Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday 11/28! What Are You Reading?

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!  We drove about 8 hours to spend the weekend with my extended family in Rochester, NY.  It was a full weekend, with a large gathering each day with a different part of my family.  It was tiring but lots of fun - it was great to see everyone.  I've included a photo below of my sons with some of their cousins.  To me, that's what holidays are all about!

So, I had no time at all for blogging last week, after my Monday posts, but we still found time for reading:
  • I finished Goldstrike by Matt Whyman, a teen techno-thriller and the sequel to Icecore.  The fast-paced suspense novel was perfect for a busy week.
  • Now, I am reading the next selection for my neighborhood book group, The Songcatcher by Sharon McCrumb, about a song that has been passed down through generations from Scotland to the present-day Appalachians.
  • My husband, Ken, finished reading Unwind, Neal Schusterman's amazing teen dystopian novel.  He said the premise was super-creepy (yup), but he enjoyed the novel.
  • We stayed with my dad and his wife this weekend, and my dad lent Ken Stephen King's very new release, 11/22/63: A Novel, about someone who time travels back to 1963 to try to prevent Kennedy's assassination.  It sounds SO good!
  • Jamie, 17, was home sick early last week and then had 16 hours in the car, so he read a LOT.  He continued re-reading a favorite series, the Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, with Book 5: The Sorcerer of the North, Book 6: The Siege of Macindaw, Book 7: Erak's Ransom, and Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel.  He enjoyed the series very much (again).
  • Now, Jamie is reading a new teen dystopian series by Robin Wasserman, The Cold Awakening trilogy, starting with Book One: Frozen.  He and I really loved Wasserman's middle-grade trilogy, Chasing Yesterday.
  • Craig finished Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, and loved it.  I haven't seen him this excited about a series since Charlie Bone and The Unicorn Chronicles a couple of years ago.  We can't find Book Two - I think we lent it to a friend - so I need to check the library for him today.
  • I started a new middle-grade audio, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, last week.  Anne is a great author and a friend of mine, so I've been looking forward to this one.  Her trilogy The Cronus Chronicles was great!
  • We also started another middle-grade audio during our car ride, Wildwood by Colin Melot.  Mostly, it was just Ken and I listening.  I was disappointed that the boys weren't interested in listening to an audio book on this ride, despite the variety I brought along!  They preferred to listen to their iPods and read their own books.  I guess they are getting older...sigh...
What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Monday 11/21! What Are You Reading?

I'm a little late posting today.  I went to my son's middle school this morning and gave presentations about reading, books, book reviews, and writing to two 8th grade English classes.  I go back tomorrow for two more.  I had to promise not to embarrass my son!

Here's what we've been reading this past week:
  • I finished Midwives by Chris Bohjalian last night.  It's basically a legal drama about a midwife being tried for the death of one of her mothers and was very good.
  • Today, I plan to start Goldstrike by Matt Whyman, a teen techno-thriller and the sequel to Icecore which I really liked.  I'm in the mood for some fast-paced suspense.
  • My husband, Ken, realized halfway through Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld that he'd already read it!  That's not the first time one of us has done that!
  • Ken is now reading Unwind, Neal Schusterman's amazing teen dystopian novel - I've been bugging him to read it for ages!
  • My 17-year old son, Jamie, is re-reading a favorite series, the Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan so that he can read his latest one, Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel.  So far, he has read Books 3 and 4 (we think we lent Books 1 and 2 to a friend).
  • 13-year old Craig is reading Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney and enjoying it very much.
 Last week, I posted a review of The Roar by Emma Clayton, an awesome middle-grade/teen dystopian/sci fi novel filled with action and suspense.

I also posted two lists -  Top Ten Unread Books on my Shelf and Top Ten Unread Kids/Teen Books on my Shelf - and movie trailers for the upcoming adaptations of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games.  Both look so good!

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

P.S. One question stumped me this morning at school.  A lot of the 8th grade girls enjoy Sarah Dessen's books, and I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read one!  Anyone have suggestions of other books/authors for teens who like Dessen's novels?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Middle-Grade Review: The Roar

For the past month or so, whenever I began reading a new book, my 17-year old son would say, “Mom!  You started another book!  You HAVE to read The Roar next!”  So I finally listened to him (sometimes kids know best) and recently finished The Roar by Emma Clayton, an action-packed dystopian sci fi novel for middle-grade and teen readers.  He was right – I absolutely loved it!

The Roar is set in London in the future.  An Animal Plague spread a deadly virus across the world and forced all remaining humans to barricade themselves behind The Wall.  To accommodate the population in such limited space, they built up instead of out.  Now, as you might expect, the wealthy and powerful live in the new, elite upper levels of London, with the poor masses crammed into dark, wet slums below or dismal towns filled with “fold-down” apartments further north.

Twelve-year old Mika leads a gloomy existence in one of those tiny apartments with his parents.  A year ago, his twin sister, Ellie, disappeared and was declared dead, but Mika knows in his heart that she is still alive.  The reader learns, on the very first page, that this is true, as Ellie attempts to escape from her captors.  When the government begins a new program to strengthen kids and launches a new battle-filled video game, complete with competitions featuring unbelievable prizes, Mika is suspicious of their motives but knows he must go along with the program if he hopes to find his sister.

It’s an original and thoughtful story, filled with action and suspense and cool technology, that moves along at a fast pace.  I stayed up way too late at night reading until I finished this book!  There is even an element of the paranormal here, in the amazing connection between Ellie and Mika that grows even stronger as the story progresses.  Some elements (the game, for instance) reminded me a bit of Ender’s Game, though this is a wholly unique tale with its own twists and surprises.  My son and I both loved this novel, and it looks as if a sequel is in the works, so we have more to look forward to!

481 pages, Scholastic

NOTE:  The publisher says the book is appropriate for ages 9 and up, and I do think it will be popular with middle-grade readers, but it will also appeal to teens (and adults!).

If you like The Roar, you might also like Spacer and Rat by Margaret Bechard, another good sci fi novel that my son recommended to me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top Ten Unread Kids/Teen Books on My Shelf

It's Tuesday, and that means it's Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Head on over there to link to lots of great blogs and lots of fun lists.

Today's topic is Top Ten Unread Books On My Shelf.  This was a very easy list for me - I could have listed 20 or 30 Unread Books on My Shelf easily!   Not only on my shelf, but in baskets, in piles on the get the idea.  Although I have an overflowing bookcase of grown-up books waiting to be read (see my list over at Book By Book), there are even more kids', teen, and YA books stacked up around our house because those are the ones I accept for review.  And, many of the books in this list are ones my son, Jamie, has told me I have to read, but it's hard to find time for all of them!
  • Sharp North by Patrick Cave - recommended by Jamie.
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett - another Jamie recommendation, plus I've never read a Pratchett novel.
  • The Search for the Red Dragon (book 2) and all the rest of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen - I read the first one and loved it but never seem to find the time for the rest of them!
  • The rest of the Tunnels series by Gordon Williams - ditto.
  • Inkspell and Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke - ditto!
  • The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede - another one Jamie loved.
  • The Mortals Instruments series by Cassandra Clare - Jamie says, "Mom, you HAVE to read this series!"
  • Goldstrike by Matt Whyman - sequel to Icecore
  • Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge - this one has been on the shelf for maybe 5 years!
  • The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - another one that's been sitting her for years - I keep considering finally getting rid of it but then I read the cover again, and it sounds interesting!
How about you?  Which unread books are haunting your shelves?

First Peek at Hunger Games Movie Trailer!

Eeek!!  My 17-year old son, Jamie, and I watched the first movie trailer for The Hunger Games last night.  It looks so good!!  We can't wait!  March is too far away.

What do you think?

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Monday 11/14! What Are You Reading?

(I just tried to publish this very long post and somehow managed to delete most of it instead!!  Let's try this again...)

A bit of a rough week here last week, with both my son and I down with a flare-up of our chronic illnesses.  We had a nice weekend, though, and enjoyed a visit from my mom and her husband.  All that downtime last week left lots of time for reading:
  • I finished The Roar by Emma Clayton, a teen sci fi novel that my son recommended and enjoyed it very much.  We are both hoping there will be a sequel!
  • I read the classic picture book A Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes for the library's book discussion but then wasn't able to go to the meeting.
  • I referred to my Fall Into Reading Challenge list to choose my next book and settled on Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, a novel my neighbor lent me a very long time ago!
  • My husband, Ken, brought one of his birthday gifts, The Affair by Lee Child, on his business trip with him last week.  He'd been saving it for a time when he needed some light, fun reading.  I asked him last night how it was, and he said, "Candy!"
  • Ken is now back to reading Behemoth, the second book in the Leviathan trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld.
  • Jamie, 17, was home sick, so he plowed through a lot of books, including all of the new books he bought at Barnes & Noble the week before (gotta love a kid who spends several weeks' allowance all on books!).  He read  Book Four: Necropolis of the series, The Gatekeepers by Anthony Horowitz.
  • Next he read Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, another of his favorite series.
  • Jamie read The Demon King, a Seven Realms novel by Cinda Williams Chima and loved it.  he wants to read more by this author.
  • And he is finishing Graceling by Kristin Cashore, author of Fire which he also enjoyed.
  • Craig, 13, is reading Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, based on recommendation from his brother and a friend.  he says it is good but too scary to read at bedtime!
Despite being sick, I had a busy week at both of my book blogs.   I posted:

What are you and your family reading this week?

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Picture Book Review: The Hundred Dresses

I was surprised to find out that my library’s selection for the November book discussion was a classic picture book, The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes.  I wasn’t there when they chose the book, and, as it turned out, I wasn’t able to make it to the discussion this week, so I’m not sure what was behind the choice.  But I did read the book, for the first time ever, and enjoyed it.

Just in case you are as clueless as I was and have never read this well-known 1945 Newberry Honor winner, it is basically a warm and timeless story about bullying.  Wanda Petronski is different from her classmates.  She has an odd name, she lives far from town in a small house out in the country, and she wears the same worn, blue dress to school every day.  Another girl, Peggy, teases Wanda every day, asking her how many dresses she has at home, and every day, Wanda answers by saying she has a hundred dresses at home, beautiful dresses in all colors.

Peggy’s best friend, Maddie, goes along with this daily routine, but inside, she feels uncomfortable about it because her family doesn’t have much more money than Wanda’s.  One day, Wanda doesn’t come to school, and her classmates find out her family has moved to a larger city where they won’t be seen as different.  Maddie is gripped with guilt, and even Peggy wonders if maybe she shouldn’t have teased Wanda.  The girls write to Wanda and eventually come to understand exactly what the hundred dresses meant to her.

It’s a warm, tender story with a very important lesson.  Although the 1940’s book is a bit dated in some minor ways (like all the girls wearing dresses to school!), it is surprisingly relevant today.  In fact, bullying is a hot topic for both parents and kids right now, and this gentle story presents an ethical dilemma just as pertinent to today’s kids: Are you just as accountable for the consequences of bullying as the kid doing the bullying if you stand by and say nothing?   This book is as appropriate and enjoyable for modern elementary-aged kids as it was over 50 years ago.

80 pages, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich


Thursday, November 10, 2011

PW's Best Children's Books of 2011

Well, it seems a bit early to me, but Publisher's Weekly just released its list of Best Children's Books of 2011.  It includes picture books, as well as both fiction and nonfiction for older kids and teens/YA.

The only problem is that I haven't read a single book on the list yet!!  Yikes, I better get busy.  I do have Divergent and Wonderstruck both here waiting to be read.

Check out the list and let me know what you think.  Have you read any of these?  Do you agree with the list?  What do YOU think were the best books of the past year?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Into Reading Challenge Question #7 & Update

You may recall that I have joined the Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted over at Callapidder Days.  She is posing a question each week, and this week's question is:

Is there a book that has had a tremendous impact on your life? One that made you look at life in a whole new way, or caused you to completely change something in your life?

I usually only post the weekly question on my grown-up book blog, Book By Book, but today I had a different answer for kids/teen books, so I thought I'd answer it at both blogs.

Even though I was totally hooked on reading from my very first book read, at age 4, (Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman), my second grade teacher had a dramatic impact on me when she began reading aloud to our class at the end of every day.  She read both The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian (both by C.S. Lewis), and we were all enthralled. That was the impetuous that took me from the picture book area of the school library to the chapter book area, where I immediately tore through the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia.  The rest, as they say, is history, and I have never stopped reading since.  Thank you, Mrs. Holzshuh!

Katrina over at Callapidder Days says today is also about the half-way point for the challenge and time to report on our progress.  Of my list of 10 kids/teen/YA books to read in fall, I have so far read 4 of them.  That's not too bad, and I think I will finish the challenge successfully.  I posted a separate update on grown-up books (and a separate answer to the question) at Book By Book.

What book has had a tremendous impact on your life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Top Ten Kid/Teen Books That Took Me Out of My Comfort Zone

It's Tuesday, and that means it's Top Ten day over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Head on over there to link to lots of great blogs and lots of fun lists.

Today's topic is Top Ten Books That Took Me Out of My Comfort Zone.  I had an easy time making a list of adult books in this category (check it out at Book By Book), due to my many book groups, but it was tougher to make this list of kids/teen/YA books, just because I generally choose what I read...most of these pleasant surprises were due to recommendations.

Here are the Top Ten Kids/Teen/YA Books That Took Me Out of My Comfort Zone:

Shiver, Linger, and Forever by Maggie Stiefvater – I don’t normally read paranormal romance genre; in my reading journal I wrote, “I hate to admit it, but I loved it, just like everyone said I would!”
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick – ditto, but the audio was sent to me for review, and I felt obligated to read it.  I enjoyed it, though I didn’t feel compelled to read the rest of the series.
Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games) – it sounded gross to me, but I began reading it aloud to my kids, and our family ended up LOVING the entire series!
Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein – an old sci fi novel (probably not officially teen/YA) that my husband left in the bathroom – I started it and couldn’t put it down!
The Warriors series by Erin Hunter - reading about tribes of wild cats just wasn’t my thing, but my son loved the series, so I read the first one at his urging…and ended up reading six in a row!
Magic Street by Orson Scott Card – though I LOVE this author, this particular book didn’t sound like my kind of thing – a mix of fantasy and reality set in urban LA loosely following the story of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (see what I mean?) but Jamie recommended it, and Card’s excellent writing won me over.
20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler – it sounded like the sort of light teen romance I usually avoid, but I agreed to review it and found it had surprising depth and was about a lot more than just girl meets boy.
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott – this book defines “out of my comfort zone,” from the perspective of a young girl who has been kidnapped and is being held captive and raped repeatedly – yes, it was horribly disturbing, but also very well-written and compelling.
Keeper by Kathi Appelt - a sort of magic realism (not a favorite genre for me) for kids; not my usual sort of book but the audio was sent to me for review.  I enjoyed some of it but didn’t love it.
A Million Shades of Gray by  Cynthia Kadohata- a difficult topic with some disturbing scenes, about a young boy living in the jungles of Vietnam during the war, but our whole family enjoyed the audio.

How about you?  What kid or teen/YA books took you out of your comfort zone?

Monday, November 7, 2011

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

October is my favorite month, and it seemed to just fly by this year!  Here we are in November already, with the calendar seeming to move faster and faster toward the holiday season.  We are so overwhelmed with the college application process, I don't know how we fill find time for holiday preparations as well!

I didn't feel well last week, and then we had visitors for the weekend (my dad and his wife), so I had very little time for blogging last week but hope to catch up with all of you and with my own reviews this week.  It was a great reading week, though!
  • I finished Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich - lots of good laughs and light-hearted fun.  Stephanie and Lula (and Grandma) just crack me up!
  • I finally gave in to Jamie's urging to read The Roar by Emma Clayton, a sci fi novel that he said I would love.  He was right, as usual - it is very good so far and I'm staying up too late each night reading it!
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian author who has been compared to Stieg Larsson.  He enjoyed it very much.
  • Ken is now reading Behemoth, the second book in the Leviathan trilogy, by Scott Westerfeld.
  • Jamie, 17, read Book 3: Night Rise of the series, The Gatekeepers by Anthony Horowitz.  He really likes this series.
  • Jamie also finished reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for his World Lit class.  He thought the book was OK, but he didn't like the main character and the way that he treated his best friend.
  • Craig, 13, started a new marking period and a new book.  He took advice from his brother (!) and is reading Revenge of the Witch, Book One in the series The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney.
No new reviews last week, but I did post a discussion about plot versus character for the Fall Into Reading Challenge.

What are you and your family reading this week?

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