Friday, November 27, 2015

Thoughts On Book Extras: Others' vs. MINE

     So, I just finished reading Wolf By Wolf, an alternate history, slightly sci-fi action-adventure YA novel by Ryan Gaudin.  It's a pretty decent book.  But I got it from the Uppercase Box subscription service, and their big hook is that they put post-it notes in throughout the book (five, in this case) to provide the reader with "extra" that supposedly aren't available elsewhere.  That seemed  like a great idea to me, and I was eager to try them out.
     The first one gave me a video of the author doing what good authors do at book readings, explaining the inspiration and research for the book.  It was pretty interesting, but it was hardly exclusive.  The second bit was more information on the type of motorcycle used in the book.  Again, pretty interesting, but it was nothing I couldn't have googled myself.  The third item was a video -- available on vimeo and youtube -- of Ewan MacGregor taking a 115-day motorcycle trip.  Now, I love listening to Ewan's normal accent (he's a Scot!), but the video was like watching someone's unedited road trip family vacation.  zzzzzz  The 4th "extra" was simply a question inviting people to comment about what they thought when they "learned" what the title meant -- on page 267.  Well, since my opinion was that the several meanings of the title had been obvious just from reading the book blurbs and the first few pages, I felt this was a pretty stupid "extra."  The fifth and final one was equally disappointing, as it was just another comment area with "What did you think of the end?"  Well, it's obvious that the author hopes to publish a sequel, so that was hardly a "special" extra.

     I'm going to brag here and state that the "extras" in The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay are far  more numerous and really much better than at least 3/5 of what I got with Wolf By Wolf.  And the best part is that a reader need not join any special club or use a code to access them; they're right in the book.
     The most obvious extras are at the first of each chapter.  There are themed playlists and funky wardrobe and hairstyle ideas for every single chapter.  And Nerissa's playlists are so eclectic that anyone should be able to get some new ideas for listening by checking out the songs.
     Then there are footnotes here and there to clarify and explain a few things the reader might need to know.  For example, one footnote is a link to a video of the folksong Nerissa is learning in her German III class.
     And at the end of the book are recipes and homework tips.  Plus, there is info about the author (me!) and my other books, with links/URLS to trailers, twitter, etc.
     If you want extras, people, you don't have to look very far with this book:

Want a copy?  You can buy one here.
You can also check my Current Contests page to see if there's one available to win.  (As I type this, that is indeed the case.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Just No.

My mother just told me she wanted to go to Walmart today for a $12.00 vacuum.
Not for all the rice in China would I go near a Walmart on an ordinary day.  During a Black Friday sale, you couldn't get me within a mile of a Walmart if you gave me a lifetime supply of Swiss chocolate. (Mmmmm.... Toblerone.)
It took me 15 minutes to convince her to let me try online.  It took me 2 minutes to locate the same hand-held vacuum on Amazon for $15.00 and add it to a few other items I was going to buy anyway, thus getting their free shipping deal.
And we are NOT going near a Walmart.
(Thanks, Amazon.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Treat Yourself To A Bookish Goodie Bag Giveaway!

Christmas is coming.  Wouldn't you like to win a goodie bag filled with bookish stuff?  Well, now is the time.  Check this out:

If you are 13 or older and live in the USA, you may enter to win this bookish prize.
Here's what you'll get: a copy of The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay by Lisa Shafer (that's ME!), a copy of Popular by Maya Van Wagenen (Maya dresses up in 50s garb throughout the book; Nerissa would approve of that.), a handmade bookmark with pressed/dried Colorado wildflowers (I have a friend who makes these), a Late Bloomer sticker from Wings by Aprilynne Pike,  a glass mug in which you can make Auntie Jane's ginger-milk tea (recipe included in (Dis)Appearance), a Half-Vampire button (from All in the Half-Vampire Family by Lisa Shafer -- that's ME!), a Tree of Life pin, featuring the gorgeous pen-and-ink drawing from the cover of Becoming Brigid by Lisa Shafer (that's ME!) (The artwork was done by Lynn Shafer -- that's DAD!), and your very own tote bag, suitable for library books or Christmas gifts, featuring vintage (not retro, but truly vintage) Christmas advertising artwork from the Salt Lake Hardware Company in the 1950s (artwork by Lynn Shafer -- that's DAD!).
There are various ways to enter, and, as I type, I already have 16 people who've entered without entering (:D) by reviewing my books and/or sending me photos (after 10/1/15; I won't count those who did it before then.).  I'll be hand-entering their names.
A winner will be selected on December 15, and if the winner is prompt in getting me shipping info, s/he should get this awesome goodie bag before Christmas!
What are you waiting for?  Enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Philosophy Overheard In My 9GT Class Today

Boy to several friends: If you think about it, everything either is or is not a potato.

Me: *??!*

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Can You Tell That This Doctor Used To Be A School Teacher?

I've been experiencing hair loss lately.  Only twice before in my life has it ever been this bad.  Thus, today I had a doctor's appointment after school.
Now, I like this doctor; he actually reminds me of Max.  It's almost as if the doctor could be Max's long-lost cousin or something.  Anyway, he's got a great sense of humor.
Let me share:

Doctor: *going over medical updates before talking to me about current symptoms*  Let's see; we did blood work in the summer, right?
Me: Yes.
Doctor: Still taking Vitamin D?
Me: Yes.
Doctor: Do you have the paperwork to schedule a mammogram for this year?
Me: Yes, I'll do that.
Doctor: And you remember that you'll need to have a colonoscopy before too many years, right?
Me: *cringing* Yes, I guess.  But that'll have to be during a summer; it's too involved for --
Doctor: Look, there's no law that says you have to have one by a certain birthday, you know.  It's a colonoscopy; you don't have to get all anal about it. *winks*
Me: *bursts out laughing*

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review of the November Uppercase Box

I've been trying out bookish subscription boxes this fall.  In September, I got a LitCube and was underwhelmed.  In October, I got an OwlCrate and quite liked it -- except for the long delay in actually receiving the box.
This month, I have another OwlCrate coming (still waiting, probably will be for another 10 days), but today my Uppercase Box arrived:

The package -- which was not a box, but rather a cheap cotton bag holding everything except the print and stuffed into a bubble wrap envelope -- arrived only two days after I received the e-mail saying it had been shipped.  It contained the book Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin, stuck through in 5 spots with post-it notes giving special codes to watch author videos explaining the book and giving extra content.  There was also a note (not a fancy one, just a regular paper, thus saving money) explaining what was in the bag; however, one item was different from those listed, and no explanation was given.  There was also a printed mini-poster for the book, a cute print of a quote supposedly by Oscar Wilde (although the print gives no citation whatsoever) in a cheap cardboard frame, a cheap-but-kind-of-cute plastic keychain which says "certified book addict," and a mini-notebook.  The mini-notebook was not listed on the notepaper, but it seems to replace a pin featuring the book.  (I had a look at some Instagram pics posted by folks who received the pin, and I'm glad I got the notebook instead.  However, it would've been nice to have an email stating that some people were getting different items.)

The pros:
The shipping speed was awesome.  I was very pleased to get the stuff so fast.
I rather like the little notebook, but then, I love notebooks.  No doubt, I will use it.
I like the fact that money was not wasted on fancy insert cards which are useless.
I rather like the little book bag.  Once it's washed, it will be great for socks when I'm traveling.
The book looks pretty good.  So far, I've only read one chapter and watched part of the first video.  It seems to be as if Uppercase subscribers get to go to a video version of an author reading, so that's rather nice.  (I'll review the book and the extras in a few days, after I've finished reading.)

The cons:
The packaging is NOT a box and it did not protect the framed print; it's bent and battered and looks like something one finds at a garage sale.  However, I will probably still hang it in my classroom.  I do wish it had the source of the quote on it somewhere.  I'll have to look it up to make sure it's not a misquote.
The keychain is cheap and childish.
Neither item lives up to the Uppercase claim of "1-2 high-quality items" in with the book.  Not even close.
The months aren't themed as they are with LitCube and Owlcrate, so it's hard to guess whether the box is one you'll enjoy or not.

Overall, while it looks like I'll enjoy the book and the mini-notebook which I may have received by mistake, there's no way this is worth the nearly $30.00 I paid for it.  The book itself is worth $9.90 on Amazon, where one can easily get free shipping.  The notebook is worth about a dollar, the keychain maybe 50 cents.  The bag is worth about a dollar.  The print is worth perhaps two dollars.  That means I paid roughly double what the items are worth.

I'm not too sure about Uppercase Box.  I am, as of yet, undecided if I'll try the December one or not.
In the meantime, however, I believe I'll enjoy Wolf By Wolf.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Family That Reads Together.....

These lovely ladies are reading The (Dis)Appearance of Nerissa MacKay.
Have you gotten a copy yet?  You can get one here.

Also, if you review the book or send me a photo of yourself reading the book (under 18s accompanied by a parent, as above), your name will be entered into my upcoming contests for books and swag. :)

Monday, November 9, 2015

So, This Is Your First Time Subbing In A Junior High, Right?

Like most teachers, I have to PLAN my escapes to the bathroom.  (A-Days: 7:30, 9:15, 10:55, and 3:00 PM.  B-Days: 7:30, 10: 50, 12:10, and 3:00 PM.  If I'm lucky, that is.  Some days, it's not even this often.)  This morning, I was making my cross-campus run for the faculty restroom when an unfamiliar substitute suddenly stepped from the doorway of a SPED classroom (where he was playing a harmonica. *!*) and directly into my path.

Me: Uh, hi.
Him: We have a problem here. *gestures to crowded hallway*  I heard some girls down there screaming, "You're ugly!" to another girl.  And there's some horseplay going on up that way.
Me: *mouth twitches*  *nostrils flare slightly in attempt to keep from laughing*  Yes. And....?
Him: Well?
Me: Sir, what you want to watch for is when a big group of kids swarms together.
Him: *eyes widening in expectation* Really?
Me: Yeah, that means there's a fight.  But don't worry; two administrators are standing at the head of the hallway, and we have security cameras all over the place.

A few minutes later, I repeated the exchange to the vice-principal, the assistant custodian, and a veteran substitute who used to teach full-time in our school.
Me: So then he told me there were kids involved in "horseplay!"
*laughter from all*
Custodian: Was there blood?  Broken glass? Otherwise, I'm not worried.
Me: And did the girl who got called "ugly" sass back or melt into a puddle of tears?  Can't he tell the difference?
Veteran Sub: Has he ever been in a junior high before?
Vice Principal: Great. *rolls eyes* I'll get stuck helping him before the day's over.

My conclusion?
Obviously, this guy's been reading way too many mommy blogs and articles about how we shouldn't let kids play rough or "bully" one another.
I'm guessing today was a reality check for him.
Welcome to the wild world of junior high, mister.  I hope you and your harmonica had a lovely time.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Review of the Owlcrate October Box

Yes, this is a bit late. But I wanted to read the book in the box before I reviewed the box -- and I had a few library books I had to finish first, so it's made me a bit late.
(To read my review of the book, click here.)

This photo shows the contents of my October Owlcrate box (pictured on the vintage 1965 teal blue chair in my living room).   Overall, this box was VASTLY superior to the September LitCube box.  However, I am not brushing LitCube off entirely; I intend to try their December box.  (If that one is as bad as September, however, then I'm likely to write them off as a mistake.)
The October Owlcrate theme was "spooky."
I like themes in general.  I'm signed up for Uppercase Box for November, and it bothers me that they don't have a theme.  For one thing, I have no idea what type of book I'll be getting, and for another, their extras often don't match the book.
Owlcrate's box, however, all matched nicely.
Like LitCube's box, it took forever to arrive.  I got an e-mail saying it was shipped days before the tracking website said it had.  Also, instagram and twitter showed that many people received their boxes the day after the e-mail was sent out, yet mine didn't arrive for a week.  I did not like that.
In any case, let me review the contents of the box.
The main thing, of course, was the book.  This was A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis, and I have reviewed it here.
With the book was a photocopied note from the author about her inspirations for the book.  This was nice, but it wasn't anything I couldn't have found by looking at her website.  There was no autographed sticker to put into the book, as I had hoped.
There was also a mini-poster advertising the book.  This was nice, but, since I teach junior high and not high school, and since this book would raise Cain among parents if I put it in my classroom, I can't really use the mini poster.
The Owlcrate insert card was also in the box.  This time it was helpful because it explained the scent pack, which had confused me a good deal until I read the card.
The scent pack came with a bookmark advertising more scent packs.  The bookmark was helpful, and I actually checked out their website, which you can do here.
After I learned about what scent packs are, I appreciated the idea a great deal.  The packs contain scented beads whose purpose is to scent rooms and/or costumes for role playing games, parties, haunted houses, Cons, or even just for readers.  I like this idea.  The scents are much more varied than air fresheners; you can get scents such as "pirate ship," which is, apparently oak timbers soaked in sea spray mixed with gun smoke.  Some of the scents listed sound either fun or very pleasant.  But my problem was the one Owlcrate chose for us was downright nasty.  Yes, Vampire's Lair, sounds cool, but it smells awful.  The website describes it as "blood, fresh dirt, and red wine."  Ick.  Maybe I can give it away to some role players.
Next in the box were two tiny bookmarks, one a witch and one a skeleton.  They are very flimsy paper with magnets on both sides.  They work OK.  The problem with the witch is that it's the same on both sides, so I usually couldn't remember which side of the page I'd actually marked and ended up re-reading stuff.  They're also so small that they're easy to misplace, and they aren't very durable.  Still, they were cute.
Then there were three calaveras erasers for El Día de los Muertos.  These are sizable items, each nearly filling the palm of my hand.  They came in appealing shades of pink, yellow, and green.  I took the yellow one to school with me, and it's already been put to good use by both me and students.
And finally there's the Poe-ka-dot case.  It's really cute.  I have a bunch of little cases, so I don't really need another, but it is a usable item.  It would work well for make up, small travel items, pencils, small art supplies, etc.   This is a win.
Overall, the Owlcrate box for October was far superior to the LitCube box for September.  However, I am signed up for both Uppercase Box and Owlcrate for November, and I intend to try LitCube again in December, so we shall see what happens.