Monday, October 25, 2010

A New, Spookier Deadline!

I was in a car accident this week, and am therefore spending my free time car-shopping. With that in mind, I've extended the deadline for the JOY OF SPOOKING giveaway. Creepy Halloween entry deadline: 11:59 pm EDT on Sunday, October 31! Retweet or post the new deadline on your own blog for an extra three entries!

Link to the contest!

Friday, October 22, 2010

How To Get Boys To Read

An interesting article on getting boys to read. Getting me to read was never my parents' problem; that would be getting me to stop! I do remember my mom struggling to find books that engaged my little brother so that he would love reading, too. Nowadays, he's a huge reader, so it must have worked, but back when he was little, there was a sense of desperation in the air.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays - Silence of the Grave

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I'm reading SILENCE OF THE GRAVE, the second in the Reykjavik thriller series by Arnaldur Indridason. The first line:

"He knew at once it was a human bone, when he took it from the baby who was sitting on the floor chewing it."

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Joy of Spooking: Unearthly Asylum by P.J. Bracegirdle

Sequels are tricky things, what with the balancing act of preserving what made the first book good while creating a fresh story. The more I enjoyed the first book in a series, the more anxious/hopeful I feel as I approach the second. A good first book could be a fluke, after all. As you can see here, I loved the first book in the Joy of Spooking trilogy, FIENDISH DEEDS. I will not keep you in suspense: the second book more than realizes the potential of the first to kick off a fantastic trilogy. Now I'm conflicted, because I can't wait for the third book, SINISTER SCENES, in Summer 2011, yet that will be the end of the series!

In FIENDISH DEEDS, we met Joy, a morbid yet likable young denizen of Spooking, her decaying hometown perched on a hill outside the perfect, cookie-cutter suburb of Darlington, where she attends school with the insufferable Darlings. Joy adores everything about Spooking and is convinced that her favorite horror writer, E.A. Peugeot, was writing about Spooking in his chilling tales. When the presumed bog of his stories is threatened by the ambition of the mayor's assistant, Octavio Phipps, she springs into action. In UNEARTHLY ASYLUM, Joy is out of sorts because her little brother/sidekick is occupied with a new friend and her mission to prove that Spooking was the home of Peugeot runs into a major obstacle. Meanwhile, Phipps has a new plan to destroy Spooking, involving the creepy old asylum (the possible setting for Peugeot's story, "The Asylum"). When her beloved pet frog turns up on the wrong side of the asylum wall, Joy mounts a rescue operation. Will she make it out in one piece? Will she find proof of Peugeot's presence in Spooking? Will she uncover the secrets of the strange asylum? Good heavens, you don't really think I'd answer these questions, do you? Go read the book.

The snappy dialogue and clever wit of FIENDISH DEEDS continue in the second book. I was delighted to find that Joy was not only as delightful as she was in the first book, but Bracegirdle has added new dimension to her character. In the first book, her loyalty to Spooking was unwavering; in the second, she begins to see that decay may also have a downside. She also considers the possibility that she might be mistaken about Peugeot having lived in Spooking. Phipps, Joy's nemesis, is also fleshed out further. We learn more about his past and the source of his hatred for Spooking. His interaction with Joy is a delight. As Joy's mother decides to send her to a psychiatrist, attitudes toward mental illness are touched on.

A sample of Bracegirdle's witty phrasing: "Her already excitable character had become impossibly effervescent, and like a shaken pop bottle, she seemed about ready to explode." (p. 158)

For more information about UNEARTHLY ASYLUM, now available in hardcover, see P.J. Bracegirdle's website
Like P.J. Bracegirdle on Facebook!

Source disclosure: I received a review copy of this book.

You want to read this book, don't you? Of course you do! Here's how to receive your very own, brand-new copy of UNEARTHLY ASYLUM (and since I expect you'll love Joy as much as I do, I feel moved to throw in a paperback copy of FIENDISH DEEDS if you haven't yet read it):

1. For one entry, comment on this post and tell me whether you've read FIENDISH DEEDS and/or your favorite mystery/horror story/novel.
2. For three entries, "Like" P. J. Bracegirdle's page on Facebook and post below that you did (yes, I WILL check, and I will be annoyed if you try to put one over on me).
3. For three entries, follow my book musings on Twitter and tell me that you did.
4. For three entries, follow this blog and tell me you did (or already do).
5. Come back every day this week and comment on posts - each genuine comment (no, "I'm commenting!" does not count; say something insightful or, at the very least, entertaining) will add one entry.

Yes, you CAN win with only a comment on this post...but don't be shy about upping your odds.

UPDATE! I was in a car accident this week, and am therefore spending my free time car-shopping. Therefore, you now have an extra week to enter the contest. Creepy Halloween entry deadline: 11:59 pm EDT on Sunday, October 31! Retweet or post on your own blog for an extra entry. Don't forget to include some way of contacting you.


I have finally found a use for my long-neglected Twitter account. I often think I would post more often to this blog, but I never think my random book-related thoughts, news items, etc. really warrant a one-line blog post. Twitter is the perfect place for this sort of thing. Follow me by clicking here. Let's be ambitious - Follower #100 will get...something. Some kind of exciting book-related package.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Randomness for the day: Picture Books in Decline

Get ready....ahem...stepping up on soapbox now. Shelf Awareness published an article this morning discussing the decline of the traditional children's picture book. Oh, how this makes me sad! And makes me want to keep up the Picture Book Thursday post all the more! Also, makes more sense to me why Penguin has sent me picture book after picture book to review on here.

I can't even imagine a world without children's picture books. There are pictures books from my childhood etched into my brain forever, I remember them fondly and have shared many of those with my own children. I hope they will grasp onto a few books they love and share those with their children. How can parents go from board books to chapter books? Makes no sense! I know there's pressure for children to read at a younger age. But come on! Let children take the time to enjoy the wonderful illustrations and stories in picture books. Let them develop their reading skills by looking at the pictures and have them tell YOU the story. Just because kids CAN read chapter books, doesn't mean they SHOULD read them. We already schedule our children's activities to the hilt. They already learn things in kindergarten I didn't learn until first or even second grade. And now, we're pushing picture books out of the way. No wonder our children are blowing through childhood and growing up so much more quickly! I imagine if a child is destined to get into Harvard, it's probably going to happen regardless of what they are reading at age five. *stepping down from soapbox*

Here's the Shelf Awareness article:

Notes: Picture Books in Decline

Has the golden age of the picture book for children passed? The New York Times reported that the "picture book, a mainstay of children's literature with its lavish illustrations, cheerful colors and large print wrapped in a glossy jacket, has been fading.... publishers have scaled back the number of titles they have released in the last several years, and booksellers across the country say sales have been suffering."

"So many of them just die a sad little death, and we never see them again," said Terri Schmitz, owner of the Children's Book Shop, Brookline, Mass.

Justin Chanda, publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, observed: "Parents are saying, 'My kid doesn't need books with pictures anymore.' There's a real push with parents and schools to have kids start reading big-kid books earlier. We've accelerated the graduation rate out of picture books."

At Politics and Prose bookstore, Washington, D.C., children's department manager Dara La Porte said, "They're four years old, and their parents are getting them Stuart Little. I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, 'You can do better than this, you can do more than this.' It's a terrible pressure parents are feeling--that somehow, I shouldn't let my child have this picture book because she won't get into Harvard."

Picture books have earned their place in children's reading lives. Karen Lotz, publisher of Candlewick Press, suggested that, "To some degree, picture books force an analog way of thinking. From picture to picture, as the reader interacts with the book, their imagination is filling in the missing themes."

And Kris Vreeland, a book buyer at Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., noted that "Some of the vocabulary in a picture book is much more challenging than in a chapter book. The words themselves, and the concepts, can be very sophisticated in a picture book."

The Times reported, however, that over the last three years, Scholastic has published 5% to 10% percent fewer hardcover picture books and Don Weisberg, the president of the Penguin Young Readers Group, "said that two and a half years ago, the company began publishing fewer titles but that it had devoted more attention to marketing and promoting the ones that remain. Of all the children's books published by Simon & Schuster, about 20% are picture books, down from 35% a few years ago."