Saturday, February 26, 2011


CountdownCountdown by Deborah Wiles

AR Reading Level: 4.4
On the library stacks: Children's fiction
Awards: Booklist Editors' Choice; Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year
Series: Book 1 of 3 (The Sixties Trilogy)
Recommended for: Grades 4+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As soon as I first caught wind of this book, I knew I was going to love it. This book focuses on the Cuban Missile Crisis, painting an unforgettable picture using lyrics, quotes, clippings, and images. While the Cold War provides the main backdrop, it also contains other critical elements from the 1960s including the Civil Rights Movement, the Kennedys, and The Red Scare.

Franny is a 5th grader and lives in Maryland. Her dad is a member of the Air Force and works out of Andrews AFB. It's October 1962 and Franny can't understand fully what is going on. Her parents say everything is fine, there are scary air raid drills at school, her World War I veteran uncle says they must build a fallout shelter in the backyard, and her sister has disappeared to college with her "thinking" friends. To add to her confusion, her teacher spends a morning teaching the students about the heart and humanity of the Cuban people.

This is a poignant and funny novel about growing up and making sense of uncertainty and change. Franny emerges from her experiences as a better friend, a better daughter, and a better sister. I think this book is a great overview of the time period for middle grade readers and the story is one that will resonate with readers of all ages. This is one I'm looking forward to sharing with my daughter.

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ Novels Now ~ Book Clutter ~ Booking Mama ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Source: Purchased

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

AR Reading Level: 5.1
On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Awards: Publishers Weekly Best Book; Alex Award; ALA Notable/Best Books; Quill Book Award (2007)
Series: Book 1 of 3 (Kingkiller Chronicle)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am not a serious fantasy fan like my husband. But I kept hearing great things about this book, and then my in-person book club decided to read it this month. After being initially put off by the heft of this thing (the paperback is 722 pages), I started reading it out loud to my husband when we went on a little getaway. That led to us fighting over the book for the next week (he finished it first!).

Kvothe is a pub owner in a small town. He goes by the name of Kote since he's an outsider with a past he wants to keep quiet. Then one day a renowned scribe named Chronicler comes into town, tipped off that Kvothe might be there. Legends about Kvothe have abounded throughout the land, and Kvothe decides to set it all to rights and begins telling Chronicler the story of his life so the truth can be preserved. Going back and forth between the past and the present day, Kvothe details his childhood and his teenage years, focusing on the time he spent learning to become an arcanist at the University.

This book took the author 7 years to write, and it is a beautifully written novel. It moved along at a nice and steady pace for me with a good balance of detail and engaging plot lines. I'm not totally enamored with Kvothe or his love interest, Denna, but in this case I think that's actually a good thing. The story wouldn't be as sincere if they were too perfect. While this isn't a book I might typically read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and am anticipating the next in the series which comes out March 1st.

Also reviewed by: Piling on the Books ~ Reba Reads Books ~ Fuzzy Cricket ~ The Book Bluff ~ Your link here?

Source: Purchased

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Triumph of the City - TLC Book Tour

Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser

Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication date: February 10, 2011
Hardcover: 338 pages
ISBN: 9781594202773
Price: $29.95

I love exploring cities and taking advantage of everything they offer-- jobs, museums, concerts, sporting events, theaters, and restaurants. But I'm not a city dweller. After spending a summer living above a piano bar in Manhattan, I realized it just isn't for me. However, reading this book turned a lot of my previously held views about cities on their ear.

Edward Glaeser is a Harvard economist who also writes for the New York Times blog The Economix. In this book, he extols the virtues of cities. For example, New Yorkers live longer than the average American, urban dwellers use way less energy than suburbanites, the poor generally have better opportunities for change, and workers have greater collaboration and productivity when they are face-to-face.

I was very interested in learning how many of our staple political policies are anti-urban, which has encouraged sprawl in places like Phoenix and Houston. I was also shocked by how "environmentalists" can actually do more harm than good, particularly in California where it seems extreme "not in my backyard" mentality is at work.

While I agree with many of Glaeser's points, I'm not sure that some of his solutions are viable, given our deep-rooted cultural beliefs, current political conditions and financial climate. But I know that from now on when I hear about the problems in our inner-city schools or read a blog discussing the merits of another light rail line in Charlotte, I'll feel a lot more confident sharing my opinion because of what I have read in this book.

Other tour stops:

February 2nd: Proud Book Nerd
February 3rd: I’m Booking It
February 8th: English Major’s Junk Food
February 14th: Books Are Like Candy Corn
February 15th: My Own Little Corner of the World
February 16th: Po(sey) Sessions
February 17th: Books Like Breathing
February 21st: Take Me Away
February 22nd: Book Club Classics!
February 24th: Reviews from the Heart
February 24th: Rhapsody In Books
March 1st: Booksie’s Blog
Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Disappearing Spoon

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the ElementsThe Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever wanted to know how the periodic table came to be? What about how once the scientists figured out there was a rhyme and reason to how the elements appeared on the table, who won the races to fill in the "gaps" by discovering the missing elements? Where in the world the elements have been found? How truly rare are some elements? How valuable are different elements and how has their value changed through the years? Which elements are toxic to us and which elements we would die without? What happened to the scientists who made their discoveries? Who was slighted for a Nobel Prize? Who had to hide from the Nazis?

This book will answer all those questions and many more I never even considered before. I never took a chemistry class...ever. So I was certainly intimidated going in. But I give 5 stars to the author for writing this brilliant book, and 5 stars to me for finishing it (and actually understanding most of it).

It's a book I'm glad I have on my shelf and I know it will be referred to for many years to come. Plus, I'll get to annoy my family and friends with all of my new found knowledge and trivia. :) This is a book that is well worth the effort it takes to read it (and don't forget the notes and errata at the back...great stuff!)

Also reviewed by: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Source: Gift

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Room With a View

A Room With a ViewA Room With a View by E.M. Forster

On the library stacks: YA/Adult Classic Fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucy Honeycutt is a young woman on a tour of Italy with her spinster cousin, Charlotte Bartlett. After Lucy witnesses a murder, she develops conflicted feelings about a man named George Emerson who is staying in the same pensione as her. George and his father are of a different social class than Lucy, and even more shocking, they have nothing to do with religion.

Back in England, Lucy has moved on and develops a relationship with very respectable Cecil Vyse. But when George appears back in Lucy's life, she must settle once and for all what her true desires are and what path her life will take.

This book is delightfully different to what I was expecting! For a classic novel, it is not stuffy or overly wordy. There's lots of dialogue and humor. I did feel like I was missing some of the punchlines from time to time, and I had a rough time getting into the book initially. But once I got to England, the book took off for me and and I loved LOVED how the romance resolved.

Thanks to Corinne for making this part of the Great Book Blogger Swap for me. This book is one that I've passed over many times, but I'm so glad to have finally read.

Also reviewed by: A Work in Progressthings mean a lot

Source: BookMooch

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Dreamer

The DreamerThe Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan

AR Reading Level: 4.6
On the library stacks: Children's fiction
Awards: Booklist Editors' Choice; LMC Editor's Choice Award; Horn Book Fanfare; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors
Recommended for: Grades 4+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a fictionalized account of the childhood of Pablo Neruda. If you are like me and you try and read as little as possible on jacket flaps, you might miss this fact. The reader isn't told who the story is about until right near the end, but I wish I had known from the start. I'm not a poetry person by any means, but I seem to be running into Neruda a little bit lately.

Neftali Reyes is a sickly young boy living in Temuco, Chile. His father is a railway supervisor who runs his house with a stern hand and shows very little affection to his children. Thankfully, he is away much the time and Neftali has a loving step-mother and half-siblings. Neftali sees beauty in ordinary objects and is overwhelmed by nature. He loves to write about what he feels and observes, but his father despises it, insisting that Neftali become a doctor or a dentist. But Neftali has bigger dreams, both in his writing and in the political arena, which he pursues under the pen name Pablo Neruda.

This isn't my typical read, but the poetry and illustrations made this book work for me. I liked it because it was unique and got me in touch with my latent artsy side. But I'm not really sure that most kids will like it. It's a beautiful book, but I think some of the nuances will be lost on them. I kind of wish this book had been straight-up YA. I doubt younger kids are going to be exposed to this staunch communist who wrote erotic poetry until much later.

Also reviewed by: Ms. Yingling Reads ~ Novels Now ~ Your link here?

Source: Library