Tag Archives: Family

The Human Experience: Stick Review & Giveaway Winners

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits.

I’m drawn to stories about family-life. Stories so lush with genuine character that I start to use the framework of the story to emphasize, or explain, or dramatize aspects of my life, my story. I live within the story, however fabricated. As readers, we love this. We live for it.

At the end of the day, we yearn for the relatable, the real, the story that will speak directly to us. Whether that’s within the world of fantasy or science fiction or romance or contemporary fiction, it doesn’t matter. They all—the lot of them—in one way or another, and on varying levels, hold some invariable truth that is uniquely relatable and salient to us as humans—readers, bibliophiles, book junkies.

Andrew Smith’s books take this concept to an entirely new level. Not only do they provide the reader with characters to love and to relate to, they also inspire us to think differently about the world.

In Stick, Smith’s most recent novel, the world he creates is very much our own. It’s recognizable. And the characters themselves, they are people we know, or apt representations of people we know of.

Stick, the main protagonist of the story, is disfigured. His ear is a mess of mangled cartilage and dulled hearing. And he lives with it. It’s part of who he is. Bosten, Stick’s older brother, is the more raucous of the two. And he loves his brother, and would do anything for him. Emily is Stick’s best friend, the two of them sharing an important bond. The rest of the story is replete with both the highs and the lows: characters that support and provide care for the protagonists and characters that hinder and harm.

It’s these latter kind that inspires Bosten to leave home. And it’s his absence that inspires Stick to find him. Over the course of the story, the brothers take part in their own unique journey—to escape the pain caused by parents that either relish in or pay no mind to said pain, and experience something that will build character out of the goodness and joy and revelation.

We know this world. It’s here, it’s there. It’s us and it’s those people there. It’s a world in which people exist as unique individuals, journeying to find out what it means to overcome, what it means to glean, what it means to live.

Readers, Stick is the type of book we live for. It is the human experience. In these words and these characters, we learn and we relate and we love.

Bosten and Stick know this. They lived it.


And the winners of the Andrew Smith Giveaway are:

Doppelganger – Stick

AnnieMooreBooks.com – Ghost Medicine

Charles DeMoss, Charlesthereader.blogspot.com – In The Path of Falling Objects

Winners were chosen randomly using Rafflecopter. Please email your mailing addresses to ReadSchmead at Yahoo dot com. If I do not hear from you by December 15th then a new winner will be chosen. Thank you so very much for all of the love and support.



Filed under Giveaway Schmiveaway, Nōn Talbot Wels, Young Adult Books

Adventure, Fantasy & Jim Dale = The Emerald Atlas


I love listening to audiobooks (as you may have discovered from a previous post, Listening to Words). When I found out that Jim Dale, the reader for the Harry Potter audio series, narrated a new book called The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, I practically squealed with excitement. I had heard great things about The Emerald Atlas (especially from Erin at Random Acts of Reading). I was excited to read the book, but learning of the audiobook I became even more excited. I was not disappointed.

The Emerald Atlas is delightful. Maybe delightful is not quite the right adjective. “Delightful” makes it sound unassuming and “nice.” The Emerald Atlas is exciting, intriguing and wonderfully written.

The Emerald Atlas is about three precocious siblings who are whisked away from their parents at a very young age to protect them from a merciless evil. Kate, the oldest, is the only one to remember their parents. Michael, the middle, is quite nerdy and loves everything that has to do with dwarves. Emma, the youngest, will be the first to bully her brother and the last–if anyone else tries to bully him then they will have to talk to her fists. The three kids are passed from orphanage to orphanage until finally landing in a mysterious town called Cambridge Falls. There they find an enchanted book, a kind of emerald atlas. This book transports them to a past time in Cambridge Falls where they must defeat a wicked Countess. The world of The Emerald Atlas involves dwarves, giants, wizards, and witches. It is a great fantasy book and if you have enjoyed the Harry Potter books then you must pick this one up. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Non and I had the privilege of meeting John Stephens at The Why Chromosome Event, hosted by Bridge to Books. Stephens was delightful; and this time “delightful” is exactly the right adjective. I told him that the audiobook is fantastic (as if he needed my validation). We spoke briefly about how amazing Jim Dale is as a reader. Stephens described a dinner outing with Jim Dale in which Dale would order food using various Harry Potter character voices. I only wish I could hear Dolores Umbridge order a burger with fries (I’m sure this is not what Jim Dale ordered).

Age Group: 9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy
Themes: Family, Siblings, Time, Magic, Dwarves
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random House


Side note: Audiobooks in general are amazing. If you haven’t tried listening to one then get some recommendations from friends or myself so that you start the experience out right. There have been times when a reader has not captured the world or voices correctly (or at least in my opinion). Neil Gaiman has started an amazing audiobook production called Neil Gaiman Presents, which can be downloaded/purchased from Audible.com.  He matches readers with books and understands the importance of a well-read audiobook. See a review of one of the adult titles, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel (from Bookriot.com).


Another side note:

Don’t forget about the Giveaway Schmiveaway! Win a signed Andrew Smith book! The giveaway ends December 10th at midnight, PST.


Enter to win by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments. Every current and new subscriber is entered into the contest automatically. If you happen to leave comments on posts then those will count as additional entries. Winners will be picked randomly.


Filed under Book-Related Stuff, Middle Grade Books

The Penderwicks


Jeanne Birdsall has created a great series of middle reader books featuring the Penderwick family.  The characters Birdsall creates are intriguing, adorably quirky, and just plain lovely.  The first book, The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, introduces the captivating Penderwick sisters:  Rosalind, the oldest and most responsible, Skye, whipsmart and a bit rough on the edges, Jane, the storyteller, and Batty, the youngest and whose best friend is a dog named hound.  You instantly love them.  The first book is all about their summer adventure with a young boy, Jeffrey.  The Penderwick girls save Jeffrey from the unrealistic expectations of his controlling mother and show him how to stand up for himself and follow his passion for music.

The second book, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, focuses much more on the interpersonal relationship between each family member.  We finally discover how their mother passed away and the emotions surrounding that traumatic event but it doesn’t take over the book.  Birdsall does a great job at showing and not telling how this event affects the girls and their quirky father.  From the insistence of Mr. Penderwick’s sister, Mr. Penderwick begrudgingly begins the dating process again.  It is a struggle for him and the girls do not much like the idea of their father dating.  This second book tackles the topic of coping with loss, even if that loss occured years earlier.  This description makes the book sound much heavier than it is.  Birdsall’s gifted storytelling deals with this difficult issue of loss without focusing the entire book on it; instead, the book is about growing up, even coming of age, and how every person deals with loss and love in very different ways.

The third Penderwick book, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, was released in May 2011.  I have yet to read this book, but I am certain it will be fantastic.  I have it on my list and you should too!

Check out this interview with Jeanne Birdsall:  Author Interview

Age Group: 8 and up (A great series for younger kids reading above their grade level without getting into adult-ish content!)
Genre: Middle Grade Reader
Themes: Relationships, Family, Adventure
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random House

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Filed under Middle Grade Books

Because I am Furniture

Review contributed to Read Schmead by Doppelganger

There is nothing quite like a book that grabs you from the first page with a character as memorable and inspiring as Anke. From the very first I was rooting for her and couldn’t wait to see her grow and blossom in Because I am Furniture, Thalia Chaltas’s debut novel.

At the core of this wonderfully crafted book stands Anke, who feels neglected and ignored by her family, like a piece of furniture. All the chapters/poems are presented through her point of view, providing a look into a household where an abusive father reigns unchecked. Anke has the dubious honor of being relegated to the sidelines (she’s never abused by her father) which severely affects her self-esteem. She finally finds her voice through Volleyball, playing with her teammates and demanding the ball on court, an essential part of the game.

Chaltas does a phenomenal job portraying her main character, letting readers really understand her through little moments and images all written in verse. According to Chaltas, she used the verse form for this novel for very specific reasons:

“I could both lighten the weight of the subject of abuse and incest with fewer words and more white space, and use denser, stronger words to portray abuse and incest that might have been overwhelming in prose.” (Quote found on PenguinBlog)

I felt like this book was a real eye-opener for me, as each poem led me further into the plot, but also managed to give me a glimpse of each moment being portrayed in a very clear manner, allowing me to see the beauty or the ugliness as it came. Abuse and incest are dark subjects indeed, but Chaltas provides hope and family (Anke’s teammates and her sister, brother, and mother) to counter all that.

Thalia Chaltas has her own blog or let’s say the voices in her head (a.k.a. characters) have a blog where you will find a picture posted once a week which is accompanied by a poem by a different character. It’s pretty darn irresistible, so head on over and check it out!  Epiphany’s Voice: Or Who Are All These People Talking in My Head?!

Age Group: 14/15 and up
Genre: Young Adult Book
Themes: Family, Relationships, Mental & Physical Abuse
Publisher: Speak, Imprint of Penguin Group

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Filed under Doppelganger, Young Adult Books