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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.

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