Libri Dilectio: June 2011

27 June 2011

Book Review: Bumped

Bumped, Megan McCafferty
(Gr 9+)
Balzer + Bray, April 26, 2011. Review copy provided by publisher.

Melody and Harmony are identical twin sisters, but, until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep, they’ve never met. The girls were given up for adoption at birth; Melody going to a suburban couple and Harmony to an isolated religious community. The world they live in is not like the one of today. A virus has spread throughout the human population, making young women infertile as they enter adulthood. The result of this virus is that adult couples have started to pay young teenage girls to have babies, or “bump,” for them. Melody is a highly paid reproductive professional, just waiting for her time to bump for a childless couple. Harmony, on the other hand, believes that babies shouldn’t be bought and paid for. Her religious community still believes in traditional, rigid family values and she wants nothing more than to convert her twin to her beliefs before it’s too late.

This tongue in cheek satire was enormously entertaining. Megan McCafferty throws readers right into Melody’s world without a lot of explanation, and they are left to find their footing slowly. The teens in this novel use an unusual form of slang that all has fertility and reproductive roots. Reading the dialog at first was a little jarring, but after a few chapters it made the world seem a lot more real. The best part is that, once you get comfortable with the writing, it is hilarious!

Melody and Harmony are two very different characters. I felt like Harmony, in some ways, is the reader’s in to the world. Since Harmony lives in a place that’s so cut off from the rest of civilization a lot of things have to be explained to her, or she has to figure them out. This helps the reader get a better feel for everything as well. Although, Harmony has her own set of social rules that are just as interesting as Melody’s. In some ways I thought Harmony was the more compelling character. She is fighting with the way she has always lived and what she sees in the rest of the world, as well as some very different possibilities for her future.

Readers who loved McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series will be happy to have a new book full of the author’s trademark humor. While fans will miss Jessica and her way of looking at the world, I think they will soon find themselves drawn to Melody and Harmony. Their story is funny, eye opening, and thought provoking – especially in a world that is seemingly more and more fascinated with teenage mothers. Definitely pick up a copy of Bumped, you’ll finish it in no time and join the ranks of readers who are already longing for the sequel.

24 June 2011

Itty Bitty Book Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin
(Gr 3-5)
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, July 2009. Reviewed from library book.

Minli’s parents spend all day, every day working hard in the rice fields under the Fruitless Mountain. Their hard work is rewarded with little food and less money. Minli’s mother laments their lack of fortune, but her father finds solace in stories. Minli loves her father’s stories, and frequently begs to hear them over and over. These stories lead her to a desire to seek out better luck for her family. With a little help from a friendly goldfish, Minli sets out on an adventure that will take her far from home and introduce her to many interesting characters.

Review in 75 words or less:

This Caudill nominee drew my attention because of its beautiful cover and colorful illustrations. Fortunately the story was just as great as the artwork! Minli is a sweet, brave character who readers will love to root for. The story reads like an old folk tale, and actually has many of Minli’s father’s stories worked into the narrative. This is a great choice for classroom reading that practically begs to be read aloud. (72)

23 June 2011

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys
(Gr 7+)
Philomel, March 2011. Reviewed from library book.

Lina is fifteen and lives with her family in Lithuania. They are a happy, normal family, until the night Soviet soldiers take them from their homes and send them away. Lina, her mother and brother are separated from her father and taken far North where they are forced to live in terrible conditions. Through their harsh treatment, lack of food, and the freezing climate, Lina finds strength in her art. She draws her feelings, using her illustrations as a record of her family’s ordeal. She records the heartbreak and hardships of all those who were deported with her family, and manages to keep up hope even in the worst circumstances.

This is a really, truly wonderful book. I’ve read a lot about World War II and the terrible things that were done to the Jewish people, the Russians, and many others, but I had never heard about what happened to the people living in the Baltic States. These people faced mass deportations of the educated, upper and middle class, and those who had too many connections abroad. They were taken from their homes, forced into overfull cattle cars, and taken hundreds of miles away from their homes. The saddest part of their story is that it was kept silent for so long. Some of those who were deported weren’t able to return to their homes for twenty years or more, and when they did, they were forbidden to talk about what had been done to them.

Ruta Sepetys’ family is originally from Lithuania. Her parents were able to escape the country prior to the deportations, but many of their friends and family were not so lucky. Sepetys based Lina’s parents on her own mother and father, and shed light on the untold story of so many people. This book would be wonderful for older junior high and high school students to read during a study of World War II or the Soviet Union.

Readers will quickly fall in love with Lina, her younger brother, and her incredibly strong mother. Sepetys writing style is straight forward and unapologetic. She shows readers genuine horrors in a matter of fact way that makes the reader feel part of the story. The people who were deported are forced to work together and to sometimes ignore things that would normally enrage them in order to survive. This powerful book made me cry multiple times and stayed with me for a long time after I turned the final page. I highly recommend it to those who don’t know the history, who love historical fiction, and who just want a powerful story.

22 June 2011

Libri Dilectio 2nd Blogoversary

 Libri Dilectio is 2 years old today!
My blog is entering the terrible twos,
I hope it doesn’t start whining a lot and 

asking me “why” all the time. 
I can’t believe it’s been 2 years already!

Books Read in Bloggy Year 2: 152 
(I read 124 last year and set 
(and achieved) a goal of 150 for this year!)
Posts: 71 
(187 last year! It’s pretty obvious that I lived alone last year 
and that this year I have a husband who needs attention!)
Favorite Book Read: Plain Kate, Erin Bow
Book Challenge: The 48 Hour Book Challenge

Thanks for reading and for keeping me company on the interwebs for the last 2 years! I love all of you who follow, read, and comment. I think I’ll keep doing this for blogging thing for awhile…

20 June 2011

Book Review: Entwined

Entwined, Heather Dixon
(Gr 5-7)
Greenwillow Books. March 29, 2011. Reviewed from library book.

Princess Azalea is the oldest of twelve daughters who all love to dance. When their mother dies, shortly after giving birth to the youngest princess, the girls enter a period of mourning. This means they can only wear black, they can’t have any clocks, and above all, they aren’t allowed to dance. The girls are devastated by the loss of their mother – made even worse by the loss of their dancing time. Dancing was something their mother loved and it’s a way for them to feel close to her. When Azalea discovers a secret passage in their bedroom, all the girls follow the long stairs down into another world. A world where they can dance every night, until their shoes fall to pieces, and where they are always under the watchful eye of Mr. Keeper.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses has been my favorite fairy tale since I was a little girl. I loved the thought of having so many sisters, being a princess, and having a secret place to go and dance all night. In Entwined, Heather Dixon reimagines the original fairy tale while adding new details, new characters, and new dangers.

The princesses of Entwined live in Eathesbury, a small kingdom experiencing some serious budget cuts when it comes to the monarchy. The girls live in a drafty castle, wear sensible old gowns, and have porridge for breakfast every day…and sometimes lunch. Their castle was once a grand, enchanted palace, ruled by an evil high king. Some small remnants of the magic still exist, like a tea set with an attitude and passages that can only be opened by pure silver.

Azalea is the oldest of the princesses and has taken on the role of mother as well as that of eldest sister and heir to the throne. She is a strong character who cares deeply for her younger sisters and has a shaky relationship with her father. She has an enormous amount of responsibility placed on her shoulders when her mother passes away, so it makes sense that she would be so happy to find a secret place to lose herself in dance every night. Her growth throughout the story makes her a very satisfying character who readers will identify with.

Overall, this is a rich, imaginative re-telling of a well known story. Heather Dixon has created a vivid fantasy world and characters that come to life. I would recommend this book to teens who like Shannon Hale and Robin McKinley.

More Re-Tellings of The Twelve Dancing Princesses:
Princess of the Midnight Ball, Jessica Day George
Wildwood Dancing, Juliette Marillier
The Thirteenth Princess, Diane Zahler

06 June 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

It’s 6:55am, which means, in 5 minutes, my time for this years 48 Hour Book Challenge is over. I didn’t quite hit my goal of 20 hours, but I still think I did pretty well.

Hours Read: 18 hours, 45 minutes
Hours Blogged/Social Networked: 3.5
Pages Read: 1,656

The books I read this weekend were…
The Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan
The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall
Entice, Carrie Jones
Abandon, Meg Cabot
Hidden, Helen Frost
Invisible Inkling, Emily Jenkins
The Sweet Far Thing, Libba Bray (only started this one. It’s really LONG!)

I may not have read as long as I had wanted to, but I did read more books than I thought I would! Overall, I’m proud of myself and definitely going to participate again next year. Now it’s time to get ready for the Summer Reading Club at work. It starts….NOW!

05 June 2011

Book Review: Abandon

Abandon, Meg Cabot
(Gr 7+)
Point. April 26, 2011. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Pierce knows what happens when you die and it’s not what everyone thinks. There’s no white light, no pearly gates, and nothing makes any sense. When she was fifteen years old, Pierce had a NDE (near death experience) that left her a different person. She lost the ability to connect with the world, lost her friends, her place at school, her family, and her home. Now she and her mother have moved to her mother’s home, an island off the coast of Florida, to try for a fresh start. Pierce really does want to try, but she keeps seeing him. The guy who seems to be behind everything that happens to her, who has been around since she was a young girl, and who is never far from pain and death.

Abandon is Meg Cabot’s re-imagining of the Persephone myth. In the original story, as most everyone knows, Hades kidnaps Persephone and makes her his queen. Her mother, Demeter, steps in and manages to negotiate with Hades that Persephone can spend a few months of the year out of the underworld with her. This story is how the Greeks explained the seasons. When Persephone is with her mother, Demeter is happy, thus, spring and summer. When Persephone has to go back to the underworld with Hades, Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter, causing fall and winter. Pretty good story, huh?

Meg Cabot’s version has some similarities, but she has modernized the story and added her own special flair. I did appreciate her trying something new, but ultimately I was disappointed with this book. I really wanted to love it! Instead, I realized, belatedly, that it’s the first in a trilogy and would not provide me with any closure. Sometimes that’s great, if the author makes me care about a character in the first book and want to get the second one right away. Instead, I felt like this book was all about world building and set up with no pay off.

The writing style is such that the reader always feels two steps behind. Pierce talks a lot about “incidents” and other cryptic things, without really letting the reader in on what has happened to her. We do eventually get most of her story, but it happens in a way that is very choppy and difficult to follow. Certain plot points were graced over so quickly that I missed them completely and got really confused. Overall, this is very much a first book. I will probably read the rest of the series, to see if the story takes off anymore, but I’m not dying for a sequel. This wasn’t really a bad book, I just had my hopes a little too high. Also, on a side note, I’ve realized that I have a strong preference for Meg Cabot’s realistic fiction books!

Still plugging along on the 48 Hour Book Challenge. Not sure I’ll hit my 20 hour goal, but I’m doing pretty well.
Books Read: 5
Hours Read: 14
Hours Blogged/Social Networked: 2.5
Pages Read: 1,342
Husbands Who Are Feeling Neglected: 1

04 June 2011

Itty Bitty Book Review: The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy, Jeanne Birdsall
(Gr 3-5)
Yearling. March 13, 2007. Reviewed from purchased copy.

Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty Penderwick spend every summer with their father at Cape Cod. Until the year their usual cottage is sold, and there is no where else for them to stay. At the last minute, their father hears about another cottage available for rent in August. This cottage turns out to be on the grounds of an enormous mansion, and the site of the best summer the Penderwick sisters have ever had.

Review in 75 words or less:

I’ve been meaning to read this book forever and I’m so glad I finally got around to it. It’s the perfect mix of old fashioned family story and modern realistic fiction. This is the sort of book I can’t wait to share with my future children. The characters are sweet, the setting is perfect, and the story is both quiet and exciting. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good summer read. (74)

Okay 48 Hour Book Challenge Update:
Books Read: 2
Hours Read: 6.5
Hours Blogged/Social Networked: 1
Pages Read: 614
Breaks Taken: 2 (lunch and Doctor Who!)

Book Review: The Throne of Fire

The Kane Chronicles: The Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan
(Gr 4-7)
Hyperion. May 3, 2011. Reviewed from library book.

Carter and Sadie Kane have been busy since their fight at The Red Pyramid. They’ve gathered many young magicians to Brooklyn House to undergo training. Everything seems to be pretty much under control, until they find out that they’ve only got five days to find the Book of Ra, figure out how to use it, and save the world from falling into chaos. Yep, just an average day for the Kanes.

This book starts very similarly to the first in the series. Carter and Sadie’s first adventure starts on the day their father blows up the British Museum and now their newest one starts when they set Brooklyn on fire. They didn’t really mean to, things get complicated fast when you’re fighting a huge griffin and holding a flaming scroll.

As with the rest of Riordan’s books, this one does not lack for adventure. Carter and Sadie only have a few days and a lot of impossible odds to beat to save the world. They have come into their powers more in this book and are finding more strength in their relationship with each other. I really love the brother sister dynamic in this series. Carter and Sadie bicker and annoy each other like all siblings, but they also really trust and rely on each other. It’s great for young readers to see such a strong sibling bond!

The Throne of Fire was a little shorter than The Red Pyramid and the narrative flowed much better. I felt like the author really knew his characters this time around and it was much easier for me to tell Carter’s narration from Sadie’s. There were fewer unnecessary stops this time around and the plot was more fast paced. Overall, I liked this second book in the trilogy more than the first, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve felt like that about a trilogy ever!

I would recommend this book to fans of Riordan’s other books and anyone who likes history, adventure, or mythology. You do have to read the first book to understand this one, so make sure to pick up a copy of The Red Pyramid if you haven’t already. I can’t wait to find out what happens next summer!

This is my first book finished for the 48 Hour Book Challenge!
Books: 1
Hours Read: 4 (including a little audiobook time)
Time Blogged/Social Networked: 30 minutes
Pages: 352

48 Hour Book Challenge (2011)

It’s that time again…time for Mother Reader’s 48 Hour Book Challenge! This is my second time participating, so I feel slightly more prepared this year than I did last year. I think I’ll try to keep my goals modest again. I like to get that feeling of accomplishment so gotta keep myself a little grounded in my goal setting.

48hbc Goals
Read: 20 hours
Blog/Tweet/Etc.: 3 hours

The books I plan to start with are… The Kane Chronicles: The Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan
                                                      Abandon, Meg Cabot
                                                      The Penderwicks, Jeanne Birdsall
                                                     The Sweet Far Thing, Libba Bray
I say “plan to” because I frequently start a book and then change my mind. Right now these are the ones at the forefront of my brains, but I might wake up tomorrow in the mood for something else. I’m fickle like that. Okay…it’s 7:00am here I go!! Well, here I go to Starbucks…gotta get some caffeine first. I’ll be listening to Eona: The Last Dragoneye, Alison Goodman on the way though, so I really am starting now!

01 June 2011

Book Review: Knucklehead

Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka, Jon Scieszka
(Gr 3-5)
Viking Juvenile. October 2, 2008. Reviewed from library book.

Did you ever wonder what that guy who wrote The Stinky Cheese Man was like as a kid? He was probably really weird! Here is your chance to find out for certain what it was like to be young Jon Scieszka! Growing up in a house with 6 boys, he certainly had lots of opportunities to get wild and crazy. Jon Scieszka was the second oldest brother, which means he was second in command of this wiley brigade of boys. This book is filled with hilarious anecdotes, stories that come with “don’t try this” warnings, and pictures of Scieszka and his brothers that will make kids of all ages laugh out loud! 

This book is nominated for the 2012 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book award, and is, so far, my favorite! Scieszka has written an autobiography that will have boys, girls, grown ups, pets, whatever reads it, rolling on the floor laughing! He presents his childhood in a way that will give the distinct impression that he never actually grew up at all. His stories about playing a ball game guaranteed to injure someone (probably one of his younger brothers), peeing on an electric space heater, and trying to navigate military school will leave readers wishing they had grown up in the same neighborhood as these ridiculously energetic Scieszka boys.

The best best best part about this book is all the wonderful ridiculous, not to be imitated lightly shenanigans the boys get up to are all outdoor or imaginative activities. Scieszka will inspire young readers to go outside and make some memories. You never know which ones will inspire a great book someday! This is the perfect book for summertime reading or reluctant readers. The stories are told in quick chapters and full of pictures. Kids will finish this book in record time and then, hopefully, head outside to see what sort of adventures await!

Warning: this book may cause perfectly normal children to become raging knuckleheads. 

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