Thursday, July 28, 2011

Teen Fiction Review: The Black (Morpheus Road)

 If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that D.J. MacHale’s Pendragon series is one of my all-time favorites for middle-grade and teen readers.  He’s following up that 10-book success with a new series for teens called Morpheus Road.  Last summer, my son and I read the first book, The Light, and a few weeks ago we both read Book 2, The Black.  It’s a scary, suspenseful story sure to please fans of supernatural thrillers.

Interestingly, Book 2 tells the same story as Book 1, but from a different character’s perspective.  That may sound repetitive, but it isn’t: it worked for Orson Scott Card with Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, and it works here for D.J. MacHale.  Book 1, The Light, was written from Marshall Seaver’s perspective, about how his best friend, Cooper Foley, had mysteriously disappeared.  At the end of the book, Marshall found out what happened to Coop (and no, I’m not going to tell you!).

The Black takes place during the same timeline, but it is Coop’s own story of what was happening to him, as Marshall and Coop’s family searched for him.  It reminded me in some ways of Pendragon, with an ordinary teen boy at its center who suddenly finds himself responsible for the fate of the universe.  It is exciting and fast-paced like Pendragon, too, with plenty of plot twists.  The Morpheus Road series, though, deals with ghost stories, something D.J. MacHale knows well from his TV writing career.  I really don’t want to say much more about it because I don’t want to give away its many secrets and surprises, but if you like action-packed supernatural adventures, you’ll love Morpheus Road.

405 pages, Aladdin

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

First Look at Gale and Peeta in Hunger Games Movie

Entertainment Weekly is publishing a first peek at the actors playing Gale and Peeta:

They both look fairly close to how I imagined the characters, although I didn't picture Peeta quite so buff (he is, after all, a baker's son and specializes in decorating cakes).

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top Ten Kids/Teen Books That Tackle Tough Issues

It's Tuesday and that means Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Today's topic is Books That Tackle Tough Issues.  I love this one because I always enjoy thought-provoking books that teach me or make me think about something (I love the alliteration, too!).  In fact, I wrote my own Top Ten list a few years ago of Books That Taught Me Something, which is a bit similar.

For this week's list, I tried to stick to more recent books I've read that have tackled a wide variety of tough topics and to books written for kids/teens/YA (you can read my Top Ten list of grown-up books at Book By Book).

Top Ten Kids/Teen Books That Tackle Tough Topics:

  1. Three Little Words (memoir) by Ashley Rhodes (foster care)
  2. Go Ask Alice (drug addiction)
  3. Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor (divorce, unreliable parents, child neglect)
  4. Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay (plight of girls/women in Afghanistan)
  5. A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata (effects of war on children)
  6. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel (animal rights)
  7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (effect of war on society, citizens, and soldiers)
  8. Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin and Rules by Cynthia Lord (autism, treatment of people who are different)
  9. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott (abduction, rape)
  10. Nothing But the Truth by Justina Chen Headley (personal identity, mixed races, fitting in)

What are your favorite books that tackle tough issues?

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's Monday 7/25! What Are You Reading?

What's that sound??  Ah, it's silence. This weekend, my husband and I dropped off our two teen boys at their grandparents' house for their annual week of sailing with Gramie and Pop Pop.  They love this week - it's the highlight of the year for them (that's them with their cousin a few years ago on the Grandkids' Cruise).  And for me?  It's a well-deserved week of quiet solitude in the midst of a crazy-busy summer.  I hope to catch up on all the stuff (especially writing) that has been going undone all summer and, of course, fit in lots of reading (though I was a complete lazy bum last night and watched two movies in a row instead of reading my book!).  This is my week.

We kicked off our quiet week with a mini getaway this weekend.  My husband surprised me for my birthday Saturday with an overnight near New Hope, PA, a lovely little town along the Delaware River.  We had a fabulous dinner and enjoyed some much-overdue quiet time together.

So, last week was very busy, with my husband out of town on business, getting the boys ready for their trip, driving them to CT, and hosting two other teen boys to help out their mom (my friend).  Whew.  We did fit in a little reading, though:
  • I am reading The Passage by Justin Cronin, part of my Summer of the Big Book effort to catch up on some hefty reads.  It's almost 800 pages, so I'm only about a quarter of the way through so far, but it is really, really good (though really creepy).
  • My husband, Ken, finished Room by Emma Donoghue.  He liked it very much, and we even had time to discuss it over dinner this weekend!
  • Ken is now reading The Burning Wire by Jeffrey Deaver, a Father's Day gift from us.  He says it's good so far.
  • Jamie, 16, spent a lot of time with friends last week, so he had less reading time than usual.  He finished re-reading City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare.
  • Jamie was thrilled when Rip Tide by Kat Falls showed up at our house last week.  It is the sequel to Dark Life which he loved last summer, so he re-read Dark Life and took the new sequel with him on the boat.  He loves to read water-centric books while on the boat, and these take place in a future community deep below the ocean.
  • Craig, 13, took an old favorite on the boat with him.  He's decided to re-read the Charlie Bone books which were the first books to really grab his interest a few years ago.
  • Ken and I finally finished an audio book this weekend that we started almost 9 months ago!  We rarely have time alone in the car together, so on our way home yesterday we finished Sarah Silverman's memoir, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee.  We weren't familiar with the comedienne before we listened to this, but I guess this was classic Silverman:  hilarious and outrageous, sometimes a bit uncomfortable, and sometimes suprisingly touching.
In addition to my post on the Summer of the Big Book last week at Book By Book (I could still use some advice on that one!), I also posted about The Demise of  Bookstores and was very sad to come home yesterday and hear that our own Borders is closing this week (I guess they are now closing ALL stores).  I will be stopping by their clearance sale this week to spend one last, remaining gift card.  So sad.

I did manage to post one measly review last week here on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book and movie).  I hope to use some of my writing time this week to catch up on reviews!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What Are You Reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, book and movie

Last week was Harry Potter week at our house (and probably in many other houses, too!).   I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the second time, and our whole family went to see the final movie at the theater on Sunday.  We don’t get out to the movie theater very often, but for years we have made sure to catch the annual Harry Potter movie, no matter what.  There’s not much I can say about the book or movie that hasn’t already been said, but I thought I’d just share some of my own thoughts on both.

If you haven’t read a Harry Potter book in a while (or…gasp…have never read one), I urge you to pick one up.  I had forgotten what an amazing writer J.K. Rowling is, how she has the ability to make her pretend world seem more real than your real world.  Her books are exciting and fast-paced, of course, but they are also imbibed with a wonderful, subtle sense of humor and plenty of warmth.  By this past weekend, I was at the point where I just could not put the book down (even though I’d read it before and knew how it ended!) – that sounds trite, but in reality, there are very few books that can really make me set aside my to-do list and just spend an entire day reading.

The movies have been remarkable also.  As any avid reader knows, the book is always better than the movie, and there is nothing worse than a poorly done movie adaptation of a favorite book.  My husband, older son, and I have all read all of the Harry Potter books, and we have all thoroughly enjoyed the movies as well.  Of course, as with any movie adaptation, especially of such long books, there are many small details missing and other details that need to be changed, but overall, the Harry Potter movies have stuck closely to the original books.  In this case, the movies have been additive, bringing our favorite characters and scenes to life in a way that pays homage to the books.

Harry Potter has been more than a story; it has defined a whole generation, creating a cultural phenomenon never before seen.  Before J.K. Rowling came along, could you even have imagined a book causing hundreds of thousands of fans to line up for hours?  Or bookstores staying open until midnight so that people could buy a book at the exact moment of its release?  Or kids willingly reading 800-page tomes?  Harry Potter caused all of that and more, paving the way for other mega-popular books and midnight release parties (Twilight comes to mind).
So, now it’s all over – the last book written, the last movie made.  Will my family ever go to the movies again?  Well, if we ever miss Harry Potter, we’ll find him alive and well on our bookshelves, in seven beautiful hardcover volumes, just waiting to take us back to the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
(NOTE:  I thought you might enjoy some more photos from my son’s 8th birthday when we hosted a Harry Potter party:  there’s Professor Snape presiding over Potions class, Madam Trelawney in Divinations class, and all the kids ready for their Sorting Ceremony.  I also included a few photos on Monday’s post.)


Monday, July 18, 2011

It's Monday 7/18! What Are You Reading?

July 18...summer is already half over!  We had a very busy week here, filled with doctor's appointments, errands, and running the kids all over.  Whatever happened to the lazy days of summer?

We did find some time for reading, however, especially this weekend:
  • I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (my second time) in preparation for the last movie which we went to see on Sunday.  Both the book and movie were fabulous!  I was glad I had re-read the book because there were a lot of details left out or changed in the movie, and I was reminded of just how wonderful J.K. Rowlings' books are - by this weekend, I was at the point where I didn't want to do anything but read, and I didn't care what was left undone!  I've included a few photos here of Jamie's 8th birthday when we put together a big Harry Potter party and transformed our entire house into Hogwarts.  We recruited some friends to help play the roles of the professors (you can see everyone at the table in the Great Hall below; I was Professor McGonagall, on the right in the photo with Dumbledore and Snape).  The kids all had a blast, as did the adults!
  • Last night, I just started The Passage by Justin Cronin, a July birthday gift from my husband LAST summer that I have finally gotten around to reading.  I've just started it, but it seems intriguing so far.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Room by Emma Donoghue, based on my recommendation.
  • Jamie, 16, is re-reading City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, and he told me this morning which five books are next on his list!  He has it all planned out.
I finally started to catch up on my backlog of reviews last week, posting new reviews of Blood, Bones and Butter, a memoir by chef Gabrielle Hamilton, at Book By Book and  Deadly, a teen historical novel by Julie Chibarro.  I also posted my Top Ten Lists of Authors I'd Like to Meet and Kids'/Teen Authors I'd Like to Meet.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Deadly

I was intrigued by the subject of Deadly: How Do You Catch an Invisible Killer?, a new teen/YA novel by Julie Chibbaro.  It’s about how scientists unraveled the mystery of so-called Typhoid Mary, a cook who unwittingly spread typhoid fever throughout the NYC area in the early 1900’s.  In true historical fiction fashion, Chibbaro took this fascinating real-life event and wove an engaging fictional story around it.

Sixteen year-old Prudence is a turn-of-the-century young woman with big dreams.  Though most of her peers are finishing charm school and hoping to be married soon, Prudence is interested in more meaningful things: science, writing, and having some sort of positive impact on the world.  She’s seen her share of sorrow already, having lost both her father and her brother.  When she gets a job as an assistant at the Department of Health and Sanitation, she feels like her dreams are finally coming true.

Her boss is working on an important case, trying to figure out what is causing an outbreak of typhoid fever in the area.  They think they find a link between the affected homes, a young cook named Mary, but she has never had typhoid.  How can they prove that Mary is contagious and spreading this disease without knowing it?

The science and history here are fascinating, but so is Prudence’s own coming-of-age story, as she struggles with her own personal challenges, including grief, in this journal-like novel told in her own words.  I enjoyed it very much and would love to read another Chibbaro novel.

NOTE: There is nothing objectionable in this novel; it is appropriate for younger teens or preteens.
293 pages, Athenuem (Simon & Schuster) 

Where in the World Are You Reading? update: this novel takes place in NYC.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten Kids/Teen Authors I'd Love to Meet

It's Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish!  Today's topic is an intriguing one - authors I'd like to meet.  I put some thought into this one and didn't just choose my favorite book authors (though many of them are) but ones I thought would be interesting to meet and talk with.
Here is my list of Top Ten Kids/Teen/YA Authors I'd Love to Meet:

  1. J.K. Rowling – she seems to be on everyone’s list!  Specifically, I would like to ask her whether she now sees Daniel Radcliff in her mind when she thinks of Harry Potter or whether she still sees the character she first imagined.
  2. Madeleine L’Engle – my favorite childhood author.
  3. Laura Ingalls Wilder – another favorite from childhood, plus I’ve read biographies about her and she seems like she was such a kind, thoughtful, intelligent person.
  4. D.J. MacHale – loved his Pendragon series – what a great imagination!
  5. Orson Scott Card – he’s such an amazing writer – I’d love to talk with him about his novels and his writing.
  6. Suzanne Collins – our family loved both her Gregor the Overlander series and The Hunger Games series – I’d love to talk to her about all the thought-provoking issues she brings up in her books.
  7. Neal Schusterman – I’d like to talk to him about his ideas about the afterlife from his Everlost series.
  8. Kate DiCamillo – her books are so warm and clever - she seems like she'd be a wonderful person to meet.
  9. Dr. Seuss – I’ve seen him on lots of lists today – who wouldn’t want to meet the best children’s author ever?
  10. Kathryn Kenny – I don’t even know if she’s a real author or a pseudonym for a bunch of them, like Carolyn Keene, but I wanted to be Trixie Belden when I was a kid!

If you're interested in the authors of grown-up books I'd like to meet, you can check out my list at Book By Book.

Which authors would YOU like to meet?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Monday 7/11! What Are You Reading?

Well, life is slowly returning to normal after our trip, though I am still way behind in blogging!  Re-entry to real life is always a challenge after a long vacation, but we have finished unpacking and laundry and taken care of the most urgent stuff waiting for us when we got home.

So, we haven't had as much reading time as we did while we were away, but we are still enjoying our books this week:
  • I finished Morpheus Road 2: The Black, a teen thriller about the afterlife by D.J. MacHale and enjoyed it.  MacHale told the same basic story from Book 1, from the totally different perspective of a different main character, sort of like what Orson Scott Card did with Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow.  It was clever and suspenseful.
  • I am now re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book 7) in preparation for this week's movie release.  Fun!
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner and enjoyed it.
  • Ken is now reading Dark Life by Kat Falls, a middle-grade sci fi book that takes place under water that our son really enjoyed.  Ken says it's good, though he feels the technology is less believable than typical adult sci fi novels.
  • Sixteen-year old Jamie finished Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and loved it!
  • Jamie is now re-reading City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, book 1 of Mortal Instruments because he enjoyed books 3 and 4 so much on vacation, as I mentioned on the vacation book summary I posted last week.
Didn't have a chance to post any reviews last week, but I did post a summary of the books I read in June.  I'm going to try to catch up on reviews by writing some mini reviews, starting this week, so stay tuned!

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some of the Books Jamie Read on Vacation

As I mentioned in my Monday post, we just returned from a 3-week vacation, and my 16-year old son, Jamie, read about a dozen books in that time!  We had to ship a carton of books ahead of time to keep him stocked up, and the carton hasn't arrived back home yet, so I can't include a full list, but here are some of the books he read while we were away:
  • Triss and Loamhedge by Brian Jacques, part of Jamie's effort to re-read the entire Redwall series (which he did!).
  • The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials trilogy) by Philip Pullman - a re-read for Jamie.
  • Books 3 and 4 (City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels) in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (and he enjoyed those so much, he is now re-reading books 1 & 2!)
  • The Dragon's Apprentice, Book 5 in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen, where H.G. Wells asks J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams to be caretakers of an atlas of imaginary places, thus bringing into the stories the fictional locations of all of your favorite places from fantasy novels (a really wonderful series!)
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore, the first novel either of us has read by this author.
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, which Jamie had to borrow from my aunt because he'd run out of books for the flight home!  He was thrilled when I told him there were two sequels that we have at home.
So, that's just a portion of the books Jamie read while we were away.  As you can see, he is an avid book lover!  And, unlike his mother, he can read in the car without getting sick, so he spent all of our driving hours buried in fiction, lucky boy.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Monday 7/4! What Are You Reading?

Happy Fourth of July!  I didn't even remember it was Monday until just now...oops.

We just returned this weekend from a 3-week vacation in California and Oregon, so that's why I have been absent from the blogging world for so long.  Sorry I just sort of left without saying anything, but it didn't seem like a good idea to announce on the internet that we'd be away for 3 weeks!  We had a magnificent time and saw so many beautiful sites.  This photo was taken at Crater Lake National Park.  Yes, it was summer there, too, but they still have over 20 feet of snow!  It was mind-boggling, but the views were still gorgeous.  If you'd like to see more photos from our trip, you can check out our trip blog (if you scroll down to June 10, 2011, you can see the pictures in order).

So, what have we been reading?  That's a big question this week!  I'll try not to make this list too long:
  • I started our trip reading Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult, wanting a fun, gripping read for the long flight.  It was classic Picoult, with alternating viewpoints and a few twists, and I enjoyed it.
  • I love to read road trip books while on a road trip, so next I read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour, a teen book by Morgan Matson, about two young adults on a cross-country road trip that is also an emotional journey.  I loved this book, especially the playlists and scrapbook-style entries.  Best part: when the characters went to Yosemite right when we were headed there ourselves!
  • Finally, I read Little Bee by Chris Cleave on the way home and absolutely loved it.  A very powerful story about hope and redemption and people coming together.
  • I am now reading Morpheus Road: The Black, book 2 in the teen series by D.J. MacHale.  I always enjoy MacHale's books.
  • My husband, Ken, read The Little Book by Selden Edwards, a novel he gave me for my birthday last year about an 80's rock star who goes back in time to 1890's Vienna.  We both enjoyed it.
  • Ken is now reading The Killing Hour by Lisa Gardner, one of several suspense paperbacks I picked up for him at a library sale.  Neither of us had ever read Gardner before, but Ken says this novel is very good.
  • Our 16-year old son, Jamie, read between 10 and 12 books during our 3-week trip!  We shipped a box of books out there ahead of time for him, he went through every single one and then had to borrow a book from my aunt for the trip home!  That box of books hasn't arrived back home yet, so I won't try to remember all the titles.
  • After a couple days of complaining, we finally got our 13-year old son interested in a book.  Jamie had just re-read His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman, so Craig started The Golden Compass (he had seen the movie but not read the book), and he actually got caught up in it and has been reading before bed at night.
So, it was a wonderful trip with lots of good reading along the way.  Unfortunately, the bronchitis I had before the trip came back with a vengeance while we were away, so I am still struggling with that.  Hopefully, I will start to get back to normal here soon.

I missed hearing about what all of you are reading, so please tell me what books you and your family are enjoying this week!