Thursday, September 29, 2011

Middle-Grade Review: Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf

After reading a 1000-page novel recently, followed by a novel about the Vietnam War, I was looking for something quick and light to enjoy!  I found just the right tasty morsel in the unique middle-grade novel, Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm with pictures by Elicia Castaldi.

I loved the creativity of this book – the story of 12-year old Ginny’s first year of middle school, told entirely through, as the sub-title explains, stuff.  What kind of stuff?  All kinds!  There is no traditional narrative in this novel; the story is told through pictures of all sorts of things in Ginny’s life: excerpts from her journal, notes from her mom, things she tears out of magazines, receipts, checks, IMs between Ginny and her best friend, and more. 

I thought the book might be gimmicky and cute, but it has surprising depth.  Yes, the format is its main draw, but it’s also a very real-feeling story of an adolescent struggling through seventh grade.  One of the first pages shows Ginny’s list of goals for seventh grade, written in her journal.  In addition to the typical challenges facing any middle school student, Ginny is also dealing with a brand-new stepfather, an older brother whose ever-increasing pranks have her worried about his future, and the recent loss of her previous best friend. 

While you’re perusing through all of Ginny’s stuff, you come to care about her and worry about her and root for her.  There’s more here than first meets the eye.  That being said, the format is lots of fun.  There is a lot of humor inserted among the story, as when a clipped magazine article advising a change of hair color is shown with a receipt from the drugstore for hair color, followed on the next page by a bill from a hair salon for fixing a botched color job!   I’ve included a couple of sample pages here, just to give you a tiny glimpse into the creativity and variety.  All in all, this is a funny, warm story that will appeal to any middle-grade girl.

Antheneum Books (Simon & Schuster)


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Ten Kids/Teen Books I Want to Reread

It's Tuesday and that means Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish!  Head over there and check out all the links.  You can also see my grown-up list of Top Ten Books I Want to Reread over at Book By Book.

Today's list was a fun one.  My list is a mix of older classics I read years ago and newer favorites.  So, here are my Top Ten Kids/Teen Books I Want to Reread:
  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - I bet everyone has this one their list - it's just so good!
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - not technically a teen/YA book but it's about teens/YA - I read it in high school and would like to read it as an adult.
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - so good and so much to think about.
  4. Everlost/Everwild by Neal Schusterman - love this series!
  5. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer - fabulous book I would gladly reread.
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - even though I've read it a half dozen times - it was my childhood favorite.
  7. Any Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene - I keep meaning to revisit my other childhood favorites.
  8. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - already read twice but such an amazing book.
  9. Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card - his latest and well-worth a reread, especially given its complexity.
  10. The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett - haven't read it since I was a kid.
 What favorite kids and teen/YA books would you like to reread?

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Monday 9/26! What Are You Reading?

End of September already...and it still feels like summer here!  I'm ready for some real fall weather instead of this warm and humid stuff.  We had another busy week, though not as bad as the last few.  One of my sons was home sick for two days, and the other one was home sick all week, so we had lots of reading time:
  • I finished The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, a novel about the Vietnam war, though not in time for my book group discussion (I still went, though!).  It's an excellent book on a very difficult subject.
  • After that heavy read, plus the 1000-page book I read before it, I was ready for something short and light, and Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm was perfect!  As the subtitle says, it's "a year told through stuff" - very creative and enjoyable.
  • Now, I am reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, in honor of Banned Books Week.  I haven't read it since I was a teen and had forgotten just how brilliant it is.
  • I finished a teen/YA audio, Bruiser, by one of my favorite YA authors, Neal Schusterman.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Roar by Emma Clayton, a middle-grade sci fi adventure that our son recommended.  It's on my TBR shelf now.
  • Ken is now reading The Passage by Justin Cronin, based on my recommendation.  I'm already enjoying being able to talk to someone about it!
  • Jamie, 17, spent the week lying on the couch, so he read a lot.  He finished re-reading Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, in preparation for the final book to be released in November.
  • Next, Jamie read Goliath by Scott Westerfeld, the final book in the Leviathan trilogy.  This one will also pass through our entire family.
  • Jamie has resumed re-reading a favorite series by Tamora Pierce, The Immortals, with Book 3, Emperor Mage.
  • Finally, Jamie is reading Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn for his World Lit class.  Ken and I both read it years ago; he's enjoying it so far.
  • Craig, 13, is reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.
I posted a review of Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth last week, as well as my lists of Top Ten Books Everyone Has Read But Me, over at Book By Book and here at Great Books for Kids and Teens.  And, although it is rare for me, I also joined a challenge, Fall Into Reading Challenge.  You can read my list of grown-up books to read for the challenge, as well as another list of kids/teen books to read for the challenge.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall Into Reading Challenge 2011

 I just signed up for the Fall Into Reading 2011 Challenge, hosted at Callapidder Days, a new-to-me blog I just discovered and will be following.  The rules are simple (you can read the whole list at the above link) - you make your own list, as long or as short as you like, of books you'd like to read this fall.  I don't normally commit to challenges, but I can do this!

So, I looked at my normal rate of reading, then came up with a list of 10 grown-up books and 10 kids/teen/YA books (I like to alternate) that I hope to read between now and December 21.  Here's the kids/teen/YA side of my list:
  1. Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm (reading now!)
  2. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater - I need to finally finish these sequels to Shiver!
  4. The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede, based on my son's recommendation
  5. After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick - I never got to it on vacation in June
  6. Six Days by Philip Webb, a new post-apocalyptic novel
  7. The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, another post-apocalyptic novel
  8. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
  9. Sabotaged, The Missing, Book 3 by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  10. Goldstrike by Matt Ehyman, sequel to Icecore
This was a much harder list to make than my grown-up list because our house is overflowing with middle-grade and teen/YA books review books waiting to be read!  Some of these have been on my TBR shelves for a long time.  I've included a photo so you can see just how "overbooked" I am.  On the top two shelves, everything to the left of the gaps is mine - the short stacks to the right are my husband's - plus the entire bottom shelf...all TBRs waiting to be read!  I have also included a picture of our kids/teen review basket...a real joke since the books long ago overflowed from the little basket and now often spill onto the floor!  Good thing my son reads many of these as well.  So, this will give me a good excuse to work down those piles.

If you are interested in my Fall Into Reading list of grown-up books, head over to Book By Book.  Sounds like fun?  Join in!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top Ten Kids/Teen Books Everyone Has Read But Me

It's Tuesday and that means Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish!  Head over there and check out all the links.  You can also see my list of Top Ten Books Everyone Has Read But Me (grown-up books) over at Book By Book.

Today's topic is Top Ten Kids/Teen Books It Seems Everyone Has Read But Me:

  1. The Twilight series…and I don’t intend to.  Just not that into it.
  2. Linger and Forever – I did finally read Shiver and loved it! Now I need to find time to finish the series.
  3. Anything by Roald Dahl – can you believe it?
  4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret – I still hope to read this one!
  5. Where the Red Fern Grows
  6. Anne of Green Gables
  7. I Am Number Four – but we just watched the movie and loved it!
  8. Anything by Sarah Dessen – just haven’t gotten around to it.
  9. Anything by John Green, though I really, really want to.
  10. The Outsiders – how’d I grow up in the 70’s without reading this?

How about you?

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Monday 9/19! What Are You Reading?

A friend recently commented to me that she'd seen a movie, and I said, "But I thought that wasn't due into theaters until mid-September."  Then, of course, I realized we are already past mid-September!!  Yikes, where is the month going?  Things have continued to be very, very busy here, so I've had almost no time for either reading or writing blogs.  At least my husband is back home now after a week away, so hopefully that will help this week.  But you came here to hear about books, right?  Here's what we've been reading this week:
  • I finally finished The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett!  (pause for applause)  It was excellent, and I enjoyed every minute of it, despite the fact that it took me over three weeks to read.  Now I want to watch the TV mini series based on it.
  • Last night, I started The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, a novel about the Vietnam war that I'm reading for one of my book groups.  I will never finish it before Wednesday, but a friend assured me there's no surprise ending that will be ruined if I go to the discussion only halfway through the book.
  • I am still listening to a teen/YA novel, Bruiser, by one of my favorite YA authors, Neal Schusterman.  It's very good, and I'm getting through it fairly quickly.  This is my current car/kitchen audio because it is on CD.
  • I also started another audio book on my iPod, Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunee.  How could I pass this one up?  It's a memoir about food by someone who grew up in New Orleans - that's three things I love in a book!
  • My husband, Ken, had a lot of reading time since he was traveling.  He read an Ed McBain mystery (not sure which one because he left it at his dad's house) - nice, quick paperback, perfect for a plane ride.
  • At his dad's house, Ken borrowed and read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, one of his first novels.  I've never read it either.
  • Ken is now reading The Roar by Emma Clayton, a middle-grade sci fi adventure that our son has highly recommended.
  • Jamie, 17, has embarked on another mission to re-read a favorite series.  When we were in the bookstore last week, he saw that Christopher Paolini's 4th book in The Inheritance series is due out in November, so Jamie re-read Eragon and Eldest and is now reading Brisingr, so they will all be fresh in his mind when the last book is released.
  • Craig, 13, is reading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.  He had extra reading time last week because of standardized testing (students are supposed to read if they finish early).
I posted just one review last week at my other book blog (told you I was busy!): The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which my neighborhood book group enjoyed and discussed last week.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Friday, September 9, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Cryer’s Cross

I really loved Lisa McMann’s Wake trilogy, so I was thrilled to hear she had a new teen/YA supernatural thriller out, Cryer’s Cross.  This novel succeeds on two levels: as a creepy ghost story and as a sensitive real-life portrait of a young girl with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Kendall has lived all of her seventeen years in Cryer’s Cross, Montana, a small farming community of only about 200 people.  The quiet town was rocked the previous spring when a young high school student disappeared and was never found.  The tragedy also disturbed Kendall’s OCD, but now she is struggling to get it back under control for the new school year.  Two new students join the tiny high school, with just six students in each grade, when they move to their grandfather’s farm. 

When another student disappears, the town erupts in chaos and heartbreak once again.  Kendall begins to hear strange voices and find mysterious graffiti on the desk of one of the missing students that she finds strangely compelling.  The creep factor multiples from there.

My 17-year old son and I listened to Cryer’s Cross on audio and absolutely loved it; the narrator, Julia Whelan, an actress and award-winning audio reader, does a great job.  In fact, my son enjoyed it so much that he didn’t wait for me to finish it.  When we got back from our car trip partway through the audio, he immediately picked up the hardcover book and finished reading the story that same afternoon!   He enjoyed the suspense but also the many soccer passages.

It certainly is a spooky supernatural story, but I was most impressed with the novel’s character development, especially the way it deals with Kendall’s OCD.  The author’s acknowledgements say that she based the character of Kendall on her own daughter with OCD “…in the hopes that others might understand or find some comfort,” and I think she succeeds at that goal.  In fact, the supernatural elements are almost beside the point.  We both thoroughly enjoyed this multi-faceted teen novel.

233 pages, Simon Pulse


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top Ten Kid/Teen Sequels We're Dying To Read

It's Tuesday and that means Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Head over there and check out the long list of Top ten links and join in the fun!  Today's topic is Top Ten Sequels We're Dying to Read.

This was an easy list for me to make here, with all kids' and teen books since so many are series now.  My list includes many that have already been published that we just haven't gotten to yet.  I have included ideas from my husband, Ken, and my 17-year old son, Jamie, also.

Here are the Top Ten Sequels We're Dying to Read:

  1. Linger and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater - I loved Shiver and the next two are sitting in a pile just waiting for me.
  2. Goldstrike by Matt Whyman, sequel to Icecore
  3. The Last Apprentice, Book 7 by Joseph Delaney (Jamie) - I bought him book 6 by mistake.
  4. Max by James Patterson - Maximum Ride series (Jamie) - I bought him the wrong one (again!) - see a pattern?
  5. Sequel to The Search for Wondla by Tony Diterlizzi - we didn't like the audio but I enjoyed finishing the book and want to know what happens next!
  6. Morpheus Road by D.J. MacHale (Jamie and I)
  7. Last book in the Num8ers trilogy by Rachel Ward (Ken, Jamie & I)
  8. Sequel to Orson Scott Card’s Pathfinder (Jamie & I)
  9. Goliath, sequel to Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld – only 2 more weeks! (Ken Jamie & I)
  10. Sequel to Unwind by Neal Schusterman (Jamie & I)

How about you?  What sequels are you dying to read?

(To see my list of grown-up sequels I want to read, head over to Book By Book).

Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Monday 9/5! What Are You Reading?

This is pretty early for me on a holiday weekend, but I couldn't sleep this morning.  I hope everyone is enjoying their Labor Day weekend!  I'm glad to say good-bye to the heat and humidity of summer; fall is my favorite season.  I will also be glad to get back into my weekday routine with the kids in school and have more time for writing, though of course, I will miss the easy-going summer evenings.

My oldest son had a rough week - oral surgery to remove his wisdom teeth on Monday, followed by a severe flare-up of his chronic illness.  We had to cancel a planned trip this weekend.  So, we spent lots of down time watching TV and movies and reading good books last week:
  • I am still reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett and thoroughly enjoying it.  I am not quite halfway through this hefty volume yet, but it's been engaging every minute so far!
  • I finished listening to the teen/YA audio book, Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann, a creepy paranormal story.  My son and I both enjoyed it very much.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber and really enjoyed it - he moved it to my side of the TBR bookcase!
  • Ken felt like a bit of comfort reading next, so he picked up one of his all-time favorite books, Dune by Frank Herbert, to re-read (for the third time maybe?).  He's loving it!
  • Jamie, 17, was couch-bound all week, so he made the best of it and did a lot of reading.  He finished reading the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull with Book 4, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, and Book 5, Keys to the Demon Prison.  He said it was a very satisfying end to one of his favorite series.
  • He is now re-reading a favorite series by Tamora Pierce, The Immortals, beginning with Book 1, Wild Magic.
  • Craig, 13, started back to school last week and back to required reading time.  He is reading Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, which he started this summer.
I posted two new reviews this week, both of books I enjoyed very much: Little Bee by Chris Cleave over at Book By Book and Alibi Junior High by Greg Logsted here.   I also posted my Top Ten List of Books on My TBR List for Fall and my Top Ten List of Kid/Teen Books on My TBR List for Fall.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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