Monday, May 31, 2010

It's Monday 5/31! What Are You Reading?

Happy Memorial Day!!

It doesn't feel like a Monday, with the whole family here with me.  It feels more like a second Sunday.  I wasn't sure everyone would be posting their usual Monday stuff, but I checked this morning and my blog reader was full of it, so I decided to take a few minutes out of our family stuff today to post our reading update, too.

Thanks to everyone who posted updates from BEA - I really enjoyed living vicariously through you!  I love NYC and would love to go to BEA.  And meeting up with fellow book bloggers sounds like a lot of fun!

We've read some good books this week:
  • Jamie, 15, is reading a new middle-grade book this week, The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson.  He says it's interesting and very unique, a story about two boys who play a weird board game that launches them into all sort of real life adventures (but Jamie says it's nothing like Jumanji).
  • Craig is finishing The Wind in the Door today, Madeleine L'Engle's sequel to A Wrinkle in Time.  He's trying to choose his next book, but he's only got two weeks left of school and still needs 11 points for the Accelerated Reader program.  He really wants to read Charlie Bone and the Red Knight by Jenny Nimmo, but it's too new to be on his school's AR list, so he'll have to write a summary of it instead.  He and I will both be glad when summer vacation starts, and he can read whatever he wants (though then I'll have trouble getting him to read at all!).
  • I managed to squeeze in Tinkers by Paul Harding with only a 2-day fine at the library!  This short novel just won the Pultizer, and I was hoping it would be a quick read, but it was a very dense book with lots of description and long, twisty sentences where I'd forget how the sentence had started by the time I got to the end.  I'm glad I stuck with it, though.
  • This weekend, I've been reading Morpheus Road: The Light, the first novel in DJ MacHale's new trilogy.  That's been just the opposite of Tinkers - I've been blowing through the chapters like it's popcorn - stuffing big handfuls in!  Wow, it's an amazing book, with incredible suspense.  I've stayed up way too late every night reading it and hope to finish it today.  We're all huge fans of MacHale's Pendragon series, and this new one is just as good (though scarier!).
  • My husband, Ken, has been reading grown-up books lately, rather than teen novels.  His favorite genre is suspense/thrillers, but last night I talked him into reading This Is Where I Leave You, a hilarious drama by Jonathan Tropper that I reviewed in January.
Last week was so hectic I didn't even fit in a review, but I plan to write one of Morpheus Road this week.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey).

P.S. Trying to write a blog post with the whole family home, demanding my attention, was beyond challenging!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Monday 5/24! What Are You Reading?

Just another Manic Monday...

We heard that song on the way to the bus stop this morning, and it's very appropriate today!  Craig almost missed his bus because he forgot to pack his band stuff, Jamie called and asked me to bring some papers to school that he left at home, and after school I need to take BOTH boys to get x-rays (one wrist, one ankle).  Whew, and it's not even 9 am yet.

Thank goodness for good books!
  • Jamie, 15, read Morpheus Road, the hot new book by DJ MacHale, author of one of our favorite series, Pendragon.  He says the new trilogy is very different from Pendragon but just as compelling!  This is next on my list.
  • Jamie started Charlie Bone and the Red Knight, Book 8 in The Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo, the latest addition to an old favorite series.  This is one of Craig's favorite series, too.  It's too new to be on his list at school, but he wants to read it this summer.
  • Craig, 12, is still reading The Wind in the Door, the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  He's enjoying it, but the nice weather makes it tough for him to sit down and read!
  • I finished Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann for my neighborhood book group.  Almost everyone liked this complex novel about intersecting lives in New York City, and it was great for discussion.
  • Next, I read The Soloist by Steve Lopez for another book group (I've had three book groups in three weeks this month!).  Even though I had already seen the movie, I loved the book and read it very quickly.  Book or movie, it's a fascinating, moving true story of the friendship between an LA Times reporter and a homeless, schizophrenic man who is a talented musician.
  • I have a huge stack of kids' and teen books I want to read, but instead I started Tinkers by Paul Harding.  It's due back at the library tomorrow (!), and now that it's won the Pulitzer, the wait list will be miles long, so I decided to try to squeeze it in.  I should have lots of reading time this afternoon at the x-ray place!
Last week, I posted  a review of two middle-grade audio books by Polly Horvath: My One Hundred Adventures and Northward to the Moon.  I enjoyed both very much.  I also posted a review of Sea Trails: Poems and 1977 Passage Notes by Pris Campbell on my grown-up book blog, Book By Book.  I'm not able to maintain Book By Book regularly right now, but if you're interested in what I think about the grown-up books I read, you can find me at Goodreads.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: My One Hundred Adventures and Northward to the Moon

Over the course of the past month, I listened to two audio books by Polly Horvath:  My One Hundred Adventures and its sequel, Northward to the Moon, and thoroughly enjoyed both.  These books are sweet, funny, and heartwarming stories about growing up.

In My One Hundred Adventures, twelve-year old Jane loves her family and her life on the beach in Massachusetts:

“Jane, Maya, Hershel, Max,” calls my mother.  She always calls my name first.  She is finished gathering [clams and mussels] and her baskets are heavy.  We run to help her bring things back to the house.  No one else lives year-round on the beach but us.  A poet with no money can still live very well, our mother reminds us, and I do not know why.  Who would think having to leave the ocean for most of the year is a better way to live?  How could we not live well, the five of us together?  I love our house.  I love the bedroom I share with my sister.  Our house has no upstairs like the houses of my friends.  It has one floor with a kitchen that is part of a larger room, and off of this large room with its big table and rocking chairs and its soft old couch and armchair and miles of booklined shelves are three bedrooms.  One for my mother, one for my brothers, one for my sister and me.  “I love this house,” I say to my mother often.  “You cannot love it as I do,” she says.  “No one can ever love it as I do.”

As much as she loves her life, Jane has grown a bit weary of the sameness of it.  At twelve, she feels she’s ready for some adventures, and she starts her summer hoping to find some – one hundred of them, if possible.  Jane gets what she hoped for – and more – in all sorts of unexpected events during her summer.

She takes a surprising ride in a stolen hot-air balloon, meets a supposed psychic, and possibly injures a baby with a Bible.  Meanwhile, she wonders whether every new man she meets might be her father or the father of one of her siblings (she’s not sure but thinks they may all have different fathers).  Jane is an innocent girl, ready to step out of the protective comfort of her family and experience life for herself.

In Northward to the Moon, the family leaves their beloved beach house to travel across the US and Canada, meeting far-off family and friends.  This book is filled with even more adventures for Jane, as she struggles with some hard lessons about growing up and learns what being part of a family is really all about.

Some reviewers thought these books would be better appreciated by adults rather than their intended audience of middle-grade readers, but I think kids of a certain age – especially girls – will relate to Jane’s yearnings for adventure and her desires to both grow up and still stay close to her family.  I think the books are best suited to kids between about 11 and 14.  The lower end of the stated age range of 9-12 seems a bit young to me – many aspects of the book might be a bit over the head of younger kids.

Horvath’s writing is lyrical with beautiful prose and little life lessons within that you want to write down and remember.  There’s a subtle yet pervasive sense of humor in Jane’s quirky adventures that makes you smile.

Readers who enjoyed Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor or  The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron will also enjoy these books about Jane's adventures.


Monday, May 17, 2010

It's Monday 5/17! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday again - this time of year is so busy!  I've been feeling a little better the past few days and am trying to get caught up on everything that piled up over the past 6 months or so.  I was so proud on Friday when I finally got through the remaining 200 unread e-mails still sitting in my Inbox from spring break - woohoo!  It doesn't take much to make me happy.

We have another busy week coming up, with book group for me, soccer for the boys, a business trip for my husband, and my mom and her husband coming to visit for a couple of days.  But we still find time for some good books:
  • Jamie, 15, finished Freefall by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, the third book in a wonderful middle-grade underground adventure series that started with Tunnels.  He keeps telling me that this book was amazing, and I need to make time for it (I still need to read book 2, Deeper first).  We're both excited about an upcoming movie version, but Jamie says he hopes they don't try to combine more than one book into the movie - he likes it better when the movies stick close to the books.  We both agree this could be a really cool movie if they get the special effects right.
  • Jamie started The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, a new teen fantasy novel.  He says it's good so far - a little dark, definitely for teens and not younger kids.  He's already thinking about lending it to a friend of his who kind of gave up on pleasure reading for a while, but Jamie's been working on him - it's so much fun to share great books with friends!
  • I usually alternate between grown-up books and kids/teens books, but I didn't have time this week to squeeze in any kids' books in between two book club reads!  I finished Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos (I enjoyed it) for the library book discussion last week, and I'm now in the middle of Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann for my neighborhood book group - I still have over 200 pages to read before Wednesday!
  • To my great delight, Craig, 12, finished A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle and said he loved it!  When I told him I have the rest of the series, he said, "It's part of a series?!"  He was even more excited to find out that the other books are on his AR list (Accelerated Reader - a program at school where they read books, then take quizzes about them online), so he has started A Wind in the Door.  He came downstairs last night to say, "Can I please stay up 15 more minutes?  This book is so good I can't put it down!"  Craig's not always excited about reading, so I'm loving this - he's not only reading without being made to, but he's hooked on my all-time favorite series.
  • I finished two middle-grade audio books by Polly Horvath - My One Hundred Adventures and Northward to the Moon.  I enjoyed them very much and will post a review this week.
Last week,  I posted a review of Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin, a middle-grade novel written from the perspective of an autistic boy.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: Anything But Typical

Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin is anything but a typical middle-grade novel.  Its narrator, 12-year old Jason, is autistic, and he tells his story from his own unique point of view, providing both an interesting story as well as fascinating insights into what it’s like to be autistic in a world filled with “normal” people, as in this scene at school:

Neurotypicals like it when you look them in the eye.  It is supposed to mean you are listening, as if the reverse were true, which it is not: Just because you are not looking at someone does not mean you are not listening.  I can listen better when I am not distracted by a person’s face.

What are their eyes saying?
Is that a frown or a smile?
Why are they wrinkling their forehead or lifting their cheeks like that?  What does that mean?

How can you listen to all those words when you have to think about all that stuff?

But I know I will get in trouble if I don’t look at the lady’s eyes.  I can force myself.  I turn my head, but I will look at her sideways.

I know the right words to use.

Last year, Jane, my one-on-one, taught me to say, “I am okay just as I am.”

I am okay just as I am.

She told me I had to say something in this sort of situation.  She said that people expect certain things.  She said that people will misunderstand me if I don’t say anything.

This is one of the many, many things I need to run through in my mind, every time.

Jason is intelligent and caring but, as you can see in that scene, has a hard time interacting with people in the ways that they normally expect.  But there’s one place where Jason feels completely comfortable – online at his favorite website, Storyboard.  Jason loves to write stories and post them on Storyboard, and he’s quite good at it, too. 

Another Storyboard member, Phoenixbird, enjoys Jason’s stories and leaves comments on his latest one. Jason and Phoenixbird get to know each other online, where they each admire the other’s writing, and Jason thinks he may have his first-ever real friend.  An opportunity comes up for them to meet in person, but Jason is afraid that Phoenixbird (whose real name is Rebecca) won’t like him anymore when she sees that he is autistic.  The novel alternates between Jason’s real life and updates to the story he’s posting on Storyboard.

I was captivated by Jason’s unique perspective and the chance to view life from an autistic person’s point of view.  For instance, I always thought people with autism didn’t feel emotions normally, but it is clear from Jason’s story that he feels plenty; he just doesn’t know how to express those feelings. I really enjoyed this warm and insightful book that contains some interesting plot twists and surprises.

195 pages, Simon & Schuster

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's Monday 5/10! What Are You Reading?

Wow, last Monday I said it felt like August; this morning it feels like March!  Crazy spring weather.  I hope all you Moms out there had a good Mother's Day.  We drove to Connecticut to my mom's house for the weekend.  My sister and her family were there, too - our annual celebration for both Mother's Day and my mom's birthday (tomorrow).  It was great to see everyone and to play with my niece and nephew, but I'm pretty worn out this morning!

We had an enjoyable reading week:
  • Jamie, 15, finished his nostalgic re-reading of all 14 Deltora Quest books on his shelf, an old favorite middle-grade fantasy series by Emily Rodda.
  • Jamie started Freefall by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, the third book in a wonderful middle-grade underground adventure series.  Jamie, Ken (my husband) and I all read the first book, Tunnels, which was excellent, a unique plot with plenty of suspense.  I haven't gotten to Deeper yet, the second book, but Jamie's says it's even better, and he's enjoying book three now, too.  The series is being made into a movie which should be amazing!
  • I finished Num8ers by Rachel Ward and could hardly put it down!  Check out my review of this exciting teen paranormal thriller that kept me up way past bedtime.
  • Now I'm reading a grown-up novel, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, written by a local Wilmington author, for my library's book discussion this week.  I'm enjoying it very much so far.
  • Craig is reading A Wrinkle in Time for English class and still loving it!  I'm thrilled that he's enjoying my favorite book from childhood!
  • In the car on the way to and from Connecticut, we listened to more of Erec Rex: The Search for Truth by Kara Kingsley.  This is the third book in a fantasy series we've been enjoying on audio since last summer's vacation - the boys really love this series.
What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Teen/YA Review: Num8ers

I devoured Num8ers by Rachel Ward this weekend.  This new teen/YA paranormal thriller was one of those books that completely captivated me  – I carried it around with me all weekend, reading a page here and there whenever I had a spare moment.  I’m not a huge fan of the recent flood of paranormal teen romances involving vampires, werewolves, and angels, but I love this kind of paranormal book, where a character has some sort of unusual power or insight.  It reminded me somewhat of Wake and Fade, which I also loved.

Fifteen-year old Jem has had a rough life.  Her mother died of a drug overdose when she was six, and since then, she’s been shuttled from one foster home to the next.  She’s developed something of a tough-girl exterior along the way.  But Jem is different from other disadvantaged teens on the streets of London because she has a unique power: when she looks into someone’s eyes, she sees their date of death.

Everyone’s got one, but I think I’m the only one who sees them.  Well, I don’t exactly “see” them, like something hanging in the air; they kind of appear in my head.  I feel them, somewhere behind my eyes.  But they’re real.  I don’t care if you don’t believe me – suit yourself, I know they’re real.  And I know what they mean.  The light went on the day my mum went.

I’d always seen the numbers, for as long as I could remember.  I thought everyone did.  Walking down the street, if my eyes met someone else’s, there it would be, their number.  I used to tell my mum people’s numbers as she pushed me along in my buggy.  I thought she’d be pleased.  She’d think I was clever.  Yeah, right.

Jem is struggling with school, trying to get by and avoiding people’s eyes as much as possible, when Spider comes into her life.  She knows him vaguely from school and, as usual, doesn’t want to get to know him better, but he’s very persistent.  Soon they become friends, two outsiders who feel a connection to each other, although Jem is very disturbed to see that his number is coming up soon.

Playing hooky from school one day with Spider, Jem foresees a terrible tragedy in downtown London and runs away in fear.  That sets off a chain of events over which she and Spider have no control.  It’s them against the world, as time is running out.

I found this fast-paced thriller to be so compelling that I had trouble sleeping after staying up too late reading it!  It’s a unique concept that is carried out well, with lots of London street slang in the dialogue, well-drawn characters that you come to care about, loads of suspense, and even a touch of romance.

325 pages, Chicken House (Scholastic)

Monday, May 3, 2010

It's Monday 5/3! What Are You Reading?

How can it possibly be May already?  (and do I say that at the start of every month?)  It hit 90 degrees here this weekend and feels like August already - yuck!  Good thing we had good books to read:
  • I finished Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin and really enjoyed the story written from the perspective of a 12-year old autistic boy.  Review to come this week.
  • I also read a grown-up book, Sea Trails: Poems and 1977 Passage Notes by Pris Campbell, a slim volume of poems, prose, and pictures about the author's sailing trip down the east coast.  Pris has the same immune system disorder that I have, and I was really impressed with her new book.  I'll review it at Book By Book.
  • The book that's been keeping me up at night this weekend is a new teen thriller, Num8ers by Rachel Ward.  I've been carrying this compelling and unique suspense novel everywhere with me this weekend!
  • Jamie, 15, continues with his personal quest to re-read the entire set of Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda, an old favorite of his.  There are 14 books in all in these middle-grade fantasy series, and I think he has only two left to go!
  • Craig, 12, is enjoying A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle very much, but he's frustrated that he can only read a little at a time.  This is a book he's reading for his Literature Circle in English class, and he's not supposed to read ahead of his group.  I love to hear him complaining that he wants to read more!
  • In between his assigned sections of A Wrinkle in Time, Craig is also reading The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett.  He loves mysteries but says it's a little slow to start.
  • I finished the audio book Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath, the sequel to My One Hundred Adventures.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of these sweet middle-grade audios and will review them here soon.
I posted a review of Kate DiCamillo's tender and beautiful novel, The Tiger Rising, this week.  Even though I'm on leave from my other book blog, Book By Book, I posted a review there this week of a funny new road trip novel, Roastbeef's Promise.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is hosted by Book Journey).