Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Eleventh Plague review


15-year-old Stephen is traveling with his father and grandfather searching for items they can sell or trade in a world where most of the population has been wiped out after a plague sent by the Chinese. When his grandfather dies and his father is then seriously injured in an accident, Stephen is taken in by a family living in a settlement unlike anything he has ever seen before. Used to having nothing, the settlement is clean and organized, with a steady food supply, medication, and even a school, but Stephen isn't quite sure he can trust what his eyes are showing him or what the people are offering.

What follows is, at times, heart-pounding and thrilling, while also being a quiet reflection on what it means to truly trust in people and humanity.


Though I wasn't completely blown away by the book, I did very much appreciate the writing. It had the power of being exciting, while at the same time, reflective and calming. Stephen came across as a very believable character and the world Hirsch created was one that wasn't completely unbelieveable or fantastical. With all the craziness going on in our world right now, believing something along these lines could happen was not difficult at all.


I didn't totally care for Jenny and not just because she was annoying and filled with such anger that it was a turn-off to me, as a reader. I felt her character was almost unnecessary in the manner Hirsch presented her in. Does there really ALWAYS have to be a romantic interest? Couldn't she just be a girl character set on being angry at her circumstances and wanting to kick some butt to take care of it? I didn't need the romantic aspect and would have been happier had it not been included.


Overall, an entertaining and quick read. 

The Eleventh Plague
Jeff Hirsch
304 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic Press
978054529142
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, August 29, 2011

Moonglass review

Anna is not thrilled when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year of high school, forcing her to leave her beloved beach and friends behind. Though they'll be living right on the ocean, Anna and her father's new home happens to be the same beach town where her parents fell in love and where her mother died...things Anna would just rather not have to confront. 

While she gets to know her new surroundings, making friends, joining the cross country team, and flirting with lifeguards, Anna also begins to learn more about her parents, their relationship, and what led up to her mother's death. The ocean helps her in a healing process that never truly took place all those years ago and brings up memories that she and her father are now forced to talk about. 

Though the cover led me to believe this was a super beachy romance, there really is a lot more in the pages of Jessi Kirby's debut novel. The descriptions of the ocean and what it does to Anna was gorgeous and I loved the role sea glass played in her healing process. The relationship between Anna and her dad was completely believable and I thought it played out nicely throughout the novel. All of their issues were definitely not solved, which I appreciated. No neat wrapping up into a bow. 

The subject matter sounds on the heavy side and though there is a lot of emotional "stuff" going on, this was really a nice, end-of-summer, lighter read. The romance added an element of lightness and humor, as did Ashley, Anna's first friend in her new town. A really good read to finish up the summer with. 

Sarah Dessen has a blurb on the front and rightly so. The book is reminiscent of her first books, with a splash of Jenny Han's "Summer" series thrown in. 

Moonglass
Jessi Kirby
232 pages
Young Adult
Simon & Schuster
9781442416949
May 2011
Library copy

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week in Review

Books:

I think I've figured out that in order to really break out of this reading slump I've been in for the past 6 months, I need to stop reading as much YA as I have been. I love my YA as much as the rest of you, but adult fiction and non-fiction just tends to make me savor the words a bit more and think a little harder. Rather than racing through mediocre (or even GOOD) books at this point, I would much rather read slower, indulge in longer books, and start really loving the books I'm reading. 

I picked up The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball this weekend during the whole "hurricane hiding" adventure and loved it. Reading about farming and growing/raising your own food during a heavy rainstorm is just fun! A review will be up later this week. Definitely one for fans of Farm City by Novella Carpenter, which I also loved, or even probably for those that loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Haven't gotten to that one yet, but from the sounds of it they're along the same lines. 

I'm still listening to Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman, which is wonderful. A tragic story, but beautifully written. Character driven, just how I like it! 

TV/Movies:

Project Runway is already getting crazy! After the first week, I was thinking I really was going to be on Team Bert for the whole show, but that ended fairly quickly. He's a little too rigid for my liking and his clothes haven't looked great lately either. Anya and Laura are pulling ahead for me! 

We watched Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary, "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," and though I usually really enjoy his work, this was completely boring. By about halfway through I was concentrating more on a book than the movie and Aaron was into a computer game. Not a good sign. 

Etsy:

If anyone wants to buy this necklace for me, I'd be happy to send you my address!





It's from one of my new favorite shops, LanaOCrystal. Beautiful jewelry at totally reasonable prices. I have a feeling I'll be finishing up a lot of my Christmas shopping here.

Baby:

This week, Baby Snow is as long as a banana! Not a whole lot has changed in the last seven days, except my appetite. I'm never full at this point, needing to eat something at least every 2 hours, but eating constantly makes me happier ;) If I don't eat soon after the hunger feeling starts, I get incredibly nauseous, which is always fun, so lots of little snacks are being stuffed into my bag lately. 

No strange cravings to report, which is the question everyone seems to be asking. I've wanted a lot of soup lately, even with temps still being in the 80's and I'm still on my lemon kick. Spicy things are also around a lot still and with no heartburn aftermath. I'm lucky with that so far! 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander and illustrator Tim Bowers

Acoustic Rooster loves to play his bass guitar and wants to find just the right band to showcase his skills in the barnyard talent show. As he tries to put together the best band in the yard, he meets up with famous music greats such as the pianist "Duck Ellington," singer "Ella Finchgerald," and "Mules Davis" on the trumpet. 

If you have a music-loving child in your home, Acoustic Rooster would be a great read aloud and an excellent introduction to the jazz genre. There's a fabulous section in the back that gives a bit of information on the great jazz musicians, musical vocabulary, and famous jazz songs, all referenced throughout the story. 

*As a quick side note, if you live in the Northern VA area, author Kwame Alexander will be at the Alexandria Story Festival on September 17th!*

Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band
Kwame Alexander
32 pages
Picture Book
Sleeping Bear Press
9781585366880
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Butterfly Tree by Sandra Markle and illustrator Leslie Wu

While a young girl is playing on the beach, she spots a strange orange cloud heading her way. After running, quite frightened, back home to find her mother, the girl heads into the woods where she saw the cloud go, trying to guess what the cloud could have been. Once they reach the right place in the woods, she and her mother discover that the cloud wasn't really a cloud at all, but thousands of Monarch butterflies!

A nice story with an educational twist, the bit of mystery surrounding what the weird cloud could possibly be will definitely draw kids into the story. Great for learning about the migratory habits of these beautiful butterflies, complete with a brief explanation after the story. 

Butterfly Tree
Sandra Markle
32 pages
Picture Book
Peachtree Publisher
9781561455393
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, August 26, 2011

More of "Grandma's Attic!"

Back in May I filled you in on a bit of my childhood reading preferences and my absolute love for the Grandma's Attic" books by Arleta Richardson. The four books are being reissued (hooray!!!) and the first two came out back in the spring. Book 3, Still More Stories from Grandma's Attic and 4, Treasures from Grandma's Attic are available now. 


I'm not kidding when I say that I LOVED this as a kid and love them ust as much re-reading them as they've been reissued. Inspirational stories from a "simpler time" as the blurb on the back states, they are heartwarming and sweet reads. Great to read aloud with children and grandchildren, each quick story features a strong lesson, ranging on topics such as obedience, being trustworthy, sharing, and kindness. 



There is an occasional mention of God, but the books are not overtly religious and I would not label them as Christian fiction. It's more a homage to the time period, when all children and their families went to church on a regular basis and believing in God was the norm. 


The illustrations in these updated versions are fabulous, done by Patrice Barton, and make them look as lovely as the stories are inside. I'm so happy these books are going to get in the hands of more kids!

If you have a fan of the "Little House" books in your family or are just looking for a nice, clean and inspirational read for a young girl, I highly recommend these books. They're out in paperback, so just buy the set!


Review copies provided by publisher. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Survive-o-pedia

So, in all honesty, the chance of your child encountering any of these situations, let alone all of them, is pretty much slim-to-none. At least, for your sake, I hope it's slim-to-none! However, this a fantastic book for any child that loves facts and being able to list fun trivia to their families and friends. 

As the title indicates, the authors have listed (in alphabetical order, no less), 65 terrifying scenarios and in a humorous, tongue-in-cheek manner, the proper way in which your reader can survive those situations. Earthquakes, asteroids, sharks, piranhas, quicksand, and more...after reading this, they'll be able to survive just about anything! 

Some events, such as a blizzard, being lost in the woods, rip currents, etc., are a bit more probable and therefore the information may actually be useful at some point in the reader's life. Hopefully not, but if they're ever caught in a rip current, it certainly would be nice to know what to do. 

Though the scenarios are most definitely scary, the information is presented in such a humorous way, that no child will be walking away from this book scared. Instead, they'll be well-informed and driving you crazy with all sorts of fun information. 

Great for a reluctant reader or one that loves facts!

Survive-o-pedia: Junior Edition
David Borgenicht, Molly Smith, Brendan Walsh, and Robin Epstein
144 pages
Non-Fiction
Chronicle Books
9780811876902
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week in Review

Books:

I finished Unsaid by Neil Abramson this week, which was an inspirational fiction story about love, grief, and my favorite topic: animals. I didn't love it as I thought I would, but it was still a pretty decent read. Look for a review soon.

I also read and finished Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. Another I didn't like quite as much as I expected to, considering she's one of my favorite children's authors, but it was a beautifully told story. I'll have a review of that one up on Wednesday.

Baby:

Our baby Snow is the size of a mango this week and is also a baby BOY! We're both thrilled to be having a son and just hope he stays where he's suppose to for the next four months or so. We did get some news that was not the greatest...apparently I'm showing some indicators of possibly developing the condition I had last time that caused so many problems with our son Jacob. We have about a 50/50 chance of the severe, early onset, preeclampsia  making itself known again, so keep your fingers crossed we're in the POSITIVE 50%! So far, everything looks and feels good, so I'm optimistic.

TV/Movies/Everything else:

This week was filled with appointments, work, and finally getting out in the yard and attempting to correct the damage the heat caused this summer. Not a whole lot else to report. Just excited about the little man on the way!

Games!

As a book blogger, it's always fun to mix things up a little bit and review something a little different. I was recently able to review three games from Klutz, a company I'm always buying birthday and Christmas gifts from and I had such a great time doing it! The husband might have enjoyed himself a bit too...



So, the first thing we played with was Thumb Wars: The Ultimate Guide. More of a kit than simply a game or a book, you get both with this set. A hysterically named "Sleeve of Doom" accompanies a small paperback book which includes strategies, different games to play, and my favorite: trash talk. So much fun!

The sleeve makes it pretty impossible to cheat, so even if you're just going to play the regular old thumb war, wear the sleeve! There's also instructions for playing with foil "hooks" and marshmallows. You can even MUD WRESTLE by using a cup of pudding in between your hands!! Seriously, this is such a simple setup, but it's absolutely hilarious to partake in. We very much enjoyed ourselves. 

Next, we opened up The 15 Greatest Board Games in the World. Now, I am going to have to disagree with the title...I don't really think they're the greatest board games in the entire world, but we certainly had fun playing most of the games. 

The pieces for every game come in a handy case, which makes it easy to store right inside the book. Each page spread includes one side for game instructions and one side for the actual game board. Boards are nicely illustrated, with each looking a bit different, which was nice. 

We didn't play all 15 games (only so much free time I suppose), but the seven we did play were a lot of fun. Our favorite? China Moon. 

I do definitely agree with the age minimum being 7, as some of the concepts might be a bit over the head of a younger child, but a 7/8 year old should be able to grasp the games just fine. There are a few games that actually list the age minimum as 9, so watch out for those. 

This one would make an excellent family gift, as everyone can have a shot playing. And I loved that it was all contained in just the one book. No big box to store!

Finally, I was sent A Super-Sneaky Double-Crossing Up, Down Round and Round Maze Book by Larry Evans, which is as cool as it's title makes it sound! I didn't actually DO the mazes...I would rather let a niece or nephew play within the pages, but these mazes look like a ton of fun. Definitely different than your typical maze. 

Everything from skydivers to rollercoaster tracks, clouds and lava make up these mazes, all easy enough for a 4 or 5 year old to accomplish. This would make a really nice activity to take on a plane or in a car for some simple entertainment. Unless of course your child gets carsick...then skip this one and play thumb wars! 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Picture Book Saturday: A Storm Called Katrina


The anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is quickly approaching and I'm hoping to get the word out about this fabulous book in enough time for you to get your hands on a copy to share with your kids. I haven't read another picture book about the hurricane and this one has an amazing emotional impact, showing children a personal side to a natural disaster.


Ten-year-old Louis and is family live in New Orleans and are faced with evacuating their home as flood waters quickly begin rising after Hurricane Katrina. Knowing he can only grab one item to take with him as they rush out of the house, Louis takes his brass cornet and heads out the door, ending up at the Super Dome.

Through the story, Louis faces what so many of us could only watch on our televisions. He sees stray animals, a family member becomes lost, and the entire family must deal with the heat and crowding at the Super Dome, waiting on help.

Myron Uhlberg has created an incredibly powerful story, without it being too scary or overly detailed. It's very important to be able to present a tough subject in a readable manner that will open up discussion with younger children, without scaring them. This book does an excellent job of portraying a tragic and terrifying event in a story format that all children will be able to understand. 

A Storm Called Katrina
Myron Uhlberg
40 pages
Picture Book
Peachtree Publishing
9781561455911
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cupcakes!

A couple of months ago I had the chance to review a couple of cookbooks on smoothies and cookies. I had such a good time testing out recipes (and eating them) that when offered another cookbook from Charlesbridge I was excited to give it a try. This one was on one of my favorite desserts: cupcakes!

If you hang out with my husband and I, you know we have a slight obsession with cupcakes. It all started when our son was in the hospital in Albuquerque, NM and we liked to bring treats to our favorite nurses. Believe me, we were very popular in that NICU! We fell in love with a little cupcake shop, Cake Fetish. They had delicious cupcakes (the Half-Baked was our favorite) and great prices, so we were there quite often in those four months!

Then we moved across the country to Northern VA and have acquainted ourselves with Georgetown Cupcake where the Key Lime is my favorite and Cupcakes Actually, which has a delicious Apple Blossom cake, but really their OMG flavor is just fabulous. 

Cupcakes, Cupcakes, & More Cupcakes by Lilach German definitely helped cut the costs of treating ourselves to one $3 cupcake, by featuring a lot of the flavors we love in a homemade version. I tried three different recipes over the past couple of months with pretty good results. 

In the "Cupcakes for Kiddies" section, I tried the Oreo cupcakes, which were delicious and definitely kid friendly. They were easy enough to make that your kids could help with the process. The frosting was ridiculously yummy and really messy...as a good cupcake should be!

In the "Classics" section, I gave the Ginger Orange cupcakes a try, because I had some leftover ginger hanging out in the fridge. These were delicious, as well, though I omitted the garnish. My glaze was definitely very pretty and looked nothing like the photo, but it tasted great!

And finally, in the "A Cupcake for Your Health" section, I tried the Vegan Dark Chocolate Cupcakes and they were, by far, my favorite. They had a thick, brownie-like texture and the frosting was creamy and had great flavor. Being the pregnant lady that I am, I left out the coffee liqueur and instead, mixed some instant espresso granules with warm water to give that added coffee flavor without the alcohol. 

I do have a couple of complaints about the book, though overall I was pretty satisfied with the results. I had to pick the recipes I chose carefully, because a lot of them included ingredients that I could not easily find or were what I would deem "expensive" for cupcakes. If I were making something for a fancy occasion, I might splurge on rosewater (if I even know where to find it), but if I were hosting an event that called for that fancy of an ingredient, I would be purchasing my cupcakes from a professional in the first place!

Most of the recipes with the difficult ingredients were in a section meant for "Cupcake Connoisseurs," so that was really the only portion of the book I didn't touch. Maybe as I get better at this whole baking thing, I might venture into the harder section. 

Cupcakes, Cupcakes, and More Cupcakes
Lilach German
144 pages
Cookbook
Imagine Publishing
9781936140435
September 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Monday, August 15, 2011

This Beautiful Life review

Ok friends, you'll have to deal with some craziness on this review. First, a little background on my reviewing style, in case you're new to reading my blog:

Basicaly, I don't review books that I didn't like. I don't enjoy giving negative press and if I'm really not into a book, I won't finish it anyways. And I definitely don't review books I didn't finish. That's just my thing and if it's not yours, cool. 

I'm also very much a character-driven reader. If I don't love the main character or at the very least, relate to him/her, I'm probably not going to like the book. I need good, meaty characters to keep me reading and even if the protagonist is meant to be bratty/annoying/unlikable, I typically will still just not enjoy the book overall. 

That being said, onto my review of This Beautiful Life

This was an incredibly complex story of what happens to a family when 15-year-old Jake forwards on an explicit video sent to him by an eighth grade girl. All his friends receive it, his friends friends, etc. The aftermath to his family, mom Liz, dad Richard, and younger sister CoCo, is both as you would think it would be and not. 

We get to experience a personal reaction to the scandal by Liz, a laid back mom struggling to fit into their new fast-paced and upscale life in NYC. Her husband is now in a high power position at work, leaving her to do most of the child rearing and she thinks she really only has her hands full with percocious Coco. When the trouble with Jake hits the fan, Liz slowly begins to unravel. 

We also get to see how the video effects Richard in his business life, as he's faced with having to scramble to keep his work life together. He means well in everything he does, both business related and with his family, even if he doesn't make the best decisions. 

And finally, we get Jake's perspective. He's a good kid that made a terrible mistake and instantly feels guilt for it. He realizes the vastness of the scandal and isn't quite sure how to pull himself out of the mess he's made and is even more unsure of how to fix the girl's life he ruined. The forwarding of the video was not at all vindictive, though we still witness the slow decline of Jake's mental state. 

In the midst of the characters, we get glimpses into the lives of NYC private school parents and kids, the schedules placed upon children at such a young age, as parents are convinced they must compete for the most coveted preschools and elementary schools, setting their children up for fantastic lives. It's quite sickening and makes me glad, once again, that I grew up in a tiny town where everyone was pretty much on a level playing field. We didn't have a whole lot of options when it came to extra curricular activities, nor did our parents have the money to pay for anything extravagant, and we all turned out pretty ok. 

So, after all that, I didn't like this book. Though we're given the perspectives of three different characters, Liz is truly the main character and I didn't like her at all. I didn't sympathize with her and I didn't care about where she was going or what she was doing. She bugged me and got under my skin...and not in a good way. 

I didn't feel the reactions to the video were as realistic as they could have been (except maybe Richard's) and I really didn't care for the way the family reacted together. They barely spoke of it when home together, each just silently imploding with their own issues. I think, in the real world, more talk would have happened. More yelling. Even if Jake wasn't trying to hurt anyone, just having made a stupid mistake, his parents would have been ANGRY. There was no anger. 

So, having not liked the book, why am I still reviewing it? Why would I give it 3 stars on Goodreads if I didn't like it? The writing, my friends. The writing is fantastic. It's descriptive without being wordy, quiet when it needs to be, and animated if that's what the situation calls for. I fell into the book, even when I wasn't really enjoying the plot, all because of the beauty of the language and the flow of the words. 

I am still urging you to give the book a try, because of Schulman's talent with words. OR you can do as I'm going to do and run out and pick up her other books...I have to give them a try. I've never had this reading experience before with loving the writing, but disliking the plot and the characters, but, it can obviously happen. I'm heading to the library to find more Schulman, pronto. 

This Beautiful Life
Helen Schulman
240 pages
Adult Fiction
Harper
9780062024381
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Week in Review

First, let's get the important stuff out of the way: I won a book! Hooray! I don't enter a whole lot of blog giveaways, mainly because the entry policies are SO annoying. Comment, follow, follow on FB, follow on Twitter, tweet about it, blog about it, write the President a letter about it. Annoying. BUT, between the awesome book and the super easy entry on one of my favorite food/health blogs, Daily Garnish, I entered to win Peas and Thank You and it's headed to my house soon! Thanks again Emily :)

A quick note on Emily's blog...it's awesome! She makes vegetarian/vegan recipes and shares them with her readers, she's expecting her first baby in October (YAY!), she's super inspirational when it comes to getting into shape and staying that way, and she loves dogs. One of my favorites to read each day. 

Books:

I just finished reading Glow, the first in a new sci-fi/dystopian series by Amy Kathleen Ryan and I'm kinda struck dumb about this one. I don't know if I liked it or not. Still processing. Definitely up there with action/thrills though and I know there's been a lot of positive buzz around it on Twitter. 

I'm about halfway through This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman and her writing is truly exquisite. It's my first experience with her work and even though I'm not totally in love with the story, I like the writing and her "style" enough to finish it and seek out her other titles. Anyone else have experience with Schulman's books?

Movies/TV:

So, I saw The Help on Friday. I was totally skeptical, as I always am when a movie is based on a book, and I'm still not quite sure how I feel about it. It was quite humorous, as the book was not, and so that made for a fun and entertaining movie experience. I thought the plot development was a tad quick...they could have skipped some things to add more to other scenes...and some of the characters were there, but kinda glossed over.

Even if I hadn't read the book prior to seeing the movie, I think I would have taken some issue with the historical accuracy in terms of how things ended up for the characters (a little too neatly tied up). I didn't believe in the ending, as I did after reading Stockett's novel and I didn't become nearly as invested with the story and the characters. It was, however, entertaining.


Baby:

Depending on what website I'm looking at, the bean is the size of a bell pepper/sweet potato/baked potato, so around 6 inches long and 7 ounces. We're getting pretty excited for our upcoming appointment this week...it's the big one! We'll hopefully find out whether Baby Snow is a boy or a girl, so stay tuned for that. 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

Lots of new picture books have been showing up in my mailbox lately and you know I love to share! Hopefully you'll find something to enjoy with your family. 

I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn and illustrator Julia Denos

A little girl with a favorite dress discovers what can be made of clothes when we outgrow them. No need to get rid of her favorite dress, she can make it into a t-shirt! And then a tank top, a skirt, etc. If you have a budding fashionista in your house, this is definitely a book to check out! 

The illustration are unique, with the artist using a collage-type medium with pencils, paints, and 3D elements and a fun to just look at...I discovered new things the closer I looked. I loved the creativity aspect and the idea of encouraging kids to reuse things they love and make memories out of them, rather than always buying new.

I Had a Favorite Dress
Boni Ashburn
32 pages
Picture Book
Abrams
9781419700163
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher


Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and illustrator Holly Meade

Such a lovely, lovely lullaby! Naamah is Noah's wife and her name means "great singer" as shown on these beautifully illustrated pages. All through the night she sings to the animals, to her sons and their wives, songs of prayer and songs of love.

An incredibly simple, yet powerful book, this make such a nice bedtime reading. The illustrations are amazing,   showing off the strong implications of the text and the magnificence of the night. It's a soothing book and a unique. Rarely do we see mention of Noah's wife, even in the Bible, so for Bartoletti to imagine her in such a strong and beautiful way was inspirational.

This one would make a great gift for a new baby, for a baptism, or just for yourself, if you're like me!

Naamah and the Ark at Night
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
32 pages
Picture Book
Candlewick Press
9780763642426
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

My Bear Griz by Suzanne McGinness

Another simple story with a big impact. Billy loves bears, but he really, really loves his best friend Griz. Griz is a bear that goes everywhere with Billy. He goes exploring with him, takes naps with him, and tells funny jokes. Griz is also Billy's teddy bear, but shhhhh.....don't tell Griz that!

A really sweet look at the power of imagination, this one would be great for toddlers that are learning about friendship. It may even convince them that playing alone can be just as fun as playing with mom and dad!

Would also make a nice storytime read for your younger crowd.

My Bear Griz
Suzanne McGinness
32 pages
Picture Book
Frances Lincoln 
9781847801135
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My love for The Help...and the power of an audiobook

Yesterday morning I finally finished the audio of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 15 cds takes a long time, even when you're in the car for 2+ hours 4 days a week. The story was as amazing as everyone has been saying for the past two years and I am SO glad I listened to it, rather than reading it for the first time. I got a whole lot more out of this listening experience than I have with any other audiobook and I fell totally in love with Stockett's writing at the same time. 

Voiced by three readers, Jenna Lamia, Octavia Spencer, Cassandra Campbell, and Bahni Turpin, I became invested in these women like I never would have been able to through reading the physical book. Their voices, accents, dialects, and manner of getting a point across came through so incredibly clearly and realistically that I could picture these women as they were speaking and could visualize their mannerisms. 

The raw emotion that pours off the pages of this novel (and a debut novel at that) had me laughing and crying, almost simultaneously. I felt like I was in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960's, the narration was just that good. If you haven't picked this one up yet...and believe me, I know I'm one of the last...you should definitely grab it in audio. 

Now that I've finished the book, I can go see the movie! Excited!

The Help
Kathryn Stockett
Audio
Penguin USA
9780143144182

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Wig: A Little History of Hair review

What a weird book...and I mean that in such a good way. Odd, unique, and filled with cool facts that I've never seen anywhere else. Who thinks about HAIR in this way? Well, apparently Kathleen Krull, and she'll make you think about it too. SO COOL. 

I had so much fun flipping through the pages and learning all about how massage and headstands were the way to a healthy head of hair in India over 4,000 years ago and how women used to dye their hair using lye and the sun in Venice during the 1500's. Lots of cultures/countries/time periods are covered, all the way up to the present day. 

The book is part fact and part pure silliness, but totally fun to read. The illustrations, done by Peter Malone, are a nice accompaniment to the text. Great for libraries and classrooms. 

Big Wig: A Little History of Hair
Kathleen Krull
48 pages
Non-Fiction
Arthur A. Levine Books
9780439676403 
August 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week in Review

Books:

Finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern last night. SO good, I cannot even tell you. Easily making my top 5 of the year...maybe the top spot! Make sure to watch for this one when it comes out next month.

My book club got together at one of my local indie bookstores to discuss A Visit from the Goon Squad. I didn't finish it...couldn't get into it at all...and I'm glad I wasn't the only one! It was about 75% in my line of thinking with 25% of the members loving it. Made for a nice discussion!

Just starting the last book in Jenny Han's "Summer" series. It seems appropriate since it's August and I'm crossing my fingers summer is on its way out the door.

TV:

About the only thing I'm watched new this week was Project Runway. Goodness I love this show! I have some early favorites (Bert, Anthony, and Fallene), but being that it was only week 2, I know we have some time.

Etsy:

I loaded up on new shops this week, thanks to other blogs, including these three:

Little Alouette

Le Papier Studio

Cozyblue

Baby:

This week, our little one is the size of an onion! S/he is making mama feel like a whale though...could be the crazy humidity we've been dealing with. Have I mentioned I'm ready for summer to be OVER?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Small Town Sinners review

I was afraid to read this book. Like, nervous, biting my nails that it would be awful and get into the hands of thousands of teens and a poor message would be given to them. As Christian, I'm super skeptical of any book that talks about faith or faith practices in a negative light, or really even in a positive light, because so many authors just don't get it right. Even books labeled as "Christian fiction" are often unrealistic, sappy, and almost always wrap up too neatly...and we all know that life is messy.

Basically we have Lacey, a "good girl," raised in the church and in love with life. Her dream is to play the big role in her church's annual Hell House, and she knows that this is her year. When she meets befriends Ty Davis, the new guy in town, she starts to question everything her parents have taught her, her faith, her church's practices, etc., and decides to push some boundaries she hasn't ever even considered before. 
 
I was absolutely thrilled to find the opposite of what I was expecting. After reading through just half of Melissa Walker's book, I knew I had found a  truly eye-opening novel. For those that believe in God, you will be pleased with the writing and the manner in which Walker explains owning what you believe and for those that don't believe, don't care, or aren't sure what they think about God and the church, you'll enjoy it as well. The subject matter is handled in a non-biased and non-judgmental way, even when dealing with a event such as a Hell House. Everyone has something to learn and take away from the book, even if it's just a nice, intriguing story on something we don't hear a whole lot about in mainstream fiction. 

The characters, especially Lacey Anne are relatable. They're real kids in America, allowing for the reader to really connect with what they're reading and the people they're reading about. Lacey begins as a girl with unstoppable faith, very strict in her beliefs, as she's been raised, but as the story progresses, she struggles with exactly what she believes, while continuing that strong faith. I really appreciated that part of the book. Lacey ends her experience still believing in God and the church, just a bit different than when her Hell House experience began. I love that she continues to stand up for herself, her God, and His word, even through her struggles:
 
"Those words tell the real truth of how I feel, without my own self-involvedness confusing me. That's what the Bible is there for. For me to lean on when I get in my own way." (177)
 
Hell Houses really take place in certain churches and though I haven't ever been in one (nor do I desire to), I think Walker probably did a great job at explaining what takes place and the reactions of the audience. I think teens reading this will be intrigued to learn more about exactly what a Hell House is and what the churches want their audience to get out of the experience, but I also hope they take away the importance of how dangerous taking the Bible in an exact, literal manner can be.
 
I finished this book satisfied and happy with what I had just read. Great job Melissa Walker!

Small Town Sinners
Melissa Walker
288 pages
Young Adult
Bloomsbury USA
9781599905273
July 2011
Borrowed Copy
 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater, in brief

No spoilers here, just chiming in with my opinion. Don't be afraid to keep reading if you haven't finished the prior two books yet.
"The Wolves of Mercy Falls" was a series I never thought I could get into, as werewolves just "weren't my thing," but after getting to read Shiver on my Nook (the only whole book I ever finished on the thing), I was hooked...and then stayed hooked allllll the way through the next two books.

Forever was a fitting conclusion to a beautifully written story. I thought the characters all wrapped up nicely, though the plot moved more than a bit slow for me in the first half of the book. As usual, I felt there were probably 50 too many pages, but I really appreciated Stiefvater's detailed way of telling us the story, so I didn't mind the length as much as I typically do.

Grace and Sam's romance is lovely and feels realistic. You won't have any doubt that the characters are completely in love and would do anything to keep each other alive and happy. As I said before, things did drag a bit and a lot of it had to do with the constant descriptions of just how much the pair meant to each other, BUT, it worked here. Well, it worked well enough to make me happy overall with how the series ended.

If you haven't tried these books yet, pick up Shiver and give it a shot. And don't be thrown by the colored ink...it will totally grow on you.

Forever
Maggie Stiefvater
386 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic
9780545259088
July 2011
Review copy provided by publisher