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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. :)

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