Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Monday 12/31! What Are You Reading?

Happy New Year's Eve! Do you have big plans for tonight? Fancy parties? Times Square? We bought our little New Year's Eve party pack at Target and will celebrate here in Oklahoma with my father-in-law. I love being in the Central Time zone for New Year's Eve, so we can watch the ball drop on TV and be in bed by 11:10!  So, that gives you an idea of our wild plans. At least we now celebrate at 11 - we used to celebrate at 8 pm for the kids! I've included a photo below of a happier time when both Grandma and Grandad were still with us.

Well, it may be New Year's Eve, but it is also Monday and that means it is What Are You Reading Day! Despite our very hectic holiday week, we have all been able to read quite a bit, thanks to travel time:
  • I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and it was just as good as everyone said it was!
  • To choose my final books of the year, I scoured the overflowing To-Be-Read shelves in my bedroom, trying to satisfy as many of my 2012 reading challenges as I could!  One of my personal challenges was to read 12 books from my TBR shelves, so I reluctantly ignored some of the newer books I got for Christmas. I started to read Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver, which good friends have been recommending to me for years, but I quickly realized that it wasn't the first book in the series (the books can stand alone but I prefer to read them in order), so after 20 or so pages, I switched to The Bean Trees (the first book) by Barbara Kingsolver, which has also been languishing on my shelves for years! I loved, loved, loved this book and can't believe it took me so long to get to it!! Now I am dying to get back home, so I can go back to Pigs in Heaven.
  • I am now reading The Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede, a teen/YA novel that my older son has been telling me to read for years (see the pattern here?). It's an alternate history set out on the Western prairie in pioneer times where there are dragons and wooly rhinoceroses, along with the bison, and magic is used to keep people safe from the big creatures. It's kind of like Little House on the Prairie meets Harry Potter - I'm enjoying it so far.
  • My husband, Ken, just finished The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, another YA novel our son has been begging us to read. Ken absolutely loved it and can't wait to get home to read the rest of the trilogy!
  • Since that was the only book he brought on our trip, Ken is now reading a novel on his Kindle, West of Sheridan by Dean Ross, a post-apocalyptic story set in the West, near Yellowstone. It sounds interesting.
  • Jamie, 18, finally has some time to read, though games on the computer and his new Kindle Fire are distracting him! He finished City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (book 4 in the Mortal Instruments series) and is now - finally - reading book 5, City of Lost Souls. He wanted to read this months ago, when it was first released, but first he re-read the rest of the series!
  • Craig, 14, is definitely distracted by all the games, TV shows, and movies on his new Kindle Fire!  He did download two books - much to my surprise - and has started reading Fast Track to Sailing by Steve Colgate.
I actually managed a few blog posts this week, once we arrived at my father-in-law's house. I posted a review of Time and Again by Jack Finney (which I loved) and a fun summary of the books we gave and received for Christmas.  I also wrote a Weekend Cooking post about the southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck on New Year's Day, with my recipe for Hoppin' John. Check it out - there's still time to get your good luck for the new year! Finally, I posted some photos from a very cool display at my local library called The United States of YA - perfect if you need inspiration for the Where Are You Reading Challenge!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

YA Novels Across the US

I was surprised to walk in my local library last week and see this fabulous display, The United States of YA: read Your Way Across the USA:
(sorry for the glare - it was a shiny sign!)

It's a display showing a YA book set in every one of the 50 states! Isn't that great? This display appealed to me even more because for the past two years, I have participated in Book Journey's Where Are You Reading Challenge. If you are also enjoying this challenge and need to fit in another one or two states this week before the year ends (or want to participate next year!), here are some close-ups of the display (click on a photo to see it even larger) to help you fill out your Where Are You Reading checklist:

The past few weeks, I have been choosing my books based on trying to finish my 2012 reading challenges, including Where Are You Reading! I really enjoy tracking the settings of the books I read and plan to participate again in 2013, so this display will come in handy!

Have fun reading your way across the USA!

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Monday 12/24! What Are You Reading?

Busy, busy, busy holiday week!  No time for blogging. I probably shouldn't even by typing this, but I couldn't stand to miss a Monday post!  So, just a quick one, then back to wrapping gifts and cooking.
  • I finished reading Time and Again by Jack Finney, the last of my Christmas gift books from LAST Christmas!  I loved this novel about traveling back in time to 1882 NYC so much that it's characters are still with me days after I finished it - that's the sign of a great book!
  • Now I am FINALLY reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, one of the year's top YA (and adult) novels that I have been wanting to read for many months - fitting it in just before the end of the year!
  • My husband, Ken, finished Defending Jacob by William Landay last week and loved it! He said he can't tell me much about it without giving away surprises - I can't wait to read it!
  • Ken has now started The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - both he and I have been wanting to read this trilogy for a long time - our son says it is great!
  • Jamie, 18, is still re-reading City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare, book 4 in the Mortal Instruments series. He's been busy playing with his brother and cousins so hasn't had much reading time since coming home.
  • I am still listening to Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis, a middle-grade audio book, though I don't have much time to listen with a house full of people!
What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday 12/17! What Are You Reading?

I am waaaay behind today, but the whole week is going to be like this - not much time to squeeze in blogging this week.  My son and I made our trek to the Lyme doctor today (90 minutes away) - nice to have him feeling well enough to do the driving!  But that is just the beginning of a very busy week that will end with a large group of family members arriving for the weekend.

Good thing we have our books for a little downtime here and there:
  • I finished Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley, a very good middle-grade novel set in 1977 - you can read my review here.
  • With Christmas quickly approaching and new books on my wish list, I decided I better finish the books I got as gifts LAST Christmas! So, I am now reading Time and Again by Jack Finney, a classic time travel novel my husband gave me that I just never found time for. I love time travel plots and am enjoying it very much.
  • Last night, we read a new holiday picture book with our sons. Yes, they are 14 and 18 now, but they still enjoy our traditions of watching holiday movies and kids' specials and reading from our collection of holiday books together (see a list of our favorites). We read The Santa Trap by Jonathan Emmett and Poly Bernatene. It's clever and funny, though quite a bit darker than our usual holiday fare! I will post a review this week.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, after I read it and raved about it. He enjoyed reading about the formation of the U.S. Forest Service and the suspenseful scenes of the Great Fire.
  • Ken is now reading one of his birthday gifts from October, Defending Jacob by William Landay, a novel he and I have both been wanting to read.
  • Jamie, 18, is home from college, with no responsibilities for a few glorious weeks! He is looking forward to enjoying some reading time and is currently re-reading City of Fallen Angels, book #4 in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series.
  • Craig, 14, is reading The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros for his freshman lit class. He says it is good so far but a little hard to follow because it doesn't follow a chronological order. I'm looking forward to reading this one when he is done!
I posted two new reviews last week: Middlemarch by George Eliot and Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley, a middle-grade novel.

I also posted a Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012 list (for grown-up books) and a similar list of new to me kids/teen/YA authors. And, in this season of Best Of lists, I posted a link to the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2012 and a discussion of BookPage's Best Children's Books of 2012 (and 2011 and 2010!).

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Middle-Grade Review: Greetings from Planet Earth

Barbara Kerley is the author of several award-winning picture books, but Greetings from Planet Earth is her first middle-grade novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this distinctive and engaging book and look forward to reading more from her in the future!

In 1977, Theo’s 12th birthday is bittersweet. His mom, grandma, and older sister celebrate with him and give him nice gifts, but his father is still missing. His dad joined the Army and went to Vietnam, but he never returned; it was years before Theo heard the term MIA because his mother never talks about his dad. But even knowing his dad is MIA still leaves Theo with a lot of questions about him because he barely remembers the father that left when Theo was 5 years old. No one ever wants to talk about him, but finally, Theo’s grandma begins to tell him about his dad.

At the same time, Theo’s mind is also occupied by his class project. Voyager 2 will leave Earth in the summer carrying golden records to bring greetings from earth into space. Theo’s class is making their own golden record, and Theo needs to figure out what his contribution will be. What is the most important thing about Earth? And its people? Theo considers and discards many ideas for his photo and recording, as he gradually learns more and more about his missing father.

Greetings from Planet Earth seamlessly blends light-hearted fun, facts about the moon, and introspective drama into a single, agreeable story. It captures the excitement of the early space era, along with the thoughtfulness of a young boy’s search for both his identity and his father. The characters are all real and likable, and the story moves along at a fast-pace and even has some surprises hiding along the way. It’s an excellent novel for middle-grade readers of both genders who enjoy realistic stories with some depth and heart.

243 pages, Scholastic


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BookPage's Best Children's Books of 2012

I enjoy reading BookPage each month (I pick it up at my local library) - that's where I get a lot of my ideas for my TBR list.

Here is their list of Best Children's Books of 2012.  I haven't read a single one of them yet!  I am always behind.  The Fault in Our Stars is on my shelf, though, waiting to be read...does that count? Actually, I do hope to read it before the end of the year.

Hey, I wonder if I've read any of their Best Children's Books of 2011?  Well, I did a little better - I've now read 2 books off the 2011 list: Wonderstruck and Okay for Now, both excellent and among the best books I read this year.  But that's still not very good after 2 years!

OK, one more try.  Here is BookPage's Best Children's Books of 2010.  I've read 6 of these!  So, I do get around to the best books eventually...I am just perpetually behind.

I guess I need to get busy in 2013 and read some of these!  How many of the Best Children's Books of 2012 (or 2011 or 2010) have you read?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012

It's Tuesday and this week's Top Ten list at The Broke and the Bookish sounded like one I could manage: Top Ten New To Me Authors I Read in 2012
Some of these were first-time authors; others very well-known authors I'd just never read before. I enjoyed all ten of these very much and would certainly be interested in reading another book by any of these authors.
How about you?

What new-to-you authors did YOU try in 2012?

(I focused this list in authors of kids/teen/YA books. For my list of new-to-me grown-up authors, check out my list at Book By Book).

Monday, December 10, 2012

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

Ahhhh...Monday morning and I am all alone in a quiet house.  We saw friends and had some fun on Saturday, but Sunday was a busy, exhausting day.  Ready to catch up today and start a new week!

I did have a satisfying reading week:
  • I finished The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan just moments before my book group meeting.  Unfortunately, I was too sick to go to the meeting and was very disappointed because I loved the book and was looking forward to discussing it.  Here's my review - I still want to discuss it so be sure to leave comments!
  • After that, I went back to my book-in-progress and...I FINISHED MIDDLEMARCH!  Woohoo!  Yes, it only took me a month, but I did finish this hefty classic...and enjoyed it very much.  Review to come this week.
  • My reading strategy for the rest of the month is to focus on beefing up my 2012 Reading Challenges (especially reading from my TBR shelves) and reading as many books as possible to wrap up the year!  I was also craving some kids/teen/YA reading after my month-long relationship with Middlemarch.  So I am now reading Greetings From Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley, a middle-grade novel about a 12-year old boy in 1977 who is obsessed with space travel...and with learning more about his father who was MIA in Vietnam.  It's great so far.
  • On audio, I went back to a middle-grade audio book I started many months ago and then set aside, Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis.  I picked it up where I left off and am enjoying it so far.
  • My husband, Ken, finished The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly. 
  • Ken is now reading The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, after hearing how much I liked it!
  • I think both of our sons have been too busy with school work for much reading lately.
I finally found some time and energy to catch up on blogging last week.  I posted two reviews:  The Big Burn by Timothy Egan and The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg.  I also posted my November Reading Summary and two wish lists: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me and another Top Ten wish list for kids/teen/YA books. And finally, I posted my weekly Weekend Cooking post.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Middle-Grade Fiction: The View From Saturday

E.L. Konigsburg is well known for her award-winning children’s literature, having won two Newberry Medals for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and this novel, The View from Saturday.  We listened to the audio of From the Mixed-Up Files… together as a family, as well as another Konigsburg novel, The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World.  Unfortunately, my teenage sons don’t like listening to audio books together anymore (sniff, sniff), but I enjoyed listening to this one on my own.

The View from Saturday is about a sixth-grade Academic Bowl team, but to my surprise, very little of the story is actually about the competition itself.  This novel is more of a character study, examining the lives of each of the four team members and how they came to know each other and become friends.  Ethan, who is very smart but rarely talks, feels like he lives in the shadow of his high-achieving older brother.  Nadia, with a halo of bright red hair, meets Ethan for the first time when her grandfather marries his grandmother down in Florida, and they both visit during the summer and end up saving turtles together.  Noah, by a strange accident, ends up acting as best man at the wedding of Ethan’s grandmother and Nadia’s grandfather.  The fourth and final Academic Bowl team member is Julian, who is new to the area, with an unusual and exotic background that makes him fodder for the school bullies.

The four of them begin to become friends when Julian invites them all to a tea party.  Their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, who has returned to teaching for the first time since an accident that left her in a wheelchair, isn’t entirely sure why she has chosen these four for her team, except that each one just seems to be the right choice at the right time.  The team is very successful together, as the opening scene of the Academic Bowl shows, but more importantly, the four kids become friends and each becomes more comfortable with who she or he is, through their experiences both in school and out.

This is essentially the story of outcasts finding their place in the world.  Each of the four kids – and their teacher – is a bit of a geek and feels out of place at the beginning, until they find each other and begin to bond.  It’s a warm story of unlikely friendship, with touches of gentle humor throughout.  I have to admit that my 14-year old son was right – he wouldn’t have enjoyed this book much, despite having been on his own middle school’s Academic Bowl team.  He just prefers more action and suspense in his books (when he reads at all!).  But kids who enjoy real-life stories of real-life kids overcoming obstacles and finding friends will enjoy this novel as much as I did.

Simon & Schuster Audio

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

I haven't had the time to participate in The Broke and The Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday meme in quite a while, but I couldn't resist this week's topic: the Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me.  I thought I would have trouble coming up with 10 because I already have so many books waiting to be read here, but I came up with so many that I needed two lists!  So check out Book By Book for my Top Ten wish list for grown-up books.  And here are my Top Ten choices for kids/teen/YA books:
  • Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead - because I loved When You Reach Me.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - because it sounds fascinating and I keep hearing rave reviews.
  • Son by Lois Lowry (and also Gathering Blue and Messenger) - because I really liked The Giver.
  • Every Day by David Levithan - because it sounds completely unique.
  • The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost - because I just read a review and it sounds great.
  • My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorheeve - because it is about an aspect of WWII I know little about (the kindertransport).
  • Paper Towns or Looking for Alaska by John Green - because he is one of the top authors in the world now, and I've only read 1 of his novels (and The Fault in Our Stars is already on my shelf witing!).
  • Safekeeping by Karen Hesse - because it sounds like a different, more introspective kind of post-apocalyptic novel.
  • Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus - because it looks at WWII from childrens' perspectives.
  • Ruins by Orson Scott Card - this one is kind of a cheat because we already have it, but I am dying to read this sequel to Pathfinder!
How about you?  What books do you want Santa to bring this year?

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Monday 12/3! What Are You Reading?

Whew...busy weekend!  I'm actually glad it's Monday, and I am alone in the quiet house.  I really need to do better at finding time for fun and relaxation on the weekends - I definitely have trouble letting go of the to-do list and just chilling.

We had a pretty good week, though a rough start.  I think we were all exposed to a virus during our Thanksgiving week visits, so my youngest son was home sick for several days last week.  Fortunately, it only affected my older son and I for a day each, though.  So, I felt like my week started on Thursday!  No wonder the weekend was so busy.

We did enjoy some reading time last week, though:
  • I am STILL reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, though I had to set it aside a few days ago....just temporarily!  I am less than 100 pages from the end now, and I do plan to finish it later this week.
  • Since my other book group meets this Wednesday, I decided I better start that book!  We are reading and discussing The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt & the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan. I bought this book for my brother-in-law last Christmas, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far.  We are huge National Park fans, so this book is right up my alley.
  • I finished the middle-grade audio book I was listening to, The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. I enjoyed it very much and will write a review this week.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading The Fifth Witness (a Lincoln Lawyer novel) by Michael Connelly and enjoying it.
  • Jamie, 18, is still reading City of Fallen Angels, book #4 in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series, I think...he seems very busy at college.  I'm sure he'll make up for it during his long winter break by reading non-stop!
  • Craig, 14, has been reading short stories for his freshman literature class, including classics like The Most Dangerous Game, The Gift of the Magi, and one of my favorites, A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury (the story that coined the phrase "The Butterfly Effect").
I posted one review last week: Rule Number Two, an excellent memoir by a psychologist who served in Iraq and is also a wife and mother.

I also posted a discussion of the Washington Post's Best Books of 2012 list and the New York Times' 25 Notable Children's Books of 2012 as well as my weekly Weekend Cooking post (I did a lot of cooking this week!)

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NYT's 25 Notable Children's Books of 2012

And so it begins!

The season's Best of 2012 lists have begun.

Here, the New York Times lists its 25 Most Notable Children's Books of 2012, with selections in young adult, middle-grade, and picture book categories.

I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't read a single one of them yet!  I am always behind in new books because I have so many good older ones waiting to be read.  I do have John Green's The Fault in Our Stars sitting on my shelf, though - lent to me by a young friend after I squealed upon seeing her reading it!

And speaking of John Green, an Entertainment Weekly poll found him to be readers' #1 author!  That's not just out of YA authors, but ALL authors - he even came in ahead of J.K. Rowling.

Have you read any of the NYT's top 25?  Do you agree with their choices?  I better get busy!

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Monday 11/26! What Are You Reading?

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.  We drove to Rochester, NY, (my hometown) for the long weekend, stayed with my dad and his wife, and enjoyed lots of visits with family and friends.  It was a very nice weekend, and it was great to see everyone!  Now we are back home, with lots to do!

So, we didn't have a lot of time for reading last week.  Unfortunately, I can't read a book in the car (I get sick), but I can manage flipping through magazines, so I caught up on months' worth of magazines that had piled up!  Besides those, here is what we all read last week:
  • I am STILL working my way through Middlemarch by George Eliot.  It is a hefty one, and I am feeling ready to move onto something else....but I am still enjoying it and want to see what happens - 200 pages to go!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Michael Connelly's The Fifth Witness (a Lincoln Lawyer novel) and enjoying it.
  • Jamie, 18, can read in the car (lucky!), so he finished City of Ashes (#2), read City of Glass (#3), and has started City of Fallen Angels (#4), in his quest to re-read Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series for the third time, in preparation for book #5 which was recently released.
Believe it or not, I did manage to post two book reviews before we left last Wednesday: Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian, a spooky, suspenseful novel, and The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, a middle-grade/teen audio book.  I enjoyed both novels very much.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: The Freedom Maze

On a recent car trip, I was kept mesmerized for hours by The Freedom Maze, an audio book by Delia Sherman that combines fascinating historical fiction with just a touch of magic.  The book is intended for ages 10 and up and is an excellent choice for both older middle-grade readers and teens (and adults like me!).

In Louisiana in1960, thirteen-year old Sophie is feeling displaced.  Her parents have recently split up, and her mother is learning to be an accountant and selling their nice house in the suburbs to move herself and Sophie to an apartment in New Orleans.  She sends Sophie off for the summer to her aunt’s house, an old plantation home in southern Louisiana, where Sophie spend boring days listening to her grandmother’s stories of the old days, wandering around the grounds, and exploring the old maze in the garden.

Sophie longs for adventure of the sort she reads about in books by C.S. Lewis and E. Nesbit, but when she makes a wish and gets whisked back in time to 1860, she gets more than she bargained for.  With her unruly curly hair, tan, and dirty, bare feet, she is mistaken for a slave on her family’s working sugar plantation.  The matriarch (Sophie’s great, great-grandmother) can see the family resemblance in her nose, so she assumes Sophie is the product of the union between a family member down the river at another plantation and a slave.  From there, the story follows Sophie as she enters the world of slavery in pre-Civil War Louisiana.

Sherman tells a mesmerizing story here, with ample historical details.  The minutiae of the slaves’ lives presented here is a fascinating side of history that is rarely presented.  And Sherman doesn’t shrink from the darker side of the story; there is a scene where a slave is beaten and plenty of intimations of rape (and the results of it).  She handles it all with care, though, weaving together an amazing story, following both Sophie growing up, as well as the political movements of the time toward the start of the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, as Sophie’s grandmother still calls it!).

I loved this book, and the audio production was excellent.  The longer I listened, the more I wanted to hear.  I could hardly stand to get out of the car after 3 hours because I wanted to hear how it ended!  This unique novel will captivate fans of both historical fiction and time travel novels.

272 pages, Candlewick
Listening Library 

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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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here and/or download it from Audible. This excellent audio book was nominated for an Audie Award in 2013.


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Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Monday 11/19! What Are You Reading?

Hello, Monday!  I am very happy to greet a new week because last week was a rough one.  My chronic illness flared up badly, so I was pretty useless all week (no reviews at all!).  But I seemed to have turned the corner yesterday, so I am ready for a new week.  I'm also excited for a Thanksgiving week filled with family, spending time with my sons and husband, as well as all the family members we rarely see. 

Reading was one of the few things I could manage last week, so I enjoyed my books:
  • I am still reading Middlemarch by George Eliot.  It is a hefty book, and I didn't finish in time for my book group meeting on Thursday, but I am now more than halfway through and am enjoying it very much.  I have been pleasantly surprised by Eliot's writing talents - Middlemarch is clever and witty, and my book is filled with tabbed quotes that I loved.
  • My husband, Ken, finished Neal Schusterman's Everfound, a teen/YA novel that we both enjoyed very much.
  • Last night, Ken started Michael Connelly's The Fifth Witness ( a Lincoln Lawyer novel), a paperback I gave him for Father's Day.  He and I have both always enjoyed Connelly's novels, and this seemed like a good choice for a week of travel and holiday hectic-ness!
  • Jamie, 18, is still reading City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare for the third time!  I'm sure he will use our long road trip this week to read.
 And that was it for this week!  No reviews, but I did write a Weekend Cooking post, with a recipe for a quick and delicious black bean soup, and a tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson on his birthday.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson!

Robert Louis Stevenson was born on this day in 1850, so happy birthday to him!  That would make him...uh...162 if he were still alive today (yeah, I had to bring up the calculator!).

Stevenson was a talented writer.  We read Treasure Island aloud to our two sons a couple of times when they were younger; it is a favorite book at our house!

We also greatly enjoyed watching Disney's 1950 movie adaptation starring Robert Newton as Long John Silver - dozens and dozens of time!  It was one of our sons' favorite movies, and Ken and I enjoyed it, too.  In fact, I included it in a round-up of great pirate products for Family Fun magazine in 2005.  And, of course, the Muppets starred in a pretty good adaptation of the novel, too!

I do think, though, that Treasure Island is the only Stevenson book I ever read.  In fact, I was surprised when  looked him up on amazon and discovered that he also wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - I've seen stage productions of that one but have never read it.  And, of course, he also wrote A Children's Garden of Verses, but I don't think I read that one either.

What are your favorite Robert Louis Stevenson works?  Happy Birthday, Robert!


Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Monday 11/12! What Are You Reading?

It was a long, tiring week but a lot of fun!  After voting Tuesday morning, I drove to Connecticut to take care of my mom.  She had hip surgery three weeks ago and still can't do much for herself.  So, I was there to help, but it was also the first time she and I have had so much time alone together since...well, since my kids were born!  We watched movies, read, talked for hours, and ate some delicious food together (see my Weekend Cooking post).  We really enjoyed each other's company, in spite of the crazy weather last week.

I came home to a busy catch-up weekend, planning meals, getting groceries, picking up the house, etc.  Yesterday we had friends over for dinner.  More fun, but today is definitely a recovery day.

Despite the very busy week, I squeezed in some reading time:
  • I am still working my way through Middlemarch by George Eliot.  Whew, it is slow going!  This classic novel is growing on me, and I am enjoying it, but I'm only on page 177 (of 799!!).  Not likely I will finish in time for my book group meeting on Thursday.  Yesterday, I began listening to it on audio when I am not able to read (free audio versions of classic books are available at LibriVox).
  • All that driving time gave me lots of opportunity to listen to audio books!  I finished The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, a middle-grade novel about a girl in 1960 Louisiana who goes back in time to meet her own ancestors in pre-War 1860.  I loved this book, and its historical details were fascinating - it made the miles fly by!
  • On the way home, I started The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg, a middle-grade novel.  It's good so far but different than I expected, using a 6th grade academic quiz bowl as the foundation to delve into the lives of four very different students.
  • My husband, Ken, is reading Everfound by Neal Schusterman, a teen/YA supernatural novel that I recently finished and reviewed.
  • Jamie, 18, doesn't have a lot of time for reading in college, but he is making his way through City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare for the 3rd time!
With such a busy week, I only had time to write one review, of The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka which my book group loved. And I posted my weekly Weekend Cooking summary.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Monday 11/5! What Are You Reading?

Wow, what a week we had last week!  We were stuck in the house, with school cancelled, for several days due to Hurricane Sandy (though we suffered no damage), then we had Halloween.  Life finally began to return to normal on Thursday and then it was the weekend!  So, I didn't get much work done; I am way behind on reviews!

However, the storm gave us lots of time for Spooky Halloween Reading!  I was almost wishing we lost power for a few hours so the kids would have to set aside the video games and TV and read, but we didn't and they didn't!  Here's what we read last week:
  • I finished Everfound by Neal Schusterman at the beginning of the week.  I loved this exciting conclusion to the imaginative teen/YA Skinjacking trilogy...and I even made sure to post a review right away, in time for Halloween!
  • Next, I read a fabulously creepy book, Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.  This one exceeded my expectations with edge-of-your-seat suspense that kept me reading much later than I should have every single night with a mixture of both supernatural thrills and too-real human-type chills.  I just finished it yesterday, so I will post a review this week.
  • And now, I have FINALLY started Middlemarch by George Eliot, the November selection for one of my book groups.  The problem?  We meet on November 15, and there is no way I can finish its 800 pages of densely-packed print in time!  I just couldn't bear to set Night Strangers aside...
  • My husband, Ken, took full advantage of being stuck inside by the storm and zipped through the hefty The Twelve by Justin Cronin in a mere week!  I can't wait to read this long-awaited sequel to The Passage!
  • Now Ken is reading Everfound by Neal Schusterman - we just pass books around in our house until everyone has read them!
  • Jamie, 18, came home for the storm (college was closed for several days) but forgot City of Ashes, book #2 in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series (which he is re-reading) in his dorm room.  Despite piles of new books all over the house, he refused to start anything else and instead played video games with his brother!
I posted just one review last week, of Everfound, a teen/YA novel by Neal Schusterman.  I also wrote some fun posts: my October Book Summary and a new Weekend Cooking post.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Our son and his friend dressed as old men for Halloween, so Ken and I dressed as toddlers!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Teen/YA Review: Everfound

Happy Halloween (one day late)!  I have been preparing for Halloween by reading some spooky books this month (see my review of Magisterium), and what is spookier than ghosts?  Everfound by Neal Schusterman, the third and final book in his Skinjacking trilogy that started with Everlost, was a satisfying conclusion to an excellent series.

This is going to be tricky (get it?  tricky on Halloween?), but I’m going to try to tell you about the third book without giving away what happens in the first two books because if you haven’t read this series yet, you are really missing out….and you need to start at the beginning.

Everlost is the world that exists in between the living world and the dead world.  It is populated only by children and teens who are not yet ready to head into the light and “get where they are going.”  There, kids can see the real world but can not interact with it or change it.  The exception are skinjackers, a certain minority of the kids in Everlost who can temporarily take over a living body and thereby interact with the living world.

Many of the same main characters from earlier books play key roles in Everfound:  Allie the Outcast, Nick the Chocolate Ogre, Mary Hightower, and Mikey the McGill.  They are joined in this third and final book by two new characters.  Jix is a furjacker – a skinjacker who likes to take over big cats – sent by the Mayan King of Everlost to find out more about Mary.  Mary, as before, is intent on controlling all of Everlost, though her plans have become more sinister than before. Some of the skinjackers, led by Milos, have figured out how to bring more children into Everlost to increase the size and strength of Mary’s growing army.  All of the kids are terrified by the appearance of a scar wraith, the most feared type of being in all of Everlost, a person who is half in the living world and half in Everlost and whose touch is said to be capable of extinguishing the Everlost child he touches forever.

As Mary’s power grows and her army of skinjackers becomes more powerful, Allie, Nick, Mikey, Jix, and the others realize they must set aside their differences in order to save Everlost – and the living world – from Mary’s evil plans.  As with the first two books, Everfound is fast-paced and full of suspense, with plenty of likeable characters to root for.  I loved it, and my husband and son can’t wait to read it next!

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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Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday 10/29! What Are You Reading?

An unusual Monday here, as we wait out Hurricane Sandy aka Frankenstorm.  It is a HUGE storm, with another storm front coming down from the north to meet it, and it is heading straight for us in northern Delaware.  We are a bit inland so don't have to worry about coastal flooding, but the heavy rain and high winds are supposed to last for a few days, at least.  Roads are closed.  Schools were closed for Monday and Tuesday back on Saturday, so we have both kids at home (plus an extra one!).

On the plus side, if we lose power, I will have an excuse for more reading time!  Here's what we have been reading here:
  • I spent the week engrossed in a spooky read by one of my favorite teen/YA authors: Everfound by Neal Schusterman, the conclusion to the Skinjacking trilogy that started with Everlost, about kids caught in a sort of limbo (aka Everlost) in between the worlds of the living and the dead.  Our whole family has loved this series, and the final book is just as good - I just have a few pages to go!
  • Next up for today is another Halloween read, Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.
  • I am really enjoying the audio book, The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, about a girl in 1960's Louisiana who time travels back 100 years.  It is excellent so far, though I won't be listening much with the whole family stuck on the house with me this week!
  • My husband, Ken, finished In the Woods by Tana French, and wants to read more of her novels.
  • Next, he read another Neal Schusterman teen/YA novel, Unwholly, the sequel to Unwind, another spooky novel that we all loved!  It's a dystopian series about a future world where parents can choose to "unwind" their children between ages 13 and 18 (but it is considered ethically acceptable because every bit of them is used and transplanted).  Yeah, very creepy!  The first book was about a few teens who managed to escape on their way to being unwound.  Can't wait to read this one - Ken said it was great!
  • Last night, Ken started The Twelve by Justin Cronin, sequel to The Passage.  Both of us are excited to read this one!
  • Jamie, 18, finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (for the 3rd time!), but he left book #2 in his dorm room when he came home for the storm!  So, he will have to switch to another series while he is here - that shouldn't be a problem as we just received a bunch of teen/YA books from a publisher.
I didn't write or post much last week because I was sick all week, but I managed two posts late in the week: some exciting news on the adaptation of The Book Thief for stage and screen and a Weekend Cooking Post.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted at Teach Mentor Texts.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Book Thief Comes to Life!

The wildly popular YA novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which sold over 2.5 million copies  in the U.S. and many more overseas, has been adapted for the stage.

This New York Times article explains how the best-selling book - which was one of the biggest YA-adult stand-alone cross-over novels of all time - came to be adapted as a stage production.  It is currently running as a young adult production at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater through November 11.  I wish I lived there so I could go see it! is also being adapted as a movie, though no word yet on when that might come out - sounds like they are just getting started.

Did you read The Book Thief?  I loved it -you can check out my own review here.  Are you lucky enough to live in the Chicago area?  If so, will you go see it?  I wish I could!

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Monday 10/22! What Are You Reading?

Ah...Monday morning...quiet house.  I've had kind of a rough week here.  My college son was home sick much of last week, then I caught his cold.  Even a simple virus like this triggers a severe flare-up of our chronic illness (an immune disorder), so it's a double-whammy.  On the plus side, I've had a little more time for reading than usual!  Here's what we read last week:
  • I finished my first spooky read for the month, the teen/YA novel Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, which combines a post-apocalyptic/dystopian setting with a magical plot.  Its engrossing suspense was a great distraction from how I was feeling!
  • Last night, I finished my neighborhood book group's selection for this week's meeting: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.  It is a unique novel, written from the perspective of a group of women, rather than individual characters, about so-called picture brides who immigrated to the United States from Japan in the early 1900's, following them for the next 20 years.  It should be fodder for some excellent discussions Wednesday evening!
  • I started a new audio book, The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, a middle-grade novel about a young girl in Louisiana in 1960 who is transported back in time to 1860.  It is excellent and engaging so far!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading In the Woods by Tana French and enjoying it very much.  He says it is a good mystery with plenty of suspense but also very well-written.
  • Jamie, 18, was home sick from college for 4 days this week.  After catching up on all his favorite TV shows in the first 2 days, he picked up a book and remembered how much he has missed reading since he started college!  He read Relic Master (The Dark City #1) by Catherine Fisher and loved it (Fisher's Incarceron was a family favorite here).
  • City of Lost Souls, Book Five of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, arrived at our house last week while Jamie was home sick.  Since this is one of his favorite series, Jamie decided to re-read the entire series...for the third time!  So, he is currently reading Book 1, City of Bones, though he is back at school with plenty of make-up work, so I don't know how much reading time he has!
I posted two new reviews last week: Caleb's Crossing, a wonderful historical novel by the talented Geraldine Brooks and Magisterium, a great spooky teen/YA novel by Jeff Hirsch. I also posted my plans for Spooky Halloween Reads this month, and another Weekend Cooking post yesterday.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Teen/YA Review: Magisterium

I wanted to read some spooky books during the month of October, and Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch kicked off my creepy reading perfectly!  This new novel from the author of The Eleventh Plague starts out as your typical post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel, but it also has a hefty dose of (dark) magic and lots of surprises.

Sixteen-year old Glenn Morgan lives a quiet life.  Her mother left when she was six, and her scientist father is immersed in his project out in his workshop, leaving Glenn on her own most of the time.  She goes to school, hangs out with her mohawked friend, Kevin Kapoor, and dreams of the day when she can apply to a space academy and escape her lonely life.  They live in a world based on technology and science, but Kevin has heard rumors of a different world, filled with magic and monsters, just beyond the Rift that borders their backyards.  Glenn insists that there is nothing beyond the Rift but a barren wasteland, as they’ve been taught in their history classes.

One day, their quiet, dull lives are upended when Glenn’s dad finally finishes the project he’s been obsessed with, a metal bracelet, and the Authority, their police force, come to arrest him.  Glenn and Kevin grab the bracelet and escape to the only place they can – across the border.  What they find there, on the run from the government, is crazy and confusing and hard to believe, but Glenn must continue her quest to save her father.

I don’t want to say much more about the rest of the novel because it is filled with suspense and lots of twists and turns.  It is an imaginative and action-packed adventure story about a dystopian world much different than others I have read about (and I have read a lot of dystopian novels this year!).  Glenn and Kevin are both strong, admirable characters whom I was rooting for.  I devoured the book quickly, and now my 18-year old son wants to read it!

310 pages, Scholastic


Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Monday 10/15! What Are You Reading?

Monday already?  Wow, where did the weekend go?  Mine was filled with a lot of work (and cooking) and not much fun or relaxing.  I saw lots of blogs participated in a read-a-thon this weekend.  I've never tried one, but it sounds like a wonderful idea!  Might have to wait until the kids have moved out, though!

After 3 solid weeks of pain and exhaustion following his knee surgery, my youngest son finally returned to school today (I know I said he went back LAST Monday, but that only lasted one day!) - hurray!  However, my oldest son is home from college and in bad shape now!  Looks like he has one of the many viruses floating around at school which has triggered a bad flare-up of his chronic illness.  So, he came home for his usual Sunday visit but felt so bad that he decided to stay (still sleeping - shhh!).

Someday I will be alone again for an hour or two...

In the meantime, as always, books provide a mini escape!  Here's what we've been reading this week:
  • I finished Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital by Dr. Heidi Squier Kraft just in time for my library's book discussion on Wednesday.  It is a fascinating and engrossing memoir about a young mother's experiences serving as a Navy Psychologist for a group of Marines in Iraq.  We had a great discussion about the emotional and psychological effects of war.
  • After months of listening, I finally finished the middle-grade audio book Young Fredle by Cynthia Voight last week.  My lengthy listen is not due to any fault of the book, just a lack of a CD player in my old car!  It is a warm, wonderful story, wonderfully performed - very deserving of its Odyssey Honor for Excellence in Audiobooks Award.
  • Now I am reading an exciting new teen/YA novel, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch.  It's a very unique story - a blend of dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and magic, all rolled into one!  I could hardly stand to put it down this weekend.
  • My husband, Ken, finished and enjoyed 1NF1N1TY by Rachel Ward, the exciting conclusion to her Num8ers trilogy.
  • Now Ken is reading one of his birthday gifts from me, Into the Woods by Tana French.  I've been hearing such great things about French's suspense novels for years, so I decided to start him off with the first book in this series.  He's loving it so far and says the writing is excellent - he even read a passage aloud to me!
  • Jamie, 18 and an avid reader, is still too busy with his new college life for any reading!  Perhaps he will pick it up again while he is sick this week (though of course, I hope he bounces back quickly and can get back to hanging out with his friends).
  • Craig, 14, has his hands full catching up on 3 weeks' of missed school work, but he did enjoy reading the short story, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell (a classic!) for his English class.  And, in a burst of inspiration (and an urgent need to get away from the TV!) this week, I set up lounge chairs outside in the sunshine for Craig and I and read aloud to him from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.  He was in the mood for something Halloweeny, and I think he enjoyed that little return to when we used to read aloud to the boys every night.  I know I enjoyed it!
I only posted one review last week, of Young Fredle, the middle-grade audio book.  But I also managed a couple of other fun posts:  My September Reading Summary and my first-ever post for Weekend Cooking.  Check it out to learn about my passion for food and cooking, and what I made for my family this weekend.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)