27 August, 2010

Brain Drain

I will spare you the gory details of this horrible week. Instead, go win a book:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Spy Glass (Glass, #3) by Maria V. Snyder

Spy Glass

by Maria V. Snyder

Giveaway ends September 01, 2010.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win
Tomorrow, I meet Brent Weeks! Yay!

13 August, 2010

Hot X: Algebra Exposed - Review

Hot X: Algebra Exposed by Danica McKellar
Publication date: 3 August 2010
ISBN 10/13: 1594630704 / 9781594630705
Penguin Group USA

Category: Math
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Math, girls, empowerment, enrichment, study aids

Find the synopsis on goodreads.com. 

How I found out about this book: I read Danica McKellar's first two books, Math Doesn't Suck and Kiss My Math. I love math, and Winnie Cooper. When I found out she was signing at Vroman's in Pasadena I was even more thrilled about her new book!

Quickie: Struggling with Algebra? Girl or boy--for that matter, teen or adult--this book explains all that alge-blah-blahbity-blah without "dumbing down" or going way over your head. Sure, it's cutesy at times--it was written primarily with a teen girl audience in mind. But you'll learn the math, and that's what matters.

My review: I really love how McKellar addresses math anxiety. For that alone, I would recommend that everyone who is not already a math genius read this book. Hot X covers everything from factoring, functions, linear and quadratic equations, graphing, exponents, square roots, polynomials, and my favorite: word problems. All along the author encourages and cajoles the reader into enjoying themselves as they solve for the elusive x.

And yet, this book isn't just about math. Interspersed with exercises and mathematical advice are success stories from other smart women like the author, who is a tv-actress turned mathematician. Even the seemingly silly personality quizzes are aimed at eliciting awareness and addressing issues like self-esteem, frustration, and stress. McKellar's sister Crystal writes a short piece that provokes thought about the relationship between domestic violence and financial dependence, and how attaining a higher level of education can spare young women the pain and suffering of spousal abuse.

During her speech at Vroman's, McKellar talked about the stereotypes imposed on women not just by others, but by themselves. She spoke passionately about breaking these stereotypes so that more girls and women can discover that they are more skilled in the maths and sciences than they thought. I find it baffling that she still has to say this--I've been hearing the same thing my whole life--and yet it's true that society to this day sends the wrong messages, and not just to girls: that math and science is too hard to understand; that we're no good at it, so why even bother.

I feel very lucky to have been raised by a family and teaching community that encouraged and applauded my efforts to excel in math. I remember being thoroughly disgruntled by fractions and multiplication in 4th grade.  Every day when I burst into tears over my math homework, my grandfather would yell, "DFTP!*" (Don't Fight the Problem!) and make me talk through problems until I got the concept down and could apply it to any problem of the same type. After a semester of struggling, my most hated class and teacher (Mrs. Garcia!) became one of my most beloved, and I've never looked back. (Well, okay--I also like English, biology, art, and a bunch of other subjects, but that's a much longer post for another day.)

Eternal gratitude to my math teachers: Mr. Barlik (basic math), Mr. Kaplan (pre-Algebra/algebra), Mrs. Koch (geometry), Mr. Good (algebra II/trigonometry), Mrs. Frost (math analysis), and Mr. Russell (statistics... though, to be frank, he didn't teach me anything I didn't already know... he was super-cute, though :).

If I get approved to transfer to university soon, I'll be taking the next math class--yes, calculus--just for fun!


*Not to be confused with DFTBA.

Who should read this book: If you're still waiting for that Eureka! moment to hit you while staring at a page of polynomials or factoring equations, this is the book for you. If you don't even know what I just said, you need to go back a book or two. You need to have mastered more basic skills before moving on.

According to the author, next up: Geometry! I can't wait.

My photo with the author didn't come out very well (it's difficult to get a good signing line photo when there's so many people waiting) so I resorted to adding my Flat Alethea (yes, I got a haircut since last time) drawn in the style of Oliver Jeffers. Photo taken by my husband.

Hot X is Danica McKellar's 3rd book.

Find the author at danicamckellar.com, on Twitter @danicamckellar

Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/hotx3math

Find this book on goodreads.com.

What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)

09 August, 2010

Anticipating: Up & Down by Oliver Jeffers

Up & Down by Oliver Jeffers
Publication date: 2 December 2010
ISBN 10/13: 0399255451 / 9780399255458
Philomel Books / Penguin Group (USA)

Category: Picture book
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Friendship, flying, dreams

From the publisher's page: In this much-anticipated sequel to the internationally best-selling picture book Lost and Found, we re-visit the boy and the penguin after their trip to the South Pole…

The boy and the penguin still enjoy spending all their time together… That is, until the penguin starts to dream of flying, ignoring the boys advice that it is impossible. Running away, the penguin visits place after place, searching for a chance to get his feet off the ground. But will flying be everything he had hoped? And is the boy missing him, as much as he is missing the boy? A heart-warming story about friendship, love and reaching for your dreams, from highly-regarded, multi-award-winning author-illustrator Oliver Jeffers.

I loved, loved, loved Jeffers's Lost & Found, the first book to star The Boy and the penguin together. I like the other books, too, but that one's my favorite. I know I'm going to love the sequel. The original book was made into an award-winning short film by StudioAKA. I hope I can get it on DVD someday. Here's the trailer:

There will be screenings in various places (2 of them in the US, but none near me) in August and September, and at an author signing I attended, he mentioned that the short film might be televised in the US around Christmastime.

That signing was a really fun one--I went with Alybee, and met author/illustrators Bob Boyle, James Burks, and Dan Santat, as well as picture book author Candace Ryan. I shot a video of Oliver at that signing (which you can find, unedited, here--but I didn't know my phone only shot in one direction at the time, so I oriented it wrong and am having trouble turning it right-side up without ruining the sound) reading The Heart & The Bottle.

Also, my photo with Oliver didn't save on my phone, but it turned out ok.

Here's a great video of Oliver, made by Penguin (omg, I just made the connection... a book about a boy and a penguin published by Penguin Books for Young Readers, LOL! I know, I'm dense.):

Want more? Check out Oliver Jeffers's HTML newsletter.

Find Oliver Jeffers and his books at goodreads.com.

You can pre-order Up & Down here!

Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/ojupdown

08 August, 2010

Lips Touch: Three Times - Review

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
Illustrated by Jim di Bartolo
Publication date: 1 October 2009
ISBN 10/13: 0545055857 / 9780545055857
Arthur A. Levine Books

Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Goblins, Demons, Fey, Curses, Superstitions, Wanting, Romance, Fantasy

Find the synopsis on goodreads.com.

How I found out about this book: Judging a book by its cover? Hells yeah. That's me.

Quickie: It's. Pretty.

The insides are pretty good, too.

My review: The stories ramble a little bit, but they always get where they're going--to the pit of a cherry of a romance coated in lip-smacking fantasy--whether it's goblins in some hick town, or a cursedly beautiful singing voice, or a demon-possessed mother and daughter on the run. I loved Taylor's stories and how they were coupled with di Bartolo's flowing illustrations. This is the kind of book I'd read on a dark and stormy night, but for want of rain I just read it anyway. It was still good.

Who should read this book: The tales explore yearning, memory, and superstition in a lyrical, dreamy fashion. Older teens (16 and up) will probably get more enjoyment out of these stories than the younger ones. There's nothing too objectionable (the "rutting" in the last of the three stories takes place "off the page" if you will) though anyone seeking a moral to the stories may be left unsatisfied, and baffled to boot. Values, if the reader comes away with any, will be more amorphous: strength, cleverness, and spirit.

Lips Touch: Three Times is Laini Taylor's 3rd novel.

Find the author at http://www.lainitaylor.com/, on Twitter @lainitaylor

Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/lipstouch3

Find this book on goodreads.com.

What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)

05 August, 2010

The Red Umbrella - Review

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Publication date: May 11, 2010
ISBN 10/13:  0375861904 / 9780375861901

Category: Middle Grade/Young Adult Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Identity, Culture, Revolution, Evacuation, Family, Historical Fiction

Find the synopsis on goodreads.com
How I found out about this book: The Story Siren's 2010 Debut Author Challenge led me to look for more new authors. I read the synopsis and thought, this is going to be great!

My Review: I'd never really thought about Castro's 1961 takeover of Cuba and its effect on children. I'd never even heard of Operation Pedro Pan, which flew lots of Cuban refugees, in their teens and younger, into the US. The Red Umbrella gives a moving, personal glimpse into the life of Lucia, just 14 years old, who is sent with her little brother to live in Nebraska.

I adored this book. The possibility that Lucy and Frankie may never see their parents again kept bringing tears to my eyes. Lucy's just a regular girl, concerned with cute boys, the latest fashions, and going to the movies with her friends. Strange things begin to happen in their little town as a result of the Communist takeover, and it's interesting to see how she learns to deal with these changes. The lessons she learns about strength, family and friendship will stick with readers long after the symbolic red umbrella makes its final appearance.

I kept wondering, if I were in her shoes, would I have fallen for all the brainwashing, the Communists' calls to "honor" and "duty" that tore children from their families and sent them into dangerous places? Would I have thought that I was doing the right thing to turn in someone who was being disloyal to the government? It's easy now with hindsight, and because I am at least twice the character's age, but I still found her reactions unsettling and was very satisfied with the character development in this book.

I also felt very connected to Lucia's culture--they use some of the same words we say in the Philippines, like "basta" and "sigue"! I love flan just as much as her little brother Frankie does (that reminds me, there's some in the fridge, BRB).

Who should read this book: Middle grade readers will have a fine time with this book. It would be interesting to know how non-Spanish speakers react to the interjected lines of Spanish. My grasp of Spanish is good enough to be able to read through and not get lost, and the glossary in the back of the book helps, too! There is a little hint of death and violence, but most of the action is happening at a remove, and is not quite so scary as it could be. I think everyone should read this book with a box of tissues. And I think Pedro Pan kids, and their kids/grandkids should read it together, and share those tissue boxes!

The Red Umbrella is Christina Diaz Gonzalez's first novel.

Find the author at christinagonzalez.com, on Twitter @ChristinaDG

This author is currently on tour! Find out more.

Shortlink to this review: http://bit.ly/pedropan

Author photo from her website.

What do you think? Is this something you would read? If you've already read it, put in your two cents... (no spoilers, please!)