Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Monday 12/21! What Are You Reading?

Busy, busy time of year! None of us have had a lot of time for reading (and I've had no time at all for writing reviews), but we've squeezed in a few good books:
  • I'm currently reading Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard, an imaginative and engaging teen science fiction novel that my son highly recommended. I'm loving it so far!
  • Jamie, 15, finished The Shadow Dragons, Book 4 of The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographia by James A. Owen in the car on our way to visit family Friday afternoon. He closed the book and said, "That is the best series ever written!" I've only read the first book so far, but I enjoyed it very much. The Imaginarium Geographica is an atlas of imaginary places that H.G. Wells himself assigns to J.R. R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams to take care of - the perfect combination of fantasy and literary references!
  • Jamie has started Raider's Ransom by Emily Diamand, an exciting pirate adventure set in the 23rd century, when most of England is under water. Jamie loves sailing and always enjoys tales of adventure and pirates, so I'm sure he'll like this one.
  • In the car on our way to and from CT, we began listening to Prism by Faye and Aliza Kellerman, a wonderful science fiction adventure on audio that I reviewed here earlier this year. My husband and sons are enjoying it as much as I did!
  • We're continuing our tradition of reading favorite Christmas books before bed each night, and I really enjoyed sharing this tradition with my little niece and nephew this weekend.
So, what are YOU reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays are sponsored by J. Kaye's Book Blog)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Top Ten Children's Christmas Books


In honor of the holiday season, today's Top Ten list is devoted to our favorite Christmas picture books. We have a stack of holiday books that we store with all the other Christmas stuff in the basement and just brought up this weekend. Even though my kids are now 11 and 15, they still love our tradition of reading these family favorites out loud in the days leading up to Christmas. Some of these are classics; some are pretty obscure! They're our favorites because the kids have grown up with them:

  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Darby's Christmas Adventure by Ray Bentley, illustrated by Mike Hamby - two former Buffalo Bills who came up with this series about a kid dinosaur named Darby
  • Dear Santa: The Letters of James B. Dobbins by Bill Harley - a more recent entry by one of our favorite entertainers; if you don't know who Bill Harley is, you're missing out. He's hilarious and this book is great! Also check out his recent CD/DVD, Yes to Running!
  • Carl's Christmas by Alexandra Day - our boys loved this series of wordless books about the sweet dog, Carl.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (of course)
  • A Cowboy Christmas: The Miracle at Lone Pine Ridge by Audrey Wood, paintings by Robert Florczak
  • Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer - my sons LOVED the Little Critter series when they were little.
And on Christmas Eve, we always read the same 3 books:
  • Santa Mouse by Michael Brown - a favorite from my own childhood
  • The Christmas Star by Marcus Pfister
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Cheryl Harnes
I suppose we could use some holiday books for older kids, now that the boys have grown so much. Any suggestions?

What are your favorite Christmas books for kids?

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's Monday 12/7! What Are You Reading?

None of us got much reading done last week. We were too busy with holiday preparations and the kids with school work. Here's what we're each reading:
  • I'm reading Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey, Book 2 in The Resurrection of Magic series, a dark and compelling teen fantasy. It's excellent, but I can already tell it's going to end leaving me wanting more!
  • My husband is reading The Doom Machine by Mark Teague, at the recommendation of Jamie, 15, who recently read it himself and loved it.
  • Jamie is still reading Ringworld, a classic science fiction novel by Larry Niven, after The Doom Machine put him in the mood for sci fi.
  • Craig, 11, finished Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for school and went back to his own book, The Search for Snout by Bruce Coville, the third book in his Aliens series. Craig really likes Coville's books, and this series is an old favorite.
We're also reading aloud from our collection of favorite holiday books at bedtime each night. Even though the boys are older now, they still enjoy this holiday tradition - we all do! Check back tomorrow for a list of our Top Ten Favorite Holiday Books.

So, what are YOU reading this week?

Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Monday 11/30! What Are You Reading?

We had a very busy week, visiting family for Thanksgiving. Not a lot of time for reading, but we did listen to some great audio books on our trip!
  • Jamie, 15, who usually reads non-stop, was too busy with his cousins this weekend for much reading! I think he's still reading Ringworld, a classic science fiction novel by Larry Niven. Next on his list is The Shadow Dragon, Book 4 in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen, a wonderful fantasy adventure series that features dragons and lots of references to classic characters from kids' literature.
  • Craig is still reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for school and enjoying it very much.
  • At the start of our road trip on Wednesday, we finished listening to Erec Rex and the Monsters of Otherness by Kaza Kingsley, book 2 of an excellent fantasy series about a 12-year old boy who discovers a hidden magical world.
  • We also listened to Odd and the Frost Giants, written and read by Neil Gaiman (award-winning author of The Graveyard Book), a fun short story of Norse gods, set during the time of the Vikings. I'll post a review here this week.
  • On the way home yesterday, we got into the Christmas spirit with two holiday audio books. First we listened to The True Gift, a Christmas Story, a very sweet holiday story by Patricia MacLachlan (author of Sarah, Plain and Tall).
  • And it wouldn't be Christmas without a good rendition of that Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. We already have a couple of versions on audio, but yesterday we listened to a new one, performed by Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: Next Generation) - excellent!
I'll review these audio books here, so check back! Hope everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving holidays.

What are YOU reading this week?

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Monday 11/23! What Are You Reading?

Busy week, with Thanksgiving coming up! Not a lot of time for reading last week:
  • Although I've had to set it down twice to read books for upcoming book group discussions, I'm still working on Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey, book 2 in the dark fantasy series The Resurrection of Magic. Jamie and I both like this series very much.
  • Fifteen-year old Jamie finished The Doom Machine by Mark Teague, a funny, exciting new sci-fi book. He enjoyed it so much that he wanted to read more science fiction, so his Dad searched through his extensive collection of classic sci-fi novels and recommended one....
  • So Jamie started Ringworld by Larry Niven.
  • Craig is still reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen for school and enjoying it very much. We've listened to it (and its sequels) on audio - excellent!
Last week, I posted a review of Sent, book 2 of The Missing, an exciting time-travel series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. We'll be traveling this week to visit family for Thanksgiving, and we'll be taking along a stack of audio books!

What are YOU reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is sponsored by J. Kaye's Book Blog)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Sent

When Sent, Book 2 of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s series The Missing, arrived in the mail, my son and I both grabbed for it. We loved the first book in the time-traveling series, Found, and couldn’t wait to find out what happens next. If you haven’t read Book 1 yet, you may want to skip this review for now (it contains Book 1 spoilers) and check out my previous review of Found. Haddix has a talent for writing exciting and suspenseful series for middle-grade readers that also appeal to teens (and adults!).

Before Jonah and Chip have time to digest the news that they’re both children who were kidnapped from some period of history, they find themselves – along with Jonah’s sister, Katherine, and fellow missing child Alex – hurtling through time, thanks to a device called the Elucidator that they wrestled out of the hands of the bad guys, as JB tries to set history straight:

“Jonah,” JB protested. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Certain things have been set in motion. Chip and Alex have to go to the fifteenth century.”

“Then, Katherine and I are going, too,” Jonah said. He didn’t know how it was possible, but he could feel time flowing past him, scrolling backward. He felt like he had only a few more seconds left to convince JB. “What if…what if we could fix the fifteenth century? Make everything right again? Then couldn’t Alex and Chip come back to the twenty-first century with us?”

When JB reluctantly agrees, the four kids find themselves in a castle in England in 1483, where they discover Chip’s true identity – Edward V, king of England. Alex is his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. History says they were both murdered, and the four out-of-time kids have to find a way to “fix time,” so that they can return to the home they know.

Although some of the time travel details get a little confusing at times, the book is non-stop action and excitement. It’s also very interesting to learn about how people lived during that time in history and the – true – historical events surrounding them. Haddix did a tremendous amount of research for this book and strived to keep the known facts accurate, as she played with the real-life mystery of the young boys’ disappearance. The result is a fast-paced, suspenseful adventure. I can’t wait for Book 3!

308 pages, Simon & Schuster

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Best Books fo 2009

It's only November, but the lists of Best Books of 2009 have already starting coming out! Some interesting ones:

Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Books of 2009
(includes pictures books as well as fiction and nonfiction for older readers)'s Top 10 Picture Books of 2009's Top 10 Books of 2009 of Middle-Grade Readers's Top 10 Teen/YA Books of 2009

Lots of good holiday gift suggestions here! I'll save my own personal Best of 2009 list until the end of the year.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Monday 11/16! What Are You Reading?

The boys and I had a good reading week last week:
  • I started Sacred Scars, Book 2 in The Resurrection of Magic series by Kathleen Duey, a dark and compelling fantasy series that Jamie and I really like. He finished it last week, and I couldn't wait to pick it up!
  • Jamie, age 15, started The Doom Machine by Mark Teague, a fast-paced, humorous science fiction novel about two kids battling aliens. He says it's very good so far.
  • Craig, age 11, is reading a classic, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, for his Language Arts class. We've listened to the audio version before (excellent!), but this is the first time he's read it.
Last week, I posted a review of Hush, Hush, a paranormal romance for teens/YA and a list of the Top Ten Books of My Childhood.

What are YOU reading this week?

Thanks to J. Kaye's Book Blog for hosting What Are You Reading Mondays)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Teen/YAReview: Hush, Hush

I am not normally a big fan of the paranormal romance genre (admission time: I haven’t read the Twilight books!), but I enjoyed Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. Interestingly, I noticed that one reviewer at Amazon complained that it didn’t have “enough” paranormal in it, so I guess you can’t please everyone! I thought Hush, Hush was well written, with an engaging, suspenseful plot, and the audio version that I listened to was very well done.

Nora Grey lives with her mom in Maine in an old house and is a pretty normal teenager, working hard in school and hanging out with her best friend, Vee. She’s never been too hung up on romance, but her mysterious new biology partner, Patch, makes her feel both intrigued and uncomfortable:

Patch’s eyes were black orbs. Taking in everything and giving away nothing. Not that I wanted to know more about Patch. Since I hadn’t liked what I’d seen on the surface, I doubted I’d like what was lurking deep inside. Only, this wasn’t exactly true. I’d liked a lot of what I’d seen. Long, lean muscles down his arms, broad but relaxed shoulders, and a smile that was part playful, part seductive. I was in an uneasy alliance with myself, trying to ignore what had started to feel irresistible.

Then strange things begin to happen, some of them frightening and even dangerous, that make Nora suspect there may be much more to Patch’s past than he’s willing to tell her. Meanwhile, she and Vee meet two new boys who are also interesting, but one of them seems to have secrets of his own. When Vee ends up in the hospital, Nora decides to find answers, no matter where they lead her. The climax is exciting and surprising.

I was completely drawn into this suspenseful story and would recommend the audio version in particular.

400 pages, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Top Ten Books of My Childhood


My Mom taught me to read before I started kindergarten, and once I mastered Go, Dog, Go! (P.D. Eastman), there was no stopping me! I read voraciously throughout my childhood. I devoured Dr. Seuss and the Ant and Bee books (does anyone else remember these?) and soon moved onto chapter books. Many of my favorite series were discovered through my second-grade teacher who read aloud to us at the end of every day (thanks, Mrs. Holzschuh!) These ten books or series were among my all-time favorites:

  • A Wrinkle in Time and all of its sequels by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
  • Trixie Belden series by Kathryn Kenny
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • Katie John by Mary Calhoun
  • Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume
  • The Borrowers series by Mary Norton
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
These wonderful books started me on the road of a lifetime love of reading, and I've introduced most of them to my own kids.

What were the favorite books of your childhood?

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's Monday 11/9! What Are You Reading?

Lots of good books read last week. Fifteen-year old Jamie got sick this weekend and had such a hard time choosing a new book to read that he grabbed four of them and had me choose a number! We read lots of series' books this week:
  • Jamie read Charlie Bone and the Shadow by Jenny Nimmo (inspired to go back to this old favorite series by his brother who recently finished it).
  • The book I helped Jamie randomly choose to read next was Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey, book 2 in A Resurrection of Magic series. We both loved the first book, Skin Hunger (I'm next in line for this one!).
  • Eleven-year old Craig is reading The Search for Snout, book 3 in the Alien series by Bruce Coville, one of his favorite authors.
  • I read Sent by Margaret Haddix, book 2 of The Missing series, a time-travel middle-grade/teen series which Jamie and I both love.
And in the books-to-movie category, we watched the DVD of The Spiderwick Chronicles this weekend and enjoyed it very much. Jamie read the first book in the series many years ago, and the movie inspired him to go back and read the books.

Last week, I posted a review of a wonderful new mystery for middle-grade and teen readers, The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt.

So, what are YOU reading this week?

(What are you reading Mondays is sponsored by J. Kaye's Book Blog).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: The Mystery of the Third Lucretia

I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books when I was a kid (still am!), so I thoroughly enjoyed reading an exciting new mystery novel, The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt. This book is the start of a new series starring two fourteen-year old girls, Kari Sundgren and Lucas Stickney, who are best friends.

In this first book, Kari and Lucas stumble upon a mysterious man in two different art museums, and before they know it, they’re mixed up in an international art crime. The girls live in Minnesota with their families, where they share an interest in drawing and painting. When Kari’s mom has to travel to Europe for work, the girls are lucky enough to accompany her.

Kari and Lucas visit London’s National Gallery while Kari’s mom is busy at work, and they spot the same foul-tempered man painting in the Rembrandt room that they saw months ago at The Art Institute in Minneapolis. They hurry out of the room and talk about what they’ve seen:

“See, I knew it was the same guy!” Then I added, “I wonder…”

“What he’s doing that makes him think he has to wear a disguise?” Lucas finished for me.


Now we were both quiet for a minute. “What are you thinking?” I asked finally. She had an expression I’d seen before.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Nothing my meep. When you get that look, it usually means you’re making some plan that’s going to get us in trouble.”

“No, no, nothing like that,” she said, trying to sound all innocent.

But I was right. She was planning something. In fact, that afternoon in the National Gallery was the beginning of something that would get us into more trouble – and put the whole Gleesome Threesome in more danger – than we’d ever been in before.

Kari and Lucas come across as real girls, with intelligence and humor (like their habit of substituting meep for swear words!). This realism may be partly due to the fact that the author’s daughter helped her write the book and consulted with her in particular on the characters and dialogue of the two girls.

The suspense builds as pieces of the mystery are uncovered while the girls travel with Kari’s mom from London back home to Minnesota, then to Paris and Amsterdam. I loved the travel aspect of the book, reading about different cities the girls visited, as the mystery deepens and their suspicions build. Like all classic kid detectives before them, they figure things out that the grown-ups miss and become more deeply entangled in sinister events until their very lives are at stake, building to an exciting climax in Amsterdam.

I’m looking forward to reading more Kari & Lucas Mysteries! The second book, Rescuing Seneca Crane, was released in August. To read more about these books and the rest of the series, visit Susan Runholt’s website.

278 pages, Puffin Books (Penguin)

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Monday 11/2! What Are You Reading?

Hope everyone had a great Halloween weekend! We had a lot of fun, as you can see. Jamie, my 15-year old son, came up with the great idea of dressing up as the Where's Waldo? characters (that's me as Wenda), while Craig, 11, did an excellent impression of an old man!

Not a lot of time for reading last week with soccer, Halloween, and the last week of the marking period, but we each managed to read a little:

  • Jamie is still reading Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, the third book of the Eragon trilogy. It's one of his favorite series ever, and he's really enjoying it.
  • Craig finished Half Magic by Edward Eager (a classic!) and is starting The Search for Snout, book 3 in the Alien series by Bruce Coville, one of Craig's favorite authors.
  • My husband Ken finished Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. He said it was very good; Jamie tells us that book 3 is even better!
  • I finished the audio version of Hush, Hush, a paranormal teen book by Becca Fitzpatrick. I enjoyed it very much and will post a review here.
Also to come this week, look for a review of The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholdt. I got a little behind in reviews while I was sick, but I hope to catch up this week.

So, what are YOU reading this week?

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Monday 10/26! What Are You Reading?

(What are you reading Mondays was started by J. Kaye's Book Blog.)

Lots of good books last week!
  • I finished The Circle of Gold by Guillaume Prevost, last book in the middle-grade/teen The Book of Time trilogy - very exciting conclusion!
  • I'm still listening to Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick - I should finish it this week.
  • Jamie (15) finished Leviathan, a brand-new, unique novel by Scott Westerfeld, author of The Uglies series. It's a novel set at the cusp of World War I, except the two sides are battling with Clankers, steam-driven iron machines, and fabricated animals, including the Leviathan, a whale airship. The novel is illustrated with detailed drawings. He says it was amazing!
  • Jamie started a book he's been saving so he could savor it: Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, the conclusion of the Eragon trilogy, one of his all-time favorite series.
  • Craig is reading Half Magic by Edward Eager, one of MY all-time favorite books! He already read it once this summer, but he's re-reading it for his Accelerated Reader program at school.
  • Ken, my husband, is still working his way through Inkspell by Cornelia Funke.
I'm finally feeling better after a lengthy illness, so I'll be posting some new reviews this week!

Check out Book By Book to see what grown-up books I'm reading.

What are YOU and YOUR kids reading this week?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Charlie Bone and the Shadow

I'm still sick, so today's review is written by my 11-year old son, Craig, of the latest book in his favorite series, Charlie Bone and the Shadow by Jenny Nimmo:

Young Charlie Bone is walking the halls of Bloors Academy awaiting a nice weekend. When he got home, he saw his Grandma Bone carrying something wrapped in canvas. When his grandma went up to her room, Charlie tiptoes downstairs and into the cellar where she had put it. Then Charlie unwrapped the canvas and saw the most horrifying painting ever. He could hear and feel a strong wind, then he was sucked up into the painting.

When he got there, he met a giant, and the giant seemed to be Charlie's ancestor. After awhile of hiding, he used his wand that turned into a moth to get out of the forsaken place. The next weekend, his friend Billy Raven came over and found his way into Bodlock. Charlie found out its name. When he tried to go in and get him, he could not. After at least a month, he finally found a way to get into Bodlock. When he got there and was ready to take Billy home, Billy refused. So Charlie went home and soon figured out that Billy was under a spell! The next book will reveal all secrets and schemes.

Craig says the Charlie Bone series is suspenseful, mysterious, and action-filled.

427 pages, Scholastic

Accelerated Reader Level 4.9, 10 points

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Monday 10/19! What Are You Reading?

More great books last week!
  • Jamie (15) read Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney, Book Five in The Last Apprentice series. He says this is one of the best series he's ever read, and he's been urging me to give it a try.
  • Jamie just started Leviathan, a brand-new, unique novel by Scott Westerfeld, author of The Uglies series. It's a novel set at the cusp of World War I, except the two sides are battling with Clankers, steam-driven iron machines, and fabricated animals, including the Leviathan, a whale airship. The novel is illustrated with detailed drawings. We've both been looking forward to this one.
  • Craig (11) is almost finished with Charlie Bone and the Shadow, part of his favorite series, and is looking for his next book, something worth 5 AR points to finish up his reading requirements for Language Arts class.
  • I've been listening to the teen audio book Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I'm not normally much into supernatural type stuff, but this is very good so far.
  • I'm currently reading the third and final book of The Book of Time trilogy by Guillaume Prevost, The Circle of Gold. Jamie and I both love this time-traveling trilogy.
  • My husband, Ken, is still working on Inkspell, the second book in the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke. He's says it's very good but long!
What are YOU reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is sposored by J. Kaye's Book Blog)

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Monday 10/12! What Are You Reading?

Happy Columbus Day!

My 15-year old son, Jamie, was sick this weekend, so he read non-stop for days. Lots of great books this week:
  • I read The Mystery of the Third Lucretia by Susan Runholt, a suspenseful mystery about two girls who stumble upon an international art crime. I loved it and will post a review later this week.
  • Jamie read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (he finally got his turn!), Sent, Book 2 of The Missing series, by Margaret Peterson (I'm next for that one), and Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague, Book 3 of the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, one of Jamie's favorite fantasy series. Now, he's starting on The Time Quake, the third and final book of Linda Buckley-Archer's The Gideon Trilogy.
  • 11-year old Craig finished Bruce Coville's Song of the Wanderer and started Charlie Bone and the Shadow, book 7 in his favorite series by Jenny Nimmo. I hope to post Craig's summary of Song of the Wanderer later this week.
So, what are YOU reading this week?

(What Are You Reading Mondays was started by J. Kaye's Book Blog).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Teen/YA Review: Catching Fire

There was a lot of excitement at our house the day that Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins’ much-anticipated sequel to The Hunger Games, arrived. My 15-year old son, Jamie, and I were both in the middle of reading other books, so my husband got first dibs. I finally got my turn last week, and it was well worth the wait. When I finished reading the last sentence and reluctantly closed the cover, I looked at my husband and said, “When does book three come out?”

Collins’ amazing trilogy began with The Hunger Games, in which Katniss and Peeta won the cruel Hunger Games, a forced annual ritual where the government pits representative children from each district against each other in a survival contest to the death. They’ve returned home to District Twelve, but Katniss won’t be allowed to just go back to her old life:

If it were up to me, I would try to forget the Hunger Games entirely. Never speak of them. Pretend they were nothing but a bad dream. But the Victory Tour makes that impossible. Strategically placed almosr midway between the annual Games, it is the Capitol’s way of keeping the horror fresh and immediate. Not only are we in the districts forced to remember the iron grip of the Capitol’s power each year, we are forced to celebrate it. And this year, I am one of the stars of the show. I will have to travel from district to district, to stand before the cheering crowds who secretly loathe me, to look down into the faces of the families whose children I have killed…

Much to Katniss’ surprise, though, the people of the districts don’t all hate her. In fact, she has unwittingly become the symbol of a growing rebellion against the government. Katniss doesn’t want to be a rebel; she just wants to be left alone. Besides, she’s justifiably worried that any show of rebellion from her will put her mother, sister, and best friend, Gale, in danger.

I don’t want to say much more about what happens in Catching Fire because part of its irresistible allure are the frequent plot twists that took me by surprise every time. Collins is a master storyteller, making this post-apocalyptic world come to life with her words, creating characters who seem real, and keeping the reader turning the pages, chapter after chapter, while the real world waits. It’s a hold-your-breath, must-keep-reading roller coaster of an adventure, and I can’t bear to wait for the third and final book!

391 pages, Scholastic Press

Monday, October 5, 2009

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

Every week, I participate in J. Kaye's Book Blog What Are You Reading Mondays feature on my adult book blog, Book By Book, so I decided to extend the fun and participate with this blog as well. Each week, I'll share with you not only which kid, teen, or YA books I'm reading, but also what the rest of my family is reading.

This past week:
  • I read Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the sequel to The Hunger Games. Jamie, my 15-year old son, waited impatiently for me to finish it so he could read it next! It's worth the wait. I'll post a review here later this week.
  • Jamie finished T.H. White's classic King Arthur tale, The Once and Future King. He really enjoyed the Merlin TV series this summer, so he was eager to read this book.
  • Jamie also read The Circle of Gold by Guillaume Prevost, the third and final book of the time-traveling adventure, The Book of Time trilogy. He and I have both enjoyed this series very much, and Jamie says the last book is excellent. I'm next!
  • My 11-year old son, Craig, is reading Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville, the second book in The Unicorn Chronicles series. Craig loves Coville's books, and this series is no exception. Some of his male classmates teased him a bit last year for reading a book about unicorns...until they read it themselves! It's an exciting fantasy adventure.
  • My husband (who just finished Catching Fire while I waited impatiently!) is now reading Inkspell by Cornelia Funke, the second book in the Inkheart series. He's been meaning to read the rest of this series for ages and was motived to get back to it when we saw the Inkheart movie recently. Jamie tells us that Inkspell is even better than Inkheart.
So, lots of great books for kids and teens this week!

What are YOU reading this week?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Teen/YA Review: Living Dead Girl

Living Dead Girl, a novel by Elizabeth Scott about a kidnapped girl held captive, is so deeply disturbing that I considered whether or not to review it here. My goal with this blog, as its name implies, is to recommend great books. To me, a great book is one that makes me feel something – hope, anger, excitement, sadness. A great novel is one where you get pulled into the story so completely that you forget it’s fiction. With those criteria, Living Dead Girl certainly measures up.

It is the story of a girl who is now known as Alice, though that’s not her real name. She was abducted five years ago, when she was only ten years old, and has been held captive ever since and raped daily. Reading about the details of her life was horrifying and heartbreaking, especially in the wake of the recent news story where a California abductee was found 18 years later.

Here, Alice starts her day and thinks about her advancing age:

Eventually I get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. We don’t have a tub, just a shower, but I ignore it and brush my teeth, swallowing the toothpaste instead of spitting it out. I hear it can be poisonous, but I guess it’s only if you’re really young.

I am 15 now, and I keep waiting for Ray to tire of me. I am no longer short with dimpled knees and frightened eyes. I am almost as tall as he is, and his license says he is 5’7”. He likes the picture. He says no one ever takes a good driver’s license picture except him.

I am 15 and stretched out, no more than 100 pounds. I can never weigh more than that. It keeps my breasts tiny, my hips narrow, my thighs the size Ray likes.

I am 15 and worn out, tired of everything.

I am 15, and I figure soon he will let me go.

In putting the reader inside the head of an abducted child, Scott also provides some insight into the most puzzling aspect of cases like this – the question of why the victim didn’t run away. Alice’s answer to that is both pragmatic and haunting. Ray controls her and keeps her there through a combination of physical and emotional threats, but more importantly, Alice feels invisible. As she says herself:

Three Life Lessons:

1. No one will see you.
2. No one will say anything.
3. No one will save you.

When Ray starts to talk about finding a new little girl, Alice thinks she finally has a way out; she’ll do anything to stop her daily torture. But Ray wants her to help him find a new girl and take care of her. Alice’s reaction shows just how much her lengthy torment has damaged her.

The language and format of the novel mirror Alice’s feelings of being a living dead girl. Her words are terse and unemotional, the chapters brief (that first passage quoted above is a full chapter). Despite her spare words – or perhaps because of them – the effect is disturbing yet completely compelling. I finished the book in less than a day, partly because I didn’t want to read it before bed another night and partly because I had to keep reading to find out what happened to Alice. If you’re wondering, as I was, why the author wrote this novel, read how she got the idea for the book – the story is as chilling as the novel itself.

For more information about this and other books by the same author, visit Elizabeth Scott’s website.

NOTE: This book is recommended only for older teens, young adults, or adults as it contains many scenes of rape and violence, although it is not graphic.

Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), 170 pages.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: The Cronus Chronicles

Take a couple of ordinary middle-school cousins, throw in an eerie mystery, a bunch of real-life Greek gods, and a great sense of humor and you have Anne Ursu’s exciting trilogy, The Cronus Chronicles. I recently finished reading the third and final book of the series and was riveted right until the end.

In Book One, The Shadow Thieves, we meet eight-grader Charlotte and her British cousin Zee. Back home in England, a very strange thing was happening at Zee’s school – kids kept getting sick with a mysterious illness that sapped their energy and confined them to bed. Zee moves in with Charlotte’s family in the U.S., but soon, the same thing begins happening to Charlotte’s classmates. As the cousins worry about their sick friends and try to get to the bottom of the mystery, they encounter strange, unexplainable things all around them. Here, they try to make sense of what’s going on:

But when Charlotte had first thought Zee was bonkers, on the very first night, it was because he’d kept asking if everyone was sick. And then everyone got sick. If he was crazy, he was awfully prescient, too.

And there was something else. The men. The tall, thin, man-like men in the tuxedos. When Zee was talking about the creepy men on the street, something in her brain had stood at attention, and her stomach rose in her belly.

She could close her eyes and picture those men, just as he had described – the strange, old tuxedos; the grayish-white skin; the freakishly chapped lips. She had seen those men before.

But where?

An involuntary shiver ran through Charlotte. That thing in her brain started to dance around urgently. She regarded her cousin carefully.

“You think I’m barmy?” muttered Zee.

Slowly Charlotte shook her head. “No,” she mumbled. “ I don’t think you’re nuts.”

They soon discover a startling fact – that the Greek mythology they’ve learned about at school is actually true and that Greek gods still exist. Charlotte and Zee set off on a quest to find a cure for their friends, venturing down to the Underworld, which is accessed – much to my amusement – through the largest mall in America.

In Book Two, The Siren Song, a demi-god grandson of Poseidon seeks revenge against Charlotte and Zee, and they find themselves - a couple of ordinary eighth-graders - once again up against the Greek gods. In the final book, The Immortal Fire, Charlotte and Zee are responsible for nothing less than the fate of mankind, and they journey to Mount Olympus for a final show-down.

All three books are exciting and suspenseful and written with Ursu’s wonderful wit. She’s created a clever and imaginative world of Greek gods in modern times that kept me reading late into the night. My 15-year old son is a big fan of the series as well. This is a great trilogy for middle-grade and teen readers (and grown-ups!) who enjoy a combination of humor and adventure. For more information on the series, check out Anne Ursu’s website.

Atheneum and Aladdin Paperbacks (Simon & Schuster)

Accelerated Reader:
The Shadow Thieves: Level 5.1, 12 points
The Siren Song: Level 5.7, 14 points

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teen Review: Bounce

Natasha Friend’s novel, Bounce, is about making unexpected adjustments – lots of adjustments – when just being thirteen is more than enough for a girl to deal with.

At dinner one night, Evyn’s father suddenly announces to Evyn and her fifteen-year-old brother, Mackey, that he’s getting married. Evyn’s mother died many years ago, and the three of them have been a family for a long time. But having a new mother isn’t the only big change for Evyn. Her Dad’s new wife-to-be has six kids of her own and lives in Boston, so Evyn, her brother, and her father will be moving from their home in Maine to join a whole new family. It’s a lot of change, to say the least.

Here are Evyn’s thoughts, as they pull up to the house in Boston to greet their new family:

I have to admit she looks good for a mother – somebody else’s. But not ours. Not now, not ever.

I know. She hasn’t tried to hug us yet. Smart woman. She’s playing it safe. But wait until they’re married, and she starts planting cheek kisses left and right. I give her three weeks before she says, You can call me Mom now, honey. And while you’re at it, scrub the toilet bowl.

That’s what happened to Tamara Schacter, this girl I know. The minute her dad got remarried, Kiki the Stepmonster took over her entire life and destroyed it.

If anything like that happens here, I will run away, which would make Jules very happy, I can tell you. I would go back to Maine and live with her. I have no clue how I’d get there, since I have exactly three dollars to my name. But I’d find a way, that much I promise you. I would definitely find a way.

Evyn moves into a new room that she shares with two of her new sisters, starts a new school in a new city, and struggles to meet new friends, all the while trying desperately to hold onto her old life, which she liked very much. It’d be a tough adjustment for anyone, and Evyn is also trying to adjust to being a teenager and sharing her father with a whole new family.

I really enjoyed reading Evyn’s story, filled with her own warmth, humor, and anxiety. As you might expect, things don’t turn out to be quite so bad as Evyn expects, but to say anymore would ruin the book’s wonderful ups and downs. This is a coming-of-age story with a twist – lots of them, actually – that teen girls (and older preteens as well) will thoroughly enjoy.

Scholastic, 188 pages

Accelerated Reader level 3.3, 5 points

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Book of Ember series

A few weeks ago, we watched the movie version of The City of Ember, and I enjoyed it so much that I was inspired to finally read the books, written by Jeanne DuPrau, that my son told me were very good. I wasn’t disappointed. I read Book 1, The City of Ember, and Book 2, The People of Sparks, so quickly that I went out and bought Book 3, The Prophet of Yonwood, for my son’s birthday. Of course, I managed to read it before he did! Now, the hard part will be to tell you about the series without giving too much of the plot away.

The series begins with Lina Mayfleet, a 12-year old girl, and Doon Harrow, a 12-year old boy, who are both residents of the strange city of Ember. Ember has no natural light and relies on a mysterious generator to create the power needed to light Ember and run all of its electric devices. We learn in a brief prologue that Ember was created by a group of builders:

When the city of Ember was just built and not yet inhabited, the chief builder and the assistant builder, both of them weary, sat down to speak of the future.

“They must not leave the city for at least two hundred years,” said the chief builder. “Or perhaps two hundred and twenty.”

“Is that long enough?” asked his assistant.

“It should be. We can’t know for sure.”

“And when the time comes,” said the assistant, “how will they know what to do?”

“We’ll provide them with instructions, of course,” the chief builder replied.

“But who will keep the instructions? Who can we trust to keep them safe and secret all that time?”

“The mayor of the city will keep the instructions,” said the chief builder. “We’ll put them in a box with a timed lock, set to open on the proper date.”

But over the long years, the instructions are lost.

The story opens on Assignment Day, the day that all 12-year olds in Ember receive their job assignment that marks the beginning of their adult lives. Lina loves to run and explore the city and wants to be a messenger, while Doon wants to work underground in the Pipeworks where the generator is located. The power in Ember has begun to fail, and the increasingly frequent blackouts have everyone scared. Doon wants to try to fix the generator and save his city.

Book 2, The People of Sparks, continues the story of Lina and Doon and provides some hints as to what happened 200 years ago that inspired the builders to create Ember in the first place. It also explores how differences between people can lead to conflict and violence. Book 3, The Prophet of Yonwood, is a prequel that takes place before the city of Ember is built and populated, providing clues as to what led to the creation of Ember, as it tells the story of a small town where one woman sees a vision of the future to come.

The whole series is well written, suspenseful, and imaginative. DuPrau creates a future world that is both cautionary and hopeful, populated with realistic characters that will appeal to both boys and girls. You’ll cheer Lina and Doon on, as they work to save their people. Book 4, The Diamond of Darkhold, was just released at the end of August. I can’t wait to read it!

Random House Books for Young Readers
Yearling Paperbacks

Accelerated Reader:
The City of Ember - level 5, 9 points
The People of Sparks – level 4.9, 11 points
The Prophet of Yonwood – level 4.9, 9 points

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Top Ten Fantasy Series


Things have been kind of quiet at the blog lately - I was sick for two weeks and unable to write much. The good news is I had plenty of time to read and finished two great middle-grade series - Book of Ember and The Cronus Chronicles - plus a good teen book, Bounce. Look for reviews soon!

Meanwhile, I'm turning today's Top Ten list over to my son. Jamie is 15 years old and loves to read, especially fantasy novels. Jamie is an avid reader, and he says there are so many good fantasy series out now that it's hard to choose!

Here are Jamie's picks for Top Ten Fantasy Series for middle-grade readers and teens:
  • The Farsala Trilogy by Hilari Bell
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
  • Fablehaven by Brandon Mull and Brandon Dorman
  • Tunnels Books by Brian Williams and Roderick Gordon
  • The Icemark Chronicles (starting with Cry of the Icemark) by Stuart Hill
  • The Book of Time by Guillaume Prevost
  • The Books of Umber by P.W. Catanese
  • Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
  • The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
I've read The Hunger Games, The Book of Time, and Tunnels and agree with those choices wholeheartedly!

What are your favorite fantasy novels?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Freaky Monday

My two sons and I are big fans of both Freaky Friday movies, so we were excited to hear that a long-awaited sequel was recently published, Freaky Monday. Written by the original author, Mary Rodgers, and the screenwriter for the second Freaky Friday movie, Heather Hach, the new book is just as much fun as the original! We listened to the audio book on a recent car trip, and the whole family enjoyed it.

Hadley is an over-achieving eighth-grader who is so worried about her grades that she hardly has time in her life for anything else, even her two best friends. Her freewheeling English teacher, Ms. Pitt, drives Hadley crazy because she’s not focused on grades; she’s more likely to have her students sit in a circle and talk about the meaning of a book than assign extra credit projects.

During a conflict between the two in the school hallway, they suddenly trade places, and then the fun really begins! They go through all kinds of crises while trapped in each other’s bodies, including a job interview, a family emergency, and even a little romance. The result is funny, engaging, and eventually heartwarming.

The audio book is perfectly read by Jennifer Stone, whose voice kids will recognize as Harper from Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place TV show. Stone did a great job narrating as slightly neurotic Hadley, and we were hooked from beginning to end. This one is sure to be a big hit with tweens, especially girls (though my boys enjoyed it, too).

Listen to a sample audio clip.

Harper-Collins, 192 pages.
HarperChildren’s Audio
Accelerated Reader (AR) Level 4.7

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow

Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow by best-selling adult author James Rollins has all the suspense and action of his grown-up books, with magic and fantasy added to the mix. We listened to this audio book during our recent cross-country road trip, and it helped make the miles fly by!

Jake and his older sister, Kady, are left on their own when their parents, both famous archeologists, disappear while on an expedition. A few months later, Jake receives a mysterious package that contains an artifact that his parents found on their last expedition.

The kids enter their own adventure when the artifact plunges them into a bizarre world where long-lost civilizations live together. They make friends with Mayan, Roman, and Viking kids while they try to find a way back home, but this strange new world is filled with dangers. Besides creatures like T. Rex chasing them, there is an evil Skull King who wants to stop them from finding a way home.

Rollins includes fascinating facts about how each of these ancient civilizations lived, coupled with the enticing magic that brought them all together and allows them to create their own technologies. The gripping story combines elements of science and history with fantasy for a thrilling adventure filled with exciting twists. It’s clear from the ending that this is only the beginning of Jake and Kady’s adventures.

You can listen to a sample of the audio book – just click on the listen button at the link.

HarperCollins, 416 pages.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teen/YA Review: Prism

You know an audio book is good when you get to your destination and don’t want to get out of the car. That happened to me recently when I listened to the new teen/YA novel Prism by Faye and Aliza Kellerman, a mother-daughter writing team (and wife and daughter to best-selling author Jonathan Kellerman). I arrived home and ran in the house to stick the CD into our home player so I could finish listening to this exciting and suspenseful story, and I kept listening until I got to the end. I don’t think I’ve ever finished an audio book in so little time.

The action begins with a class trip to Carlsbad Caverns. Kaida Hutchenson isn’t thrilled to find out she’s been assigned to ride in a van (for 14 hours) with swimming jock Zeke Anderson and smarty-pants loner Joy Tallon. Partway through the long and boring drive, a terrible accident occurs, and Kaida, Zeke, and Joy suddenly find themselves not only stuck together but trying to survive alone in the desert together. During a storm, they take refuge in a cave. Suddenly, there’s a blinding flash of light in the black cave, and the next thing Kaida knows, she’s waking up in her own bed back home.

Did she dream the whole awful ordeal? As Kaida numbly goes through the motions of her school day, she discovers that everything is just a little bit different than she remembers. With no other options, she must again band together with Zeke and Joy to try to figure out what happened and how to get back to the reality they know.

This imaginative thriller is not only fast-paced but also very well-written. The excellent voice talent of reader Jenna Lamia adds to the audio book’s appeal. You can tell that a teen helped to write this novel (Aliza is a junior in high school) because its dialogue sounds natural and true. Plus, the plot and concept of the book are fascinating to consider. I highly recommend this book to teens, young adults, and even older pre-teens (as well as adults!)

HarperCollins, 272 pages

Click here to listen to a sample of the audio book Prism.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Flipped

I recently enjoyed a wonderful audio book of Flipped, a fun and funny middle-grade novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. Flipped is a unique book because it’s almost like two books in one. Alternating chapters are told from the viewpoint of two different characters, Bryce and Juli, who are seventh-graders. They’ve known each other since Bryce moved in across the street from Juli five years before.

What makes this novel so much fun and adds a large dose of humor is that Bryce and Juli see everything completely differently, even when they are each recounting the exact same events. For instance, here are two excerpts about the day they first met, when a mud-splattered Juli came over to the moving truck, excited to have someone her own age in the neighborhood, and introduced herself. Bryce was a bit overwhelmed by Juli and tried to escape into the house. First, Bryce’s perspective:

I heard her coming after me but I couldn’t believe it. Maybe it just sounded like she was chasing me; maybe she was really going the other way. But before I got up the nerve to look, she blasted right past me, grabbing my arm and yanking me along.

This was too much. I planted myself and was about to tell her to get lost when the weirdest thing happened. I was making this big windmill motion to break away from her, but somehow on the downswing my hand wound up tangling into hers. I couldn’t believe it. There I was, holding the mud monkey’s hand!

I tried to shake her off, but she just clamped on tight and yanked me along, saying, “C’mon!”

And here is how Juli remembers the exact same incident, where she thought Bryce had to go in house the to help but would much rather stay out and play:

I chased Bryce up the walkway, and that’s when everything changed. You see, I caught up to him and grabbed his arm, trying to stop him so maybe we could play a little before he got trapped inside, and the next thing I know he’s holding my hand, looking right into my eyes.

My heart stopped. It just stopped beating. And for the first time in my life, I had that feeling. You know, like the world is moving all around you, all beneath you, all inside you, and you’re floating. Floating in midair. And the only thing keeping you from drifting away is the other person’s eyes. They’re connected to yours by some invisible physical force, and they hold you fast while the rest of the world swirls and twirls and falls completely away.

I almost got my first kiss that day. I’m sure of it.

As you can see, Bryce and Juli see things very differently, and this continues through the five years that they know each other, with each of them assuming things about the other one. In eighth grade, a lot of things happen – involving chickens, a sycamore tree, and several family secrets – that change both their views, and things get flipped once again.

The audio version of this book was a lot of fun to listen to, with excellent reading by both of the young actors voicing the parts of Bryce and Juli. There are plenty of twists in the plot to keep you guessing and laughing.

Alfred A. Knopf, 212 pages

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level 4.8; 8 points

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Teen/YA Review: Everlost

For two years now, my son has been urging me to read Everlost, a novel by Neal Shusterman. I’m so glad I finally got to it! It’s a magical and intriguing look at the imagined world in between life and death.

Allie, a girl of about 14, is riding in the car with her dad when they collide head-on with another car, carrying Nick, a boy of about the same age, eating a chocolate bar and riding with his family to his cousin’s wedding. Allie and Nick both fly through the windshields of their respective cars, then feel themselves moving through a tunnel toward a bright light, when they suddenly collide into each other, land on the ground, and enter a strange, dreamless sleep.

“It’s about time you woke up,” [the boy] said.

“Who are you?” Allie asked.

Instead of answering, he pointed to the other kid, who was starting to stir. “Your friend is waking up, too.”

“He’s not my friend.”

The other kid sat up, blinking in the light. He had brown stuff on his face. Dried blood? thought Allie. No. Chocolate. She could smell it.

“This is freaky,” the chocolate boy said. “Where am I?”

Allie stood up and took a good look around. This wasn’t just a grove of trees, it was an entire forest.

“I was in the car, with my dad,” Allie said aloud, forcing the scrap of memory to her lips, hoping that would help to drag the rest of it all the way back. “We were on a mountain, above a forest…”

Only this wasn’t the forest they had driven past.

Allie and Nick discover they are in Everlost, a strange place populated with Afterlights like themselves, in an alternate reality of the life they’ve known. There are peculiar rules and dangers in Everlost, and the boy who was with them when they woke up helps Allie and Nick along. But neither of them feels ready for this place, so they set out to find their homes and families. Their journey takes them to extraordinary places and introduces them to extraordinary beings, as they struggle to remember and hang onto their old lives.

I really enjoyed this magical book. It’s a classic adventure story, set in a mystical place. Shusterman has created a very clever and imaginative after-world. To say much more would give away too much of the story, but it’s sure to appeal to teens and adults as well. A sequel, Everwild, is scheduled for release November 10, 2009. We can’t wait to go back to Everlost!

500 pages, Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster Audio

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Friday, July 17, 2009

Teen Book Meme

First, a confession...I only recently learned what a "meme" is and I had to look it up! So, don't feel bad if it's new to you, too. My understanding is that it's some sort of Q&A thingy that people pass along and paste into their blogs. It's fun! And, since I love teen and YA books, this one really appealed to me. Thanks to Laura at I'm Booking It!

The following list of books teens love, books teens should read, and books adults who serve teens should know about was compiled IN ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC MANNER and should be taken with a very large grain of salt.


Put an “X” next to the books you’ve read
Put a “+” next to the books you LOVE
Put a “#” next to the books you plan on reading
Tally your “X”s at the bottom
Share with your friends!

X 1. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy / Douglas Adams
2. Kit’s Wilderness / David Almond
X+3. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian / Sherman Alexie
4. Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson
5. Feed / M.T. Anderson
X+6. Flowers in the Attic / V.C. Andrews
7. 13 Reasons Why / Jay Asher
8. Am I Blue? / Marion Dane Bauer (editor)
9. Audrey Wait! / Robin Benway
10. Weetzie Bat / Francesca Lia Block
11. Tangerine / Edward Bloor
X+12. Forever / Judy Blume
13. What I Saw and How I Lied / Judy Blundell
14. Tyrell / Coe Booth
* 15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants / Ann Brashares (*saw the movie!)
16. A Great and Terrible Beauty / Libba Bray
* 17. The Princess Diaries / Meg Cabot (*saw the movie!)
X 18. The Stranger / Albert Camus
X++19. Ender’s Game / Orson Scott Card
20. Postcards from No Man’s Land / Aidan Chambers
21. Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky
X 22. And Then There Were None / Agatha Christie
23. Gingerbread / Rachel Cohn
# 24. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist / Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
X+25. Artemis Fowl (series) / Eoin Colfer
X++26. The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins
27. The Midwife’s Apprentice / Karen Cushman
28. The Truth About Forever / Sarah Dessen
29. Little Brother / Cory Doctorow
30. A Northern Light / Jennifer Donnelly
31. Tears of a Tiger / Sharon Draper
X++32. The House of the Scorpion / Nancy Farmer
33. Breathing Underwater / Alex Flinn
34. Stardust / Neil Gaiman
35. Annie on My Mind / Nancy Garden
36. What Happened to Cass McBride / Gail Giles
37. Fat Kid Rules the World / K.L. Going
X 38. Lord of the Flies / William Golding
# 39. Looking for Alaska / John Green
40. Bronx Masquerade / Nikki Grimes
41. Out of the Dust / Karen Hesse
X 42. Hoot / Carl Hiaasen
X 43. The Outsiders / S.E. Hinton
44. Crank / Ellen Hopkins
45. The First Part Last / Angela Johnson
46. Blood and Chocolate / Annette Curtis Klause
47. Arrow’s Flight / Mercedes Lackey
48. Hattie Big Sky / Kirby Larson
X++49. To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee
50. Boy Meets Boy / David Levithan
51. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks / E. Lockhart
X 52. The Giver / Lois Lowry
X 53. Number the Stars / Lois Lowry
54. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie / David Lubar
55. Inexcusable / Chris Lynch
56. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things / Carolyn Mackler
57. Dragonsong / Anne McCaffrey
58. White Darkness / Geraldine McCaughrean
59. Sold / Patricia McCormick
60. Jellicoe Road / Melina Marchetta
61. Wicked Lovely / Melissa Marr
62. Twilight / Stephenie Meyer
63. Dairy Queen / Catherine Murdock
64. Fallen Angels / Walter Dean Myers
65. Monster / Walter Dean Myers
66. Step From Heaven / An Na
67. Mama Day / Gloria Naylor
68. The Keys to the Kingdom (series) / Garth Nix
69. Sabriel / Garth Nix
70. Airborn / Kenneth Oppel
71. Eragon / Christopher Paolini
X 72. Hatchet / Gary Paulsen
73. Life As We Knew It / Susan Beth Pfeffer
X++74. The Golden Compass / Phillip Pullman
75. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging / Louise Rennison
X+76. The Lightning Thief / Rick Riordan
77. Always Running: La Vida Loca / Luis Rodriguez
78. How I Live Now / Meg Rosoff
X++79. Harry Potter (series) / J.K. Rowling
* 80. Holes / Louis Sachar
X 81. Catcher in the Rye / J. D. Salinger
82. Push / Sapphire
83. Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi
84. Unwind / Neil Shusterman
85. Coldest Winter Ever / Sister Souljah
86. Stargirl / Jerry Spinelli
87. Chanda’s Secrets / Allan Stratton
88. Tale of One Bad Rat / Brian Talbot
89. Rats Saw God / Rob Thomas
* 90. Lord of the Rings / J.R.R. Tolkien
91. Stuck in Neutral / Terry Trueman
92. Gossip Girl / Cecily Von Ziegesar
93. Uglies / Scott Westerfeld
94. Every Time a Rainbow Dies / Rita Williams-Garcia
95. Pedro and Me / Judd Winick
96. Hard Love / Ellen Wittlinger
97. American Born Chinese / Gene Luen Yang
98. Elsewhere / Gabrielle Zevin
99. I am the Messenger / Markus Zusak
X+100. The Book Thief / Markus Zusak

I've read 22 out of 100 - I better get busy! Plus I added two new designations: * means I saw the movie but didn't read the book, and - since I'm prone to fits of unbridled enthusiasm - ++ means that I REALLY loved it, as in one of the best books I've ever read. What a great list!

Anyone else want to play?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Middle-Grade Review: Books To Tickle Your Funny Bone

Sorry for the lack of posts recently - we took a 3-week road trip vacation. While we were away, I was reminded of some of our favorite funny books from the past several years...

Even though our sons, Jamie, 14, and Craig, 11, are avid readers on their own, we still enjoy reading aloud with them at bedtime (though sometimes they take a turn now!). The books listed below have all been favorite read-alouds over the past several years because we all enjoy a good sense of humor. Besides being fun to read together, any of these would be excellent choices for a middle-grade reader to read alone, especially a reluctant reader who doesn’t want to take his or her books too seriously!

In Airball: My Life in Briefs by L.D. Harkrader, Kirby loves everything about basketball but has few skills to help his struggling seventh-grade team prepare for an exhibition game against a hometown NBA star. The coach devises a plan to help the boys focus on their game by playing in their underwear, while Kirby works to unravel the mystery of his biological father. Comical and touching, the fast-paced plot keeps you rooting for Kirby, on the court and off. This one is such a favorite of ours that we’ve read it aloud twice! Ages 8 and up. Roaring Brook Press.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy, Book 1: The Hero Revealed by William Boniface takes place in Superopolis where everyone is a superhero with special powers…everyone except Ordinary Boy. In this first book, O Boy and his friends, Stench (super strong and super gassy), Plasma Girl (can turn herself into jelly), and others, go up against the biggest villain of all time, Professor Brain Drain. Your kids will laugh as they cheer on the city’s littlest superheroes. During our recent vacation, we read Book 2: The Return of Meteor Boy? and are happy to report that it’s just as amusing as the first one! Ages 8 and up. Harper-Collins.

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and correct your mistakes? In 15 Minutes by Steve Young, seventh-grader Casey discovers an invention of his Grandpop’s that allows him to do just that. There’s one catch, though. It only takes him back 15 minutes. Hilarious consequences ensue, as Casey grapples with a test he didn’t study for, a bully, and his middle school football game. Ages 8 and up, Harper-Collins.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Teen/YA Review: The Hunger Games

We’re on vacation, and I finally had the chance to read the book that both my husband and 14-year old son said was one of the best books they’d ever read: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Wow, they were right. Our whole family loved Collins’ The Underland Chronicles series, so we’d been anticipating her latest release for a while.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives with her mother and younger sister in District 12, one of twelve outlying districts controlled by The Capitol, in the remains of what was once North America, now called Panem. The Capitol keeps control of the districts in part through the annual Hunger Games:

The rules of the Huger Games are simple. In punishment for the uprising, each of the twelve districts must provide one girl and one boy, called tributes, to participate. The twenty-four tributes will be imprisoned in a vast outdoor arena that could hold anything from a burning desert to a frozen wasteland. Over a period of several weeks, the competitors must fight to the death. The last tribute standing wins.

Taking the kids from our districts, forcing them to kill one another while we watch – this is the Capitol’s way of reminding us how totally we are at their mercy. How little chance we would stand of surviving another rebellion. Whatever words they use, the real message is clear. “Look how we can take your children and sacrifice them and there’s nothing you can do. If you lift a finger, we will destroy every last one of you. Just as we did in District Thirteen.

To make it humiliating as well as torturous, the Capitol requires us to treat the Hunger Games as a festivity, a sporting event pitting every district against the others. The last tribute alive receives a life of ease back home, and their district will be showered with prizes, largely consisting of food. All year, the Capitol will show the winning district gifts of grain and oil and even delicacies like sugar while the rest of us battle starvation.

“It is both a time for repentance and a time for thanks,” intones the mayor.

As you can see, Panem is a place often ruled by cruelty and a struggle to survive. Families in most of the districts live on the edge of starvation, fighting to get by with limited rations and hard work with low pay. Katniss’ father was killed in a mining accident (mining is the designated industry for District 12), but he taught her how to hunt before he died. Although hunting is illegal, Katniss helps her family survive with the meat she brings home and the trades she’s able to make in the black market.

Katniss and her family are devastated when Katniss must compete in this year’s Hunger Games. As one of the poorer districts, District Twelve rarely wins, and it seems like a death sentence as Katniss is whisked away to the Capitol amid the false festivities. Most of the novel deals with Katniss’ efforts to survive the Hunger Games and the tough choices she faces in the arena.

As my husband and son had told me, this is an amazing book. Collins’ writing talents shine, with in-depth characters that you come to care about and fascinating details of a world different than our own, yet eerily similar in some ways. The suspense and action keep you turning the pages. I even broke my own rule about reading in the car and chanced getting carsick because I just couldn’t wait until evening to read more! We’re all counting the days until the sequel, Catching Fire, comes out, on September 1, 2009.

NOTE: Because of the deadly nature of the Hunger Games, these books are best for teens and older and so well-written that they'll appeal to adults as well.

384 pages, Scholastic Press