Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quick Note

Just wanted to mention (rather later than I should have) that I was featured on Carina of Reading Through Life's Reading Roots.  It was posted on Tuesday, but for some reason I was thinking it was supposed to be today.  Stop by to learn more about my mysterious reading past.

Challenging Reads

As a continued celebration of Banned Books Week, I thought that I'd give a short review of a challenged book I just reread and as a bonus, I've linked to reviews of other challenged books I've reviewed here previously.  It turns out that I've read many more challenged and banned books before the blog than I have since starting it.  I plan to work on that.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication date: December 1958
ISBN: 9780440995777 (mass market paperback)

Source: personal copy

The Witch of Blackbird Pond 
Kit Tyler is leaving the only home she's known in Barbados for the unknown New England coast, in search of her mother's only sister.  When she arrives, she is shocked at the austere and meager home her aunt and uncle have created; it is so different from her free and wealthy upbringing.  She struggles to fit in with those strict Puritans, especially when she befriends an old Quaker woman that everyone believes is a witch.

Things I Liked:
This is probably at least the twentieth time I've read this book.  It was one of the first books I remember reading and falling in love with.  I still adore the way Speare brings to life what it was like to live in Puritan New England with all the prejudices and the inner strength of the people.  I've always been a fan of Kit, both because she is unconventional and because she so obviously has flaws.  She is just as set in her ways as her aunt and uncle are in theirs.  I also noticed, on this read, how much more was going on in the book than I ever would have picked up on as a kid.  There was the political discussions and religious undertones and prejudices and much more.  I just love how well Speare has created a story that we enjoy and also slipped in bits of learning as well.  Still so deserving of its Newbery award, I think.  I assume it was challenged for the discussion of witchcraft.  Rather ironic, I think, because there is no witchcraft that actually takes place in the book.

Things I Didn't Like:
I noticed also that the ending is so neat and perfect.  While this is what made me love the book as a child, as an adult I find it just a little unrealistic.  But, definitely still makes me happy.  

The Bronze Bow or Calico Captive by Elizabeth George Speare

Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some minor incidents

Overall rating: *****

And, here are more reviews to help you get your Banned and Challenged Books fix:

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling 
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling 
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling 

Holes by Louis Sachar
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
Squashed by Joan Bauer
Stuck In Neutral by Terry Trueman
The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Most of these are taken from the list found at University of Illinois' list of challenged children's books.

How are you celebrating your freedom to read?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart

Nothing but Ghosts by Beth Kephart
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: July 2009
ISBN: 006166796X
Source: Library

Nothing but Ghosts 

Katie is still trying to deal with the loss of her mother and help her father deal with it as well.  Working for the summer for the rich and elusive Miss Martine, digging a hole for a new gazebo, she stumbles upon a mystery.  Why did Miss Martine disappear 50 years ago and why hasn't anyone seen her since?  What is the real reason for the hole they've been digging?  And most of all, if she finds Miss Martine, will she also be able to fill the hole her mother left in her life?

Things I Liked:
This is a sweet story with a heart.  I liked Katie as a character - she felt real, dealing with her grief and watching her dad deal with his.  I especially loved the librarian, of course, who helped her find info while looking spectacular.  The writing is absolutely lovely, though. Probably the best part about the whole book for me.  I wasn't too interested in the mystery itself, more of why Katie felt compelled to figure it out and how that related to her grieving process.  

"People come from all over to see my funky-looking, super-nerdy dad.  Paintings arrive by crates, in trucks, on canvas rolls - favored paintings, paintings with stains and tears, paintings smoked all over by a fireplace fire or left in somebody's basement, forgotten by everything but the thick, black mold.  He studies what comes through his pairs of glasses - the thousands of pairs he wears on his head or around his neck when they aren't on the bridge of his nose." p 4
"And maybe I don't know how you put regret inside a painting, maybe I can't figure out Miss Martine, maybe I can't really save my dad from sadness, but maybe so much time goes by that you start to understand how beauty and sadness can both live in one place." p 165
A woman has gone missing for fifty-three whole years.  That's more than three of my lifetimes.  And if I know where she is, maybe it will be easier to find my mother, or some way of living, of moving forward though she's gone. p 202
Things I Didn't Like:
It was a bit short.  I thought that it ended very neatly and was a little too swift in wrapping things up.  The ending even felt contrived - it almost didn't fit with the rest of the story.  I wanted more about Katie's mother.  But, I still enjoyed the book and look forward to more Kephart.  I definitely preferred Dangerous Neighbors to this one.

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff

s-factor: !
maybe one or two

mrg-factor: X
a little implied stuff, not much

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

It seems like there are more good stories with ok writing than ok stories with good writing.  Can you think of any?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Winner and Banned Books Week

Well, in case you missed it, I had my inaugural Name that Book post yesterday and it was a lot of fun!  Apparently, most of you thought it was too easy (and judging by the number of correct guesses, I'm assuming you were right).  So, I'll be adjusting some things to make some trickier ones in the future.  But, the winner of that first game was:

KT! (who apparently just happened to be watching my feed at the exact second I pushed publish)

Thanks everyone who played along and I hope to see you back here in two weeks for another episode! [Oops. I forgot to tell you the answers!  Book 1 was 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and Book 2 was Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.]

Speak: 10th Anniversary EditionNow, on to something less light-hearted.  It's officially Banned Books Week and though I don't really deal with this kind of problem in my own library, I hate to hear about it happening other places.  There's been a recent challenge to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and a few other books recently and frankly, I'm happy that there is so much attention on the book now.  That book needs more exposure!  That was the first book written specifically for teens that I remember picking up.  It sparked my love of YA books which, if you notice the usual types of reviews around here, have become favorites of mine.  Anyway, every woman at some point in her life (and I'm not one to say when that is because it's different for everyone) should read it.  

I also wanted to do a little celebrating of banned books, since I signed up for the Banned Books Reading Challenge.  I'm currently rereading The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare which is an all-time favorite for me.  I'm also hoping to read Blubber by Judy Blume and something John Green soon, though probably not this week.  

I just wanted to clarify the difference between books that are challenged and books that are banned.  A challenge is any formal (or sometimes informal) request for a book's place in a library or on a reading list to be reviewed.  Essentially, this means someone lodges a complaint against a book.  In many cases (thankfully), the books are not removed from the curriculum or library, because it is established that they have a justified place there.  When a book is removed from a library or curriculum based on a challenge, that is when a book is considered banned. Obviously, there are many more challenged books than banned ones, but both lists are much too long. Check out University of Illinois' list of challenged children's books for an example of the huge number of challenged books.

I'll admit that I'm a particularly picky reader; I won't pick up books that I think will make me uncomfortable and I've put some down that I thought weren't right for me.  But, no one (except for a parent) should decide what someone else should read.  

Celebrate your freedom to read and pick up a banned book!  What are you going to read?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Ivy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore

Ivy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication date: May 2010
ISBN: 9780823422616

Source: review copy provided by publicist

Ivy's Ever After 

Princess Ivy faces an unfortunate future locked in a tower, guarded by a dragon, until a prince can rescue her and become king.  But, when the arrogant and vicious Prince Romil shows up before she enters the tower, Ivy decides that she must take matters into her own hands.  She makes an unlikely friendship with Elridge, the dragon who's supposed to guard her and who appears to be more friendly than fierce.  The two of them set off to find Ivy's fairy godmother Drusilla, who they hope will help them keep Prince Romil from the throne.  Will Elridge and Ivy survive the precarious journey while battling trolls and swamp sprites?

Things I Liked:
It was a sweet story.  I loved Ivy and the decisions she faces with difficulty and yet without shrinking from them.  She was also pretty fun and spunky, entertaining in her efforts with Romil especially.  I was really impressed that the book was not about romance.  With a title like that, I was expecting a little love story.  But, it managed to scrape by with just a hint and therefore was able to focus more on other kinds of relationships.  I liked that Ivy decided she wasn't going to wait around in the tower and be rescued, but went out to fix things herself.  Definitely not a typical damsel in distress.  Elridge was a favorite of mine as well, even if his story and development was a little predictable.  A fun, quick read for tween girls who can't get enough princesses and dragons.

Things I Didn't Like:
It seemed rather predictable.  You could see almost everything coming from a mile away, but that might be my adult sensibilities and not how kids would read it.   

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Reminded me of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
a few dangerous situations, but nothing too scary

Overall rating: ****

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, September 27, 2010

Name That Book, Episode 1

Welcome to the first edition of my new book blog game.  As you may have figured out from the title, I'll post clues that will help you guess the title of a book.  My inspiration was a local book event at my library that had a trivia game.  Some of the puzzles involved guessing a book title from a group of photos, and I really wanted to guess more of them!  So, I decided I'd start it on my blog.  I wish I had prizes to give out to winners every time, but I will probably only do that once in a while (what with being poor and all).  But, I hope you'll want to play anyway, even if some of them will be quite easy.  I'll be doing this hopefully biweekly on Mondays, alternating with my Listless Mondays.   

Since it is the first time and all, I think I will have some kind of bookish prize for the first person to correctly guess the two book titles.  Please DO NOT put your guesses in the comments this time.  Instead, enter them in the form found at the bottom.  But, of course, feel free to comment about something other than the book titles, especially if you like the new game!

Book 1:

Book 2:

{Guessing is closed for this episode - come back in two weeks for another episode!}

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hard at Work

A Bit of Me(Me) is hosted by Danielle of There's a Book.
For this week's topic, we get to talk about jobs we hated or were embarrassed by.  Well, it turns out I haven't had a lot of formal jobs in my short career.  Probably about seven total.  The one that I still get grumpy about wasn't exactly a formal job.  I worked for a friend of my father's who owns a small business.  He pretty much runs it himself with occasional help from some of my other siblings and then myself.  Essentially, I would fill orders and ship the product.  Sometimes I'd do mailings, which were a pain.  It may not sound that bad, but I had my reasons for hating it.  

First, it made me get out of my comfort zone on a daily basis.  I know that people encourage you to get out of it, but I really liked my zone at that time (and still do like it :)  Often, it required me to answer the phone and talk to strangers.  This is still one of my all-time top ten things I hate.  I'm shy, so I don't like it (good thing I never did work for a call center).  

Then, I had to go to the post office and send the packages with a credit card number written on a piece of paper.  That is correct, I was not trusted enough to take the actual plastic with me.  This made for some rather uncomfortable moments when payment would be necessary and I'd hand over a crumpled up paper with numbers written on it.  Sometimes I'd have people who were familiar with me and my boss' methods of sending packages.  Other times, they'd look at me, expecting something more.  Always it caused me huge amounts of embarrassment and much redness of face.  I loathed it.  Going to work was a dreaded nightmare.  

I also didn't much like my boss as a person, though he was a close friend of my dad's, so I never really said much about it.  He made me feel uncomfortable in the sense that he'd always ask me questions to see how smart I was (seriously).  Let's just say, I was not sorry to move on.

What about you?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book Review: Wildwing by Emily Whitman

Wildwing by Emily Whitman
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: October 2010
ISBN: 9780061724527

Source: ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours


Addy is tired of the life she leads as a lower class maid.  She fights for a better life, but finds that some things just aren't possible.  Until she ends up in a time machine that takes her back to medieval times.  There, she is mistaken for a lady and ends up living the kind of life she always knew she wanted.  But, it isn't all she thought it would be.  Can she get back home to her mother and her old life or will she have to choose between her family and a boy she just might love?

Things I Liked:
I thought, at first, that it would be very predictable.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed the story, I liked the characters, I became invested in them.  Addy was fun and I enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes.  She lived a kind of backwards cinderella story, but I really liked how her character grew and developed over time.  Historical details of medieval times were perfect - not too much info, but definitely painting a realistic view of that time.  I loved the interesting details of falconry that were integrated into the story.  While it did turn out rather how I thought it would, it was not as simplistic as I expected.  And it was definitely more satisfying than I thought it would be.  An entertaining and sweet historical fiction with a time travel twist. 

I'm starched and ironed within an inch of my life.  My shoes are polished bright.  My cuffs and collar are scratchy-new.  Any specks of dust that come near take one look at my brilliant white apron, then turn and run shrieking in fear.  Which is what I want to do. p 8
I'm their lady, aren't I?  With a seat at the high table, and the best room in the castle, and Beatrix to dress me and fetch for me, and a jeweled cross as heavy as a cobblestone.  And yet here they are telling me what I can and cannot do  I thought I only had to say, I want! and they would leap to do my bidding.  But I was as clear as could be, and still the doors stayed closed.  There are rules, it seems, even for a lady. p 141
Things I Didn't Like:
I think the book was a bit too long for the story.  There was a lot of stuff going on before she ever traveled in time (I'm pretty sure that's not a spoiler, since it was on the back of the book).  A lot of the introductory material seemed unnecessary.  Sometimes it would drag in those parts as well.  But, the story does pick up later.

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

s-factor: !
a few

mrg-factor: X
implied, but nothing happens

v-factor: ->
a somewhat disturbing scene of a shipwreck

Overall rating: ****

What do you think of mixing a bit of sci-fi/fantasy into your historical fiction?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Little Cybils Cheer

I was so excited when I got the news that I'd get to be doing Cybils judging again!  I'm on the Round II panel for Elementary/MG Sci-fi and Fantasy.  I simply loved reading and talking about these kinds of books last year and I look forward to doing it again with these good people:

Kate Coombs, Book Aunt
Emily Mitchell, emilyreads
Nancy Tsai, Kidsmomo
Tanya Zavestoski Turek, Books 4 Your Kids

So, be sure to get your nominations in starting October 1.  And for more detailed info to get yourself all ready, check out Natasha's post What You Need to Know about the 2010 Cybils Awards.  

What books do you plan to nominate in this category?

Book Review: The Duff by Kody Keplinger

The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger
Publisher: Poppy (Hachette Book Group)
Publication date: September 2010
ISBN: 9780316084239

Source: ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours

The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) 

Bianca is satisfied hanging out with her two gorgeous friends and playing the smart, if cynical one in their trio.  Until Wesley, the school's biggest womanizer and jerk, calls her the Duff - designated ugly fat friend.  That name sticks in her mind and starts wearing down her confidence.  When things start to get too difficult to think about - what with being the Duff, dealing with her parent's decaying relationship, and the boy who broke her heart coming back to town - she has a surprising reaction to Wesley; she kisses him.  When she realizes that helped her forget about everything for a moment, they start up an enemy-with-benefits relationship that seems to help her deal.  Until she starts to learn more about the jerk Wesley and maybe begins to understand him more. 

Things I Liked:
This was one of those un-put-down-able books.  I couldn't look away from the disasters that happened in Bianca's life.  It really felt like what I assume a Gossip Girls episode is like (and I really have never watched one).  There is something about it that sucks you in and you have to find out if Bianca ever figures out how to deal with all that's going on in a different way.   A more healthy way. 
I read it almost entirely in one day.  I'd say it was enlightening and allowed me to see things through the eyes of someone who thinks very differently than myself.  And to see myself in the eyes of people who I think are so different from myself, but maybe aren't so much.  Bianca's snarky tone was a lot of fun sometimes - it helped to lighten the mood of the book too.  Oh, and I just loved the friendship between Bianca and her two girl friends.  They had a depth that I wasn't expecting.  Some fun quotes:
I hated the place for the simple reason that it made my friends, who could be somewhat sensible most of the time, act like idiots.  But in their defense, they weren't the only ones.  Half of Hamilton High showed up on the weekends, and no one left the club with their dignity intact. p 2 of ARC
After thinking about it for a while, I decided that there were a lot of benefits to being the Duff.  Benefit one: no point in worrying about your hair or makeup.  Benefit two: no pressure to act cool - you're not the one being watched.  Benefit three: no boy drama. p 57 of ARC
You didn't, like, stab the boy, did you?  I mean, I totally disapprove of murdering hotties, but if you need help burying the body, you know I'll bring the shovel. p 72-73 of ARC
Things I Didn't Like:
Honestly, while I finally did understand and even agree that Bianca's reaction to her family problems and other difficulties was believable, I still struggled with her choices.  It is just NOT what I wanted her to do, which obviously didn't change the basic facts or merit of the book.  It broke my heart to watch her so callously treat herself and Wesley, thinking it wouldn't make a dent on her emotional state.  Also, while the book had an excellent point about learning to love ourselves and not looking down on other people whose motivations and history we know nothing about, it seemed a bit heavy-handed.  The messages were sort of pounded in and very obviously repeated when Bianca finally "got" it.  Could have been a little more subtle.  I'm probably not the best audience for this one, since I know I've seen a lot of rave reviews for it.  Still, an impressive debut from one whose memory of this age is more fresh than my own. :)

Reminded me of The Real Real by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Maybe a little like North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

s-factor: !@#$%!
almost made me put down the book, there were so many f-bombs

mrg-factor: XXX
casual and frequent incidents, some rather descriptive

v-factor: ->
one domestic violence incident

Overall rating: ***

Is this the kind of book you think you'd enjoy?  Why or why not?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Long Neglected Loot Post

(hosted by Marg of Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Claire of The Captive Reader)

So, I've been putting this off every week for about a month now.  I don't know why, but it never seems like the right day for a library loot post.  But now!  Now I get to catch up on all that I checked out and got in the mail.  Brace yourselves:

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee
Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (book club set!)
Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan (reloot)

And things have continued to be insane in my mailbox (so much so that I can't say whether this is actually all of it since my last post - oh well).  And I decided to join up with Kristi of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox, since that's most of my post:

Nice and Mean by Jessica Leader
Matched by Ally Condie (second copy - hooray for a giveaway!)
Call Me Kate by Molly Roe
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
Radiance by Alyson Noel
What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb
I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan
The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante
The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein

For Traveling ARC  Tours, I've gotten these recently:
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Virals by Kathy Reichs
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Now I've really got to keep up with this so it isn't such a marathon list and so I don't forget about books that come for me!  

What did you get?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review: I So Don't Do Makeup by Barrie Summy

I So Don't Do Makeup by Barrie Summy
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication date: May 2010
ISBN: 9780385737883

Source: review copy provided by publicist

I So Don't Do Makeup 

Sherlock Holmes Baldwin (aka Sherry) is becoming an old hand at solving mysteries.  When she and her friends discover a plot to put their new favorite makeup store out of business, she decides to use her new skills to find the culprit.  She even enlists the help of her ghost mother, who works for a ghost detective agency.  But, things don't run quite as smoothly as she'd like and she just might end up making a bigger mess of things than before. 

Things I Liked:
This was a fun, light, and fluffy read.  I enjoyed having something quick and entertaining to read between more dense matter.  It was fun to follow the fairly straight-forward plot of this mystery.  While there are plenty of red herrings and predictable points in the story, it is sure to entertain those tween girls looking for a new mystery series starring someone a little more up-to-date than Nancy Drew.  A cell-phone wielding, makeup wearing, purse shopping kind of girl they might even relate to.

Things I Didn't Like:
Again, pretty predictable in plot, and rather mindless in terms of anything deeper than what color of eyeshadow to wear.  But, pretty fun all the same.

Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden fans might like this series

I So Don't Do Mysteries and I So Don't Do Spooky by Barrie Summy

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none
light kissing and hand holding

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

What do you read for a little fluffy pleasure?

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, September 20, 2010

Listless Monday, Forever Young

Listless Monday was inspired by both Amanda at A Bookshelf Monstrosity's feature Books by Theme and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

Blue Bloods (Blue Bloods, Book 1) Evermore: The Immortals Hush, Hush 
City of Ashes (Mortal Instruments) Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely (Quality)) Eternal

With the number of books out there now that are about creatures of some kind or another than happen to have a really long life, I thought it would be fun to gather as many as possible in one list.  This can be vampires or angels or faeries or werewolves or anything else that seems to persist forever or even just a really long time.

Forever Young

Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz 
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Ever by Gail Carson Levine
Everlasting by Angie Frazier
Evermore by Alyson Noel
Evernight books by Claudia Gray
Fallen and Torment by Lauren Kate
Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
Hush, Hush and Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Twilight series by Stephenie Meyers
Vampire Academy books by Richelle Mead
Wicked Lovely books by Melissa Marr
Wings by Aprilynne Pike
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

I'd love your suggestions!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book Review: Snap by Carol Snow

Snap by Carol Snow
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: August 2009
ISBN: 0061452114

Source: Review copy provided by publisher


All Madison wanted was the spend the summer in Hawaii with her parents.  But, when that trip is cancelled so they can go on a cheap and boring vacation to a tiny beach town, Madison is angry and upset.  There seems to be nothing to do there, but take photos.  When those photos start showing people who were not there when she took the shots, she's starting to get worried.  Especially when they turn up dead.  Can she figure out what is going on before it's too late?

Things I Liked:
I was most intrigued with the way Madison changed over the course of the book.  She seemed a little bit stereotypical at the beginning and her transformation was expected, but still I enjoyed the journey.  I liked the interactions she had with her family and how each of them dealt differently with their changed circumstances.  I loved even more how she and her best friend from before don't give up on each other.  Even when things are so different and they don't live close by, they kept that going.  I find that the most satisfying part of the book.  I also really liked Duncan as a person.  He was the one I'd like to be friends with the most.  One other thing I thought was pretty unique was the way this book looked at people who suffered from the housing market drop.  Also, it didn't really try to hide the horrible effects it had on people who were so deeply in debt and living way beyond their means.  Definitely not something you get often in a young adult book.

Things I Didn't Like:
The paranormal camera aspect did nothing for me.  That almost seemed like a completely unnecessary device to keep the plot moving.  I thought the book's strengths lied more with the realistic portrayal of X and how she interacted with those around her, friends old and new, as well as her parents.  I would have left that whole story out (and it didn't show up very much until near the end either).  The ending wrapped up almost a little too neatly.  Not that she got everything she wanted, but things did work out so nicely for them, especially with a house, that it felt a little too unreal.  Something more realistic, like the trashy apartment complex, would have been better, I think.

The Mark by Jen Nadol

A little like Evermore by Alyson Noel

s-factor: !
a very few

mrg-factor: none
some kissing

v-factor: ->
some minor 

Overall rating: ***

What books do you think would do better without paranormal aspects?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, September 17, 2010

Winners are the BEST!

The two winners in my Spaceheadz giveaway, each getting a copy of Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka and a Spaceheadz pencil are:

Kristen and Gayle

Congrats, ladies!  I'll be passing your info on to the publisher to send those gifts along.  Hope you enjoy a little alien humor!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

BBAW Day 5: Future Treasures

This was a hard post to write.  Well, the second half anyway.  I'll admit I am terrible with making goals (and even worse at following through).  But, as far as things I love about BBAW, that isn't too hard.  I loved finding new blogs, and I love that the links will be there for longer than this week and I'll be able to find new blogs for months to come (I didn't visit nearly as many blogs as I'd like to).  I especially loved the Forgotten Treasures we told each other about.  I hope we all pick one of those up and read it, if only to find out what makes another person tick.  I hope someone somewhere picks up Precious Bane and finds a new friend in that book.  

And now, on to the hard part.  I may have cheated a little and looked at other people's blogs first for ideas.  But, that is another one of the benefits of BBAW - a whole truckload of ideas!  Here are three that I finally settled on:

1. Not reading so much and feeling so stressed about finishing books on time that I no longer enjoy reading.  This is actually something I've been feeling coming on for a few weeks.  I have to step back, remember why I love to read, and then find some books that will pull me out of the "I have to finish this by" funk.  

2. Write some more thoughtful reviews.  I notice that with the above problem, my reviews start to all sound the same and I use those cliche words over and over.  If I liked something, why did I like it?  If I didn't, why not?  This will take a little more time when writing reviews, but I think will totally improve the quality of them.  (At the same time, if I can't think of why or why not, I'm not going to bang my head against that review until I figure it out.  So, maybe only some of my reviews will improve! :)

3. Get a new project that I've been sitting on going.  I've been thinking about starting this new feature at my blog which I think will be a lot of fun, but I've been stalled on it.  It will actually require quite a bit of time at first, but I think once I get it going, it will not be as difficult.  I'd like to see the first post go up in a few weeks time at the latest.  I hope you check back and see if I actually accomplish this one.  

So, what are your blogging goals?

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication date: August 2010
ISBN: 9781606840801

Source: ARC provided by publicist

Dangerous Neighbors 

During the World's Fair in Philadelphia in 1876, Katherine must come to terms with the loss of her twin sister Anna.  She struggles to understand why Anna is gone and her part in the loss of her sister.  Surrounded by the people who came to Philadelphia for the fair and by cultures from around the world represented there, we get a very individual and human story of one young woman remembering the times she had with Anna and deciding if she wants to live life without her. 

Things I Liked:
Lovely, lovely writing.  This is my second taste of Beth Kephart, and I have to admit she has a way with words.  The writing isn't what you'd call flowery, showy or gripping, but it has a quiet power that draws you into the heart and soul of her characters.  I loved the setting, a time and place that I haven't read a lot about.  But, I especially loved Anna and Katherine.  They are what make this story tick.  The memories of the heartbreak and joy that both come from the same relationship.  A touching story.  Some lovely quotes:

The bird has gone off on some tune.  Short, unsustained notes - more like questions than songs.  The rustling of its feathers is like the sound of a hand cupped to an ear - that space between the hand and the ear, where the heartbeat echoes. p 38-39 of ARC
High above is the crystal chandelier, and Anna won't take her eyes off it; in Anna's eyes it shines.  It's like the icicles that form on the edge of a roof when the sun gets trapped inside - a cascade of ice and sun. 
"Like sitting inside a jewelry box," Anna whispers, and Katherine nods. p 158 of ARC
Things I Didn't Like:
I found that I was less interested in the present parts of the story, at least initially.  I loved far more the flashbacks Katherine experiences, her memories of Anna.  When she was in the present, things were so much more foggy.  I think that might have been intentional, since she was trying to deal with the guilt and sorrow and it was clouding her sight.  However, I got confused and even a bit bored with those parts.  But, taken as a whole, I really enjoyed this book!

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart

s-factor: none
that I recall...

mrg-factor: X
a very little implied

v-factor: ->
some scary situations, nothing graphically violent

Overall rating: ****

The Hidden Treasures idea for a BBAW post is perfect for this review.  I know Kephart's books have been under the radar for many, though the efforts of Amy from My Friend Amy and Nicole from Linus' Blanket have helped a lot. I know they are the reasons I picked up my first Kephart and why I agreed to read this one as well. She could certainly use more attention, and I think deserves it, if only for the sheer beauty of her writing!

And I would be remiss in my Hidden Treasure duties if I didn't also mention an absolute favorite classic book that I think I have yet to meet a book blogger who's read it! This beautiful book is Precious Bane by Mary Webb, which I posted a review of a long time ago. This book impacted me so much when I read it, possibly because it was a gift from my sister-in-law during a time when I was recovering from a (seemingly) broken heart. I was definitely mopey, sad, and feeling ugly. This book reminded me what beauty is and to look for it in everyone. If you can get through the colloquial language of the book (which is probably the hardest thing people find when reading it), then it is bright and sparkling and so lovely. If you have the time and patience, do try it and then come back and let's talk about it. Ok, end of raving.

What is your Hidden Treasure?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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