Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This World We Live In (YA review)

Jacket description:
"It's been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastrophically altering the earth's climate. For Miranda Evans, life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.

The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda's father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda's complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for his future thwart their relationship. Then a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever."

I loved Life as We Knew It and The Dead & The Gone. I felt they both were packed with thrilling moments, emotional turmoil, family drama, and (of course) some pretty scary predicaments concerning how to survive. I think I had several nightmares after finishing both of them!

This third installment just didn't really do it for me. Not a whole lot was the same thing, day after day, even once Syl, Alex, and Julie arrive on scene. Syl could have stirred up a whole bunch of trouble and at first, I thought that's what she was there for. A plot to steal food or shelter or something. But she's not. She's just there as another family member. And when Alex and Julie get there, finally meeting Miranda, which I thought would be a hugely powerful moment, was just kinda blah.

My real "issue" with This World We Live In was the nature and path of Alex and Miranda's relationship. They really disliked each other and then all of a sudden were in complete love and couldn't keep their hands off each other. Not believable to me, nor did I think it was necessary. Why did the two main characters from these awesome books have to meet AND start a romance? Do all YA books need a romance? No way! I would have really loved to have just experienced their meeting, rather than this rushed and unrealistic love affair.

Those criticisms made, Pfeffer still has a winner of a series on her hands. I've handed this teen book to three adults now (non-YA readers) and though they skeptically accepted the first, they were immediately sucked in and wanted the second. Even if this particular installment wasn't as thrilling or exciting as the first two, it left room for a fourth. I would be happy to see another one and just as eager to read it.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Everyone has ONE book in a series that they didn't love as much as the others right? For me, in Harry Potter it was book 5, in Twilight it was book happens.

This World We Live In
Susan Beth Pfeffer
256 pages
Young Adult
April 2010
Review copy received via Amazon Vine

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

March Audiobooks

I was able to get a lot of "audio" reading done this month, finishing three, and really loving two of those three. Head on over to and link your audiobook reviews at Audiosynced, this month at Abby (the) Librarian.

Frindle by Andrew Clements

I know, I know, I'm a librarian and I have yet to make my way through Andrew Clements' books. Each one that I've actually read, I've loved, and this one was probably my favorite. The reader, John Fleming, did a great job and kept me completely engaged from start to finish.

This is a quick read and a great choice for a family road trip. You could make it through a couple of books this length in a few hours.

Audiobook borrowed from my local library

 The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I'm going to really push this one on you! I've read the book and was just using the audio version as a refresher in anticipation of The Dead Tossed Waves. I didn't count on being completely taken in by the reader, Vane Millon, and feeling as if I was really experiencing the story for the first time. This reader is the BEST reader I have ever come across and I'm going to be frantically searching for more titles she's read.

One of the few times I'll actually say that the audio version was better than the actual book. Loved it!

Audiobook borrowed from my local library

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Unfortunately, this is the one that I didn't enjoy quite as much as the others. I know that so many of you just love this book and it may be because I listened to the audio rather than reading, but I really felt the entire story was just ok. Almost cheesy at points. And the reader, Eden Reigel, sounded about 9 years old through the whole book, even when Ella was almost out of her teens.

Just not great for me. But I know that there are lots of Ella fans out there, so go check it out for yourself!

Audiobook borrowed from my local library

Monday, March 29, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: Is That a Fact?

So, be prepared, I'm going to gush a little today. It's not often I come across an entire non-fiction series that I absolutely love and think every child and adult could quite possibly pick up and feel the same way. But it's happened with the "Is That a Fact?" series, put out by Lerner.

I literally sat down and read all five books from cover to cover, not skimming or skipping the fact boxes or any of that cheating...I read them all. Each one is chock full of interesting facts about things you probably didn't know (I didn't know most of them) and they're presented in such an intriguing, eye-catching manner
 with content that is pretty darn cool, that you can't help but like the books.

I started with Does it Really Take Seven Years to Digest Swallowed Gum? and Other Questions You've Always Wanted to Ask by Sandy Donovan. The answer to the title question is obviously no...but there are some pretty tricky ones in here, like "when you bite on a wint-o-green, Life Saver in the dark, does it make a spark?" And..."does Jell-O gelatin really contain animal bones and skin?" Nice and gross for those boy readers!
Moving on to book 2, Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? and Other Questions About Animals by Buffy Silverman we see the question: "will a mother bird abandon her babies after a person touches them, because she smells human scent?" And..."can an alligator live in a sewer?" Questions and myths we've heard since we were children, but never got a straight answer to.

In all five books I was really impressed by the fun level in the questions asked. We got actually "school-like" questions, mixed with gross questions, mixed with urban myths. Each question is paired with the answer and then a brief explanation as to why or why not the answer is  yes or no. There is also a glossary section in each book, as well as Further Reading and a Bibliography.

I'm a big fan of Lerner books and you'll always see me raving about the quality here on the blog. When they say "library bound" they mean it. These books hold up really well, the series length is always perfect, and the content of the books is both educational and fun. I had a blast reading through these!

Hand them to boys or girls and/or reluctant readers. They're going to learn something and keep you on your toes, running around the house yelling out facts. 

Titles in the series include:
Does It Really Take Seven Years to Digest Swallowed Gum? by Sandy Donovan

Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? by Buffy Silverman

Is There Life on Other Planets by Gregory L. Vogt

Does an Apple a Day Keep the Doctor Away? by Sandy Donovan

Can Lightning Strike the Same Place Twice? by Joanne Mattern

Review copies received from publisher

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Some fabulous choices for you this week! Hopefully you'll find something to enjoy with your family!

A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrator Linzie Hunter

Now, you all know my obsession with dog books and I just have to throw this new favorite in there. This girl, Amelia, is absolutely hysterical in the way she gets her hands on just the dog she wants. Seriously, you adults will find yourself chuckling the entire way through, as Amelia gets more clever and daring in her quest for a dog, while you're kids will be cheering her along the entire way through the book.

A fantastic choice for a read aloud with an attention-grabbing story, lots of humor, bold illustrations, and of course, cute dogs!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
One of my favorite picture books of the year!

A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose
Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
32 pages
Picture Book
Little, Brown
January 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Noah's Bark by Stephen Krensky and illustrator Roge

Another funny one for you! Here we get to look at the challenges Noah faced while building the ark and surviving the flood, including the insanity of noise made by the pigs howling, elephants hissing, the beavers crowing, and snakes quacking. Sounds silly right? Noah gets fed up with the chaotic noise and puts slips of paper with different animal sounds in a kangaroo's pouch and allows each animal to choose their noise. And that's how today we have snakes hissing, pigs oinking, and dogs barking.

So cute! And though this is obviously a Biblical story, this is not a book with religious overtones or messages. It's just a silly story about animals and their zany noises! Another stellar read aloud that will leave your kids giggling.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Noah's Bark
Stephen Krensky
32 pages
Picture Book
Carolrhoda Books
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher

My Father Knows the Names of Things by Jane Yolen and illustrator Stephane Jorisch

Seriously, I don't think Jane Yolen sleeps. This woman churns out more books in a year than any other author I know (except of course James Patterson, but Yolen's are actually quality ;). So this is my "sweet" choice of the week, showcasing a quieter, not-so-silly story.

A small child is impressed with all the "things" his father knows, like seven words for blue, all the stars and planets, the names of dogs, and so many other things he could never keep track. His dad seems to know everything and the wonderful part about a father that knows a lot is that dad teaches it to him, little by little.

Not a whole lot of plot to this story, but the message is very sweet and the illustrations accompany it perfectly. I would love for this to be a daddy/child bedtime read and can see it starting a discussion about all the things your child's daddy knows. Very cute!

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

My Father Knows the Names of Things
Jane Yolen
32 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
April 2010
Review copy received from Kids Can Press

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Heart is Not a Size (YA review)

Jacket description:
"Georgia knows what it means to keep secrets. She knows how to ignore things. She knows that some things are better left unsaid. . . . Or are they?

When Georgia and her best friend, Riley, travel along with nine other suburban Pennsylvania kids to Anapra, a squatters' village in the heat-flattened border city of Juarez, Mexico, secrets seem to percolate and threaten both a friendship and a life. Certainties unravel. Reality changes. And Georgia is left to figure out who she is outside the world she's always known."

What a little gem! Author Beth Kephart is talented at really creating a picture for her reader, both of setting and characters, and evoking emotions into every sentence in her books. This one is certainly no exception and you'll find yourself feeling the hot Juarez sun (and boy is it hot...used to live not too far from there) and living the tension between Georgia and Riley.

These characters are both complex in their own ways, making you want to know more about them and sympathizing with the heartaches they're each going through. And in the midst of the relationship drama, there is this trip to Juarez. Filled with hope and determination to make something better for the impoverished city and the families living there. Both aspects of the story are perfectly intertwined and beautifully done.

And for once I can applaud an author for knowing when to end her novel! One of my biggest pet peeves among YA and Middle Grade authors today are the lengthy books they write and the feeling that they shoved a whole bunch of extra stuff into a book to make it 500 pages long, rather than keeping a great story 200 pages. Beth Kephart knew when to stop and the result is a wonderful little book I would happily hand to any teen.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

The Heart is Not a Size
Beth Kephart
256 pages
Young Adult
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's been awhile...

Yes, I've been neglecting my blog. And I really do apologize, but it's been a bit crazy here in the Snow household and I don't see it slowing down anytime soon. Not to mention the weather has been absolutely beautiful and sitting at the computer when it's 70 and sunny outside is just not in my daily plan. But for now, some catchup notes:

-The winner of my latest giveaway is:  Angie! I've sent you an email Angie, congrats! And for those of you that didn't win, I get ARCs all the time, so look for more giveaways soon.

-My husband returned safe and sound from Haiti, though exhausted and with a stomach bug. He's feeling much better now and the entire team from our church feels they really did a whole lot of good, even in such a short period of time. Thanks to everyone that supported his journey!

-I just finished The Forest of Hands and Teeth on audio and let me just say, you need to run out and get this from your library or wherever you get audiobooks. Even if you have previously read the book (which I had), this is one of the only times I will tell you that the audio was better than my own personal reading experience. A review to come later.

-What else have I been reading? Well I'm in the middle of Keep Sweet by Michele Green and just finished Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Vastly different stories for sure. Keeping me on my toes!

And that's it for now! I'll have reviews back up for the rest of the week, though I may be taking another weekend break. It's supposed to be gorgeous :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Happy Saturday to you all! Only 2 books for you this week, hopefully you find something that you like!

Mattoo, Let's Play by Irene Luxbacher

Such a great example of a child's imagination! Ruby, a spit-fire of a little girl, just wants her cat to play with her. She wants Mattoo to ride the rocket ship, enjoy triple-decker jelly sandwiches, and listen to her rock music with pots and pans. But Mattoo is more quiet and shy. But after a jungle safari with her friend Clemente, Ruby realizes that Mattoo may just be the most ferocious animal in the wild!

Though I think the author aimed for this book to be about a girl and her cat, it's definitely more centered on the importance of imagination...which is a great message to be sending out anyways! The illustrations were done nicely and added to the adventurous nature of Ruby.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Mattoo, Let's Play!
Irene Luxbacher
32 pages
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

A Paddling of Ducks: Animal Groups from A to Z by Marjorie Blain Parker and illustrator Joseph Kelly

I really enjoy picture books that can teach kids something as they read and this one definitely does that. There are animal groupings that we've probably all heard of, such as "a pack of Wolves" and "a swarm of Yellow Jackets," but most of these animal groups I've never come across.

Did you know that a group of Iguanas are called a colony? Or that like the title of the book tells us, a group of ducks is called a paddling? I knew neither.

I love the expressions on the animal's faces and the silly activities they're participating in, based on their group name. The "band" of gorillas is super cute and the "mob" of kangaroos looks menacing! Definitely check this one out.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

A Paddling of Ducks
Marjorie Blain Parker
32 pages
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm feeling generous again...

Spring cleaning isn't really a "thing" in my house. I mean, we don't go around saying "time for Spring cleaning!" I do, however, get into that mood, once the nice weather hits, that I want things in my house to look and feel as nice as the outside. So...that means more books are leaving my shelves and you get them!

A couple of weeks ago I gave away a big ARC prize pack and I'm doing the same again. Here's what you'll get this time:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein
I Can't Keep My Own Secrets edited by Smith Magazine
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
Break by Hanna Moskowitz
Freaks and Revelations by Davida Willis Hurwin

To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post, saying you want to enter. Please include an email address, if you don't have a blog for me to count you at. All entries must be received by Tuesday night, March 23 at 11:59pm EST. Every single giveaway, I have people that enter too late. Pay attention to the date!

No extra entries this time, just one. Open to U.S. residents only. Thanks, happy entering!

All Unquiet Things (YA Review)

Jacket description:
"Carly: She was sweet. Smart. Self-destructive. She knew the secrets of Brighton Day School’s most privileged students. Secrets that got her killed.

Neily: Dumped by Carly for a notorious bad boy, Neily didn’t answer the phone call she made before she died. If he had, maybe he could have helped her. Now he can’t get the image of her lifeless body out of his mind.

Audrey: She’s the reason Carly got tangled up with Brighton’s fast crowd in the first place, and now she regrets it—especially since she’s convinced the police have put the wrong person in jail. Audrey thinks the murderer is someone at Brighton, and she wants Neily to help her find out who it is.

As reluctant allies Neily and Audrey dig into their shared past with Carly, her involvement with Brighton’s dark goings-on comes to light. But figuring out how Carly and her killer fit into the twisted drama will force Audrey and Neily to face hard truths about themselves and the girl they couldn’t save."
What a fantastic debut! It's so rare that a first time novelist really gets it, but Anna Jarzab obviously gets it. She knows the audience she's writing for and dives right into the YA mystery genre with an incredibly compelling story, well-written characters, and a plot that will keep your fingers flipping those pages as fast as you can.

The mystery portion of the book was done well enough that I had no idea how it was going to pan out (though once I did, I was kicking myself that it took me that long). All of the characters, though especially Audrey, were written realistically and in a manner that led me to really see how invested in her writing Jarzab was. You really want to know what happens to all of these teens and how their story plays out.
My one, teensy, criticism is about the last couple of pages. I don't want to give anything away, since that's the "big bang" of an ending, but I didn't quite believe in that part. It seemed a little rushed...the rest of the book had been slow to build (though in a good way) and the ending just happened so quickly, it seemed out of place. Other than that, loved it.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Hand this to just about any teen...boy or girl...and they'll enjoy it.

All Unquiet Things
Anna Jarzab
352 pages
Young Adult Fiction
Delacorte Press
January 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Happiness Project review

Jacket description:
"Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. 'The days are long, but the years are short,' she realized. 'Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter.' In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as Julie and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, and Eat, Pray, Love. With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdoms of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.

Rubin didn't have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instaed she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her-and what didn't.

Her conclusions are sometimes surprising-she finds that money can buy h appiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that 'treating' yourself can make you feel worse that venting bad feelings doesn't relieve them that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference-and they range from the practical to the profound."

My book club read this for the past month's selection and we were all pretty much in agreement with it. We all really enjoyed the first half and weren't so keen on the last half.

Gretchen Rubin has such a great idea in wanting to make herself happier by doing simple things with what she has. I really loved her organization chapter, wanting to simplify her life to ultimately increase her happiness and the tips that were throughout. Her chapter on marriage was profound and eye-opening and her "Pursue a Passion" chapter really hit home (she loves kid's books and formed a KidLit book club). Unfortunately, after those, I kinda felt like she went downhill.

The writing and the subject matter began to get repetitive and her somewhat self-righteous. She started being a little preachy with everything she had learned, rather than just informative and explanatory and I found myself skimming. Overall though, I found quite a few tips and tricks that I can apply to my own life, hopefully increasing my own happiness level.

I'm no longer going to apologize for the hobbies I have and I'm going to do what I enjoy, rather than what I think I SHOULD enjoy (like running, crocheting, or baking). I'm going to continue only reading 50 pages of a book before giving up if I'm not liking it and I'm going to quit nagging my husband about eating breakfast. He's a grown man...if he doesn't want to eat breakfast, he shouldn't have to. I'm also going to have an empty shelf in a closet (well that's one I'm working on).

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Definitely a discussion book, making it a good choice for a book club, but also a good individual read. Everyone can take something away from this book, I just felt the 2nd half was almost unnecessary.

The Happiness Project
Gretchen Rubin
320 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
December 2009
My own copy

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Freaks and Revelations (YA review)

Jacket description:
"This raw, moving novel follows two teenages--one a Mohawk-wearing, Pink-rocking seventeen-year-old neo-Nazi; the other a gay thirteen-year-old cast out by his family, hustling on the streets and trying to survive. The novel alternates perspectives, telling the story of the boys' lives before and after the violent crime that changed both their futures. This is a tragic, but ultimately inspirational journey of two polarized teens, their violent first meeting, and their peaceful reunion years later. It is an unforgettable story of survival and forgiveness, of the journey from fear and hate to hope and tolerance.

This powerful story is inspired by the real lives of Matthew Boger and Timonthy Zaal, who have shared their story on The Oprah Winfrey Show and NPR."

Explicit, gritty, and well-written are the terms that come to mind when describing Davida Willis Hurwin's novel for teens. There is a myriad of language, violence, sex, and drug use throughout this book, so much so that I found myself cringing as I turned the pages, but I just had to keep turning them. I wanted to know what happened to these boys and found myself deep in their lives...wanting to help save them both.

Being that I'm a bit of a prude when it comes to books...yeah, I'll admit it...I typically have a hard time enjoying a book filled with cursing, drug use, etc. But I think the fact that this particular book was based on a true story...that these boys actually lived these scary lives, helped to push my hyper-sensitivity to these things aside. I still don't know that I would hand this to my thirteen-year-old, but those in high school can certainly learn a thing or two from these boys and their experiences.

The writing is fantastic and as I mentioned, definitely will keep you turning pages. It's horrifying the things that these kids went through, especially the street life for such a young boy. I find it absolutely amazing that these boys, now men, work together after all years of struggling against hate and with hate, building tolerance in our country.
I encourage everyone to read this, perhaps just for your own learning process and intrigue, but also for a possible discussion opener with your children. This book could save someone's life.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
I want to reiterate the mature subject matter in this book. Please preview it before handing it off to your teen. 

Freaks and Revelations
Davida Willis Hurwin
240 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown
November 2009
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: An Unspeakable Crime

Jacket description:
"Was an innocent man wrongly accused of murder? On April 26, 1913, thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan planned to meet friends at a parade in Atlanta, Georgia. But first she stopped at the pencil factory where she worked to pick up her paycheck. Mary never left the building alive.

A black watchman found Mary's body brutally beaten and raped. Police arrested the watchman, but they weren't satisfied that he was the killer. Then they paid a visit to Leo Frank, the factory's superintendent, who was both a northerner and a Jew. Spurred on by the media frenzy and prejudices of the time, the detectives made Frank their prime suspect, one whose conviction would soothe the city's anger over the death of a young white girl.

The prosecution of Leo Frank was front-page news for two years, and Frank's lynching is still one of the most controversial incidents of the twentieth century. It marks a turning point in the history of racial and religious hatred in America, leading directly to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League and to the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan. Relying on primary source documents and painstaking research, award-winning novelist Elaine Alphin tells the true story of justice undone in America."

Ooh...real life murder mystery for young adults! I used to read all sorts of true crime stories through high school, most of which were probably way above my maturity level, so ones aimed at my age level during that time would have been incredibly useful.

This story of Mary Phagan's murder and the prosecution of Leo Frank is accompanied by lots of black and white photos and other extras such as major figures in the Leo Frank case, a timeline, and a glossary of legal terms. There is a photo of the lynching, just as a warning, but the writing about both the murder and the lynching is tastefully done.

A bit wordy at times, the author, Elaine Marie Alphin, tends to go a tad more in-depth than probably necessary. I found myself skimming several passages, but was overall pretty pleased with the result. I liked the presentation and the fact that the material had been made appropriate for teens, without leaving out a whole lot of "stuff."

Overall result: 3 out of 5
Good choice for fans of true crime and other mysteries.

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank
Elaine Marie Alphin
152 pages
Carolrdhoda Books
March 2010
Review copy received from publishing company

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

I hope you're enjoying your weekend as much as I am. Boy, has it been a busy one! My husband is leaving for a week in Haiti, bright and early in the morning (like 330am early), so we've been running around getting last minute items he needs and attempting to find a pair of durable sandals which is proving impossible. Anyways, I still wanted to share some of the picture books I enjoyed during this week! Hopefully you'll find something you like.

Willows Whispers by Lana Button and illustrator Tania Howells

Ok, so the story in this one is not exactly unique. I've seen tons of books that focus on a child that is shy and learns to speak up or stand up for themselves, which is exactly the premise of this one, however, I really liked the solution to the problem Willow faces. It was done well and somewhat differently from other stories I've seen around.

Willow speaks quietly and no one can ever hear her, because she just won't speak up. She creates a magic microphone that helps her to come out of her shell, which is probably the most simplistic and obvious way to master this particular hurtle. She made the microphone herself (so she knows it must work) and has no problem speaking up when she's using it. And when the time comes that it doesn't work anymore, Willow has realized that she doesn't need the microphone.

Again, not the most original, but definitely done well. I wasn't a huge fan of the illustrations, they were just ok for me. Definitely bold in color, but the simple pencil drawings were a bit boring.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Willows Whispers
Lana Button
32 pages
Picture Book
Kids Can Press
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Over at the Castle by Boni Ashburn and illustrator Kelly Murphy

This was definitely one of the more fun books I've read in a long time. A cute counting story with an addictive rhyming'll probably be saying it in your sleep, just a warning.

We get to learn about different jobs throughout a castle, while counting different items throughout the story. And we have an intriguing Mama and Baby dragon that keep popping up throughout, leaving us to wonder just what they're up to! Set to the folksy "Over in the Meadow" rhythm, verses like:

"Over at the castle, in the dungeon, still alive,
Scheme the old wily prisoner and his pet rats five.
'Plan!' says the prisoner. 'We plan!' say the five.
So they plan their great escape, in the dungeon, still alive."

will be stuck in your head for awhile!
Perfect for a story time with interesting illustrations and a fun concept! I really liked this one!
Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Over at the Castle
Boni Ashburn
32 pages
Picture Book
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Animal Crackers Fly the Coop by Kevin O'Malley

Kevin O'Malley is hysterical, let's just get that out of the way now. You can't NOT laugh at his books. And this one had me chuckling all the way through, both at the concept, the plot, and the illustrations.
Aimed at children a bit past normal "picture book age" we get to meet a chicken, a cat, a dog, and a cow, all setting out to be comedians. Each has been forced to leave their homes because farm animals are supposed to do animal things...not make jokes. They have quite the interesting, adventure filled journey, that you will seriously laugh all the way through.
I don't think kids under 6/7 will "get" the book. But those on the older side will get a kick out of it for sure. And the illustrations are fantastic! This one won't be out until April, so keep it on your radar!

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Animal Crackers Fly the Coop
Kevin O'Malley
40 pages
Picture Book
Walker Books
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Poetry Friday: An Egret's Day

Jacket description:
"Soaring, hunting, preening, nesting-a Great Egret rarely rests. This majestic bird, with its big feet, even bigger beak, and breathtaking, lacy wings, is a treat to watch. With his camera, photographer Jason Stemple takes us close to these magnificent creatures to witness their physical-and quirky-beauty as well as their daily habits and behavior, which most of us never get a chance to see.

Meanwhile, celebrated poet Jane Yolen offers her keen observations in carefully crafted poetry that is at once whimsical, thoughtful, and thought provoking. Brief facts about the bird accompany each poem."

It's like Poetry Friday and Non-Fiction Monday combined! Beautiful, detailed photographs of these amazing birds share space with poetry by one of the most well known authors/poets of our time, Jane Yolen, making for a really spectacular overall book.
If you're at all interested in egrets or just birds in general, photographer Jason Stemple has really done a magnificent job at capturing these serene birds going about daily activities. The photographs are large enough that you and your child can spend some time looking at different parts of the picture and talking about the birds.

The poetry by Yolen is short and sweet. I loved "Preening Egret" and "Close-Up," both of which are whimsical. Gotta have some whimsy in your day!

And the accompany facts about the egrets are quick and to-the-point, which really added something to the overall effect of the book. You can read a few poems, look at the beautiful photographs, and learn something from the factoids!

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

An Egret's Day
Jane Yolen
30 pages
April 2009
Review copy received from Kids Can Press

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One Crazy Summer (MG review)

Jacket description:
"Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.

Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, one crazy summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls in search of the mother who abandoned them—an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia."

So many people have been raving about this one and I was really pleased when I loved it as much as all of you! That doesn't always happen, as most of us know. Delphine is such an amazing character...realistic, driven, and bold. A fantastic role model for kids. She speaks her mind, but knows when to hold her tongue, keeps her sisters in line, and really just wants her mother to love her, despite Cecile's resistance to anything that has to do with her daughters.

And touching on the typically untouched subject of The Black Panthers was what made Rita Williams-Garcia's novel truly fantastic. We learn something about this group that definitely does not have a whole lot of middle grade fiction written about it, yet takes up a whole lot of our not-so-distant history. You won't even notice the educational aspects, as they're blended so seamlessly into this family drama.

Writing doesn't get much better than this and I would certainly expect this book to be winning some awards come next year. I was beyond impressed with the characters, notably Delphine, as well as the hard shell of a mother in Cecile. A huge recommendation to librarians, educators, kids, and adults alike.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 (I'd give it a 6 if I could)
Loved it!

One Crazy Summer
Rita Williams-Garcia
224 pages
Middle Grade
January 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Epitaph Road (YA review)

Jacket description:
"In 2067, an airborne virus wiped out 97 percent of the male population. Thirty years later, women rule the world and have ushered in a new golden age on Earth. Poverty, crime, war, and hunger have all disappeared. Growing up in this utopia, fourteen-year-old Kellen Dent feels isolated as one of the few males alive.

When a rumored outbreak of the virus threatens Kellen's outcast father, he knows that he must warn him of the coming danger. During his desperate race to find his dad, Kellen uncovers a secret so frightening that his life and the future of the world will never be the same."

I really enjoyed this one from David Patneaude. I felt the concept was unique, the dialogue very believable, and the characters, especially our MC, Kellen, were likable. I thought the author did an excellent job at creating a goosebump-inducing plot and filling it with enough twists and turns to keep us guessing. I love a good post-apocalyptic story and this one was creepy enough for me to really like.

It dragged in a few areas and was quite as exciting and page-turning as I had hoped, but I was engrossed in the story from start to finish and interested in what came next.
I do have to saw, I'm a bit disappointed in the cover change from the ARC to what appears to be the finished book on Amazon. I loved the cover (that was the first note I took) with an actual visual of Epitaph Road and the thousands of crosses. The new one is kinda boring. But...the publishing date isn't until March 23rd, so maybe I'll be surprised again.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
If you're a fan of Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer or anything of the like, definitely check it out.

Epitaph Road
David Patneaude
272 pages
Young Adult Fiction
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: Looking Closely Around the Pond

Jacket description:
"A series of close-up photographs transforms a pond into a wonderland for the imagination. Look very closely and imagine what the pictures might be. Then flip the page to discover a delightful variety of plants and animals that live in pond ecosystems. Children will have fun exploring hidden perspectives and reading smple descriptions of tadpoles, cattails, dragonflies, and more."

This book is such a great combination of fun and education. As the description indicates, we are given a small, up-close version of a photograph and asked to look closely and guess what it is in regards to items around a pond. The next page gives us the answer with facts about the plant, animal, or reptile and a beautiful full photograph.

We learn about water lilies, mallard ducks, and tadpoles all in a simple, easy-to-understand format. Your kids will have fun trying to guess what they're looking at and they'll learn something at the same time. Great for working on problem solving skills or as a companion to a unit on any of the animals and plants featured.
A whole lot of fun and education in one little book. The photographs are nicely done and the facts short and sweet.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Looking Closely Around the Pond
Frank Serafini
40 pages
Kids Can Press
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

The Agency: A Spy in the House (YA review)

Jacket description:
"Orphan Mary Quinn lives on the edge. Sentenced as a thief at the age of twelve, she's rescued from the gallows by a woman posing as a prison warden. In her new home, Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls, Mary acquires a singular education, fine manners, and a surprising opportunity. The school is a cover for the Agency-an elite, top secret corps of female investigators with a reputation for results-and at seventeen, Mary's about to join their ranks.

With London all but paralyzed by a noxious heat wave, Mary must work fast in the guise of a lady's companion to infiltrate a rich merchant's home with hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the Thorold household is full of dangerous secrets, and people are not what they seem-least of all to Mary."

Do you remember last week when I wrote about how in love with The Luxe series I was and how much I was going to miss it? Well I've found my replacement and I think it just may be better! From page 1 I was sucked into Mary's world of undercover investigation in 19th century London and was quickly flipping pages to see what scrap she got herself into next. I loved that she was a daring girl, always wanting to take risks and refusing to sit back and wait when there was an investigation to conduct.

Mary isn't perfect at her job, but she learns quickly what to do and what not to do, while almost being caught countless times, forming a bit of a crush on a forbidden man, and entrancing this reader the whole way through. I have a feeling her stubbornness and impulsive nature will be following her into future books.

Author Y.S. Lee is certainly talented in character writing, as well as creating a brilliantly addictive plot filled with twists and turns, as well as high fashion, old money, and handsome gentlemen. For a first novel I'm extremely impressed. If you're a fan of The Luxe or just a lover of good mysteries or historical fiction, this is a fantastic choice. Great writing, likable main character, and a truly enjoyable overall story. Truly an intelligent novel.  I can't wait for the next book in the series!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
The only reason I'm rating this with a 4, rather than a 5 is that I felt it was a bit long and wordy in areas. Kid lit authors seem to be getting lengthier in their books lately and I feel it a little unnecessary in a lot of cases, this being one of them. Still a fabulous book, which I recommend wholeheartedly and is already on my Cybils 2010 radar. 

The Agency: Spy in the House
Y.S. Lee
352 pages
Young Adult
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

News from the Kid lit book world

I haven't shared any news lately and for that, I'm very sorry! I read little tidbits every day and plan to post about them, but of course, fail miserably. Here's what's on my mind today:

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon is back and the organizers are looking for volunteers! I am totally free (at least at this point) to participate as a reader on April 10th and hope a lot of you will be joining in too. I never get as much reading done as I want to, but it's fun to participate, not to mention it's the one day I allow myself two donuts. If that's not something to look forward to, I don't know what is!  Head over here to see how you can help out.

I have a giveaway going on right now to win one of three copies of I,Q: Independence Hall, which ends tonight at 11:59EST. Join in before it's too late!

It's Oscar night! Are you excited? Do you watch? Do you even care about the winners, only watching for the dresses? I like a little of both, myself. I'm a big fan of watching the red carpet preshow, but I love award shows in general, especially when I've seen most of the movies, which I have this year. I have some favorites (Precious and Inglourious Basterds), but will enjoy watching no matter who wins what.

The NYT list of Children's Bestsellers is up and I'm not at all surprised to see Mr. Mo Willems with three titles on the list. Congrats!

And finally, if you didn't see my post that includes my husband's letter for help to send him to Haiti, I would love to invite you over to read it. If you aren't able to donate, we completely understand, but would love good vibes and prayers to be sent while he's gone. Only 7 days left!

Be Authentic: Exhibiting Real Faith in the Real World

Jacket description:
"Life is full of imitations. Which is why today's culture needs genuine, transparent people of God. Believers who crave real spiritual growth. But what does that look like? The book of Genesis provides the answer, where we find three men who experienced an authentic life: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. 

Part of Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe's best-selling "BE" commentary series, Be Authentic has now been updated with study questions and a new introduction by Ken Baugh."

I LOVE Warren Wiersbe's Bible study books. This "BE" series has been so eye-opening an enlightening, this one probably being my favorite. Focusing on Genesis 25-50, the author really dives deep into Jacob, Isaac, and Joseph's stories and tries to teach us the way to be truly authentic in our own faith. Each of these men had serious problems throughout their lives, showcased in the thirteen chapters, and their growth in authentic faith through God.

The study questions at the end of each chapter are perfect for a group setting, but worked well as just an individual study as well. I did it myself, but can see how each question can really open up a big discussion within a Bible study group. The scriptural study is immensely helpful in truly understanding God's word and I've found myself referencing back to previous "BE" books when doing other Bible studies.

I've also reviewed Be Hopeful and read several others. These are definitely worth your time and at $12.00, they aren't badly priced at all. I'm a fan!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

Be Authentic
Warren Wiersbe
224 pages
Christian Non-Fiction
David C. Cook
January 2010
Review copy received from B&B Media Group

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Happy Saturday everyone! I know I'm glad it's the weekend and I'm sure you all are too. Four fun selections for you this week...well...three fun and one kind of serious, but still worth your time. Enjoy!

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon by Randall de Seve and illustrator Jen Corace

Mathilda is a sheep, surrounded by other sheep. Boring, gray, and dull. Until she spots an orange balloon flying by and she decides that SHE is an orange balloon. Of course, the other sheep just laugh at her, but Mathilda realizes that she can be absolutely anything she wants to be, as long as she can imagine it.

Oh, Mathilda, you're so inspiring! This cute read aloud is definitely a unique spin on the classic "you can do it all" theme. It will be funny for your kids to imagine this small, gray sheep as a big, orange balloon, but then the message kicks in, opening up a nice discussion for your family. Kids can be anything they want to be!

Ooh and Jen Corace, the illustrator, also illustrated all of Amy Krause Rosenthal's "Little" books. How fun is that?!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Mathilda and the Orange Balloon
Randall de Seve
32 pages
Picture Book
Balzer + Bray
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Captain Small Pig by Martin Waddell and illustrator Susan Varley

The simple yet sweet story of a pig that just wants an adventure. And an adventure he gets when he convinces Turkey and Goat to go out for a row in a boat. That is, until Pig falls asleep. Uh-oh...

A charming little story that is a nice choice for bedtime. The illustrators are adorable and the insistence of this cute little pig is completely inspiring. I really enjoyed this one! Great for a family read aloud before bed.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Captain Small Pig
Martin Waddell
32 pages
Picture book
Peachtree Publishers
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper

This was my laugh-out-loud pick of the week. And in a time where cupcakes seem to be all the rage, this just fits right in.

So, Vanilla Cupcake is feeling incredibly plain compared to all of his fancy siblings. There's Polka-Dot Cupcake and Pink Princess Cupcake and Chocolaty Chocolate Cupcake...and then, plain Vanilla. He begins to describe his sadness to Candle, who attempts to make suggestions to spice up Vanilla a bit, each more humorous than the last.

Harper's illustrations go perfectly with the hilariousness of the story. This would make a fantastic read aloud to your story time!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

Charise Mericle Harper
32 pages
Picture Book
January 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser and illustrator Barry Root

This is really the story of a plastic bag. Yep! A plastic bag that travels all over, being used and then not used, passing by environmentally responsible people and those not-so-responsible. And when the plastic bags story comes full circle, readers will hopefully understand the importance of recycling plastic bags.

So yes, this is a "message" book. Recycle your plastic bags, but more importantly, don't use them at all. The reason I liked it so much is that it intertwines the bag's story with that of one young girl, determined to do right by her planet, without even realizing it.
The book is quite long for young readers, lots of text, so I would recommend it to your older kiddos. A great message that's beautifully written. Nice for Earth Day next month!

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 (It would have been a 4 if it wasn't so long)

Bag in the Wind
Ted Kooser
48 pages
Picture Book
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A letter from my husband...about Haiti

This is not something I would typically post and really contemplated not even doing so. However, there are hundreds of thousands of people that need help in Haiti and my sweet husband is heading over there on a last minute missions trip with our church (like...."he got 10 days notice," last minute) and unfortunately, the cost is a lot higher than we had planned on when we signed him up to go. We have 9 days to raise a whole lot of money and I thought if I could use my blog as an outlet at all, then I should do so.

Coming from my husband's heart:

"Family & Friends,

     For the past 6 weeks I have been pursuing the chance to somehow get to Haiti to help out wherever I can.  Unfortunately I have exhausted all efforts through military channels to get there and with my current job there is just no ability to obtain a deployment for this humanitarian effort.  However, now it seems I have secured a spot to travel to on a missions trip to Haiti with my church.  Since the earthquake hit the Port Au Prince area in January, Fairfax Community Church has sent a couple teams to assist in whatever way they could.  Up until now, those teams consisted of medical personnel.  That need has not gone away, but now that the crisis status is starting to fade from the public eye, there is still an enormous need there in other areas.  I currently have the opportunity to go and lend myself to these needs, which is fantastic, though will cost a lot more than we previously expected.

     Unfortunately, our church is no longer able to send people with their "Haiti Relief" funds, as those funds are quickly dwindling due to needs there.  That said, I will need to pay the cost of travel and expenses for the week I am there.  That cost is approximately $1,000.  So, I'm asking  for any help you may be able to provide in order to make this happen.

    This opportunity is something that is very much pulling at my heart right now.  Most of you have probably already given in some way to Haiti, so I'm not asking for much.  I'm a little embarrassed actually to even have to ask, but if there is any way you could help Amanda and I supplement this cost I would greatly appreciate it.

     You all probably have been asked to give for other needs in the past.  There are so many walks, runs, and fundraisers for great causes out there, so I'd like to try and let you know exactly what I'll be doing.  I'm not yet very confident of specifics, but I do know I will be doing IT work.  There is currently a big need to re-establish permanent communications throughout Haiti.  What I will be working on for the week (and hopefully after, via remote connection) is an internet-via-satellite connection and configuration of servers and workstations for those who need them immediately.  From what I hear there is more work to be done and I'm ready to take that on as well.  

     So, the bad news is that I will need to leave the 13th of this month, (yes in 9 days!!).  If you are interested in helping out please respond, as there are a few ways you'll be able to. We have a Paypal account for immediate donations or other ways as well.

     I in no means want this to seem like pressure to do anything either, I am very aware of how hard times are for everyone economically right now. Even more than money, I will need your prayers for a safe journey and return, as well as for God to use me as He sees fit while in Haiti. 

Thank you!"

He's a sweet guy...and a keeper for sure. I totally understand if this is not something any of you are interested in helping with and I promise I will not be at all offended if I do not receive a single email. However, if you are interested in helping to offset our out-of-pocket cost, you can email me at and I'll send you the information. Thanks so much everyone!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I,Q Book 2 Sneak Peeks and a giveaway!

Waaaay back in October of 2008, I raved about a little YA book called I,Q: Independence Hall by Roland Smith. I found it thrilling, page-turning, and a clean read for teens. Great for reluctant readers. Here's a bit more of what I said:

"Once I sat down and began reading this young adult novel, I had to keep making excuses to come back to it. I brought it into a restaurant, read it on a "hike" with the hubby and the dog, and kept turning the light back on at night to continue it. The thrill ride starts with the first page and doesn't ever let up. From page to page the reader isn't quite sure who the bad guys are or if everyone is a bad guy! The writing is fantastic, perfect for teens and middle graders, and the characters really display true emotion. If this were to actually happen to a couple of kids, I can see them reacting in exactly the way Q and Angela do.

My favorite part of the book is the fact that there is really a perfect amount of techy talk, action, and thrills, but not too much of any of them. So many books in this genre are filled with characters getting killed and bad language, but I, Q really keeps everything in perspective. There is talk of guns and some slight violence, but I would have no problem recommending this to my teens and middle school patrons and would have confidence telling their parents it is a safe read."

You can read my full review here.

Well, to promote I,Q: The White House, the second title in this series, Sleeping Bear Press is giving us some sneak peeks into the book, which is being published later this Spring. So far, there are two sneak peeks up...both verrrry interesting teasers, and you can go here to find them.

Sleeping Bear Press also thought it would be nice to give away THREE copies of the first book, I, Q: Independence Hall, to get those new to the series geared up for the release of book 2. How nice is that?

To enter:
Leave a comment on this post by Sunday night, March 7th at 11:59pm Eastern time. Be sure to leave an email address where I can reach you, if you don't have a blog.

An extra entry if you Tweet this and an extra entry if you're ALREADY a follower. I know how many I have!

Please leave a separate comment for EACH entry. Three winners will be chosen Monday morning and the publisher will send you a copy of the book! Good luck!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Project 100 update

Almost a year ago, I joined the Fill in the Gaps, Project 100 Challenge, hoping to read 100 books I've had on my TBR list for a long, long time. A lot of other participants focused on classics or books that everyone "should read" in their lifetimes, but I just wanted to knock books off my list that have been sitting on it, without attention for a months or years.

Below is my list, with strike-throughs on the ones I've gotten through this last 10 months and in red are the ones that I just gave up on after giving them at least 50 pages worth of reading effort.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
5. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
6. The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
7. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
8. The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
9. Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
10. Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
11. Wild Roses by Deb Caletti
12. The Queen of Everything by Deb Caletti
13. Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti
14. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
15. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
16. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
17. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
18. My Recycled Pets by Randi Berger
19. Fifteen Legs by Bonnie Silva
20. Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacie O'Brien
21. Pawprints of Katrina by Cathy Scott
22. Not Left Behind: Rescuing the Pets of New Orleans by Best Friends Animal Society
23. Dog Culture: Writers on the Character of Canines by Ken Foster
24. Bandit by Vicky Hearne
25. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls
26. Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss
27. Leftovers by Laura Weiss
28. Once Upon a Crime by Michael Buckley
29. Magic and Other Misdemeanors by Michael Buckley
30. Tales From the Hood by Michael Buckley
31. The Everafter War by Michael Buckley
32. The Letters by Sean Hanzelik
33. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
34. Alabama Moon by Watt Key
35. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
36. A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
36. A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck
38. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
39. Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
40. Things Hoped For by Andrew Clements
41. Things That Are by Andrew Clements
42. Frindle by Andrew Clements
43. Mercy by Jodi Picoult
44. Memoirs from a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
45. Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
46. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
47. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
48. The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
49. Hoot by Carl Hiaason
50. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
51. Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
52. Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull
53. Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull
54. Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
55. The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
56. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
57. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
58. The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
59. So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
60. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
61. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
62. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
63. Living Like Ed by Ed Begley
64. Green Christmas by Jennifer Basye Sander
65. Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano
66. Wake up and Smell the Planet by Grist Magazine
67. Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Gelman
68. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
69. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
70. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
71. A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter
72. The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
73. Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner
74. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
75. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
76. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
77. The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian
78. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
79. Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
80. Ever by Gail Carson Levine
81. Princess Ben by Catherine Murdock
82. The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
83. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
84. Letters from the Inside by John Marsden
85. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
86. Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
87. Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga
88. A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin
89. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
90. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
91. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
92. The Alchemyst: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
93. The Magician: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
94. The Sorceress: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

95. One Month to Live: 30 Days to a No-Regrets Life by Kerry and Chris Shook
96. One Year to an Organized Life by Regina Leeds
97. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
98. America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money by Steve and Annette Economides
99. A Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
100.An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore

 So far I've read 21 of the books and given up on 2. Not too bad! 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Screen Play (Christian Fiction review)

Jacket description:
"Sometimes the person farthest away from you is the one closest to your heart . . .

At thirty, Harper fears her chances for a thriving career and tru love are both fading fast.  But when Harper is offered an unexpected role in a Broadway play - as understudy to New York's biggest diva-she wonders if everything is about to change.

Hoping to find love in NYC, Harper reluctantly signs up for an online dating site-but the only match Harper is even remotely interested in lives thousands of miles away.  An actress who doesn't act, searching for love with someone she's never seen, Harper longs for God to show her He's still listening.

Through the contemporary text-message world of Internet dating, Harper learns it's possible to care for someone outside her own universe.  And as she reaches out through the impersonal world of cyberspace, she becomes more aware than ever of god reaching out to her . . ."

Ok, I have to be honest with you all and say that I did not have the highest hopes for this book. I was really expecting the story to come off as cheesy and unrealistically positive, as so many Christian fiction titles do. And really, it was quite the opposite. Bright, likable characters, a great faith basis without being over-the-top, and a nice romance.

An engaging plot with the faith aspects sewn in subtly, but effectively. A main character in Harper that readers can believe, both in her actions throughout the novel and in her dialogue and emotions. I found myself engrossed in the story and continuing to want to know what happens to these people (uh...sequel please?). It's inspirational and somewhat romantic, though not overly so. Someone else's review compared author Chris Coppernoll to Nicholas Sparks. Uhhh no. Sappy and weepy this is not. Beautifully written, it is.

Even if you aren't typically one to pick up a Christian fiction novel, but enjoy a good contemporary story, I would give Screen Play a shot. God definitely plays a large role in the character's lives, but it's not "in-your-face" at all. I think Coppernoll is a fantastic writer and look forward to reading more from him.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Screen Play: A Novel
Chris Coppernoll
352 pages
Christian Fiction
David C. Cook
January 2010
Review copy received from TBB Media

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Winner, winner!

Guess who gets a whole box of ARCs from yours truly? That would be Mel of Mel's Books and Info. Congratulations Mel!! Be sure to email me your mailing info and I'll get the books out this week. If I don't hear from you by Friday night, the books will go to someone else.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Oh...and I just wanted to clarify, that since I didn't specifically ask for a separate comment for each entry (which would have been waaaay easier), I did write out each individual entry for each person, so every who did the extras got the extra entries.

Another contest will be happening soon, keep checking back!