Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Burned House of Night #7) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Didn't love it.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Zoey Redbird is the youngest High Priestess in House of Night history and is the only person – vamp or fledgling – that can stop the evil Neferet from raising all kinds of immortal trouble. And she might just have a chance if she wasn’t so busy being dead.

Well, dead is too strong a word. Stevie Rae knows she can bring her BFF back from her unscheduled va-cay in the Otherworld. But it’s going to take a lot more than hoping to bring Zoey back. Stevie Rae will have to give up a few secrets of her own . .

Burned was more about Stevie Rae than it was about Zoey, who was on the brink of death for the majority of the book.  While Zoey is trapped in the Otherworld with Heath, the fate of the world is left up to those she left behind - namely Stevie Rae, Aphrodite, and Stark, Zoey's Warrior.  Stevie Rae quickly realizes, as Zoey once had, that being a High Priestess comes with responsibility and tough decisions. 

What I didn't like about the book:
Once again, the Casts give us a lot of talk, with very little action.  There is a lot of dialogue about what they are going to do, theories on what might happen, and ancient mythology about Warriors, consorts, Guardians, and the struggle of Darkness and Light.  This was all interesting at times, but it didn't help the story move forward as much as I wanted it to.

I don't think I'm giving away too much when I tell you that there was a consistent theme of Darkness and Light throughout the book.  At one point, I was a little tired of reading the word "darkness" and not knowing whether they meant "Darkness" (with a capital D) or darkness, meaning sad, in the shadows, without light, or just plain evil.  I felt a thesaurus was in order.

The language was a little grating.  There are characters, like Stevie Rae, who seem to be morally opposed to swearing, using words like bullpoopie and dang it.  That's fine, especially if the authors wanted to keep the language appropriate for their audience, or add to the sweetness of a character like Stevie Rae; however, other characters, like Stark, were inconsistent with their language preferences, at times switching out "bullpoopie" for the ever-effective "f" bomb.   Of course, Aphrodite uses whatever language she pleases, thank you very much, and was the most consistent character in the whole book.

What I did like about the book:
Aphrodite.  She is my favorite character in the House of Night series.  Her character is the most fully developed, and actually grows with each installment.  The other members of Zoey's gang are barely mentioned - the twins, Damien and Jack, all seem to have faded into the background.   While I missed the friendly banter among the gang, and Zoey's presence, I enjoyed the fresh 3rd person perspective while watching Stevie Rae and Stark battle to get Zoey back. 

While I may have complained about the excessive talk and no action in regards to the history discussed in the book, I found the legend of the old ways of the Warriors really interesting.  I felt once this part of the novel was revealed, the action also picked up.  I do love me a strong and brave Warrior! 

The Verdict:
I am not sure if I would have read Burned if the publicist had not sent it to me.  It may have ended up in my library tote one of these days, especially since Tempted (House of Night #6) left us with such a cliff-hanger at the end. Of all the House of Night books available, I really enjoyed Marked (House of Night #1), Betrayed (House of Night #2), and Untamed (House of Night #4).  The rest have left me flat.  If you enjoy this genre, I suggest picking up the first four books.  After that, it's up to you. 

Book Trailer:

P.C. Cast's Blog
Publisher's Burned Page

My previous House of Night Reviews:
Marked (House of Night #1)
Tempted (House of Night #6)
Untamed (House of Night #4)

*Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by the publicist.

About the Authors:
P.C. CAST is an award-winning fantasy and paranormal romance author as well as an experienced speaker and teacher. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, Prism, Daphne du Maurier, and Affaire du Coeur, as well as others. She lives in Oklahoma.
Her daughter, KRISTIN CAST, has won awards for her poetry and journalism. She also lives in Oklahoma, where she attends college in Tulsa.

About the Book:
Burned by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312606168
ISBN-13: 978-0312606169

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Book!

On Friday, July 9th National Geographic Channel will premiere the first of its 10-part series entitled Nat Geo Amazing!  Viewers will get a glimpse of the scariest, the coolest, and, dare I say, the most bizarre things our planet has to offer.  The visuals I saw on the video clip are as beautiful as I have seen on Earth: the Biography or as edgy as on Naked Science.  (We are big National Geographic Channel geeks in our house!) 

To celebrate this series, National Geographic has released a companion book called NatGeo Amazing!  100 People, Places and Things That Will Wow You by Melina Gerosa Bellows, executive vice president of National Geographic Children's Publishing.   The book has some photos and stories from the show, some from past specials, as well as some exclusive to the book itself. 


Forget those special glasses with the red and blue lenses — all German artist Edgar Mueller needs to create a 3-D image is a slab of cement and some chalk. Mueller works with as many as five assistants and for as long as five days to complete his images.

Since we are huge fans of NatGeo, and I thought this book would be cool for men, women, and kids alike, I had to feature it today.  It also didn't hurt that one of my friends is the incredibly talented editor behind Amazing!

From the Publisher:
NatGeo Amazing! is National Geographic as you've never seen it before—a celebration of the world's 100 most fascinating people, places, and things, showcased in a large-format, full-color paperback. NatGeo Amazing! has no trouble grabbing your attention and never letting go. This 192-page collection of the world's most fascinating information is the must-have companion to the new National Geographic Channel series launched in July 2010.

National Geographic Home Page
Nat Geo Amazing show site
Episode Guide

About the Book:
Nat Geo Amazing! 100 People, Places and Things That Will Wow You by Melina Gerosa Bellows
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: National Geographic (June 29, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426206496
ISBN-13: 978-1426206498

About the Author:
Melina Bellows is Executive Vice President and Editor-in-Chief for National Geographic Children's publications, which includes the award-winning, number one children's magazine National Geographic Kids. In addition to authoring five books, she has written for such publications as Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour. She has appeared on such TV shows as The Today Show, CNN, The View, Good Day New York, and Fox and Friends.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo

Didn't catch me like Jane Austen Ruined My Life did, but still enjoyable.

Claire Prescott is between jobs, so she doesn't have much of an excuse when her sister, a teacher and Austen fanatic, asks her to take her place at Oxford for a Summer Seminar on Pride and Prejudice.  Claire looks forward to her first trip to England, even if she doesn't understand the appeal of Jane Austen's so-called heroes, like Mr. Darcy.  Who knows?  Maybe Claire will find her own Mr. Darcy as she herself falls under Ms. Austen's spell.

Claire doesn't hide her feelings for Mr. Darcy, laying down the challenge before her fellow classmates:

"I don't see the appeal.  He's rude, arrogant, and unpleasant most of the time.  My sister thinks he's the ultimate romantic hero, but I just don't get it." 
When I first started reading Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, I thought I was going to like Claire much more than I did.  I enjoyed watching her character change and grow, but I didn't find her particularly likable.  Like Beth Pattillo's other female character from Jane Austen Ruined My Life, Claire likes her Starbucks, chokes back sobs or blinks away tears, and suffers from some mysterious deeply repressed heartache. 
I got very excited, though, when Claire meets a sweet old woman, Harriet, who lives in a quaint cottage that "looked like it was painted by Beatrix Potter."  I immediately had hopes of some crossover between Pattillo's novels, and I was rightly satisfied.  We were once again treated to the wonderful Austen secret society, The Formidables.  Oh, how I wish this group were real!

Instead of a love story, as I had expected, I think this was a novel full of self-discovery, and sisterhood.  Claire's trip to England is a life-changing experience, after which none of her relationships will ever be the same.

Even though I didn't become as absorbed in Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart as I did in Jane Austen Ruined My Life, I did enjoy it, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys Pattillo's work.

Disclaimer:  I received a review copy of this book from the publicist.  Thank you to Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists for sending me a copy of this book!

About the Book:
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: GuidepostsBooks; Original edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0824947932
ISBN-13: 978-0824947934

What Are You Reading?

Today is Monday, June 27, 2010...What Are You Reading? is being brought to you by our Master of Ceremonies, Sheila of One Person's Journey Through a World of Books (aka Book Journey).

I have had a drama-filled week, most of which occurred outside my books. 

For those of you who know me personally, know that my husband and I fought to reinstate the school's Summer Reading Program.  We were victorious!  (sort of) The program is still far from perfect, but Rome wasn't built in a day.  Hopefully, by next year our kids have a strong Summer Reading Program - one they can look forward to, one in which both students and parents know what to expect, and one that parents, students and teachers will be proud of. 

In order to supplement our school's current summer reading list, which is somewhat lacking, I put together my own list:  K-8 Summer Reading List 2010
If your school has a strong summer reading program, drop me a line, send me a link, or post below. I would love to learn from already successful programs around the globe!

All summer long, I will be posting on reading programs, book clubs and incentives, as well as just checking in on everyone's progress.  Stay tuned for more!

Now for my drama WITHIN the pages!

Books I Completed This Week:

Books I am Currently Reading:

Books I Plan to Read This Week:


What are YOU reading this week??

Saturday, June 26, 2010

K-8 Summer Reading List 2010

As requested, here is my Summer Reading List for grades K-8.  Since my children are young, I may be "off" on what a 6th grader or 8th grader might like.  I tried to keep these lists short enough to be manageable, yet long enough to have some variety (fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, classics).  I also tried to take into account a wide range of abilities, while keeping the list fun for the specified age. 

I did not link to my reviews of the listed books, but if you have any specific questions regarding a book on my list, feel free to contact me!

If anyone would like to add to the lists, please leave a comment below - especially you teachers out there!

I will have more on summer reading throughout the summer - stay tuned!

Incoming 8th Grade:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr.
The Boy Who Saved Baseball by John Ritter
Summer Ball by Mike Lupica
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli (advanced 8th)
Eleven Seconds by Travis Roy
Chasing Lincoln’s Killer: The Search for John Wilkes Booth by James Swanson (non-fiction)
Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka (non-fiction)
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (graphic novel)

Incoming 7th Grade:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
Blubber by Judy Blume
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
The Dangerous Day of Daniel X by James Patterson
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Schooled by Gordon Kormon (non-fiction)
Chew on This by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson (non-fiction)
Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (graphic novel)

Incoming 6th Grade:

The Secret of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
The Secret School – Avi
Heat by Mike Lupica
Scat by Carl Hiassen
I was a Sixth Grade Alien by Bruce Coville
Danny the Champion of the World by Ronald Dahl
The Dear America series by various authors
Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
The Big Field by Mike Lupica
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
Guts by Gary Paulsen (non-fiction)
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges (non-fiction)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (graphic novel)

Incoming 5th Grade:

Countdown by Deborah Wiles
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The BFG by Ronald Dahl
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Percy Jackson and the Olympians (series) by Rick Riordan
Matilda by Ronald Dahl
Mystery of the Cupboard (series) by Lynn Reid Banks
Blubber by Judy Blume
A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup
My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville
Charlie Bone (series) Jenny Nimmo
Nancy Drew by Carolyne Keene
The Time Warp Trio: Summer Reading is Killing Me by Jon Sciezka
Getting Air by Dan Gutman
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
James and the Giant Peach by Ronald Dahl
No Talking by Andrew Clements
The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman
Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Judy Moody (series) by Megan McDonald
Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka (autobiography)

Incoming 4th Grade:

Fudge (the series) by Judy Blume
The 13th Reality by James Dashner
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
The School Story by Andrew Clements
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements
Clementine (series) by Sara Pennypacker
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Wayside School (series) by Louis Sachar
Who Was…? (biography series) by various authors
Henry Huggins (series) by Beverly Cleary
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith
Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine
Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton
The Lemonade War by Jaqueline Davies
Romona (series) by Beverly Cleary
Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
I Was a Third Grade Science Project by Mary Jane Auch
39 Clues (series) by various authors

Incoming 1st Grade through 3rd Grade:

Independent Reading:
Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant
Stuart Little by E.B. White
Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
Geronimo Stilton
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Stink (series) by Megan McDonald
Big Nate by Lincoln Pierce
The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman
Nate the Great by Marjorie Sharmat
Horrible Harry (series) by Suzy Klein
Cam Jansen (series) by David Adler
The Magic School Bus (series) by Joanna Cole
Watch the Stars Come Out by Riki Levinson
Class Clown by Joanna Hurwitz
Judy Moody (series) by Megan McDonald
Boxcar Children (series) by Gertrude Warner
Wayside School (series) by Louis Sachar
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
Amelia Bedelia (series) by Peggy Parish
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
David Goes to School by David Shannon
Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
Captain Underpants by David Pilkey

Read Alouds:
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
A-Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing by Judi Barrett
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg
Angelina Ballerina by Katherine Holabird
Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin
Dog Breath by Dave Pilkey

Recommended Authors:
David Adler
Judy Blume
Jan Brett
Marc Brown
Ronald Dahl
Tomie DiPaola
Lois Lowry
Leo Lionni
Jack Prelutsky
Cynthia Rylant
Maurice Sendak
Vera B. Williams
Mo Willems
Rosemary Wells
James Dashner
Rick Riordan

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Audiobook Week: Seven Lessons

Thanks to Jen at Devourer of Books, we celebrated Audiobook Week across the blogosphere this week.  Before I get around to reviewing the actual book I listened to this week, I thought it would be a good idea to document my experience into this new world of Audiobooks.

Day 1: 
Downloading the Book.  Instead of trying to limit my audio experience to my car, or broadcasting what might not be appropriate content for my 5 year old on my stereo, I decided to download my audiobook onto my iPod.  I went onto the Brilliance Audio website for instructions - something I highly recommend!  The process was easy, and in a matter of minutes I was ready to go.

LESSON #1:  Read the instructions on downloading to iPod

Folding the Laundry:  I normally fold the laundry while watching past episodes of Buffy, but as this was Father's Day, I couldn't subject The Man to Buffy, and he wanted to watch the US Open Golf tournament.  Could I fold laundry, glance at the golf tournament, AND listen to an audiobook?  Not exactly.  I was very confused, and had a hard time following the story.  It was not the book's fault, nor my lack of ability to multi-task, which brings me to.... 

LESSON #2:  Turn the "shuffle songs" feature OFF. duh

Day 2:
Morning Routine:  I am not a morning person.  I don't usually talk much before 9 AM.  Instead, I decided to listen to my Audiobook while I made beds, served breakfast, and packed up the 7 year old's backpack.  Wow, I think I may have actually enjoyed this new early-morning ritual!  Unfortunately, my boys didn't enjoy it, which brings me to...

LESSON #3:  Keep an ear bud out in case your kids need you.  If you're "on duty" one ear bud is enough. This isn't music, you don't really need BOTH ear buds in...unless you WANT to block out the world around you.

That's Italian:  Today was the man's birthday, and he requested I make baked ziti.  Along with the baked ziti and birthday cake, I decided, since it was his birthday, to take it a step further and make meatballs, which I do not make as often as I should, especially when I have fresh herbs at my fingertips.  Speaking of fingertips...

LESSON #4:  Even though you're listening to an audiobook, it does not mean you don't have to use care while in the kitchen!  Yes, your character is being kissed by the boy she likes, but that doesn't mean you don't need potholders on your tray of baked ziti!  Pay attention!

Day 3:
Chores, Shmores:  Holy cow, I did EVERYTHING while listening to my audiobook!  I watered my plants outside, I did laundry, I cleaned the bathroom, and I even got dressed while listening to a chapter or two.  This is incredible!  All the things I normally put off in favor of sitting down with a cup of coffee and a book are no longer ignored.  I can take care of my house, and my kids, while listening to a book.  THIS is cool. 

LESSON #5:  Don't be rude.  Even though I had the one ear bud rule, it's still rude (or dangerous) to listen to an audiobook while you should be paying attention to other things...and people.  Sorry, little man! 

Day 4:
Writing the Wrong Way:  I could not read e-mails or write blog posts while listening to my Audiobook. Maybe some of you can, but I found myself concentrating more on what I was reading instead of what I was hearing. And forget writing! It's not like listening to music while I write - music enhances the writing process, audiobooks hinder the writing process.  I guess if your brain was able to comprehend two things at once, book addicts would be listening to audiobooks while reading the latest paperback at the same time.  Not possible.

LESSON #6:  No reading or writing while listening to Audiobook. 

Day 5:
What Was That?:  Some book bloggers, like Amanda, at Zen Leaf, don't take notes while reading a book.  I don't know how she does it, because I have a note card in all of my books, complete with character names, page numbers of my favorite passages, and important plot points.  Audiobooks don't allow you to see the names on the page or copy down funny quotes and for some reason, I had a hard time remembering character's names.  The plot was very easy to follow in this book, and the reader had these voices she did for the different characters, so keeping them straight while listening to her was easy...but later on, when it was time to write the review?  Um. Blank.

LESSON #7:  Take notes, if you're a book blogger and plan on writing a review.  For the rest of you readers out there, listen and enjoy!

Thank you to Jen at Devourer of Books - I am an Audiobook virgin no longer, and you have introduced me to a whole new world of reading! 

Now, I am overwhelmed at how many audiobooks are out there.  I haven't been able to water my plants, do my laundry, or make dinner without one - I need suggestions!!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kids' Next List - Summer 2010

You all know how I feel about the IndieNext lists...and for those of you who don't, allow me to explain. 

When you're looking for your next great book, and you're not finding it here, go to and look at their IndieNext lists. This is where you will find all the hot new titles. 

While you are there, find YOUR local Independently-Owned book shop.  Once the owner or manager knows you and your book tastes, you'll NEVER be without a great read! 

Last week, I stopped by my favorite indie book store - Clinton Book Shop (also known as my book-whisperers)- and pre-ordered my copies of Mockingjay and The Scorch Trials.  While I was there, I picked up a copy of the Kids Next list. 

Here is a sampling of what I found!

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Young Adult).  I loved this book so much, which is actually an older book of Zafon's, finally translated to English and published in the US this year from Little, Brown.  It's a great thriller and story of friendship all wrapped into one.  If you loved The Shadow of the Wind, your savvy middle grade or young teen will love The Prince of Mist!

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.  (ages 8 - 12)  My soon-to-be 8 year old and I read this book, taking turns begging each other for "One more chapter?" each night.  I picked this book up at Book Expo (BEA) and knew as soon as I flipped through the pages that this was going to be a new favorite.  If you have a middle grade reader in your house, especially one who likes Star Wars, this is a winner!
City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems and Jon J. Muth. (ages 4-8) We love Mo Willems in our house, but the watercolor illustrations are what really bring this story to life.  The feel of it is so different than that of Willems's Pigeon books, or Knuffle Bunny.  This story is so sweet.  If your child is ready for the next step in read-aloud picture books, pick this one up.
Countdown by Deborah Wiles.  (Grades 5-7) The first in a trilogy of books set in the 1960s, Countdown comes alive with real pictures, newspaper clippings and quotes interspersed throughout the novel.  Franny is a typical 12 year old girl, who worries about her first boy-girl party one day, while listening to JFK speak to the nation on the Cuban Missile Crisis the next.  It's a history lesson disguised as a coming of age story.  Amazing.
Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka.(ages 7 to10)  The first in a series, this book includes references to websites for kids to visit while they are reading the book, enhancing the experience!  Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn't hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren't kids at all. They are aliens on a mission: to convince 3,400,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But with a hamster as their leader, "kids" who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?      We haven't read this one yet, but it's on our list!  I may have to hide this one from my son so I can get a chance to read it first. 
My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day (Young Adult).  This is a light, fun read, perfect for your teen's summer reading list (after she's finished reading Jane Eyre or Emma).  What happens when a girl who doesn't like to be the 3rd (or 5th or 7th) wheel gets caught up in a little white lie about her imaginary boyfriend?  

Here are some others that caught my eye....

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere by Jaqueline West (Ages 9-12)
The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzales (Ages 10-12)
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green, David Leviathan (Young Adult)

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Reading

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." - Dr. Seuss

I don't want to call out specific people or places, but it has come to my attention that there are people, people who call themselves educators, that question the importance of summer reading.  As a reader, a book lover, and a parent, I know that summer reading is fundamental.

Summer Slide.  Summer Slump.  Summer Setback.

These are phrases I read over and over again while tearing through the articles and studies tracking summer reading and its direct effect on overall academic success.  When I heard someone said, "Summer reading just doesn't make that big of a difference," all it took was a quick Google search to come up with expert opinions, articles and studies proving this ignorant person wrong.  Don't take anyone's word as truth, no matter how high up on the educational hierarchy they may be. 

Summer Reading Programs

Since not all schools have required reading programs, it falls to parents to seek out summer reading books, lists, and incentive programs, or make them up on their own.

Here is a quick guide for parents (reading lists to come):
1.  Go to your local library.  The last time I stopped in, the children's desk was full of information on everything from minor league baseball tickets to free ice cream connected to the different reading incentive programs. 
2.  Sign up for the Scholastic Summer Challenge.  (more on this tomorrow!)
3.  Pay attention to the Junior High School and High School reading lists!  Many school districts have required reading at a certain grade-level. Do NOT rely on your child's 8th grade teacher to inform you or your child on what his/her reading requirements will be for 9th grade.  Don't let your child be behind on Day 1 of high school.   These lists can be found on the school's website, local libraries, or local independent book stores.
4.  Speaking of local indie book stores, use this resource!  They know which books are hot, which classics are new again, where to find reading guides, and which books you can get in paperback instead of an expensive hardcover!  They will also have the local schools' lists - and are familiar with the books on them!  Go to to find your local book shop.  
5.  Schedule your summer reading time.  In our house, mid-morning and bed-time are our two favorite times of the day to read.  If you build it into your summer routine, you'll find your KIDS reminding YOU that it's time to read! 
6.  E-Mail me.  If you have a summer reading list and you aren't familiar with the books on the list, feel free to e-mail it to me, and I will try and point you to the ones I think are the best. 

Reading should be fun!  There are going to be rainy days, long trips in the car, and days where you are going to hear, "Mom, I'm bored!"  Have a few books at the ready. 

I will be doing several posts throughout the summer on Kids' Summer Reading, so stay tuned!

I invite the teachers out there to add anything I may have missed, links you want to share, and any other Summer Slide avoidance techniques! 

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I couldn't put this book down!

Before I Fall is told in the first-person by high school Senior, Samantha Kingston, as she lives one day over and over again - like Groundhog Day without Bill Murray's humor.  The day she is living over again is the day she dies. 

She is in the popular clique, has the cutest boyfriend, goes to the best parties, and even gets to smart-mouth her teachers without consequence.  Why?  Because that's the way high school hierarchy works.  Is she the nicest or the prettiest girl?  No. And she quickly realizes that popularity may save her from detention, but it won't save her from fate. 

She realizes the ripple effect one small action has on everything and everyone around her, and a big change may be catastrophic.  As she lives this one day over and over again, she chooses what she wants to change, what she can control, and learns that some things you simply can not change.
"I'm a nonperson, a shadow, a ghost.  Even before the accident I'm not sure that I was a whole person - that's what I'm realizing now.  And I'm not sure where the damage begins."

When I saw reviews for Before I Fall practically wallpapering the book blogs a few months ago, it caught my eye, but I was doubtful that I would love it as much as other bloggers like Jenn's Bookshelf. Bookalicious or S.Krishna's Books.  Was I wrong! 

I couldn't put this book down.  It may sound hefty at 480 pages, but I read it practically in one day.  It's been a while since I devoured a book like this.  I cooked with it, I folded laundry with it, I sat outside with it, and I skipped an episode of my favorite show to read it! 

Oliver's characters are complex and honest, even if unlikable at times.  Each time Samantha lives her day, she finds out more about the people around her, their lives, their secrets.  In return, she does a lot of soul searching herself, taking a hard look at who she is and what she is leaving behind.   During her journey, she offers her audience some advice on the hard lessons she's learning.

"Maybe for you there's a tomorrow.  Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it,roll around in it, let it slide like couins through your fingers.  So much time you can waste it. 
   But for some of us there's only today.  And the truth is, you never really know."

I'm still not sure I am okay with the way Oliver closed the book.  I had to re-read the last few pages.  Maybe I simply didn't want it to end.  I don't want to spoil the ending by telling you what I wanted and didn't get, but if you enjoy YA fiction, you won't be disappointed with Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall

Book Trailer:

About the Book:
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 006172680X
ISBN-13: 978-0061726804

About the Author:

Visit Lauren Oliver's website/blog here.

Visit Before I Fall at Harper Collins for a reading guide, audio excerpt and more.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Keep Kids Learning this Summer!

OK, parents this one's for you!

I am a big believer of keeping those little brains active during the summer breaks, especially when they are young little sponges eager to learn!  Education starts at home. Especially with math and science scores dropping, more and more kids need extra help and an early start. 

A few weeks ago at BEA, as things were winding down, I put on the Mommy hat and strolled over to the Children's Educational area.  Wow.  So much to take in!  So many activity books and science kits and educational craft project ideas! 

I stopped and chatted for a while with the people of Kumon, who were kind enough to send several of their activity books to my boys:

The day the package arrived in the mail, my boys tore into the books.  The books are broken into segments, each building on the one previous.  The books are age appropriate, yet challenging. 

About Kumon:
The heart of the Kumon learning system is a curriculum of more than twenty clearly defined skill levels and hundreds of short assignments spanning material from preschool all the way up to college. With each assignment, your child advances in small, manageable increments.

For More on their Activity Books, visit:  Kumon Books
You can also follow Kumon on Facebook: and Twitter:

We also received our Summer Bridge books in the mail, which I ordered through the school as a fundraiser.  I would have ordered these books even if it weren't a fundraiser.  We have been doing them every summer for the last three years, and are some of my kids' favorites.

These books are from Carson-Dellosa Publishing:

The boys were excited about these books as well, as they have reward stickers throughout and span all areas of learning.  If you're looking for a comprehensive workbook that spans all subjects, is colorful, and entertaining, check out these books by clicking on the above link.


I have a future Engineer on my hands, a boy who loves math and science and building things with his hands.  What kid doesn't?  I thought I walked into Mommy heaven when I came into The Workman Publishing booth and saw some of the educational (shh) and FUN things they have for kids. 

We already have some of the Brain Quest decks and are a MUST for those long car rides to the beach!

Potato Chip Science?  How cool is this? 

You can follow Workman Publishishing on Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook.

Learning can be fun!  Enjoy!

Spring Reading Thing Wrap Up

Spring is over, and so is the Spring Reading Thing 2010 Challenge, hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days.  The idea of the challenge is simply to make a list of books to read, and read them!  Easy enough, right? 

 I was easily distracted this spring.  I was hoping to catch up on some books that have been on my bookshelf, but I had so many great books come across my path that I could not resist.  I received some wonderful books for review that I would not have picked up if it weren't for my blog, and for that I am eternally grateful. 
Here are my stats for the challenge:

Books on Original List:  37
Books Read From Original List:  27
Books Added to Original List:  15
Books Read but Not Reviewed Yet (in bold): 9
Total Books Read AND Reviewed (links to reviews):  33
Total Books Read: 42

Not too shabby!
Here is my list:

  1. 1.  Three Cups by Mark St..Germain
  2. 2.  The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
  3. 3.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  4. 4.  Fever Crumb by Phillip Reeve
  5. 5.  Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
  6. 6.  The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  7. 7.  My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day
  8. 8.  I Thought You Were Dead by Peter Nelson
  9. 9.  Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
  10. 10.  Green Witch by Alice Hoffman
  11. 11.  The Dark Days of Hamberger Halpin by Josh Berk
  12. 12.  Black Hills by Dan Simmons
  13. 13.  Serafina67 *Urgently requires life by Susie Day
  14. 14.  Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
  15. 15.  She-Rain by Michael Cogdill
  16. 16.  Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky
  17. 17.  The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano
  18. 18.  Next by James Hynes
  19. 19.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
  20. 20.  A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer
  21. 21.  Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
  22. 22.  Dead Man of the Year by Stephen Hawley Martin
  23. 23.  The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon
  24. 24.  How To Lose a Client by Becky A. Bartness
  25. 25.  The Horse and His Boy (The Chronicles of Narnia #3) by C.S. Lewis
  26. 26.  Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia #4) by C.S. Lewis
  27. 27.  The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
  28. 28.  Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott
  29. 29.  The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
  30. 30.  Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  31. 31.  Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  32. 32.  Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
  33. 33.  City of Bones (Mortal Instruments Book 1) by Cassandra Clare
  34. 34.  To the Nines (Stephanie Plum #9) by Janet Evanovich
  35. 35.  Louisa May Alcott:  The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen
  36. 36.  Silent Scream by Karen Rose
  37. 37.  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  38. 38.  Twilight:  The Graphic Novel by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim
  39. 39.  Virginia by Susan Hughes
  40. 40.  Frindle by Andrew Clements
  41. 41.  Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  42. 42.  The 13th Reality by James Dashner
  43. 43.  Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo
  44. 44.  I LEGO N.Y.  by Christoph Neimann
  45. 45.  Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo
  46. 46.  I LEGO N.Y. by Christoph Neimann
  47. 47.  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  48. 48.  The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
  49. 49.  Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
  50. 50.  Burned by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast
  51. 51.  Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
  52. 52.  The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

Many thanks to Katrina at Callapidder Days for hosting the Spring Reading Thing challenge.  I will see you in in a few months for the Fall Into Reading 2010 challenge!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Audiobook Week

This week is Audiobook Week at Devourer of Books, where Jen answers our questions about "Why Audiobooks?, How to write an audiobook review, as well as shares with us her favorite audiobooks.

I have never "heard" a book before.  When I first heard about Jen's Audiobook Week, I knew it was time.  How could I consider myself a book connoisseur if I had never experienced an audiobook at least once?  

 I had two options:  A while ago, I won Worst Case by James Patterson novel on CD from Vivian Deliz's Blog, and I also had an audiobook from Maureen Johnson, Suite Scarlett, that was in our goodie bag from Book Bloggers Convention

I chose Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson.  She was our keynote speaker, and spent much of the morning in stitches, so I was excited to find out what her books were all about!

Stay tuned for the re-cap and review of my debut voyage into audiobooks!

Review: The Thirteenth Reality by James Dashner

A great mystery for kids who loved Harry Potter. 

No, there are wizards or school of witchcraft.  Instead, we get a seemingly ordinary boy who receives a mysterious letter.  This letter invites Atticus Higginbottom, known as Tick, to accept a challenge, a dangerous mission that may save the lives of many people.  All Tick has to do is solve twelve clues, brain teasers, sent to him from the enigmatic M.G., follow the directions, and his mission begins. 

Will Tick be able to solve each clue?  What is the mission?  How many others are out there with clues? Who are these strange people following him?  Is his life in danger?  Should he tell his parents?  What makes Tick so special?

When I told another mom-friend of mine that I was reading these books, the first thing she said was, "They look scary."  I didn't think they were scary at all.  Yes, Tick has some exciting encounters with dangerous creatures, but it's not the kind of book that will give your child nightmares.  They might, however, look at the universe a little differently having read this book about alternate realities and the magics that allow people to travel between them. 

I absolutely loved the relationship between Tick and his dad.  Actually, I loved the entire family dynamic.  Tick and his sisters teased one another, but he would apologize if he went too far, and there was always a warmth among them all that is too often missing in children's literature.  It was the relationship between Tick and his father that was central to most of the story.  The father also lent a good dose of comic relief when Tick's adventures got a bit too serious. 

To be honest, the author's name drew me to this book, which I saw at the Book Expo (BEA).  James Dashner wrote one of my favorite YA Dystopian novels - The Maze Runner - and I loved it so much and can't wait for the sequel The Scorch Trials.  Just like any series, when I'm waiting for the next installment, I have to bide my time by reading everything else the author has written.  Hence, The 13th Reality.  This book is so different from The Maze Runner, though, both in language, content and maturity.  Dashner knows his audience and as his writing grows, so do his characters. 

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher at BEA. Many thanks to Shadow Mountain!

Visit The 13th Reality Website for more cool stuff!

About the Book:
The 13th Reality:  The Journal of Curious Letters (Book 1) by James Dashner
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain (March 3, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590388313
ISBN-13: 978-1590388310

*You will be happy to know, the books are also available in paperback.

About the Author:
James Dashner was born in Georgia and attended Brigham Young University. Dashner currently lives in South Jordan City, Utah and is married with four children.  He is the author of several children's book series, including The 13th Reality and the Jimmy Fincher Saga.  His best selling dystopian Young Adult novel, The Maze Runner, was released in 2009 and The Scorch Trials, the second book in the Maze Runner trilogy will be released October 12, 2010,

Visit The Dashner Dude aka James Dashner's website.

More books from James Dashner:

What Are You Reading?

Today is Monday, June 21, 2010....and before I do anything I have to say

I couldn't do what I do if he didn't support my blogging habit.  He has unlimited patience, encourages my writing, and has supported my journey (JOURNEY!) through this odd world of book blogging, even when he didn't quite understand it.  (hell, even when I didn't quite understand it)  When we were first married, I don't think he had ever read a book from first page to last, but since then he has grown into a serious Reader himself, contributing to the blog with his own reviews, and currently tackling Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged - a novel that even I have not dared to open yet.  In addition to being a wonderful husband, my best friend, and an amazing father, he is...The Man. 

Happy Birthday!

So, without further ado, say good morning to our hostess with the mostess, Sheila from Book Journey, and away we go!

Books I Completed This Week:

Books Currently Reading:


Books I Plan to Read*:


*This week is Audio Book Week at Devourer of Books.  I am taking part by listening to my very first audio book - Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson.

*I was also told by one of my blog readers that I have been neglecting my "Man-Lit" - especially since The Man has been reading Atlas Shrugged.  In hopes of rectifying this, I will read Think of a Number by John Verdon, a New Jersey author!
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