Monday, June 29, 2009

A Single Shard

A Single Shard A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Book 72 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 12 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Awards: Newbery Medal; SLJ Best Book; Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature; Booklist Editors' Choice; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Parent's Guide Book Award/ Honor Book; Young Reader's Choice Award/Nominee; ALA Notable/Best Books; Children's Literature Choice; Crown/Lamplighter Nominee; YALSA Best Books for YA; NY Public Library 100 Best Titles

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tree-ear is an orphan boy in 12th century Korea who lives under a bridge with his friend, Crane-man. As a surrogate father, Crane-man teaches Tree-ear valuable life lessons as they discuss philosophical questions. The two scrap together a meager existence, but Crane-man believes that it is beneath their dignity to beg or steal.

The town of Ch'ulp'o is known for its beautiful celadon pottery. Tree-ear likes to watch master potter Min as he throws the clay on the wheel. Eventually Min's spying is discovered and Tree-ear goes to work for Min in the hopes that one day he can become a potter himself.

This is a touching book about friendship, respect and hard work. I found it to be beautifully written, and although it is predictable, it is definitely worthy of the Newbery it earned. This book highlights important character traits and is appropriate for ages 10+. I would definitely recommend this book.

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Have I missed yours?

Friday, June 26, 2009


Seek Seek by Paul Fleischman

Book 71 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Awards: SLJ Best Book; ALA Notable/Best Books; Horn Book Fanfare; Children's Literature Choice; Junior Library Guild Selection; NY Publ. Library Best Books for the Teen Age; YALSA Best Books for YA

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rob was raised by his mother and grandparents near Berkeley, California. His dad, a DJ, left when he was born because he did not feel he was ready to raise a child. However, he leaves Rob with a recording of himself which Rob listens to faithfully. As he grows up, Rob becomes obsessed with AM/FM radio--building radios, listening to the radio, always seeking for his father. When he is in high school, his teacher gives a class assignment to write an autobiography, and naturally Rob decides to write a radio play.

I loved watching Rob transform from boy to man. His insights about life and those he loves comes through so beautifully in the snippets of his life he includes in his story. I also loved the clever inclusion of radio announcers from all over the world with their infusion of music styles. My only real complaint is that with 52 characters included, I did occasionally get a little lost about who was speaking. But, I would love to see or hear this performed!

Paul Fleischman, of Joyful Noise fame, hits a home run with this book. I would recommend it for teenagers and adults. It would also be a great choice for reluctant male readers because of the unique format.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Forever Rose

Forever Rose Forever Rose by Hilary McKay

Book 70 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Awards: Parent's Choice Award/Honor Book; IBBY Honor List; Horn Book Fanfare; Kirkus Editors Choice
Series: Book 5 of 5 (Casson family)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, there isn't much to say about this series that I haven't already said (and you're probably sick of hearing it anyway). Hilary McKay uses this book to tie up all the loose ends and she puts a pretty bow on it when she's finished.

This book is set at Christmastime and Rose is feeling lonely. Her dad is in London still, feeling burned out, her mum is sick in the shed, Caddy has been missing since her abrupt departure in the last book, Indigo's friend David shows up at the Banana House with a drum set in a wheelbarrow, Caddy and Sarah are busy with school, and Rose's friend Molly comes up with an insane plan to prove she isn't boring.

This is a well-done finale to a great series. I'm going to miss this family. Special thanks to Melissa for introducing me to them!

All is not lost, however. The story does continue on Rose's blog....

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Here is New York

Here is New York Here is New York by E.B. White

Book 69 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having lived in or near New York for over three years, I really have a love for the city as a unique piece of history and culture. E.B. White sets out to put words to the feelings about what makes New York a city that is unlike any other. And he succeeds in a way that is breathtaking and magical.

In the summer of 1949 during a heat wave, E.B. White decided to pen a long essay about the city he loved. His very thought-provoking insights forced me to draw parallels and differences between the city now and the city 60 years ago. I think if I had read this book right after September 11th, I would have been reduced to tears. As it is, there is a very eerie discussion of those who might want to destroy the city by airplane.

If you love New York, this is a must-read. But, I would suggest skipping the cynical introduction by Roger Angell (White's stepson) written in 1999. I think after 2001 this city proved that it's fundamental character and integrity not so different from the city of yesteryear.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Actor and the Housewife

The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel by Shannon Hale

Book 68 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Shannon Hale. I think she's smart and sassy, witty and wonderful. I really enjoyed Austenland, so I was excited when I found out Bloomsbury would be releasing a new adult novel by Hale this month.

The Actor and the Housewife is the story of Becky Jack, a Mormon mother of four from Layton, Utah. While in Los Angeles pitching a screenplay, she meets Felix Callahan, a British hearthrob who happens to be Becky's main on-screen crush. Felix and Becky form a friendship, but there are problems. Does Felix wants more? Is having a male "best friend" OK? And how does Felix's wife, French model Celeste feel? Or Becky's devoted husband Mike? Or Becky's family and church community? Or the tabloids? And can an unconvential long-distance friendship really be sustained?

While the premise is unrealistic, it really did give me something to chew on. I laughed and I cried...oh did I cry, and cry, and laugh, and cry! The emotions are real and I really wrestled with the issues and problems the characters faced. There were definitely a few moments of overly hokey humor for me, but kudos to Shannon Hale for writing a Mormon housewife as a main character in a mainstream fiction adult novel. This is great summer reading.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Miss Buncle Married

Miss Buncle Married Miss Buncle Married by Dorothy Emily Stevenson

Book 67 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Series: Book 2 of 3 (Miss Buncle)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

First published in 1936, Miss Buncle Married is a sequel to Miss Buncle's Book. There's really nothing not to love about Miss Buncle. She's naive, she's funny, she's British, and in this book, she happens to be married.

Miss Buncle's marriage is going splendidly, but both she and her husband are exasperated with all of the dinner parties and entertainment living in town. So they decide to move, and Barbara sets on a quest to find the perfect country home. Once she finds it, she begins meeting the neighbors and making new friends. Her nephew becomes attached to a young girl in the village, but Barbara has inside information that prevents her from advocating the otherwise perfect match.

I enjoyed the deepening of Barbara's character in this book. I also enjoyed the new setting and new characters and especially enjoyed getting to know more about her husband. I could have done without the subplot of the bratty kids next door, but D.E. Stevenson and her Miss Buncle stories are pure delight. You can't help but read them with a smile on your face.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Book 66 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 11 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Awards: Alex Award,
"Book of the Year" by TIME magazine, one of the "Best Books of the Year" by the New York Times Book Review, a finalist for a 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of three finalists for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in General Non-Fiction.

rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the spring of 1996, Jon Krakauer attempted the summit of Mt. Everest. Although he did have mountain climbing experience, he went on assignment for Outside magazine to report on the commercialization of Mt. Everest. Climbing as part of guided expeditions for which people pay upwards of $65,000, individuals have a significant impact on the local Nepalese and Tibetan economies and on the health of the mountain environment.

Krakauer's expedition turned sour on May 10, 1996 when everything that could go wrong did. Freak weather, reduced oxygen levels, bottlenecks caused by too many climbers attempting the summit on a single day, and impaired decision-making caused the deaths of 8 climbers that day. Ultimately, 1996 was the single deadliest climbing season on record.

Even though I knew this book was all about an impending disaster, I was thoroughly riveted to the story. I was captivated by the whole process of attempting such a climb--the preparation, the Sherpa community, the details of coping with extreme cold, lack of oxygen, and acclimitization. Personally, I would never put myself in these kinds of situations willingly, but it was fascinating to think about why people attempt extreme sports.

This was my in-person book club's read for this month. We all enjoyed it and found much to discuss. I will say that the reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that I never really warmed up to the author. His account has come under criticism by other climbers for inaccuracies and omissions (some of which he does try to defend) and he does admit some culpabibility that may have contributed to the deaths that day.

However, this book is gripping and haunting and I would definitely recommend it.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama's Blackberry

Obama's BlackBerry Obama's BlackBerry by Kasper Hauser

Book 65 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 10 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

President Obama made waves early in his presidency with his desire to keep his Blackberry. This book, Obama's Blackberry, humorously answers the question: What would we find if Obama's texts and emails were released to the public?

There were some very funny laugh-out-loud parts to this book. I enjoyed the exchanges between BidenMyTime, BarackO, Bernanke and the CIA. However, this book was definitely too heavy on the sexual innuendo for my taste (lots of "WildBill" in this book).

Here's one from Amazon I thought was funny:

Thanks to Anna at Hachette for the chance to review this book!

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Simple Wishes

Simple Wishes Simple Wishes by Lisa Dale

Book 64 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 9 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was headed to the pool Saturday afternoon and decided to take along a relaxing read. Simple Wishes definitely fit the bill. While this book is a romance/women's fiction/chick-lit book, there is some serious emotional stuff packed in.

Adele Matin left home as a 17 year old, to make her way in New York City. At age 31, she feels the city has spit her out, and she returns to the cottage in the mountains of Pennsylvania her mother left her when she died. Adele has never come to grips with the smothering control her mother placed on her as a child, withholding her affection and her past life. But living in her mother's home prompts Adele to confront the ghosts of her past.

Along her journey, Adele makes friends with Beatrice, a friend of her mother's. Beatrice acts as a guide along the way, sharing the love of her Korean culture, food, soap operas. Adele also becomes friends with Beatrice's granddaughter who is struggling with the lack of boundaries her mother gives her, in sharp contrast to Adele's upbringing. And, of course, there's the love interest: a rugged, but handsome artist who lives next door. Jay, who is normally reserved and quiet, tries to bring Adele into his world, but she always has one eye on the door.

What I liked:
I liked that Lisa Dale created a book with flawed characters. I actually didn't like Adele or Beatrice all that much, but they make mistakes and that's real. I also liked that Dale developed a story with inter-generational friendship. It was a bit of a stretch at times, but I enjoyed it. I also appreciated that there was less language issues and gratuitous sex in this book than you would find in some chick-lit (notice, I said less, not none).

What bugged me:
Adele and Jay are around the ages of my husband and I, but for some reason they just seemed older than that to me. Some of the things they said and did jarred a little because of that, but I will admit that the book was fairly well-written overall. Also, the cover has absolutely nothing to do with the book. Most of the book takes place in the fall/winter, so I don't know where that cover comes in.

Overall, it was enjoyable, but nothing to write home about. A fairly predictable, easy read.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones

Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones (Alcatraz, Book 2) Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson

Book 63 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Series: Book 2 of 3 (Alcatraz)

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think Brandon Sanderson is wildly talented. He's funny, he's witty, and he has the ability to write massive adult fantasy novels that my hubby loves and middle grade novels that keep me entertained.

Alcatraz Smedry is a 13-year old boy who finds his way to the Great Library of Alexandria (it wasn't destroyed after all--that's a lie perpetuated by librarians) to find his father and grandfather. While there, he and his friends must face the ghostly curators, who will steal their soul if they so much as move a book, and an Alivened creature who is bent on stealing Alcatraz's power.

The last half of this book was much better than the first half for me. It's one of those books where the author has to spend so much time dropping hints and tiny details, prepping for the final outcome (which is admittedly very cool), that I did get a little annoyed. But, this is definitely a fun series for kids 10+.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Caddy Ever After

Caddy Ever After Caddy Ever After by Hilary McKay

Book 62 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Series: Book 4 of 5 (Casson Family)

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm starting to feel like a broken record with my praise for this series, but this is another great read. In this installment, the story is narrated by each of the four Casson children. I really enjoyed hearing their "inner voice" and the chapter titles and the appendices are hilarious.

It is always difficult to review books in the middle of a series without giving anything away, but here are some teasers: In this book, Indigo plays school matchmaker, a silver helium balloon stalks Saffy, Rose develops an obsession with black cardboard, Eve is grateful she doesn't have to attempt "domestic normality", and Caddy thinks she really has found The One.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Graceling Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Book 61 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 8 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Awards: ALA Best Books for YA; Cybils finalist;
William C. Morris Award/Honor; SLJ Best Book; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Booklist Editors' Choice; VOYA: The Perfect Tens; Kirkus Editors Choice

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Graceling is set in a world of seven kingdoms. Some inhabitants are graced with a special talent, such as the ability to forecast the weather, fight extraordinarily well, or mind read. Those that are graced are respected, yet feared.

Katsa is a young woman, graced with the ability to kill. Her uncle, a king, has taken advantage of her abilities, but Katsa wishes to use her talents for good. She is part of an underground council that seeks to keep the peace between the seven kingdoms. One council mission embroils her in a serious political battle as she seeks to rescue the father of a king that has been kidnapped.

I really enjoyed this book. It is kind of Poison Study meets Hunger Games meets Twilight. It has a great romance, involves magical powers, and has an over-arching theme of fighting for survival. The middle was a little slow for me, and I got really sick of the word snorted. Seriously, "Katsa snorted." so many times I thought I would throttle her. The other thing that bugged me was that the powers of the main characters seemed to evolve during the book as needed by the plot. But for a first novel, I think Kristin Cashore did an amazing job. I look forward to reading Fire and Bitterblue.

Those who enjoy the young adult fantasy genre with a strong heroine will absolutely love this one. Recommended for 14+ for violence and sexual situations.

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