Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas book fun

I recently received a couple of fun Christmas reads from Sourcebooks to review on the blog. So here they are!
A cute new picture book by Christi Love ... I mean, Elsbeth Claus ... who went around the country posing as Mrs. Claus to collect real kids' questions about Santa, the elves, the reindeer, and the North Pole. The questions are compiled in this charming book, illustrated by David Wenzel, to finally set at rest all of the things we've always wondered about how Christmas happens each year.

~Dear Mrs. Claus, How old are you and Santa?
~Dear Mrs. Claus, What are Santa's workshops like?
~Dear Mrs. Claus, Can all reindeer fly?
Check it out for a fun, secular Christmas read.

I'm new to the Horrid Henry series, but I understand that they are very popular, and after reading this Christmas installment, I can see why. Totally irreverent, truly horrid Henry makes no apologies for his ways. He's not a naughty boy who finally realizes how naughty he's being and reforms in the end. He's just a stinker to the core. This collection of four Christmas stories was completely un-Christmas-y (not a sappy, uplifting, tear-jerking moment to be found), but still totally funny. And while I hope that my own sons grow up to be Perfect Peters (Horrid Henry's little brother who can do no wrong), I also hope that they'll have at least a few Horrid Henry moments. As horrid a child as he is, Henry still manages to be strangely endearing. Not a classic, but definitely entertaining. Maybe read it to your kids first, and then read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to them. So you get at least a little upswing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cybils, Round Two

Fun news! The round-two panel for the Science Fiction/Fantasy category in the Cybils Book Awards just got split in two: elementary/middle-grade, and young adult. I (Ashley) will have the privilege of judging the elementary/middle-grade subsection of this awesome category. And I'm so excited! I've looked over the list of nominees, and I can't wait to see what short list the first round of judges comes up with. I might just pick a few myself and start reading now. There's a good number I've read already. Guess I'm in the right place! If you're interested in this particular category, check out the list here.

In other news, I finally finished Once a Witch. Yes, finally. It took me a long time to read, because I was quite unengaged by it. The main character was somewhat sympathetic, but mostly kind of whiny. (In my opinion.) She smoked and drank (at age 17) like it was a character trait, not a character flaw, which bothered me. Call me conservative. And there was far too much whispering in general. Made for an overexaggerated sense of drama. Also some unanswered questions that were generally confusing. The jacket made it sound like my kind of book, but unfortunately, it wasn't. Oh well. On to the next!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A rash of reading

I've been buried in some thick books for about the past week and a half. The first was a stand-alone novel by Sarah Dessen called Lock and Key. According to the author's website:

It's the story of a girl named Ruby who is abandoned by her mother and determined to make it on her own, even---and especially---when she is sent to live with her long-lost sister in a whole new world of privilege, family, and relationships. As Ruby learns, there's a big difference between being given help and being able to accept it. And sometimes, it takes reaching out to someone else to save yourself.

I loved the character progression of this book. Ruby starts out as an outwardly lost cause. She pushes everyone around her away. She casually experiments with drugs and alcohol. Her mom is totally deadbeat and rarely around, and then disappears altogether. Her one source of stability, her big sister, disappeared into college when Ruby was still a child and apparently never tried to contact her again. Ruby's internal walls are totally believable, and their gradual dismantling is so beautiful. I definitely recommend this book.

The other thick books I've been immersed in were the Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass)---which, incidentally, according to this, is actually going to have another book added to it in March '11, and has been optioned as a movie by the guys who oversaw the Lord of the Rings production. Wow. I am seriously excited for that one. Hopefully it gets made into a movie someday in the not-too-distant future. Many thanks to our guest reviewer who so highly recommended the series. Ditto to everything she said. Just read her review if you want more info. They were an action-packed, un-put-down-able collection of books. I can't imagine what the fourth book could possibly hold. The series seemed to wrap up quite tidily with the third. Two thumbs up to all my recent reads.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rapunzel's Revenge Book Trailer

My entry into the Rapunzel's Revenge Book Trailer Contest is live! And I still chuckle at the funny parts even though I watched the footage at least 50 times. :D What do you guys think?

Contest info here and here. I will let you know when the voting begins!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas-book giveaway winners

And the winners are ...

#3 Tweedlediva

and

#19 Brittney Richards

Yay! So send your addresses to everead@gmail.com, and we'll send you the books! Thanks to everyone who entered! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chick-Flicky Month

Saving Juliet: A novel about a modern girl who, with the aid of some magical ashes, is transported back in time to Verona, Italy, where she meets Romeo and Juliet and decides to give them the happy ending they deserve. A little love story, outside of the obvious one, interwoven here too, as well as a story about a girl who has to learn to face her fears and stand up for herself and what she dreams of doing with her life. For me, this was a fun read. The whole Juliet-being-thirteen-ish-years-old thing was authentic but still a little disturbing. But overall, yes, I'd say it's worth a few hours of your reading time, especially if you're looking for one of those, "I want a book that doesn't force me to think too hard and gives its characters happy endings" kinds of reads.

Betraying Season: Sequel to Bewitching Season. This one took a marked turn, I thought, from the first in the series. For one thing, it had a surprising scene of sensuality (I wouldn't recommend it to young teens). For another, there was a lot less discussion of fashion and frippery. I loved all the interplay between the heroine and her obvious intended. Her blindness to the "bad guy" amongst her acquaintances was mostly believable. There were some "I want to strangle the main character for being so obtuse" moments. But mostly, the author pulled the story off well. It wasn't totally fantastic for me, but I liked it well enough.


Prada and Prejudice: This book was everything I wanted it to be: totally fun, Jane-Austen style. Don't worry, the Bennets don't make an appearance. It's not a Pride and Prejudice rehashing. It's about an American teen who trips on a class trip on the cobblestone streets of London in her brand-new Prada high heels and lands herself in Regency England. No Darcy, but there is a handsome though snobbish duke. The book reminded me a lot of Shannon Hale's Austenland, minus Shannon's lovely writing style. The heroine is really shy, and her best (and only) friend just moved to another school, so she begins the book feeling desperate to get in with the in-crowd but not knowing how to do it. She ends the book in a more positive, self-assured, strong-woman frame of mind. For me, this book was just fun, absorbing, and happy. Of the three chick flicks I read this month, I recommend this one the most. But Austen could've biased me. :)

As a side note, don't forget to enter the Christmas books giveaway, if you haven't already done so. Just leave a comment by midnight, the night of Thanksgiving, November 26th.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I love Bookie Woogie

This blog, recorded and transcribed by an illustrator and his kids, is awesome. And today's post was perfect! It's an interview with author Aaron Reynolds. I just read his fantastic graphic novel mystery Joey Fly Private Eye.

It was so noir. So fun. So punny. I love puns! Also, fake sound effects. This was one of those books that I started reading aloud to Jacob before I had got 5 pages in. Joey Fly has a bungling assistant that he has to work around. Can the two of them solve the case of the missing pencil box? Or will Sammy's antics shut them off of the case -- like a fly on the outside of a screen door?

Okay, that was lame. The funny lines in the book are way better. You should just read that.

Also in the interview they talk about some other great graphic novels. I'm a big fan of Babymouse and just discovered Amulet as well. Too fun! My favorite part of the interview is when Mr. Reynolds talks about how concerned he was that Joey Fly has no mouth and no pupils in his eyes. He tells how it all worked out.

Here's to great graphic novels and their authors! I'll have more to share with you coming up. Over in the sidebar you can follow my Cybils progress (and my NaNoWriMo wordcount as well). To date I've read 31 of the nominees! So I have more great books to share just as soon as I get the chance.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Merry Early Christmas---a giveaway! [CLOSED]

We're well into November. The Halloween decorations at the supermarket are ancient history. Canned Christmas music pipes over the loudspeakers at every shopping center in town. Holly and mistletoe and white lights drape the shelves of merchandise, winking at you as you pass by, hinting not-so-subtly at their own little secret: Just because Thanksgiving is weeks away doesn't mean you can't start celebrating the magic of the Christmas season now.

Therefore. It is with great delight that I present two wonderful new Christmas books for your consideration---and for two of our readers to take home themselves, free of charge. Like a present from Everead to you! Two lucky commenters will be randomly selected to receive both of these hardcover books, each, compliments of Scholastic. So. On to the books.

The Christmas MagicFrom best-selling author Lauren Thomas and Caldecott Honor artist Jon J. Muth comes this completely enchanting new night-before-Christmas story. Far, far north, Santa prepares for his big night of giving. He feeds his reindeer, polishes his sleigh, and chooses toys for all of the children of the world. And all the while, he listens and waits for that thrum of magic that will make the reindeer fly and help him spread the joy and warmth of Christmas all over the world. I especially loved how this book makes Santa look like an average Joe---just a quiet man with a great big heart. He lives in a tidy little house. He keeps his sleigh in the shed. He darns his own stockings. No elves picture in the book. No giant workshop with conveyor belts and thousands of busy workers appears. Just a simple old man getting ready for a night out. The understated yet beautiful watercolor illustrations seem to say that we can all be Santa in our own way. It doesn't take great wealth, prestige, or power to be a force for good in another person's life. Just a gaze that turns outward and a little thrum of Christmas magic. Check out one of the charming illustrations below.
... and the book trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI6XkJdI5lo

The Nutcracker and the Mouse KingWith beautiful new illustrations by Gail de Marcken, this second holiday book tells E.T.A. Hoffmann's original story that inspired the famous Tchaikovsky ballet. Unlike the ballet version of the story, Marie's adventures with her beloved Nutcracker happen over several nights. The Nutcracker is an enchanted young man who can only awaken when shown the selfless love that Marie demonstrates for him in several battles with the fierce, seven-headed Mouse King. The illustrations are truly magical, colorful and sweeping and totally enchanting, and I loved hearing the original story that inspired one of my favorite ballets. Two thumbs way up for both of these Christmas books.
So, if you'd like to win both of these books, you know what to do! Just leave a comment below before November 26th, 2009---Thanksgiving!---to be entered in our random drawing. And merry early Christmas from Everead!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winter's Tail Winner Announced!

The winner of the Winter's Tail prize pack is:
#2 Cami
Congratulations!
Send us your address at everead@gmail.com so we can send you your prize.

And be sure to come back, everyone, over the next week or so for a gorgeous children's Christmas book duo giveaway from Scholastic!

The Ghosts of Lone Jack

This book proved rather difficult for me to read. It's not my usual literature choice, for starters, but I was given a copy by its publishing company to read and review on the blog. The premise sounded interesting enough.

Jared is a 10-year-old kid who visits his grandfather every summer in Lone Jack, Missouri, a town with a lot of Civil War history. This particular visit proves an eventful one, to say the least, as the town is becoming increasingly overrun by ghosts of the Battle of Lone Jack, Civil War characters who have continued their deadly battle beyond the grave. Only Jared, a few of his young friends, and some of the town's old-timers can see the ghosts initially. But the ghosts, who have up until now been nothing but harmless spirits, are turning into zombies---mindless, rotting corpses whose crazed violence is unleashed on anyone unlucky enough to stumble into their crossfire. Jared and his friends team up with the old-timers and a ghost-hunting duo to discover what's happening to the ghosts of Lone Jack, and to figure out what they can do to put the warring spirits to rest.

Add into the mix some evil town bullies, a group of six escaped convicts, some really stupid donut-stuffing town policemen, Little League woes, and the cute girl next door, and you have the basis for what felt like a primarily stereotype-driven plot. There were definitely fun moments in the book---even a few that made me chuckle out loud. But as an editor, I was driven almost crazy by the misuse of apostrophes (how is one to pronounce g'tting' exactly?). The editing could use some work. The zombies were a little too gruesome for the intended age group (lots of gore, guts hanging out of bodies, head slicing, bugs pouring from rotten openings, etc.). And the book tried a little too hard to teach readers through long passages of history about the Lone Jack area that would've lost me as a young reader. It took me about three-quarters of the book to get into the story. The ending was exciting and fun. But the rest of it for me ... eh. If you're really into Civil War history, you might find this to be a fun read.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Clear the Queue

Okay, I'm hitting Cybils graphic novel nominations hard and fast. So I want to tell you about a few books I read before the nominations closed. All three I recommend, but I'll order them in strongest to weakest recommendation.

Forest Born by Shannon Hale. I simply savored this one. It might be my favorite of the Bayern books now. I don't know. . . it's been so long since I read The Goose Girl, which would be it's main contender. Anyway. I was able to relate to Rin in her quest. She goes out into the world not seeking something, but trying to figure herself out and trying to figure out how she should act. At various times I've had similar feelings of ultimate power and of utter disappointment in myself. And then it was so fun to go on a quest with the girls and not worry about boys for a book. :) Don't get me wrong, I love boys. But Hale does a great job of making things interesting, entertaining, suspenseful, and thought provoking without adding a romance into the mix. Highly recommended, especially to fans of Hale.

And Only to Decieve by Tasha Alexander. Okay, one of the blurbs on the back of this book said "If Jane Austen had written The DaVinci Code, it would be this book." That made me laugh. I have to say that after reading it, I wonder if the blurber wrote that at midnight when the brain becomes more squishy. But, it was a fun read. The plot is much more romantically driven than a reference to DaVinci Code would make you think. It's more like the Luxe books, actually, except with less drama and dirt (phew!). The mystery was mysterious, but the culprit was easy to spot. Still it was quite fun to read. It's very multidimensional on the romance level, and not at all a bodice ripper. Also all the references to Homer made me wish I'd paid better attention in High School. Here's the review (with excellent non-spoiler synopsis) that made me want to read it.

Wings by Aprilynne Pike. This one is pretty popular right now, from what I understand. I mean, I think it's been optioned for a movie starring Miley Cyrus. Whether or not you like Miley Cyrus, I think you know that's a big deal. And I have to say, if they make the movie, I want to see it. I want to see if they tighten things up a bit. It's a very plot-based (versus character-based) book. So my biggest problem with it was that the main character did something totally off-kilter. I understand that its important that the fairy secret not get out, but the reason she gives for keeping it in, I just can't buy. So, maybe that'll change with the movie and I'll be able to enjoy it more. I thought the premise was super cool, and the writing was very nice. That one bit of character motivation is my only hang up. Teen and pre-teen girls will enjoy this one, and I liked it too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Winter's Tail---and a giveaway!

Post by Ashley
When Winter, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, was found trapped with her tail badly damaged, she was not expected to survive. This is her miraculous story, from her rescue to learning how to swim again to her unprecedented success using a prosthetic tail. This is also a celebration of her indomitable spirit.

http://www.scholastic.com/winterstail/

Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again is a sweet, nonfiction read that's perfect for kids who love sea animals or who may themselves be facing a difficult challenge and need a little inspiration. Winter's story is universally appealing, and the book itself is well-constructed with beautiful photographs of the dolphin's adventures, beginning when she was found by a fisherman tangled in a trap line. While I would've often liked more details (it's a cool story!---I wanted to know more about the specifics of it all), perhaps the generalities will inspire kids to get on the Internet or go to the library to learn more---more about how Winter's trainer taught her to move her tail up and down instead of side to side, more about how the prosthetics expert developed a tail that could mimic a real dolphin's, more about how Winter swims now that she's trained with her new tail for a long time. Any book that inspires kids to do better or learn more is a great book indeed. Thumbs up for Winter's Tail.

So now to the giveaway. One lucky randomly selected commenter will receive the following totally awesome Winter's Tail prize package:
*Dolphin plush
*Dolphin key chain
*Winter's Tail game for Nintendo DS (seriously!)
*Copy of Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again book (naturally)
And in case the list isn't tantalizing enough, here's a picture of the prizes.

You have two weeks from today to comment on this post (deadline being November 10, 11:59 p.m.). One comment per person, please. And please be sure to include your e-mail address so that we can contact you if you've won. Tell your friends and fam about this giveaway too---we think it's pretty cool!

And check out the book trailer here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVYd-aj7h0g

If that's not enough Winter excitement for you, Scholastic is also holding an essay contest for young readers ages 6-14. Check out the details below if you're interested.

Scholastic wants to hear about an animal that has most inspired your children by having them tell us about their favorite animal hero in 200 words or less.

One grand prize winner and his/her guardian will receive a trip to visit Winter at her home in Clearwater, Florida, one night's stay at a hotel, $500 travel voucher, a Winter prize pack and a Nintendo DS Game system! 10 runners up with receive a copy of Winter's Tail, a Winter's Tail Nintendo DS game and a Winter plush doll!

HOW TO ENTER
Send entries to:
Scholastic's Meet Winter the Dolphin Contest
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Each entry must include student's name, age, and grade; teacher's name; and school name, address, and phone number.

All entries must be received by November 30, 2009. Winners will be announced on or around December 14th. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residences of 50 United States and D.C. ages 6-14 as of November 30th 2009. Void where prohibited. Click here for complete contest rules. Or go here for the PDF.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Colonel Trash Truck

I recently received a copy of this book from its publisher to review on Everead. So here goes.

I am not a five-year-old boy. So it wasn't my favorite. But if you are a five-year-old boy, you just might like this book.

Colonel Trash Truck is a save-the-day garbage-crushing hero who's helping to clean the world, one piece of trash at a time. The book is meant to inspire kids to "think green" and not litter.

However.

The book is written in rhyme, which occasionally feels forced, particularly the page about cleaning up your "boogies" and "loogies" and not picking your nose. I had a hard time seeing the connection between nose-picking and garbage trucks---technically, using a tissue actually creates more trash, right?

For me, the book mostly missed the mark---lots of very similar illustrations of Col. Trash Truck driving here and there down the street picking up garbage, and sometimes trite rhyming schemes that also weren't entirely accurate. (It often seems to imply that garbage trucks go around cleaning up all garbage, not just the stuff in the cans that you leave on the curb. Could this actually send kids the wrong message? That littering is naughty, but it's really okay, because garbage trucks will "even come pick up the scum left by your little brother"?)

In any case, if you've got a young kid, likely male, who really likes garbage trucks and likes to think about the environment, this could be a fun book for him. That's my take.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lunch Lady!


Bold. Brave. Fearless.

Outfitted with gadgets galore!

She's...Lunch Lady!

Oh, I had so much fun reading the first two Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J Krosoczka. They are just too funny! And the crime fighting is top notch. The first one is Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute. The second, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians.

These books are perfect for Babymouse fans like me: they're about the same size and length, and are suspenseful as well as silly. I love the two color (three color?) pallette: black and yellow (and white.)
Does white count? Anyway. The use of the color was so skillful! It really draws your eye to the important parts of the panel and aids in the visual read. There are so many different shades of yellow, you know? I would even go so far as to say that Krosoczka evokes mood with his use of the color. Very nice.


If I didn't already have my costume all planned, I'd totally be Lunch Lady for Halloween. Next year, next year.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wonderland

Wonderland, Tommy Kovac, Sonny Liew

Wonderland. As in Alice in. Except this time, without Alice. Who is that dark haired maiden on the cover? None other than Mary Ann, the maid that the white rabbit mistook Alice for. In Mary Ann's absence, Alice has been to wonderland. Now our heroine has to deal with the aftermath.

Quirky and fun (of course quirky!), this one kept me entertained. The illustration style distracted me a bit for the first few pages (I found myself dissecting the amount of texture on the page and the Queen of Hearts' big mouth). But once I got into it, it was quite fun.

Published by Disney, the book assumes you've watched the Disney version of the story. The characters look similar to movie's but aren't exactly the same. It was fun to see some familiar faces and know what to expect from them, but also fun to be introduced to new characters. My last reading of the actual Lewis Carroll was so long ago that I consider these guys new, anyway.

Plenty of the dark and spooky, plenty of the zany and funny. I'm a fan.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Babymouse: Dragonslayer!

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know I love Babymouse. So I was pretty excited that Babymouse: Dragonslayer was nominated for the Cybils this year. (So was Babymouse: The Musical, yay!)

So, I rushed out and got it! And it did not disappoint. It is chock full of fantasy allusions both general and specific. For instance, the book starts with a map. :D And there is a babymouse daydream sequence in which she has huge, hairy hobbit feet. Ha! What is this dragon that Babymouse has to overcome? MATH! The Fighting Fractions, of which Babymouse is the newest member, must overcome the Owlgorithms to win back the Golden Slide Rule!

I liked the theme of the book -- it was very encouraging, but it was so tongue-in-cheek, so silly, that it wasn't cheesy at all. Two thumbs up for Babymouse #11!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let the festivities begin!


It's Cybils season again! The bloggers' choice award for the best children's and YA books of the year. I participated last year as a panelist in the Middle Grade Fiction category, and this year I'm very excited to be part of the Graphic Novels panel! I just can't wait for all the nominations! So if you've read a good one that was published between Oct 2008 and Oct 2009, be sure to mention it on the Cybils blog in October. That goes good books in other genres as well.

If you're looking for good books to read, I highly recommend browsing the Cybils shortlists from past years (link in the sidebar). Some of my favorites have been discovered there.

Announcing the Graphic Novels panel for the 2009 Cybils:

Graphic Novels Panel

We've been working hard behind the scenes on the judging assignments, and we've put together an enthusiastic panel of fans and bloggers to read the best in graphic novels for both young adult and elementary/middle grade audiences.

Panel Organizer: Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Alyssa Feller, The Shady Glade
Maggi Idzikowski, Mama Librarian
Liz Jones (see panel organizer)
Nicola Manning, Back to Books
Kim Rapier, Si, se puede! Yes we can
Gina Ruiz, AmoXcalli
Alysa Stewart, Everead

Judges (Round II):

Walter Biggins, The Quiet Bubble
Justin Colussy-Estes, Guys Lit Wire
Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots
Sarah Stevenson, Finding Wonderland
Casey Titschinger, Bookworm 4 Life


Son of the Shadows

Post by Ashley
Wow, cool follow-up to Daughter of the Forest, which I loved. This second book in the trilogy follows Sorcha's three grown children, mainly her daughter Liadan, through twisting trials, romance, and tragedies, always driving toward the ultimate goal of reclaiming the three sacred islands that are still under British occupation.

As with many fantasy books, there's a prophecy, but unlike some others, the person destined to fulfill that prophecy isn't immediately clear. Two books into the trilogy, I think we've finally figured out who will bring peace to the warring people in the story.

The writing is beautiful, as always. The story is intricate and very human. The characters are deep and independent and so varied. I love that about all of Juliet Marillier's books. Each person is a personality. So check out this series if you're feeling an itching for a new fantastical literary experience. As with the first one, this contains more adult content than I would deem appropriate for a young teen. So I'll recommend it for 16-18-ish and up.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Frogs and Mice

Two picture books I loved recently:


Nic Bishop Frogs -- Fantastic, amazing photographs! And very nice text as well. Not too heavy, not too light. Its books like these that make me go to the Juvenile non-fiction section more often than the regular ol' stuff. I mean seriously. When there are such fascinating, understandable texts on the ground floor, why would I go upstairs and try to wade through something dull? Love it.

Once Upon a Twice -- by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Barry Moser. Found this one over at the PlanetEsme blog, and she likened it to Jabberwocky. I LOVE Jabberwocky! The version illustrated by Graeme Base. Aaaanyway. This one is not exactly like Jabberwocky, I mean, Carroll made up SO many new words with that one. Practically every other word at the beginning is nonsense. Once Upon a Twice does more with wordplay than word invention. Still, I was tickled by it. And the illustrations are the perfect atmosphere. Check it out!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Emiko Superstar, and Persepolis

I've found myself drawn to graphic novels lately (hehe, get it?). I recently read two that caught my eye.

Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston-- This one won the Cybils award for YA Graphic Novel last year. With that kind of recommendation, I didn't want to pass it up. And I'm glad I read it. It was interesting. I can't say it was my favorite -- I had some issues with it. But as far as writing and illustrating quality? Top Notch. As far as engaging and appealing? Very nice. My issues were more along these lines: Why didn't Emiko break sooner? Why didn't she tell anyone what really went on? And how did she get away with it for so long? So, I guess I don't relate personally very much to Emiko. But I think that the book asks valuable questions about art, life, honesty, etc. What is it about? How one summer can change everything. And how Emiko became a superstar, of course.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi-- I've heard this one mentioned in the realm of YA, but I categorize it adult. Its the life story of a girl in Iran. An autobiography. It is fascinating, and the artwork is just perfect. I really think the art makes the book successful. In this sort of scenario -- where we're getting scenes from Marjane Satrapi's life -- the facial expressions tell you just what she thinks of it all, as it's happening. If it were all written out, it would be too wordy! Either too gushy or too austere. Anyway. I wasn't thrilled with the ending, but it obviously couldn't have been any other way. And it ended symbolically as well. The first panels tell about Marji's first experiences with wearing the veil, and I assume that the last panel is the last time she's worn it. The humor is great. The language gets coarse, occasionally. And I'm glad it's not my life story. But I'm glad I read it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Silksinger Released!



Silksinger by Laini Taylor is officially released today! Yay! It's a good one! You can read my review here. You can win a copy from the author herself here. If you haven't heard about this one yet, you'll want to start with the first book, Blackbringer. Have fun!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yay!

Forest Born by Shannon Hale is out! I just finished reading it! :D Review to come soon!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going back in time, but not too far...


I recently read a couple of good old fashioned books.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall -- Winner of the National Book Award, this one is very fun. It makes you think. Well, it made me think about days gone by. The days of my childhood. The days of those old live action Disney movies with Hayley Mills in them. The Penderwick family spends the summer vacation in a new place -- on the grounds at Arundel (fictional mansion). I had absolutely no trouble picturing them, because it wasn't too long ago that we took a day trip to the grounds at Allerton (real mansion). The characters are a delight and there is just enough suspense to keep you reading.



Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish -- This one is non-fiction. It is "hard times and high spirits on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression." And you know, this book could have been SO boring! But it was really quite interesting. I think my father would enjoy it. He likes to look at what everyday life was like for those who have gone before us. It was occasionally fun to see her describe things that I've done. And occasionally frustrating to here her comment "young people these days will never know..." ha! You underestimate us, old woman! No, I'm just kidding. But I read this one for my book club and we really enjoyed discussing it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Catching Fire

Post by Ashley
The second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy just came out at the beginning of this month. We had a low grocery bill last week, so I justified adding the $12 book to the cart instead of waiting for four months for my name to come up on the library waiting list. Just like the first, the storyline and writing are extremely engaging. It's the kind of book you shouldn't pick up on a day when you have lots of other things to do. Because the other things you have to do simply won't get done.

The first half of the book was relatively slower paced (though still gripping), but a surprising midbook twist will have you biting your fingernails all the way to the last page. Definite cliffhanger.

As a cohesive, stand-alone book, Catching Fire doesn't measure up to its predecessor. The plot feels slightly scattered, and I finished it feeling like, That was awesome ... but was this book really necessary? It seemed like the plot-forwarding elements introduced in it could easily have been packed into the end of the first and beginning of the third installments. Yes, Katniss and Peeta defied the Capital. Yes, she's become an unwitting symbol for revolution. Yes, she's unsure how exactly she feels about Peeta. These are things I already knew as the first book finished, and they're basically the three points that Catching Fire focuses on. So no earth-shattering revelations here. Just a further developing of plot points that were already in place. There's no doubt that this book acts as a kind of knot-tier between first and third, as do most second books in trilogies. (Obviously I haven't read the third, but this is what I imagine after reading the second.)

That being said, I still say the book is a must-read. It's a great series, and I am really excited to see how the third book will end it all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Warbreaker

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

It's a thick one, guys! But totally worth it. I really enjoyed this one.

The eldest princess of Idris is destined to be the bride of the God King of Hallendren. She has trained her whole life in preparation. Her youngest sister is redundant. Until push comes to shove in politics and the girls both find themselves utterly unprepared for their new roles. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Lightsong the Bold, Returned god of Bravery is trying to figure out why anyone thinks he's a god and what his purpose was in coming back to life. Mix in a few other sly and slippery and dangerous and complex characters, and you've got a recipe (wait. How did I get from ranches to recipes?) for ...beef stew? mountain oysters? okay I give up, but it was tasty.

The humor had me choking back laughs. The intrigue had me biting my nails (literally. I caught myself chewing my thumb). The romance was swoonworthy, but isn't the main focus of the book. The magic system is mind-boggling.

Recommended for adult and young adult fantasy fans. Another good one from Sanderson. As my little brother said after reading this, "He kind of gives me hope for the end of the Wheel of Time series." Me, too. And hopefully we'll get to meet him on his upcoming tour! :)

oh, p.s. Sanderson published this book online, so you can get the entire text here on his site. However it is also available in hardback at libraries and bookstores.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dreaming Anastasia Book Tour

The review of Dreaming Anastasia below is one of the stops on the book tour! You can see other reviews of the book at the following websites, on the date listed next to the link.

Teens Read Too (8/17)

Through the Wardrobe (8/29)

Class of 2k9 (8/29)

Story Siren (8/31)

EVEREAD (9/1)

The Book Resort (9/1)

Marta’s Meanderings (9/2)

Babbling About Books (9/3)

A Passion for Books (9/3)

Day by Day Writer (9/4)

Neverending Shelf (9/5)

YA Books Central (9/6)

The Book Obsessions (9/7)

Dolce Bellezza (9/7)

Books & Literature for Teens (9/7)

Shelf Elf (9/8)

The Shady Glade (9/8)

Debbie’s World of Books (9/9)

Bookalicio.us (9/9)

Ultimate Book Hound (9/10)

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf (9/10)

Sarah’s Random Musings (9/11)

Cindy’s Love of Books (9/12)

Presenting Lenore (9/12)

Always Riddikulus (9/12)

Jenn’s Bookshelf (9/13)

Carol’s Corner (9/13)

A High & Hidden Place (9/14)

Looking Glass Review (9/14)

Karin’s Book Nook (9/14)

Shooting Stars Magazine (9/15)

Library Lounge Lizard (9/15)

Book Journey (9/16)

The Book Pixie (9/16)

The Compulsive Reader (9/17)

Slayground.net (9/17)

Booking Mama (9/18)

BriMeetsBooks.com (9/18)

The Written World (9/19)

Hope’s Bookshelf (9/19)

Book Nut (9/20)

Hope is the Word (9/20)

Zoe’s Book Reviews (9/21)

Homespun Light (9/21)

Teen Scene magazine (9/21)

Galleysmith (9/22)

Once Upon a Bookshelf (9/22)

Café of Dreams (9/23)

My Friend Amy (9/23; 9pm EST author chat)

The Brain Lair (9/24)

Ms. Bookish (9/24)

Lori Calabrese Writes (9/25)

Mrs. Magoo Reads (9/25)

Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm (9/26)

Fantasy Book Critic (9/26)

Into the Wardrobe (9/27)
In the Pages (9/27)

Beth Fish Reads (9/28)

Reverie Book Reviews (9/28)

Dreaming Anastasia ...

... a new novel by Joy Preble, a new author.

Anastasia Romanov's possible survival of the massacre that killed her entire family has been the subject of much historical speculation over the century or so since it happened (or didn't). Author Joy Preble adds a fictional twist to the tale by interweaving magic and involving the infamous child-eating witch of Russian folklore---Baba Yaga. (Save yourself the trouble of trying to say that name ten times fast ... trust me.) If that's not compelling enough, throw into the mix a modern girl named Anne, an unsuspecting descendent of the Romanov line whose task becomes the rescue of trapped-in-time Anastasia. And if you're still not feeling the need to read this book, know that there's also an incredibly handsome hero in the story with piercing blue eyes and great hair that he's constantly raking his hands through.

In some ways, I felt like this book was pulling me in too many directions. And the editor in me couldn't help but nitpick (the Anastasia letter-writing font is too flowery to be really legible, characters' hearts pound a lot in their chests, there's a bit of an overuse of the one-line paragraphs to add drama to a statement, and some character reactions feel a little formulaic---Anne's extreme anger with Ethan, the good guy who tells her she has magical powers and a mission, for instance).

But despite the minor changes I would make (if anyone wanted my opinion ...), I enjoyed the concept of the story, the changes that take place in the characters, and the deliverance of the resolution. I liked Anastasia's ultimate choice.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in the end, but it does tie together satisfyingly enough. This is a fun read. Just don't try to overthink it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Kitchen Dance

Kitchen Dance by Maurie J. Manning

I couldn't help grabbing this one off the shelf at the library. The colors were so bold and bright, and the title captured me right away. I love dancing in the kitchen! It's probably the most romantic place to dance, don't you think? Well, maybe a ballroom is more romantic. It depends on your definition of romance. I think we should have a poll about this.

The book starts off with a very subdued palette -- the kids are in their dark bedroom, hearing noises from the kitchen. When they finally peek in on their parents, Wow! The color just hits your eye. And you wouldn't think that a book like this would have much suspense, but it does. As the father dipped the mother I held my breath. And what will the parents do when they find their kids spying on them?

This book is so sweet. It is masterfully done, if you ask me. Fans of Dora the Explorer will probably like the little bit of Spanish featured in it. It is really very heartwarming. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Daughter of the Forest

Post by Ashley
I tried reading this one once during a really, super-busy time, and I didn't manage to get past the first few chapters, which was tragic because I really liked what I'd read. So I finally got around to picking it up again, and I loved it, start to finish.

Based on the Six Swans fairy tale, this book tells the story of seven siblings---six brothers, and the youngest, a sister, and their deep connection to each other through unimaginable trials. Their mother died not long after the heroine of the story was born (as is often the case in these fairy tales ... poor mothers!). Their father is absorbed in a senseless war that has lasted generations. And the seven siblings are left mostly to themselves to raise and care for each other. Their worlds are turned upside down when their father remarries---you guessed it, a wicked stepmother. I won't go into detail about the difficulties that ensue, but suffice it to say, that's where the typical-fairy-tale-ness ends.

The tale is beautifully spun, the mountain of problems the devoted siblings must overcome seems insurmountable, and the climax is as believably carried off as it is nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat exciting.

I'd recommend this book to older readers---maybe fifteen/sixteen and up. There is a rather intense, though not highly detailed, scene where a young woman is raped. Not something I'd personally want my young daughters reading.

The book is a thought-provoking, good read. Can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Your Everead Favorites

What have been your favorite Everead posts? Which ones made you laugh? Which ones made you want to go pick up a book? C'mon, don't be stingy with your selections! Lets get a good list together.

P.S. I only ask because I'm having a hard time coming up with 5 posts to submit to the judges -- apparently Everead was nominated for Best General Review Blog for this years Book Blogger Appreciation Week. If the judges shortlist us, people will be, like, voting for us and stuff. Well. Hopefully.

ETA: Okay, here are the ones I sent! :)

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters

This is the cutie-patootie sequel to one of my favorite books of last year, the first Alvin Ho book!

Again we get to follow scaredy cat Alvin Ho on everyday adventures. Is Alvin as good as Houdini? Can he set a proper trap when *gulp* he is the bait? And what is it like to own a real, true, specialer than special Batman ring? These things and more you will find out...

I have to say I liked the first one better. The fun was still there for me in this one, but I had a hard time swallowing one particular plot point. Parents can be oblivious, but when the "emergencies-only credit card" gets involved I have to roll my eyes. It's so. . . old hat. I expected more creative mischief from Alvin. And there is plenty of that, too. So it's still good.

It made me laugh out loud just like the first one did. I had to read bits to Jacob, again. Still loved the illustrations. One and a half thumbs up. (Just picture that old thumb trick where you take off the top.) Great for 1st grade on up.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Birds

Birds by Kevin Henkes, illustrated by Laura Dronzek

This is a gorgeous picture book from the author of Lily's Purple Plastic Purse (among other great books). The illustrations sport bright colors and bold contour lines that really make them stand out. My mother and I first saw the book while working at the school book fair. She noticed the subject matter (she's a bird lover) and I noticed the author.

I've never seen a dud from Henkes (pronounced almost like hand-kiss; as Jim Jacobs once told me) and I love this one. Unlike his mouse books, it's text is sparse and almost poetic:
Sometimes, in winter,
a bird in a tree
looks like one red
leaf left over.
This, combined with the illustration style, makes the book a good choice for younger children. That is to say, there aren't so many words on the page that my one-year-old got bored of the illustrations before I had time to finish. Of course I think it's a good pick for older readers as well. Some of the text really excites the imagination -- asking open and fun questions that will engage anyone willing to pause for a moment and think. My neighbors (ages 2, 4, and 6) were captivated by a reading.

In short, a lovely read. Check it out when you get the chance!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Three audio-book reviews


Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.
The sequel to The Wee Free Men. This one is just as hilarious and the reader, as ever, does a fantastic job. Love his accents! Very well done. Though I did think that Mistress Weatherwax occasionally sounded angry when she didn't need to. But maybe that's just me. Anyway, I was thoroughly entertained. Begin with The Wee Free Men though. My favorite line: "Can we swim it?"

Moxie Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes by Peggy Gifford. This one, as an audiobook, was meh. The reader was okay. Sometimes she read far too slowly, especially during repetitious parts of the book (like the long chapter titles which would be cool in the book, but were just boring on audio, to me.). Also I had a very hard time believing that a 10 year old girl would be so clueless. I remember being ten. I remember being definitely not clueless. But even the girls my age who I thought were clueless were not THAT clueless. I do remember feeling entitled and not making all of the connections of my actions and their consequences, but Moxie, to me, in this book, was unbelievably clueless. Good for early elementary age.

The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan. I'm a big fan of all of Riordan's stuff that I've read. This one is no exception. And the reader was awesome. When he was reading girls or women, for the most part, I forgot he was a man. His Aunt Beatrice voice was my favorite. He's very good at that chainsmoker thing. Ha! I absolutely loved Nellie as well. The story was fun and action-packed, in typical Riordan style. Great for 8+, I'd say.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Graceling

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Quite riveting. Recommended for fans of The Hunger Games. The two books are not the same -- but both follow strong young women who know how to fight really amazingly. They both have a bit of romance. I would say The Hunger Games (which you should read if you have not yet read it, and the sequel comes out in a month!) has more violence and less romance than Graceling. They still both have both, of course. Graceling just has fewer horrific violent descriptions, and instead has some non-explicit love scenes. But these are books for teens and up, not for middle graders.

I really enjoyed the premise. The "Graced" are those who have special capacities for, well, anything. Easily identified by the fact that their eyes are not both the same color, most of them end up in the service of their king. Katsa is one of these, and she is Graced with killing. She is rapidly becoming someone she despises, because of her skill, and needs to figure out what to do with herself.

One thing I thought was quite fun is that I couldn't pick out the romantic lead right away. You know, you can usually spot them from a mile away. But this time it wasn't obvious. There were several choices! I bounced around a little bit, enjoying the wondering, before we settled into our love story.

Anyway, the sequel to this one, Fire, will be coming out in October. I'm looking forward to it. Two thumbs up, and all that!

Oh, also, Graceling has won all kinds of awards.

*Special note in RE: #2. on Enna Isilee's review: I can see where you're coming from. The epilogue was a little bit "let me explain"-y. I think it all stems from Katsa's worldview though, and I don't think we can expect that to change except over a matter of years.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I, Coriander

Post by Ashley
Coriander lives in a spacious house on the Thames, daughter of a successful merchant father and a beautiful and wise mother who makes herbal remedies for all the neighbors and loves her daughter more than anything. All is well in the little girl's world until the arrival of the silver shoes. The moment Coriander's mother opens the package and Coriander gets her first look at them, she knows they were meant for her alone. But her mother won't let her have them. She locks them away. Coriander hears them calling from their hiding place. Against her parents' wishes, she seeks them out, and she puts them on, not knowing what her mother did: that the shoes are a link to another world, her mother's world, and once Coriander puts them on, she can never return to the normal and happy life she knew.

I really loved this book. It was quite the page turner. If you're a fan of historical fantasy, I'd highly recommend picking this one up. It's the perfect blend of history, magic, and of course a touch of romance. Two thumbs up. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Leave It To Psmith

I died laughing.

Luckily, it appears I can still blog. Seriously though, I have not read a book by P. G. Wodehouse that I did not like. Mostly, though, I've just read his Jeeves and Wooster stuff. I mean, I did read Mulliner Nights, too, and that one was great. So I decided to branch out.

"Is Psmith (the P is silent) like Bertie Wooster?" Jacob wanted to know. Nnnnnooo... He IS a member of the Drones Club, but he also belongs to several other, more respectable, clubs in London. His driving motivation in this book is to find a job that is NOT in the fish business. So, yeah. He's job-hunting. That tells you how different he is from Bertie, right there.

He is hilariously long-winded. Unbelieveably eloquent and silly at the same time. When trying to win the love of his heart's desire he belatedly adds that he can do card tricks. And recite Gunga Din. He spends the majority of the book impersonating someone else and doing a horrible job of it.

Anyway, pick this one up if you need a laugh. And particularly if you like laughing at turn-of-the-century English people.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Four for the price of one

During my recent vacation I found more time to read than I have in a while. So here is a little bit about my latest reads:

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce. We listened to this one on the drive. I liked the narrator (VERY important for an audiobook) and I liked the story. Jacob and I laughed out loud fairly often. But the book is thought provoking as well. What would you do, really, if you had a million dollars? What if you had come by it in a very unlikely way? Mom, you should check this one out.





Karlsson-on-the-roof by Astrid Lindgren. Ransom recommended this one to me -- it's by the author of Pippi Longstocking. It was odd. And silly. And somewhat predictable, but much better than I thought it would be from the first bit of the book. Anyway, I enjoyed it and I think it would be quite fun to read with second or third graders because there is so much that is unexplained and that you could have them fill in. :)


Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. I had been meaning to read this one for quite a while. It was very cute. Tagline: She wanted dragon gold. She got a pair of slippers. So. It takes place in that fantasy time in which dragons are still around and used to be friends with humans, but aren't anymore. But Creel is going to change all of that. Maybe? She manages to be pretty sharp (but amazingly dense about the biggest most important thing in the book: the slippers) and her story is quite enjoyable. I'm glad I already own the sequel.




The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelucci & Jim Rugg. The Readergirlz pick for this month. This one is a graphic novel about Jane. She's recovering from tragedy and moving to a new town. Can she make friends and find herself? Can she change the world through art? I enjoyed the overarching themes of the book, and was entranced by the John Doe sub-plot, but had a bit of a hard time with some of their art attacks. I'm supposed to believe they had the money to buy the supplies for that? Without anyone knowing? mmm. Enjoyable read though.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Twilight: Graphic Novel Style

I'm kinda getting really excited about this! I like the fact that Edward and Bella do not look exactly like Kristen Stewart & Rob Pattinson. And I like the fact that Stephenie is highly involved. I was wondering what she's been up to...

To read my reviews of other graphic novels, click the "graphic novels" tag below.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mortal Instruments Trilogy

Alysa here! A good friend of mine has been raving about a trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I've heard the author's name, and asked Jenni to do a guest review of the series for us. Jenni and I are both avid Twilight and Harry Potter fans, if you couldn't tell...

When I started to read City of Bones, I had no idea how intense the series was going to be. I read all three books in a matter of days because I couldn't put any of them down. There’s a part of me that wishes I would’ve read this series as each book was published, so I could wait and let the adrenaline coursing through my body ebb a bit. But, then there’s an even bigger part of me that’s glad I didn’t have to wait between each book as it would’ve been torture, even more so than waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or Breaking Dawn.

The Mortal Instruments trilogy (consisting of City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass) is a young adult urban fantasy set in New York City. The Shadowhunters use runes to give them power to keep the world safe by defeating downworlders--non-humans or non-Shadowhunters. Mundanes, or humans, can't see Shadowhunters. However, one evening, Clary's thrown into the Shadowhunter world when she witnesses what she thinks is a murder. That same evening, she's attacked by a demon when she returns home to find that her mother has disappeared. She must enlist the help of Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks like an angel and acts a lot like a stuck up jerk, to find her mother.

Each book was just as intense as the previous one. However, I think the stories became more intense as I went along because I knew the characters and I was more interested in what happened to them. The feelings the characters were going through along with the intense situations occurring around them made each book so action-packed that I felt like I needed an inhaler to help slow down my breathing and a sedative to relax my nerves.

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain the intensity of this series to people who ask me what the books are about and this is what I’ve come up with. Imagine the frustration with the love triangle situation in Eclipse and add in the suspense and edge-of-your-seat feeling from the last three Harry Potter books, or even The Hunger Games. Unlike the Twilight Saga or Harry Potter, the books don’t deal with just one of those situations at a time; they deal with both intense situations throughout the entire series and it just escalates with each one! I was literally captivated by the story within the first chapter of each book.

City of Glass is probably the best ending to a series I’ve ever read. The story or ending didn’t feel contrived. It didn’t feel like it was forced to go a particular way to meet the author’s expectations. The characters grew and they still acted like I expected them too. Most of the conflict was resolved, but some of it was left open for future possibilities. The ending wasn’t too fluffy or over-the-top, yet it left me feeling satisfied. I’m very pleased with how things turned out and I can’t wait to read the stories again in the future.
Wow! It sounds intense! I've never needed an inhaler in my life, but I'll be ready when I pick these up, Jenni! Thanks for the review. Anybody else already read these?
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