Libri Dilectio: July 2010

20 July 2010

Teaser Tuesday: The Iron King

This is a weekly meme run by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for other Teaser Tuesday books. Here’s how it works.

1) Grab your current read
2) Open to a random page
3) Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
4)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“They poured over the ground like a living carpet, appearing from everywhere: small, black-skinned creatures with spindly arms, huge ears, and razor grins that shone blue-white in the darkness. I heard the boys’ cries of shock, and Grimalkin’s yowl of horror as he fled farther up the tree. The creatures spotted me, and I had no time to react.” –The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. pg. 217

19 July 2010

Book Review: Wildthorn

Wildthorn, Jane Eagland
(Gr 9+)

Coming 6 Sept 2010
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children – Review copy from publisher

Louisa Cosgrove wants to know everything. She is smart, driven, and confident. Unfortunately, she’s also a Victorian girl from a well to do family and only expected to marry and have children. Louisa fights the constraints placed on her sex until the day she’s locked away in an asylum. Stripped of all her clothes, her dignity, even her own name. Louisa, now called Lucy Childs is certain that a mistake has been made. She is not Lucy Childs and she does not belong in Wildthorn Asylum, but the more she insists this, the more mad she seems. She has to look deep within herself for strength and trust in the goodness of others to be able to climb her way out of the hole she is in.

I was originally drawn to this book because of the awesome cover. The image of the heavily corseted woman is completely perfect for the story. Louisa is constrained in every aspect of her life. Yes, she physically has to wear a corset, but she’s also kept from doing all the things she loves, everything that interests her. Instead she has to watch her brother live the life she longs for – a life he neither wants nor appreciates.

We are given Louisa’s story in snippets of flashbacks after she is committed to the asylum. Through these peeks into her past, the reader will come to care more and more for her. I found myself really identifying with her. I can’t imagine wanting to read and being told that a woman who learns will be driven insane by too much knowledge.

During Victorian times women could be locked up in asylums for behaving in unbecoming ways. Seriously, wearing the wrong clothes, speaking too loudly, disagreeing with men, and having interests other than home and hearth could get you labeled insane! Whoops, looks like I’m completely off my rocker. The view of the inside of the asylum was horribly fascinating. The author used to be a teacher so you know she did some serious research before writing the book. It was awful to think that places like Wildthorn used to exist.

The story itself is engrossing. The plot unfolds slowly and steadily and I could not stop turning pages. I read this book practically in one sitting (had to do some dishes/laundry) because I needed to know what was going to happen to Louisa next as well as what had led her to Wildthorn. This is a compelling story with engaging characters and prose that will transport you off your couch and into the life of a Victorian girl who will enthrall you. Seriously, read this book.

12 July 2010

Book Review: Dying to Meet You

Dying to Meet You, Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise
(Gr 2-4)
Harcourt Children’s Books, April 2009. Reviewed from library book.
Synopsis from Amazon:

“Ignatius B. Grumply moves into the Victorian mansion at 43 Old Cemetery Road hoping to find some peace and quiet so he can crack a wicked case of writer’s block. But 43 Old Cemetery Road is already occupied by eleven-year-old Seymour, his cat Shadow, and an irritable ghost named Olive. It’s hard to say who is more outraged. But a grumpy old ghost just might inspire this grumpy old man–and the abandoned kid? Well, let’s just say his last name’s Hope.”

This cute book by the creators of the “Regarding the…” series is another story told through letters, newspaper articles, and journal entries. This unique way of telling a story always makes me want to start writing real letters again, but aside from that, it’s a great way to pull in reluctant readers. The format, along with the ample illustrations, makes this a comfortable choice for kids who aren’t the strongest readers or who just don’t like it.

I’m already a fan of the sisters Klise from their previous series and I did enjoy this book, but not quite as much as the others. This was less funny than my favorite of their books, Regarding the Fountain. A few moments in the story dragged a little bit for me because it seemed like the inevitable conclusion was being pushed back unnecessarily. Although, I’m fairly certain that would not bother a child reading.

If you have some kids who like cozy ghost stories and books with a non-traditional format, try this series for them! It takes place in Ghastly, Illinois, which although it’s a made up place, feels like a nearby setting. Also, watch out for the names in this series. They say more than you think!

Meet the authors and get the inside scoop on all the Ghastly details of this fun book!

09 July 2010

Fanfare Friday: Ants Wear Underpants

Ants Wear Underpants, Wendy Gelsanliter
BizzyBum March 2001
I picked this up completely on accident to have as welcoming music for storytime on Wednesday morning. Okay, not completely by accident. I grabbed it because of the adorable picture and title, but it turned out to be a really great CD as well!

Wendy Gelsanliter has a really sweet voice and the sound of her songs is very folksy. There’s the mix that I love of new songs, old favorites, and action songs! This is a perfect album for preschoolers. I fully intend to put it in a preschool loan bag soon! Well, after I return it!

My favorite songs on the CD are “Ants in Underpants,” “Lazy Bones,” and “Head and Shoulders.” “Head and Shoulders” is particularly great for classrooms and storytimes because it’s a jazzed up version of Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes. It almost has a line dance feel to it. I think the kids will love it…and the grown ups too!

08 July 2010

Book Review: Diamond Willow

Diamond Willow, Helen Frost
(Gr 6-8)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux April 2008. Reviewed from library book.
Synopsis from Amazon:

“There’s more to me than most people see.

Twelve-year-old Willow would rather blend in than stick out. But she still wants to be seen for who she is. She wants her parents to notice that she is growing up. She wants her best friend to like her better than she likes a certain boy. She wants, more than anything, to mush the dogs out to her grandparents’ house, by herself, with Roxy in the lead. But sometimes when it’s just you, one mistake can have frightening consequences… And when Willow stumbles, it takes a surprising group of friends to help her make things right again.”

 This verse novel is a nominee for the 2011 Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award. It stands out from all the others I’ve read so far, because of it’s unique prose. The novel is written in diamond shaped verses. The shapes change a little from page to page to reflect different parts of the story. Each verse also includes several bolded words that reveal a deeper look into the narrator’s mind.

Diamond Willow, called Willow, is a quiet girl from a small town in Alaska. Her life revolves around her family and her dogs. The story starts when Willow wants to ride her dog sled all the way to her grandparents’ home – alone. While her father immediately wants to say yes, believing she is ready for such responsibility, her mother takes longer to convince. I thought this was a nice reflection of many family dynamics, the father who trusts his children’s abilities and the mother, who doesn’t really think they can’t do something, but wants to protect her children for as long as possible.

Willow is an interesting character, both strong and weak, brave and fearful. She felt like a real girl with more feelings than she knows what to do with. Her love for her dog, Roxy, and her courage to stand up for what she believes is right, will make her an endearing friend for young female readers.

The most interesting part of this story was the ancestral animals guarding all the characters. The text only left the verse format when the narrative switched to the voice of one of Willow’s family ancestors. In her family, really in this whole community, when a family member passes away, they are re-born in the form of an animal to watch over those they leave behind. This voice changing gives the reader the unique perspective of being inside Willow’s head, but then also getting to view her from an outside perspective.

This is a beautiful story that will greatly appeal to young girls who are fans of animal stories. I doubt it will win the RCYRBA, but it is a worthy addition to the nominee pool. Best of all, the nomination will put it in the hands of kids who will love it, but would not normally pick it up.

07 July 2010

Waiting on Wednesday:The Lost Hero

Waiting on Wednesday is masterminded by Breaking the Spine. Check out her blog for more upcoming releases that bloggers are waiting patiently for.

Coming 12 October 2010
The Lost Hero, Rick Riordan

Synopsis from Good Reads:

“Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently she’s his girlfriend Piper, his best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.”

I’m pretty transparent when it comes to my love for Rick Riordan. He’s managed to get all kids, even the most reluctant readers, excited about books! If you’re as excited for this new series as I am, go to the official website and enter the password “newhero” to read the first 2 chapters. I did and now I’m even MORE excited for this new series to start!

06 July 2010

Book Review: Insatiable

Insatiable, Meg Cabot
(adult with cross-over teen appeal)
William Morrow June 2010. Reviewed from library book.

Meena Harper has never been a fan of vampires, but suddenly they’re all around her. They’re on TV, in books and movies, and now she’s being forced to write one into Insatiable, the soap opera she works for. Meena has never understood the obsession with vampires and her first thought when told she has to write about them, is how quickly can she kill them off. However, as someone with supernatural powers herself, it’s strange how quickly Meena dismisses the existence of creatures of the night. Meena can tell when and how a person will die just by looking at them. This uncomfortable power keeps her trying to save as many people as she can, and lying awake nights worrying about the people she can’t save. This is Meena’s life until the day she meets Lucien. He’s smart, suave, gorgeous, and a prince. But not just any prince. Lucien is the “prince of darkness,” the supreme ruler of all vampires. Yeesh, Meena just can’t catch a break.

I love Meg Cabot, so when I heard she was writing a vampire book I couldn’t wait to read it. However, I was a little disappointed with the beginning. The first 150 pages moved really slowly for me. I liked Meena, but I was getting bored with the pace, or lack there of, of the narrative. Just when I was ready to heave a great sigh and, for the first time ever, give up on Meg Cabot, the story got going!

Meg Cabot’s vampires are a return to traditional creatures. They can’t go out in the sun, are repelled by garlic and holy water, and they can turn into bats! AND, best of all, Lucien is Romanian! Yay! A traditional vampire with a traditional vampire accent! With these monsters come their feared enemies, the vampire hunters. Alaric the vampire hunter, was my favorite character in the book. He’s an interesting mix of high class tastes, man’s man fighting style, and ridiculousness. Seriously, he calls his sword, “Senor Sticky.”

Meena was exactly what you’d expect of a Meg Cabot heroine. She’s small, feisty, smart, beautiful but unaware of it, and a little sarcastic. Her observations on vampire pop culture were hilarious! I love that she refers to them as “misogynistic monsters.” Also, her gift makes her an incredibly sympathetic character. She worries about the co-worker who is getting too skinny, and starts leaving sandwiches for her. She gives her card to a stranger on the train who she feels is going to need help soon. Her gift is a burden, but one that she puts to good use.

Overall this was a fun story with a slow start. If you can make it past those first 150 pages, you won’t be disappointed with the rest. Yes, technically it’s for adults, but, as I said yesterday, teenage girls will read books like this. Especially with the popularity of vampire novels that’s still going strong, although slowly being taken over by fallen angels…anyway. This is another fun summer book that needs to be taken to the beach!

05 July 2010

Book Review: Bitter is the New Black

Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a condescending, egomaniacal, self-centered Smar-ass, or why you should never carry a Prada Bag to the unemployment office, Jen Lancaster
(adults, with crossover teen appeal)
NAL Trade March 2006. Reviewed from library book.

Jen Lancaster has the perfect life. She has a job that pays enough to keep her in designer shoes forever, a boyfriend who loves her, a closet stuffed with the cutest clothes, and an apartment built in real estate heaven. Until the day she gets laid off and has to start re-evaluating some of her life decisions. Did she really need so many designer tubes of lipstick? Where did her savings go? How is she ever going to pay for the apartment she loves so much? Jen’s unemployment memoir follows her through two years searching for a job in Chicago. She tries everywhere and everything to pull herself out of her economic slump, all without ever losing her trademark biting wit and uncontrollable urge to judge people. She might be a tad bit full of herself, but why shouldn’t she be…she’s the best person ever…right? 

One of my besties recommended this book to me about 6 months ago and I just got around to reading it. I kept pushing it back for new kids and teen books, but eventually she wore me down. This really is a perfect summer read. It’s funny, snarky, intelligent, and an all around good time. Yes, Jen is incredibly full of herself. She’s selfish, self centered and, as she says herself, “egomaniacal.” However, she does become easier to love as the story moves along. I’ll admit it, in the first few chapters I was seriously doubting whether or not I’d be able to finish the book because of how much I disliked her, but she really grew on me. Frankly, I don’t actually think she’s that bad. She loves her boyfriend/husband and her family, she has close friends who she really does seem to care about, and, even in the depths of her financial woes, she adopts two homeless dogs. Sounds like a pretty okay person to me!

It was fun to read about someone living in Chicago for a change. It seems like all the books like this, fictional and non, take place in New York. When I went through my obsessive chick lit phase from 15-17, most of the books I read were set in NYC or London. I actually can’t think of any that were set in Chicago! I definitely enjoyed reading about places I’ve been and hearing the perspective of someone who loves the city that’s always been just down the street. Seriously, you can see the Sears (yes I know, Willis…shudder) Tower from the end of my street!

As I just said, I was a chick lit aficionado for most of high school…okay and college. Yes, I skipped YA completely, which may be why I love it so much now. At the tender age of 15 a friend gave me Jemima J by Jane Green and I never looked back. Which is why I think books like this have lots of cross over appeal for teen readers. I would definitely have picked this one up and devoured it in one sitting. My favorite pleasure reading authors in high school were Jane Green and Philippa Gregory (my chick lit obsession rapidly grew into a historical fiction one). It always cracks me up when parents get all bent out of shape over the romance in YA, the brief sexual encounters or discussions. They should read some of the scenes from my high school favs! Their poor worried parental faces would melt right off!

Overall, this was a fun book that begs to be thrown into a bag next to the towel and sunscreen. If you’re looking for something light to take away the summer reading stress (all you public librarians) this might be just what you need. Enjoy!

03 July 2010

Book Review: Mrs. Dole is Out of Control

Mrs. Dole is Out of Control, Dan Gutman
(Gr 1-3)
HarperCollins April 2008. Reviewed from library book.

AJ and the rest the My Weird School gang are graduating! Graduating from the second grade that is. Mrs. Dole, the PTA president, wants it to be the most over the top amazing graduation ceremony ever. The kids aren’t really opposed to a party, but since the aforementioned Mrs. Dole is out of control, it will be a celebration not to be missed.

Lots of kids at my library love this series. I hadn’t really felt like I needed to read it until I saw this article in School Library Journal. A father was so shocked by the presence of the word “hate” and other behaviors of the kids in the series. As such he said, “Your book changed my life because now I am going to pay to send my kid to private school to protect him from a society whose morals have been eroded to a level that this kind of acrimonious dribble would even be considered much less popular.” Yeesh! This dude is HARSH! Okay, after reading that I had to read this series!

Frankly, I liked it. It’s definitely for kids and not a series with a lot of cross over appeal for adults, but the kid in me thought it was pretty funny. Why wouldn’t I laugh at the crazy adults who just can’t control their emotions. The mother who can’t help but spill embarrassing secrets about her son in front of his whole class or the teacher who loves bon bons so much that her students worry she’ll explode if she eats anymore (turns out she’s just pregnant…no worries).

No, this is not going to be a piece of classic literature. It’s never going to win any awards, actually, the book gives you some advice along those lines, “If you hide this book inside one of those Newbery Award-winning books, it will make you look a lot smarter.” I think this is a fun, silly book for kids who are reluctant readers and I will continue to recommend it to my kids (not that they need any pushing from me!).

01 July 2010

Blogoversary Contest Winners

Congratulations To…

First Place: Aik
Second Place: Bethany P.
You’ve won your choice of books! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered! provided a winner for this contest.

Harry Potter Reading Challenge: July Update

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, JK Rowling
(all ages)
Listening Library July 2005. Reviewed from library copy.

Harry Potter has seen great evil, and defeated it time and time again. Now in his sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he’s about to face the greatest evil of all…puberty. In this installment of the series, Harry’s world suddenly becomes a lot more filled with thoughts of giggly girls and a preoccupation with who’s snogging who. It’s a wonderful break from the fight against Lord Voldemort and a reminder that the kids of this series really are just kids. However, the evil never really goes away and is always brewing at the back of Harry’s mind. As he and Dumbledore delve deeper into the man behind Lord Voldemort, Harry starts to wonder just what role he’ll play in the final battle between good and evil.

This is my first time re-reading (well listening, but whatever) this book and I had forgotten TONS of it! I mean, I remembered the basic plot, but I had forgotten some of the smaller details. I love Harry and Dumbledore’s relationship in this book. It’s very much like the relationship between a grandfather and grandson more than teacher and student. This is the book that made me love Albus Dumbledore. I’d always liked him, a lot even, in the earlier books, but in this one I really loved him. Of course, I’m sure JK Rowling did that on purpose, she’s dash clever that way.

This book had gotten too mixed up with the movie in my head. I didn’t actually like the movie, but having seen it much more recently, it was the version of the story that was more at the forefront of my imagination. Thankfully, it isn’t any more. The book is (as they always are) SO much better than the movie. I had forgotten how really truly devastating the whole end of Half Blood Prince is. I mean, okay, I remembered what happened, but again, I’d forgotten those little details that make is sooooo horribly wonderful.

I’ve started listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so my August check in will be my last one for this challenge! I can’t believe I’m almost finished with the series, again! It’s almost as upsetting as it was the first time! I need there to be more Harry Potter…guess I’ll just have to start all over again when I finish.

Head over to Galleysmith to see how other challengers are doing!

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