Monday, April 25, 2011

It's Monday 4/25! What Are You Reading?

Good morning and happy Monday!  I hope you all had a nice Easter.  Ours was a bit odd - spent in the car mostly - but we arrived in Oklahoma in time to have a nice Easter dinner with my father-in-law.  The kids got their Easter baskets in our camper in the morning in Arkansas!

With all the work of packing up last week, then 3 1/2 days of driving, my husband and I haven't had much reading time (I get sick if I read in the car), but between being sick all last week and having 8 hours a day on the road, my oldest son has been reading non-stop!
  • I am still reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  It's a hefty one!  It's different than I expected, but I am engaged by the story now and enjoying it.
  • My husband, Ken, is still reading Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks, from our library.  This is the thriller that's been compared in style to Janet Evanovich, so he's enjoying it very much.
  • Jamie, 16, has been on a reading marathon, reading about a book a day!  While sick last week, he read three books in the series by Orson Scott Card: Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide.
  • Still sick, Jamie decided to take a break from the Ender's Game series and comfort himself with some old favorites from the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  I haven't tried to keep track of the titles, but I think he's now on his 4th Redwall book since we left home!  It's probably the third time he's read most of these.  He says he has two more that he brought along with him before he resumes newer books.
  • We've all been listening to Sapphique by Catherine Fisher in the car.  Last spring break, we listened to the first book in the series, Incarceron, on our way to Louisiana and loved it!  The sequel is excellent so far.
  • Last night, we began reading the book from Craig's Easter basket together, 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, a middle-grade novel about kids finding alternate worlds through cupboards in their attic.  We've just started it, but it sounds intriguing. 
Last week, I posted reviews of The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton at Book By Book and a middle-grade novel, The Kind of Friends We Used to Be by Frances O'Roark Dowell.  I also posted a preview clip for the movie adaptation of The Help - I can't wait to see it!

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Middle-Grade Review: The Kind of Friends We Used to Be

I had always meant to read The Secret Language of Girls by award-winning author Frances O’Roark Dowell and somehow never got around to it, but I did finally read its sequel, The Kind of Friends We Used to Be, last week and enjoyed it very much, despite missing the first book.

This middle-grade novel, like its prequel, is about two friends, Kate and Marylin, who are coping with all the changes and growing complexities of life in middle school.  The two girls have been friends for many years but are finding that their interests are no longer the same:

The night before [Kate] decided to learn how to play guitar, she’d gone to a Back-to-School party at Marylin’s house.  Throwing a Back-to-School party was a very Marylin thing to do, which Kate would know, since she and Marylin had been friends since preschool and had managed to stay friends, even though Marylin was now a middle-school cheerleader and cared too much about her hair.

As Kate and Marylin enter 7th grade, they find themselves drifting apart, even though they still like each other and want to be friends.  Kate has a new interest – playing guitar and writing music – and she meets new friends through that interest, while Marylin has a whole new set of friends on the cheerleading squad.  Marylin senses that some of her new friends aren’t very nice, but she loves being a cheerleader.

Their story is told in alternating chapters from both girls’ points of view, as they discover new interests, meet new friends, and try to retain their cherished old friendship.  They are both struggling with common issues for middle-schoolers:  how to fit in, how to be true to yourself, and how to negotiate the complex and confusing social landscape of middle-school.

I really enjoyed this novel and came to care for both main characters.  They felt real to me, and I’m sure their problems will be familiar to kids of this age.  The novel didn’t wrap up in a nice, neat conclusion, but real life is seldom nice and neat either.  Instead, it came to a satisfying end, giving you the impression that both girls were well on their way to finding their places in the world.

234 pages, Athenenum (imprint of Simon & Schuster)

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's Monday 4/18! What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday!

I have two boys home sick today.  Just a flare-up of their chronic illness, the result of too much fun this weekend.  Jamie went to his prom Friday night and stayed out until 2 am, and Craig had a sleepover at a friend's house Saturday night.  Hopefully, they will both recover quickly.

Another busy week coming up - lots of work to do, plus spring break preparations.  Good thing we have lots of good books to read as well:
  • I finished The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton but not in time for my book group!  That was OK since I was almost finished and had already figured out the ending.  Everyone in my book group loved this novel that is part mystery and part family epic.
  • Next, I finished a book I'd started last week and had to set aside to read my book group book:  The Kind of Friends We Used To Be, a middle-grade novel by Frances O'Roark Dowell.  I enjoyed this book very much, even though it's a sequel and I hadn't read the first book, The Secret Language of Girls.
  • Now, I am reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  This one has been sitting on my shelf for awhile, and I thought it would be a good one to bring along for spring break, since it's so long.  I'm finding it a bit slow to start, but I've heard so many great things about this novel, I'm sure it will pick up soon.
  • On my iPod, I am listening to Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.  I'd heard a wonderful review of this memoir on my favorite podcast, Books on the Nightstand.  It's excellent so far.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and enjoyed it.  He says he learned a lot about Japan's role in World War II (me, too).
  • I grabbed some more books for Ken off the new release shelf at the library, plus a stack of used paperbacks they were selling.  He's now reading one of the new releases, Eyes of the Innocent by Brad Parks.  The inside flap describes it as "an engaging mix between Harlan Coben and Janet Evanovich" and Ken agrees.  We're both Stephanie Plum fans, and Ken says he sees why this new thriller author is being compared to Janet Evanovich.
  • Jamie, 16, is continuing his Orson Scott Card marathon.  He finished reading Ender's Shadow, and we were both excited to hear that there is a parallel series about Bean with three more books, so I requested the next one from the library for him.
  • Meanwhile, he reread Ender's Game and is now moving onto the rest of the series.  He's on the couch reading Speaker for the Dead now.
  • Jamie is also reading The Scarlet Letter for his American Lit class.  
  • Craig, 13, is still reading Tom Sawyer for his English class, but - miracle of miracles - this morning he decided to read a book just for fun!  It's been a while since he's done that, so I am thrilled.  He said he was in the mood for a mystery like The Hardy Boys, so of course, I jumped up and found him a half dozen choices (I've been waiting years for him to ask me for reading suggestions!).  He has settled on The Slave-Girl From Jerusalem, from The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence.  Since these wonderful books are like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in ancient Rome, I've been trying to get him to try them for years.  Though he's fallen asleep in the recliner right now (again!), I know he'll enjoy this book.
I didn't have a chance to post any reviews last week, but I did have fun putting together two lists of Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies, both here and at Book By Book.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Thursday, April 14, 2011

50 Books Every Child Should Read

My Goodreads friend, Amanda, sent me this link to a UK article, 50 Books Every Kid Should Read.  It includes top ten recommendations from five major UK children's authors and is lots of fun to peruse.  Their choices range from classics to modern hits.  How many of these fabulous books have you and your kids read?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top Ten Kids & Teen Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies

It's Tuesday and that means it's time for another Top Ten list from The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies.  You can read my list of grown-up movie adaptations I'd like to see at Book By Book.

Here are my family's picks for kids'/teen/YA books we'd like to see made into movies (the first 5 are my picks; the last 5 are my sons' picks):

  1. Prism by Faye and Aliza Kellerman – my whole family loved this imaginative dystopian thriller – it would make a great movie.
  2. Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld – since I enjoyed studying the books’ amazing illustrations so much, I think the visuals in this steampunk series would make an awesome movie!
  3. Wake, Fade, and Gone by Lisa McMann – creepy thrillers with a supernatural twist - would probably have to be rated R.
  4. Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay – would make an excellent, action-packed drama about two girls in war-torn Afghanistan. 
  5. Pendragon series by D.J. MacHale – my favorite kids/teen series would make great movies, but there’s need to be 10 of them! 

Jamie’s picks:

  1. The Fasala Trilogy by Hilari Bell
  2. The Cry of the Icemark by Stuart Hill - Jamie says it might already be being made into a movie, but it's his top choice!
  3. Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda - Jamie says it would have to be at least 3 movies.
  4. The Book of Time trilogy (book two was The Gate of Days) by Guillame Prevost – he and I both enjoyed this series - all the time travel locations would make for a great movie!
  5. Craig says his favorite book, Nick of Time by Ted Bell, would make an exciting action movie.

How about you?  Which kids' or teen/YA books would you like to see made into movies?

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Monday 4/11! What Are You Reading?

Monday already?  Where did the weekend go?  I wasn't quite ready for it to end.  I spent much of the weekend planning our spring break road trip (to Oklahoma to visit my father-in-law) and our big summer trip (to California).  I want to keep thinking about vacations, but it's time to get back to work now.

This is a really busy time of year for us - the kids' soccer season began last week (my husband coaches), lots of school functions going on, plus the trip planning - but we still found time to read last week:
  • I realized early last week that I have a book group coming up this week, and I didn't even have the book yet!  How do I keep getting into these messes?  You'd think I'd learn.  So, I made a trip to the library and have been reading The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morgan.  This is a book that did not sound at all like my cup of tea, but I am really enjoying it - that's the beauty of book groups.  I still have hundreds of pages to finish before Wednesday, so wish me luck!
  • I finished my latest audio book, Always Looking Up: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox, and immediately wrote a review - a rare accomplishment for me, so that gives you an idea of how inspired I was!
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Ascent by Ronald Malfi, a pick from the recent release shelf at the library.  It's about a climb up the mountains of Nepal that turns dangerous...with an element of mysticism.  Ken said it was unusual, but he enjoyed it.
  • Ken is now reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - he's been waiting for me to finish it so he could read it.  He must be enjoying it because he took it with him on a trip this morning, and he usually avoids traveling with large hardcovers!
  • 16-year old Jamie finished Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull, a new series from a favorite author (author of the Fablehaven books).  He said it was great, just as good as the Fablehaven series.
  • Jamie and I recently read (and loved) Orson Scott Card's newest teen/YA book, Pathfinder.  That put him in the mood for more Card.  He only recently found out that there is an entire series that follows Ender's Game (and we have them all here), so he decided to reread Ender's Game and then read the other three books.  Only one problem - we couldn't find Ender's Game last night, so he decided to read Ender's Shadow, a parallel novel to Ender's Game (and very good!), instead.
  • Craig, 13, is still reading Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain for his English class and enjoying it very much.  He's alternating between reading it and listening to it at a free online site.
Besides my review of Always Looking Up, I also  posted a summary of Books Read in March at Book By Book and a review of the teen thriller The Chaos (sequel to Num8ers) by Rachel Ward.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Num8ers - The Chaos

Our house is filled with stacks of brand-new books for kids, teens, and young adults, as there are always more review books than I can possibly get to, but I knew exactly which book I wanted to read next.  I had been waiting for the sequel to Rachel Ward’s unique teen/YA thriller, Num8ers, and The Chaos had finally been released.  I read the book in record time, devouring it as I had the first book in the trilogy.

I’m going to try to walk a thin line here, telling you enough about the book to intrigue you, without giving away any surprises because the suspense is one of its best qualities and I don’t want to ruin the first book for you.

Num8ers was about a teen girl named Jem who could see the date a person would die when she looked into his or her eyes.  The Chaos is about Jem’s son, Adam, now a teen himself, who has inherited his mother’s gift (or curse) but with an added twist: Adam also senses or feels how the person will die.  Adam and his grandmother (his “Nan”) move to London when the rising seas flood their seaside hometown.  Like Jem, Adam is a loner because it’s too painful to constantly see people’s demises.  After a short time in London, however, he starts to realize that a lot of people have the same death date: January 1, 2027, the upcoming New Year’s Day.

Alarmed by what appears to be some sort of looming disaster, Adam doesn’t know what to do.  Should he try to warn people?  Who would believe him?  All he knows for sure is that he wants to get himself and his Nan out of the city.

Meanwhile, at his new school, Adam meets a girl who has a unique talent of her own, though he doesn’t know about it yet, and she doesn’t understand it.  A misfit herself, her path and Adam’s keep crossing.  What catastrophe is coming with the new year and how can two struggling teens do anything about it?

Like its predecessor, The Chaos takes a unique concept and weaves a fast-paced, believable, and suspenseful story around it in a not-so-distant future.  You’ll find yourself rooting for the main characters and turning the pages way past bedtime.  I can’t wait for the third book, 1NF1N1TY, which follows the story into a third generation.

339 pages, Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic

NOTE:  This trilogy is definitely intended for older teens and young adults, with references to violence, incest, rape (not graphic), and drug use.

WHERE ARE YOU READING 2011:  I added a pin to London, England, where The Chaos takes place. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

It's Monday 4/4! What Are You Reading?

Wow, April.  Spring feels like it has returned today - no snow at least!  I'm glad to see spring but am a little stunned that it's April already - that means the first quarter of the year is already over.  Yikes.  I have so many goals I haven't even started on yet!  We did finish our tax returns this weekend, so that's a big weight off my shoulders.  Now spring break is only 3 weeks away, and I haven't even begun to plan our trip!  Well, at least my reading is progressing:
  • I finished Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, an intense and compelling story of an Olympic runner who lived through unbelievable ordeals as a Japanese POW during WWII.  A stunning story, both in its content and the way it's written.
  • It's been a while since I've read a kid or teen book, so after finishing Unbroken, I picked up a teen/YA book I've been dying to read: The Chaos by Rachel Ward, sequel to Num8ers, which I loved.  This is a fast-paced thriller about a boy who can see the date a person will die when he looks in their eyes, set 15 years in the future in London.  Book 2 lived up to my expectations - I could hardy set it down this weekend!  I just finished it at bedtime last night, and I haven't chosen my next book yet, but I know I have to get moving on my book group book for next soon as I get it from the library (oops).
  • I'm listening to Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox on my iPod and absolutely loving it so far.  His first memoir, Lucky Man, was fabulous, and I knew I'd like this one, too.  He's funny and smart and very inspirational.
  • My husband, Ken, finished a new sci fi release we found at the library, Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova, and enjoyed it.
  • Ken has moved onto another library find from the new release shelf, The Ascent by Ronald Malfi, an adventure novel about a trip up into the mountains of Nepal that turns dangerous.  It sounds like it has some elements of mysticism in it.  Anyone else familiar with this author?
  • Jamie, 16, is reading Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull, a new series from a favorite author (author of the Fablehaven books).  Last week's BookPage newsletter featured a review of The Beyonders and an interview with the author.
  • Jamie is also reading The Red Badge of Courage for his American Literature class.  When my husband asked him about it yesterday, he said with surprise, "You know?  It's actually pretty good!"
  • Craig, 13, is reading Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain for his English class and enjoying it very much.  What's not to like?  He's alternating between reading it and listening to it at a free online site.
Last week, I posted reviews of 365 Thank Yous, a memoir I really enjoyed, at Book By Book and a fabulous new teen/YA novel, Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card, one of my favorite authors.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Friday, April 1, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Pathfinder

I’ve been a big fan of Orson Scott Card ever since 23 years ago when my then-boyfriend (now husband) lent me Ender’s Game, which still stands as one of my favorite books.  I went on to read the entire series and was captivated by Card’s unique plots, writing style, and in-depth characters.   I haven’t read much of his work since then, until last week when I had a chance to read his latest teen/YA sci fi novel, Pathfinder.  I was pleased to find that his new novel has all the characteristics I enjoyed all those years ago.

Each chapter of the book has two parts:  the first part, often brief, is written in a different font and follows the life of Ram Odin, a starship pilot.  The bulk of each chapter deals with thirteen-year old Rigg who lives a quiet life with his father, hiking through the forest and trapping animals for their furs, but who has a secret talent:

Saving the human race is a frantic business.  Or a tedious one.  It all depends on what stage of the process you’re taking part in.


Rigg and father usually set the traps together, because it was Rigg who had the knack of seeing the paths that the animals they wanted were still using.

Father was blind to it – he could never see the thin, shimmering trails in the air that marked the passage of living creatures through the world.  But to Rigg it was, and always had been, part of what his eyes could see, without any effort at all.  The newer the path, the bluer the shimmer; older ones were green, yellow; ancient ones tended toward red.

Rigg’s quiet life changes dramatically when his father dies.  As he sets out to follow his father’s last instructions, he begins to discover secrets Father had kept from him.  He also discovers a way to use his talent to go back in time.  He sets out on a journey, as his father asked him to, and meets some new friends along the way.

I won’t say too much more about the plot because half of the fun of this novel is the surprising twists and the ways that disparate things begin to come together.  Pathfinder was utterly compelling, keeping me firmly engaged right up to the last page, when I thought, “I can’t wait to read the next book!” (Card does mention in his acknowledgements that there will be a second book).

Card has created a fascinating story here, peopled by likable characters and intriguing secrets.  It’s a very complex story; one of the things my 16-year old son said he liked best about it was the characters’ discussions of time travel and the usual paradoxes that are created when someone goes back in time and tries to change the future (I love time travel plots, so I enjoyed this aspect, too).  He and I both loved this novel and are eagerly awaiting the next one.

657 pages, Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)


Free Classic Audio Books!

My son is reading Tom Sawyer for his 7th grade English class, and his teacher told the class they could also listen to it on audio and gave them the web address for Free Classic Audio Books

This site is so cool!  Just as the name suggests, it includes a bunch of audios of classic books, available for free (notice there are multiple pages).  Lots of these books are ones that are commonly assigned for English and Literature classes for middle-school, high school, and college students.  Thanks for the tip, Mrs. Hall!