Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Boneshaker review

Get ready for a gusher! Yep, this is going to be one of those gushing reviews, where I insist you immediately go out and buy/order/borrow the described book. Like now. You've been warned.

Our heroine, Natalie, lives in Arcane, Missouri, where odd stories of past happenings are told like bedtime stories. Her mother, who can hardly seem to get out of bed anymore, used to fill Natalie's head with the tales and always made them seem magical. When Dr. Limberleg's Nostrum Fair and Technological Medicine Show comes into town with strange machines and even stranger people, Natalie knows that something big is about to happen in little Arcane.

See, Natalie loves machines, especially the automata she builds with her father. But, when these unexplainable machines roll into town with the fair, along with claims of potions that heal any disease or ailment, she doesn't understand how they could possibly work...either the machines or the potions. Something is not right and Natalie, along with a few friends, is determined to figure it out in order to save her family and her town.

I've never quite come across a book like this one. Steampunk has not yet infiltrated my reading life, as it has so many of yours, but I fell in love with Kate Milford's writing and the fantastic illustrations done by Andrea Offermann. We are given a strong, yet unconfident heroine, which makes her completely realistic in this land of historical fantasy, as well as a story, unlike any other. Old town life is mixed with strange machines, a love of family and community, and (of course) some demons. Gotta love it!

Offermann's illustrations, though few, left me awestruck. I stared at each page for several minutes, scrutinizing the drawings and hoping to find hidden story clues. Milford is incredibly talented, both at engaging a reader through her words and through her drawings. Very impressive.

I did find myself having to read carefully, as there are a lot of characters to keep straight, as well as a lot of big concepts. At times, it made for some heavy reading, but I loved made me think. That being said, the book (according to Amazon and Booklist) is marketed towards middle graders (5th-8th), but I feel it would much better suited for young adults. Some of your more advanced middle grade readers will easily get through it, but the complexity of the story may go over the heads of some younger ones.  

The mystery within the story is very well done and message of believing in one's self comes out without being thrown in your face. I absolutely loved this one.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

The Boneshaker
Kate Milford
384 pages
Clarion Books
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!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Non-Fiction Monday: Additions to Scientists in the Field

As a teacher, librarian, or homeschooling parent, if you have yet to pick up a "Scientists in the Field" book, you are really missing out. Each one has such an impressive amount of information, laid out in a readable fashion, and littered with beautiful photographs that really help to illustrate the text. I can't imagine a library keeping these on their shelves for very will snap them up as they walk by...the covers are awesome and totally inviting, and after flipping through, parents and teachers will be impressed with the educational level.

Two new ones are out (or coming out this summer) that I want to fill you in on so you'll go snatch them up at the stores or encourage your librarians to order them!

Project Seahorse by Pamela S. Turner (photographs by Scott Tuason) is definitely all things seahorse! We get to learn about how father seahorses actually give birth (go daddies!!) and how the seahorses can change their colors to blend in with their surroundings and an look into the seahorse trade. We're also given an behind-the-scenes glance at the lives and careers of some of the scientists studying seahorses around the world and helping to preserve their environments.

Included in the back is a glossary, resource section, and a list of ways that we can help seahorses in their environments, by doing simple things.

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot is by Sy Montgomery (wahoo!) with photographs by Nic Bishop. In this one, we venture to New Zealand, one of the most beautiful countries in the world (and I'm saying that without ever having been there) to learn about how scientists study the Kakapo parrot and help to save the species from extinction. The feats these scientist go through are truly inspiring and just may jumpstart a career mindset for your kids!

This one is a bit longer, with even more amazing photographs and lots of fact boxes inserted in the pages. I'm a big fact box fan! I read it from cover to cover and am already itching to know more about this really cool bird...

Again, I'm really endorsing this series and insist you run out and see for yourselves what I'm talking about. Educational, with inspirational stories, all written on topics and animals we don't often get such beautiful books written on. History is mixed with contemporary, cultural stories mixed with animal rescue. What could possibly be better than this in non-fiction?!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 for both
Seriously go check them out. 

Project Seahorse
Pamela S. Turner
64 pages
Houghton Mifflin
July 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Kakapo Rescue
Sy Montgomery
80 pages
Houghton Mifflin
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!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

Happy Saturday! It's time for another round of picture books! These are ones I've enjoyed this past week and hopefully you'll find at least one that you and your family can enjoy together.

LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

As most of us avid readers (or parents) know, tons of ABC books are published each year and really, most of them are incredibly similar. This is the first I've come across in quite some time that gives a unique and interesting layout while still teaching the same ABC lesson.

Each letter has peas doing jobs beginning with that letter. "A" has astronauts and acrobats, "E" has eaters and explorers, and "K" has kayakers, kickers, and kings. It reads like a story, rather than a song, and all sorts of different jobs are exhibited, which is a neat discussion starter. The flow is perfect.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
A great book for libraries and classrooms. One of my new favorite alphabet stories!

Keith Baker
40 pages
Picture Book
Beach Lane
April 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

The Jellybeans and the Big Book Bonanza by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

If you have a little reader in the house...or better yet, a reader that loves some pink, this book is for that child! Filled with books, pink, and glitter, it's a cutesy read with a little overpowering of a message, but the story flows smoothly and lets little ones know that books are indeed, fun.

We get the message of "everyone is different" and "it's ok to be afraid" mixed with finding the perfect book for each personality. The illustrations are cute and spunky and the font for the text is a great match.

Little girls are going to love the sparkly glitter and the pink, along with the idea of a group of girlfriends choosing books together. And all the girls happily jump to help their friend when she's afraid to present her book to the class. A very nice read aloud for your little princess, but again, a little heavy on the message.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

The Jellybeans and the Book Bonanza
Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans
32 pages
Picture Book
March 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

The Handkerchief Quilt by Carol Crane and Gary Palmer

A really sweet, touching story of a teacher determined to do whatever she can to help her school. When Miss Anderson walks into school one day and sees that the pipes have burst and flooded the entire school, ruining books, classrooms, and supplies, she knows something must be done to raise money. She takes all of the handkerchiefs she has received from students over the years and convinces the community to come together and help sew a quilt to sell as a fundraiser.

I love a good "you can make a difference" story and this one is perfect for reading to your older children. The message is prominent, but not in-your-face and the overall attitude of Miss Anderson...and really, the book as a so upbeat and positive, it's contagious.

After reading it, you may want to start a discussion with your kids about how you might be able to do a simple fundraiser to help their school! The classrooms may not be flooded, but most schools can always use a bit of help.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

The Handkerchief Quilt
Carol Crane
32 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
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!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Invisible Girl review

Well if you want a depressing story, you've come to the right place (and if you don't want a depressing story, you should read this one anyways, it's worth it!).  Stephanie comes from a poor family, one that is not rich with money or with love, as she is repeatedly beaten by her alcoholic mother while her father plays the role of coward. She throws herself into books, memorizing complicated vocabulary that she refers to as "Warrior Words" that help her to block the abuse from her mind. When Stephanie's mother leaves the family, her father is completely distraught and sends Stephanie to live with family friends in ritzy Los Angeles.

Having learned the art of lying from her mother, Stephanie uses dramatic stories to win over new friends. She isn't quite sure how to interact with these rich, snobby kids or the gorgeous boys that actually seem to take an interest in her. Before she knows it, Stephanie has more "frenemies" than she knows what to do with...and in reality, she really has no idea what this new world of hers is even about, not to mention the craziness of the life she left behind.

I was afraid that Stephanie's weaknesses brought on by her mother's abuse, would hinder her character throughout the entire story, but that wasn't totally the case. Though unable to fully understand the predicaments she was in and the consequences of the lies she was telling to fit in, Stephanie came across as realistic and honest. She does eventually start the healing process within herself and her confidence level grows, though it takes most of the book to get to that point. At first, I was a little annoyed by the slow progression, but in reality, abuse victims take a long time to heal, so of course, Stephanie would too.

For as drawn out as the rest of the story was, the ending came rather quickly for my liking. It was just kinda there and then done, rather than flowing nicely into the rest of the body of the book. I was, however,  really pleased with how Stone decided to connect Amal and Stephanie and then leave room for continuation of their friendship. I wouldn't mind seeing an "Amal" story in the future! 

Ooh...and for the record? I like the finished cover SO much better than the ARC, which looked like a replica of Willow by Julia Hoban. Great book, but I'm all for individuality.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
An "issue" book with some Gossip Girl mixed in.

Invisible Girl
Mary Hanlon Stone
288 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!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

When I listen to audiobooks

Jen over at Devourer of Books is hosting Audiobook Week (so cool!) and is having us all join in a discussion each day, regarding audiobooks. Today's discussion is about when we listen to audiobooks.

When I first started listening, it was only in the car. This was before the time of Ipods and I couldn't use my Discman to listen to an entire audiobook in the allotted 2 week checkout period of my local library. In the car? No problem.

Now, it's mainly when I walk my few miles each day or while I'm cleaning around the house. Occasionally, if I take a trip up to my hometown in NY myself, I'll listen to a book then or if my husband is with me we may be able to agree on one to listen to. But for the most part, I listen while I work out, clean, and cook. I'm crossing my fingers I get an interview for this library position I just applied for, so I can listen in the car again!

Head on over and join the discussion!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Audiobook meme

Jen over at Devourer of Books is hosting Audiobook Week (so cool!) and is having us all join in a discussion each day, regarding audiobooks. Today's discussion is really a simple audiobook meme. Enjoy!

Audiobook are you currently reading/you read most recently: On my Ipod right now I have Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, read by Grayce Wey.

Impressions?: I'm completely enthralled by the story and find myself stealing moments to put the earbuds back in! I typically listen while I walk or clean, but it's been so darn hot lately that walking is just not in the picture. Cleaning however? Always in the picture. The narration is fantastic and the overall book could really appeal to adults, whom it's marketed to, or teens.

How long you’ve been listening to audiobooks: About 7 years. I started really listening frequently when I was about 20, driving back and forth to college, but I'm sure I listened to them a time or two before that.

First audiobook you ever listened to: I'm fairly certain it was Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs. I listened to mostly mystery/thrillers when I first started out, as I was driving endlessly boring back roads. I needed something fast-paced.

Favorite audiobook title: Ooooh difficult! I really loved The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and all of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. But I also favor the Twilight series and a Series of Unfortunate Events. Oh and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Goodness, too tough to pick one!

Favorite narrator: I really enjoyed Vane Millon who narrated The Forest of Hands and Teeth, as well as Ilyana Kadushin who narrated the Twilight series.

How do you choose what to listen to versus read? I typically listen to adult titles...ones that I won't review on my blog (or give really short reviews to). It takes me awhile to get through an audiobook, so I don't like to listen to titles that I'm supposed to be reviewing.

Sometimes, it just has to do with what's available. Our library system takes FOREVER to get new YA/Children's titles on audio, so I usually end up going for classics or older reads at those age levels.

Head on over and join in the discussion!

A Place for Delta review

Well, it's boiling outside here in Northern Virginia, but Melissa Walker's A Place for Delta transported me to the freezing land of Alaska, where eleven-year-old Joseph is staying with his Aunt Kate. She wants him to help her take care of an orphaned polar bear cub up at her research camp. A dream job for Joseph and lots of other kids. Who doesn't want to take care of a polar bear?

When Joseph gets there, he makes a friend in Eskimo girl Ada, who accompanies him on the mystery solving adventure of a lifetime. Everywhere the pair goes, another mystery turns up and the polar bear cub, Delta is in danger of being killed. They have to solve these mysteries in order to keep the cub (and possibly themselves) alive.

We go back and forth between Northern Georgia and the Appalachian Mountains and the Arctic Ocean up in Alaska while Joseph and Ada fight to keep Delta alive. Animal fans and mystery fans alike will be entertained by the story and adults will enjoy how clean the read is. Not only is the educational level rather high, but no cursing or objectionable material.

A glossary is included in the back, which was nice for some of the harder words, but I don't think a necessity. The "hard" words weren't bold or anything, so kids would be on their own finding them out anyways. I did appreciate the inclusion of additional resources and some websites of other children helping to save wildlife and our planet.

The writing of the story and the characters was very well done and resulted in an easy-to-read story with believable and likable characters. Kids will be able to relate to Joseph, as well as be excited by the adventures he is able to embark on and the mission he takes on. The mystery aspect wasn't all that hard to solve, however, for preteens, the complexity was spot-on. The message was wonderful and the personal journey for Joseph was touching, without being mushy. 

I, unfortunately, was not a fan of the cover at all. If I were 12 and looking for something to read, black and gray sketch on the front would definitely not be attention grabbing. This is supposed to be the first in a series and I hope that the covers for the additional books are rethought.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5

A Place for Delta
Melissa Walker
270 pages
Middle Grade
Whale Tale Press
June 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, June 22, 2010

Reviewing audiobooks

Jen over at Devourer of Books is hosting Audiobook Week (so cool!) and is having us all join in a discussion each day, regarding audiobooks. Today's discussion centers around how to review an audiobook and whether we review them any differently.

I don't really think I review the audiobooks I listen to much differently than the physical books I read. The only actual difference in my overall experience with the book is whether or not I enjoyed the narrator, so I'll definitely write-up a paragraph regarding how I felt about he or she's performance. Other than that, I don't necessarily "review" any differently.

That being said, whereas we can just pick up a book and decide whether or not we like the writing/characters/plot, with an audiobook the narrator plays a huge role. He or she can easily make or break a book by they way the narration is done. For example, I am absolutely in love with Shannon Hales "Books of Bayern" series on audio, because the full cast does such an amazing job. Same with my current read, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, read by Grayce Wey...fantastic. The "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series by Rick Riordan? Not so great. The narration by Jesse Bernstein was terrible. I only listened to the first book and was done...thank goodness it wasn't my first experience with the series!

Head on over and join the discussion!

Scars (YA review)

Jacket description (from ARC):

"Kendra hasn't felt safe since devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse began surfacing, especially because she still can't remember the most important detail-her abuser's identity. She knows someone is always watching, following her and leaving menacing messages, and making her fear for her life. Kendra cuts to relieve the pressure; it's how she copes. Her mother is too self-absorbed to listen, so Kendra finds support elsewhere: from her therapist and her art teacher; from Sandy, a family friend who encourages her brilliant, expressive painting; and from Meghan, a friend and maybe more. Will they ever learn the truth about Kendra's terrible secret?"

From about the fifth page in, I could tell this was not going to be just another "issue" book and that something deeper and more truthful was going on in the Kendra's story. Author Cheryl Rainfield suffered from both sexual abuse and a history of cutting to cope, as she explains in her author's note at the end of the story. And that fact is very apparent, through Kendra's thoughts and emotions, her reactions to certain situations, and her determination to hide from her history. The connection between the author and her main character is visible and beautifully written.

Rainfield also manages to weave other teen issues into this story, like parents that don't listen, love, heartbreak, and desire. Though having suffered through a horrendous ordeal as a child and continuing to suffer through the not knowing, the fear of her attacker coming for her, and the uncertainty of her future, Kendra represents a whole lot of teens out there and can really be used as an inspiration...that hope is out there, that problems can be dealt with, and that there are people in the world that care and will listen.

Therapy for Kendra is incredibly helpful and the scenes which Carolyn is in are some of the best. There is not a simple "cure" for victims of abuse of any kind and that is shown through the sessions Kendra has to fight through, week after week. The raw emotion in these scenes, as well as the scenes in which Kendra and her mother are arguing are standouts.

I think after teens read this, seemingly locked doors could open up for discussion, conversations that really need to be had, and get teens help they desperately need. And if nothing else, this will give teens and parents signs to watch for and help them help others. All libraries should have a copy.

Author Cheryl Rainfield will be having a Twitter chat tomorrow night, 6/23 at 7pm EST. You can follow @cherylrainfield and  event details are online here:

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Beautiful writing, raw emotion, and hope, most of all.

Cheryl Rainfield
250 pages
Young Adult
Westside 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!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Audiobooks? My take...

Jen over at Devourer of Books is hosting Audiobook Week (so cool!) and is having us all join in a discussion each day, regarding audiobooks. Today's question is a simple one: Why Audiobooks?

Well, I've been a voracious reader since around the age of 4 and have always had the age-old problem of so many books, so little time. Back in the college days, I was driving an hour to and from my school and started the Kathy Reichs forensic series on audio. It was my first venture into the world of audiobooks and I was completely hooked. That two hours in the car flew by, as I listened to Temperence Brennan and her team solve murders around the country. Those audiobooks solved my problem of not having any time to read, due to car time/homework/job/etc.

Now that I mainly focus on YA/Children's books to read and review, my audio choices are typically from adult authors...all those books that I want to read, but may not be reviewing for the blog. I listen mainly while working out, but also when out in the garden, doing those pesky household chores, cooking, and occasionally on our trips to NY. It's fantastic to be able to accomplish tasks and still get some reading done in the process. I also have at least one audiobook going, while reading three physical books. Keeps things interesting!

Head over and join the discussion, lots of great answers!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nomansland review

In Foundland, there are no men. Women run the land and have created a society that they believe is perfect...and protected from men, their enemy.  Life is difficult and filled with strict rules, hard work, and lots of secrets, and when Keller and several other girls come across a secret place filled with items of the past, they are no longer certain whether Foundland is as perfect and honorable as they have been raised to believe.

"We Foundlanders will save ourselves and replenish this earth. Look what we have done with what we have. Our orchards, our fields, our unviolated borders. We have built a world for ourselves against all adversity. We have survived Tribulation for generations. We have rid ourselves of all deviants, the deviant men who would have otherwise ruled us. We have foiled attempts by the enemy to invade our territories, the enemy who would penetrate and subdue us, extinguish our very being. Be proud, my women! Be proud! We alone have been charged with healing the earth!" (pg.163 from ARC)

High heels, make-up, and magazines are unknown and confusing objects to these girls, but they bring up questions and concerns as to why they must live the way they do. Why are men so bad? Why is life so dull and colorless? A whole lot of introspection going on here. The pace picked up quite a bit around page 130, but it took a little while to get there.

Built up to be a great dystopian novel, I was a bit disappointed in the slow pacing, but came to realize that author Lesley Hauge wasn't necessarily writing an action/thriller, she was writing something more thoughtful and intelligent, with characters that had a lot in their heads, though not always a lot to say.

Keller was an incredibly melancholy character, but she had a lot of great thinking moments. Like this one, after finding a house filled with found objects from the past:

"And I also know why I feel this overwhelming sadness when I am inside it. It should have been a place of life, and yet there is no life here. Just dead objects, one room after another, too strange, too many to name, in rooms that once must have held voices, the smell of cooking, maybe laughter, maybe song." (pg. 134 from ARC)

She believes in the rules, as they're all she's ever known and is very reluctant to not follow them. She's one of the first female characters, in dystopian/action novels such as these, that isn't completely strong-willed and ready to fight against leaders. Keller accepts her life, though not always satisfied with it.

Definitely enjoyed when the girls were discovering objects from the past. Through the author's descriptions, the reader is able to guess what item has been found, including mascara, stiletto heels, and a bathing suit. All absolute unknowns to these girls, though very common in our society.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
So, all in all, a little slow moving, but worth it. 

Lesley Hauge
256 pages
Young Adult
Henry Holt
June 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, June 15, 2010

Forget-Her-Nots review

Author Amy Brecount White has taken the whole "supernatural" theme to a girlier level with Forget-Her-Nots. Being a teen and possessing a specific power or ability is nothing new in today's YA fiction, however this one, with the main character of 14-year-old Laurel and her ability to use flowers to influence emotions, is certainly unique, and most definitely female oriented.

The setting, being a boarding school and all, will certainly help sell the story and the concept of supernatural mixed with a bit of appropriate romance and mystery will attract teens to the book. Flowers are a really cool focal point and Laurel having a gift to use them in ways that most cannot, is intriguing.

Laurel, however, was lacking quite a bit of personality. There were several scenes where she had the chance to be turned into a really likable, awesome main character, and instead she was just kinda "eh." Even the romance portion, where she develops (or should I say, instantly has) a crush on a boy from a neighboring school was really downplayed. We weren't given a true basis for why she even liked him in the first was just all of a sudden, love.

The actual writing, as a whole, was good, but there were a lot portions of dialogue that I found myself wanting rewritten. Scenes with Justin and with Ms. Suarez often felt they were reading script, rather than speaking from their own minds. This was a pretty dialogue heavy book, so I would have liked to have seen it a little more refined.

Though I wasn't too keen on Laurel, I did really enjoy the whole floral theme. Definitely unique and something I doubt we'll see again. It was a really nice change from vampires, angels, werewolves, and fairies, as our YA shelves seem completely inundated with those subjects. Seeing a gift in an everyday girl, based on flowers of all things, was a lot of fun.  A portion in the back of the book even gives a rundown of different flowers and their meanings, which would be handy to use when giving flowers to someone. Start wondering when someone gives you a bouquet of foxglove and basil!

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Not a blockbuster, but entertaining for a beachy read.

Amy Brecount White
384 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!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour review

Jacket description:
"Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother has decided to move across the country and needs Amy to get their car from California to Connecticut. There's just one small problem: since her dad died this past spring, Amy hasn't been able to get behind the wheel. Enter Roger, the nineteen-year-old son of an old family friend, who turns out to be unexpectedly cute...and dealing with some baggage of his own.

Meeting new people and coming to terms with her father's death were not what Amy had planned on this trip. And traveling the Loneliest Road in America, seeing the Colorado mountains, crossing the Kansas plains, and visiting diners, dingy motels, and Graceland were definitely not on the itinerary. But as they drive, Amy finds that the people you least expected are the ones you may need the most-- and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home."

I may be a bit premature in saying this being that it's only mid-June, but this book is the ultimate "summer" read...and probably the ultimate road trip book as well. I was so impressed by Amy' as a character and really felt that connection you need with a character to care about where they end up. I not only cared, I was so sad to see her go, when the story was over.

The whole road trip aspect of the plot was fantastic. Amy and Roger saw more of America than a lot of people ever do, and from the perspective of friends really on a journey...not simply a trip. Starting out with a specific itinerary and completely moving away from that, going places and seeing things that they feel are necessary on their own roads of self-healing, was inspirational...and so much fun to read about.

Graceland is somewhere I have never felt a need to visit, but after Roger and Amy visited, I think if I'm in the area, a swing-by is definitely in order. And Yosemite, a destination that has definitely been on my to-go list for years, got bumped up a few spots for sure. I've taken a lot of long road trips in the past few years: up to Maine from western New York, moving from New York to New Mexico, then New Mexico to Virginia, and others. It felt like reliving those trips and definitely put a smile on my face.

Other little things about the book that I enjoyed, was the inclusion of the music playlists that the pair listened to during their days in the car, and the photos and souvenirs they picked up along the way. It made it a more personal experience to see those artifacts of their friendship growing and the way they both were feeling during different parts of the journey.

The writing was excellent, the characters interesting, engaging, and heartfelt. I feel a strong connection to the plot and the characters, making for an overall story that I'll be recommending to teens for sure!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Perfect for a summer read.

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
Morgan Matson
343 pages
Young Adult
Simon & Schuster
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!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

It is hot and sticky outside today, so I'm making no moves to do anything productive. Well, that's not totally true...I went with a friend to her new gym this morning, to try it out, and I absolutely fell in love with it. Too bad I can't even remotely afford a membership there. Anyways, this post is as motivated as I get for a humid June day, after 10am. Enjoy!

Whopper Cake by Karma Wilson and illustrator Will Hillenbrand

I am a huge Karma Wilson fan, but had somehow never come across Whopper Cake. Kudos goes to Abby (the) Librarian for bringing it's fabulousness to my attention!

An absolutely perfect read aloud, Wilson takes the topic of making a cake for Grandma to an entirely new level. Grandpa is determined to celebrate Grandma's birthday in a big way, so enlists everyone to help build the biggest cake ever! Also includes a recipe in the back to make your own Whopper cake!

A funny story, with great pacing and rhyming text that adds to the humor of the illustrations. Everything flows together really well, which really does make it a great read aloud choice. Simple enough for young children, but older kids will love it too. Librarians can add a coloring craft (color a picture of the cake you would build your grandma or something like that) to storytime...or if you're feeling adventurous, bake the cake!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

Whopper Cake
Karma Wilson
40 pages
Picture Book
Margaret K. McElderry
June 2006
Book borrowed from my local library

Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia by Jeanette Winter

Now I love hearing stories about people making reading possible for children in remote areas of the world and boy, is this a nice one!

Simple enough for little ears, yet powerful enough to inspire every reader, no matter the age, Winter takes us on a journey to Colombia, as Luis Soriana begins a library of sorts. He, along with his trusty burros, take trips into remote villages, lending out books to the residents...people who would typically not have access to any reading material at all. Soriana's "Burro Library" started very small and has grown to house over 4800 books.

The story is easy to understand and the bright illustrations accompany the simplistic text very nicely. And such a great message! The work of one person can make such a difference! A brief section in the back of the book explains more of Luis Soriana's mission to bring books to Colombians.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
A nice choice for classrooms. Could be used for a unit on traveling libraries or just on its own.

Jeanette Winter
32 pages
Picture Book
Beach Lane
June 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Lin Yi's Lantern: A Moon Festival Tale by Brenda Williams and illustrator Benjamin Lacombe

Teachers, rejoice! This fantastic book is perfect for your units on different cultures and customs. Focusing on the Chinese Moon Festival, we see a boy that really wants a rabbit lantern, but is careful to follow the instructions his mother gave him for spending money. He may buy a rabbit lantern if he bargains well enough at the market and has money left over after buying necessary things.

Children will get a lesson (follow directions and you will be rewarded), as well as a beautiful description of the Moon Festival. I love the work of illustrator Lacombe (his work in Cherry and Olive last year was marvelous) and his pictures definitely do justice to the imagery and beauty of Williams' story.

After the story, readers will find a couple of pages on the legend of the Moon Fairy, as well as an activity for creating your own paper lantern (great for a storytime activity), and a description of market life in China.

Overall rating: 5 out 5
An excellent resource for classrooms and libraries.

Lin Yi's Lantern: A Moon Festival Tale
Brenda Williams
32 pages
Picture Book
Barefoot Books
September 2009
Book borrowed from my local library

Sally's Great Balloon Adventure by Stephen Huneck

This is not the first "Sally" story to be written by Huneck, but I think it may just be the cutest! Sally (an adorable dog that I would happily take home with me, if she were real), is lured into a hot air balloon basket by the scent of hot chicken and proceeds to take quite the balloon ride. All sorts of different rescue attempts are made, but Sally isn't even concerned with being so high in the air...she's just concerned that the chicken is ok (and still edible). Sally finally rescues herself, in a very dog-like way, and everyone is happy to have her safe on the ground again.

Everyone loves a good dog story and like the "Carl" books by Alexandra Day, young readers enjoy a series, as much as adults. It's fun to see Sally's antics and what she's up to next.

The illustrations of these books aren't my favorite, but their bold colors are certainly eye-catching and will hold your little ones' attention. Just a personal preference.
Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Sally's Great Balloon Adventure
Stephen Huneck
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!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Updates, links, etc.

I've been meaning to do an update/link post every week this year...and I think I've churned out 3 or 4. Oh well, everyone has overly ambitious plans at one time or another right?

Last weekend I participated in MotherReader's 48 Hour Reading Challenge, which was a lot of fun, as it always is. I read/blogged/networked for just about 27 hours and raised $27.00 for this D.C. school. I'm all about helping out teachers and classrooms...anything to get children reading and enjoying books. Thanks again to MotherReader for hosting!

I found some great new blogs while participating in the reading challenge, which for me is almost the best part. Here are just two of the new blogs I added to my reader:

Madigan Reads
Book Clutter

After reading for a weekend, Natasha at MawBooks is hosting Bloggiesta, this coming weekend (starts TOMORROW!!), so we can all get our blogs into shape. Such a fantastic idea, though I'm not sure I'll be able to participate yet. We'll see though, I'm crossing fingers! If you saw my pile of reviews to written, you'd tell me I need to join up! Head on over and sign up.

I also wanted to link to a new feature by blogger Lisa over at Books Lists Life. She's super crafty and runs an Etsy store called Made by Lisah, but has started showing off some of her favorite crafty things that other Etsy users have made, over here. I've loved just about everything she's showcased, but I am more than a little in love with this wall tree

On Monday, Peachtree Publishers blog posted a fantastic write-up of what publishers are looking for in our review policies and on our blogs. From really well written review policies (and what to include in them), to using the correct spelling and grammar, to comments on posts, we're given a great overview on just what publishers are looking for in a review blog. Check it out!

Now for my personal reading updates. I haven't been finding as many YA/MG books that are holding my attention lately, leading me into an adult title whirlwind. I typically read maybe 2-3 adult titles, either fiction or non-fiction a month (not counting my audiobooks), but when I went to the library this past week to pick up holds, I had 11. Are lots of interesting titles just being published or am I just craving some writing aimed at those of us over the age of 17? I really try to focus on mainly kidlit for this blog, but I'll be sharing a bit more of my adult reading in the next few weeks. Hope you don't mind!

At this point, I'm completely involved in Insatiable by Meg Cabot. Wasn't aware that this was Adult until I started reading it (I thought it was YA), but as my first EVER Cabot read, I'm a little impressed.

I'm just finished The Pact by Jodi Picoult, who I've shamelessly listed as my favorite adult author for years. It was my choice for my weekly book club, and though I loved it when I read it 5 or 6 years ago, I wasn't in love with it this time through. Times change I suppose...

I'm probably going to pick up Will Grayson, Will Grayson next. Still can't believe it's taken me so long to get to that book.

Whew...lots of info. Off to the gym now!

Keeper review

Talk about a tear-jerker! Author Kathi Appelt has just simply outdone herself with this beautiful work of imagery, honesty, and the true meaning of family. I fell in love with Keeper, Signe, Dogie, Captain, BD, and all of the other characters from their first appearances in the story and just wanted to sweep Keeper up into a huge hug after almost every chapter.

Appelt has a gift of giving her readers beautiful visuals through her writing. The imagery and descriptions were top-notch, and the language was flowing and magical, like the ocean the story takes place by. The transitions between the human narrators and the animal ones are seamless and the suspense-build is nicely paced.

Adults and children will both be enchanted by Keeper's story, making this a fantastic family book, perfect for bedtime. The story is going to hold anyone's attention, though some of the descriptions and imagery may go over the young one's level of understanding. That's ok though, because the using your imagination during the read is totally allowed!

The love the author poured into the writing of Keeper is completely apparent on every single page. Each of these character's were loved and cared for as they were written, and you'll find a favorite very quickly. For me, it was Dogie. Surfer, Signe's kind and loving boyfriend, and Keeper's "employer," Dogie has a beautiful, honest soul. He would do anything for Keeper. I would love to see a book with Dogie as the main character (a YA novel showcasing the creation of he and Signe's relationship maybe??) if you're reading this Kathi Appelt, take note!

As much as I'm in love with this book, it did have some mature themes, which may or may not be an issue. They'll go over the heads of younger children, but may evoke discussion with the older ones. I actually think the darkness of some of the issues added an extra element to an otherwise, childlike story...the world is not a utopia. There is not perfection. But there always will be family and love.

Read this aloud to your has such wonderful elements that will make it an amazing story to be heard. It's a tad bit long, but enchanting all the same.

Kathi Appelt
399 pages
May 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Smells Like Dog review

Jacket description (from ARC):
"Meet Homer Pudding, an ordinary farm boy who dreams of grand adventures and inherits a dog when his beloved uncle, the famous explorer Drake Pudding, mysteriously vanishes. Homer doesn't understand why Drake would call a droopy dog with no sense of smell his 'most treasured possession,' until he discovers a mysterious coin hidden on Dog's collar.

Soon Homer, his sister Gwendolyn, and Dog are thrust into the midst of an amazing adventure that takes them off to a dangerous city by themselves. In a race to discover Dog's true hidden talent, Homer must outwit the conniving Madame la Directeau, Head of the Museum of Natural History, and take his uncle's place in the secret society of adventurers known as L.O.S.T."

If you have yet to read a Suzanne Selfors book, you are truly missing out. Smart, yet hilarious, this is my favorite type of book for a family read aloud. We have quirky, out-of-the-ordinary characters, each with flaws that they're attempting to work on, and a complete unrealistic adventure that includes lots of zaniness. Kids will be laughing the whole way and you won't be able to keep yourself from chuckling at the antics of Homer, his sister, and Dog.

I think Homer was a well written main character, that (as silly as he is sometimes), kids will have no problem relating to. He isn't perfect, he makes mistakes, but he has goals that he's determined to reach, and the journey this story takes him on, builds his confidence in himself. The messages the author weaves into the book are subtle, yet effective, not to mention Dog is adorable!

I did feel it was a tad long, but if you read this blog often, you know that's my main critic of middle grade/ya books. I guess over 350 page for this particular book seemed unnecessary, though once you lose yourself in it, you won't be keeping track of pages anyways.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
A "clean" book, which makes for a fun family read. If you haven't checked out Fortune's Magic Farm, I highly recommend doing so...another great read-aloud (though I didn't love the cover). You can read my review of that one here.

Smells Like Dog will be featured over at Reading to Know tomorrow, if you're interested in seeing another opinion!

Smells Like Dog
Suzanne Selfors
368 pages
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

66 Love Letters review

Jacket description:
"Our lives are full, often complicated, and it seems we spend so much time attempting to fit God into our story that we don't allow ourselves to be lifted up into His story--an epic narrative that is mysterious, compelling, and utterly transforming.

Presented as a dialogue between one man and God, 66 Love Letters explores each book of the Bible as a letter from the Creator to you with the scarlet thread of Christ Himself woven through the pages and culminates in an epilogue that offers a summarized view of the entire Bible."

The entire concept of this book was intriguing to me. I wasn't quite sure how Crabb would pull off putting the actual voice of God into a book that's supposed to help us understand each Biblical book in a more profound way. I mean, writing God's voice...what someone thinks our Creator might say is a huge task and I wasn't entirely sure anyone could pull that off. Even after reading this and enjoying it and learning from it, I'm still not sure that the feat of putting words in God's mouth, hypothetical as they may be, can be successfully conquered by anyone.

Though Crabb certainly does bring a whole lot of insight into each book of the Bible, is it real insight or just what we want things to mean? Isn't he really just writing what his opinion is regarding interpretation? The answer to that is yes...he is just giving his opinion. And once I got over that hurtle and started using each chapter as a jumping off point for my own level of understanding, my read went much smoother and I found myself delving a lot deeper into my Bible reading than I had before. It took a little coaxing of my mind, but I really do feel that Crabb allowed my thinking to be deep and meaningful...more than with previous Bible study teachers.

You shouldn't necessarily read the book from cover to cover without stopping, but rather use it in conjunction with daily Bible readings or even do as I did and read the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation with this to accompany you. I wouldn't recommend skipping around, as each "letter" builds on the last. And the Epilogue kinda mashes it all together in a readable synopsis. After having gone through it all once, I'll now use it as a reference source.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
It takes a little getting used to, but it's definitely a helpful and unique manner of Biblical study. Frank conversations, bluntness, and easy to read format.

66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God That Invites You Into His Story
Dr. Larry Crabb
432 pages
Christian Non-Fiction
Thomas Nelson
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!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Red Thread review

Jacket description:
" 'In China there is a belief that people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red thread. Who is at the end of your red thread?'

After losing her infant daughter in a freak accident, Maya Lange opens the Red Thread, an adoption agency that specializes in placing baby girls from China with American families. Maya finds some comfort in her work, until a group of six couples share their personal stories of their desire for a child; their painful and courageous journey towards adoption forces Maya to confront the lost daughter of her past. Brilliantly braiding together the stories of Chinese birth mothers who give up their daughters, Ann Hood writes a moving and beautifully told novel of fate and the red thread that binds these characters' lives."

Oooh boy, this one was an emotional doozy. I knew I would probably be needing a ridiculous amount of tissues and I was completely right. The adoption topic hits a bit close to home, as Aaron and I are attempting to decide if, when, and how to adopt a child or children, and as each woman told her own story as to why their family had chosen adoption, the connections were certainly made with my own story.

From infertility to frequent miscarriages, to a daughter with a genetic disorder, these women have a multitude of different reasons for deciding to adopt a baby girl from China, each just as heartbreaking and powerful as the last. Author, Ann Hood, makes these stories come alive and fills them with honest and beautiful characters, with hearts reaching out for these baby girls.

The most unique and eye-opening portion of this novel was the stories from the Chinese mothers that gave up (or forced to give up) their daughters. We never have the opportunity to hear the other side's these baby girls end up in orphanages. And though this is definitely a fictional story, the chance to read about the Chinese side of things was amazing. Hood wove the stories of the Chinese women and the American women perfectly and left my heart hurting for both sides.

Through the entire book, we're given this inside glimpse into the world of contemporary adoption and the process through the eyes of those actually waiting for children and those having to give up their children, whether they wish to or not. If you've adopted, are looking to adopt, or just want a beautifully written story by a fantastic author, I highly recommend picking this one up. I read my copy from the library, but will be going out to buy my own this week.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5
If you read this and enjoy it, grab The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin for your children. Another great one!

The Red Thread
Ann Hood
304 pages
Adult fiction
W.W. Norton & Company
May 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!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Final numbers for the 48HBC

If I could make myself stay awake all night, I would have accomplished so much more during this challenge, but I just can't do it! I crawled into bed with my book last night around 11 and was done by 11:30. The bed was a baaaad idea. I still feel pretty accomplished with the amount of books I got off my shelf and the amount of reading I got done, not to mention all the new blogs I discovered. Really, that was probably my favorite part!

Since my cash flow is seriously hurting these days, I didn't have a lot of money to give, but I always like to donate something, especially when it has to do with kids/books. I followed MotherReader's lead and am donating to this D.C. school (it's local, which drew me to it, but you can pick a school just about anywhere in the U.S.). I decided to give $1 per hour read/blogged/networked.

Here are my final totals:

Time started: 7:22am Friday

Time now: 8:34am Sunday (my official end time was 7:22am, but the last I saw a book page was last night)

Total pages read:  2105 (4 discs listened to)

Total time spent reading: 22 hours 07 minutes

Total time spent blogging/commenting: 4 hour 20 minutes

Total time during challenge: 26hrs 27minutes

Books read: 8 (Nature Girl, Scars, This Means War, The Red Thread, Sing Me to Sleep, As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, You Don't Even Know Me, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour).

I also listened to part of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County and The Cross Gardener.

Total donated to charity: $27.00 (I'll be donating in the next couple of days

For all of you still trucking along, keep it up! And thanks so much to MotherReader for hosting this awesome challenge, yet again. We SO appreciate the work you put in and I hope you had a lot of time for reading yourself!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Almost done..

What a day this has been! My last update was about 11 hours ago and I've really been relaxing, soaking up the whole vibe of the reading challenge, and getting lots of reading done. I totally engrossed myself in Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson for most of the afternoon and evening...not wanting to put it down once I started and completely savoring all of the words. I'll write out a review at some point, but for now know that I'm totally recommending it to ALL of you. I loved it :)

I also took a brief nap this afternoon, which felt fantastic (nothing better than a nap!) and took a long walk with the Ipod and an audiobook. I'm heading off to bed to read a little more and will have a final post with all of my times and pages tomorrow morning. It's been fun everyone!

Time started: 7:22am Friday
Time now: 11:25pm Saturday
Total pages read:  2054 (4 discs listened to)
Total time spent reading: 19 hours 31 minutes
Total time spent blogging/commenting: 3 hour 57 minutes
Books read: 4 (Nature Girl, Scars, This Means War, The Red Thread, Sing Me to Sleep, As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, You Don't Even Know Me, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour).
Now reading: Probably not going to start something new right before bed, but I'll pick up either my book club selection (The Pact) and something else on my nightstand. 

Nature Girl (mg review)

Jacket description:
"Eleven-year-old Megan is stuck in the wilds of Vermont for the summer with no TV, no Internet, no cell phone, and worst of all, no best friend. Without Lucy to laugh with, the summer is shaping up to be pretty miserable.

So when Megan gets lost on the Appalachian Trail with only her loyal dog, Arp, for company, she decides she might as well hike all the way to Massachusetts, where Lucy, is spending her summer. Life on the trail isn’t easy, and Megan faces everything from wild animals and raging rivers to tofu jerky and life without bathrooms.

On the way, though, Megan comes to some surprising realizations—about who she’s been in the past and who she wants to be in the future—and the journey goes from a spur-of-the-moment lark to a heroic quest to prove herself to Lucy, her family, and the world!"

A cute and funny book that would make a nice read-aloud with kids and their parents. Megan is a selfish, spoiled brat (and more than a little hard to like in the beginning), but she grows on her journey through the woods of the Appalachian Trail. Not exactly realistic, an 11 year old just deciding to hike the Appalachian Trail and actually going through with the plan successfully, but fun and heartwarming all the same. 

The message...of being kind to others, setting goals and reaching them, and not taking family for granted...was a little "in-your-face" for my liking, but I think kids, mainly girls, will really enjoy it. Taking a city girl and plunging her into the forest of Vermont, no matter how young she is, is a pretty hilarious storyline and would be fun for families or classes to read together.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Nature Girl
Jane Kelley
256 pages
Random House Books for Young Readers
April 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!

Hour 30ish...

I have had such a fabulous, relaxing morning. Saturdays are my new favorite day of the week, I think. Aaron decided to take me to our favorite breakfast spot, Northside Social, all the way in Arlington (if you're from NOVA and haven't been, you need to go...AMAZING!!). I got to read for the 25 minute drive there, the hour we spent enjoying our french press coffee, apple turnover scones, and breakfast sandwiches, and the 25 minute drive back. We also stopped off at the Farmer's Market and The Container Store (my favorite place besides bookstores to spend my money). Got some sock drawer organizers, which I love...and screams "dork."

Unfortunately, the two books I read during my morning were not my cup of tea. I read most of both, but didn't really enjoy either. Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison was a little cliche and sappy for my taste and As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins just left me feeling weird. No other way to describe it. It was funny, but overly odd and just didn't keep me interested. Oh well...two more off my list.

Now I'm off to take a cold shower, since it's hotter than blazes today, and pick up another book. I hope everyone else is feeling as relaxed and accomplished as I am!

Time started: 7:22am Friday
Time now: 12:46pm Saturday
Total pages read:  1511 (3 discs listened to)
Total time spent reading: 13 hours 15 minutes
Total time spent blogging/commenting: 2 hour 12 minutes
Books read: 4 (Nature Girl, Scars, This Means War, The Red Thread, Sing Me to Sleep, As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth).
Now reading: After my shower, I'll pick out something else. Not quite sure what I'm in the mood for now.

24 hours in!

I did go to bed and I did sleep well, thank you! Except for the part where right before I got all nice and comfortable my dog decided her stomach was upset and puked all over the floor...three times. Gotta love that.

I read another hour and a half while in bed, before my tired eyes just couldn't do it anymore and now I'm up and reading to go for more. The hubby is taking me out to breakfast to our favorite place (more on that in the next post), but I have a book for the car ride and a book for while we're there. Coffee and deliciousness is waiting me. I'll update again soon!

Hope everyone else is getting as much accomplished as I feel I am!

Time started: 7:22am
Time now: 7:26am
Total pages read:  1145 (3 discs listened to)
Total time spent reading: 11 hours 03 minutes
Total time spent blogging/commenting: 1 hour 56 minutes
Books read: 4 (Nature Girl, Scars, This Means War, The Red Thread).
Now reading: I gave up on The Last Great Getaway of the Water Balloon Boys for now, started As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth and Sing Me to Sleep, one that wasn't on my original list.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Last update of the night

Woohoo! Spent the last 4 hours doing nothing but reading. No interruptions, no required tasks. But now I'm pretty much done for the night, as my bedtime passed by an hour ago. I'm too old to do the all night reading, especially two nights in a row! I'll go crawl into my comfy bed and read another chapter or two before falling asleep....see you all in the morning!

Time started: 7:22am
Time now: 10:59pm
Total pages read:  1001 (3 discs listened to)
Total time spent reading: 9 hours 29 minutes
Total time spent blogging/commenting: 1 hour 30 minutes
Books read: 4 (Nature Girl, Scars, This Means War, The Red Thread).
Now reading: About to start The Last Great Getaway

Hour 12?

I can't believe almost 12 hours has already gone by in this book challenge. Crazy! I haven't gotten as many hours logged as I would like, but I have finished 3 books and part of an audiobook AND the husband took me out for dinner (apparently I get breakfast in the morning too ;)

Here's the stats for now:

Time started: 7:22am
Time now: 7:00pm
Total pages read:  699 (3 discs listened to)
Total time spent reading: 5 hours 41 minutes
Total time spent blogging/commenting: 1 hour 6 minutes
Books read: 3 (Nature Girl, Scars, This Means War).
Now reading: About to start The Red Thread.

5 hours down

What a morning! I feel like I got so much accomplished, including reading and commenting on other challenge participants' blogs. Hope you all are having fun too!

Here's where I'm at:

Start time: 7:22am
Time now: 12:49pm
Pages read: 238 (2.25 discs listened to)
Total time spent reading/listening: 2 hours 53 minutes
Time spent blogging/commenting: 11 minutes
Books read: 1
Now reading: Just finished Nature Girl, about to pick up Scars.

I drove to my job interview, 45 minutes away, listened to The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. Had an hour interview. Drove back 45 minutes, stopping at the post office and library. Then settled my butt into a chair on my porch and read Nature Girl. Now it's time for some lunch and book 2!

Let the festivities begin!!

I'm once again happy to be participating in MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge, which for me is starting NOW. My reading time is going to being right after I finish this post, so approximately 7:20am today, Friday, to 7:20am Sunday morning. I have a whole stack of books (more on those in a minute) and tons of time set aside to read, with a teeny break in the day for a job interview. Cross your fingers for me! And on the way to and from the interview and during the inevitable yard work I have to get done this weekend, I have audiobooks set to listen to.

No special snacks this time (I usually treat myself to donuts during these things), since I just went on vacation and probably gained at least 5lbs. No treats for this reader! Maybe coffee though, LOTS of that.

SO, the books. I have a stack I would like to get through, though I know I won't get to all of them. And I'll probably get bored with my pile at some point and go pick something else. For now, here's what I'm attempting:

Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors
This Means War by Ellen Wittlinger
The Last Great Getaway by Scott William Carter
Nature Girl by Jane Kelley
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
You Don't Even Know Me by Sharon G. Flake
Spells by Aprilynne Pike
The Red Thread by Ann Hood

I also have audios of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker and The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright to listen to.  One for the car, one for the Ipod.

I also have my trusty notebook to record start and stop times, so I can be ridiculously accurate on reading/blogging time. I'll check in several times a day when I need a break. I know I won't read for 48 hours...I also know that I won't even come close to that. But hopefully I'll get a whole lot of books off my list.

OH and I decided to change up my charity donation and send my money to the same place MotherReader is sending her's. Through Donor's Choose, this D.C. school will get some much needed supplies. Appropriate for this challenge I think! $1 per hour I read will be donated :)

I'm off...can't wait to see how everyone is doing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Red Pyramid (MG review)

Jacket description:
"Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs."

Ok, so I love Rick Riordan's thought process for all of these books he's written in the past few years, I really do. Percy Jackson will always be one of my favorite characters and I will be recommending the entire series to boys, girls, teens, and adults alike for a long time to come. So, of course, when I snatched up a copy of The Red Pyramid, book one in Riordan's latest series, I was anticipating the same sort of connection (well, I was hoping). And overall, I wasn't disappointed.

More myths and Gods (Egyptian this time) and more likable characters. Sadie and Carter are written well and act towards each other as I picture siblings that don't know each other very well would. A bit wary at first, but they warm up to each other, while still getting those jabs in there occasionally.  I really enjoyed them and I enjoyed their journey, along with the crazy gaggle of secondary characters thrown in the mix. The traveling was awesome and I found myself picturing the different places the kids and their companions were going, as I've been to and lived in many of them myself (D.C., Las Cruces, New Mexico). So, that was fun.

I also REALLY liked the inclusion of Egyptian mythology as the plot basis. I've always loved mythology of any sort, which is really what drew me to the Percy Jackson books in the first place, and I hardly know anything about the Egyptian stories. A lot of people were giving Riordan flack for using myths and Gods again, but I really liked it. 

Ok, on to the not-my-favorite part...

Can we say....long?! Holy cow, the book was a beast! 516 pages and unfortunately, I really don't think it needed it be nearly that long. I found myself skimming in places, ready to move onto the next part, with lots of text, dialogue, and filler bogging it down. I hate to say that, I do, but I really think 300 pages would have been a good stopping point. No need for the extra bells and whistles. Dedicated Riordan fans will stick with it, but I can see more than a few having to take breaks throughout the reading process, rather than devouring it as they would a Percy Jackson novel.

 Overall rating: 3 out of 5
I'm looking forward to book 2, but I hope it's a bit shorter.

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles: Book 1)
Rick Riordan
516 pages
Middle Grade
May 2010
Book is 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!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I know, I know....

I've been neglectful. Haven't posted in over a week...and I don't think I've ever done that! We had a wonderfully relaxing, much needed vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where I got lots of sun, lots of reading time, etc. We ate a lot, read a lot, swam a lot, and just enjoyed ourselves for our anniversary, after the past two years of pretty terrible anniversaries, for one reason or another. Great time, very much needed.

And then my grandmother promptly went into the hospital with 3 brain aneurysms, one of them bleeding, needing immediate surgery. My first response was to laugh, sad as it sounds. Our family just can't catch a break. My mother died of a serious brain bleed just about 18 months ago, so of course, my entire family went into panic mode and I ended up going straight from North Carolina to my hometown in Upstate NY for a few days, with nothing but a brief stopover at home in Virginia to do a load of laundry and get the beach sand out of the car.

My grandma is doing much better and has been moved from the ICU to a rehab floor. Not out of the woods yet, but much, much better. And miserable as all heck...she just wants out! Can't blame her I suppose. At this point though, I'm just waiting for the next tragedy. Blah.

I've finished a bunch of books in the past week and am participating in the 48 Hour Read-a-thon this weekend, so I'll hopefully be finishing a lot more in the coming days. I'll have a couple of reviews tomorrow and then a weekend filled with Read-a-thon posts and THEN things will hopefully be back to normal around here. I have a ton of reviews to do and just not enough time. Slowly, things will get done.

I've missed you all and welcome all the new followers!