexual feelings, that they want to act on them, and that they (sometimes) take pleasure from sex. There are ways in which that may be undercut but I bet I could find many a more recent novel and novels published today that are much more “conservative” about women’s sexual activity than this book is. I wonder if that is one of the reasons it was so popular.

Finally I wanted to mention what might have been my favorite exchange in the book. I do agree that Anne and Jennifer’s relationship is not a full friendship in that they keep things from each other. I read VotD when I was 14, secretly, at might grandmother’s house, and while there is much in the novel that I recall, I have no memory of the episode about Jennifer’s relationship with Maria, the Spanish woman. While Maria herself is a controlling and abusive person, and while an argument can (should) be made that the book is hostile to lesbians with lines like “those awful freaks who cut their hair and wear mannish clothes,” (unless that is merely meant to reflect Maria’s hostile personality), for me the most heartfelt and sweet exchange in the book is between Jennifer and Anne:

“I love you, Jen—really.”

Jennifer smiled. “I know you do. It’s a pity we’re not queer—we’d make a marvelous team.”

Is the exchange then undercut by their agreement that there can never be equality in love? Or is this the one moment where Susann is suggesting that there can be but they just don’t see it because of their awful experiences in their various love affairs and their fractured social interactions? I don’t know.

What a downer of an ending, though, and yet entirely appropriate. Which is maybe why I always go back to reading about swords and dragons.

JL: Yes, to everything you just said. The world of The Valley of the Dolls is a white, white, white world.

That was a lovely exchange. I like to think that it’s not undercut by anything. But then the whole book undercuts it, doesn’t it? They none of them end well.

It reminded me that there were many lovely moments between the three women before Neely became famous and deranged. The first third of the book when they’re becoming friends is very touching.

Then there’s Neely, oh, Neely. It’s very hard not to think of her as Judy Garland. And knowing that the book is a roman a clef and that Jennifer North was based on Carole Landis who killed herself aged 29, that Helen Lawson was a thinly disguised Ethel Merman, makes me even sadder about the book because I can’t pretend it’s all fiction. Alas. According to Wikipedia Susann was “quoted in her biography Lovely Me saying that she got the idea for [Tony] Polar when she tried to interview Dean Martin after one of his shows; he was too engrossed in a comic book to pay attention to her.” As someone who quite likes comic books that strikes me as more than a little unfair, Ms Susann. Makes me want to read the bio though and re-watch the Bette Midler flick based on it.

I think the book was tremendously popular because, as we both found, it’s unputdownable, because it was a roman a clef, and because it was, as you say frank about sex and female sexual desire, also sometimes it’s hilarious. So let me finish with one of my favourite passages:

“Anne I think you’re afraid of sex.”

This time she looked at him. “I suppose you’re going to tell me that I’m unawakened…that you will change all that.”


She sipped the champagne to avoid his eyes.

“I suppose you’ve been told this before,” he said.

“No, I’ve heard it in some very bad movies.”

Hahahaha! Take that, loser. I can almost see Anne rolling her eyes.


So, that’s some of mine and Kate’s thoughts. (Trust me. We have many more.) What did you all think of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls?

Our April book will be Rona Jaffe’s Best of Everything which we’ll be discussing over on Kate’s blog. We will announce what date and time as soon as we figure it out.

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37. Life is Short, Read Fast

Have you heard about the anti-slow reading app called Spritz? It’s a speed reading app, “reading reimagined” they say. Why do you need a speed reading app? Because reading is so time consuming. The thing that takes the most time is moving your eyes across the page so Spritz presents the text to you one word at a time with key letters highlighted to help you recognize the word faster. The app will supposedly help you read up to 1000 words a minute. The average reading rate of an adult is 220 words a minute. They are touting you can read a whole novel in under 90 minutes! That way you know you can either read more books or move on to doing something else with all your extra spare time.

Spritz is basically power skimming. One. Word. At. A. Time. Can. You. Imagine. What. That. Would. Do. To. Proust? Or Henry James? Or Virginia Woolf? Or pretty much any writer who isn’t a robot? Why anyone would want to read a novel that fast is beyond me. No, wait, I know who would. People who only read so they say they have read. The ones who aren’t really readers but want to look like it so they can sound smart.

But what sort of comprehension can one possibly manage at 1000 words a minute? Hardly any according to the Telegraph. There are limits to how fast you can process information. Apparently we max out on spoken words at 300 words per minute. And I don’t know about you, but when I read, no matter what I read, I hear the words in my head and if I don’t hear them in my head they don’t really register and I forget them, get lost, don’t know what I just read. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the 300 words per minute max for spoken words also held true more or less for reading.

Plus, when we read we don’t just read one word at a time. We read phrases too. Our eyes also do not move smoothly across the page even though that is what it feels like. When we read our eyes move back and forth across the line as we put together an understanding of what we are reading.

The people at Sprtiz want everyone to use their app. Sorry Spritz, you won’t get everyone because I will never use it. Ever.

If you want a demo of what the app looks like and how it works at different speeds, you can give 250, 350, and 500 words a minute a try here. If your experience is like mine, 250 felt fast but totally doable without much effort. At 350 I started to feel tense and felt my shoulders start to move up to my ears. At 500 my blood pressure shot up and I felt a little crazy and angry because I couldn’t completely comprehend the whole thing. One could argue that with practice, speed will improve. But what’s the point?

I’ll stick with slow reading, thanks.

Filed under: Books, Reading

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38. Walking And Reading

It’s a well known fact that a child in possession of a well-loved book is unlikely to set down this well-loved book. Case in point:

TurkeybirdReadingandWalking LittlebugReadingandWalking

Yes, both Turkeybird and Littlebug are smitten with books. To the point they simply will not put them down at any time, even while walking. This, makes me one very happy mom.

Books in hand:

Kylie Jean Pirate Queen by Marci Peschke
Today I Will Fly! (Elephant and Piggie #1) by Mo Willems

Also, tomorrow is T-Bird’s big 7th birthday! If you get a chance I know he’d love to read all your birthday wish comments! (Like I said, he loves reading…especially when it’s about him. Haha!)

Original article: Walking And Reading

©2014 There's A Book. All Rights Reserved.

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It's Tuesday. . . 
So watch out for


 ................................. ............................................................
Today I did a SKYPE School Visit from Oregon to the Garden State of New Jersey.

This first grade class offers three languages: 
English, Chinese and Spanish.

And these first grade kids were so SMART!

Right away I had an Aussie connection with two of them.  I shared my Australian aboriginal bark paintings, message stick and boomerang.  One boy had a didgeridoo his mom had brought back from a trip Down Under - and HE PLAYED IT FOR ME!   Fantastic.

Another child's Dad had been to Sydney, knew all about Urulu, and wanted to know what it was like there.  Fortunately I had visited the sacred monolith, so we had a great chat about it. Their teacher is also doing an Australian set of lessons.

We talked about the books they loved, the books I write, and how to write stories that HOOK readers.  I showed them all my picture books, especially "Kangaroo Clues,"  because it is about Aussie critters, and I read from "Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind."  


I am always so psyched after Skyping with a class like this one.  They were eager to ask questions, very intelligent ones, too. A way smart bunch of kids.  

My Magic Carpet of Books got a super work out this morning - over an hour.  Yet it went so fast because we were all having a good time.  I learned from them, and I hope they learned from me. 

You know. . .

 Today I glimpsed the future generation. . . 
and they looked  pretty awesome to me!



Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques


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40. Marco Polo and the Explorer Book


At the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Catherine!) I bought Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air for my six-year-old boy for Christmas. It’s a beauty of a book, written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (of Incredible Cross-Sections fame). Each chapter follows a different explorer and includes a gorgeous fold out map and diagram of the explorer’s route and travel style.


 I highly, highly recommend it. Reading it straight through from beginning to end isn’t something my son is ready for (the text is geared toward a slightly older audience), but he likes to pick a small section for me to read at a time, and he always chooses a fold-out to study. He wants to read every label for all the parts (not unlike his fascination with Richard Scarry’s books).

I love that feeling of just sort of soaking in the book, meandering through and getting to know it bit by bit, landing on favorite parts and coming back to them again and again on a nonlinear journey. It reminds me of my own love for the Oxford University Press story collections as a kid. Beautifully illustrated by Victor Ambrus, they were these great kid-friendly versions of the Canterbury Tales, the great ballets, and King Arthur’s tales, among others. Sadly, they look to be out of print now, but I think I’ll have to chase down some copies to have as our own. Click here for a few cover images from Victor Abrus’s website.

I didn’t understand everything about those tales at the time, but when I re-encountered them later in school, it was thrilling to realize I already had a framework in place. The stories were familiar and felt like they were already mine. I’m always hoping to give my kids some experiences like that, and I hope Into the Unknown will be one of them.

The elementary school had its book character parade last week, and my son wanted to dress like Marco Polo. We didn’t find a picture of him in the book, but we found an 18th century illustration online:

 We found a silk jacket at the thrift store (100% real! reversible!), along with a faux fur shrug we could use for the hat. I made the hat (two U-shaped pieces sewn along the curve) from an old T-shirt with a double-thickness of sweatshirt underneath for body. I tacked the fur band around the bottom.



Marco Polo costume

Since I’m working on a nonfiction children’s book myself, I have a new appreciation for just how much research goes into something like this. I can’t imagine how long it must’ve taken Mr. Ross and Mr. Biesty to create this handsome book. Bravo!

Speaking of nonfiction for children, I just ordered a couple from my favorite local indie, Park Road Books. Amy Karol of angry chicken recommended two comic-type books, one about the presidents and another about the Greek myths: Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunder, and Where Do Presidents Come From? They sounded so good that I called up Park Road right away. I’ll be there tonight for the spring author line up, sponsored by the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

For more posts about books, click here. For more posts about costumes, click here. (Boy! I seem to make/ assemble a lot!)

P.S. Family: I’d like to get this book (Into the Unknown) for the oldest nephews, so I’m calling dibs now. Sorry!

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41. The Treasure of Snake Island: A Captain No Beard Story | Dedicated Review

In Carole P. Roman’s fifth installment of her award-winning Captain No Beard series, The Treasure of Snake Island, the crew of the Flying Dragon discovers the power of reading.

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42. Inspirational Quote of the Week

Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.

-Bruce Garrabrandt-

Moments matter – Every single one of them. I try to use each one wisely.




kissing vic






teddybear playing

And helping.

photo 2

This past weekend we lost 60 moments of sleep for daylight savings. Well, the humans did. I got those moments back in spades 60 times over.


Mom uses one hour of moments each day for work. And by work I mean she sits there and types on the computer and talks out loud to herself. Sometimes the Creativity visits her during that hour. I love visitors. I’m not sure I’ve ever met the Creativity Visitor, though. Maybe tomorrow…..


If the Creativity doesn’t visit at that exact work time, Mom still works. Each month, she makes a new story and fixes up an old story (or two or three) for her 12×12 Challenge. She also reads books about writing books, and reads books like the books she writes. Wait. What?


Writing time is not for blogs, not for Facebook, not for email, not for Words With Friends, and not even for TV.

photo 3

It’s just working on stories in one way or another – writing them, reading them, fixing them, thinking about them, submitting them to agents and publishers, and giving me cuddles and treats…. (See what I did there?) If the Creativity doesn’t come – Oh well. Maybe tomorrow…..

We’ll be ready.


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43. Some More on the Bestselling Womens Book Club or BWFBC

Thanks so much everyone for all the fabulous suggestions in response to my previous post. Lots of great ideas there. We really appreciate it.

Your suggestions clarified two things for us:

1) We realised that we want to stick to the twentieth century. So we’ve decided to only read books from after WW1 up to 1994 (ie twenty years ago.) After WW1 because that’s when women across classes1 were joining the workforce in larger numbers; because I’ve done a lot of research on the 1930s; and because there’s an argument that that is when you see the beginnings of what is now called women’s fiction.

2) As much as possible we’d like to do books that are available as ebooks because that makes it much easier for everyone to take part. We will, however, make exceptions for books we’re very keen to read. Such as Han Suyin’s A Many Splendoured Thing.

We’re also making a decision about historicals. On the one hand I think they say a tonne about contemporary women’s lives and feminism and like that. But on the other hand I really do think they’re their own genre. Plenty of historicals by women never get talked about as women’s fiction. Hilary Mantel, Dorothy Dunnett etc. So I’m leaning against. Especially as women’s fiction today basically means fiction about women’s working lives that don’t fit the romance category. Also we’ve already got too many books to choose from! But like I said we’re still thinking about it.

Looking forward to talking Valley of the Dolls with you this Wednesday night (US time) and Thursday afternoon (Australia time).

  1. Working class women have pretty much always been in the workforce.

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44. You Need To Hurry If You Want To Win

Hi there is just a couple of hours over 2 days left for your chance to win one of two paperback copies 'It's A Ruff Life'.

Hurry up and get your entry submitted to Goodreads so that you don't MISS OUT.

If you're not sure about it hop over to Amazon and read some of the reviews we've already received.

Click on the link below to enter

Goodreads Book Giveaway

It's a Ruff Life by B.R. Tracey

It's a Ruff Life

by B.R. Tracey

Giveaway ends March 08, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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45. Bully Training: Read Lots

As readers we like to think we are really awesome and special people simply because we like to read a lot. At least I like to think that. Kinder, gentler, smarter, introverted perhaps and maybe even shy but still people savvy, high emotional IQ, and the list goes on and on. Just Google “benefits of reading” for yourself sometime for lists and lists.

But does literature really make us better people? MobyLives reported the other day on a Stanford Center for Ethics panel on the moral merits of reading and the findings? Reading literature does not make us more moral but it apparently can make us better bullies!

Reading literature does make us better as assessing someone’s emotional state and as a result we tend to have a well-developed Theory of Mind. Bullies also generally have a well-developed Theory of Mind. Of course we like to think we use our powers for good but I’ve watched enough superhero movies to know that even the good guys are a hairsbreadth away from turning bad, Superman even had a go at it. And remember, Hitler was a great reader and I don’t think anyone would argue he was a good person. Then there were the days long, long ago when novels were considered corrupting. Seems like they may have been on to something after all.

I mean, think of all the trouble we could cause if we decided to be bad. We’ve got so much knowledge stored up in our heads. If I had a wine cellar I could totally pull a “Cask of Amontillado” on somebody! And I know some of you would be able to effectively execute a locked door murder and know how to not get caught.

Dangerous we are. Good thing we are too busy reading and can’t be bothered to be bad unless being bad means staying up too late with a book or calling out sick in order to spend the day reading.

Filed under: Books, Reading

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46. There's Still Time For You To Win a Copy of It's A Ruff Life

Hi, It's us again.  I know we still keep harping on about our great giveaway.  It is great.  You'll find that winning a copy of 'It's a ruff life' (Childrens Secret Agent, Spy, Action, Adventure Books for 8 to preteens) is really fun.

A ten year old boy, who's read the book, told his mum he wants all the other books to read.  He loved the story and so will you.  It's like other's have said very funny, very crazy and a thrilling and exciting read, which is the story of our lives!

You have just 1 DAY and 2 hours LEFT.  Take advantage of it. Click on the link below and ENTER TO WIN!   


Bella & Max

Goodreads Book Giveaway

It's a Ruff Life by B.R. Tracey

It's a Ruff Life

by B.R. Tracey

Giveaway ends March 08, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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47. "Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping"

photo of Teju Cole by Wayne Taylor

 From a Q&A in the New York Times with Teju Cole:
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I have not read most of the big 19th-century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too.

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

It's a Ruff Life by B.R. Tracey

It's a Ruff Life

by B.R. Tracey

Giveaway ends March 08, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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Cropped Pic 2

Today I had the privilege of being a reader at a local elementary school.  I got to read one of my favorite books, The Bee Bully, and talk to the kids about being an author.  The energetic kindergartners made me feel very welcome and I really enjoyed spending some time with them.  We talked a little bit about what it means to be a bully and how important reading is.

Three reasons why reading is important to young children:

1).  Reading exercises our brains.  That’s right, our brains need a workout too.  Reading strengthens brain connections and can even create new ones so pick up a book and help your brain exercise.

2).  Reading improves concentration.  Kids have to focus when they read which can sometimes be a difficult task.  The more you read the longer you can extend that concentration time which will continue to improve.

3).  Reading helps develop imagination.  When you read your brain translates what is read to pictures.  Did you know you can create a movie in your head while you read?  We become engrossed in the story and we can connect with the characters.  We can sympathize with how a character feels and reflect on how we would feel in that same situation.

Now go grab a book and BEE A READER!


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50. Question of the Week: Do You Read the Last Page First?

Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as books and writing is talking about books and writing. So each week (or so) here at Adventures in YA Publishing, we’ll post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.

Last week, my dad told me that my step-mom regularly borrows twenty or more library books a week. I asked how she can possibly read that fast, and he said that she doesn’t: if she likes the cover, she will borrow the book. When she gets home, she reads the first page, and if she likes the first page, then she reads the last page. If she finds the last page satisfying, then she will read the entire book. On average, she reads about two books a week. Which leads me to the…

Question of the Week
March 9, 2014

Do you peek at the last page before you finish the book?

Do you peek?
photo credit: fazen via photopin cc

Martina: Maybe three or four times in my teens and early twenties, when I was afraid that something horrible was happening to a romantic lead I was particularly attached to. On all but one of those occasions, I checked the last page, saw that the name of the character was still there, and flipped back to where I'd left off in the book. Once, I flipped to the end, discovered something horrible really had happened to the character, and abandoned the book completely. I internalize characters as I read. I feel like they are alive for me, and having them die is like losing a family member. It takes an enormous emotional toll.

Jan: I may have done this a few times, but only when I knew it was a “did not finish” anyway and just wanted to know the ending.

Clara: No. No, no, no. Never. I don’t ever recall a time when I read the last page before I finished the book. *Note: My step-mom waited to read RUN TO YOU until all three parts of Book 1 came out, so she could read the entire book at once. This was the one time she didn't read the last page until she got to the end. :-)

Alyssa: Yes! Most of the time it really doesn't ruin the book for me, it just gets me even more excited to get to the part. But every once in a while it will spoil it. I find that I only peek when i'm not totally invested in the book 100%. But if it's a book that I can't even put down, I generally don't peek.

Lisa: I never read the last page first. I used to, long ago, read the last sentence. But I've definitely stopped that habit. I want to enjoy the journey so to speak. And yeah, it's probably because I'm a writer. Don't get me wrong! I still get sucked in when the book is good, and there is temptation, but I've been good for the last several years at least.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you peek at the last page? If so, why? Do you do it to determine if you want to read the book, or is your curiosity simply too much to contain?

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