Libri Dilectio: August 2009

30 August 2009

In My Mailbox Act 2

Yay! I actually got another fun box in the mail this week. Last week I got a Greg Heffley stand up and I mentioned that I was still waiting for a box of books from ALA. Well this week they finally came! Here are the books that I got from Little Brown (these are not books they asked me to review, they are books I requested at ALA).

Freaks and Revelations, Davida Wills Hurwin

Once Was Lost, Sara Zarr

School of Fear, Gitty Daneshvari

Beryl: A Pig’s Tale, Jane Simmons

I also bought some new books this week. It seems like everytime I read a book from my TBR stack, I add three more in it’s place! At this rate, I’ll never be finished reading. I’m livin’ the dream…well, my dream. =)

The Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor

(read this one before, but with the third book coming out soon, I wanted to own a copy)

East, Edith Pattou

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory

(okay this one’s not YA or middle grade, but I really love grown up historical fiction!)

That’s all that was in my mailbox this week! Big thank you to Little Brown for the mail request ARCs. It was so nice to not have to carry around that many more books at ALA. As it was I made a trip to the car in the middle of the day to drop off a stack. My shoulder thanks you.

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme masterminded by The Story Siren. Stop by her blog to peek inside other book bloggers’ mailboxes!

29 August 2009

Bust a Gut: Picture Books

Apparently I don’t hide my true nature very well…at all. After being at my current job for only a few weeks, my obsession with hilarious picture books was all too obvious to my new co-workers. In honor of my love of all things ridiculous, I thought I’d take the time to highlight some of my favorite funny picture books, both recent and longtime loves.

Wink the Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed, JC Phillipps

This new picture book is a unique story about the importance of being yourself. For me, the cover was love at first sight. I mean, c’mon, a ribbon dancing NINJA?! He looks so happy! I shared this in storytime over the summer and all the kids thought it was hysterical…and so did the librarian. Check it out and starting feeling noticed.

Chicken Little, Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley
Everyone knows the story of Chicken Little who thought the sky was falling. This new version has great illustrations and the wonderful author asides that make a picture book that much better. I did always wonder why the birds in this story had such ridiculous names.
It would be wrong to make a list of funny picture books and not include one from Mo Willems. He is one of the best children’s authors writing right now and I don’t think anyone would argue with that. Especially not my 4 year old cousin, Luis. I gave him this (and several other books) for his birthday this year and he LOVED it. He immediately ignored all his toys and asked me to read this to him, twice. I also shared it at storytime over the summer to rave reviews.
Big Plans, Bob Shea
This was originally recommended to me by a very good friend who is a pro when it comes to finding HYSTERICAL picture books. I never stop cracking up while I read this one. It’s great to share with older elementary school kids and they will definitely find it as funny as you will. Nothing can hold back this boy, especially not a time out because he’s got “Big Plans. Big Plans I Say!” With his Mynah bird companion he takes over the country and then the world with his “Big Plans!”
I Need My Monster, Amanda Noll
The trend in picture books now seems to be the friendly monster or the silly monster, but this book keeps the scary monster and makes him necessary. After a little boy’s monster takes a leave of absence, he finds himself unable to fall asleep so he starts auditioning new monsters. The monsters are all ridiculous and mildly HILARIOUS. Seriously, read it for the monster with the tongue. It made me laugh out loud!
Chester, Melanie Watt
Yes, I love Melanie Watt. She is one of those authors/illustrators who can do no wrong in my eyes. I love all her books, but I have a special place in my heart for Chester, which is just the way he’d want it. Chester and his big red marker help Melanie write the story of a mouse…I mean cat. This is a great story to share with kids of all ages. Even the very big ones who seem to think they are grown up.
First off, how can you not love that cover? Chowder looks so happy! This is one of those illustrations that I would love to frame and hang in my house. There are lots of “Be Yourself” type of books out there, but I like the ones that don’t beat the kids over the head with the message. It’s there and it’s funny! Chowder doesn’t really fit in at a summer camp for pampered pups, but he finds his own way to make a splash…or a bounce.

A series of short stories about the ridiculous Hocky family. This was a favorite for my whole family when my brother and I were younger. I remember my dad loved the line, “I have a string. Do you have a string? I have a string.” I never get tired of reading this book and I love Lane Smith’s illustrations. This one is all around fun for all ages!

26 August 2009

Book Review: After

After, Amy Efaw

(Gr 9+)

Synopsis from Amazon:
“An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .
Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby. Soon the connection is made—Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there’s only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.”

I have to start out by saying, this is not the type of book I can really feel that I liked. Books like this aren’t really about the enjoyment factor, more about the grim fascination that makes us slow down at car accidents. With that said, I did get a lot out of this book. I was so horrified by Devon’s actions and the descriptions of the birth, but I just couldn’t look away! This is a book that will make you shudder, but also make you think.

Devon is an interesting narrator. The writing style is very hands off and allows the reader to feel more like they are watching Devon then that they are inside her head. You’re never really certain how much to trust her interpretation of events. Does she really not remember, or does she not want to? Did she really not know she was pregnant, or did she just do everything she could do avoid confirming it? I can’t say that I liked her, but I can say that I ended up rooting for her in a way that I didn’t see coming.

Reading this was an interesting experience. I doubt that I’ll run out and recommend it to everyone I know or anything like that, but there are a few people I fully intend to pass my copy along to. This is a very well written, gripping story that will leave you shuddering and still feeling mildly elated. Overall, it’s a very good book.

p.s. thanks for having the giveaway Abby!

25 August 2009

Book Review: Ash

Ash, Malinda Lo
(Gr 9+)

Coming September 2009
(ARC provided by good friend who knew I wanted to read it!)

Synopsis from ARC
“Pushed into indentured servitude for her stepmother in the City to pay off her father’s debts, Ash is consumed with grief. She misses her family and her happy life at the edge of the Wood where old magic used to linger in the air like fairy breath. Her only joy comes from the brief, stolen walks in the woods with the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean. Ash’s single, unspoken hope is that someday he might steal her away, as fairies are said to do.
But on the day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, from Kaisa she learns the art of the hunt, how to ride and track. Their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, but it grows and changes, and with it, Ash reawakens her capacity for love – and her desire to live.”

This book really had an unfair advantage with me from the start. I’d read some good reviews of it, I LOVE a good fairy tale re-telling, and I was completely captivated by the cover. I mean, look at it, that is a wow factor cover.

Ash pulled me in from the beginning. I’ve been reading a lot of realistic fiction lately so I was ready for a good bit of magic, especially dark, creepy magic. I love that the fairies are so dangerous. They’re beautiful and humans are drawn to them, but they are not the fun sprites of Daisy Meadows. It had more of a realistic feel, since fairy tales were never meant to be the Disney-fied fun that they are today. Try reading an original Grimm’s version of one of your favorites. I know I was horrified to read the actual Grimm’s version of Cinderella as a young teen. It was so violent! The darkness of the fairies provide an interesting point of view. Ash’s life is so dark and dismal that she actually views being taken to live with the fairies as a way to better her life.

I love the decision placed before Ash. Go with Sidean (pronounced “Sheen“) and, for all practical purposes, die or stay and live with Kaisa. It’s a familiar choice in teen paranormal romances, but this one is different, in a really good way.

This is a great book. It seems like too often teen GLBT fiction is in the form of the issue novel. How does the character come out, how do they deal with it, what are the repercussions, etc. Its nice that teens can read books like this that just happen to have same sex relationships because why shouldn’t they?

24 August 2009

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines

In Honor of John Green’s Birthday!

An Abundance of Katherines, John Green
(Gr 9+)

Colin has dated and been dumped by Katherines 19 times. His most recent Katherine has really broken his heart and his friend Hassan decides a road trip is the best cure. Colin uses their trip as an opportunity to start developing a mathematical theorem (he’s a prodigy) to predict the course of a relationship, using his previous 19 failures as a model.

Plenty of movies are inherently quotable; Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Empire Records, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (if you haven’t seen this one you’re really missing out). Lots of books lend themselves to quotation as well. They’re full of deep thoughts and profound notions that legions of librarians, readers, and college students can’t help but quoting. An Abundance of Katherines is also a ridiculously quotable book, but more in the hysterical movie type of way. I am usually not one to dog-ear the page of a book, actually that sort of thing just horrifies me, but I kept wanting to fold over pages while reading this so I’d be able to find the passages that cracked me up! Here are some of my favs.

“Ne dis pas que j’ai des hemorroides! Je n’ai pas d’hemorroide.” (52).

“By the way, I’ve decided to start referring to myself exclusively as ‘Daddy.’ Everytime Daddy would otherwise say ‘I’ or ‘Me,’ Daddy is now going to say ‘Daddy.'” (98).

“Dude, you’re such a geek. And that’s coming from an overweight Star Trek fan who scored a 5 on the AP Calculus test. So you know your condition is grave.” (109).

God wants you to marry the girl who believed I was a Frenchman suffering from hemorrhoidal Tourette’s?” (129).

This book is just all out GREAT! The writing is hysterical, the characters are so real, and the plot is fun (and yes, thought provoking too). I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be recommending it to everyone I know. I also fully intend to start telling people to stop talking about something by saying “Dingleberries.” It seems effective. =)

22 August 2009

Summer Reading Round Up (2009)

School officially started this week, where I live, and next week, where I work. It seems like right in the middle of the two is the best time for me to look back over the books I read this summer. This was, quite possibly, my BEST summer of reading EVER! For the first time in years that I wasn’t taking any classes (because I got my master’s degree in May and now will never go to school again). I finally had tons of free time to read and lots of great blogs to get suggestions from.

My absolute favorite book from this summer was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. It was the only one I read that pulled me in to the point that I finished it in one night. If you’ve missed this one somehow (and I doubt anyone has) go out and get a copy right now! I fully expect to hear this one talked about A LOT in the coming months.
Here is my summer reading break down, by the numbers only
June: 13
July: 10
August: 12 (so far…)

I know that 35 books over the course of the summer for some people may not be a lot, but I was pretty impressed with myself! The best part is knowing that I don’t have to go back to school. No one is going to tell me what I have to read, they may recommend, but no one is going to assign and grade my reading. I can keeping reading whatever I want, as much as I want! This is best illustrated by my stack of TBR books. A giant stack of books that I haven’t read yet is one of my favorite things in the whole world! Happy end of summer everyone!

“I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams

21 August 2009

Book Review: Moon Series

Life as We Knew It, Susan Beth Pfeffer
(Gr 7+)

Miranda is a normal teenage girl, looking forward to summer and the end of her sophomore year. Then one night, an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it closer to the Earth. Now she has to worry about massive tidal waves on every coast, volcanoes, and whether or not her family will have enough to eat.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I don’t know if it was the diary format, but I felt instantly drawn to Miranda. I loved her for all of her strengths and all of her flaws.

The survival aspect of this book takes center stage for the entire narrative. You’re constantly wondering if the family will survive. What the world will be like in the future, or if there even is a future anymore. Pfeffer brings up many moral quandaries that Miranda has to work through. What does it mean to be a family and who should you take risks to help? Miranda and her family have a lot to think about while their trapped inside a house with no heat and no electricity during the world’s worst crisis.

This is the type of book that sucked me in, so that I had to know what happened next. I cried and even laughed a few times. I wanted good things for Miranda so much and I really felt for her every time she was disappointed. This is an excellent book for teenagers. If I were an English teacher, I would definitely want this to be part of my curriculum. It is the type of book that just begs to be discussed. A must read for all.

The Dead and the Gone, Susan Beth Pfeffer
(Gr 7+)

Alex Morales lives in New York City with his family. He’s focused on working hard to earn money for college, Georgetown is his top choice. He’s a good student who always strives for the best. Until the night an asteroid hits the moon and changes his life forever. Now he’s trapped in a dying city, with missing parents, and it’s up to him to take care of his two younger sisters.

It’s safe to say, from my comments about Life as We Knew It that I had very high hopes for this companion novel. I was really excited to read about the same disaster from another perspective. I figured since New York City is on the coast of the Atlantic that this book would be more action based then Life as We Knew It.

The book started a little slowly and felt too similar to it’s companion. Alex and his sister, Julie, are taken by their Uncle to his store to empty out the food soon after the moon moves towards Earth. Then for a good long time Alex and his sisters have plenty of food, an apartment in a safe part of the city, and school to go to. I kept waiting for more danger, more action, but it kind of stalled out for me.

As the book went along I became frustrated with Alex and his sisters. Alex is a closed off character, he’s not the kind who’s mind is easily opened to a reader. I never felt particularly close to him. Bri, his oldest sister, is completely ridiculous. She is obsessively religious and can’t come to terms with the fact that (after they’ve been missing for 6 MONTHS) her parents aren’t coming home. Julie, the youngest sister, is so annoying. She tells Alex that she hates him practically every chapter. I kept thinking “Okay, now they’ll get along. They understand each other,” and then she’d shout she hated him and storm out of the room. Ugh.

This spring, Susan Beth Pfeffer’s next Moon book will be published. It’s called This World We Live In and will bring together the two families from the previous books. I’m hoping that it will be more like Life as We Knew It because I really really loved that one. Overall, I didn’t think The Dead and the Gone was a bad book, I think my hopes were just too high.

20 August 2009

In My Mailbox (an unconventional attempt)

So every week Kristi, The Story Siren, shows the books she gets in her “In My Mailbox” post. Now I’m still a newnewnewnew newbie so publishers are not sending me books, and I wasn’t planning on participating in this particular meme. Just in watching/reading the participants so I’d know what books to be excited for, but this week I actually got something super fun in my mailbox that I HAD to share!

I signed lots of things at ALA. I requested catalogs and promotional materials (and galleys that I’m still waiting for), but I guess I signed up for one thing that I forgot about. I got home today and found a very large package waiting just inside the door…for ME! I love packages! Anyway, it was from Abrams and I started to get all excited, but it was really flat so I knew it wasn’t a book (and it was way to big to be a book).

Obviously I was more then a little curious. What sort of goodies would be inside such a large flat box?! I opened it up and found…GREG HEFFLEY?!

Yup, a life size Greg Heffley, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I had to stand him up (with a little help so I could take the picture) and see what he looked like! I am definitely bringing him to work tomorrow! What a great way to get the kids even more excited for Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days!!

I also got some Diary of a Wimpy Kid bookmarks to hand out to the kids at work. Yup, I am going to be one popular librarian around my library.

Well, that’s it! That’s what was in my mailbox this week. I know it’s not books to review, but hey, a life size Greg Heffley isn’t anything to sneeze at. Thank you Abrams and Amulet!

19 August 2009

Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (2010)

The Rebecca Caudill Award is voted on annually by Illinois students at participating schools in grades 4-8. As a long-time Illinois resident I find myself in the position of being a librarian who was once a member of the voting population. As a junior high student, I remember reading the RCYRBA nominees and voting for my favorites (the ones that never won).

Here are the RCYRBA winners from the years I was in junior high.
1997 – The Best School Year Ever, Barbara Robinson
1998 – Mick Harte was Here, Barbara Park
1999 – Frindle, Andrew Clements

The most recent winner was The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan (RCYRBA 2009).

The 2010 list of nominees has lots of great books that I’m really looking forward to reading!

Naked Mole Rat Letters, Mary Amato

Home of the Brave, Katherine Applegate

Shark Girl, Kelly L. Bingham

Shooting the Moon, Frances O’Roark Dowell

Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Russell Freedman
Dragon Slippers, Jessica Day George
The Thing About Georgie, Lisa Graff
All the Lovely Bad Ones, Mary Downing Hahn
Crossing the Wire, Will Hobbs
Kimchi and Calamari, Rose Kent
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life, Wendy Mass
The Mozart Question, Michael Morpurgo

A Small White Scar, KA Nuzum

The Wednesday Wars, Gary D. Schmidt
Elephant Run, Roland Smith
The White Giraffe, Lauren St. John
First Light, Rebecca Stead
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, Lauren Tarshis
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Linda Urban
Someone Named Eva, Joan M. Wolf

I’ve already read/reviewed/loved Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and I checked out First Light today. I’ll keep reading/reviewing these titles and when the kids vote, I’m going to post my pick for which book should win. Maybe it will be the first year I vote for a winner…maybe.

17 August 2009

Georgia Nicolson Reading Challenge

I LOVE GEORGIA NICOLSON! Absolutely, totally, and forever adore her. The tenth, and final, book in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series comes out in October, which makes now the perfect time to start re-reading all the older books.

I first started this series in High School at the insistence of a friend who has never steered me wrong with books (other things yes, books, no). I had never read a book that was so incredibly funny before! Georgia was making me laugh out loud and, embarrassingly enough, I even started to refer to my friends as, “The Ace Gang,” just like Georgia. I think I went through an “I want to be Georgia Nicolson phase.” In grad school I got to lead a discussion on Chick Lit. for Teens and Tweens in one of my classes and you better believe I completely focused on Georgia!

Thank goodness Sarah at GreenBeanTeenQueen has started a challenge for all us GN lovers and newbies! The challenge rules are simple, read all ten books by June of 2010 and share the experience with other fun book types. Sound like fun? Head on over to GreenBeanTeenQueen and sign up for the challenge! I think it’s fabbity fab and marvy. =)

16 August 2009

Harry Potter Reading Challenge

All summer the one series that my library couldn’t keep on the shelves was Harry Potter. Something about summer time makes kids, teens, grown ups, everyone want to read these books. I had to take all our old copies out of storage and order additional copies of some of the earlier books in the series! Anyway, all this Harry Potter mania kind of sparked a need to re-read all the books for me. Most of them I’ve only read once and to be honest, the later titles I read way to fast.

The thing that really made me decide that it was time to re-read all the books was the Harry Potter Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry. I went a few weeks ago with some friends and it was AMAZING! I highly recommend checking it out if you find yourself in Chicago. Just seeing all those costumes, monsters, and props from the films made me need to read the books again, really really need to.

This seemed like the perfect time to try to find a book challenge. I wanted to find other book nerds (and I say that with love) who were just as excited to re-read this series as I am! I found the perfect challenge for me at Galley Smith. So, 117 people, including me, are reading Harry Potter all over again! I suppose for some of them it may even be reading it for the first time. There are great giveaways and lots of opportunities to connect with other muggles who wish they were wizards! Anyway, I will now start reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! I have until July 31, 2010 to read all 7 books, so here I go!

12 August 2009

Book Review: Twenty Boy Summer

Twenty Boy Summer, Sarah Ockler

(Gr 9+)

Anna, Frankie, and Matt have always been best friends, but on Anna’s birthday she and Matt share a secret kiss and their relationship changes. Matt decides to keep their new status a secret from his sister, Frankie, until he can find the right time to tell her, but before he gets a chance, he dies from a heart defect. Now a year later Anna and Frankie are going on vacation for twenty days and Frankie wants to meet a boy every day. Twenty boy summer. But Anna isn’t ready for a new boy and Frankie doesn’t know.

I got a lot more from this book then I expected to. Within the first two chapters, it had already made me cry twice. I found myself feeling very attached to Anna, Frankie, their families, and Matt. Anna has a very real voice. She alternates between intense grief and just wanting to start her life fresh.

Anna’s sense of loss wasn’t only for Matt, she felt as though she’d lost Frankie as well. She didn’t think she could talk to Frankie about her grief because Matt was Frankie’s brother. Anna doesn’t think her feelings are worthwhile. That somehow she isn’t allowed to feel so strongly for Matt since he didn’t really belong to her.

This is so much more then a summer fun beach read. The novel raises important questions like, “What is the statute of limitations on feeling guilty for cheating on a ghost,” (153). This is a great novel for teenage girls and grown up ladies too!

11 August 2009

Falling for Fall Books

With the end of summer reading, I’ve turned my mind to thoughts…well day dreams really, of all the books coming out this fall. There are so many that I just can’t wait to read! I’ve already pre-ordered copies of a few books that sound ridiculously good. Here are some of the books that I’m salivating over. September and October can’t come soon enough!
(all product descriptions from Amazon)

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
1 September 2009

Okay, I know I’ve already read it, but I want to own a nice, pretty hard cover copy to match my copy of The Hunger Games.

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me, Louise Rennison
6 October 2009

Ohmygiddygodspyjamas! The tenth marvy book in the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson is here! Get ready to laugh like a loon on loon tablets. It’s the FINAL installment of Georgia’s fab and hilarious diary! Does Georgia escape the cakeshop of luuurve? Can there be more heartbreaknosity in store? Will the Sex God pop up again unexpectedly (oo-er)! And what about the supreme accidental snogmaster Dave the Laugh? Will she FINALLY choose her only one and only? So many boys, so little time!

Fire, Kristin Cashore
5 October 2009

She is the last of her kind…
It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.
Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You donÂ’t need to have read Graceling to love Fire. But if you havenÂ’t, youÂ’ll be dying to read it next.

The Magician’s Elephant, Kate DiCamillo
8 September 2009

What if? Why not? Could it be?When a fortuneteller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller’s mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes — hope and belonging, desire and compassion — with the lightness of a magician’s touch.

Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld
6 October 2009

It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek’s and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Jeff Kinney
12 October 2009

It’s summer vacation, the weather’s great, and all the kids are having fun outside. So where’s Greg Heffley? Inside his house, playing video games with the shades drawn. Greg, a self-confessed “indoor person,” is living out his ultimate summer fantasy: no responsibilities and no rules. But Greg’s mom has a different vision for an ideal summer . . . one packed with outdoor activities and “family togetherness.” Whose vision will win out? Or will a new addition to the Heffley family change everything?

The Unfinished Angel, Sharon Creech
22 September 2009

Peoples are strange!
The things they are doing and saying—sometimes they make no sense. Did their brains fall out of their heads? And why so much saying, so much talking all the time day and night, all those words spilling out of those mouths? Why so much? Why don’t they be quiet?
In the ancient stone tower of the Casa Rosa, in a tiny village high in the Swiss Alps, life for one angel has been the same, well, for as long as she (or he?) can remember. Until Zola arrives, a determined American girl who wears three skirts all at once. For neighbors who have been longtime enemies, children who have been lost, and villagers who have been sleepily living their lives: hold on. Zola and the angel are about to collide. Figs start flying, dogs start arfing, and the whole village begins to wake up. Zola is a girl with a mission. And our angel has been without one—till now.

The Hate List, Jennifer Brown
1 September 2009

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Front and Center, Catherine Gilbert Murdock
19 October 2009

After five months of sheer absolute craziness I was going back to being plain old background D.J. In photographs of course I’m always in the background . . .
But it turns out other folks have big plans for D.J. Like her coach. College scouts. All the town hoops fans. A certain Red Bend High School junior who’s keen for romance and karaoke. Not to mention Brian Nelson, who she should not be thinking about! Who she is done with, thank you very much. But who keeps showing up anyway . . .

09 August 2009

Book Review: When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
(Gr 6-8)

12 year old Miranda has always been best friends with Sal. They’ve grown up together in the same apartment building in New York City. She knows how to stay safe in the city and has a comfortable life. Until the day Sal is punched walking home from school, for no reason. Then Miranda starts receiving strange notes telling her that someone is coming to save her friend’s life – and their own.

This is a book that I hadn’t heard much about beforehand, I picked it up at my local independent bookstore and thought it sounded interesting. I added it to my pile and figured I’d get to it eventually. After reading a little more about it, I moved it to the top of my list and started it AND finished it last night.

I haven’t read a book for awhile that pulled me in to the point that I knew I would just keep reading until I was finished. When You Reach Me sort of defies genre-fication…that’s not a word, but you probably know what I mean. It’s like a realistic fiction/mystery/science fiction/teen book and completely fantastic!

Miranda has many familiar junior high experiences. After she and Sal have a falling out, she makes new friends, gets a part time job, works hard at school, and obsessively reads A Wrinkle in Time. She learns to be a good friend and discovers who she is, all the while wondering who is leaving her mysterious notes and what they could possibly mean. See? Realistic fiction/mystery/science fiction and actually I may as well throw in historical fiction since it’s set in the late 1970’s and for the teens of the 2000’s that may as well be caveman days.

The book is full of interesting secondary characters. I loved Miranda’s family and friends. They all felt so real. I love when even secondary characters become important to me as a reader. Miranda’s world is so wonderfully accessible for readers, even when it becomes a little more fantastic.

I will be recommending this book to kids a lot and fully expect to hear it praised all over the place in the coming months. Definitely check out your library or bookstore and pick up a copy of When You Reach Me. You won’t be disappointed.

08 August 2009

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
(Gr 9+)

Coming 1 December 2009
(ARC picked up at ALA)

Synopsis from ARC
“Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.”

First things first, this book has some serious HEFT to it – coming in at 626 pages, it is quite the undertaking. That being said, it’s good. The writing really pulls you in and the descriptions give you a very vivid picture of Gatlin. I loved the Southern Gothic tone of the novel and the setting. There is something inherently supernatural about the South. It seems like the best ghost stories are from down there. I don’t know if us Midwesterners and the rest of the North are just too pragmatic or what, but the South is a great place to set an otherworldly story.

The fact that the narrator of this supernatural romance is a guy was interesting. I haven’t read a book like this that was told almost entirely (we get Lena’s narration for a few pages towards the end) from the male perspective. Ethan is from one of the oldest families in Gatlin and is very much an insider. He’s on the basketball team, dates the popular girls, and has lots of friends. Until he starts dreaming of a girl he’s never met, a girl who moves to town and turns his life upside-down and inside-out.

This book has more twists and turns then most mazes. Every time I thought I had something figured out something else would pop up and mess up my theories. I like books that keep me guessing all the way until the end. The secrets of the narrative allow the reader to forget the length and just get completely immersed in the story.

This is a very well written, creative book that I would definitely recommend to teens. Ready, here’s the inevitable Twilight comparison that all supernatural romances have to endure. This is a good read alike for Twilight and fans of that series will enjoy Beautiful Creatures. It will be an interesting contrast for them to read a book set in the chilly, always rainy Northwest and then one set in the warm, historically aware South. Librarians, buy multiple copies, this is going to circ…a lot.

07 August 2009

NPR’s 100 Best Beach Reads

It’s summer and I haven’t been anywhere near a beach. Granted, when I do go to the beach I sit under an umbrella, slathered with 85spf sunblock, in a cover up, with a towel over my legs. I’m not even exaggerating. It seemed a safer way to enjoy the beach this summer was to check out NPR’s list of the 100 Best Beach Reads. The ones in bold are the books I’ve read (34/100, not too shabby). These were voted on by NPR listeners – obviously, who else would put Wuthering Heights or Lolita on a list of BEACH READS?! I think the general population of beach readers would have put more Jane Green or Jennifer Weiner on their lists, but as an avid NPR listener myself, I can’t really say anything negative about the choices.

1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling

2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg

10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

11. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver

23. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving

25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler

30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy

35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier

37. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough

40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice

44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier

45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo

46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes

47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins

49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb

50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

52. The Stand, by Stephen King

53. She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

54. Dune, by Frank Herbert

55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

57. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver

62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley

63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner

64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner

65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

69. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns

74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie]

76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher

79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver

80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett

81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck

81. The Pilot’s Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie]

83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy

84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich

88. Shogun, by James Clavell

89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker

90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow

92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume

96. The Shining, by Stephen King

97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan

98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore

99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen

100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Series Review: Ranger’s Apprentice

Ranger’s Apprentice, John Flanagan

(Gr 4-7)

The Ranger’s Apprentice Series, by John Flanagan, follows the life of Will, apprentice to King’s Ranger, Halt. Will is an orphan who spent his childhood as a ward in Castle Redmont. On Choosing Day, his fellow wards are all apprenticed to their chosen masters, but he is apprenticed to no one. That night he sneaks into the Baron’s office to find a letter Halt has brought about him. What he doesn’t know is that this is a test to see just how good he’ll be as a Ranger. He passes the test and begins his training.

This is a good series for young boys (4-7th graders). Will is a character who always feels real. He has real faults and a distinct voice. However, the books do get a little tedious after the first installment. I’ve read the first three in the series and will probably not continue with the next three. Flanagan’s vocabulary seems to stall out early on. He has a tendency to choose one word to describe a character and stick to that word obsessively. For example, we only EVER hear Halt described as “grizzled.” Every time Halt is in the story he is referred to as “the grizzled ranger” or something else with the world “grizzled.” I wanted to go back through the books and count the number of times that word is used, it’s ridiculous!

This series does have a long list of secondary characters and some of them I like very much. Horace, another ward who bullied Will when they were younger and is now his best friend, is a strong, honest character. I love that Horace is a tough Battle School apprentice (a knight) and yet he’s still very innocent. Halt is a great character as well, he’s old and “grizzled,” but having Will around is bringing him out of his “grizzled” shell. Flanagan writes great characters, maybe someone should just buy him a thesaurus.

While this particular series isn’t really for me, I can see why so many young boys (and girls) really enjoy it. There’s a lot of action, a lot of description of how to use old weapons, and Will is a character you love to root for. I will continue to recommend this series to kids who come in looking for some adventure, but for my own reading purposes, I think I’m finished with them.

06 August 2009

Book Review: Shug

Shug, Jenny Han
(Gr 6-8)

12 year old Annemarie, Shug, has just discovered the love of her life and he’s the boy next door. Mark and Annemarie have been best friends for most of their lives, but now she’s starting to feel something more for him. Too bad he seems to be feeling less and less of anything for her. With the start of junior high, family troubles, friend drama, AND first loves Annemarie has a lot to deal with.

This is one of those books that nothing much can happen in, but it is still so good. If I just described the plot, it might sound like a lot of other books, but it’s the writing that makes this one different. Annemarie’s voice is so unique! Granted, I was drawn to her from the start since she was described as being unattractively skinny, too tall, and freckely. Picturing her just involved remember what I looked like at 12 (and still do)!

This story takes an interesting look at bullying. Annemarie seems to have lots of friends, she does well in school, and lives in a safe, comfortable Southern town. However, her mother is a drunk, her older sister and father are absent from her life, her friends tease her, and her town feels stiffling. In a world where everyone knows everyone’s business and friends you’ve known since birth can turn on you, Annemarie is a strong presence and a good character for young girls to read.

Annemarie’s family members are hard characters to like. Her older sister Celia has her moments when you love her or hate her, but overall I ended up really liking her. Their parents are nearly impossible to like. Their mother is selfish and always drunk, but I did believe that she loved her daughters and just didn’t like how her life turned out. Their father spends most of the book being away from home, but his presence is always felt. They were a complicated family that I jumped from loving to hating quite often throughout the novel.

Obviously, I completely adored this book and now look forward to reading Jenny Han’s new book The Summer I Turned Pretty.

05 August 2009

Kids/Teen Books = Box Office GOLD

Lately it seems like Hollywood is only interested in making movies for kids if the story was a book first. Whether it’s an old time classic picture book (Where the Wild Things Are or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) a traditional, but still fab youth novel (The Fantastic Mr. Fox or Alice in Wonderland) or a new, super popular bestseller (The Hunger Games, The Book Thief, The Lightning Thief and Diary of a Wimpy Kid). Wowzers…that’s a lot of movies! I feel like everyday they’re announcing a new kids’ book that will soon be up on the big screen. Does it seem like there are more children’s and teen fiction being made into films lately, or is it just me? I feel like any book that is even remotely popular will be made into a movie.

This is an exciting time to be a book lover who also loves movies! Here’s a short list of some upcoming books–>movies! I’ll be waiting in line for most of these. I’m leaving off Harry Potter and Twilight, because no one needs me to tell them about those.

Alice in Wonderland

The Book Thief

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Hobbit

The Hunger Games

The Lightning Thief

Maximum Ride

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Ramona and Beezus (yes, they changed the name!)

Septimus Heap: Magyk

Where the Wild Things Are

What did I miss? Are there any other great kids/teen books being made into movies?

03 August 2009

BBAW 2009

September 14th-19th this year is Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Register to vote for your favorite blogs and find new blogs to drool over! For those who have (or have not) participated in past years, there are a few get to know you type questions. I decided to answer the ones meant for us newbs.

1) What has been one of the highlights of blogging for you?

I’ve only been doing it for about a month and a half, but so far I’m loving everything. I get excited everytime someone reads my blog and I love actually writing out my thoughts on the books I read. Right now I’m still learning, but they’re enjoyable lessons!

2) What blogger has helped you out with your blog by answering questions, linking to you, or inspiring you?

Abby of Abby (the) Librarian is my blog-hero! She helped me with the initial set up, is always willing to answer my inane questions, and has a great blog to read for inspiration! Thank you Abby!!

3) What one question do you have about BBAW that someone who participated last year could answer?

Is there a way to connect with other brand new bloggers/new BBAWs? I’d love to talk to people at the same stage of this as me!

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