Thursday, April 29, 2010

For Keeps review

Jacket description (from ARC):
"For sixteen years, Josie Gardner and her mom, Kate, have been a team. It's been the Gardner Girls against the world, and that's how Josie likes it. Until one day, in the pet-food aisle of Shop-Co, they run into the parents of Paul Tucci, Kate's high school boyfriend-the father Josie has never met. If Mr. and Mrs. Tucci are back in town, it's only a matter of time before Paul shows up.

Suddenly, Josie's mature, capable mother regresses to the heartbroken teenager she was when Paul moved away. Meanwhile, Josie's on the verge of having her first real boyfriend, while her free-loving best friend Liv begins yet another no-strings-attached fling.

When Josie learns some surprising truths about Paul Tucci, she finds herself questioning what she's always believed about her parents-and herself."

The part about For Keeps that really kept me reading and enjoying the book was the realistic characters author Natasha Friend has created. Josie, along with all of the secondary characters (Liv, Kate, Paul, Matt), came across as real people, with completely believable dialogue. It felt honest and not forced. The kids acted like the teens that they were (imagine that), picking at each other, focusing on relationships of peers, being snarky and mean at times, and just being KIDS. I was very pleased by that.

The plot was good, nothing spectacular (and at times a tad outlandish), and really not a whole lot of "new," but that's ok. It's a well-written teen novel with engaging, realistic characters, and a little romance. Your teen girls will enjoy it and it's a nice choice for fans of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and the like.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Enjoyable!

For Keeps
Natasha Friend
272 pages
Young Adult
Viking
9780670011902
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher


To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back from Chicago land!

Well guys, it's been awhile! I was only gone for like 4 days, but it feels like forever. 12+ hour drive there, long weekend, 12+hour drive back, not to mention we both ended up with really foul colds which of course gunked up our positive attitudes about the drive. Blah.

Anyways, weekend recap:

Friday we just hung out at the house with the family and then jetted over to the Batavia Public Library for toddler storytime. Let me tell...this place is my dream employment location. Absolutely beautiful library (with a coffee shop!!), awesome children's librarian, great kid's room. Neat, clean, new, fresh. Wonderful! Now if only they would plant an Air Force base there....

Saturday we "toured" downtown Chicago. The city was under a cover of clouds and fog, so the whole sightseeing thing wasn't really taking place, but it was nice to drive around and attempt to see things. We walked Navy Pier, ate at Ed Debevic's (where the service was hilarious and the food was not-so-great). Oooh and because Aaron and I are cupcake junkies, we drove over to Swirlz Cupcakes and sampled some sweets. Definitely not the best I've ever had, but decent enough. If you want the best cupcakes EVER, you must try the Half-Baked at Cake Fetish. My favorite place in the world.
Enough about cupcakes, moving on...
Sunday was our main reason for heading to Chicago. Nephew #2's baptism. Benjamin is our 2nd nephew and we are both he and Owen's Godparents. Such a blessing and an honor! We unfortunately had to miss Owen's baptism, as it happened during the year of not-so-good-things, and we had already been traveling all over the country for funerals. SO glad we got to be at this one.
And Monday was travel day. So glad to be back home, but still ill. Lovely. I actually got quite a bit of reading done, more than I had planned for sure. On the way, I started and finished The Dead Tossed Waves, which was awesome as expected. Over the weekend I started and finished For Keeps by Natasha Friend (review to come later), which was really good. And on the way home I started The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. Ooh and we also listened to The Lightning Thief, which I've been bugging my husband to read forever. SO disappointed in the audio version...but I'll review that later as well.

Overall, a great weekend! Back to the grind of job searching and all that fun stuff. Miss you all :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow

I love April! I really enjoy seeing so many posts about the earth and recycling and composting and all that good stuff that helps our children learn about how to take care of the planet we live in.

Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story is perfect for this time of the year. Written by Linda Glaser and photographed by Shelley Rotner, the reader is given a simplified story of how a compost pile can help a garden (and help reduce our waste sent to landfills).

From start to finish, the process of a compost pile is explained in very basic sentences, accompanied by clear, bright, and really nice photographs. Kids will learn what goes in the bin and what stays out, how to turn and moisten, and how worms can move the process along. Once the compost is ready, readers are shown how to add it to the garden and what the end result can be.

I really liked the addition of real children in the photographs (always a plus for non-fiction) and thought the story was excellent. The learning points were made easily, not forced, and kids will find that this reads like a story and not an "educational" book.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

Great for an Earth Day display or to start off a family compost project.

Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow: A Compost Story
Linda Glaser
32 pages
Nonfiction
Millbrook Press
9780761349112
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher


A nice picture book to accompany this book is Compost Story: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals and illustrator Ashley Wolff.

A nicely illustrated alphabet of composting, complete with rhyming and an author's note at the end.


To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

March/April Mini-reviews

The Line by Teri Hall

Lots of people seemed really impressed with this one and unfortunately, for me, it just fell short. Such potential with the whole "dystopian" genre going for it and a pretty compelling main character, but the buildup was really slow and the "big moment" wasn't so big.

The author definitely left room for a sequel, which I'm interested in reading and will pickup if it ever comes out, but this one just isn't a book I'll be remembering for very long. Bummer. And I know I'm in the minority, so go check it out even though I thought it just ok.

Great cover though!

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

The Line
Teri Hall
224 pages
Young Adult
Dial
9780803734661
March 2010
Book borrowed from my local library


Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry

Oh gosh, this one as just as wonderful as every blogger said it was. Filled with such heart and soul, real characters, beautiful writing, and a fabulous setting. I honestly don't know how it didn't win the Cybil this year.

I had such emotion while reading this, having a husband in the military and the feelings of being left behind sometimes. Brother was just such an amazing main character and makes me want to hand this little book to everyone I know. Go out and get it if you haven't already!

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

Heart of a Shepherd
Rosanne Parry
176 pages
Middle Grade
Random House
9780375848025
January 2009
Book borrowed from my local library


The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

Yep, as adorable as everyone says. I, at times, had a pretty hard time believing in the crazy ways of Hamlet's parents, but that didn't deter from the cuteness of the overall story. Middle readers will really enjoy this one and adults will have fun reading it aloud with their kids.

And I LOVE Hamlet's tights on the cover. So cute!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet
Erin Dionne
304 pages
Middle Grade
Dial
9780803732988
January 2010
Book borrowed from my library


Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Well everyone and their brother is reviewing this one! I liked it just as much as I enjoyed Perfect Chemistry...except for the last 2 pages. I think the epilogue was somewhat cheesy and contrived and took away from the believability of the rest of the story. The characters are great though and very realistic, I was just put off by the ending. Bummer for me.

Teens however? They'll love it. Action packed with true-to-life characters and a great bad boy to have a little crush on.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5

Rules of Attraction
Simone Elkeles
336 pages
Young Adult
Walker Books
9780802720856
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher



To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What am I doing this weekend....?

Well, we're taking a road trip to Chicago! Not entirely excited about the 12 hour drive, but definitely looking forward to some Chicago time with my sister-in-law and her family. We don't get to see our nephews often (haven't even met the newest one yet!), but when we do, it's always a great time.

If you're from the Chicago area and have some suggestions of things we should see, leave me a comment, I like tips from insiders :) We only have really one day to spend IN the city, but I don't think we have actually planned anything yet...just going with the flow. And I've already had the Oprah suggestion be shot down by my husband. Bummer.

Books for the car ride are always an interesting discussion topic. I've picked a few different ones, not too many, because I'm really attempting to not over pack, but 4 longer ones that will keep me busy. So far, I'm bringing:

The Dead Tossed Waves, a birthday present to myself that I still haven't picked up...trying to make it last longer!

The Truth About Forever-a Sarah Dessen book I still haven't gotten to. Bad Amanda, bad!

For Keeps by Natasha Friend- an ARC I've been wanting to get to

My Boyfriends' Dogs by Dandi Daley Mackell-another ARC I need to get to

Will I read them all? Probably not. 12 hours is a long time in the car each way, but I'll be helping drive and we have the audiobooks of all the Percy Jackson books to listen to (yay for finally convincing my husband to give them a shot) and once we're actually in Illinois we probably won't be having a whole lot of quiet time.

We'll be gone tomorrow through Monday, but I have posts setup for the weekend. Have a good one!! Chat with you all when I get back :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A peek into my heart, with Deb Caletti's latest

Jacket description:
"Scarlet spends most of her time worrying about other people. Some are her friends, others are practically strangers, and then there are the ones no one else even notices. Trying to fix their lives comes naturally to her. And pushing her own needs to the side is part of the deal.

So when her older sister comes home unexpectedly married and pregnant, Scarlet has a new person to worry about. But all of her good intentions are shattered when the unthinkable happens: She falls for her sister's husband. For the first time in a long time, Scarlet's not fixing a problem, she's at the center of one. And ignoring her feelings doesn't seem to be an option..."


Every once in awhile a book comes along that you just feel connected to. Whether it be the story or the characters, you have this intense feeling of connection and you don't want the book to end, because then your connection will be broken and you'll have move onto another story and different characters.

Well, The Six Rules of Maybe is that story for me. From about page one, I felt my own connection to Scarlet and her worrying ways. And the manner in which she handles things that go wrong in her life. Caletti's writing had me pulled in from page one, as I saw my own story unfold on the pages.

Though I haven't experienced a sister coming home pregnant and fallen in love with her husband, I have experienced more loss and heartache in the past few years than some people will ever go through in an entire lifetime. And Caletti just got that. She got the feelings of loss and despair and pain that no one else can ever possibly get. Even to the point of understanding the relationship between a human and a dog, she got that. And my experience may not have been for the same as Scarlet's, but the descriptions of hope and disappointment were spot on, making me not want to put the book down. I cried through most of it, but I still didn't want to put it down. I didn't want to drop that connection with someone who seemingly understood those feelings that I can't help but push deep down, because I care more about others than myself.

Of course, not everyone has been through the same things as I have, just like they haven't been through what Scarlet has been through, but it doesn't matter. You will care about this girl and these characters and this dog and the unborn baby and the old man across the street. You will care and want to know more and fall in love with The Six Rules of Maybe. I flagged so many passages in this book, my copy looks like a pink Post-It explosion happened within the pages.

Teens and adults will be able to experience Scarlet and her story on different levels, all of them wonderful, and finish the book satisfied that the story was written how it should have been written. I just cannot say enough good things about this book...please go check it out, so I can chat about it with someone!

I've only read 3 of Caletti's books, including this one, but you can bet I'll be checking out all of the others as soon as I can. Ooh and a note on the cover...all of the covers of her books have been recently updated to make them more marketable and they are fabulous looking! Each one has been made to look inviting and very readable.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5

The Six Rules of Maybe
Deb Caletti
336 pages
Young Adult
Simon Pulse
9781416979692
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Global Warming

Jacket description:
"Earth's climate has always varied, but it is now changing more rapidly than at any other time in recent centuries. The climate is very complex, and many factors play important roles in determining how it changes.

Why is the climate changing? Could Earth be getting warmer by itself? Are people doing things that make the climate warmer?

Award-winning science writer Seymour Simon teams up with the Smithsonian Institution to give you a full-color photographic introduction to the causes and effects of global warming and climate change."


I thought this book would be quite appropriate for a Nonfiction Monday post in April, being Earth Month and all. The photos, large and beautiful, are definitely the highlight, with the actual text being a nice addition. Kids will be able to learn about the concept of global warming without being bogged down with a whole lot of facts and figures...though still getting the importance of taking care of the earth.

Simon gives the reader lots of great ideas for reducing our impact on the earth, such as riding bikes rather than driving, conserving water, recycling, etc. We're also given a brief glossary and index, making this a nice choice for report resources.

Easy to read and understand and filled with awesome photos, this is another winner from Seymour Simon.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Global Warming
Seymour Simon
32 pages
Nonfiction
Collins
9780061142505
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher


To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Scarlett Fever (YA review)

Jacket description:
"Faced with her family's financial woes, Scarlett has taken on the job of assistant/indentured servant to a newly minted theatrical agent, professional eccentric Mrs. Amy Amberson. Scarlett ends up at the beck and call of a Broadway star (her own age!), dealing with territorial doormen, and walking a small dog with insecurity issues- all while starting her sophomore year at one of New York's most rigorous high schools.

It doesn't help that Scarlett's brain is clouded with thoughts of Eric, her former sort-of boyfriend. She has thousands of things to say to him, if only he would call. And then there's her new lab partner, the impossible Max, who's on a quest to destroy what little mind she has left.

Meanwhile, her older brother, Spencer, has become New York City's most controversial TV villain; her ever-reliable older sister, Lola, is sliding off the rails; and her younger sister, Marlene, most worryingly, has suddenly become...nice.

But somehow Scarlett will prevail...right?"


I was one of the few that wasn't really into Suite Scarlett. It was ok, but nothing I was raving about, though so many others definitely did rave. I've been converted into a huge fan by Maureen Johnson's second Scarlett book though and I'm scolding myself over not loving the first one!

Scarlett really is a likable, hysterically real character, whom you can't help but laugh at and with. She thinks like a teen girl (though maybe not a 15 year old, I picture her about 18 or 19) and acts like a teen girl, obsessing over boys. Her living situation is unique, for sure, and that helps to make the story interesting and fun, even if finances are a problem for her family. You'll enjoy reading about life in a hotel and the antics her family participates in on a regular basis.

All of the secondary characters are just as intriguing as Scarlett (I would love a book devoted to Spencer or Lola or even Marlene) and you'll get into each of their stories individually. I laughed out loud so many times and found myself cringing as Scarlett continued to get herself into embarrassing mishaps. SO entertaining!

Even if you weren't totally in love with Suite Scarlett, Scarlett Fever will win you over. Two thumbs up for Scarlett and her quirky life!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Scarlett Fever
Maureen Johnson
352 pages
Young Adult
Point
9780439899284
February 2010
Review copy received from publisher


To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thirteen Days to Midnight (YA review)

Jacket description: (from ARC)

"You are indestructible. These words transfer an astonishing power to Jacob Fielding, changing everything. There's something addictive about testing the limits of fear, experiencing the thrill of walking through fire, or saving your friend from a beating in front of the whole school.

Then Ophelia James, the beautiful and daring new girl in town, suggests that they use the power to do good, to save others at risk of death. But with every heroic act, the power grows into the specter of a curse. How to decide who lives and who dies? And why does darkness seem to be chasing them? Jacob has only thirteen days to figure out how to harness a power that even the world's greatest escape artist could not outrun...and the answer is chilling: What if he has to kill the one he loves to save her?"


Sooo...I love Patrick Carman. I really think he possesses an ultra-rare talent at connecting with teens through his writing...a talent that even the best of writers often don't possess. You'll never have to talk a teen into reading one of Carman's books, they'll already know about it and have read and shared it with friends. In his Skeleton Creek books, he grabs his readers by taking the idea of integrating the internet into the story, which was SO successful (and those books about made me pee my pants).

His latest, Thirteen Days to Midnight, is a complete nail-biter, filled with realistic kids placed in a fantasy story. The writing is not anything prize-winning. We're not talking about another When You Reach Me, Marcelo, or The Book Thief. BUT, we have something so intense in plot and truly fun to engage in, that teens will love it instantly. You won't have to do any convincing and they'll be passing the book onto their friends as soon as possible.

As adults, you may not love Thirteen Days to Midnight, but your kids will. Nothing literary about it, nothing you have to think on for days...just a good, fun story, with a fast-paced, nail-biter of a plot, and cool kids as main characters. Good enough for me!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Thirteen Days to Midnight
Patrick Carman
304 pages
Young Adult
Little, Brown
9780316004039
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher


To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Top 100 Children's Novels meme

I absolutely loved watching the Top 100 Children's Novels countdown over at A Fuse #8 Production and now that it's complete, TeacherNinja has turned the final list into a meme. I've bolded the ones that I've read and am thinking I need to make a trip to the library soon to pick up what I'm missing!

100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980)
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)
88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)
84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943)
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)
49. Frindle - Clements (1996)
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watson's Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)
21. The Lightening Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)
12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)

Well I've read over half, but some I haven't even heard of! I'm scolding myself, don't worry!

Mockingbird (MG review)

Jacket description: (from ARC)

"In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how.

She turns to textbooks and dictionaries, easy for Caitlin because they're full of facts in black and white. After reading the definition of the word Closure, Caitlin knows this is just what she and her father need. And she is determined to find it. In her search, she discovers that not everything is really black and white-the world is full of colors, messy and beautiful. And perhaps is she " Works At It," Caitlin and her father can have Closure and Empathy, too."

Caitin is going to be a character that you'll remember for a long, long time after finishing this book. Author Kathryn Erskine has given us the gift of understanding, even if that understanding is only a glimpse into the world of a child with Asperger's. When you read this (or your child reads this), you'll instantly want to run and talk to someone about it, making it a nice choice for a family discussion book or a classroom conversation starter.

My love for this little girl and her literal manner of thinking and speaking just grew and grew and I got further into the story. Her intense love for her father was very apparent, if not to Caitlin herself, to the readers. She wants nothing more than for her family to become fixed again, even if she can't put it into the words a typical person would use. Searching for Closure, she also learns quite a bit about the world and about how people interact with each other.

This is a book that you should definitely go out and get, if not for yourself, for the middle grade reader in your life. It will really open eyes and allow the reader to get a peek into the world of someone with Asperger's. We can never fully understand, but Erskine did such an amazing job at channeling the personality traits and learning challenges of someone like Caitlin that we can at least take away some additional knowledge.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Very impressive!

Mockingbird
Kathryn Erskine
235 pages
Middle Grade
Philomel
9780399252648
April 2010
Review copy received from publisher


To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

And the Read-a-thon is complete...

I still have another 19 minutes to read, but it's just not happening. My warm shower is calling my name and I suppose I should get ready for church, since I was fairly lazy yesterday. It's been a lot of fun everyone...until October!

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Well I turned the light off a little after midnight, when I couldn't keep my peepers open anymore.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Well...not from my own pile. None of my books were really page turners, but I have plenty that I think would be great choices for a read-a-thon, if you haven't read them already: The Book Thief, The Hunger Games, Graceling, etc.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I think I'm pretty pleased with it just the way it works now.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I didn't see any flaws this time around.

5. How many books did you read? 6

6. What were the names of the books you read? A Nest for Celeste, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, The Firefly Letters, We the Children, Mockingbird, and Ways to Live Forever

7. Which book did you enjoy most? Probably Ways to Live Forever, which was my last book of the night. Definitely kept me going the longest.

8. Which did you enjoy least? Well, I put down Silent Tears, another book from the pile, because it was too depressing from the very beginning.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'm sure I'll participate as a reader again. It's a great way to knock a bunch of books off the TBR pile!


My totals:

Books read: 6

Pages read: 1346

Time spent reading: 9 hours 10 minutes

Not my best Read-a-thon outcome by far, but I'm blaming the beautiful weather. If it had been gloomy and rainy I could have easily read more and for longer, but I just could not resist the garden, playing with those crazy pups of mine, or chatting with the hubby while "reading" in the yard. It was a good day :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Last update of the night folks

So I'll be finishing my reading in my warm, cozy bed now. I plan to wake up at about 630 to read awhile before getting ready for church, so this update won't be my final tally, I'll have one of those in the morning.

Though I didn't have the most successful reading morning, my evening and night have been a lot more productive, allowing me to get through almost 6 of my 8 books. And with any luck I'll finish book 6 tonight and book 7 is a short one, so maybe I can get it done in the morning. We shall see.

I hope everyone else keeps trucking along! I wish I could stay up all night, but sadly I'm just not good at that anymore and really appreciate my sleep time!

Time now: 10:51

Time spent reading: 8 hours 22 minutes

Books completed:
5.5 (A Nest for Celeste, Total Tragedy of A Girl named Hamlet, We the Children, The Firefly Letters, Mockingbird). Gave up on 1 (Silent Tears)...too depressing for such a beautiful day.

Pages read: 1140

Currently reading: Ways to Live Forever

If the Cover Fits mini-challenge

This one is a lot of fun! Trisha is asking us to find covers that match the following descriptions:

  • Disturbing
  • Vibrant
  • Beautiful
  • Scary
  • Moving


Fun right? My choices are below.


Scary


Vibrant


Disturbing


Moving


Beautiful

Mid-Event survey

We're halfway there and that means it's time for the mid-event meme:

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Just starting Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

2. How many books have you read so far? 3

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I'm really looking forward to Mockingbird and Ways to Live Forever...though I've been warned the 2nd will make me cry

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Ha...I didn't free up my whole day, unfortunately.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I go with the flow. I never sign up for a readathon actually believing I'll sit and read for 24 hours...I have a hard time sitting still. So, today I ran errands, weeded the veggie garden, took a nap, etc.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How tired I am this time around. Could be the medication I'm taking, but I could go to bed right now and sleep until tomorrow.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope, it's going great!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Probably nothing. I like my go-with-the-flow days. I still get chores/errands accomplished, along with books checked off the TBR list.

9. Are you getting tired yet? Oh yes.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? I'm sticking with shorter, lighter titles and taking frequent breaks. Reading other's posts is pretty encouraging as well.

Read-a-Thon update 2....it's TOO nice outside!

I keep trying to continue with my reading pace, really, I do. I'm failing miserably though and I'm totally blaming the weather. First, I thought it would be a good idea to get the errands out of the way first (I read in the car, hubby drove), so I could concentrate on just reading. Then, I decided to move my super comfy reading chairs into the sun, so I could catch some beautiful sun rays while reading....I promptly fell asleep in the sun. THEN I took up weeding the garden which was way more involved than planned.

Sigh. I'll get some reading done when it's dark, really...I promise.

I haven't really done any interesting eating either. I'm a bit boring today folks.

Time now: 4:34

Time spent reading: 4 hours 17 minutes

Books completed:
2.5 (A Nest for Celeste, Total Tragedy of A Girl named Hamlet). Gave up on 1 (Silent Tears)...too depressing for such a beautiful day.

Pages read: 671

Currently reading: We the Children by Andrew Clements (first in a new series)

Update time!

Well, let's just say I'm not doing as well as I wanted to be doing at this stage in the read-a-thon. It's 75 degrees outside, beautifully sunny, and my husband is hard at work on the yard....leaving me with that ever present guilt feeling. SO I did some laundry, vacuumed a bit, and will be off to weed the garden after another hour or so of reading....oh and poor Shae has been promised a hike for weeks, so that will be done later today too :)

Time spent now: 12:09

Time spent reading: 2 hours 27 minutes

Books completed:
1.5 (A Nest for Celeste). Gave up on 1 (Silent Tears)...too depressing for such a beautiful day.

Pages read: 424

Currently reading: The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet

Hours 1 and 2

Well we've started and I'm off to a pretty great start! Already have one book almost done, the donuts are consumed, and the coffee is still hot. This post is for Mini-Challenges 1 and 2.

As is tradition, we have the first hour kick-off meme:

Where are you reading from today? I'm reading from home, in Northern Virginia. The morning will be spent on my couch and I'll periodically move to our enclosed porch, as long as it gets a bit warmer outside! If not, I have 2 dogs to keep my toes warm.

3 facts about me … 1. As much as I try, I have a brown thumb, which will really be put to the test with a vegetable garden this year.

2. I was named after the small guitar, the mandolin (Amanda Lynn, get it?).

3. I am a huge Syracuse basketball fan.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I've named 8 that I plan to read, but may deviate from that pile and most likely will not finish 8 total. I just like to have choices.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? I would love to finish the 8 books, that's definitely my goal. But even one is an accomplishment.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time? Choose shorter, lighter books. Heavy subjects and long books are going to get you more tired quicker. And don't feel bad about not actually staying up the full 24 hours. I never have.


At Miss Remmer's Review, we also have Mini-Challenge 2, where we're being asked to write a post about our kick-off strategies. For me, as I've mentioned before, I always have Dunkin Donuts coffee and two donuts (which is a real treat), as my "kick-off" breakfast meal. I also typically start on my upstairs couch, which is in the room without a television, so as not to be distracted from the start. I have my pile next to me, my laptop somewhere nearby, and usually one dog at my side, the other on my toes.

I'm not big on caffeine, I try to drink as little as possible due to blood pressure issues, but the day definitely kicks off with a little. Throughout the rest of the challenge, I just stick with my usual water or iced tea, snacks, and try to move around a lot to keep myself interested. I don't think I've ever completed a readathon having read more than 8-10 hours total...I'm too guilt ridden at sitting down all day (especially today where it will be 70 and sunny). Lots of fun trying though!

And we're off!

Read-a-thon starts....NOW!!

See you in an hour or two, hopefully with at least one book finished!

Friday, April 9, 2010

My read-a-thon plans...

First, I suppose I should mention that if you haven't yet signed up to be either a reader or a cheerleader for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, then head over here and do so.

That being said, a lot of fun (at least for me) goes into the actual planning and prep for the read-a-thon...sometimes even more so than participating! I love writing the date down on the calendar, canceling almost all plans, picking out my books, and the ever-so-important donut selection (more on that later, promise!).

So, tomorrow unfortunately can't be completely dedicated to reading, as much as I would love it to be. It's spring time, which means beautiful weather and now that we own a home, also means...yard work. I plan on growing some veggies this summer, making weeding and prepping our garden space a necessity tomorrow. I've also been promising one of my dogs a hike for weeks (and don't try telling me she doesn't understand...she totally does!!), so that will probably be accomplished tomorrow as well. I do plan on getting a whole lot of reading and mini-challenges done though, which I'm very much looking forward to!

My book pile looks like this:

Titles include:

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
We the Children by Andrew Clements
Take me with You by Carolyn Marsden
The Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle
Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nichols
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne
Silent Tears by Kay Bratt

A fairly good mix of review copies and library books, all are titles that I've been waiting to knock off my TBR pile. I highly doubt I'll finish all of them, but my strategy in past read-a-thons has always been to choose shorter titles and it usually works. Keeps my mind interested and helps me to feel like I accomplished a lot.


Now, onto the food! I allow myself to have donuts on two occasions throughout the year. The first is when we make the drive to Upstate NY. We normally leave about 4am to avoid D.C. and Baltimore traffic, so coffee is a must and the donuts are a treat. The second is on read-a-thon days. And I am VERY specific about my donuts. Laugh if you must! I get a chocolate creme and a chocolate glazed....and each time I send the hubby off for the donuts I must remind him that the chocolate glazed is NOT the same as a chocolate frosted. Better get it right, this is very important!

The rest of my food intake is fairly typical and not very exciting. I'll spend the day on the couch with the laptop next to me, half reading, half doing mini-challenges and other blog reading. I could get so much more reading done if I would just stay away from the computer! I'll also do periodic updates every couple of hours and let you know about my progress.

Can't wait to get started!

Out of My Mind (MG review)

Jacket description:

"Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people--her teachers and doctors included--don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write.


Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind--that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it."

Author Sharon M. Draper has done a superb job at creating a unique character that you can't help but love and root for. I loved every second that I was engrossed in this book, found myself learning a lot, and was completely mystified at how Ms. Draper got Melody so well. Melody is really the perfect character. She's witty, articulate, will teach the readers something, and also suffers from a challenge that she works very hard to overcome. You don't feel sorry for Melody, but rather, you want her to succeed...a feat which I believe few authors could really achieve in their writing.

The actual plot is written wonderfully, throwing in some nasty kids, a great babysitter, and a quiz show, allowing for an interesting story and an intriguing character to become a truly wonderful book. The pacing was just right... I never felt the book was dragging and was always intrigued at what Melody was going to say (or think) next. Kids are really going to enjoy her as a character.

Out of My Mind could make a great discussion book as well. Read it out loud to your class or your children and talk about what it might be like to have the same difficulties as Melody and how they would react to other kids being mean to them and not believing they're smart.

Overall rating: 5 out of 5Easily one of my favorites of the year. Sharon M. Draper created a fantastic book that all kids should read.


Out of My Mind
Sharon M. Draper
304 pages
Middle Grade
Atheneum
9781416971702
March 2010
Review copy received from publisher


To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Phew...what a week!

Though I didn't exactly announce a vacation, I took one anyways! I had family come down to spend Easter weekend and tour D.C. during the Cherry Blossom Festival (which was a huge mistake, but an experience for sure).

The weather was beautiful...in the 80's the entire weekend, without a cloud in the sky, and we had a blast just walking around the city and then hanging out on our deck for the rest of the weekend.

The first picture is obviously under a cherry tree, the second on Easter morning in our front yard, and the third is a photo of people completely ignoring the sign and walking in the World War II MEMORIAL!! Can you believe that? My husband, very patriotic, was so steamed he was ready to go up and argue with the 300 or so parents that were letting their 500 or so children wade in the memorial fountain. How disrespectful can you possibly get? Luckily a park ranger was making his way around yelling at people, but they just argued back say that "everyone else was doing it...." Goodness.

Besides that little disconcerting moment, the weekend was fabulous. We were able to eat Easter dinner on the deck, spend a lot of quality time with my family, and just relax for once. Glad to be back to the blogging world though!

That being said, I'm all set for Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, which is taking place THIS Saturday! It's my excuse to have to donuts and sit on my butt all day reading (though I won't...gardening needs to happen too). Head on over to the blog site and sign up as either a reader or a cheerleader! 

Another quick note...my Picture Book Saturday feature will be postponed until May. Too much going on in April and sometimes it's just nice to take a break :)

Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mini-vacation

Hey guys, I know I've disappeared again! I have family in town, seeing the D.C. sights and spending Easter with us, but I'll be back with reviews tomorrow :)

Hope you all had a blessed holiday!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Poetry Friday: We Planted a Tree

Jacket description:

"In this simple poem illustrated by award winner Bob Staake, two young families in two very different parts of the world plant a tree. As the trees flourish, so do the families...while trees all over the world help clean the air, enrich the soil, and give fruit and shade.


With a nod to Kenya's successful Green Belt Movement, Diane Muldrow's elegant text celebrates the life and hope that every tree everywhere-from Paris to Brooklyn to Tokyo-brings to our planet."

Whether you read this as a poem or a picture book is really up to you, as works well as either. It's really a beautiful poem with such a brilliant and important message to our children and even to us adults. Trees are such important beings in this world and we need to appreciate them as such.
The text is easy to read/listen to and teaches a lesson...always a nice combo. The illustrations are bold and bright, perfect for little eyes and easily distracted kiddos. Add this to your Earth Day display or units or just bring it home and read it to your own children. It's a lovely book.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5

We Planted a Tree
Diane Muldrow
40 pages
Poetry/Picture Book
Golden Books
9780375864322
March 2010
Borrowed from my local library

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon. I am an Associate and will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. Thanks!