Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorites of 2010 and resolutions for 2011

I disappeared for a couple of weeks, spending the holidays with family and just relaxing. We all need a bit of that from time to time and for me, this year it included a blog break. I'm back and ready for 2011!

I've read 185 books this year, which may seem like a lot, but it's down from the 254 books I read in 2009. A good thing! My resolutions last January included reading slower and more carefully and that's exactly what I did. I gave up on a lot more books if they weren't satisfying me, which definitely cut into the reading time of full books to be counted.

I really want to focus on doing the same thing this read. Reading quality, not quantity and making sure I make myself happy with my reading choices (since I'm the only one I have to please). I also want to be sure to blog a bit more frequently in the coming months, as I've started to slow down with working and such.

Not many resolutions at all, but enough that I can stay on target.

This year, read across all genres and age groups, so this is a wide listing of all of those (all were not published in 2010. Just what I read in 2010). I can't wait to see some of your lists!

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

The Boneshaker by Kate Milford

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

Split by Swati Avasthi

Wither by Lauren DeStefano (review to come in March 2011)

I read a lot of really great books this year, as you can see! Some others I loved include: Keeper by Kathi Appelt, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Matched by Ally Condie, The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff,  What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb, Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt, Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, and Delirium by Lauren Oliver.


Happy Reading in 2011!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Here in the Snow house (yes, that really is my last name), we're anxiously awaiting the arrival of Christmas. As Christians, this is one of the biggest holidays of the year for us and we have lots of great traditions to go along with it. We also planned our dog's leg surgery this week and a trip home to NY in all the madness. What exactly we were thinking, I'm not sure.

SO, I'm taking the week off from blogging. I think it's the first real blog vacation I've taken and I'm excited to come back next week with lots of "Best of" lists and thoughts about my reading in 2010. I'll still be popping in to update my It's Only a DOLLAR post (which you should definitely check out, if you haven't already) and I may wish you a Merry Christmas.

Happy Holidays to all of you and your families!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

IMM Week 22

I cannot wait for my NY vacation. Piles and piles of books and so little time this week. I've been busy with the typical holiday frenzy of baking, shopping, wrapping, and lots of Bible study. In the midst of the chaos, I still have to focus on the reason for the season! But, I digress. On to the mailbox goodies!

Cybils nominated:

Heist Society by Ally Carter
Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter
The Half-Life of Planets by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin
By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw

For review:

Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
The Oracle Stamboul by Michael David Lukas
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
What's in the Egg Little Pip by Karma Wilson
Sea Creatures Pop-Up
Jungle Beasts Pop-Up
Bugs Pop-Up

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Picture Books Saturday: Christmas Favorites!

Christmas is next week (AHHHHH!!!), so it's time for some Christmas favorites. No real "reviewing" going on here, just some reasons why I keep these on my shelves. Merry Christmas reading!

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston an illustrator Barbara Cooney

An oldie, but goodie! Even as a child I loved the story of this Appalachian town and their Christmas tree.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson and illustrator Fred Marcellino, retold by Tor Seidler

Another oldie! This is one of the first stories I remember my mom reading me when I was little.

The Nutcracker by Alison Jay

This one just came out this year and I already love it. Jay is one of my favorite illustrators and she's taken one of the most popular Christmas stories and combine it with those crackle paintings I like so much. Beautiful!

This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten and illustrator Delana Bettoli

One of my favorite stories of the birth of Christ. Simple, direct, yet totally readable for little kids. 

Bear Stays Up by Karma Wilson

If you read this blog often enough, you'll know that Karma Wilson is one of my favorite picture book authors and I LOVE her "Bear" books. 

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg


Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's only a DOLLAR!

Last year, Cake Wrecks (one of the best blogs out there if you haven't checked it out) did an awesome "12 Days of Giving" event, where they featured a specific charity each day for 12 days and encouraged their readers to each donate one single dollar to each charity. SO COOL! And they're doing it again this year.

Everyone can give a dollar and when they do, it adds up to thousands. I'm going to link to each post featuring the daily charity, so you all can go donate your dollar (or two or five) as well. You can still donate for past days, no problem. Join in and give this season!!

Give Kids the World
Doctors Without Borders
Love 146: Ending Child Sex Slavery
Best Friends Animal Society (a personal favorite of mine)
To Write Love on Her Arms
Operation Smile
Child's Play
The Water Project
Birthday Wishes
Heifer International
Share Our Strength

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sugar and Ice review

Claire Boucher loves to ice skate. Growing up on a maple farm, she hasn't had a lot of time for practicing, but has snuck each free moment on the cow pond in the backyard, spinning and jumping. At the annual Maple Show, Claire is offered the opportunity to train with a class of elite skaters in Lake Placid, under the direction of a world famous coach. At first, she's torn as to what to do, not wanting to leave the farm chores to someone else, but when her parents make it possible, Claire jumps at the chance to really skate.

When Claire arrives at the training camp, she is bombarded with catty girls and tough competition. When she has to make the decision to stay or go back to normal life at the farm, Claire must put her dream up against what matters most to her.

This was a sweet story, with a great message for girls. Claire is a realistic character with goals she's striving towards, yet her family and home keep calling to her. The decision she was forced to make is one that a lot of kids have to deal with at some point in their lives and it was handled in a believable and interesting way.

I love the description's Messner created of the farm and the maple season...I just wanted to read under a blanket with a mug of tea or cocoa and read about making maple syrup and landing jumps on the ice! This felt like one of those cozy stories that you just want to keep reading and reading, especially if it's snowing outside. 

Sugar and Ice
Kate Messner
288 pages
Middle Grade
Walker Books
December 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Monday, December 13, 2010

Split audio review

It's been quite awhile since I talked about an audiobook. My library system here is severely lacking in their audiobook selection, especially in the YA department, but I've finally found a fantastic one. Split by Swati Avasthi is read by Joshua Swanson and is nominated for the Cybil Awards this year. Yippee! I knocked a nominee off the list and was able to listen to a fantastic reading of an intense book. 

The book opens with Jace being kicked out of his house in Chicago by his abusive father and making the quick decision to drive all the way to Albuquerque to hopefully live with his estranged brother Christian, who managed to get out of the family years before and has started over with a new life for himself. 

When Jace shows up on Christian's doorstep, the brothers make an attempt to create a new relationship and build a strange sort of family. Unfortunately, the years of abusive the boys suffered at the hand have changed their perspectives on how to work together, how to share emotions, and how to deal with people in general. Jace has begun to take after his father with his temper and pride, and Christian is emotionally distant and filled with guilt over leaving Jace and his mother behind to face the wrath of their father. 

This book is a gem in so many ways. Avasthi did an amazing job at creating this realistic journey for Jace and Christian and had the voices perfect for each boy. The story is a raw look into what abuse can do to a family, as well as to individuals, but a little bit of humor is injected into the pages to take the edge off the tension and intensity of the subject. The reader does a fantastic job at channeling the awkwardness between Jace and Christian and the intimacy of domestic violence. 

I loved this book something fierce! Definitely one of the best I've read this year.

Swati Avasthi
Audio, read by Joshua Swanson
Young Adult
Listening Library
March 2010
Borrowed from my local library 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

IMM Week 21

Let's start this week off with my Blogger Secret Santa gift!

The lovely Sarah from GreenBeanTeenQueen sent me two great books. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, which I LOVED and Just Between You and Me by Jenny B. Jones, which I haven't heard of, but am anxious to try out. Dash & Lily was just so much fun and the perfect winter read, that I'm totally thrilled to own a copy now, so I can read it each year. Thanks Sarah! 

For review and for the Cybils:

Joe Rat by Mark Barratt
Misguided Angel by Melissa De La Cruz
Bitter Melon by Cara Chow
The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
Flirt Club by Cathleen Daly

Another great week!

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Picture Book Saturday

It's been a couple of weeks since my last Picture Book Saturday and it's time for some winter books! I have one Christmas, one "winter," and one pop-up for you this week. A good mix I think!

Willow and the Snow Day Dance by Denise Brennan Nelson and illustrator Cyd Moore

I loved the first book this author/illustrator team created featuring Willow and this one is just as cute. Willow has moved to a new neighborhood and all throughout the year has enlisted the help of her new neighbors to do good deeds. She grows a community vegetable garden, collecting seeds from all the neighbors, and she collects winter clothing for the needy, asking for donations.

When Willow actually wants something for herself (a snow day of course), she again enlists the help of her neighbors in making that a possibility, with some silly and sweet results. Beautiful illustrations too!

A nice story to share with your kids. It just may inspire them to want to help others...always a positive reaction!

Willow and the Snow Day Dance
Denise Brennan-Nelson
32 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
November 2010
Review copy received from publisher

La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonia Sacre and illustrator Angela Dominguez

If you're looking for a multicultural Christmas story, this is a pretty nice one. Nina and the rest of her Cuban-American family spend the days leading up to Christmas preparing different foods, picking mangoes, and attending a midnight Rooster's Mass. At first, Nina is disappointed to be spending the holiday in warm Miami, instead of snowy New England, but as she gets into the new traditions with the Cuban side of her family, she really begins to enjoy herself.

Spanish words are intermixed with the English, offering a bit of a language lesson as well. I did feel the amount of text was quite extensive for the age group this was aimed at, but the beautiful illustrations will hold the attention of the younger kids while the story is being read.

A very nice addition to the multicultural books about the Christmas holiday!

La Noche Buena
Antonio Sacre
32 pages
Picture Book
November 2010
Review copy received from publisher

10 Little Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental and illustrator Joelle Jolivet

I LOVE pop-up books (something you would notice as soon as you browsed my bookshelves) and this one is so much fun! Counting down from 10 penguins, all the way to 1, in a cute rhyme and interactive elements mixed in with the pop-ups.

I've already given two of these as gifts to kids and they were pretty enchanted by the bright colors and the pull tabs. They'll be learning about counting backwards and some neat things about penguins while destroying the beautiful done pop-ups! ;)

This would make a great wintry holiday gift for a child or an adult that loves these types of books (like me!!).

10 Penguins
Jean-Luc Fromental
24 pages
November 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mini-Reviews: Cybils edition

I'm reading a lot of great books during the Cybils this year and am running out of time to review them all! I haven't done a mini-review feature in quite awhile, so this seemed like a great time.

You know the plot summaries during these mini-reviews. Just a couple of sentences to share my thoughts on why I liked the book. Hopefully a couple will spark your interest and you'll check them out!

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

Drea is probably one of the coolest characters I've met in YA fiction. She's quirky and interesting, and written SO well. The plot is edgy and completely believable and the entire concept of a girl with high-functioning Asperger's forming a band with a misfit and a cute boy is fantastic. A great read all the way through. 

288 pages
Young Adult
Henry Holt
Book borrowed from my library

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I was impressed at how quickly this book pulled me in and I wasn't able to put it down until I had read the entire thing. Super-fast pace, a unique story, and a truly intriguing look into what it may mean to be kidnapped. It sort of reminded me of a YA Jodi Picoult novel...the reader gets to see both sides of a controversial issue. I really enjoyed reading it, as serious as the subject matter was. 

304 pages
Young Adult
Chicken House
May 2010
Review copy borrowed

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards

A beautifully written story in verse. We didn't get a whole lot of verse novels this year and this one combines historical fiction, suspense, romance, and a bit of education all in one. A tragic story, but it's done in such a way that you won't be able to put it down and you'll want to go research this flood when you're finished reading. I encourage any fan of historical fiction to check this one out. Beautiful cover too!

304 pages
Young Adult
April 2010
Book borrowed from my library

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Mockingbirds review

Alex is considered one of the good girls at Themis Academy. She does her homework, is involved in activities, and has equally good friends. She's quiet and a bit reserved and when she wakes up in a strange boy's room after drinking a bit too much, she is mortified and completely ashamed of herself. 

As Alex slowly starts to remember key points of her night, she realizes she's been date-raped. She's determined to keep things quiet, feeling that it was her own fault, and not understanding how reporting anything could possibly help, especially at a boarding school like Themis, where administrators would never want to damage their stellar reputation. Her friends suggest The Mockingbirds, a student-run justice system on campus and Alex agrees. 

Though the subject matter is definitely serious, it's a page turner and a fun read. The power of a student body is usually underestimated and the portrayal of The Mockingbirds and the power they had over these students, while still being just regular kids themselves, is pretty awesome. Alex was realistic in her reaction to involving them...skeptical at first, not sure whether to trust, but as she warmed to the idea she realized that they were her best chance for any justice at all. 

I think the concept of date-rape was handled brilliantly and the idea of a romance after something that traumatic happening to Alex was also done very well. It wasn't rushed or unrealistic, it felt honest and real. It's not only an entertaining book, but could be an educational one as well. Though most schools probably don't have The Mockingbirds, Alex's story may inspire other girls to speak up. 

The Mockingbirds
Daisy Whitney
352 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown
November 2010
Review copy received from publisher

Monday, December 6, 2010

Upcoming blog goodies

It's December and that means the month of lists. Pretty soon I'll be listing all my favorites from the year...YA, MG, and Adult. I'm sure it will be hard to actual sit down and make those lists (it always is), but it's so much fun to go through all the books I've read over 12 months. I know the numbers will be much lower this year than last, but I'm ok with that.

In my personal life, things have been more than a little crazy. Over the Thanksgiving holiday my poor husband had some serious mouth issues resulting in emergency oral surgery on Thanksgiving Day (of all days) and with only 60% anesthesia. Horrible, horrible. His face was huge, he had a drain in his jaw, and he wasn't able to have any fun (or food) on his vacation. Such is life I guess.

Zoey, the bulldog, ruptured her ACL, so we're looking at a ridiculously expensive surgery for a dog that already costs us thousands a year. And right before Christmas, of course. Gotta love dogs.

Cybils reading is in fast-pace mode now, with the deadline looming ahead. Lots of great books, lots of not-so-great books, but a whole lot of fun!

And that is all for now! Look for my "Best Of" lists soon!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

IMM Week 20

Another week with mainly Cybils Award titles. Only one non-Cybils book came and it's one I'm definitely looking forward to as soon as December is over! For the next few weeks, you'll all have to bear with me as I get through the last big chunk of reading for the awards and then things should get back to normal.

Here's what I got this week:

Hellie Jondoe by Randall Platt
We Hear the Dead by Diane Selerni
Happyface by Stephen
Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick
The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells
The D.U.F.F. by Kody Keplinger
The Daughters by Joanna Philbin

Catcher Caught by Sarah Collins Honenberger

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Sixty-Eight Rooms review

On a field trip the the Art Institute of Chicago, Ruthie becomes fascinated by the Thorne Room exhibit, featuring miniature rooms created to look as they would during specific periods in history. Ruthie is not only drawn to the perfection of miniatures, but also feels a strange pull to the rooms. When she and her best friend, Jack, discover a magic key that allows Ruthie to shrink small enough she is thrilled! She explores all over the rooms, discovering she can not only look around the rooms, but she can go out into the entire world of the rooms' time period.

Ruthie and Jack experience Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials and medieval times, among others. Children interested in history or adventure stories will definitely find themselves falling into the story of Jack, Ruthie, and the Thorne Rooms. Pencil illustrations help the reader to visualize the rooms, the settings, and the fantasy aspects. 

Being a bit critical, the writing wasn't as fantastic as the plot concept, but it was still a lot of fun. Some of the adventure parts came off as contrived and I didn't always care for the dialogue of Ruthie or Jack. I did, however, learn a whole lot! I had never heard of the Thorne Rooms before picking this one up and I know that next time I'm in Chicago, I'll definitely be visiting.

Fans of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwieler and The Borrowers will enjoy the story as well. A fun read aloud with the family and the perfect bridge to more books about art, history, and museums.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms
Marianne Malone
288 pages
Middle Grade
Random House
February 2010