Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cognitive Surplus - TLC Book Tour

Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication date: June 10, 2010
ISBN: 9781594202537
Pages: 256
Price: $25.95
Clay Shirky's Internet Writings

Ever since I took a social software class as part of my MLIS at Rutgers, I've enjoyed books that look at social media and how it impacts our lives. I liked this book because it not only does that, but it also looks at how social media currently influences us compared to the passive media of the past, and gives us a glimpse as to the directions we might choose take it in the future.

In decades past, we've been purely consumers of media fed to us via radio and television. But the internet allows us all to be contributors--whether we are bloggers, put photos in Flickr, play World of Warcraft, click Like in Facebook, or a myriad of other activities. As a result, we have made excellent resources for ourselves like Wikipedia and a lot of lame stuff too (he references lolcats). Shirky looks at how this impacts us socially, economically, and even emotionally. But then he also discusses how we can move forward with what has been created and what could be created to improve the human condition. His vision is inspiring and gives a lot of food for thought.

When I read these types of books, I love the real-life examples. This book is no exception and I've enjoyed telling my family about the amazing resources that are out there that I didn't even know about. I also enjoyed this book because I could relate with the successes and challenges of social networks he illustrates with the Book Blogs Ning. When I created the network, I had different expectations for it than what it has become. It's not a bad thing at all, but I did have to adapt my ideas to the role the users wanted the network to fulfill. Shirky writes that this is in fact what has happened to all the social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.

This is a great book for anyone who wants to consider how social media is affecting history on a grand scale, or who wants to figure out how they too can get involved as a positive contributor online, even in a small way. There were a few dry spots for me, but the book is well-researched, well-written and one I can certainly recommend.

Other tour stops:

Tuesday, June 22nd: Being Peter Kim
Thursday, June 24th: Graywolf’s SEO Blog
Tuesday, June 29th: Convince and Convert
Thursday, July 8th: Social Media Explorer
Wednesday, July 14th: Debbie Weil
Thursday, July 15th: Beth’s Blog
Monday, July 19th: A Whole Lotta Nothing
Wednesday, July 21st: Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang
Thursday, July 22nd: Six Pixels of Separation
Monday, July 26th: Community Guy
Wednesday, July 28th: Citizen Marketer 2.1
Thursday, July 29th: Nine By Blue
Tuesday, August 3rd: Socialbrite
Date TBD: Chris Brogan
Date TBD: Leigh’s Blitherings

Book 56 of 100 for 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 35 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 43 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2010)

Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Intelligencer

The Intelligencer The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert

AR Reading Level: 6.2
On the library stacks: Adult fiction

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Publisher's Description:
London, 1593: It is three weeks before the murder of Christopher Marlowe, playwright and spy in Queen Elizabeth I's secret service -- a crime that remains unsolved to this day. Marlowe is hoping to find his missing muse as he sets off on a new intelligence assignment...and closes in on the secret that will seal his fate.

New York City, present day: Renaissance scholar turned private eye Kate Morgan investigates a shocking heist and murder involving a mysterious, antique manuscript recently unearthed in central London. What secret lurks in those yellowed, ciphered pages...and how, centuries later, could it drive someone to kill?

Propelling us from the shadows of the sixteenth-century underworld to the chambers of a clandestine U.S. intelligence unit, from the glitter of the Elizabethan court to the catacombs of ancient Rome, The Intelligencer's dual narratives twist, turn, and collide as they race toward a stunning finale.

It sounded really good. So good, in fact, that my book club decided to read this book this month. The plot sounded really promising, but the execution was flat and sometimes even a little silly. I had guessed half of the ending and the other half was in no way shocking or surprising.

This Da Vinci Code knockoff took me far too long to read to be a real thriller, as touted on the cover. Parts of it were mildly entertaining, but the book is cluttered and contains lots of unnecessary details that slowed it down. I found myself skimming parts and it still took me forever to read. I also found the main character's similarity to the author to be a little cheesy, especially considering how perfect she was. I'll be interested to see how others in my group liked this one at our meeting tonight, but it's not a book I would recommend.

Book 55 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 34 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 16 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge, Book 12 of 12 for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Source: Library

Monday, June 14, 2010

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo In The Real World Marcelo In The Real World by Francisco X. Stork

AR Reading Level: 4.6
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Recommended for: Grades 9+
Awards: Publishers Weekly Best Book; VOYA: The Perfect Tens; YALSA Top Ten; New York Times Best Books; SLJ Best Book; Smithsonian's Notable Book; Schneider Family Award; Horn Book Fanfare

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Marcelo is a 17-year old with a high-functioning form of autism. His dad has decided that he needs to learn about the "real world" so he forces him to spend the summer working in the mail room at his law firm. If he succeeds in the real world, Marcelo can stay at his private school where he enjoys working with the ponies. But if he fails, he is going to Oak Ridge High for his senior year for sure.

There is so much about this book to love. It is really a page-turner, despite the fact that it really is a character-driven novel. We see life from Marcelo's view and we watch how he grows. I felt his confusion, his conflicting emotions, and those moments when he finds clarity and purpose. I loved the discussions of remembering, faith, morality, beauty and internal music. There were whole pages that I read multiple times because I wanted to let myself soak in the impact of the thoughts and words.

I sort of wish that the book had been longer. There were plot points that kind of got dropped, and I thought the ending was too rushed. But, this book is amazing in a quiet and thoughtful way.

Also reviewed by: Novels Now ~ Tales of a Capricious Reader ~ Regular Rumination ~ Book Addiction ~ Stark Raving Bibliophile ~ Bending Bookshelf ~ Becky's Book Reviews

Did I miss yours?

Book 54 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 26 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 33 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 4 of 8 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Mexico), Book 15 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge

Source: Library

Friday, June 11, 2010

Here Lies the Librarian

Here Lies the Librarian Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck

AR Reading Level: 5.1
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Recommended for: Grade 6+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In pre-WWI rural Indiana, Peewee (Eleanor) McGrath and her brother Jake operate a small garage. They don't even have a paved road to their livery-stable-turned-garage, but they are obsessed with cars and Jake has dreams of racing a car that he is building from scratch.

After a tornado rips through the town, four beautiful library science students from Indianapolis come to the town seeking to run the library which has been shut down since the librarian died under the stacks a few years before. These women not only change life for the town, but most especially for Peewee who has become quite rugged without parents and Jake who falls head over heels.

This is a must-read tale if you are a fan of Indiana, librarians or race car driving. I thought it was a cute coming-of-age type story, but it seemed to be missing a little spark for me. Still, it was a quick read and I enjoyed it.

Also reviewed by: Books & other thoughts and Lesa's Book Critiques

Book 53 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 42 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2006), Book 25 of 25 for the MG Reading Challenge, Book 11 of 12 for the Historical Fiction Challenge, Book 25 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge

Source: Purchased

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Crooked Kind of Perfect

A Crooked Kind of Perfect A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Award: Great Lakes Book Award/Honor
AR Reading Level: 3.9
On the library stacks: Children's fiction
Recommended for: Grades 3+

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

10-year old Zoe Elias has dreams of becoming a piano prodigy. Instead, her dad buys her a big wheezy organ, complete with six months of organ lessons. While she's not exactly a prodigy, she does work hard despite hating the organ.

But wait! There's more. There's her mom who has to work all the time. And her dad who is afraid to leave the house and spends all of his time taking various correspondence courses from his living room that he'll never use. And her best friend who has decided to get a new best friend. And Wheeler, a boy from her class who has decided to come over every day after school and bake with her dad.

Zoe wants to be cool. She wants to perform in a real piano recital. She wants her dad to be like other dads. And she wishes her mom could pay more attention to her.

This book is sweet, smart, laugh-out-loud funny, and it also illicted a tear or two. It really is a crooked kind of perfect. I loved it.

Also reviewed by:
Did I miss yours?

Book 52 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 32 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 41 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2007), Book 24 of 25 for the MG Reading Challenge

Source: Purchased

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Summer at Tiffany - TLC Book Tour

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: First published April 2007, Avon paperback published March 30, 2010
ISBN: 9780061189531
Pages: 290
Price: $12.99
The Author's Website

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1945, Marjorie Jacobson was a sorority sister studying music at Iowa State University. The small-town girl and her best friend Marty decided to spend the summer working in a department store in New York City, and raised their train fare money by collecting Coke bottles on campus. But when they arrived, the jobs were taken and they went from store to store looking for work. Eventually they landed a job as the first-ever women pages at Tiffany.

I thought this book was utterly charming and entertaining to read. I loved the comical mishaps of Marjorie and Marty. Even though I've lived in New York City myself, I found her observations of the city during that time period in history fascinating and saw everything anew through her eyes. I loved her descriptions of the parade for President Eisenhower, the plane crash at the Empire State Building, and being present in Times Square for the Japanese surrender of WWII.

This truly was the summer of a lifetime for Marjorie and I thoroughly enjoyed the short time I spent with this book. I think it would make a nice book club selection or even a fun beach read.

Other tour stops:

Wednesday, June 2nd: Heart 2 Heart
Thursday, June 3rd: Til We Read Again
Monday, June 7th: Reading on a Rainy Day
Thursday, June 10th: Lisa’s Yarns
Tuesday, June 15th: Chocolate & Croissants
Wednesday, June 16th: Couture Carrie
Monday, June 21st: Grayson: A Different Shade of Gray
Tuesday, June 22nd: Beauty Parler
Wednesday, June 23rd: Dress Design Décor
Tuesday, June 29th: Solo Lisa

Book 51 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 31 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 40 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2007)

I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Lacemaker and the Princess

The Lacemaker and the Princess The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

AR Reading Level: 4.3
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Recommended for: Grade 6+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was purely an impulse buy at the Scholastic Warehouse. I was drawn to the cover and was thrilled when I realized this is a historical fiction book about the French Revolution.

Isabelle is an 11-year old lacemaker who lives in Versailles in the days leading up to the Revolution. She must work hard with her ornery grandmother to support her feeble mother. While money is tight, they are able to support themselves with the help of Isabelle's brother who works in the king's stable. One day Isabelle is sent to Versailles to deliver lace to a noblewoman when she runs into Marie Antoinette, who takes her under her wing as a playmate for her daughter, Princess Therese.

Isabelle is thrown into a world so unlike her own. She is often appalled by the extravagance at the palace, but she loves the opportunity to play all day instead of work. She sees how people are suffering under the heavy burden of taxes and crop failures, hungry and cold. But she also sees the royal family in ways the general population does not--a caring father, a doting mother, and great sadness over the poor health of the Dauphin.

This book is excellent historical fiction. It is well-researched and engaging. It does not end happily and there are some references to adulterous royalty and accusations of the promiscuity on the part of Marie Antoinette. Because of that I think it would be a little heavy for younger middle-graders. But I was thoroughly captivated by this story and would like to read more about the same time period. Recommended!

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews and Confessions of a Book Habitue

Book 50 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 25 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 10 of 12 for the Historical Fiction Challenge, Book 39 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2007), Book 23 of 25 for the MG Reading Challenge, Book 30 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 3 of 6 for the What's in a Name? Challenge

Source: Purchased

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Lock and Key

Lock and Key Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

AR Reading Level: 5.3
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Recommended for: Grade 9+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was needing a Sarah Dessen fix and I've had this book waiting on my shelf for awhile. I'm slowly making my way through the works of Sarah Dessen, but I think I still have two left after this one.

Lock and Key is the story of a troubled teen named Ruby Cooper. Ruby's mom walked out on her, leaving her alone to fend for herself. Eventually, Social Services were alerted and Ruby was reunited with her sister, whom she hadn't seen in years. Ruby's life goes from one of living in squalor to living in a lush gated community and attending an exclusive private school, courtesy of her sister and her sister's husband, whom she had never met before.

The second half of this book was infinitely better than the first. Ruby begins to realize that a relationship with anyone requires give and take. It also means supporting one another instead of running away before others have the chance to hurt us. Of course, there is a sweet little Dessen-esque romance involving Nate, the boy next door. I liked that Nate wasn't overly perfect, but Ruby was a tough character for me to get into. At first she's hard as nails and pretty wretched, but she almost becomes too unbelievably good towards the end.

My favorite character was Jaime, the brother-in-law. I did love that there were supportive adults in Ruby's life to help her through her issues and that turning to appropriate authorities was viewed in a positive light. There is some sex, swearing, alcohol and drug use and abuse issues in this book.

While this isn't my favorite Dessen novel by far, it worked enough to give me a little pre-summer entertaining read.

Also reviewed by:
Did I miss yours?

Book 49 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 24 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 24 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge

Source: Purchased