Sunday, May 31, 2009

May's mini-reviews...mediocre reading

Well I've really enjoyed doing mini-reviews the past few months. It allows me to express my thoughts, briefly, on books I've read but don't have a huge amount to say about or have already been reviewed many times over throughout the blog-o-sphere and aren't in need of a whole lot more said about them. It's a good way to get some reviews off my list!

Unfortunately, this month, my mini-reviews are also my "mediocre" reads for the month. I have two adult titles and two for the younger genres. They weren't bad, they weren't great, just ok. Hopefully one or two will peak your interest though and you'll be able to enjoy them a bit more than I did.

Thanks for the Memories, written by Cecelia Ahern, follows Joyce, a young woman that receives a blood transfusion after an accident and begins seeing the memories of her blood donor.

A fun, whimsical fantasy concept, but the writing style made it slightly silly. And it dragged a bit in the middle for me. Not bad overall though. My favorite of Ahern's books is still P.S. I Love You...and unfortunately I don't think I've truly enjoyed another since that one years ago.

Thanks for the Memories
Cecelia Ahern
384 pages
Adult fiction
Harper
9780061706233
April 2009

Counter Clockwise, written by Jason Cockcroft had the potential of being a very engaging read, but fell short somewhere for me (though I've read other very positive reviews). Nathan is having trouble accepting the death of his mother after a bus accident...and then his father disappears too, leading Nathan on a goose-chase filled with time travel and Beefeaters. You'll have to read the story to find out what a Beefeater is. Hehe.

It had its exciting moments, but not enough to them to really pull me in. Middle graders enjoying adventure novels would probably go for it.

Counter Clockwise
Jason Cockcroft
208 pages
Middle Grade fiction
HarperCollins
9780061255540
February 2009


Ok, so everyone knows the story of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Classic romance novel that everyone raves about right? No need for a story description, so here's my thoughts. I felt it was more than a bit boring, especially the beginning. I had the worst time getting through the first 50 pages! And the characters were slightly whiny (more than slightly at times) and unfortunately, when I finished it, I didn't see what the big deal was about.

I'm going to watch the recent movie made and see if I get more out of it, for now, I give the book an "eh."

I read this one for the Fill in the Gaps Challenge.

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
480 pages
Classic Adult fiction
Penguin
9780141439518
December 2002


Finally, Alabama Moon, written by Watt Key, is one that SO many people have raved about over the past couple of years and one I was completely looking forward to finally getting my hands on. And it was good, just not that good.

10 year old Moon was raised by his dad in the deep woods of Alabama...raised to life off the land and the land only. When his father dies, Moon has a plan to try to get to Alaska to find more woods-people like himself, but when the law gets ahold of him and places him in a group home, Moon is determined to get back to the woods as soon as possible.

Definitely my favorite of these four, I think I wanted a little more of Moon's life with his dad before the trouble with the law begins. It just seemed like a few pages went by and his father was dead already. Just my opinion though, lots and lots disagree with me!

A nice adventure novel for boys though...I would definitely put this on my list to give to boys at the library.

I read this for the Fill in the Gaps Challenge.

Alabama Moon
Watt Key
304 pages
Middle grade fiction
FSG
9780374301842
September 2006


To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

10 Things I Hate About Christianity review

No...this is not a negative look at all things "Christian," as the title most definitely implies. Though quite wary when I picked it up, being a devoted follower of our Lord, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, but it was actually quite enjoyable...and quite far from what I was thinking I would be finding on each page.

10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith, is written by Jason T. Berggren and focuses on the issues a lot of us have with being those faithful followers and does so in a manner that makes us feel part of the norm, rather than a sinner for questioning certain aspects of our Christianity.

We see such subjects as the Bible, the Church, Christians in general, and seven others that the author "hates" and describes why he hates them so much in the beginning of each chapter. As the chapters go on, the author comes to respect and honor the subject he's talking about, giving us all a glimpse into our own lives. Sometimes we don't like something at all, but overtime can understand that God puts those things in our lives for a reason, to challenge us.

I definitely don't agree with everything the author said, but it was an enjoyable read and one that I would recommend to believers. I think the title may deter some though...maybe if the subtitle and title were switched around it might appeal to a wider range.

To learn more about this title, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith
Jason T. Berggren
244 pages
Adult Non-fiction
9780981944302
March 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jane in Bloom review

If you're in need of a little bit of a tearjerker with super shots of hope-filled moments, Jane in Bloom is the perfect book for this weekend. Written by Deborah Lytton, readers get to meet young Jane, a girl dealing with her sister Lizzie's severe eating disorder, and ultimately her death from the disorder.

When Lizzie dies from complications with anorexia, Jane is quite sure what to do anymore. Her parents separate, saying they need to be apart to figure out how to live together without their daughter, leaving Jane with a crazy (but wonderfully crazy) babysitter and a digital camera which becomes Jane's source of healing.

Through her lens, Jane can control exactly what happens in her world and she slowly begins to gain back her life...learning to live without her sister. With a new friend and a new puppy to focus on, Jane heals and grows, making her parents proud and the reader ecstatic.

I absolutely loved the inclusion of photography into this story and felt that it truly brought Jane's character to fruition. Though death is a large part of the plot, it takes a backseat to Jane's coming-of-age moments in a remarkable way, making hope more prominent than sadness. Not too many authors can pull it off as well as Lytton did.

I would love to see another book about Jane...I'm not expecting one, but it would definitely be a pleasant surprise!

A fantastic book for mature middle graders and the young adult age group. Great for libraries or home shelves.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Jane in Bloom
Deborah Lytton
208 pages
Middle Grade Fiction/Young Adult
Dutton Juvenile
9780525420781
March 2009

Picture Book Saturday

3 great titles for you all this week!


First up, we have the book all parents of toddlers are desperately in need of. I Can Do It Myself, written by Diane Adams and illustrated by Nancy Hayashi is a sweet little story about Emily, a very big girl that doesn't like it when her mommy tries to help her. Emily can peanut butter her own bread, fold her own clothes, and tie her own shoes and does NOT want her mom's help at all.

When it comes to bedtime, Emily can do all of the things necessary to get ready for bed, but when shadows creep on the walls in the dark, sometimes it's nice to let mommy give some comfort and read a story. After all, doing things all by herself isn't always fun!

A very sweet story with wonderful illustrations, I Can Do It Myself would make a nice one-on-one story with mommy (or daddy) and their little one...especially for those at toddler age.

I Can Do It Myself
Diane Adams
32 pages
Picture Book
Peachtree Publishers
9781561454716
March 2009


Big Cat Pepper, written by Elizabeth Partridge and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, is a great example of a book to explain the death of a pet to a young child.

Big Cat Pepper has always been a big part of the family, but lately he hasn't been acting right. He doesn't want to eat and seems to sleep all the time...and Mama says he might die.

The kitty does pass away and the boy experiences his beloved pet's death in a safe, secure environment with his parents explaining everything very nicely. I felt the illustrations were done extremely well, the subject matter was written appropriately for a young child, and the book would make a nice selection for libraries.

Big Cat Pepper
Elizabeth Partridge
32 pages
Picture Book
Bloomsbury
9781599900247
May 2009


The Little Green Pea, written by Alison Barber and illustrated by Paige Keiser is an absolutely adorable story of dreaming big (and throws in a little eco-info too)! A little green pea lives in a row of 53, but dreams of becoming a tree someday. All of the other peas know better...they know what will become of them, but the little green pea is determined to be something more than just a part of a dish.

When the little pea is plucked...and indeed headed for a dinner table he uses his quick wits to get out of the bucket. However, what happens next is very unexpected AND we get a cool visitor to the story. I don't want to give too much away!

A cute choice for libraries and a nice storytime read aloud.

The Little Green Pea
Alison Barber
32 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
9781585364480
May 2009


To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Purge review

Any "issue" book is a tough task to tackle, whether it be abuse, addiction, or in this case, eating disorders. Getting the right mixture between a character that suffers from an eating disorder and a plot, without sounding too preachy or information based, is really difficult and unfortunately, though I really enjoyed the story, I didn't feel Purge accomplished the task.

Written by Sarah Darer Littman, Purge follows Janie Ryman, a new patient at a psychiatric hospital, suffering from bulimia. Janie is resentful of her parents for putting her there and doesn't really feel she has a problem with her eating. Sure, she throws up every meal, but she isn't a starver like some of the other patients, she certainly isn't wasting away.

Through partial journal entries and the rest third person narrative, we learn about Janie's reason for becoming bulimic, as well as her ability to form friendships with the other patients at the hospital. She slowly recovers, with a bunch of rough bumps along the road including a relapse, the death of a fellow patient, and the past that just won't go away.

A little too neat and clean for me, maybe that was the problem. The end is tied up nice and neat like a bow, first she's in trouble, then every thing is better and she's on the road to recovery. Which is fine...it's fabulous when that happens, but I think the issue of bulimia was definitely the main focus, rather than the depth of characters. Janie wasn't a person to me, she was just a character, following the appropriate path of recovery.

Still an enjoyable read, this definitely won't make my favorite list for the year, but it will still be pleasing to teens.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Purge
Sarah Darer Littman
234 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic
9780545052351
May 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Flat Stanley is BACK!!!

You have no idea how excited I was when a box of Flat Stanley books showed up in my mailbox. A couple in HARDCOVER!! I had no idea that kids still loved these books as much as they did, but apparently there is still a Flat Stanley phenomena sweeping our nation and I've been left out. Until now!

All the books are written by Jeff Brown (genuis I must say) and incorporate the story of Stanley, a boy flattened by a bulletin board that now travels alllll over the world, having fun adventures. Of course, there is the original adventure in which Stanley is flattened and then helps to solve catch robbers that have been stealing paintings from a famous museum. That one is probably still my favorite...I like beginnings.

And then we have Stanley, Flat Again! the sequel, where Stanley ends up being an inch thick all over again, and helps one of his classmates is trapped when a building collapses. Only Stanley is thin enough to get in to help her, of course, saving the day again.

Then we have these NEW, bright shiny Flat Stanley books, in a new series called "World Wide Adventures." In the first, The Mount Rushmore Calamity, Stanley and his family travel to Mount Rushmore to see the sites and of course, end up in trouble with only Stanley to save the day.

And finally, The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery, has Stanley flying, via airmail of course, to Egypt to help an archeologist find buried treasure in a pyramid. This one is really cool and has lots of fun facts about Egypt. Education and fun are the perfect combination in these books.

The books also advertise a website, www.flatstanleybooks.com that has global facts, games, pen pal opportunities, and classroom activities, which is pretty cool too. It would be a lot of fun for a kid to have a Flat Stanley pen pal to share their Flat Stanley pictures with.

These are great middle grade choices in updated forms...both paperback and hardcover.

Have any of you participated in the Flat Stanley experience??

To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Adoption stories...

I've found a couple of great picture books in the past couple of weeks on the subject of being adopted that I've really liked and wanted to share them with you all. We don't have an adopted child in our family, but hope to someday and if that does happen, you can bet these will be two books we have on our shelves at home.

Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles is written by Darlene Friedman and illustrated by Roger Roth. It tells the story of an adorable young girl named Cassidy-Li, who is set to be Star of the Week at her elementary school, meaning she gets to bring in a poster all about herself. She includes lots of snippets about her life including her adoption from China, the first woman she met in the U.S., and her two best friends.

After completing her poster, Cassidy-Li realizes she doesn't have any pictures of her birth parents and wonders a bit about them. Where they live, if they're nice, and why they couldn't keep her. Though not able to glean any answers, Cassidy-Li does feel better after talking with her parents and doing her presentation at school.

An adorable book that does not gloss over the questions children might have, this was a winner on the subject. Great for library and home shelves.

Star of the Week: A story of Love, Adoption, and Brownies with Sprinkles
Darlene Friedman
32 pages
Picture Book
HarperCollins
9780061141362
June 2009


Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption Story is written and illustrated by Yumi Heo and takes on adoption from a different perspective. An older sister is counting down the days and nights until her new adopted baby sister arrives from Korea. The girl helps put together new furniture, redecorates her room, practices feeding her baby doll, and every night she marks another day off the calendar in anticipation.

A really sweet story that could even be used for any sibling expecting a new baby brother or sister, not just adopted children. Aimed towards younger children, but a good resource on adoption for older children as well. Great for library or home shelves.

Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption Story
Yumi Heo
40 pages
Picture Book
Schwatz & Wade
9780375847189
May 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abigail Spells...and a BIG giveaway!!

Abigail Spells, written and beautifully illustrated by Anna Alter (who I also showcased here), follows an adorable chicken named Abigail that loves doing everything with her best friend, George. The one thing Abigail loves doing on her own is spelling!! She spells when she brushes her teeth, when she eats lunch, when she goes to bed, and everywhere in between. When she sees a sign for a Spelling Bee, in which the winner gets to spell at the City Fair, Abigail knows she can win if she practices, practices, practices!

And practice she does! Abigail has everyone help her practice and when the big day arrives, Abigail, just knows she is going to win. And when she doesn't, her best friend George is there to help cheer her up.

An adorable book with an incredibly positive message, Abigail Spells is a fantastic book for libraries and home shelves.






The author and publisher are kindly willing to give THREE copies of Abigail Spells to my wonderful readers!!!

To enter leave a comment, with your answer to the question below on this post by Sunday night, May 31st at midnight Mountain time to enter. There are ways to earn extra entries too...make sure you leave a separate comment for each extra entry!

1. Blog about the giveaway and leave me the link.
2. Twitter about the giveaway or Facebook about the giveaway.
3. Visit the Abigail Spells website and tell me your favorite thing about the site.

Easy peasy!! Don't forget to leave an email address where I can contact you if you're the winner!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Vanishing Cultures

I really enjoying showcasing new and exciting book series that I've come across in all my reviewing. I think it's really important for libraries and homeschooling parents to have fantastic non-fiction series to use in lesson plans or for kids to just pick up and browse through...it makes non-fiction about more than just facts.

For today, I've come across this fabulous series that I hope you'll help me spread the word about it. The series is called Vanishing Cultures and it features seven different titles aimed at elementary age students, teaching them about some cultures in our vast world that are at risk of truly vanishing.

Each title (all written by Jan Reynolds) chronicles a different culture in a specific region. For instance in Far North, we look at the Sami people residing in Finmark and Lapland. Sahara follows the Tuareg people, Himalaya the Sherpas and Tibetans, Down Under, the Tiwi, Amazon Basin, the Yanomama, and in Frozen Land,the Inuit.

Each book reads like a story, follow the days in each cultural group's life, from their eating habits, food gathering methods, and specific cultural rituals and beliefs. The photographs are stunning and I thought it was very cool how the author included a note in the back about her journies. She obviously traveled to each location to conduct research and in the note, she expands upon her experience in each place. A little goodie for the the adult looking at these!!

A fabulous series for all libraries and for homeschooling.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book covers to link to Amazon.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One Nation Under Dog

This book was seriously written for me. Quite literally, I think Michael Schaffer snuck cameras into my house and observed the ongoing conversations between my husband and I as to how much dog pampering we're partaking in and how 30 years ago dogs didn't get to eat all natural pet food or get to stay in dog hotels when companions went on vacation!

Those are exactly the topics covered (along with sooo much more) in Michael Schaffer's One Nation Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics, and Organic Pet Food. A proud companion of a Saint Bernard rescue named Murphy, Schaffer took on the task of finding out exactly what is going on in the crazy world of dogs and dog products and why we are so obsessed with now having the best and brightest for our pooch friends.

Each chapter takes on a different subject including pet networking sites, pet hotels, dog walkers, specialty food, and even the idea of what happens when our doggies die. All of the information is presented in an incredibly interesting and humorous way and is probably one of the only non-fiction books that I've really read cover to cover. I was constantly telling my hubby to mute the TV so I could read him fun facts I was learning and how very close to home a lot of the info was hitting (embarrassingly so at points).

I learned about the invention of the Kong, some info on puppy mills vs. responsible breeders (which are out there people, just do your research), and cremation ashes that are made into $25,000.00 diamonds. And yes, I'm totally serious.

And as I was reading I started to realize just how pampered my own pooches are. Before the book, I would have said, no way...not us! But, both Shae and Zoey do have "clothes"...items Aaron's mom has sent for holidays. They wear them every once in awhile for pictures, no regular-basis clothing, but still, they have the clothes. And they do eat all-natural organic dog food that totally costs an arm and a leg to buy...and they only eat all-natural treats, no people food allowed. We've had their photos taken by a professional, but it was completely by accident and ALL Aaron's fault, but again...we have them. A Dogster page was made for each of them. They regularly go to the dog park/play group. And they both get their teeth brushed, have organic shampoo, lots of toys, their own beds (though though often sleep with us) have had training, get regular washings and brushings, etc. Yep, spoiled.

This is definitely a book for dog lovers or someone that has stated how ridiculous it is to put clothes on dogs, get their portraits taken, or give them a profile on Dogster. Publisher's Weekly describes it as the "Fast Food Nation for dog lovers." It's a lot of fun and hugely informative...definitely one of my better adult reads of the year!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

One Nation Under Dog
Michael Schaffer
304 pages
Adult Non-Fiction
Henry Holt
9780805087116
March 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Some updates, links, and a favor...

First, I just want to let everyone know that I have some of our wonderful family staying with us from Chicago this week and I probably will be pretty slow to respond to comments, answer emails, etc. I have a post(s) set up for each day, so nothing lacking there, but just be patient if you email or leave a comment.

Next up....I would like to ask for you to vote in the Beautiful "Baby" Contest held over at A Novel Menagerie. A whole bunch of bloggers submitted pictures of our "babies" (cats, dogs, etc.) and are asking for your votes to win a gift card. Let me tell you...my vacuum cleaner is in desperate need of replacing, so that gift card could come in handy. My entry is my English Bulldog, Zoey, and we would love your vote, but really just want you to vote for anyone!! The site is here. I think tomorrow is the last day to vote.

Head on over to Mother Reader to sign up for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. YAY!!! I love these days of reading! They help to get the TBR pile down and this year will help me get my reading numbers up before the big move to Virginia puts a hold on all things book related. My biggest tip for this 2 day event is to NOT FEEL PRESSURED. No one really expects you to sit there and read for 48 hours. Heck, I'm having a garage sale smack dab in the middle, but you can bet I still signed up!

I think that's it for now...have a glorious, blessed weekend!

Picture Book Saturday

Some random titles for you all these week, all of which I very much enjoyed recently. Hopefully you'll find something you'll like!!

Down by the Station, written by Jennifer Riggs Vetter and illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz is fabulous. Yep it only takes that one word to describe this one. You're going to have the words stuck in your head for the next 2 days, but it's well worth it.

An expanded version of a classic rhyme, kids that love boats planes, trucks, and trains will totally be loving this one. The rhyme reads almost like a song and it's definitely one that you and your kids will probably know word for word after a few readings.

"Down by the depot, early in the morning
See the yellow school buses all in a row
See the school bus driver warming up the engine
Vroom vroom
Beep beep!
Off we go!"

And so it repeats with different modes of transportation on each page, creating a fabulous rhyming book with adorable illustrations. A really simple concept, Down by the Station will appeal to your toddlers, but also to slightly older kids as the rhyming is a lot of fun.

Fantastic for home reading and for toddler storytimes.

Down by the Station
Jennifer Riggs Vetter
32 pages
Picture Book
Tricycle Press
9781582462431
April 2009


Chicken Cheeks, written by Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes, is one of those books that your kiddos are alllllways going to be talking about after you've read it with them! All about animal behinds (butts, heinies, patooties, whatever you want to call them), giggle-worthy does not even BEGIN to describe this book.

All a bear wants to do is get to the honey high up in the tree. So what does he do? He creates a tower of animals, complete with a moose caboose, turkey tushy, flamingo fanny, and of course, chicken cheeks. Each page spread has a different animal "back end" and hilarious facial expressions from whatever animal happens to be below the newest addition. The best page has to be the one featuring guinea pig buns. Soooooo funny!

There are also a pair of ants on each page spread, easily missed, which are just as funny as the rest of the book. Don't forget to look for the ants!

Your kids are going to LOVE this book, I can see it now. And they will probably go around for the next week call their back end all sorts of different things!!

A fabulous choice for libraries and home shelves.

Chicken Cheeks
Michael Ian Black
40 pages
Picture Book
Simon & Schuster
9781416948643
January 2009


This Little Bunny Can Bake, written and illustrated by Janet Stein is a humorous little book about cooking. At Chef George's Dessert School, all the animals are beginners and none want to follow Chef George's difficult rules, they would rather be silly! Pink Bunny on the other hand, wants nothing more than to take dessert school very seriously and by following the rules, a beautiful and yummy cake is created!

The illustrations were quite eye-catching in this cute title. Done in reds, blacks, and whites (with a pink bunny of course), the drawings really stand out on the page and the story is funny and will have your kids exclaiming throughout the reading.

A nice choice for a family story time or for library shelves. OOH and there's recipes included! I want to try the chocolate meringue cookies!

This Little Bunny Can Bake
Janet Stein
40 pages
Picture Book
Schwartz & Wade
9780375843136
March 2009


I wanted to finish this Picture Book Saturday with a title that truly touched my heart. It may not be a funny book or a great read aloud, but A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope, written and illustrated by Michael Foreman, is very much an inspirational, sweet story, worthy of sharing.

A little boy living in a war-torn world, inspires hope by finding a tiny sprout in the rubble and caring for it, enabling it to grow. The plant is met with adversity on all sides, but it grows and thrives with the care of the young boy. becoming a source of hope for the people of his world...and those on the other side of a fence.

Done in black and white with touches of color, the story is incredibly and the illustrations beautiful. A very touching story and one that would be a good conversation starter on war.

A Child's Garden: A Story of Hope
Michael Foreman
32 pages
Picture Book
Candlewick
9780763642716
May 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

What Bluebirds Do

What a perfect book for spring!! What Bluebirds Do, written by Pamela F. Kirby dives deep into the world of all things Bluebird. From laying eggs, looking for food, and nesting, to the process of growing from just a newborn chick to a beautiful adult Bluebird, able to fly and find food on their own.

Kirby focuses on one specific pair of Eastern Bluebirds, watching their every move, building them a nest, and even leaving out small meal worms for an extra snack for the birds. The photographs are simply brilliant, the amazing blues of the Bluebird really popping on the page and exhibiting to the reader what a really extraordinary animal this is.

The author also includes a short description of three other types of Bluebirds in the back of the book, along with a section on bringing more Bluebirds to your yard, a glossary, and a "More Information" section.

A really delightful book, this belongs on library shelves for sure.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

What Bluebirds Do
Pamela F. Kirby
48 pages
Non-fiction
Boyds Mills Press
9781590786147
April 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Radiant Darkness review

Oooh do I love me a good myth retelling! I've always enjoyed reading Greek Myths, having taken a class in high school on the subject and becoming hooked on all things mythological. That led me to loving the Percy Jackson novels and anything else that includes a story about a Greek God or Goddess.

Well, Radiant Darkness, written by first-time-author Emily Whitman, is a fabulous retelling (from a whole new angle) of Persephone, Goddess of the Underworld. In it, we meet young Persephone, daughter of the Goddess Demeter, who feels trapped under her mother's thumb. Demeter doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to her daughter, believing that Persephone can take care of herself and doesn't need her mother around for anything. Oh and Demeter has quite the ego.

Persephone, sick of being told what to do, where to go, and who to be friends with goes completely against everything she's been taught when she meets a handsome man in a meadow. Who happens to be Hades, God of the Underworld. And when he asks her to go with him and be his Queen? She says yes.

What follows is the experiences Persephone has in the world of Darkness, with a God of Death, having left her mother and the world of light behind.

I loved the telling of this myth, I felt it was beautifully written, a quick-read, and an awesome new take on a very old story. I also really enjoyed how Hades was written...not as this cruel man that enjoys killing people off, but as a God that has accepted his world and what he is supposed to do in it. Yes, he's the ruler of Death, but he comes off as a pretty decent guy.

The cover is another wonderful aspect, absolutely beautiful and the descriptions are amazing. I was also impressed with the lack of sexuality in the story. So many books and movies focus on Gods being sex-hungry and I was a little concerned that this would end up being too mature for a YA audience and though there are one or two references to sex, but they were incredibly subtle. Appropriate for young adults and even some upper middle graders.

A great book for libraries!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Radiant Darkness
Emily Whitman
288 pages
Young Adult
Greenwillow
9780061724497
April 2009

Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks review

I have read some of Lauren Myracle's previous books including Twelve and Thirteen and enjoyed them, but this latest title from her is just wonderful. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks has all the things a best selling young adult book needs, a bit of romance, some angst, family issues, and a great main character.

Carly has grown up in the world of privilege, though she often feels as if she doesn't really belong to her money crazy parents. She's fifteen and attends one of the most prestigious schools in the country, at which her younger sister, Anna, is starting at this fall. Anna has always been Carly's best friend, the one constant in her life filled with rich parents, snobby classmates, and people that don't like anyone that's different.

When Anna starts turning into the "norm" of kids at her school, becoming gorgeous, hanging out with Carly's friends, dressing the right way, and saying the perfect things, Carly no longer knows where to turn. Anna is gone, she can't get the right guy, her parents have checked out, and Carly is just lost in her eccentric self.

I loved Carly as a main character. Loved her quirks, her tenacity, and her determination to be herself in a world of copycats. The relationship with Anna is pure and comes across as realistic, as do her thoughts and emotions. This is really a book about actual teens that will appeal to REAL teens.

Definitely a great book to have on library shelves or as a gift for a teen girl. A great message of sisterhood through thick and thin comes across.

I read this for the Spring Reading Thing challenge

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover to link to Amazon.

Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks
Lauren Myracle
292 pages
Young Adult
Dutton
9780525477433
May 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically review

A.J. Jacobs seriously comes up with the coolest ideas for books. First, he wrote a book that I was previously unfamiliar with, entitled The Know-It-All, in which he spends one year reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, and now he's spent a year attempting to follow the Bible as literally as possible, making for a humorous and educational look into the Bible and into Jacob's life.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, is split up into chapters of months and the tasks Jacobs, a self-proclaimed agnostic, takes on during each month, as he attempts to live as those in Biblical times would have (or as the Bible tells us we should). Though it is proved very difficult to live word for word by the Bible, the tasks he is able to complete include ceasing to cut his hair, which results in quite the scary beard, telling the truth all the time (no matter the results), takes a pilgrimage to Israel, and gives 10% of his income to charity.

I loved Jacobs' thoughts on a Creationist museum and his time spent with the Amish, as well as the manner in which he looked at all different forms of Bible-following. From Orthodox Jews to Jehovah's Witnesses, the Amish, and Evangelists, he covers it all in a humorous, educational, and interesting way.

His year with the Bible changed his life, though not necessarily making him a devout Christian or Jewish man, but by opening his mind to the possibilities that lay with prayer and that are a part Biblical living. I was pretty impressed with his undertaking and enjoyed the book quite a bit.

I read this for the Project 100 Challenge.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Year of Living Biblically
A.J. Jacobs
416 pages
Adult Memoir
Simon & Schuster
9780743291484
September 2008 (paperback)

Sounds Like Reading series...

Teaching children to read is one of the most joyous things in life, at least in my own opinion, but it can also be a difficult task. Elementary school teachers seem to have that special knack for getting kids to connect with letters, words, and sounds, that a lot of parents just don't seem to have! With this new series from Lerner, "Sounds Like Reading," parents and homeschooling parents have a new, fun tool to help work on reading with their kids, in a manner that's fun and helps the child to feel like he or she is really accomplishing something, rather than "working."

There are 8 books in the series, each devoted to a different part of words and word sounds. Everything from inflection and long vowel sounds, to r-controlled vowels and short vowel are included in story-book type titles, all by Brian P. Cleary and illustrator Jason Miskimins. My favorite, The Peaches on the Beaches, deals with inflectional endings and is just so cute!

A little mouse with glasses (that I kindly nicknamed Edgar...the poor mouse needed a name) pops up on different pages throughout the books and encourages the reader to complete help him find three words that sound alike. Another little bonus that makes the books more fun than work.

A great series for librarians to have on their shelves, as well as an awesome asset to a homeschooling parent's curriculum. The Sounds Like Reading series introduces a fun and educational way to work on reading skills.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon. Lerner also has the full set available at their website.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Funny How Things Change review

I absolutely love when I close the cover of a book and just know it was special. I want to rave about it to everyone I see, even those that don't necessarily read for pleasure, just needing to get the book into the hands of people. It doesn't happen often, only once or twice a year, if that, but it's happened to me with this book. Go get it, please, you will not be sorry!

Funny How Things Change is the second young adult book written by Melissa Wyatt. The main character is 17 year old Remy, short for Remington...and yes, he is named after the gun. Remy lives in West Virginia, smack dab in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. He works as a car mechanic, a job he absolutely loves, but certainly doesn't get paid a whole heck of a lot for. He and his dad live in a broken down old trailer on top of a mountain, without running water, but feel like they're doing pretty ok.

Remy has been dating Lisa, a girl from a rather affluent family, for almost three years. They are in love with each other, head over heels, and Remy has plans to follow Lisa to college in Pennsylvania, leaving behind Appalachia and finally getting out. When Dana, an outsider, shows up to paint murals on the towns water tower, Remy starts to realize that there just may be more to life than getting out of West Virginia and starting a new life. Maybe he likes his life in the mountains just fine. Maybe he doesn't need money. Maybe he doesn't need Lisa. Maybe all he needs is to be at home.

Oh the praises I sing about this book. It really has so much going for it...a beautifully written male character that even female readers are going to enjoy the plot with (who reminds me of Dane from Thaw, one of my favorites from last year, but a much nicer kid), a locale that doesn't often show up in young adult books, a great cast of characters, a believable plot, and the such HOPE. Go get this one. Seriously. I loved it. And nothing I say about it will nearly do it justice, so just trust me :)

Loved it!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. DO IT!

Funny How Things Change
Melissa Wyatt
208 pages
Young Adult
Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
9780374302337
April 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Refuge: A True Story of Faith and Civil War

Sometimes, to get to the good stuff, we have to go through the tough stuff...with God's help of course. That's the message that John and Bessie Gonleh, with Bruce Beakley, produce in their book Refuge: A True Story of Faith and Civil War. The Gonleh's went through a horrific experience that spanned years and years, but didn't lose their faith, didn't give up hope, and never stopped leaning on the Lord.

In 1989, the Gonleh's lived in Monrovia, Liberia. A war had broken out in their country and the family was forced to witness and experience death, disease, and terrible sights while attempting to flee the country. After almost 20 years, the family finally escaped to America, but not without heartache at the experiences they went through. You will be truly amazed at what this family was forced to deal with and the manner in which they experienced it. From taveling through the Liberian wilderness with their 6 children, looking for help, the death of children, and so much more. Such positivity and hope lay with the tragedy.

Reading like a thrilling fiction story, Refuge is anything but fiction. When you finish the last page, this one is definitely going to stick with you for quite some time.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. There is also a website for the book www.RefugeTheBook.com.

Refuge: A True Story of Faith and Civil War
John and Bessie Gonleh with Bruce Beakley
288 pages
Christian Non-fiction
Winepress Publishing
9781579219307
April 2009

Non-Fiction Monday: Follow that Food Chain!

Lerner has some fantastic series out there, many of which I've reviewed, and this series is no exception. Follow That Food Chain features 6 different titles, each focusing on the food chain of a particular region. And it's in "Choose Your Own Adventure" fashion. SO cool!

The three I'm concentrating on here, A Savannah Food Chain, A Rainforest Food Chain, and A Desert Food Chain, are all written by Rebecca Hogue Wojahn and Donald Wojahn. Each title begins by introducing the reader to the region with landscapes, descriptions of climate, and terrain. We then move onto major animal and insect players in the food chain. For example, lions and hyenas on the Savanna, jaguars and anteaters in the Rain Forest, and coyotes and rattlesnakes in the desert.

The really cool thing about these books is how the reader gets to control the story, much like those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books we all love so much. You can choose what a particular animal eats next, leading to a new page filled with cool facts and brilliant photographs.

Each book also includes an index, a bibliography, and other info for more research. An awesome series, recommended for all libraries!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Practical Guide to Faeries review

I'm sure if you have a tween or teen reader at home, they've had some contact with books about faeries by now. Faeries are allll the rage at our library...books are flying off the shelves that have anything to do with the faerie realm and I've actually read some pretty decent faery books myself lately. The latest book to cross my path is a charming addition to the New York Times best-selling "A Practical Guide To" series. In this case, a guide to Faeries.

The guide has been compiled by a very special Faerie: Pip Puddlejump Impirae Pioneer Playful Prankster Panishee to be exact. And Pip gives the reader absolutely everything one would need to know to be "in" with faeries. From how to attract them, learning their language, and what actually makes a faery to life inside the faery world, tips on finding their enemies, and magical faery items.

Beautiful illustrations accompany very accurate charts and tips. I especially loved the page on how to bait a faery. Pip explains that it would hurt a faery's feelings if you baited and caught them without a very good reason, but he wanted to give you the tips just in case.

Overall a very cute, charming book that will thrill those fans of the "ology" books and the other "Practical Guide to" books. The artwork is beautiful and the content will definitely please.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

A Practical Guide to Faeries
Susan J. Morris
80 pages
Non-fiction
Mirrorstone
9780786951406
January 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Picture Book Saturday

Just some random goodies this weekend! Enjoy!

Duck Tents, written by Lynne Berry and illustrated by Hiroe Nakata is I think the third in the ducky series by the pair, all centering on an adorable quintet of ducks having all sorts of adventures. In this particular adventure, the ducks are going camping and having all sorts of fun while in the wilderness. Fishing, toasting marshmallows, and sleeping under the stars are all in the plans but scary noises threaten to ruin their evening!

The illustrations are quaint and the rhyming flow of the story is really cute. Ducks Tents would make a nice read aloud for the younger kiddos.

Duck Tents
Lynne Berry
32 pages
Picture Book
Henry Holt
9780805086966
April 2009


The Girl Who Wanted to Dance, written by Amy Ehrlich and illustrated by Rebecca Walsh is definitely a picture book for your older children, only because of the length and intensity of the story.

Clara lives with her father and her grandmother in a small village and wants nothing more than the ability to dance and dance and dance. Unfortunately, her father is a very sad man and doesn't allow Clara to pursue her dream. When a group of dancers comes to her village, Clara is enchanted and follows them deep into the woods one evening, introducing her to a woman that lights a fire in Clara...not only for dancing, but to bring her father happiness.

This makes for a really nice fairy tale and will definitely appeal to fans of the genre. The illustrations were beautiful and the writing superb. Again, mainly for the older kiddos though. Younger ones aren't going to sit through it.

The Girl Who Wanted to Dance
Amy Ehrlich
40 pages
Picture Book
Candlewick
9780763613457
February 2009


Funny Farm, written and illustrated by the incredibly talented Mark Teague, is so cute in such a subtle way. Edward (who appears to be a French Bulldog) is visiting Hawthorne Farm for the first time, in a tuxedo no less, and manages to get himself into lots of interesting antics while going about a farm's daily business.

There's the mud issue when feeding the pigs, the attacking hens while attempting to gather eggs, and of course the angry sheep being tended. The illustrations truly tell the story here, as the text simply reads as if Edward is going about his farm adventure as any normal dog would. Very cute!!

A perfect book to chat your way through with your kids. Have them point out the silliness in each picture as you go along.

Funny Farm
Mark Teague
32 pages
Picture Book
Orchard Books
9780439914994
April 2009


And finally, we have Prudence & Moxie: A Tale of Mismatched Friends, written by Deborah Noyes and illustrated by AnnaLaura Cantone. Now, I've read a lot of books about friends being different from each other and the ways in which they are compliments of each other, which is basically what this book is. However, the illustrations set Prudence & Moxie far apart from other "mismatched friends" books.

Moxie is a daredevil and Prudence is the sensible one. Prudence dares Moxie to do something that is waaay out of her comfort zone and Moxie doesn't know if her daredevil ways will stand up to this task...enough said. An adorable book with fantastic, hilarious, illustrations.

Prudence & Moxie: A Tale of Mismatched Friends
Deborah Noyes
32 pages
Picture Book
Houghton Mifflin
9780618416073
April 2009


I hope you found something that peaks your interest! To learn more about any of the titles or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

An Oregon Trail story

Did you ever play the old computer game, The Oregon Trail? When I was in middle school I just thought that game was the best thing invented! And when I got this book in the mail, it instantly reminded me of the old wagon trail game...always a good thing!

Minnow and Rose: An Oregon Trail Story, written by Judy Young and illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, is part of the "Tales of Young Americans" series, which has some truly incredibly titles. Great for learning and entertainment, always with good authors and great illustrators. In this particular tale, we get a dose of two very different cultures, a whole lot of time period info, and a sweet story about two friends.

Minnow, a Native American girl living with her family on the plains of Oregon, meets Rose, a red-haired girl traveling with the Oregon Trail wagon team, creating an introduction of a tribe and the entire wagon team. The girls attempt to become friends, not realizing that their cultural differences will prevent that from happening, and their fathers instantly tear them away from one another.

When Rose and the wagon team are ready to leave, they attempt a river crossing and Rose falls into the churning waters, destined to drown in the deep river. Minnow is able to save her, making it known that friendship can most certainly cross cultural boundaries, just as the wagons crossed the rivers.

The author's note at the beginning of the story expands upon the frequency of death while on the Oregon Trail, whether it be by drowning in river crossings, illness, etc. The power of friendship definitely overpowers the historical aspects of the time period, but that's just fine in a book aimed at the younger age group.

A great addition to the "Tales of Young Americans" series and nice starting point if you haven't already heard of the books. Two other great titles in the series are The Junkman's Daughter, the story of a Jewish immigrant family that uses "junk" as their way to earn money, by Sonia Levitan and The Lucky Star, the story of a young girl growing up during the Great Depression, also by Judy Young.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Minnow and Rose: An Oregon Trail Story
Judy Young
38 pages
Picture book
Sleeping Bear Press
9781585364213
April 2009

A new Steve Jenkins? YAY!

I LOVE books by Steve Jenkins. He's become one of those go-to-authors for making suggestions to picky readers or those parents that just don't quite know how to get their children interested in non-fiction titles. Well...his newest is out and it's just as brilliant and beautiful as all his previous titles. A sure crowd-pleaser.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea is like the Planet Earth BBC series on the ocean, in a children's non-fiction book. Jenkins covers typical animals that we've all heard of (sea turtles, tuna, sharks, jellyfish) and well as some amazing marine animals most of us probably have never heard of, including Siphonophore, a totally weird looking bioluminescent animal, the Pelican Eel which is giving me shivers just looking at the picture, and the Fang Tooth which appears like it would bite your arm off in 2 seconds flat. Kids are going to LOVE these cool, creepy sea animals at the bottom of the sea.

Each page has a different theme based around the place in the ocean it's located, such as The Twilight Zone starting at 660 feet, the Dark Zone, starting around 3300 feet, and finally the Marianas Trench which you can find around 36000 feet. CRAZY!! Different animals in these regions are showcased on each page, fabulously illustrated.

A winner for sure, Down, Down, Down belongs on all school and library shelves. I would also highly recommend watching the Planet Earth disc featuring sea life...you'll get to see some of these neat animals, including the glow-in-the-dark fish!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
Steve Jenkins
40 pages
Non-fiction
Houghton-Mifflin
9780618966363
May 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's been one year since my Jacob was born...

Please watch this video as a celebration of his life. It's really his life in pictures played to the songs he listened to every day in the NICU with us...with the first two minutes cut off to make it usable. It will take 10 minutes of your time, but it will help us to keep the memory of this amazing, strong, and inspirational child alive. He's the best thing that ever happened to his father and I and continues to be every day.

Make sure you watch until then end...he gets to be a big boy...and very cute :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Courage in Patience review

Books about abuse are really hard to write (or so I would imagine) without coming off sounding preachy or too "after-school-special." Beth Fehlbaum's new young adult novel, Courage in Patience: A Story for Those Who Have Endured Abuse, is one that achieves the goal of a thought-provoking, interesting plot, deep characters, and a good message, with only a tad bit of the after-school-special feel. Not too bad!

Ashley Asher (yeah, she knows alll about her name), is a 15 year old girl living in small Texas town, that has been forced to live through years of abuse, emotional, physical, and sexual, at the hands of her stepfather. When she finally takes the step to confide in someone...her mother... Ashley is met with a woman that turns her back on her daughter, chosing husband over the child she gave birth to.

Devastated and haunted, Ashley moves in with her birth father and his wife, an English teacher, who attempts to help Ashley heal and work through the pain her step-dad and mother left with her. Though she finds it difficult to trust her dad, suffering from her trauma deep down inside, Ashley slowly begins to make an honest attempt at learning to live without fear.

Courage in Patience is emotionally draining to say the least, but probably a good place to start for teens that are have never read a fictional account of abuse before. It's not graphic, but rather relies more on the emotional end to tell the story.

A part in the plot that I felt was probably...hmm...I don't know, "irrelevant" was when Ashley's stepmother, Bev, chooses a controversial book for the summer reading selection, which sets off a huge cloud of issues within the small, religious town. That could have been a good plot in itself, but I kinda felt it was unnecessary with Ashley's story. Maybe that opinion is just my own!

The dialogue was believable and the story, if not heartbreaking, was realistic. A good read overall.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Courage in Patience: A Story of Hope for Those Who Have Endured Abuse
Beth Fehlbaum
352 pages
Young Adult
Kunati
9781601641564
September 2008

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate review...fabulous

What a charming, lovely book. The cover will be the first thing to catch your eye and reel you in.... leaving you the feeling of home, love, and something old-fashioned. Jacqueline Kelly has created an adorable middle grade novel that will completely charm children and parents alike, making a great story for sharing together as a family.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate follows the title character, 11 year old Calpurnia during the hot summer of 1899 as she begins to discover the world around her. Smack dab in the middle of six brothers and the only girl, Calpurnia has never really had anything that was just hers, until she begins spending time with her grumpy grandfather...the man that everyone else in the family is afraid of.

Her grandfather teaches her all about nature in a time when Charles Darwin has just come out with a controversial book. Callie Vee learns all about microscopes, plants, trees, and organisms. The pair conducts experiments, attempt to discover new plant species, and have a good time just chatting with one another on their walks through the woods. Unfortunately, Calpurnia's mother does not think that she being a "naturalist" is a good plan and at all and insists that Calpurnia learn how to properly sew, cook, and be a homemaker...the things a girl at the turn of the century should be doing.

The spunky, outgoing, vivacious girl is such a breath of fresh air on every single page and the history of the time period is embedded into the story effortlessly and brilliantly. Family relationships are as much as an important plot aspect as the nature and education aspects. Each family member is able to learn something from Callie Vee and she from them.

A truly charming, wonderful story for your middle grader or a great family read aloud or book club choice for kids. I loved this story and think it needs a place in every library. Brilliant!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Jacqueline Kelly
352 pages
Middle Grade fiction
Henry Holt
9780805088410
May 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Luxe series for beginners

I've raved about my love of "The Luxe" novels in several different posts over the past few months, but looking back, I've never actually written a post devoted just to this series by Anna Godberson that just makes me drool. It was definitely time to write them up and see if I can get some of you non-Luxe readers interested! I'm not going to describe any of the books in great detail as to not spoil anything for those of you who have not had the pleasure of opening one of these covers.

First of all, the covers of these novels are just delicious. I want to be one of those girls in the gowns so badly!! The first being the starter of the series, The Luxe, features a beautiful girl in this humongous, exquisite pink gown that takes up not only the entire cover, but the back cover as well. In it we meet our main characters that will follow us through the series, Elizabeth, Diana, Henry, Penelope, and Lina, among several others.

The second title of the series, Rumors, features a brilliant red dress on the cover and takes us deeper into the world of these late nineteenth century Manhatten socialites and the abilities they possess to ruin each others lives at the drop of a hat. And an expensive hat at that. The reader gets more of Penelope Hayes and Lina Broud in this novel and of course, more of the wonderfully charming Henry. Though I often wanted to smack him...

The third title, Envy, has another fabulous gown on the cover...this one white with beautiful deep red trim. Jaw-dropping secrets are revealed in this one and lots of lies and cover-ups are overturned. It's a page-turner for sure.

These novels are like Gossip Girl meets Pride & Prejudice. The history of Manhattan is wonderfully accurate and rich throughout each of the titles. It was fantastic to read such girly books and have a sense of a wonderful history lesson woven in. There are fights, mystery, betrayals, and lots and lots of gossip. Plenty of laugh-out-loud parts are included as well and goodness, the DESCRIPTIONS of places, people, outfits, homes...it's just magnificent. Anna Godberson knows what she's doing.

The conclusion of the series, Splendor is said to debut in October (according to Amazon). Cannot wait!!

A must have for libraries and a great gift for a teen girl. Fabulous books!

To learn more about any of these books, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

The Luxe, Rumors, Envy
Anna Godberson
464, 448, 416 pages
Young Adult
HarperCollins
9780061345685, 9780061345715, 9780061345722

Monday, May 11, 2009

On Tour with Jan Reynolds: Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life

My favorite non-fiction books for kids include 2 things: informative, yet entertaining text and beautiful photographs/illustrations. Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming by Jan Reynolds has incorporated both so fabulously, that I am definitely recommending this to all librarians and homeschooling parents. Informative text, an entertaining subject, and brilliant photographs come together to form a book that needs to be on your shelves.

We all know how important rice is to our world. Just think of how many times YOU eat rice in a year and then imagine the families that rely on rice as their daily form of subsistence. In Bali, rice truly is the life of the people, providing both employment and a vital food source for consumption. The author takes the reader through the actual cycle of rice, from growing, harvesting, and keeping pests away to the temples of Bali that are an integral part of business and thus, survival. Sustainable farming in an industrialized world.

The photographs are amazing and they lend such a brilliance to the text. I learned more about rice and Bali than I ever thought I would know, at a level that will be easy for upper elementary and middle grade students to understand. A map of Bali, glossary, and web sites are included in the back for further info searching.

A definite recommendation for libraries, both school and public, and a fantastic resource for homeschooling parents. Pair with a unit about cultures, farming, or food.

In support of this blog tour, the publisher, Lee and Low, is having a great sale on Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life, offering 26% off AND free shipping. Just enter code JanTour at leeandlow.com.

Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming
Jan Reynolds
48 pages
Non-fiction
Lee & Low
9781600602542
May 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bones of Faerie review

This almost always seems to happen to me. I read a bunch of fabulous reviews about a book, wait patiently for it to appear in my hands, and when I finally get to read it, I don't really like it. It's happened again! Bones of Faerie was just disappointing to me. Not necessarily a "bad" book or one I wouldn't recommend to teens, however it did not live up to all the expectations I had after reading the love so many had for it.

It's been over 20 years since the War. The War between the Faeries and humans that destroyed the United States as we know it. Liza is a teen, having grown up believing that magic only kills, it does no good, and any person possessing it must be destroyed. When she discovers the tell-tale silver roots in her hair, meaning she too is one that has some sort of magic, she flees her home, afraid her father will kill her as he did her baby sister.

After almost dying on her journey through the Faerie infested woods, Liza and her traveling companion, Matthew, find shelter in a town where magic is common and not viewed as evil. As Liza gets ahold of her own power, visions, she decides she must go in search of the mother that left her...a long and incredibly dangerous journey that may not even give her the chance to see her mother or give any answers to the millions of questions she has. Oh... she'll probably die. There's that too.

Bones of Faerie held the characteristic of being written about a popular topic right now. Faeries are popping up in books all over and unfortunately, with this particular one, I was left pretty disappointed. I felt Liza was a really flat character, she was whiny at times when she didn't need to be and I had so many questions throughout the entire book that I felt went unanswered. Not a whole lot seemed to happen...it was unfortunately like I was reading just to finish, not because I wanted to. Bummer.

Argue with me if you loved it, maybe I need another point of view again!

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Bones of Faerie
Janni Lee Simner
256 pages
Young Adult
Random House
9780375845635
January 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Picture Book Saturday: Being Different

Lots of fun books today folks, all centering around the idea that being "different" is just fine. I've read all of these just this week and truly enjoyed each one. Hope you find something that appeals to you!

The first thing a great book needs is a fantastic title and author Bill Cochran does not disappoint in that area with My Parents are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames, and Other Facts about Me. Great title huh? And the story definitely lives up to it.

A fabulous choice for children with divorced parents, this title follows a boy that basically describes his life. His parents being divorced is just a quality about him...it certainly doesn't mean he's weird. And the fact that he sleeps with one sock on, gives his elbows nicknames, pretends to be a chicken when he answers the phone, or eats spaghetti sauce out of the jar doesn't make him weird either. That's just the way he is!

With great illustrations by Steve Bjorkman, this picture book is a great resource for parents about to get a divorce or that already are. The integration of humor and the explanation of having two different homes and being just a bit different is perfect, making for a fun, yet comforting book.

My Parents are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames, and Other Facts about Me
Bill Cochran
32 pages
Picture Book
HarperCollins
9780060539429
June 2009


Adios Oscar! A Butterfly Fable is written and illustrated by Peter Elwell takes on being different in the physical sense. Oscar is a caterpillar and when he learns he's going to turn into a butterfly someday, he is overjoyed! He and his friend Edna begin making plans for their butterfly lives by researching Mexico, the place where they want to relocate with the rest of the beautiful butterflies they know.

When Oscar goes through his metamorphosis and turns out to be a moth, rather than a gorgeous butterfly, he is devastated and thinks his plans for Mexico are dashed. He couldn't possibly go with all the beautiful butterflies to an exotic land when he looks like a boring old moth could he??

A nice story about both being different, as well as a metamorphosis process and the back includes some nice facts about butterflies and moths, making it a useful classroom book as well.

Adios Oscar!
Peter Elwell
32 pages
Picture Book
The Blue Sky Press
9780545071598
April 2009


Pink! by Lynne Rickards, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain is the ultimate of "it's ok to be different" books. When a very-much-boy penguin turns pink one day, he is embarrassed, humiliated and afraid he no longer fits in with his black and white penguin family and friends. In search of a place where he does fit in, Patrick swims all the way to Africa to go live with the pink flamingos.

Quickly, Patrick finds out that he really doesn't fit in with the flamingos at all and swims all the way back home, where he is met by his very-impressed friends. He swam ALL the way to Africa!! Being different wasn't quite as bad as Patrick thought.

Another cute selection, this would make a nice read a loud or a great choice for those kids that just love PINK!! (Like ME!).

Pink!
Lynne Rickards
32 pages
Picture Book
The Chicken House
9780545086080
January 2009

And my final choice of the week is by one of my all-time favorite picture book authors, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, with illustrator Scott Magoon. Known for Little Pea (my favorite) and Little Hoot, Rosenthal has cooked up another adorable story of someone that hates being different from his friends, Spoon.

Spoon is bummed about being a spoon. He doesn't get to cut or spread like Knife or go everywhere like Fork. And he certainly isn't exoctic like Chopsticks. Being a Spoon is just SO boring. When his friends are actually jealous of all the cool things Spoon gets to do, like diving headfirst into a bowl of ice cream or measuring stuff, and his mom explains all the cool things he DOES get to do, Spoon starts to realize that his life of being different is actually pretty neat.

You have to go get this book to read the last page...I could NOT stop laughing!! And Magoon did a fabulous job with facial expressions. Any fan of Little Pea or Little Hoot will really enjoy this one. And Little Pig comes out soon!

Spoon
Amy Krause Rosenthal
40 pages
Picture Book
Hyperion
9781423106852
April 2009


To learn more about any of these titles, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.