Monday, January 31, 2011

You Had Me at Woof review

I'm a sucker for a dog book! And seriously, who could possibly resist a book with this adorable cover?! Well, I suppose if you aren't a dog person, you could easily resist, but I'm going on the assumption that anyone reading this review loves dogs as much as I do. Read on for some doggie goodness!

So, Julie Klam is thirty years old and single, looking for someone to spend her life with. Instead of a man, she snaps up Otto, a bug-eyed Boston Terrier who would proceed to change Julie's life from the point of adoption on. Otto was Julie's companion, best friend, and teacher for years, even after she married and had a human of her own for love and support. Otto also lead to Julie's absolute love of the Boston Terrier breed, inspiring her to continue rescuing the dogs throughout the next several years, even after Otto had passed away himself.

What you'll find in these pages is both hilarious and heartbreaking stories of the dogs Julie brought home and others she simply helped in their journey to  forever home. I cannot tell you how many times I laughed out loud reading a page and then was crying a few sentences's that emotional for me! It's such a heartwarming and inspirational book, making excellent points that we don't always end up with the dog of our choice, but rather the dogs that we need the most come to us. 

Sentences like: "But with Moses I began to understand that 'dog' was its own category of 'love.' Sometimes you just need to hold and kiss a member of the dog species. Even when humans are available" (108) had me totally relating and nodding my head in agreement, while the story of Julie and her mother having to make the choice to put down a dog had me sobbing. The very next page, however, referred to a white Husky named Honky, which sent me into hysterical fits of laughter for the next 20 minutes. Seriously, HONKY???!! (121).

Overall, a happy and fun book for dog lovers. I would recommend this as a gift for anyone loving Boston Terriers, a dog rescuer, or just someone like me that is overly obsessed with their own dogs. My only complaint was the lack of photos. If you're going to write a book about adorable, trouble-making dogs, add some pictures please!

You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secretes of Happiness
Julie Klam
240 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
Riverhead Books
October 2010
Library copy

Sunday, January 30, 2011

IMM Week 27

Busy week for the UPS man at my house! I was excited to see several non-fiction books mixed in with the fiction titles, so look for reviews of those soon.

All titles link to Goodreads. Just a note, some of the covers differ on Goodreads.

Bone: Quest for the Spark by Tom Sniegoski
Phantoms in the Snow by Kathleen Duble
Closer by Roderick Gordon
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Lemmon
Shine by Lauren Myracle
One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin

Prison Puppies by Meish Goldish
Eco Dogs by Judith Stamper
Baghdad Pups by Meish Goldish
Coloring Changing Animals by Valerie Yaw
See-Through Animals by Natalie Lunis
Electric Animals by Natalie Lunis
Glow-in-the-Dark Animals by Natalie Lunis

Lion Cubs by Ruth Owen
Arctic Fox Pups by Ruth Owen
Skunk Kits by Ruth Owen
Polar Bear Cubs by Ruth Owen

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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Happy Saturday! I have a few fun books I ran across this week...

Soup Day by Melissa Iwai

It's cold and wintery outside and we all could use a bowl of hot, steaming bowl of soup! A perfect read for a relaxing weekend at home, this is the sweet story of a child and her mother creating a vegetable soup from scratch. We see the process from purchasing vegetables at the market, to chopping them up, to choosing just the right pasta to finish off the dish. 

In between cooking, mother and child play games, read books, and hide from monsters, making for an exciting (and yummy!) afternoon. Complete with a recipe for vegetable soup, this is a fantastic choice for getting kids excited about fresh, healthy food and helping in the kitchen. to help in the kitchen. The pacing is very nice, the illustrations bright and vivid, and the text is simple and to the point. Loved it!

Soup Day
Melissa Iwai
32 pages
Picture Book
Henry Holt
Review copy 
September 2010

Where Do Giggles Come From by Diane Muldrow and illustrator Anne Kennedy

A great family read, this one features different types of animal families being silly together! A cute, rhyming story shows animal "children" giggling while doing all sorts of fun activities like twirling in the mirror, hanging upside, and taking a bath. It's interactive and fun, making for a great story for toddlers. It's so much fun to be silly!

I grew up with Little Golden Books and am still giving them as baby shower gifts today. Such sweet stories in such a nicely presented package! I still think The Pokey Little Puppy is my favorite, but this one is pretty adorable too.

Where Do Giggles Come From?
Diane Muldrow
24 pages
Picture Book
Little Golden Books
January 2011
Review copy

God Gave Us the World by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrator Laura J. Bryant

I'm a big fan of this Christian series by Bergren and Bryant and was really excited to see a new addition! Soft illustrations are accompanied by a story that encourages children to ask questions and seek answers about God from their parents. 

A simple question about why God didn't make us all the same leads to a beautiful telling of how great our Creator is and how He is amazing and creative, forming a beautiful diversity in our world. We are told how each child is a special creation and that being different from one another is a blessing!

Like the other books in this series, it tends to be a little wordy, but it does have such a fantastic message. I think it's really important to talk about these topics at a young age (if you believe in God and such), and I love to give these books as gifts for new babies!

God Gave Us the World
Lisa Tawn Bergren
40 pages
Picture Book
Waterbrook Press
January 2011
Review copy

Friday, January 28, 2011

You Know When the Men Are Gone

I am not a reader of short stories, let's just get that out of the way. They aren't books that I will gravitate towards, no matter the story description, as I like to be connected with the same characters/plot/voice through the whole book. I know I'm not at all alone in this and that a lot of you are also only "novel" readers, but trust me when I say, you must read this one. For me, it was a total upheaval in my reading preferences...short stories may be good after all! 

You Know When the Men Are Gone is truly unlike anything I've ever read. The stories are definitely individual, but also woven together in a manner that will make you reflect on what this war is doing on a deeper and more personal level. Taking place at Fort Hood and overseas, the reader is given a rare look into what it means to be a military spouse during a time of deployment and the emotional toll the absence of a spouse takes. We are able to see inside the thoughts of these women and men, in a manner that will make you slightly uncomfortable, but in such an interesting and thought-provoking way.

Though each story is amazing and heart wrenching in its own way, I did have a few favorites. "You Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming" shows us how men and women that have been to war must come home and attempt to deal with what they've seen and experienced, while their families are expecting their daddy/mommy/husband/wife back and whole. It's a hard read, but will certainly change the way we think. Once a soldier is home, he or she is not instantly the same...quite the opposite.

"Gold Star" was probably the most emotional for me to read, as it is the tale of a woman given the Gold Star parking place at the commissary...meaning her spouse had been killed at war. Though difficult to think about, the raw details Fallon includes about the mundane tasks a wife must continue to perform after the death of her husband, gave me goosebumps. And it's all so true! As horrible as it is, women on a base the size of Ft. Hood, deal with this as a normal way of life.

As a military spouse, I'm sure this book hits a bit closer to home for me than it does for many, but that doesn't make the impact of the book any less. We are all living through this war and being able to get glimpses of a life as a military spouse, even if fictional, could do everyone some good.

The writing is exceptional and the pure emotions the characters bring out in the reader is a completely unique experience. I have yet to come across a book, let alone a book of short stories, that had me thinking about it as deeply as I am with this one. I want to know these fact, I think I DO know some of these characters. They're real and living on a base near you.

You Know When the Men Are Gone
Siobhan Fallon
240 pages
Adult Fiction/Short stories
Amy Einhorn Books
January 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bitter Melon review

Frances is a an incredibly smart girl, but not nearly smart enough for her Chinese mother. Her mother demands she get into Berkeley and become a doctor, no matter that Frances isn't even remotely sure she wants anything to do with medicine at all. She isn't allowed to have friends or to date, only study exactly what her mother tells her to, as she is constantly compared to her peers in terms of behavior, intelligence, and future prospects. When she's accidentally placed in a speech class, rather than calculus, Frances knows her mother will be furious, but can't bring herself to leave. She starts a string of lies to convince her mother that she is doing as she should, studying hard to get into Berkeley, when in fact, Frances is great at public speaking and even wins a competition. 

Slowly, Frances realizes that no matter what she accomplishes, it will never be enough for her mother. She begins to make her own plans, determined to go to school where she wants to, study what she wants to, and date who she wants to. Obviously, this is not the correct path in her mother's mind and emotions between the pair take a route I didn't quite expect. 

 The pacing, for me, was a bit slow, and the writing of Frances' thoughts, at times, didn't come across as real, but forced. I did, however, really believe in her mother and the reactions that her mother had, even to the good things that Frances accomplished. Other books/movies on this topic often have the parents coming to some huge, dramatic realization at the end, recognizing their child's many amazing qualities and allowing their kids to follow their dreams. This parent came across as more real...though I do not have a Chinese background, so I can't really tell you if it's realistic or not. It just felt real to me. 

The overall feeling of the book was empowering. It was a little too long, as a whole lot of YA books seem to be, but the message was quite good. I'm not sure Frances handled herself in the best way, but she took what she knew and finally stood up for herself. 

I also loved the inclusion of public speaking in the story. A lot of books about parents choosing a path for their kids have the kids interested in art or photography or writing. Something artsy. This was refreshing and interesting. I think speech writing is as true a talent as painting or taking photos and it was nice to see it highlighted. 

If you're interested in books like this, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok is a great one. Written for adults, but with great crossover appeal. 

Bitter Melon
Cara Chow
320 pages
Young Adult
December 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Ten Books I Wish I'd Read as a Kid

This is my first Top Ten Tuesday and I'm really excited to start participating! Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, each week a different "Top Ten" topic is chosen and a whole bunch of bloggers share their thoughts. I'm all about community, so here we go!

For this being my first post, I actually had a bit of trouble coming up with books! I read so many books as a kid, that I covered most of the typical picks for children's books. I really did read them as a child! So, I've actually read most of these titles, but wish I could have read them as a kid...if they had been around all those years ago.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
-I've read all of these, own all of them, and have listened to them on audio and recommend them all the time. I first read them when I was in my early 20's, but I think I would have appreciated them even more, if I had been 10! 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
-Again, I read these in my early 20's and SO wish I could have had them a 9 or 10.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
-I just read this for the first time this past year and I fell SO in love with the story and the land of Bayern. I can see why kids and adults love the writing and I think, as a kid, I would have been even more enchanted.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
-When I was a teen, there wasn't nearly the YA market that there is now. As a 16-year-old, I think Katniss could have set my YA reading world on fire (no pun intended) and really got my friends and I talking about books geared for our age group. 

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
-Seeing a pattern yet? I read mainly realistic fiction as a kid and all of these great fantasy books would have boggled my mind as a kid!

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
-When I listened to this in my car over the summer, I remember wishing that my mom could have read this aloud to me when I was little. Such a fantastic family book. 

Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen
-I actually hadn't heard of this one until I started working at my current job and I love the book! It would have made a great read aloud in our family.

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor
-I would have eaten this up as a little girl and probably would have attempted to BE Nancy.

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
-This is actually one I haven't read, but wish I had as a kid. And really need to read it now.

And that's only 9, but close enough!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Princess Academy audio review

Shannon Hale is a master storyteller. Seriously, she is one of my all time favorite writers, especially of fantasy, for the simple reason that the books she writes have this magic about them. I fall in love with the characters and the worlds they come from, which doesn't seem to happen a lot for me when it comes to fantasy books. Miri in Princess Academy was no exception and I found myself enchanted by her life on Mount Eskel, her innocence, and the beautiful friendships she forms with some of the other girls. 

As a Mount Eskel girl, Miri is expected to be strong and hardworking, heading into the quarry to work as all kids do once they reach a certain age. Instead, Miri's father refuses to let her work, saying she's too small and would be of better use in the house. Feeling inadequate and constantly left out, Miri knows she's an outsider because of this, but isn't sure how she can include herself among the other kids when her father refuses to allow her in the quarry. 

When word comes that a Princess Academy will be held near Mount Eskel and all girls are required to attend, Miri is intrigued (and more than a bit frightened). Even more intriguing is the idea that the Prince will choose one of the girls from the Academy to become his future wife! Miri knows that she just may have found a chance to excel at something and prove to her village she is a strong girl...but once she does catch the Prince's eye, she's not so sure she wants to be the Princess after all. 

Such a beautifully told story! I listened to this one and like the Books of Bayern series, it's full-cast audio. SO awesome. I've been spoiled by these Hale books on audio and whenever I pick up one that's just a single reader, I have a twinge of disappointment! The readers did a wonderful job at conveying the emotions of the characters and bringing together the multilayers of story. 

I loved falling into Miri's world and her family and friendships. If you've never read a Shannon Hale book, I highly recommend picking this one up, reading it to yourself and then to your kids, and passing it on. They're to be shared and loved and read aloud. Even if you aren't a "fairy tale" reader, you'll love the tales woven by Hale and will finish them with a smile on your face. 

Just a note...I borrowed the audiobook from the library, but immediately purchased the book for myself as soon as I finished listening to it. Loved it that much!

Princess Academy
Shannon Hale
336 pages
Middle Grade
April 2007 (paperback version)
Book was borrowed from my local library

Sunday, January 23, 2011

IMM Week 26

Well, I've avoided the all the colds/flus going around for so long that my lungs have finally succumbed to the pressure and given up . Some sort of chest cold has invaded my system, leaving me completely unmotivated to do any sort of post except this one. Be excited! ;)

I've actually already read a couple of these, so look for reviews soon.

All books link to Goodreads.

Trapped by Michael Northrop
The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card
Silverlicious by Victoria Kahn
13 Words by Maira Kalman
Soup Day by Melissa Iwai
Shoes for Me by Sue Fliess

Soup Day is making me hungry...

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

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm finally an adult...

I think I've finally reached the threshhold of true adulthood. Why, when I'm almost 28 years old, do I think I'm just now becoming an adult, you ask? It's quite simple really. I'm ready for spring.

This is the first year that I've honestly disliked winter from the start, aching for the warm spring and summer are to make it's way in. I used to love the winter season, anxious to dig out my sweaters each year in September and keep cozy in them through March (or even April if you grew up in Upstate NY as I did), keeping my mug filled with hot drinks, staying inside on the weekends or heading out to play in the snow. Even last year, when Washington D.C. received record snow falls, I was a happy girl, staying warm in my house or heading out to play in the deserted street with my dogs. This year? I'm cold. I'm cranky. I'm ready for spring. I want to hop on a plane to Florida or California and wait out the rest of these chilly and gray days.
I am now an adult.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Widower's Tale audio review

When 70 year old widower Percy Darling is convinced to turn his old barn into an upscale preschool, he knows his whole life is going to start to change. A newly retired librarian, Percy watches the preschool grow and prosper,  reflecting on what he wants out of his new life, including beginning a new relationship with a younger woman after not dating for decades and attempting to connect with grown daughters, one of whom is quite unstable. 

The voices of Ira, a young, gay man teaching at the preschool, Celestino, an immigrant from Guatemala, working as a landscaper at the home of Percy's neighbor, and Robert, Percy's grandson, a student at Harvard are intertwined with Percy's own story, each making their own unique statement in the story. The men are handed a personal crisis, one the reader gets to experience along with each character, as difficult situations are dealt with, often in unexpected ways. 

Who knew I could get so involved in the lives of four fictional men? I listened to the audio version, read by Mark Bramhall, and was SO impressed with what I heard. Bramhall managed to do four distinct voices for each of these men and I never had to question which one I was listening to at any given time. He is an incredibly talented reader and I'll definitely be looking for other books he's read for. 

Julia Glass, an author I've admired for years, has created a beautiful saga with great pacing and that special something that makes a reader want to know more. Definitely a character driven novel (which is what I look for, I think), I fell in love with Percy, Ira, Celestino, and Robert. My heart hurt for each of them at different times and I found myself cheering at other times...which could have appeared strange, since I listened to it in my car. Awkward. 

If you enjoy a great, character driven novel, I highly recommend this one, or Glass's earlier novel, Three Junes. I think I'm going to try to get that one on audio next!

The Widower's Tale
Julia Glass 
Adult Fiction
Random House Audio
September 2010
Book borrowed from my local library

Sunday, January 16, 2011

IMM Week 25

My mailman was busy this week! It seemed like each book I received came in it's own package, so over the course of the week I had a whole lot to open.  I also had a pretty great reading week, finishing a couple of really good ones and starting another. Lots of late readings nights!

I'm linking the books to GoodReads, starting this week, so if you have an account you can check them out a little closer.

Night Road by Kristen Hannah
The Pirate Captain's Daughter by Eve Bunting
Warp Speed by Lisa Yee

God Gave Us the World by Lisa Tawn Bergren
A Dazzling Display of Dogs by Betsy Franco
Big Bunny by Colleen Rand
Jam & Honey by Melita Morales
I'm Not by Pam Smallcomb
A Book for Black-Eyed Susan by Judy Young
Pretty Penny Sets Up Shop by Devon Kinch
Where Do Giggles Come From by Diane E. Muldrow
Miss Dorothy's Bookmobile by Gloria Houston

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

It's Saturday and that means a new round of picture books for you all. Hopefully you'll find something you like!

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons by Il Sung Na

Na is becoming one of my favorite creators of children's books, for the amazing illustrations he creates. In this latest book, readers learn about what different animals do during the winter, including a beautiful rabbit. As winter comes, some animals fly away, some hibernate, and swim to warmer waters, and the rabbit observes them all. 

The illustrations are so fabulous, that I think I even like this one a bit better than A Book of Sleep (which is now available as a board book by the way). The pictures appear to have had a layering process done with them and the effect is amazing. You could also use this in your classroom as a resource in teaching about winter. I highly recommend checking it out!

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons
Il Sung Na
24 pages
Picture Book
January 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark and illustrator Patrice Barton

Another beautifully illustrated book! Featuring a Chinese girl with her loving parents that simply cannot give her the life they feel she deserves, she's set off on a journey to a new land, being taken care of by various animals along the way. Her adoptive parents are anxiously awaiting her arrival all the way on the other side of the world and when she does finally make it there, the family is complete.

For those looking for more stories about international adoption, this would be a really nice choice. Showcasing the love of biological AND adoptive parents, as well as the sweet baby being in caring hands her entire journey. 

Just a note to authors out there, planning to write about international adoption...I know readers would love to see some other countries being represented. Write a book about Russian adoption, Haitian adoption, Guatemalan adoption. Lots of kids out there have come from countries other than China and would probably love to read a book about someone like them. 

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale
Karen Henry Clark
32 pages
Picture Book
November 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Big Bug, Little Bug: A Book of Opposites by Paul Stickland

This one is for your younger kids, filled with lots of opposites! Using bugs as his muse, author Paul Stickland shows the reader big vs. little, one vs. many, underground vs. aboveground, and a whole bunch of other opposite groups. The colors are bright and bold and there's a HUGE pop-up on the last page. And, of course, pop-ups rock!

This one would be great for preschoolers just getting into learning about opposites and what they mean. It's a lot of fun to look at (and did I mention it has a pop-up??).

Big Bug, Little Bug
Paul Stickland
20 pages
Picture Book
Review copy provided by publisher
January 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Room review

A seriously heavy book. This one has received a ton of hype and I think rightfully so, if only because of the subject matter. Room is an intense and riveting story of a boy, his mother, and the place that they call home. Told from the perspective of Jack, a five-year-old boy, we learn he has spent his entire five years living within the walls of a single room, where his mother had been placed after her kidnapping. He enjoys many things that typical boys enjoy, like playing pretend, coloring, watching television, and making forts, but has never been outside the confines of "Room."
When Jack and his mom are suddenly thrust out into the world, away from the only home Jack has ever known, what seems like new blessings become confusing and overwhelming events. Jack has to learn what cars are, what the sky is, all different kinds of new foods, and many, many other things that most people take for granted. He is overstimulated and scared of his new environment, as is his mother.

The story is incredibly powerful and written in such a way that the reader is left feeling as if though they really did experience everything through a five-year-old's eyes. The dialog is impressive and the overall effect chilling. It made me feel incredibly uncomfortable while reading it (which was probably the author's point) and I could only read it in small doses. It's a haunting read that will stick with you long after you've finished the last page.

Emma Donoghue
336 pages
Adult fiction
Little, Brown, and Company
September 2010
Purchased copy

Monday, January 10, 2011

Drought review

Ruby lives with her mother in a community tied down by slavery. She, along with the rest of the community, are forced to collect water every day, using spoons and cups, to fill large cisterns before a mysterious "Visitor" comes once a year to collect the water. The residents, each alive for more than two hundred years, suffer daily beatings, being starved by the slaver, Darwin, and his Overseers, and fighting for water during a horrible drought, all while placing their faith in Otto...who disappeared years ago, leaving them to fend for themselves, and happens to be Ruby's father. Still with me?

In the midst of their daily horrors of abuse and starvation, Ruby also has a unique weight upon her shoulders. Her blood can heal. When dropped into the precious water she collects, it heals bruised and broken bodies. Wanting to attempt an escape, but knowing she owes the community the opportunity to be healed from the wounds Darwin afflicts, Ruby is incredibly conflicted about what her life means and what she is supposed to do. Toss in a forbidden love interest and you're in for one crazy story!

Though a lot is going on within these pages: slavery, strange cult-like community, living for hundreds of years, magical blood, faith etc., it all flows in a thrilling way that will completely suck you in. I definitely found myself turning pages as fast as I could, wanting to know what was going to happen next and becoming deeply involved in Ruby's stories. The characters are interesting and have a certain depth to them (even those I didn't like!) and your heart will break as you watch a few of them go through some really hard scenes. I know I'm being a bit vague here, but anything else would be a spoiler! 

I was left a little unnerved by the ending...not sure if Bachorz is going to write another book or not. She left it open for a sequel, but it also could have just been a "leave-it-to-your-imagination" ending, which probably wouldn't make me very happy. There are questions left to be answered. I definitely wanted more of Ruby's story and almost feel that the "end" could have been continued a bit more, if a bit of the heaviness was removed from the middle of the book. A couple of scenes could have been shortened or eliminated without harming the overall story. I did really love the whole past-meets-the-modern-world concept and thought of the movie, "The Village" the entire time I was reading. 

I really got into this one and am crossing my fingers for a 2nd book. If you're a fan of dystopian-esque books, definitely try this one out!

Pam Bachorz
400 pages
Young Adult
January 2010
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, January 9, 2011

IMM Week 24

Small mailbox week for me. I've been busy with some reading for work, after not picking up anything during my entire vacation except backlist I had been wanting to get to, so I'm good with a small mailbox!

Saraswati's Way by Monika Schroeder
All Just Glass by Amelia Atwater Rhodes
Warped by Maurissa Guibord

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

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

It's been awhile since my last Picture Book Saturday! I'm getting back in the swing of things with two cute new ones for you all, just out in the last few weeks. Enjoy!

Shoe-la-la by Karen Beaumont and illustrator LeUyen Pham is going to have the girly girls out there very happy! From the ultra-sparkly cover and the fashionable "glamour girl" theme, this is definitely for the Fancy Nancy fans out there.

Though the rhyming doesn't quite flow as nicely as I would like, the illustrations are beautiful and show all the cute shoes fancy-smancy dresses with their different patterns and baubles, making up for rhyme flow on some pages. Imagination is definitely the theme of the book and you could definitely spin off the story with a shoe craft of your own.

Got a Pinkalicious or Fancy Nancy fan? Check this one out.

Karen Beaumont
32 pages
Picture Book
January 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

What's in the Egg Little Pip? by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman had me SO excited. I love Wilson and had someone missed out on the fact that she had a new one coming out and though the "Pip" series isn't my favorite of her series books, this one was pretty darn cute!

Little Pip, an adorable little penguin, finds out he is having a sibling and isn't pleased. He likes his life with his parents just the way it is and is afraid that the new little penguin in the egg is just going to mess things up. The story is a fairly typical new sibling story, but Jane Chapman's beautiful illustrations add a little something special. 

Great for a new "new sibling" story, if you're tired of the same old thing or just a new read for Karma Wilson fans!

What's in the Egg, Little Pip?
Karma Wilson
32 pages
Picture Books
McElderry Books
December 2010

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu review

Lucy Wu is incredibly excited to start the 6th grade with her friends, her basketball team, and (of course) that special boy she has a crush on. She's also thrilled that her older sister is finally going away to college, leaving Lucy with her own room to redecorate and spread out in. Things couldn't be better! Until, of course, Lucy learns that her Great Aunt Yi Po is coming to visit from China...and will be Lucy's new roommate. 

Lucy has always considered herself a typical American kid, but has been consistently bullied by her older sister about not knowing enough Chinese and not caring enough about her heritage. And now that Yi Po is coming, her parents are expecting her to drop everything (including basketball) to attend Chinese school, totally ruining all plans that Lucy had for her year. 

I was a little nervous about this one at first, as I was afraid that it would be like so many that have come before, featuring a girl finding out about her culture and being frustrated with her family members. I didn't want the character of Lucy to be lost in a story that has been written many times, but was very pleasantly surprised with the outcome of the story. We watch as Lucy grows into her own person, despite all of her initial disappointments about being picked on, having Yi Po for a roommate, and having to attend Chinese school. 

Lucy has completely appropriate 11 year-old reactions to her situation and as she matures and learns about different aspects of her life (and her family), she is able to teach the reader about China, it's culture, AND what's it's like being a confused 6th grader. The meshing of the two issues was done quite well and the overall result is a fun, inspiring read. 

A note on the cover: definitely needs some work. I wasn't incredibly intrigued to pick this one up, but am glad I did.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
Wendy Wan-Long Shang
320 pages
Middle Grade
Scholastic Press
January 2011
Review copy received from publisher

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Synchronicities: What we did in our "free" Cybils time

synchronicities: 1. the quality or fact of being synchronous 2. the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality --used especially in the psychology of C.G. Jung
                                                          -Merriam-Webster Online

This list of similarities and coincidences among the 2010 Cybils YA Fiction nominations is humbly submitted to you by the 2010 Cybils YA Fiction Panel. It is in no way to be considered completely exhaustive, as we are certain nominated books will have been missed. This list was originated out of amusement as the seven panelists read their way through 182 titles. If you know of a nominated title that should be included in one of the synchronicities below, please feel free to submit it in the comments! To get the entire list, you'll have to visit all seven of the panelists blogs. 

I get to be lucky #1 and cover #'s 1-9 in our long list! This was a long, yet hysterical endeavor and we would love to share it with those of you that have not experienced a Cybils Round 1 panel. To get the rest of the list (and believe me, you'll want to), head over to the following blogs:

Ami #11-21
Cheryl #22-32
Jackie #33-42
Justina #43-52
Kelly #53-63
Melissa #64-72

1. Abuse
Abe in Arms
Absolute Value of -1
City of Cannibals
Freaks and Revelations
Hold Still (self abuse)
Scars (self abuse)
Split by Swati Avasthi
What Momma Left Me
When I Was Joe 

2. African American Characters
Sweet Hereafter
Perfect Shot
Myself and I
Eight Grade Superzero
Saving Maddie
What Momma Left Me

3. Alternating or Multiple POVs:
Absolute Value of -1
After the Kiss
Anxious Hearts
A Little Wanting Song
All Unquiet Things
Bright Young Things
The Firefly Letters
Freaks and Revelations
Return to Paradise
Wicked Girls
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Bamboo People
Girl Saves Boy
The Half-Life of Planets
Freak Magnet
Indigo Blues

4. An Exhaustive Account of Dead People

a. Parents (both)
Abe in Arms
The Agency (1&2)
Hellie Jondoe
Queen of Secrets

     Anxious Hearts
     A Little Wanting Song
     Dirty Little Secrets
     Heist Society (?)
     What Momma Left Me
     Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs
     Nothing Like You
     City of Cannibals
     Harmonic Feedback (Justin's)
     Love Drugged (Celia's)

(We are aware of 2 others, but for the sake of preventing spoilers have chosen to leave them off the list)

     Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
     The Life of Glass
     Only the Good Spy Young (maybe)
     The Beautiful Between
     The Brothers Story
     The Young Chieftain


The Brothers Story
Freak Magnet

Abe in Arms
Dangerous Neighbors
The Sky is Everywhere
Tell Me a Secret
Losing Faith

c.Best Friend:
Abe in Arms
After Ever After
All Unquiet Things
Freak Observer
Harmonic Feedback
Hold Still
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
The Secret Year (girlfriend)
Sweet Hereafter
Tangled (girlfriend)
Winter Longing (boyfriend)

d.Random Person
The Deadly Sister
In a Heartbeat
It's Not Summer Without You
Life, After
Sing Me to Sleep
The Summer I Got a Life
The Red Umbrella
The Twin's Daughter
The Brothers Story
The Less-Dead
When I Was Joe

e.Death by Car Crash
Lifted (grandparents)
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
The Secret Year
A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
Freefall (Rosetta's folks)
Queen of Secrets

5. Anorexia
The Beautiful Between
The Heart is Not a Size

6. Author Parents
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour
This Gorgeous Game

7. Blindness
Girl, Stolen
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

8. Bullying
Beat the Band
By the Time You Read This I'll Be Dead
Eighth-Grade Superzero
Life, After
Some Girls Are
Harmonic Feedback
When I Was Joe
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

9. Cuba
The Firefly Letters
The Red Umbrella

10. Complaints about the Quality of School Toilet Paper
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin
What Mama Left Me

Call us obsessive or whatever you'd like, but seriously, isn't this a lot of crazy?? Be sure to check out the rest (lots of fun ones) on the other blogs. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

2 great food reads for the New Year

Lots of people make resolutions surrounding health and wellness in the New Year, including myself. I'm just attempting to stick with a lifestyle change I recently made, as well as drink more water. Simple resolutions, really. A couple of months ago, after a lot of thinking (and a few documentaries), I made the decision to stop eating meat and drinking milk. I'm not a vegetarian (I'm still eating fish) and I'm not a vegan (I'm still eating cheese/ice cream/etc), but I definitely have been making, what I have deemed as healthier choices for myself, for animals, and for the planet. 

In December, I read two books focusing on food and wellness of a sort and enjoyed both of them quite a bit, but for very different reasons.

The first, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone is part testimony to becoming a vegan and part cookbook. Lots of recipes, most are pretty easy to create, but a lot of the ingredients aren't easily accessible (to me at least). I'm looking forward to making some of the dishes, like Ginger Pasta with Zucchini and Alicia's Favorite Cupcakes, but I definitely got more out of the memoir/teaching portion of the book, rather than the recipe portion. 

Alicia tells us her decision making process of becoming a vegan and why she thinks this should be a lifestyle for everyone. I appreciated her frankness, but I also think that was what put me off at times too. She has no problem telling her readers that meat and dairy are "nasty" and that "sugar is crack" and often comes off as slightly condescending in tone. She encourages her readers to "flirt" with eating only a plant-based diet, but definitely places the other choice in a very negative light. I did, however, learn a lot about good proteins, natural sweeteners, and the benefits to the earth. 

Overall, I probably wouldn't hand this to someone teetering on becoming a vegan or not, though I would give it to someone sure of their decision or new to the lifestyle. I have no plans to become a full-on vegan, but took away good tips for the lifestyle that I am choosing to lead. 

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet
Alicia Silverstone
320 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
Rodale Books
October 2009
Book borrowed from my library

My second foodie read of December was The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway and I loved it! Part life memoir, part recipe book, I really took away a lot of great tips from Erway's journey, as well as some awesome recipes. 

Living in NYC, Erway decided to attempt an experiment and blog about it, like so many people do, but she had a really unique and inspiring idea. She was going to refrain from eating out in any restaurant in NYC and did so for two whole years. I would have failed pretty much immediately. 

Throughout these two years, we watch as Erway learns how to cook all the great food she would be normally spending large sums of money on at eateries around the city and makes a lot of new friends and helping to save the planet while doing so. We also get little tidbits of Erway's life, her job, her relationship with a guy, etc. throughout the pages and they're very nice additions to the book. 

As in most foodie memoirs, I wish there was the addition of photographs, but that's just a personal issue. I love pictures! The recipes all appear fairly easy, though some of the ingredients will be pricey (compared to their restaurant counterparts though, quite inexpensive). 

I won't be giving up restaurant eating anytime soon, especially while I'm living in such an awesome place for eating! I will, however, make more conscious choices regarding where and when we eat out. A lot of times we'll find ourselves out somewhere and hungry and rather than research a restaurant for good reviews, we just pick what's closest and end up with a mediocre meal. Or for convenience sake we'll order in from the closest Thai restaurant and only sort of enjoy our meal, rather than make the drive 20 minutes to the excellent place we know we love. Stuff like that needs to change!

The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove
Cathy Erway
336 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
February 2010
Book borrowed from my library

Sunday, January 2, 2011

IMM Week 23

Happy New Year to all of you! I spent the last couple of weeks doing a whole lot of nothing...relaxing in New York with family, then relaxing here with the dogs at home. Our bulldog had surgery to repair a ruptured ACL the day before Christmas, so while she was recuperating we read, watched movies, took long walks with the other dog, and apparently, got a lot of books in the mail!

Though I didn't receive any books for Christmas (people must be afraid to even try), I did get one lone gift card, which I quickly spent!

Here's what arrived from Scholastic:

Words from Dust by Trent Reedy
Saving Zasha by Randi Barrow
The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
Sequins, Secrets, and Silver Linings by Sophia Bennett
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
A Season of Secrets by Sally Nicholls
Dear America: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry
Dear America: A Picture of Freedom by Patricia McKissack

I don't know a lot about most of these, but I've been itching to get to Saving Zasha for awhile. I'm a sucker for a dog book and this one looks great! I'm also getting a chance to run an event with the author of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu in January, so I'm definitely looking forward to that one too.

The books I purchased, all on clearance:

The Night Before Christmas Pop-up by Clement Clark Moore and Robert Sabuda
   -I love Robert Sabuda and collect his pop-ups. This one only makes #3, but I'm slowly building my collection!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
   -Seriously, who doesn't need a copy of this book? I remember loving it when I was a kid and one of my teachers read it aloud to us.

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
   -I used to have a copy of this one, but it either got lent to a friend and not returned or lost in one of our moves. It's one of my favorite Christmas books, so at 50% off, I thought I deserved another copy!

Since it's a new year, I also purchased a new couples' devotional for the husband and I, which I failed to take a picture of. Here's a generic one:

The One Year Love Language Minute Devotional by Gary Chapman
   -I love Gary Chapman and we're great believers in The Five Love Languages, so I jumped at getting a Chapman devotional for 2011. Hoping it's a good one!

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

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's Cybils announcement time!

This is my 4th year participating on a Round 1 Cybils panel and it's so much fun! A lot of work, but definitely worth the time and effort involved. My fellow panelists and I have spent the last 2 1/2 months reading like crazy (over 180 books were nominated this year) and discussing every chance we got, attempting to get ready for this moment and I am very happy to announce our 7 finalists for YA Fiction, in no particular order:

Split by Swati Avasthi

Dirt Road Home by Watt Key

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Scrawl by Mark Shulman

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

You can check out our reasoning behind each selection over at the Cybils site, as well as the other finalists in other categories.