Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Monday 11/29! What Are You Reading?

 Happy Monday - hard to believe it's almost December already!

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your family.  We had a very special holiday week.  My mom and her husband treated us and my sister's family to a vacation in Jamaica at the Beaches Negril resort!  It was our first trip to the Caribbean (aside from Puerto Rico) and our first time at a resort, and the entire week was magnificent.  We spent the week swimming, snorkeling, and eating a lot!  My chronic illness even cooperated so that I could enjoy the trip - I realized it helps a lot when I have absolutely no responsibilities, no stress, and can sleep for 11 hours a night!

I wasn't here for last Monday, so this is a 2-week catch-up on our reading:
  • I read lots of short books in the busy week before we left, starting with a sweet middle-grade novel, Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord, author of the award-winning Rules.  Check out my review.
  • I finally got to The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, a wonderfully moving and inspirational book written by an author disabled with the same illness my sons and I have, ME/CFS.  I'll post a review this week at Book By Book.
  • Before we left, I squeezed in one more middle-grade book, a humorous take-off on the Hardy Boys called Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett.  Lots of fun - review to come this week.
  • On our trip, I read a classic, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, for one of my book groups that's meeting tomorrow evening.  I'm not a huge fan of period novels, so it dragged at times for me, but overall, I enjoyed it.
  • Jamie, 16, decided to leave our hardcover copy of the 1,000-page The Stand at home for vacation (he's somewhere around page 700).  Instead, he brought along and read two old favorite paperbacks.  He likes to read themed novels when we travel, so he read two novels set among pirates in the Caribbean:  Peter Raven Under Fire by Michael Molloy (this might have been his third read of this one!) and The Angel's Command by Brian Jacques.  He says both are excellent (appropriate for middle-grade or teens).
  • Craig, 12, read absolutely nothing!  That's his idea of vacation.  I really need to get him back in the reading habit this week (kicking and screaming).
  • My husband, Ken, spent two weeks in Europe on business, came home for one night, then left with us for Jamaica the next day!  He finished New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith, a mystery novel set among the wealthy high society of our favorite city.  He started a new paperback he picked up for his travels, The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd, a new author for him but one recommended by a favorite of his, Lee Child.
So, lots of reading and lots of fun.  Now it's time to catch up, read those 400 e-mails waiting for me, and get back to writing reviews. Hope you had a great holiday, too!

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Middle-Grade Review: Touch Blue

I absolutely loved Cynthia Lord’s debt novel, Rules, which won a Newberry Honor, so I was excited to hear she had released a new middle-grade novel, Touch Blue.  Lord’s realistic, fun portrayal of adolescents’ ups and downs continues with this unique story.

The setting for Touch Blue happens to be one of my favorites: a small island off the coast of Maine (wouldn’t you love to live there?).  Eleven-year old Tess loves to go out on her family’s boat with her lobsterman father and wholeheartedly believes in all sorts of maritime folk tales about luck, including the one that says when you touch something blue, you can make a wish.

Tess’ island schoolhouse is about to be closed down by the state due to a decrease in enrollment.  The islanders have come up with a plan to keep it open by taking in foster kids to increase enrollment (and do something good in the process).  Thirteen-year old Aaron comes to live with Tess’ family.

Aaron has had a rough life.  His mom is not able to take care of him, and his grandma died a couple of years ago.  He’s been moved around to different foster homes and feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere.   Here’s Tess’ first view of Aaron:

Then I see Aaron.  Skinny as a spar, he seems too tall for thirteen, with a pinched-sour mouth and red hair.  A redhead on a boat is unlucky!  Why didn’t I remember to mention that to his caseworker?  His hair, bright as October leaves, falls near to his shoulders.

Tess is doing her best to find good luck charms and make the right wishes, but it might take more than that to make things work out.  This sweet story about belonging to a family and a community is perfect for middle-grade readers, with realistic characters and plenty of warmth and humor.

186 pages, Scholastic

To learn more about Cynthia Lord and her books, you can visit her website and her blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Monday 11/15! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday!  I can't believe it's mid-November already, and the holiday season starts next week - yikes!  Things will get really hectic from here out.

Last week was a busy one, too.  Craig was home sick for two days, I was under the weather myself most of the week, my husband was still out of town, and Craig hurt his knee on Thursday.  Typical week with kids, right?  He got an MRI Friday night, and we're headed to the orthopedic specialist this morning.  It's feeling a lot better, so hopefully, it's nothing too serious.

I did find time to read during all that craziness (actually waiting rooms are a great opportunity to read!):
  • I finished Beloved by Toni Morrison.  Wow.  I understand why it's considered a modern classic.  Review to come this week (somehow I ran out of time for reviews at the end of the week...)
  • I read a sweet middle-grade novel, Touch Blue, by award-winning author Cynthia Lord.  I loved her first novel, Rules, and this one was very good as well.
  • I started The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, a beautifully written memoir by Elisabeth Tova Bailey who has the same chronic illness I have.  So far, it's just as good as everyone said it was.
  • Jamie, 16, is still making his way through The Stand by Stephen King.  A friend was teasing him this weekend, "You're still reading the same book?"  Jamie said, "It's over 1000 pages long with small print!"  Despite all the school work that keeps him busy, he is still finding time to enjoy this novel and says it just keeps getting better and better.
  • I honestly have no idea what Craig, 12, is reading right now.  I'm having trouble getting him to read much of anything, and he keeps switching books after reading only a chapter or two!  I know he started a Hardy Boys book last week while he was home sick (his version of comfort reading).  If anyone has any suggestions of a book for a 7th grade boy that grabs you in the very first chapter, I'd love to hear it! 

Last week, I posted a review of the teen suspense novel, The Deadly Sister.  I also posted a couple of fun items on my adult book blog, Book By Book:  some new videos by the author of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life and a trailer for a new movie version of Jane Eyre.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Teen/YA Review: The Deadly Sister

The Deadly Sister by Eliot Schrefer is a murder mystery/thriller with some surprising twists and turns.  Besides the mystery at its heart, it takes a close look at what family means.  How far would you go to protect your family members?

Seventeen-year old Abby Goodwin has always watched out for her younger sister, Maya, from her problems at school through more recent and serious problems with drugs:

She slammed her car into a light pole.  The police found her partying in a construction site late at night, high out of her mind.  When the school threatened academic expulsion, I vowed to find her a tutor so she could get her GED.  I lied to our parents about where she got that wad of rolled-up bills they discovered in her messenger bag.  I kept quiet when she pawned the china our grandmother had left our parents; they wouldn’t know it was gone until they tried to set the table next Thanksgiving.  Every secure thing she pried up in our lives, I quietly followed behind and glued it back down.

I might have been able to protect her forever.

Until Jefferson Andrews showed up dead.

When Abby finds the dead body of a classmate of theirs during a morning run and discovers that Maya is missing, she launches into her role as protector.  After helping Maya to hide, she starts her own investigation to try to clear Maya’s name.  From there, nothing is at it seems, and the more she discovers, the less things seem to make sense.  Who can she trust?  And what is the right thing to do?

This novel moves along at a quick pace, with lots of unexpected twists and turns in the plot.  I read it quickly, wanting to know what would happen next.  Fan of mysteries and thrillers will enjoy this unique novel about sisterly devotion.

310 pages, Scholastic

Recommended for older teens and young adults, as it contains violence and drug abuse.


Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Monday 11/8! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday!  Another busy week here.  Last week of the marking period for the kids, so they had a lot of work to do, my husband is traveling for business again, and I'm busy trying to be both mom and dad!  I don't think the kids had any time at all for reading last week, but I did:
  • I finished Unwind by Neal Shusterman and absolutely loved it!  I couldn't wait to tell you about it, so I posted a review the same day.
  • Now, I'm in the middle of Beloved by Toni Morrison for our library book discussion this week.  It's a Classic Potluck - everyone reads a classic of their own choosing then tells the group about it.  I know some don't consider Beloved old enough to be a classic, but it was included on a list of classics from the library, and I've wanted to read a Toni Morrison book for a long time.  She's got an unusual writing style at times, but I'm enjoying this moving story very much so far. 
  • My husband took his new mystery, New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith, with him on his trip, along with Unwind, after Jamie and I raved about it!
  • Jamie, 16, is still reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury for school (he says he's ahead of the class since he read a lot while he was sick recently) and The Stand by Stephen King for fun.
  • Craig, 12, is still reading The Book of Time by by Guillaume Prevost, the first book in an exciting, fast-paced time-travel series, but I don't think he read at all last week!  We'll have to remedy that this week...
Besides the review of Unwind (you must read this book!), I also posted a summary of all the books I read in October on my other blog, Book By Book.

And check out these details of the upcoming movie versions of The Hunger Games and The Help.  I can't wait to see both of them!

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Hunger Games Movie

I'm so excited!

They're turning one of my all-time favorite teen/YA books, The Hunger Games, into a movie!  This update talks about the director (sounds like a good one - I loved Pleasantville and Seabiscuit). 

No word yet on who will play Katniss.  I think it needs to be a relatively unknown actress.  For instance, I think Kristen Stewart would have done a great job with Katniss...before she became such a big star in the Twilight movies.

Will you go see the movie?  Who do you think should play in the lead roles?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teen/YA Review: Unwind

I usually only read at certain times of day – when I rest in the afternoon and before bed at night – but today, I carried my book around with me, snatching minutes of reading time whenever I could.  Neal Shusterman’s dystopian teen/YA novel Unwind is absolutely chilling and completely compelling.  In fact, I also usually write my reviews in the order I read the books, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about Unwind.

Sixteen-year old Connor can’t believe his parents have signed the order to have him unwound.  In this frightening future, a second Civil War has been fought over reproductive rights.  The compromise that ended the war, The Bill of Life, states that life begins at conception and can not be disrupted until the age of thirteen.  From thirteen to eighteen, though, parents can choose to “unwind” their child, whereby every bit of him or her is transplanted into different donors, so that life doesn’t officially end.

Risa, fifteen, is a ward of the state who needs to be unwound to make room for the infant orphans arriving.  And Lev celebrates his thirteenth birthday with a huge party – not a bar mitzvah, but a tithing party, as Lev, the tenth child in a family with ten kids, has been brought up specifically to be unwound as a tithe for his family’s church:

“Are you getting scared?” Pastor Dan asks.  He’s always able to figure out what’s on Lev’s mind.

Lev nods.  “I thought I was ready.  I thought I was prepared.”

“It’s natural.  Don’t worry about it.”

But it doesn’t ease the disappointment Lev feels in himself.  He’s had his entire life to prepare for this – it should have been enough.  He knew he was a tithe from the time he was little.  “You’re special,” his parents always told him.  “Your life will be to serve God, and mankind.”  He doesn’t remember how old he was when he found out exactly what was meant for him.

In this warped world, the three Unwinds are strangers, but their paths soon cross in unexpected ways and they are bound by their destinies.  Their only hope of survival is to work together.

Unwind is a fast-paced, suspenseful adventure where the outcome of failure is unthinkable.  Although its premise is disturbing, it’s impossible to put down.  Like Shusterman’s excellent Skinjacker Trilogy that begins with Everlost, the author has created another unique world populated by adolescents left on their own to create their own society.  His characters are fully formed and sympathetic, even the ones who don’t appear so at first.  I finished Unwind and wanted to read everything else Neal Shusterman has written.

335 pages, Simon & Schuster

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Monday 11/1! What Are You Reading?

Eeek!  November already?  How on earth did that happen?  From here on out, time seems to go double-speed through January. 

Back to October for a moment.  We had a wonderful Halloween weekend, filled with pumpkins, cider, and fun costumes.  Our whole family dressed up as rock stars for Halloween (that's me in front), and the boys had a blast trick-or-treating.  We love our Halloween traditions - fun weekend, but tough to have Halloween on a Sunday night.  My son was getting ready for school this morning and said, "Mom, we have a problem!"  The insides of his ears were black from the spray-on hair dye!  I got him cleaned up before the bus came.  Personally, I had a terrible time washing off the black lipstick and eyeliner.

Besides Halloween, we had a very busy week - my husband was out of town, my mom stayed with us most of the week, Jamie was sick for another 3 days, then had a mountain of make-up, we had very little reading time.  Here's what we read:
  • I finished The Deadly Sister by Eliot Shrefer and enjoyed it very much.  It's a murder thriller for teens/YA with some unexpected twists.  Review coming this week.
  • I usually alternate kids/teen books with grown-up books, but I made an exception this week so I could read something spooky for Halloween.  So, I'm in the middle of Unwind by Neal Shusterman, a chilling book about a time in the future when abortion is illegal but parents can choose to "unwind" their kids when they're teens, sending them to a harvest camp where all of their organs are transplanted to donors so that life doesn't technically end.  I loved Shusterman's Everlost and Everwild, and Unwind is just as good.  A perfect Halloween read!
  • My husband, Ken, worked long hours on his business trip, so he just finished Cover Her Face by P.D. James, which he said was a classic British mystery.
  • Next, he's starting a book I gave him for his birthday, New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith - I thought he'd enjoy a mystery set in our favorite city!
  • Jamie, 16, is still reading Fahrenheit 451 by Rad Bradbury for school and The Stand by Stephen King for fun (he's on about page 500 of 1000!).
  • I don't think Craig, 12, read much at all last week, but he's still working on The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost, the first book in an exciting, fast-paced time-travel series.
I had a lot of fun last week posting my Top Ten Books to Read for Halloween, and I posted a review of a teen audio book, She's So Dead To Us (which sounds a bit Halloween-y but really isn't).  I also posted a review of Who Has Seen the Wind on my grown-up book blog, Book By Book.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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