Thursday Tea (June 30): Janitors (& Blink & Caution)

The book: As it’s the last day of the month, I’m panicking and trying to finish as many books today as possible to bump up my monthly stats. I don’t know why I worry about things like that, but I do. Anyway, today I’ve finished Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones, which is about two teenage runaways in Toronto running from both real and imagined danger. I was a bit nervous starting it because the last TW-J book I read was a bit like a slasher movie (only with less death), and I’m not too good with thrillers. But B&C is a perfect mix of thriller, experimental narrative techniques, and emotional punch-in-the-gut stuff, and I really liked it. I definitely did NOT feel gross after finishing it. Huzzah!

Now I’m starting Janitors by Tyler Whitesides, a book I brought back from BEA. I’m only a chapter in so I can’t really judge anything, but it’s going pretty well so far. The plotline sort of reminds me of a Kids Next Door/Recess sort of thing, so I’m hoping it’s good. Here’s a summary if you’re interested:

The magical, secretive society of JANITORS will sweep the country in the fall of 2011. Have you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it’s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelve-year-old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? Janitors is book 1 in a new children’s fantasy series by debut novelist Tyler Whitesides. You’ll never look at a mop the same way again. (Amazon)

The tea: I finally got my hands on some cold tea! It’s Honest Tea’s Half & Half– half lemonade and half black tea. It’s pretty good. I find myself wishing the lemonade part was just a little more bold, but it’s fine for a hot summer’s afternoon.

Do they go together? To be honest, none of the middle schoolers I know would drink organic lemonade/tea drinks unless their parents made them. And kids on the street? Probably couldn’t afford it unless they stole it (or had coupons like I did). So: no, it doesn’t go with either book today.

Other tea drinkers

(Leave a link to your TT post in the comments and I’ll add you to the tea drinkers list!)

REVIEW & Giveaway: Wanderlust by Elisabeth Eaves

REVIEW & Giveaway: Wanderlust by Elisabeth EavesWanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves
Published by Seal Press (2011), eBook, 304pg
Filed under: Adult, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel
Got my copy from: Book Tour, TLC Book Tours
Buy your own copy at Amazon or BookDepository (affiliate links | info) or add it to your Goodreads shelf

four-stars

Spanning fifteen years of travel, beginning when she is a sophomore in college, Wanderlust documents Elisabeth Eaves’s insatiable hunger for the rush of the unfamiliar and the experience of encountering new people and cultures. Young and independent, she crisscrosses five continents and chases the exotic, both in culture and in romance. In the jungles of Papua New Guinea, she loses herself—literally—to an Australian tour guide; in Cairo, she reconnects with her high school sweetheart, only to discover the beginning of a pattern that will characterize her life over the long-term: while long-distance relationships work well for her, traditional relationships do not.

Wanderlust, however, is more than a chronological conquest of men and countries: at its core, it’s a journey of self-discovery. In the course of her travels, Eaves finds herself and the sense of home she’s been lacking since childhood—and she sheds light on a growing culture of young women who have the freedom and inclination to define their own, increasingly global, lifestyles, unfettered by traditional roles and conventions of past generations of women. (from Amazon)

Seal Press is one of my favorite publishers, though I haven’t read nearly enough of their catalog. Nevertheless, the books I have read have been interesting in that a) they’re all written by women about women, and b) those women aren’t afraid to talk about things that are considered more…I don’t know. Hidden? Un-womanly? Unusual?

With male travel writers, a lot of the times their memoirs are about who they slept with and what extreme thing they did in a foreign country. With female travel writers, their memoirs tend to be more about the spiritual/internal changes travel brings to them and the friends they made. Romance is secondary to everything else, basically. Elisabeth Eaves’ book is unusual in that she doesn’t shy away from writing about any of it: the sex, the men, her extreme adventures, AND the emotional stuff.

To be honest, it did throw me off at first. EE is very blunt about her sex life with the various men she meets, and I’m kind of prudish about real people’s sex lives. It also threw me off because, like I said in the previous paragraph, I lumped “(near-)graphic sex” with male travel writers– and my thoughts about EE, a woman, writing about her travel-sex life, were almost “omg should she be writing that?” Almost like she was breaking some rule or something stupid like that. Luckily I had an epiphany, of a sorts (why shouldn’t she write about that?), and the rest of the book was smooth sailing.

By about 20% in I really grew to love Wanderlust. In the beginning of the book, which is EE’s teen-early twenties, there isn’t much introspection. It was constantly “and then I ran away from [whatever]” and I was wondering if she even knew she was doing it. She knew. She just took a while to tell me that she knew; once the introspection and analysis of WHY EE kept running away from “real life” started, the book because a lot more interesting to me.

I really liked that EE tied in the idea that wanderlust is not just a love of travel. It’s also a compulsion, an addiction, and it doesn’t just apply to flying to a new country. EE’s wanderlust is sunk deep within her veins, so that she can’t help wandering even in her love life, and the conflict between what EE really wants and what she thinks she should want is really sad.

There are some other good things in Wanderlust besides EE’s internal conflict about staying and going, but I think I should let you find them out for yourself. If you like travel memoirs but don’t want the same old thing, you’ll probably like Wanderlust.

Read: June 6-20, 2011


Giveaway!


If you want to try your hand at winning a copy of Wanderlust, the publisher/TLC Book Tours has graciously allowed me to give away a copy to a resident of the US/Canada! So:

Rules
1. One (1) winner will win one (1) copy of Wanderlust by Elisabeth Eaves.
2. US/Canada only.
3. The giveaway will run from now, June 30th, ending at midnight EST on July 14th.
4. The winner will be chosen using Random.org; you have 48 hours to get back to me after I email you or someone else will be chosen. The winner will be announced here at the blog on July 16th, assuming everything goes well.
5. You can get an extra entry by sharing the contest link somewhere. Yay!

Fill out the form below to enter the contest!
THE CONTEST HAS ENDED. The winner will be announced soon!

John Green’s new book!

Today is a good day to be a book nerd. Here’s why!
1. John Green’s newest book has a title and that title is The Fault in Our Stars.
2. It is now available for pre-order on lots of different places, including Amazon.
3. If you pre-order the book (from anywhere) John Green will sign it. Personally.
4. It is now the #1 bestselling book on Amazon.

John Green! Why are you so amazing.

REVIEW: The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago

53. The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago
Publication: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (April 1, 2011), Paperback, 465pp / ISBN 1402247850
Genre: YA Horror/Sci-fi

Read: June 7, 2011
Source: BEA 2011

Summary from Amazon:

“On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my grouchy next door neighbor was the walking dead. When you turn around expecting to see something familiar, and instead see something else altogether, it takes a little while for your brain to catch up with your eyes. I call it the ‘Holy Crap Factor.’”

Forced to flee his home and family, twelve-year-old Will Ritter falls in with the Undertakers-a rag-tag army of teenage resistance fighters who’ve banded together to battle the Corpses.

Review

I’ve been wanting to read The Undertakers ever since I found out about it back in February, and so I was really excited to snag a (signed!) copy at BEA 2011. I like zombies, I like YA horror, and I like secret underground societies of kids doing awesome things. This book, I thought, should be a total win.

Well it IS a total win. The Undertakers is scary without being over-the-top horrifying, it’s got action as well as emotional stuff, and it’s never boring. They characters even had depth and– shocking– life-like reactions to stuff. I don’t often read a horror/action book where the kid protagonist actually, y’know, wants to go home, where he doesn’t automatically think everything is freakin’ awesome and that he has some inalienable right to be the kick-ass hero type. Will actually has doubts! He’s scared and wants his mom! He’s a normal 12-year-old kid with normal kid reactions, and I really appreciated that.

Of course, since Will is the protagonist he adapts fairly quickly to his new life, but that’s a useful survival mechanism in any situation, I think. Especially in a zombie situation. (Not that they’re truly zombies.)

Not like these zombies

Besides Will and his wonderful real-life-kid reactions, I loved the secondary characters, who had just as much depth as Will did. I loved that one kid who was presented as a bully wasn’t actually “evil,” and I love that Will’s almost-sidekick-but-not-quick/love interest, Helene, didn’t act like his substitute mom. Huzzah, young female characters who don’t act like mothers!

I really liked the way this book was set up. We learn a lot about the corpse situation, the Undertakers, and how this alternative world is set up– but everything is spread out in such a way that it feels like a natural development of the story rather than piles of infodumps everywhere. I liked how Will’s Big Bad Hero plot was spread all throughout the story, so that his big moment of glory only came after some smaller moments of awesomeness. It made kept the book exciting and always moving forward; I never felt like it was getting slow or boring, even after 400 pages.

And finally, I liked that Mr Drago wasn’t afraid to actually kill off some of his characters. Fighting against the undead– or any villain, really– is always dangerous, and sometimes I don’t think YA books entirely have the courage to actually show that part of the battle between good and evil. On the other hand, they were tertiary characters who barely got any screentime before their deaths, so I don’t know how effective that whole thing actually was– but I think Mr Drago made it an essential part of the story and not just something to shock readers with.

So basically: really liked this book, can’t wait for the next one, and if you like horror you should definitely read The Undertakers.

Rating


Two thumbs up!

Buy

Get your own copy @ Amazon or BookDepository.com and support Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog through the power of affiliate earnings!

Other reviews

The Word Zombie: “Whether you look for commentary on growing up, or just a good zombie adventure, “The Undertakers” is an incredibly fun story to read. Drago has done a superb job of creating a comfortably livable world for his zombie tale, and left the door wide open for the inevitable sequel (or two, or three, or seven.) He has a polished style and comfortable prose that made reading the book a pleasure.”

My Overstuffed Bookshelf: “I found this book to be adventurous and fun to read. As an adult, there were some things that didn’t jive for me in it. If you have a younger male teen who has been reluctant to read, I think this would be a great book to start off with though. As an adult reader, I had to keep trying to remember that it is a book geared for younger teens and some adults might not like the writing because of that.”

Notes

Some books this one reminds me of:

Are there any YA horror books written by women?

I’m totally wondering what’s going to happen once the older characters turn into “adults.” As in, when they 18. Will they stop seeing the corpses? Will they see something else? Plus, just because you’re 18 years old doesn’t make you an adult– also, biological adulthood is different from social/legal adulthood (Wikipedia even says so).

Technically biological adulthood starts once you begin puberty, so either the only people who can see corpses are social adolescents, in which case they’ll stop seeing corpses once they reach the age of social adulthood (but why would that specific age matter in regards to, basically, super powers?) or they’re very special adults. The latter would make sense because of a spoiler thing with Will’s family. It’d make doubly more sense if “childhood” was defined by some brain thing and not age/puberty/social status. Don’t kids’ brains work differently from adults’? In which case my point still stands: your brain doesn’t suddenly switch to “adult” when you turn 18. So what’s going to happen?

Maybe I’m thinking about this too much.

Finally: the CDC is prepared for a zombie apocalypse and you should be, too.

June Early Reviewers Highlights

I haven’t requested any early reviewer books from LibraryThing’s ER program in a few months, but June has some particularly good books up. Check it out:

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder (Dec. 8, 2011).
Summary:

Dry, sarcastic, sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out hospitals. The last thing she wants to do in the short life she has left is move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine – a place known for the miraculous events that occur there. But it’s undeniable that strange things happen in Promise: everlasting sunsets; purple dandelions; flamingoes in the frigid Atlantic; an elusive boy named Asher; and finally, a mysterious envelope containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As Cam checks each item off the list, she finally learns to believe – in love, in herself, and even in miracles.

A debut novel from an immensely talented new writer, The Probability of Miracles crackles with wit, romance and humor and will leave readers laughing and crying with each turn of the page.

The Yo-Yo Prophet by Karen Krossing (Sept. 1 2011).
Summary:

Calvin is the smallest guy in his high school, and a perfect target for Rozelle and her girl gang. His mother is dead, his father is long gone and his only remaining relative, his grandmother, is getting too sick to run her dry cleaning business. The only time Calvin feels in control is when he’s working his yo-yo. When he takes up street performing, Rozelle demands a cut and insists on being his manager. To get media attention, she markets him as a yo-yo genius who can predict the future, dubbing him the “Yo-Yo Prophet.” Calvin begins to believe his own hype, but as Gran’s condition deteriorates, he realizes that it will take more than fame and adulation to keep his family intact.

The Garden of Empress Cassia by Gabrielle Wang (Jul. 15, 2011).
Summary:

Mimi lives with her parents above her father’s herbalist shop. She hates being Chinese and being teased at school. More than anything she loves to draw, so when her art teacher gives her a box of pastels Mimi is thrilled. These are no ordinary pastels for the inscription on the box warns that they are “A treasure for some, a curse for others”. Mimi is able to draw amazing scenes on the footpath outside her father’s shop and the pastels breathe life into the pictures for those able to see it. When Gemma, her tormentor at school, steals the pastels, Mimi knows she must get them back – not only to keep them safe and their magic intact, but to save Gemma from the pastel’s curse. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The No. 1 Car Spotter by Atinuke (Jul. 15, 2011).
Summary:

Oluwalase Babatunde Benson is Number 1. He’s the Number 1 car spotter in his village. The Number 1 car spotter in the world! The start of an exciting new series about the irresistible Number 1, whose hobby is car spotting but who is good at solving all sorts of problems for his village. When the family’s cart breaks down and there’s no way of bringing goods to market, it’s Number 1 who devises the Toyota Cow-rolla and saves the day. He runs errands for his family and helps Mama Coca-Cola feed the busloads of people who stop for her delicious fried akara. Number 1 even helps Grandmother get to the medical centre when she can’t afford treatment. Number 1 is bright and plucky and resourceful – a fantastic new character in what will undoubtedly prove to be a brilliant series! Atinuke is the author of “Anna Hibiscus”, “Hooray for Anna Hibiscus” and “Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus” – which are also published by Walker Books.

Which books are you interested in from this month’s LTER?

The Sunday Salon (June 26): Nero Wolfe

The Sunday Salon.com So I started reading my big fat Nero Wolfe omnibus that’s been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for around five years now, and I’m 15 pages into the first book (The Silent Speaker) and I already love it. I think partly I love it because I love the Nero Wolfe A&E TV series with Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin, and when I read the book I can hear the actors’ voices and it’s great. It’s also just a darned good mystery, and I haven’t read one of those since last November, I think.

But. I’m a little ashamed to say that I’m having a small problem understanding some of the book’s nuances. Or, rather, the jokes. I don’t understand some– okay, most– of the jokes, and I have a feeling that’s because of a combination of Outdated Humor and because Rex Stout is way smarter than I am. (Also possibly the slang is tripping me up. There’s a lot to worry about, here.)

For instance, take this joke (I think it’s a joke, anyway). This is during the scene where Archie meets the assistant director of the National Industrial Association (one of the groups involved in the murder):

Personally, she had quality, but the kind that arouses one or two of my most dangerous instincts, and I do not mean what some may think I mean. (p7)

Okay, so that’s a…penis joke? What is that? I don’t usually get dick jokes anyway, but 1940s dick jokes are even more obscure.

The other sorts of humor (Wolfe manipulating suspects into doing what he wants them to, for instance, plus the satire) I understand and really enjoy, but sometimes when I’m reading a paragraph I almost feel like I need some annotations or something.

Anyway, I’m sure as I keep reading and become more used to Rex Stout’s writing style, I’ll have less problems understanding certain things. I hope, anyway.

Have you ever read a Nero Wolfe novel? Which is your favorite?

Weekly Book Stats

Books read this week:
57. Wanderlust – Elisabeth Eaves 5 Stars e T
58. Villain School: Good Curses Evil – Stephanie S. Saunders 5 Stars B

Books reviewed this week:
55. Toads and Diamonds – Heather Tomlinson 5 Stars
56. Finding Family – Tonya Bolden 5 Stars

Books acquired this week:
None. :(

Currently reading:
I just wrote about it up there. Look up there.

Sponsors

See that ad in the top left sidebar there? From now until the end of July Revolutionary Party will be up there looking vaguely dangerous and exciting. Woohoo!

Also, I’ve got books for sale at Half.com and info about tons of free and cheap books posted at Free (& Cheap) Reads! Yay!

Thursday Tea (June 23): Zoo City

I think I’m technically on a tiny blogging break right now, or at least I don’t feel like blogging much beyond memes. Or really doing anything beyond refreshing Tumblr a lot and watching movies. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m getting sick– my parents are sick and I’m sort of just waiting to see what’ll happen to me. Anyway:

The book: I am now 41% into Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, which recently won the Arthur C. Clarke award for awesomeness! I can see why, too, as it’s written with precision awesome, like Ms Beukes is a literary sniper or something. I can’t wait to review it! I’m sure it’s going to be horrendously difficult.

The tea: Okay, no, it’s coffee right now actually. I did manage to find a packet of Earl Grey hidden in the cupboard (again), but I’m saving that in case I really do get sick and need some comforting.

Do they go together? Actually I kind of think coffee and Zoo City do go together! The extra oomph of caffeine that coffee has compared to tea just seems to work more with the style and world of Zoo City.

Other tea drinkers

The Book Gatherer is reading Goodbye Sarajevo and drinking spicy chai tea.

(Leave a link to your TT post in the comments and I’ll add you to the tea drinkers list!)