Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Paper Daughter (YA review)

Jacket description:"Maggie Chen was born with ink in her blood. Her journalist father has fired her imagination with the thrill of the newsroom, and she is eager to start her summer internship at the Heralf. But before Maggie can even begin, her father is killed in a hit-and-run accident. Despite her grief, she's determined to honor him by following in his footsteps at the newspaper. 

Paper DaughterWhen Maggie's research for her first story reveals illegal activity that may be linked to her father, she knows she must clear his name. Drawn to Seattle's Chinatown, she discovers far more than she expects: secrets, lies, and a connection to the Chine Exclusion Era. Using all of Maggie must confront everything she's always assumed about herself and her father-and each new discovery reveals more about her ethnicity, her father's hidden life, and a family she never knew."

Every once in awhile, we all need a good mystery, teens included. Not a fantasy filled with angels, werewolves, or vampires, or something supernatural, I mean a good, old-fashioned, sleuth mystery...and Jeanette Ingold's novel completely delivers.

Maggie is a great main character, realistic in the manner that she deals with her grief, yet wants to try to get on with her life at the same time. She's great at figuring out clues and when she starts getting in deeper than planned, she becomes a little afraid...completely understandable and believable.

Readers will learn something from the story as well, as it's filled with rich information about "paper" daughters and sons from China. It's incredibly interesting and written in an appealing format that is not at all dry or technical. Just a great, straightforward mystery with a lot of cool information woven in.

I will definitely be seeking out more from Ingold in the future. I really enjoyed her simplistic writing style and the realism that poured off the pages. Very impressive!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Paper Daughter
Jeanette Ingold
224 pages
Young Adult Fiction
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!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: How to Clean a Hippopotamus

Seriously...can you go wrong with a Steve Jenkins book? I think not. His latest, with Robin Page, is a really look look at animal relationships, one that both you AND the kiddos can learn something from.

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships starts off with a fun title and just gets better from there. Focusing on "symbiosis," a process where very different animals form relationships, a whole range of animals and their often strange partners are showcased.

We learn about remora fish attaching themselves to tiger sharks, feeding off the algae and parasites on the shark's skin. And the boxer crab being protected by sea anemones. And, as the title refers to, African helmeted turtles cleaning the algae and water plants off the skin of hippos, and in turn, the hippos let the turtle bask in the sun on its back.

These relationships are all throughout the animal kingdom, though most a lot of us never would have thought of. We would typically consider most of these animals to be out to eat each other (like the badger/wolf relationship or the ant/caterpillar relationship), leaving this book to teach us, both adults and children, quite a bit about animal partnerships in the wild.

Jenkins' illustrations, as always, are wonderful, and add to the text perfectly. The pages have a blocked layout, which was interesting, not something we see every day, and children will be drawn to its design.

Extra information on all the animals is included in the back, which is nice for expansion on the subject, always a plus.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
32 pages
May 2010
Review copy provided by 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, May 23, 2010

While you're at BEA, I'm on vacation too!

I'll admit, I'm ridiculously jealous of all of you bloggers heading to BEA. I want to go SO badly, I can almost taste it, especially because I now live in D.C., a brief skip and a jump on the train to NYC. But....it was either go to BEA and live a book lover's dream or take an actual vacation with my husband for our anniversary. Kinda had to go with the husband.

So, I strategically planned our vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina to coincide with BEA, so I didn't feel TOO bad about missing it. I'll be relaxing on the beach or on the deck of our rented house, reading lots of books. And no review books are allowed to come with me on this trip, only books that I own that I've been saving to read "when I have time." Well no time like this right? On the list I have House Rules by Jodi Picoult, Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner, The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, and a few others. Hopefully I"ll have lots to review when I make it back on Friday.

I have posts set up with the week, so the blog will still be up. See you all next Saturday! Have fun at BEA if you're going!

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, May 22, 2010

The Gastronomy of Marriage review

Jacket description:
"When Michelle meets Rich-like her, a closet writer with a fierce love of good books and good food-their single-mindedness at the table draws them together, and meals become a stage for their long courtship. Finally engaged, they move in together, but sitting down to dinner each night-while working at careers, trying to write, and falling intto the routines that come to define a home-soon feels like something far different.

The Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and LoveWho plans the meals? Who cooks, who shops, who does the dishes? After Rich takes additional work to pay for their wedding, Michelle offers to do his half of the cooking chores-which along with the newness of their living together, challenges her feelings about what it means to be a modern wife.

As they save and plan for a wedding, the nightly compromises, small generosities, and stubborn stakings of ground that take place around the dinner table offer a context in which Michelle considers what she's learned form themarriages around her, and what she and Rich might create for themselves."

I was completely enchanted by Michelle Maisto's writing and her beautiful honesty when it came to food and love. I found myself constantly comparing my husband and I to she and Rich...we're so alike! Our husbands are both the picky ones in the relationship, we're the planners of the meals (if our husbands let us plan), and we feel this need to be great wives without compromising a bit of ourselves.

I must admit, I was more than a bit impressed with Maisto's knowledge of food and cooking, though she was just entering a marriage and hadn't had all that much experience. She knows a whole lot more than I do about different cooking methods, ingredients, and dishes in general, so my reading was a learning experience that made me salivate! I couldn't wait to see what they figured out to make for dinner each night and the recipes included were such a nice touch. Things that I've never made or thought to make, but written out in such an easy-to-make manner that I am definitely going to be trying some of them...namely the Apple Cake and the Artichoke Pie. Yum!

I felt included in the engagement and wedding planning, as Maisto's writing was friendly and inclusive. Really, I think we could be all be great friends, though I would most definitely leave the cooking up to them! Both she and Rich managed to plan full dinner parties in no time at all, while planning their wedding, working full-time jobs, and getting to know each others quirks.

I really enjoyed reading this one and couldn't wait to get back to it each time I had to put it down.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Great for any foodie!

The Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and Love
Michelle Maisto
256 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
Random House
September 2009
Book borrowed from my local libraryThe Gastronomy of Marriage: A Memoir of Food and Love

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, May 21, 2010

The Best and Hardest Thing (YA review)

Jacket description:
"Fifteen-year-old Molly Biden has always been studious, dependable, some might even say saintly. And she’s sick of herself. So when she spots mysterious bad boy Grady Dillon, she devises a plan to make herself over into someone new, someone who will attract Grady’s attention. She succeeds—but a little too well. When Molly discovers she’s pregnant, she’s forced to make the hardest choice of her life."

Pat Brisson has written this book entirely in poetry form, using all different types of poetry, from sonnets to haikus to free verse, which is just so, so cool. I've read a lot of novels in verse, but I can't think of another book I've come across that has so many different types of poems, with a single plot. Or maybe I'm just completely blanking, which I'm sure some of you will help me out with. Either way, I loved the style!

A beautiful job was done by the author at starting this story slowly and making it build. The poems she wrote and the manner she chose to present them matter at every single turn and help the story to get the reaction I think she wanted. For being the first young adult book she's ever written, job well done!

I wasn't completely enthralled with Molly's story and as a teen pregnancy "issue" book it wasn't the best I've read or the most intriguing. It was, however, presented in a unique format that can not only bring up the issue of teen pregnancy and not changing for a guy, but also teach about different poetry forms in the process. Teens can just pick it up and read it for pleasure or teachers could chose to use it as a teaching tool.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

The Best and Hardest Thing
Pat Brisson
240 pages
Young Adult/Poetry
May 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, May 20, 2010

Audio "reads" for May/April

I totally blanked on doing an audiobook round-up for April, so this post will include both months. I actually accomplished a lot more of these than usual in the last couple of months, due to 2 road trips and lots of gardening (which is prime listening time!).

If you "read" and reviewed any audiobooks this month, make sure to head over to Abby (the) Librarian's blog on or before June 1st and let her know for AudioSynced, a monthly round-up of audiobooks from around the blogosphere. An awesome feature :)

I think I'll start off with the not-so-great listen of the month. I usually don't write "negative" reviews, but I love this series so much, that I need those out there to know that the audio is not necessarily the way to go.

So, Aaron and I drove to Chicago in early April for my nephew's baptism and on the way there and back I FINALLY convinced him to try out the Percy Jackson series, obviously starting with The Lightning Thief. I've been wanting Aaron to read it (he was a big Harry Potter fan) and I figured listening to it would be a great way for him to start out...and I could revisit Camp Halfblood along the way. Not a good plan.

The reader, Jesse Bernstein, did not do a good job. I'm being nice, because honestly, it can't possibly be all of his fault...someone was behind the scenes directing him as to how to say things right? But in all honesty, I was incredibly disappointed. The voices were pretty awful, namely Luke's. I cannot express how upset I was with Luke and the "surfer-dude" voice he was given. I specifically remember a passage where Luke was infuriated with Percy and was yelling at him and starting to give clues as to his connections with Hades and the specific word Riordan wrote in reference to Luke's voice was "shrill." And Bernstein speaks Luke's lines as if he were high on marijuana. Nothing shrill or angry or panicked about it.

Another issue was that everything seemed to move so slowly. I remember tearing through the pages when I read it the first time and I (and unfortunately Aaron) was pretty bored. So...I'm not a fan of this one at all.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
It's still a good story, so therefore, the 2.

The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan, read by Jesse Bernstein
Middle Grade
Listening Library
June 2005
Borrowed from my local library

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg and narrator Molly Ringwald was my next listen and absolutely delightful. I loved quirky Margaret Rose and her even quirkier Uncles and I loved Ringwald as a narrator (I'm itching to find out if she's done more). Great pacing and a sweet ending.

I, unfortunately, can't think of a single middle grader that I would hand this to who would "get it." Konigsburg, to me at least, is one of those authors that adults want kids to love, because she smart and witty and an amazing writer, but the age group she writes for just doesn't dig it. Maybe that's just me. The writing is fantastic, but over the head of most 11/12 year olds. Again, maybe just me.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
I'm slowly working my way through Konigsburg's work and loving it...but I guess I don't seem kids loving it as much.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place
E.L. Konigsburg, read by Molly Ringwald
Middle Grade
Random House Audio
February 2004
Borrowed from my local library

And my absolute favorite for the month? Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and read by Bernadette Dunne. Oh gosh. How could I have waited this long to experience this book?? The writing was exquisite...so descriptive and thoughtful. And it was obvious the Golden had a background in Japanese studies, you could just tell in his methods of talking about different places, customs, foods, etc.

As a narrator, Dunne was one of the best I had ever heard. She did a fantastic job and had such a nice voice to listen to. I wanted to keep the story going, long after I got out of the car, as she kept me completely intrigued, no matter what was going on in the story. And this was a long one...18 discs!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
A great one to listen to, since I didn't know the proper pronunciation of the Japanese words and names. Loved it!

Memoirs of a Geisha
Arthur Golden
Adult Fiction
Random House Audio
November 2005
Borrowed from my local library

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, May 18, 2010

Restoring Harmony (YA review)

Jacket description (from ARC):
"Heading off on her own to a big American city might have been a fun adventure for sixteen-year-old Molly McClure in the good old days before the Collapse, when nearly all the oil ran out; but in 2041, when family calamities strike all at once and Molly must leave her isolated farming island in Canada for the very first time, the world she meets is anything but fun. Food is in short supply, crime is rampant, and once-bustling cities stand abandoned and crumbling-danger lurking around every corner.

No one is as they seem, and Molly has to make some fast, tough choices about whom to trust, especially when a dangerous crime organization sets her in their sights. Luckily, Molly is a determined, can-do kind of girl, and with the help of a handsome stranger, she may just make it home alive."

Joelle Anthony did a great job coming up with the concept for an engaging, fast-paced, dystopian novel. This is a quick read, one you can easily sit down with and finish in a sitting, and definitely a page-turner. Running out of oil is how the Collapse happened, and especially in these times in our own country, that could someday be a reality. Getting a glimpse into what life could be like, should that ever happen, was more than a bit nail-biting!

I did have some trouble with the believability of the plot and the actions of the characters. I had a hard time being convinced that even after a economic collapse, parents would send their child from Canada to Oregon, with little money and virtually no way to stay in contact, no matter what the circumstances were.

The crime ring was describe a bit outlandishly as well and Spill's involvement and then dis-involvement was a little too smooth.

I did really like Molly as a main character, especially her talent and passion for her fiddle and the manner in which she was determined to look on the bright side, no matter what was happening to her. I saw a little bit of myself in that! She was smart and spunky, making a great heroine in an just-ok plot.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
If you're a fan of the dystopian genre, check it out.

Restoring Harmony
Joelle Anthony
320 pages
Young Adult
May 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!

Winner, winner!

Ooooh don't shake your fist at me! I know my giveaway of all those lovely ARCs ended Sunday night, but I forgot about it. Bad blogger!

Thank you for all of the super sweet wishes for my anniversary, they were wonderful! I shared each with my husband and he thought it was super cool people actually paid attention to our anniversary....and then I told him it was only because I was giving you all books ;)

Before I announce the winner, I just wanted to send out a reminder as to what ARCs are good for and not good for. Please do not attempt to sell them. Really...you wouldn't get much anyways, but still! I take for granted that I understand this and most other bloggers do, but some really don't understand that ARCs are unfinished copies, complete with typos, missing illustrations, etc. They're great for reviewing and that's about it. When you're done, either give them away as I did or place them in your recycling bin. The publisher and the environment will thank you!

Ok now, the winner! Congratulations to The Literary Wife! I've sent you an email, but if I don't hear back from you by Friday, I'll be picking another winner. Thanks to all for entering!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: The Hive Detectives

I am now in love with honey bees. Well, not really, but I am just completely fascinated with them. These insects have a complete society, with a hierarchy, building plans, and social network that easily rivals anything I've ever seen before. SO cool!

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz is part of the amazing "Scientists in the Field" series. If you have yet to pick up a book in this series, you must run out to the library now and grab them. Such fantastic information with brilliant photographs.

In this installment, readers are first given a glimpse into a working beehive and what it's like to be a beekeeper. We learn about supplies, including thick gloves, clothing, and the ever-important smoke machine, that are necessary before heading in to tend to the honey bees and their product.

We then move along to Dave Hackenburg and his missing bees. Over 20 million of his honey bees just vanished in 2006, sparking the news stories about missing honey bees all over the place...a huge problem which is continuing today.

Throughout the course of the book, readers get to meet different beekeepers and bee scientists all over the country, all committed to finding out what is causing colony collapse disorder among honey bees. Some are simply trying to make their living bottling honey and others are in it for the scientific angle. All are incredibly intriguing.

Readers learn about the actual bees making the honey, the process of making honey once the bees do their part, possible enemies of the bee, all while viewing beautiful photography by Loree Griffin Burns. A mystery of sorts, that the reader is able to follow along with and continue researching after they finish with this book.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Middle grade teachers can use this in a unit on bees or honey, or move a bit outside of the box and use it for an environmental catastrophe unit. Children may not see bees as vital to our environment, but this book definitely will open some eyes and allow kids to see how very important they are.

The Hive Detectives: Chronicles of a Honey Bee Catastrophe
Loree Griffin Burns
80 pages
May 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, May 16, 2010

Have you signed up yet?

I've been lucky enough to be able to participate in the MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, the last couple of years and am anxious to get going again! It's a great weekend to relax, knock a whole bunch of books of the TBR pile, eat yummy food, and just enjoy reading with a virtual community. Even if you've never participated before, you should definitely give it a shot...so much fun!

I've never read the entire 48 hours, not even close, but I read enough to feel relaxed by the end of the weekend....not to mention accomplished! I also read for a charity giving either $1 per book or a $1 per hour, whichever is more. This year I think I'm going to be reading for Reading Is Fundamental, so you would like to sponsor me, that would be awesome!

The challenge is the first weekend in June, so get your stacks of books ready! Can't wait to see you there :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Some random reads I enjoyed this week. Hopefully you find something to enjoy with your own family!

That Cat Can't Stay by Thad Krasnesky and illustrator David Parkins

It's mom and the kids vs. dad! Mom keeps adopting stray cats, much to the kids' delight, and Dad keeps saying no with sillier and sillier reasons each time. The text rhymes extremely well, flowing nicely and repeating the perfect parts over and over again. Your kids will probably be repeating it back to you by the end.

David Parkins' illustrations were an excellent fit for the silly story, making me chuckle even more along the way. Great facial expressions on all, including the animals!

Read this one out loud to your kids or use it for storytime. Great read aloud!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Flashlight Press has impressed me again!

That Cat Can't Stay
Thad Krasnesky
32 pages
Picture Book
Flashlight Press
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin and illustrator A.G. Ford

A sweet, uplifting story with amazing illustrations, this one would be great for a unit on bullying, or as a supplement to learning about customs in South Africa. The main character and his friends play a game that children in the U.S. are knowledgeable on, while dealing with bullies in a calm and mature manner.

The illustrations are what really take the cake in this book. Reminiscent of work by Kadir Nelson, I couldn't stop looking at the beautiful pages. The story is certainly not exciting or funny, but it most definitely is inspirational and discussion-provoking.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Mina Javaherbin
40 pages
Picture Book
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Al Abdullah, with Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator Tricia Tusa

I must admit, I was a bit skeptical about the Queen writing a children's book, but was very pleasantly surprised with the final result. Beautiful writing, sweet story, and fantastic illustrations courtesy of Tusa.

With the subtlety underlying metaphor of "intolerance leads to war," the book would be great for both starting a discussion on accepting one another's differences OR just a simple read between families. The message is not so "in-your-face" that kids will pick up on it right away, so you can chose whether to bring it up or not.

Probably one of my favorite books of the year so far.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Go Queen Rania!

The Sandwich Swap
Queen Rania Al Abdullah with Kelly DiPucchio
32 pages
Picture Book
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!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Giveaway for YOU, on MY Anniversary!

So, today is my anniversary! Aaron and I have been married for 3 years, though I swear, it feels like 50. We've been together since high school and though it may sound cliche, have been through so, so much together (yeah, yeah, the cheese is starting). Ups, downs, super downs, you name, Aaron and I did it together and I could never, ever think of a better person to spend my days with. Endure some photos of our wedding and then I have some goodies for you ;)
Aren't we sweet?? Happy Anniversary Aaron!!

So, I have ARCs coming out of my ears and thought today was as good a day as any to give a whole bunch of good ones away. Here's what one of you will get:

Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman
Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Paisley Hanover Kisses and Tells by Cameron Tuttle
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
This World We Live in by Susan Beth Pfeffer
For Keeps by Natasha Friend
Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
Wings by Aprilynne Pike
Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
The Best and Hardest Thing by Pat Brisson

To enter, leave a comment on this post by Sunday night, 5/16 at 11:59pm. Be sure to leave your email address if you do not have a blog!

U.S. entrants only please.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors (YA review)

Jacket description:
"Death. It surrounds Pancho. His father, in an accident. His sister, murdered. His own plans to trace her killer. And D.Q.-a guy Pancho's age who's dying of cancer. That is, if he'll ever shut up.

Love. D.Q. is writing the Death Warrior Manifesto, a guide to living out his last days fully. He needs just one more thing: the love of the beautiful Marisol. But as Pancho tracks down his sister's murderer, he finds himself falling for Marisol as well...

Faith. And choices that seemed right and straightforward become tender, tentative, real. While D. Q> faces his own crisis of doubt, Pancho is inexorably drawn to a decision: to revenge his sister and her death or to embrace the way of the Death Warrior and choose life."

Well, Francisco X. Stork has done it again and written a compelling, thought provoking novel which will lead you to question the ways of the world and fall in love with his characters.

I spent four months in Albuquerque, New Mexico while my son was in the hospital, where much of this novel takes place and have even stayed several nights at Casa Esperanza before moving into the Ronald McDonald House. All of the places Pancho and D.Q. talk about and go to, the streets Pancho walks down, the UNM Children's Hospital where D.Q. receives his treatment...it's all familiar to me, helping the story connect on a somewhat different level. It dredged up some memories, most unpleasant, but also allowed me to relive some of those months through a struggling young man's eyes.

Pancho is a tough boy and comes across just as so. You can see into his heart though, deep down where the sensitivity lies, and Stork brings that to the surface with perfect pacing and believability.

There are some flaws in the book. First of all, the cover is not entirely appealing. I'm not sure I would give it a second glance if I were a teen looking for the "next great read." And at times, D.Q. and his description of just what the Death Warrior Manifesto is gets a little too "deep" and unlike the thoughts of most teenagers, even if D.Q. is wise beyond his years.

I can't say I liked it as much as Marcelo, but that's ok. It's different, with a unique setting and some powerful characters. I can definitely see both guys and girls getting into this one, as they could with Marcelo, which is awesome.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Francisco X. Stork
352 pages
Young Adult
Arthur A. Levine
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, May 9, 2010

One Good Dog review

Jacket description:
"One note. Three words. And Adam March's well-ordered life, and well-laid plans, are shattered.

The very definition of a hard-nosed businessman, Adam March has no room in his life for anything but the cold drive to succeed. Not for his social-climbing wife for his rebellious teenage daughter. Then, in an instant, he loses everything. Due to an untimely collision of arrogance, stress, circumstance, and a momentary loss of self-control, Adam finds himself alone, unemployed, and reduced to bussing tables in a homeless shelter, serving men he'd always gone out of his way to avoid.

One instant of opportunity. Enough for one dog to find his freedom.

Chance was born in an inner-city cellar, a mix of pit bull and God-knows-what. Bred to fight, and damn good at it, he lived in a dank, dark, and vicious world-a world that "dog eat dog" doesn't begin to describe. Not that he wished for something better; that world was all he knew. But when the moment presented itself, Chance made the most of it in a new life on the street, for a little while.

Two lives. Two second chances. A twist of fate that brings two lost souls together."

Oh gosh, tear jerker! Anything with a sad, lost dog that finds hope in humans pulls at my dog-loving heart strings. And this really was a good story, even minus my bias regarding pit bulls.

The fact that both Adam and Chance had very similar stories, regardless of being human vs. dog was great. Both had to fight their way through life to become successful and both managed to lose it all. Author Wilson really got that connection to come across without seeming forced or contrite. The pacing was perfect and everything was believable.

Easy to read, light, but full of emotion, this is definitely one I would recommend to ALL adult readers. I really appreciated Wilson's honest portrayal of the pit bull breed and the stereotypes associated with them and I think the book will be an educational journey for those non-pit owners out there.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
I do have to correct the author on one teensy thing....there is no such thing as an ugly pit bull ;)

One Good Dog
Susan Wilson
320 pages
Adult fiction
St. Martin's Press
March 2010
Book borrowed from my local library

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, May 8, 2010

Picture Book Saturday: Just for Moms!

With Mother's Day being tomorrow and all (yay for all you mamas out there!), I wanted to showcase a couple of cute books that have feature moms. Enjoy!

Just Like Mama by Leslea Newman and illustrator Julia Gorton

Covering the fairly simple concept of a child's love for all her mother does for her, this title would be a nice choice for your younger children. It features a lot of repetition and a bit of rhyming, all focusing on the fun things a mama does for her girl, like making apple pancakes and hot cocoa, braiding her hair, and playing dress-up.

The illustrations are bold and unique, making each page really interesting to look at. And (for once) I loved the choice of font for the text. Typically I don't like flowy, cursive-like fonts, but this one really fits with the quirky illustrations.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Just Like Mama
Leslea Newman
32 pages
Picture Book
Abrams Books
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher

A Boy Had a Mother Who Bought Him a Hat by Karla Kuskin and illustrator Kevin Hawkes

First of all, Kevin Hawkes. Love him! His illustrations are always awesome and this book is no exception. So really, we could just stop there.

But...the story is super cute in this one as well. Apparently it was first published in 1976, but I'm so glad they've reissued it with Hawkes illustrations, it's just so fun! A boy with a mother that buys him everything, including a hat, an elephant, and a cello, and as the items start to build up the boy continues to carry everything with him.

With rhymes and story-flow similar to The Napping House, this one is a fantastic read aloud! Your storytime kids will be cracking up as the mom keeps lovingly buying her son all of this stuff and he lovingly carries it all around. Sweet, funny, and beautifully illustrated.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

A Boy Had a Mother Who Bought Him a Hat
Karla Kuskin
32 pages
Picture Book
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 purchas
e price. Thanks!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Poetry Friday: Sharing the Seasons

Jacket description:
"In this sparkling collection of classic quotations and forty-eight poems-twelve for each of the four seasons-readers will view the year in ways they never thought of before. Spring births a polliwog that becomes a full-grown frog; in summer, wildflowers choreograph a song-and-dance extravaganza; autumn's apples are found in generations of people's pockets; and winter's snowfall makes inanimate objects more beautiful than one could ever imagine."

We have poems by Carl Sandburg, Karla Kuskin, J. Patrick Lewis, and Marilyn Singer (among many, many others), each with fun, sweet, and beautiful tributes to the seasons. The poem/quotation selections were done by Lee Bennett Hopkins and the illustrations were beautifully done by David Diaz.

I do have some favorites, though all of them are really lovely and perfect for sharing with your students or children throughout the year. "Apple Pockets" by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater really captured the essence of Autumn for me....the tastes, sounds, and feelings of the season. I also loved "Winter" by Lee Bennett Hopkins and "April is a Dog's Dream" by Marilyn Singer.

The illustrations really make the poem collections pop, causing you to linger on each page a bit longer than you may have without the beautiful colors and designs.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
A really nice poetry anthology to have in the classroom or even just on your home shelves. Pick one or two a day in the beginning of each season and the book will last your students/children all year long.

Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems
Lee Bennett Hopkins
96 pages
Margaret McElderry Books
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, May 6, 2010

Reading updates

Well the weather in in Northern Virginia has been just beautiful this week. Warm, sunny, breezy, not-too-humid. Perfect reading weather. The husband and I splurged on a nice hammock this past weekend, so I've been spending an hour or two each day, soaking up the sun (trying to get rid of the ghostly white skin before the beach vacation), reading some fantastic books.

What have I been reading?? Well, my book club has The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Zafon as our pick this month and I've just been savoring every, single word. It's been awhile since I've read true literary fiction and not something on the lighter side (or kid side) and apparently I've really missed having to read and think at the same time. This book came out a few years ago, so if you haven't grabbed it yet, I highly recommend you do so. I'll have a review out in the next week or so, once I've finally finished it. SO good.

I'm also working my way through One Good Dog by Susan Wilson. A lighter read, but one of the main characters is a stray pit bull and therefore, I love it. I hug my Shae a bit closer while I read that one.

On my nightstand I have From Cover to Cover by Kathleen T. Horning, a guide to "Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books." I've only read a few pages, but I'm hoping it helps me to write better reviews. As of now I really just write out my thoughts and opinions, not really taking a specific reviewing approach, but eventually I might like to get a bit more professional.

I have an enormous pile of books to review, as always. I'm typically reading about 4 books at anytime...one adult title, one Christian title, one middle grade, one YA. And since I'm also done with both adult books I'm reading right now (both from the library) I'm going to be starting to glance at more of the review titles this afternoon. Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White, The Best and Hardest Thing by Pat Brisson, and The Wish Stealers by Tracey Trivas are on the top of the pile. Read them? Like them?

Ooooh and I've actually purchased a couple of books in the past few days, which doesn't happen very often. House Rules by Jodi Picoult, my favorite adult author was my first buy. It came out in March and I still don't own it...craziness. And today I bought Rick Riordan's latest, The Red Pyramid. I know there's some skepticism going around about how this series is also filled with mythology, but I don't care. I loved Percy Jackson and

So that's what's going on in my reading life....what's going on in yours?

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, May 5, 2010

New Alphabet books from SBP

I've written quite a few reviews of the different Alphabet series titles Sleeping Bear Press publishes and ya'll know how much I love them. Reviewing them over and over again can get a bit repetitive, but a few have been released lately that I at least wanted to let you know about. Such a great series!

S is for Smithsonian by Marie and Roland Smith with illustrator Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen is part of the "America's Museum Alphabet" series and was released in April and covers all things Smithsonian, including a really nice map of all the museums on the National Mall in D.C. I've been to all of these, which made it more fun to flip through and see what the authors covered.

G is for Gladiator: An Ancient Rome Alphabet by Debbie and Michael Shoulders and illusrator Victor Juhasz (April) and B is for Bagpipes: A Scotland Alphabet (February) are both part of the "Discover the World" series. Each covers all sorts of facts and people and places around the specified country. AND there's a companion website for these books at www.discovertheworldbooks.com. It's interactive for the kiddos and has recipes, travel tips, links, games, etc.

If you haven't checked out these Alphabet books yet, you're definitely missing out. They cover so much information in a fun, inviting manner aimed at young
children through middle grade. There are tons of them, featuring all sorts of countries, cultures, and things, you're bound to find something that is intriguing to your children.

All three of these were review copies. Thanks Sleeping Bear 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!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: Talking Tails

Jacket description:
"From our earliest beginnings, we have shared our lives with animals. Explore the ties that people and their pets have formed as Ann Love and Jane Drake take us from prehistoric times to present day. Discover purebreds and hybrids, rare and unusual pets, horses, birds, fish, guinea pigs, reptiles, and rodents.

Meet Jasper the cat, who disappears for ten months; Polly the parrot, who lives through the Klondike Gold Rush to be 126 years old by belting back whiskey, swearing, and biting miners; and Stellar the dog, who barks warnings when his owner is about to have a seizure. Learn whether you are a Dog person or a Cat person, how to pick and care for your pet, which animals are most closely linked to their wild roots, and who created the first golden retrievers."

The vast amount of information this book covers is really impressive. As the description indicates, we get chapters on all sorts of cool pet stuff, ranging from exotic animals to choosing the right dog/cat, to different animal stories. Lots is covered in easy, readable language aimed at the middle grade set.

Fun facts are to be found throughout...did you know that Julius Caesar had a pet giraffe? A timeline runs across the bottom of all the pages, spitting out facts concerning animals, their breeding, their owners, World leaders and their pets, etc. Kids that are really into animals will gobble this one up and those that are just into the dog/cat thing will enjoy it too.

I wasn't a huge fan of the illustrations or format, only because I don't think they popped enough, allowing the vast amount of text to take over. Some vibrant colors would have been a nice addition to the pages and made them a little less heavy.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Libraries and teachers could really use a copy or two of this on their shelves.

Talking Tails: The Incredibly Connection Between People and Their Pets
Ann Love & Jane Drake
80 pages
Tundra 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!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots review

Jacket description (from ARC):
"Seventeen-year-old Jenna may hail from the 'burbs of New Jersey, but environmental activism is her life. So when the opportunity arises to spend the summer in the wilds of Canada with her hippie godmother, Susie, this Green Teen jumps at the chance to explore this nature she's heard so much about-and the cute, plaid-wearing boys she's certain roam wild and free. But after a few unpleasant run-ins with local wildlife )from a larger-than-life moose to Susie's sullen Goth stepdaughter, Fiona, to a hot but hostile boy named Reeve), Jenna realizes that her long-held ideals, like vegetarianism and conservation, don't play so well with this population of real outdoorsmen.

With the help of a dusty survival guide, Jenna begins to navigate the wilderness, and those who call it home-but can she learn to navigate the surprising turns of her heart?"

This is the second book I've read by author Abby McDonald, the first being Sophomore Swap, and the second I was completely pleased with. Like Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and Meg Cabot, McDonald has turned into one of those authors that just get teen girls. She understands how to write about them, their dialogue, their thought processes, and the situations they put themselves in and then creates these awesome stories that read as if they were from a real, modern day girl's diary.

Jenna is a realistic character, with a unique (for her young age) passion for the environment that I admire and really hope rubs off on other teens. Her obsession with saving the planet is challenged and she becomes a bit lost within herself, which she is slowly able to overcome. There's a bit of romance, some family drama, environmentalism (without being overkill), and just a real "feel good" vibe throughout the whole story.

One thing I really liked about certain parts of the book was the inclusion of quotes at the beginning of chapters from the mountain-man survival guide Jenna uses to help her figure out the small town characters and their quirkiness throughout the book. They weren't at the beginning of every chapter, which I think would have been great (though I did have an ARC, maybe they added it in the finished copy), but they definitely made me chuckle each time I found one. Clever addition, for sure.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Definitely a chick-lit novel and a really nice one. Great characters, good plot. Hand it to Dessen and Scott fans. Oooh and I loved the title :)

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots
Abby McDonald
304 pages
Young Adult
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!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Taking the month of April off, in terms of Picture Book Saturday, was much needed, but I'm back with some great titles lined up for the next few weeks. Unfortunately, I missed the week of Earth Day (and for an eco-geek that's a big day), so for today I'm going to share some recent "earthy" reads that you and your kiddos will hopefully enjoy and find useful.

The Earth Book by Todd Parr

Starting us off simply, this one is aimed for your younger children. Bright, incredibly bold colors accompany tips about helping to save the planet. The sentences are short and catchy and you can't help but look at the pages. So eye catching!

The ideas such as riding bikes and walking rather than riding in a car, recycling, turning the water off, etc. are all simple things children can do to help save the planet. A great way to introduce kids to conservation.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Printed with soy ink on recycled materials. Awesome touch!

The Earth Book
Todd Parr
40 pages
Picture Book
Little, Brown
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Such a sweet, imaginative book. Not only does our little narrator have a passion for gardening and planting things like her mom, she also has a fantastic imagination, creating her own dream garden in her mind. Henkes beautiful, soft drawings go very nicely with the story.

This would be a nice read aloud for a Spring storytime...and we all know that Kevin Henkes is always a crowd pleaser. I can see this one popping up during award season as well.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

My Garden
Kevin Henkes
40 pages
Picture Book
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Who Will Plant a Tree? by Jerry Pallotta and illustrator Tom Leonard

This is one is super cool! It teaches children (and adults!) about seed dispersal in simple, basic terms paired with absolutely beautiful illustrations. Understanding just how trees are planted is something that most of us take for granted, but the fact that a squirrel planting an acorn and producing an oak tree or an apple seed being tossed by a hungry bear and ultimately becoming an apple tree is something that will really wow a child.

Pair this with a seed planting activity or even with a tree planting if you can. Talk about the reasons trees are important to us as humans and animals and ways to protect them. So much discussion could come out of this little book!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Another stellar title from Sleeping Bear Press

Who Will Plant a Tree?
Jerry Pallotta
32 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
May 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!