Family Reads: Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel

Born out of a desire to get a family of book lovers to connect more over what they’re reading, Family Reads is an occasional feature where my mom, dad or sister and I read and discuss a book.

Dad and Jenna read Every Hidden Thing

Why we chose Kenneth Oppel’s Every Hidden Thing

I had planned to attend Oppel’s talk, reading and signing at McNally Robinson at the end of September. As a Canadian growing up in the late 90s/early 00s, I devoured the Silverwing books. Recently I’ve enjoyed The Boundless and The Nest. Dad had accompanied me to a few other author events at McNally (Chris Hadfield and Will Ferguson come to mind), so I invited him along. Dad thought it would be neat to read the book after hearing Oppel give a presentation about it. I felt iffy about Every Hidden Thing (which has been described as Romeo and Juliet meets Indian Jones), but I decided to give it a go because I was curious to see what Oppel would do with dinosaurs and YA fiction.

Our Discussion

We used Every Hidden Thing as a jumping off point to discuss young adult literature. First, we tried to determine whether Dad had ever read YA literature. He recalls reading The Hardy Boys, The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia, which don’t quite make the cut.  I asked if he may have read The Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, or The Outsiders (all of which were not considered ‘YA lit’ back when they were first published but are today popularly read among teens). He couldn’t recall, but he noted that there was no Goodreads back in the seventies, so it’s hard for him to keep track 😛

I asked Dad what he liked about Every Hidden Thing, considering it was a ‘genre’ (more on that later) new to him. He appreciated the novel because he found it a light read – in general, not necessarily because it was YA. We agreed that the story moved at a good pace and had some surprises. The shifting perspectives occasionally tripped both of us up. We had to reread some paragraphs once we realized the narrator was not who we thought (this despite the change in fonts!). Overall, though, the two perspectives kept the narrative interesting without being too distracting.  I appreciated knowing ahead of time that Oppel was riffing off Romeo and Juliet, so I was prepared for the teen romance that’s central to the novel. (I am not a big fan of romance.) Dad liked the contrast between Sam and Rachel’s relationship and their fathers.

Dad and I agreed that the dinosaur fossil hunting was what really sold us on this book. Oppel gave a great presentation about his research process for Every Hidden Thing. You can read about how he wrote it in this article  from the CBC.

Finally, I asked Dad if he thought he might like to read more from the YA genre. He questioned whether YA is really a genre, and not just a marketing recommendation. We discussed some of the debate surrounding the use of a YA as a genre term rather than a general audience target. Dad says he would assume YA novels are an easier read than some of the adult fiction he reads, but he wouldn’t oppose reading a YA novel if it sounded interesting. He appreciated that he could read Every Hidden Thing in small pieces during his workweek and still be able to keep track of the characters and the plot.

I think most of my readers have grown up reading young adult literature. What books would you recommend for someone new to the ‘genre’? Have you read any novels about the discovery of dinosaurs?

October Month in Review

October Month in Review bannerI started last month’s post with a comment about how I updated less frequently than my ideal. Once again I’ve fallen short of my post goal, but this time around I was anticipating that. Between NerdCon, Comic-con, and an unexpected but appreciated increase in my work load, I didn’t make a lot of time for blogging. I dislike not having a regular schedule. I crave predictability, but my work schedule currently doesn’t have that feature. As blogging is an independent hobby, it’s the first to thing to go when I’m on a time crunch. Over the past couple years, I’ve been working out how to balance my spare time between reading and blogging about reading. Although I didn’t find the time for blogging in October, I did manage to squeeze in lots of reading, so without further ado, here are the books I read in October:

Books Finished

  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter
  • Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm
  • All Rise for the Honourable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
  • OCDaniel by Wesley King
  • The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
  • Slacker by Gordon Korman
  • When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin

Books Reviewed

Features

  • I’m a round one judge for the Cybils. Here’s my post introducing the awards and what my role is.
  • Part 3 of my New Zealand literary pilgrimage series explores a variety of filming locations around Queenstown.
  • I attempt to describe why NerdCon deserves another shot in my post “Why I Loved NerdCon: Stories“.
  • For the October KidLit Blog Hop, I wrote about the books I’d read so far for the Cybils.
  • The fall edition of Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon took place on October 22. Here’s my master post.

Shared on Twitter

Upcoming in November

  • Oct. 31 to Nov. 6 Witch Week (“an opportunity to celebrate our favorite fantasy books and authors”) @ The Emerald City Book Review.
  • Nov. 10 An Evening with Ami McKay @ McNally Robinson. I finished McKay’s new novel The Witches of New York during last month’s Read-a-thon. Highly recommended! I will have a review up tomorrow.
  • Nov. 29 – Publication of Scythe by Neal Shusterman, a YA ‘dystopia’ in which “the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). I adore Shusterman. Scythe sounds like an excellent follow to the Unwind books.

Now that I’ve finally posted on my own blog, I’ve got a lot of commenting to do. I have 40-some blog posts saved in Pocket that I want to check out. Then we’ll see how far ahead I can get with scheduling some posts. This weekend is shaping up to be a ‘catch up’ weekend for me. How was your October? What are you looking forward to in November?

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Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon (Master Post)

End of Event SurveyDewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon

Busy weekend! I feel like my theme for this Read-a-thon was ‘late for everything.’ 😛 Lots of great things have been happening in October, but I will appreciate some breathing time in November. I ended up reading for 5 hours and 15 minutes. I lost three planned hours of reading to socializing of all things. I go to the pub maybe four times a year and of course one of those times had to fall on Read-a-thon night. The occasion was a friend’s going away party, as they’re moving to Arctic, so I didn’t really want to skip that.

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? I didn’t feel ‘daunted’, per se, but I planned to read all through hour eleven and that plan fell out the window in favour of watching hockey.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? The Slacker by Gordon Korman made for a relatively quick and fun read. A good book for when you need a ‘break’.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? I didn’t participate too much this time, so I can’t say if anything needs to be improved.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? This kind of ties in to the above question. I don’t know how well it worked, but I think it probably took some stress/expectations by eliminating cheerleading. I signed up to cheerlead in the past and it was a bit frustrating going from blog to blog of people who signed up but weren’t actually participating. I had more fun cheering for people who were visible and actively participating on Twitter.
  5. How many books did you read? I read 50% of one book, 90% of another, and 10% of a third. I guess that makes one and a half!
  6. What were the names of the books you read? The Witches of New York, The Slacker, and When Friendship Followed Me Home
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? The Witches of New York
  8. Which did you enjoy least? The two middle grades are so far on par with each other – nothing amazing, but nothing unenjoyable.
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again?  Very likely! I don’t have any plans, though I suppose it could be early to tell. I hope I will be less busy next time and able to read for 10+ hours.

Hour 3

Three hours into the Read-a-thon, I’m finally filling out the introductory survey.

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? – Winnipeg, Canada. It’s a fine foggy day for reading.
  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? – I’m currently reading The Witches of new York, which I love. I expect it will be hard for any of the other books to beat this.
  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to? – Salt and vinegar Crispers. I’ve had a hankering for them this past week.
  4. Tell us a little something about yourself! – I’m currently in the process of applying to MLIS programs.
  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I’m taking this one more casually than the last one. There’s been a lot of flux in work-related stuff, so I just want to have a fun day of reading and socializing.

Pre-Read-a-thon

Good morning! Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon kicks off in about 15 minutes. I scheduled this post last night – have I woken up in time? You’ll have to nag me on Twitter if I haven’t posted there yet 😛 I’ll be updating this post a few times throughout the day, but I’ll be most active on Twitter. I do have a few distractions tomorrow – tutoring, a book event at the public library (going to hear Jen Sookfong Lee discuss The Conjoined!) and a farewell party. I have packed my bags and set out my clothes to minimize prep time for the outings.

October 2016 Readathon StackLast night I prepped my reading stack and my munching stack, two stacks that are of almost equal importance when read-a-thoning. I’ve prepared a YA/MG sandwich. I’m focusing on MG fiction for the Cybils, but I’ve thrown in two YAs in case I feel like mixing things up: a book that my Dad and I are doing for Family Reads (Every Hidden Thing) and a book that has to go back to the library soon (Like a River Glorious). I’ll also probably be finishing up The Witches of New York, as I don’t think I’ll have time tonight.

As for food, I’ve planned two out of three meals (figuring out lunch always disrupts my schedule, even when I’m not trying to read all day…). I’ve got muesli, fruit and yogurt ready for breakfast and I’ve discussed ordering in pizza with my family. I’ve tucked my non-perishable snacks under my reading table – pumpkin seeds, candy corn, and salt and vinegar Crispers. I haven’t eaten those in years but I had a craving.

My goal for this year is 8 hours of reading. Are you participating in the Read-a-thon?

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October KidLit Blog Hop

October KidLit Blog HopThis monthly hop is designed to engage a group of people who love everything that has to do with children’s literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers!

For the October KidLit Blog Hop, I thought I’d review the reading I’ve done and plan to do for the Cybils this month. Public nominations closed on October 15. I went through the nominees list and noted which books my public library has (total: 28).

Read So Far

ocdanielall-rise-for-the-honourable-perryFull of Beans cover my-life-with-the-liars

  • My Life with the Liars by Caella Carter – A strange book about a young girl who is rescued from a cult. I’m not sure who this would appeal to.
  • Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm – A fun story set in a time and place with which I was unfamiliar (Key West in the 1930s). I feel like this book should exemplify middle grade historical fiction.
  • All Rise for the Honourable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor – Although I had to suspend my disbelief at the story’s premise, I came to appreciate its greater significance as a tale about a kid whose family can be found in a correctional centre. I like children’s books that include adult perspectives. Plus Perry is an easily lovable character.
  • OCDaniel by Wesley King – The protagonist of King’s novel struggles with OCD but doesn’t know it. This book offers a realistic portrayal of how kids can experience mental illness. The murder mystery and football plot lines were unexpected but mostly fun.

Slacker book coverI’m currently reading Slacker by Gordon Korman. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher read aloud from his books to us. I adored Radio Fifth Grade, I Want to Go Home, and the MacDonald Hall Books. I remember being disappointed when he began publishing ‘serious’ disaster stories such as Island, but I enjoyed that as well. Slacker sounds to me to be ‘classic’ Korman, and it’s off to a good start. Though it feels a bit strange reading one of his novels set in the present day!

Upcoming Reading

I have the following books currently signed out from the library. Thanksgiving and a road trip interrupted my progress, but this Saturday is Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon – a perfect opportunity to get through a stack of middle grade fiction!

  • When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
  • Makoons by Louise Erdrich
  • The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby
  • The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey
  • Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Be sure to check out this master post for a list of other participants in the October KidLit Blog Hop. Have you read any great children’s lit recently?

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Why I Loved NerdCon: Stories

NerdCon: Stories logo

The second annual and likely final NerdCon: Stories took place this past weekend in Minneapolis. I drove down to attend with my sister and my best friend. We had a lot of fun when we made the trip last year.

What is NerdCon? NerdCon began as an experiment. It tends to defy description. This is probably a large factor in its failure, failure being here defined as not financially stable enough to support itself. Hank Green has made a couple videos about this. The simplest way to define the con’s purpose might be “to celebrate stories”.  I’ve seen a few posts that somehow pinned down why those who attended in 2015 loved it and would attend again. I’ve also seen just as well-reasoned posts about why people wouldn’t attend again. I fell somewhere between the two camps. I initially went 60% for the conference and 40% for the trip (visit a big city, attend a Sia concert, do some shopping despite the exchange rate…). After attending NerdCon for the second time, though, I am now more excited about it than I was before I went. I am now a bit bummed that it won’t happen again.

My travelling companions and I spent much of our not-at-NerdCon time discussing why NerdCon didn’t take off like it should have/might have/deserved to. I’m sure we didn’t come up with any great insights beyond what Hank and others have already noted. If there was a way to make NerdCon a success (i.e. sell enough tickets to be financially stable), then I would be happy to become involved in making that work. I think for now all I can do is share my experience as best as I can. Without further ado:

4 Reasons Why I Loved NerdCon: Stories

    • Being in a crowd of like minded people. I find it so refreshing and exciting and uplifting to find myself in a that kind of crowd – to see the hive of activity and ideas (that seem to live only in my computer) come to life.
    • Frank, open, caring, and normalizing discussions about mental health. From Amanda MacGregor‘s informative presentation on mental health in YA to John Green’s talk on creativity and OCD, talk about mental illness and destroying stigmas was front and centre for me in a way I’d never experienced before.
    • David the ASL interpreter. The entertaining moments he created at both NerdCons may have been a ‘you had to be there’ kind of thing. However, I think anyone can appreciate his performance of “It’s Raining Men.” I wasn’t even there for this and it’s my favourite part of the con.

  • There’s something for everyone. ‘Stories’ doesn’t just mean books. The con included panels, workshops, and community-led programming on podcasts, gaming, oral storytelling, and more. This also applies to the variety of guests. Although there weren’t many names with which I was familiar, I appreciated hearing from people with different experience. Another attendee may have had a totally different yet just as enjoyable weekend as me.

After attending NerdCon for the second time, I’m more excited about it now than I ever was before. I feel like the conference is being shuttered just as it might start to gain momentum (I know that’s not the case; I understand there are many good reasons as to why it can’t continue.) It’s an unfortunate situation. In the end, I’m so glad I got to attend for the two years I did. I’d love to read your thoughts on NerdCon: Stories if you attended. Link me up in the comments!

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