Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi

This adorable book completely charmed both Elliott and I. Though we haven't hit the bug stage in our house yet, though this one could most definitely be the gateway book to all things "bugs."

The illustrations are a great mix of quirky and cute and the text is surprisingly simple, yet helps to inform young readers on some pretty cool bug traits. The back pages have a great spread of all the bugs referenced throughout the book, with their names making for a great reference source.

We loved it and can't wait to see more from this author/illustrator duo!

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Secret Side of Empty review

M.T. seems like the typical American teenager. She has a guy she's interested, friends, a social life, and gets excellent grades. M.T. also has a big secret -- she's an undocumented immigrant. 

Though this huge part of M.T.'s life has been fairly easy to hide through high school, her life as a senior has thrust everything into a tailspin. Her friends don't understand why she won't get her driver's license or why she constantly avoids any talk of applying to colleges, and when her roll in the Honor Society necessitates the planning of a trip abroad, M.T. knows she's in trouble. 

I totally saw myself in this girl. She was me in high school. The grades, the friends, Honor Society, etc. Her story completely opened my eyes to a whole new perspective of what some teens are handed and forced to deal with throughout their high school years, due to circumstances beyond their own control. I can't imagine being in M.T.'s position, though I definitely appreciated the author forcing me to feel that way. She's a typical teen...except, she's not. 

I was uncomfortable while reading this book and I think that was a necessary feeling to truly grasp the emotional nature of M.T.'s story. I could't put it down once I started reading and needed to know what happened to this girl who reminded me so much of my younger self. 

The subject is timely and the character realistic and easy to connect to. Maria Andreu is a debut author and I look forward to whatever she writes next. Highly recommended. 

Thanks to Running Press for the review copy. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

I don't typically talk about sophomore books in a series here, choosing to mainly focus on the first in a series or an entire series as a whole, but this book deserves a post of its own. It's that good! 

Victoria Schwab happens to be a local author and when The Archived came out last year, I went to her signing at my favorite local indie, One More Page Books. It ended up being one of my favorite books of the year and I eagerly anticipated the arrival of The Unbound this winter. When it showed up at my door, I held off reading it for a few weeks, knowing I'd want to savor it... and I was right. Once again, it's that good. 

Mackenzie Bishop is once again our main character and she is still a Keeper for the Archive. Dealing with the emotional ramifications of almost dying has taken over her life and she's struggling to stay afloat. Yet, when people start disappearing -- all of them knowing Mackenzie -- she knows that her past may very well have come back to haunt her, as impossible as that may seem. 

As she attempts to track the person responsible for the disappearances, Mackenzie quickly becomes the prime suspect. She knows she has to prove her theory to the Archive before they take away her role as Keeper... and her memories. 

The writing in these books is just amazing. Not only does Schwab make it incredibly easy to connect to the characters and almost instantly care about them, but she also provides such great plot that I wanted to just fly through the pages. Her prose is beautiful, yet suspenseful -- the perfect combo for this series. 

Taking on issues of grief and PTSD is probably difficult enough on its own, but adding those topics to a fantasy novel have to be even more difficult, but Schwab created a realistic world in the Archive, while also allowing her readers to see the journey a person goes on while recovery from tragedy and trauma. I love these books and can't wait to see what Victoria Schwab does next. 

Thanks to Hyperion for the review copy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Coffee and a chat

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you I miss blogging. The once-a-week posting is getting old (and I'm sure it is for you too), but I'm just SO busy. If you look at my calendar for March, I have something going on almost every single day and that just doesn't leave a whole lot of room for sitting down and typing out book reviews. Or reading books for that matter. I'm just behind on everything. It's slightly overwhelming, but getting out at night is nice!

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you that Elliott has started calling me "mommy" which is super adorable. I realize this is a normal thing for kids, but I've always been "mama" and just one day he started calling me mommy. Totally caught me off-guard and still gets a smile out of me several times a day.

I don't even have a recent picture of him for this post. That's how behind I am. 

If we were having coffee... I'd tell you all about my hatred of winter. I used to LOVE winter. Fall and winter were always my favorite seasons growing up in snowy Upstate NY, but as I've grown older, I realize that my moods are definitely associated with the seasons and I need sunshine. I may hate the humidity of summer, but the days staying lighter longer and more sunshine than clouds definitely helps keep me in my usual cheerful form. It's supposed to be 70 today and high 20's tomorrow, so really, March can just go away.

If we were having coffee... I'd gush over the brilliance that was True Detective. I think that's the best television I've ever seen. It was like watching a fantastic 8-hour movie. The acting was great, the plot was CRAZY, and the unique format kept me hooked. Whole new cast next season. So cool.

If we were having coffee... I'd probably talk about my fear of this Dave Ramsey Financial Peace class we're starting next week. It's going to be intense. Anyone else take it?

Here's to more reviews later in the week, I hope!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

Luc, a young orphan in Gabon, drying glasses in a bar for a few coins each day, finds himself working with a researcher from the National Geographic Society studying endangered chimps. Luc finds a sort of family with the chimps - each with their own personality - and with the man known as "the Prof." 

The descriptions were incredibly realistic and transported me into jungle life with Luc (and the bugs and spiders and other scary things). I loved feeling so close to a character and his experiences and grew to understand more about the chimpanzee animal through Luc's own learning. He was an inspiring protagonist and one that still has me thinking of his story, days after finishing the book. I was definitely taken out of my comfort zone and into a survival story unlike any other I've read. 

I love Schrefer's writing, especially last year's Endangered and was thrilled to see Schrefer continued to write about great apes. I just learned that Threatened is the second in a quartet of books about great apes, with orangutans and gorillas up next. And if you haven't read Endangered, which features a bonobo sanctuary, you most definitely should. It was a well-deserved National Book Award finalist!

I can see teachers using these books as excellent conversation starters in their classrooms. Such a great read!

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy!