Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Recap

I read 113 books in 2010!

Since I'm an accountant, here is my year in a nutshell by the numbers:

Challenges completed: 12
Ongoing challenge: 1 (Georgette Heyer)

Books read for my in person book club: 12
Books read for my online book club: 5

5 star books: 13
4 star books: 58
3 star books: 30
2 star books: 9
Unrated: 3

Books I purchased: 36
Books from publishers/publicists: 10
Books that were gifts: 4
Books from the library: 32
Books from BookMooch: 23
Books I borrowed: 8

Adult books: 50
YA books: 36
Middle grade: 20
Juvenile: 7

Nonfiction: 14

My favorite 13 books are starred:
Tomorrow I'll post about my goals for next year.
Happy New Year!

    Monday, December 27, 2010

    Wishin' and Hopin'

    O Dio Mio:a Christmas StoryWishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb

    On the library stacks: Adult fiction

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    My husband gets me a Christmas book every year. I flew to California the day after Christmas and this book fit the bill for a long flight perfectly.

    Felix Funicello is a 5th grader, growing up during the 1960s attending Catholic school. His dad owns a diner where they employ a bawdy cook named Chino and they have lots of posters of their famous 3rd cousin Annette on the walls. Felix's mother is going to be on TV for the Pillsbury Bake Off and Felix himself has a TV appearance coming up on Ranger Andy.

    Added to all of that, Felix's teacher Sister Dymphna has a breakdown when Felix awakes an unsuspecting bat in their classroom. And everyone gets a surprise when their replacement is a lay teacher named Madame Marguerite who speaks French and wears a beret, heels, and tight sweaters. She organizes a tableau vivant for the school Christmas program which has long-reaching consequences for Felix, his family, and the whole school.

    There is lots of gross humor in this book dealing with Felix learning about the facts of life. Generally, I would say this book might be enjoyed more by men, but I did find it to be satisfying and amusing nonetheless. It reminded me of something Bill Bryson might write about his growing up years, but this fictional account has some fantastical charm to it.

    Also reviewed by: Silly Little Mischief ~ Novels Now ~ Thoughts of Joy... ~ Peeking Between the Pages ~ Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? ~ Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings ~ A Bookworm's World ~ A Book a Day ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ Booking Mama ~ Your link here?

    Source: Gift

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    In the Dark Streets Shineth

    In the Dark Streets ShinethIn the Dark Streets Shineth by David McCullough

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    In 2009, renowned author David McCullough joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas broadcast and recounted the meeting of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on Christmas Eve in 1941. This book puts his words in print with beautiful pictures of the actual events. Also included is a history of the songs "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

    This book includes a DVD of the broadcast which has been shown on PBS this Christmas season.

    This is an inspiring book that lovers of history will especially like. I enjoyed thinking about the importance of remembering to take time to "arm our hearts" when life seems perilous. Wise words from wise men of Christmases past.

    Source: Gift

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    The View from Saturday

    The View From Saturday (Newbery Medal Book)The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

    AR Reading Level: 5.9
    On the library stacks: Children's fiction
    Awards: SLJ Best Book; Newbery Medal; State Award; ALA Notable/Best Books
    Recommended for: Grades 4+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This is the story of four sixth-graders who become unlikely friends. During the summer, Noah goes to Florida to visit his grandparents and he ends up as the best man at the wedding of Nadia's grandfather and Ethan's grandmother. Despite their connections, they are actually brought together by Julian, a boy from India who moves into town when his dad purchases a bed and breakfast. With the help of their teacher, a paraplegic named Mrs. Olinski, the four kids become a winning Academic Bowl team.

    This is a really charming story that explores themes of teamwork, change, forgiveness, bullying and perseverance. There are moments that are really funny and there are moments that are really heart-breaking. But I loved that the characters learned how to accept what they could not change and moved forward in positive ways that allowed for personal growth.

    As an added bonus, I loved the answers to the Bowl questions at the back of the book!

    Also reviewed by: Booking MamaSo Many Books, So Little Time

    Book 50 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge
    Source: Purchased

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Gideon's Gift

    Gideon's GiftGideon's Gift by Karen Kingsbury

    On the library stacks: Adult fiction

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Gideon is an 8-year old girl fighting leukemia. Her family is very poor and they cannot afford the transplant she needs to save her life. But Gideon is a selfless child, who only wants a Christmas miracle for someone else.

    Earl is a 50-year old man, living on the streets of Portland. A tragedy involving his wife and daughter have driven him to wander alone, hoping for death. But at the ministry where Earl often gets a hot meal, he meets Gideon. And through the Christmas miracle Gideon prayed for, they impact each other's lives for the better.

    This is a sweet Christmas story. It's a nice quick read this busy time of year. Unfortunately, I thought the story was written in a way that "tells" more than "shows." Right from the start the reader knows how it all turns out. But it's a good reminder about the reason for the season.

    Source: Library

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    Monsters of Men

    Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking, #3)Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

    AR Reading Level: 5.6
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction
    Series: Book 3 of 3 (Chaos Walking)
    Recommended for: 14+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    This is the final book in a dystopian YA series set on a planet inhabited both by humans and natives called Spackle. (Read my reviews of the first two books here and here.)

    In this book, the humans and the Spackle have their final showdown. War is inevitable, but there is a chance for eventual peace if the humans can figure out how to stop all the infighting. This is a book about how power corrupts, about how the accessibility of information can be both a blessing and a curse, and about how we should not just tolerate others, but to truly listen and understand.

    Like the other books in this series, this book is violent and tough to read. But there is lots to chew on with interesting parallels to our own world. I do think this book was a little drawn out and could have been tightened up with some better editing. But overall, this is satisfying conclusion to the series that was worth the library fine I incurred for returning it late!

    Also reviewed by:  Book Thoughts ~ Regular Rumination ~ Book Addiction ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ At Home With Books ~ Bart's Bookshelf ~ things mean a lot ~ Tales of a Capricious Reader

    Book 50 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: Library

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    After Ever After

    After Ever AfterAfter Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

    AR Reading Level: 5.2
    On the library stacks: Young adult fiction
    Series: Book 2 of 2
    Recommended for: Grades 7+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Now it's Jeffrey's turn as an 8th grader! (He's the younger brother from Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie.) Like his older brother Steven, Jeffrey has a significant year as he develops a better relationship with his parents, faces academic challenges, experiences first love, and learns the true meaning of friendship.

    One neat thing about this book is that explores what it might be like to be a cancer survivor: How would classmates respond to you? How do you view the meaning of life? What is fair? There are ideas and questions put forth in this book that I don't think the average teen would normally think about. It's a book that I think has the potential to help teens really think about how they treat others without being preachy in any way.

    Steven's a bit of a loser/non-event in this book, which I was sad about. But I enjoyed watching Jeffrey grow. This wasn't as funny as the first book, and I really hate 'in-jokes' that disparage mothers. But I did like the use of emails and IMs which accurately portray a teen today.  It's a worthwhile book and I even shed a few tears at the end.

    Also reviewed by:  Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Ms. Yingling Reads ~ my thoughts exactly ~ Your link here?

     Book 49 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: Library

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Angel on the Square

    Angel on the SquareAngel on the Square by Gloria Whelan

    AR Reading Level: 5.6
    On the library stacks: Children's/Young Adult Fiction
    Series: Book 1 of 4 (Russian Saga)
    Recommended for: Grades 6+

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    I see this book all the time when I am in B&N or Borders on the table of "Required School Reading" but I've never known anyone who has actually read it. The cover looked appropriately wintery so I decided to give it a try. I got a lot more than I bargained for since this is a novel of the last Tsar's family in Russia during WW1 and the Revolution, as seen through the eyes of a teenage girl at court.

    Katya Ivanova has grown up in the aristocracy of St. Petersburg. When Katya is 12-years old, her mother is chosen to the the lady-in-waiting for Empress Alexandra and Katya herself will be a playmate for the royal children. But Katya's cousin Misha has educated her to the changing mood in Russian society. The country is struggling and the Tsar turns a blind eye, especially when World War I begins.

    This is a riches to rags story, that ultimately ends with the execution of the Romanov family. It's certainly a bleak period in history. It's a tough subject to tackle, especially for younger children. I felt the writing was clunky at times, particularly when it was heavy on the history and not so much on the story.

    I can see why this is a book used in schools as there is certainly a lot to talk about and the history is accurately portrayed. But ultimately I guess I wish that it had been written for an older audience who would understand more of the nuances, such as why Rasputin was so controversial or why the Bolsheviks were so feared.

    Also reviewed by: Through the Looking Glass Book ~ Your link here?

    Book 49 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 48 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: I have no idea how this book came into my possession, so I guess I'll say I purchased it!

    Friday, November 26, 2010


    EggsEggs by Jerry Spinelli

    AR Reading Level: 3.6
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This is the story of two unlikely friends. Nine-year old David recently lost his mother in a freak accident, and 13-year old Primrose has a mother who is a crackpot. Together, David and Primrose form a bond that fills a void in their lives and they learn to move forward.

    There were certain aspects of this book that I found charming and sweet. Primrose's sense of herself was refreshing and the brother/sister relationship was cute. But, I had a really hard time with the disrespectful attitude David had towards his grandmother who was trying her best in a difficult situation. I also didn't like that the children were roaming the streets alone at all hours of the night, meeting with a man who never thought to let another adult know where the kids were.

    After awhile, I had to suspend my belief in the reality of the story, which made it better for me because I could enjoy the symbolism that was woven into the story. Because of that, I could see this being a book that teachers would use for book clubs in a middle grade classroom. But there are many other books by this author that I have enjoyed much more.

    P.S. Isn't it interesting that the front cover is missing the title?

    Also reviewed by: So Many Books, So Little TimeBook Nut ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here? 

    Book 48 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 47 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: Purchased

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Esperanza Rising

    Esperanza RisingEsperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

    AR Reading Level: 5.3
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction

    Awards: Pura Belpre Award; NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts; Jefferson Cup Award/Honor; YALSA Top Ten; Judy Lopez Memorial Award; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Smithsonian's Notable Book; Americas Award for Children's Literature; Jane Addams Book Award/Honor Books

    Recommended for: Grades 5+

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This is the story of 13-year old Esperanza, a girl born to wealth and privilege in Mexico. In the fallout of the Mexican Revolution, bandits roam the land. Esperanza's father is murdered, and in order to escape a life with her corrupt uncles, Esperanza and her mother make their way to California to become migrant crop workers.

    The Depression has hit America hard, and people from across the country arrive daily in the Central Valley looking for work. While living conditions for the Mexicans are less than ideal, they work for pittance in order to keep their jobs. Esperanza experiences many challenges in California, but ultimately she learns that true happiness has nothing to do with material things, but in being with the people that you love.

    This is an inspiring story based on the lives of the author's ancestors. I learned quite a bit about the treatment of Mexicans during this period in US history that I found quite shocking, especially since I grew up in Southern California. I'm glad this story has been told and I feel both enlightened and better educated for having read this well-written book.

    Also reviewed by: Book Haven ~ Your link here?

    Book 47 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 46 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: BookMooch

    Saturday, November 20, 2010


    SpeakSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson

    AR Reading Level: 4.5
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction

    Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; SLJ Best Book; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors; Golden Kite Award; State Award; YALSA Top Ten; Booklist Editors' Choice; Edgar Award/Honor Book; ALA Notable/Best Books; Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Literature; Michael Printz Honor Book; National Book Award/ Honors; Society of School Libr. International Best/Honor; ABC (Assoc. of Booksellers for Children) Choice; Horn Book Fanfare

    Recommended for: Grades 9+

    My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

    There's really not much I can add about this book that the awards have not already acknowledged (see above) or that the blogosphere has not already covered (see below). I will say that this book took me so long to read because I was intimidated by the subject and how it would be handled. But I should not have worried.

    This is the story of a girl named Melinda who is raped right before the start of her freshman year and chooses to remain quiet. Because of her choices, she becomes a social outcast at school. At home her parents are too busy ignoring each other to notice that their only child is silently screaming for help.

    It may sound heavy, and to some degree it is. But this book is also written with a warmth and humor that endeared me to Melinda and kept me fully invested in her journey of self-discovery. I read this book in a day and was impressed by how well it was written and how sensitively the topic was approached.

    Also reviewed by: The Boston BibliophileBart's Bookshelf ~ The Book Nest ~ Sam's Book Blog ~ Book Thoughts ~ Reviews by Lola ~ Trish's Reading Nook ~ Boarding in my Forties ~ off the shelf ~ things mean a lot ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ my cozy book nook ~ At Home With Books ~ Bending Bookshelf ~ The Bluestocking Society ~ Book Nut ~ Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? ~ Book Addiction ~ Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ It's All About Books ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ cucullus non facit monachum

    Book 46 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 45 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: BookMooch

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Bink and Gollie

    Bink and GollieBink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo

    AR Reading Level: 2.5
    On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
    Awards: Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010); A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book for 2010

    My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

    Bink and Gollie are unlikely best friends who live in a tree house. They love to roller skate, fueled by pancakes and peanut butter sandwiches. I'm know I'm reading too much into a kid story, but I was somewhat disturbed by these young kids who live on their own, yet have a hard time putting on socks.

    The stories are cute enough, but it is really the illustrations that make this book special. I loved the simple lines and the way color is used to enhance the story. Two of my kids would give this book 5 stars, but my feelings are mixed.

    Also reviewed by: Novels NowConfessions of a Book Habitue ~ A Bookshelf Monstrosity ~ Your link here?

    Source: Library

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    The Dragonfly Pool

    The Dragonfly PoolThe Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

    AR Reading Level: 6.5
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction
    Awards: SLJ Best Book; IBBY Honor List
    Recommended for: Grades 5+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Tally is a 12-year old girl who lives in London with her aunts and her father. On the eve of World War II, Tally's father decides to send her to a progressive boarding school in the countryside where Tally will be safe. Even though Tally initially does not want to go, she finds that she thrives in the free environment.

    The school, named Delderton, is invited to participate in a multi-cultural folk dancing event in the fictitious European country of Bergania. Tally rallies a dancing troupe together, determined to visit at all costs. But with the Gestapo's ominous presence in country, things take a sad turn. Tally and her friends work together to fight for the the safety and happiness of the Berganian prince, Karil.

    This book was not what I was expecting, based on the cover. But I found it to be thoroughly charming. It's a story of friendship, trust, and duty. My favorite quote in the book is,
    "Duty exists and it's real. It means sharing any gift or talent that you have with people who need it. It means not being afraid or selfish or tight--but open."
    This is an uplifting story that I can easily recommend. Incidentally, I found out that the author just died a few weeks ago at the age of 85. While a literary light has gone out, I do look forward to reading many more books from Ibbotson's legacy.

    Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Books & other thoughts

    Book 45 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 44 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 6 of 6 for the What's in a Name Challenge
    Source: Purchased

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    The Persian Pickle Club

    The Persian Pickle ClubThe Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas

    On the library stacks: Adult fiction

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I thought a book about a group of women in dusty Kansas who sit around and quilt would be dead boring. Added to that, I read another book by this author that I was sorely disappointed in. So my expectations going into this one weren't high, but I really ended up enjoying it.

    Queenie Bean is a young married woman in a rural Kansas community. She is part of "The Pickles"--a group of mostly-older women who get together once a week to quilt. The Depression is on full force, and there is no rain to be had, which makes the situation in Harveyville pretty bleak. But quilting gives these women a much-needed outlet.

    This is a story about loyalty and friendship, but there is also a nice mystery element. Through the eyes of Queenie we see both love and loss, both hard times and good times. And Queenie is as likeable a character as they come. I did have a hard time keeping the characters all straight at first, but eventually they really became distinct personalities.

    I definitely recommend this book for book clubs and look forward to discussing it with mine.

    Also reviewed by: The Reading Season ~ Lesa's Book Critiques ~ Good Clean Reads ~ 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

    Book 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 44 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge
    Source: BookMooch

    Monday, November 1, 2010


    ChocolatChocolat by Joanne Harris

    On the library stacks: Adult fiction
    Series: Book 1 of 2

    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    I saw this movie years ago, but I can tell you that I definitely liked the movie much more than the book. The movie was warm and feel-good, but the book was dark and cold. Plus, it took me over 10 days to read, and that is never a good thing.

    Vianne is a single mother who is constantly on the move. She is carried by the wind from one town to the next, where she sets up her chocolate shop and makes friends with the locals until it is time to move on. When she and her daughter Anouk arrive in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, Vianne confronts the demon of her tarot cards, the "Black Man." He is the town's Catholic priest, Reynaud, and he is determined to drive Vianne out of town. 

    This book is told in the alternating voices of Vianne and Reynaud. I found Vianne to be selfish, self-centered and disrespectful. Reynaud is just disgusting and despicable. I really hated to see all the religious characters in the novel to be portrayed as ridiculously pathetic and out-of-touch individuals.

    I will say that Harris has a lovely way with words and imagery, and certainly the magical realism elements added to the aura I think she was trying to create. But the romance element was a total let-down, I didn't like the anti-religious sentiment, and I thought the whole book was kind of depressing. Opinions on this book are many and varied, so check out some other reviews:

    Becky's Book ReviewsBook Nut ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ A Life in Books ~ Your link here?

    Book 99 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 43 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge
    Source: BookMooch

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

    Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

    AR Reading Level: 5.9
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction
    Awards: YALSA Top Ten; Booklist Editors' Choice
    Series: Book 1 of 2
    Recommended for: Grades 6+

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Steven is an 8th grader. He wants to be cool but he's kind of a geek. He has a crush on the hottest girl in school and he plays drums for the All-Star Jazz Band.  He has a 5-year old brother named Jeffrey, who he has always found kind of annoying. But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven's whole life changes.

    This book is everything I think a YA book should be. Steven is not perfect--far from it in fact. But we get to watch him grow through an extreme life challenge. He has his ups and downs. He's selfish and funny and genuine. I laughed and cried right along with him as he tried to keep his family together through an extraordinarily difficult time while also navigating the murky waters of his adolescence.

    I think that this book will resonate well with many teens, regardless of their own personal challenges.  Steven gains perspective on what really matters in life, and he does so in a way that is honest and full of heart. I will definitely be reading more by this author. Highly recommended.

    Also reviewed by: Ticket to AnywhereIn the Pages... ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Ms. Yingling Reads ~ my thoughts exactly ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ Your link here? 

    Book 98 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 43 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: Library

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    And the Pursuit of Happiness - TLC Book Tour

    And the Pursuit of HappinessAnd the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman

    Publisher: Penguin Press HC
    Publication Date: October 14, 2010
    Hardcover: 480 pages
    ISBN: 9781594202674
    Price: $29.95
    Author's NYT blog

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Energized and inspired by the 2008 elections, beloved artist and author Maira Kalman traveled to Washington, D.C., on inauguration day, launching a national tour that would take her from a town hall meeting in Newfane, Vermont, to the inner chambers of the Supreme Court. This book is the result of this wholly idiosyncratic journey, a yearlong investigation of democracy and how it works.

    With the delightful Kalman as our travel companion, we fall in love with Lincoln as she imagines making a home for herself in the center of his magisterial memorial; ponder Alexis de Toqueville’s America, witness the inner workings of a Bronx middle-school student council; take a high-speed lesson in great American women in the National Portrait Gallery; and consider the cost of war to the brave American service families of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Democracy, Kalman discovers, is at work all around us.
    My thoughts:

    Oh, how I adored this book! It's like a grown-up graphic novel/memoir/history book. The artwork is stunning and the photography is gorgeous. The words are spare, but just right. It's full of little anecdotes and trivia and reflections on day-to-day life. I think I read the entire book with a smile on my face.

    This book is really a celebration of America and everything that this republic stands for. It's optimistic and full of hope. There were just a couple of times the author got a little partisan in her politics, but for the most part, she stayed neutral and true to what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they organized this great country. I highly recommend checking this book out!

    Other tour stops:

    Thursday, October 14th: Suko’s Notebook
    Monday, October 18th: Rundpinne
    Friday, October 22nd: Chaotic Compendiums
    Tuesday, October 26th: 1330v
    Wednesday, October 27th: Daydream Believer
    Wednesday, November 3rd: sfgirlbybay
    Thursday, November 4th: Eleanor’s Trousers
    Wednesday, November 10th: Til We Read Again
    Thursday, November 11th: Booksie’s Blog
    Monday, November 15th: Books Like Breathing
    Wednesday, November 17th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
    Thursday, November 18th: Joyfully Retired
    Friday, November 19th: Drey’s Library
    Friday, November 19th: Nonsuch Book

    Book 97 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
    Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Murder on the Orient Express

    Murder on the Orient ExpressMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

    AR Reading Level: 6.2
    On the library stacks: Adult Mystery Fiction
    Series: One of many Hercule Poirot novels
    Recommended for: Grades 9+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    So this is where I admit that I don't think I have ever read an Agatha Christie novel. I don't really understand why since I was raised on a steady diet of Nancy Drew. And despite spending many of my teenage years in England watching many TV adaptations, I do believe this is my first exposure to the written word.

    Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective on his way from Istanbul back to England in the dead of winter. The train is unusually full for the time of year and a wide variety of people are on board, both in terms of nationalities and social classes. In the middle of the night, the train stops unexpectedly when it runs into a huge snowdrift. A few hours later, a passenger is found murdered. Hercule is given the task of solving the crime, and assumes that the murderer is still on board.

    Reading this was so fun and is perfect for this time of year. I don't like my books too scary or spooky, but the mystery kept me riveted. I loved how it all ended and I was pleased that I didn't see the twist coming. I will definitely be reading more of the adventures of Hercule in the future.

    Also reviewed by: Piling on the Books ~ Reviews by Lola ~ A Book a Day ~ The Library Ladder ~ A Reader's Journal ~ Your link here? 

    Book 96 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
    Source: Library

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Girl in Translation

    Girl in TranslationGirl in Translation by Jean Kwok

    On the library stacks: Adult fiction

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Ah-Kim immigrated with her mother to Brooklyn from Hong Kong in the 1980s. Kim's aunt and uncle, who own a clothing factory, have paid their way, and now Kim and her mother are heavily indebted. Her mother works tirelessly in the clothing factory, while Kim struggles through 6th grade and works in the factory in the afternoon. They live in utter poverty, but Kim was a brilliant student in Hong Kong and she is committed to taking full advantage of the opportunity she and her mother have been given to make a better life for themselves in America.

    This was a beautiful coming-of-age story. Kim learns about true friendship and love as she grows and matures. I was immersed in Kim's world--her joys and her struggles. I liked how she valued her cultural roots, but also knew when she needed to break away from some of her traditions. The story felt so authentic because the author went through many of the same struggles herself.

    I felt like the story had a great flow, although I wasn't a huge fan of the ending. I also kind of wished that it had been a YA book instead of adult fiction. But, I think this would make a great book club selection, and I definitely recommend this one.

    Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Bibliophile by the Sea ~ Book Addiction ~ Capricious Reader ~ The Book Nest ~ Reading Extravaganza ~ Thoughts of Joy... ~ Your link here?

    Book 95 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
    Source: Library

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Maniac Magee

    Maniac MageeManiac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

    AR Reading Level: 4.7
    On the library stacks: Children's/YA Fiction
    Awards: Young Reader's Choice Award/Nominee; Newbery Medal; Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors; State Award
    Recommended for: Grades 4+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    My 5th-grade daughter Coco is reading this book at school right now. I wanted to read it so that I can talk to her about it--not just so that we can bond over it, but also in case there are any thematic issues that I want to discuss with her.

    Jeffrey Magee is an orphan who has run away from the oppressive atmosphere of his aunt and uncle's home. He can outrun everyone, hit any baseball, and untie any knot, earning him the nickname of "Maniac." He is able to cross the racial divide from the East Side of town to the West Side of town, but there are those who are not too happy about it. Ultimately, Maniac confronts racism head-on as he learns what "home" truly means.

    I thought this was a sweet and heart-warming story. Poverty and racism are certainly the main "issues" in this book. But I think that it is handled in a way that is appropriate for middle-graders. I'm definitely a Spinelli fan, and this book was well-written and quick to read. Coco read the first 20 pages last night and already we found some stuff to talk about, so I think this will be a fun experience for both of us.

    Also reviewed by: Tiny Little Reading RoomBookworm Burrow 

    Book 94 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 42 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 25 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
    Source: Library

    Monday, October 11, 2010


    ImpossibleImpossible by Nancy Werlin

    AR Reading Level: 4.6
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction
    Awards: SLJ Best Book; Booklist Editors' Choice; Kirkus Editors Choice
    Recommended for: High School +

    My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

    Lucy Scarborough is a 17-year old girl who lives with her loving foster parents. Her biological mother is insane, but does occasionally appear in Lucy's life, usually singing her own rendition of Scarborough Fair.  On prom night, Lucy is date raped. As time moves on, Lucy realizes that this singular defining event is part of a centuries-old curse.

    All Scarborough girls give birth at age 18 and go insane, unless they complete three tasks as outlined in Scarborough Fair. She must made a shirt with no seams without using needles. And she must plow an acre of land with a goats horn located between the ocean and sea strand, and then sow it with a grain of corn.

    I like the idea of using an old folk song as the basis of a book. I thought the author's interpretation of the song was clever. I also thought the romance element in this book was really sweet, and it definitely kept me turning pages. I appreciated that Lucy had a support network of people who believed in her, and that her parents were involved in helping her accomplish her tasks. I didn't love how the ending was executed. It seemed awkward, clunky and anti-climatic. But overall this was a fun and entertaining read.

    Also reviewed by: J'adorehappyendings ~ Fuzzy Cricket ~ Stark Raving Bibliophile ~ Books & other thoughts ~ Capricious Reader ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ In the Pages... ~ Teen Lit Review ~ Your link here?

    Book 93 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 42 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 41 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge
    Source: Purchased

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    The Engine 2 Diet

    The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the PoundsThe Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds by Rip Esselstyn

    On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction

    After suffering from heartburn nearly every day since January, I finally figured out it was dairy--specifically lactose. After chatting about it with my mom, we both decided to read this book. The author's first recommendation is to rid your diet of dairy, so it seemed like a book I could relate to.

    Rip is a hard-core athlete who decided to make some changes in his diet. After having so much success himself, he decided to run a little study with the guys in his firehouse to see if they could achieve similar results. Those results, combined with a second study, proved that Rip's diet can help people lose weight and drop their cholesterol levels significantly.

    The basic tenets of the diet are these: No dairy. No oil. No meat. No fish. No eggs. Rip calls it a plant-based diet and I think that sums it up well. He encourages whole grains, nuts, soy products and other milk substitutes, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

    Will I become a vegetarian after reading this? Nope. But I will eat less meat. Already I have chosen the vegetarian options the last few times I ate out. I will also read labels more. (That was probably my favorite section. I learned 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon. Sheesh!) And I will be more vigilant about whole grains and fruits and veggies.

    I do have to mention that I found this book horribly written and I wish his evidence was a little more substantial and scientific. I don't have high cholesterol and I don't need to lose weight. But I do think Rip's approach is a common-sense and healthy approach to eating.

    To learn more and see some of Rip's recipes, visit The Engine 2 diet website.

    Also reviewed by: A Bookworm's World ~ Books Ahoy! ~ Wendi's Book Corner ~ Your link here?

    Book 92 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge 
    Book 24 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
    Source: Library

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    The Only Alien on the Planet

    The Only Alien on the PlanetThe Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle

    AR Reading Level: 4.6
    On the library stacks: YA Fiction
    Award: State Award
    Recommended for: Grades 8+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Ginny's parents decided to move to the opposite end of the county right before her senior year of high school. Her older brother has just left for college and her parents are busy starting their new business. Ginny is lonely and homesick for her old friends and her old life.

    But then she meets Caulder, a boy who lives next door. They become best friends and spend all kinds of time together. Caulder has always had an interest in another boy who lives on their street named Smitty. Ginny had noticed gorgeous Smitty the first day of school, but she didn't know then that Smitty had not said a word to anyone since age 2, despite being a genius. Caulder pulls Ginny out of her comfort zone and the two of them develop a relationship with Smitty that will change their lives.

    This is a book about friendship and what true love really means. But it is also about abuse and how it can impact so many lives. The abuse element is handled extremely well with little detail, making this an easy book to recommend. It's not a perfect book--there were some cheesy moments and some things that didn't ring true for the average teenager in my opinion. But this is an uplifting read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Recommended to me by: Good Clean Reads

    Book 91 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 40 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 23 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
    Source: Library

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Never Let Me Go

    Never Let Me GoNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    AR Reading Level: 6.0
    On the library stacks: Adult fiction
    Awards: Booker Prize/Honor Book; ALA Notable/Best Books; Alex Award

    My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

    I knew absolutely nothing about this book going into it and I think that's the way it needs to be read. Without pre-conceived notions, I was sucked into a beautifully crafted story that I won't soon forget. It is moving but uncomfortable and slow-paced yet compulsively readable.

    The central feature of this book is Hailsham, a boarding school in England. Told in a conversational tone from the perspective of a former student named Kathy, she details life at the school growing up with her two friends, Ruth and Tommy, where they were sheltered from normal society.

    This novel is dystopian literature with a science fiction bent, but set in the recent past. I haven't read any of Ishiguro's other novels, but it seems so different from The Remains of the Day that I'm very intrigued to read more of the author's work. This book is deliberate and thought-provoking, and I would recommend it for book clubs because I'm dying to talk to someone about it!

    Also reviewed by: things mean a lot ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ A Life in Books ~ Ticket to Anywhere ~ Book Addiction ~ At Home With Books ~ There's a Book ~ Your link here?

    Book 90 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 41 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge
    Source: BookMooch

    Saturday, October 2, 2010


    Alive: The Story of the Andes SurvivorsAlive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read

    AR Reading Level: 7.7
    On the library stacks: Adult non-fiction
    Recommended for: Grades 9+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Years ago I saw this movie. I'm not sure I knew it was a book until recently, but reading this book is just as eye-opening as watching the film.

    In 1972 a plane carrying a team of Uruguayan rugby players crashed in the Andes mountains on their way to Chile. 16 of the 45 people on board survived for 70 days on the snow-covered mountains by resorting to cannibalism. Eventually, the snow melted enough that two of the men were able to climb out and find help.

    This is an incredible story. It is a little grisly, of course, but inspiring as well. I liked that it was written in the tone of a newspaper article. The author stuck with the facts and left moralizing out of it. This story is an amazing testament to our human will to survive and helped me to appreciate the gift of life even more.

    Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?

    Book 89 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 50 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
    Source: BookMooch

    Monday, September 27, 2010

    The Giver

    The Giver (The Giver, #1)The Giver by Lois Lowry

    AR Reading Level: 5.7
    On the library stacks: YA and Children's Fiction
    Awards: Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors; SLJ Best Book; Golden Duck Award; Young Reader's Choice Award/Nominee; ALA Notable/Best Books; Newbery Medal
    Series: Book 1 of 3 (The Giver) 
    Recommended for: Grades 7+

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Jonas lives in a futuristic dystopian society where "sameness" rules. Couples may apply for children from the government, but they are given no more than one boy and one girl. When the children turn 12, they are given a job in the community, chosen for them by The Elders. Jonas is given a special honor when he is selected to be the Receiver of Memories.

    What neither Jonas nor any other of the community realizes is that they are living life completely without choice. It has been that way for so long that no one sees color, hears music, feels pain, or experiences true joy or love. But as the Receiver, Jonas experiences them through The Giver and it encourages him to change everything he knows to be true.

    This book is definitely thought-provoking. It is interesting to imagine what life would be like without the ability to choose for ourselves. This book is often challenged (here's my shout out to Banned Books Week) for its treatment of suicide and euthanasia. I wouldn't give it to my child until at least 7th grade, and even then I will be ready to have a good sit-down discussion about the book with her.

    I kind of wish the book were a little longer and had been geared definitively for the YA crowd instead of skirting with the Children's section. I felt the pacing was uneven, especially toward the end when I was really hoping for a lot more detail. But I think the book is wonderful for helping us to appreciate the great gift we have of forming our own opinions, thinking for ourselves, and experiencing a fullness of life--both the bad and the good.

    Also reviewed by: Piling on the Books ~ Literarily Speaking ~ Book Thoughts ~ Teen Lit Review ~ Pizza's Book Discussion ~ my cozy book nook ~ Fuzzy Cricket ~ things mean a lot ~ Good Clean Reads ~ Bookfoolery and Babble ~ Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic ~ So Many Books, So Little Time ~ Your link here? 

    Book 88 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 40 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 39 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge 
    Source: Purchased

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business

    Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business (Junie B. Jones, #2)Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park

    AR Reading Level: 2.9
    On the library stacks: Children's fiction
    Award: ALA Notable/Best Books
    Series: Book 2 of 17 (Junie B. Jones)

    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    The beginning of each Junie book is similar. I have started to have my 1st grader fill in some of the blanks, such as "the B stands for _______." (Beatrice)

    In this early book in the series, Junie finds out she is going to be a big sister. When the big day finally arrives, Junie stays at her grandparents house. Her grandma comes home and says that Junie's new brother is the "cutest little monkey." Junie takes this quite literally with some disastrous consequences when she shares her news at school during Show and Tell.

    Junie's pretty much a brat in this one. The word "dumb" and "fat" were incredibly overused. But I did see some similarities between Ramona Quimby and Junie in this one that I thought were cute.

    Book 87 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge 
    Source: Borrowed from teacher library

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Life of Pi

    Life of PiLife of Pi by Yann Martel

    AR Reading Level: 5.7 
    On the library stacks: Adult fiction
    Awards: Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature; Booker Prize/Honor Book; Book Sense Book of the Year Award/Honorees; Governor General's Literary Award

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This is one of those books that I have been meaning to read for years. So when my in-person book club voted to read it this month, I was happy to have an excuse to get to it.

    Pi Patel is a young Indian boy whose father is a zookeeper. Pi develops an interest in religion at a young age, surprising his agnostic parents. Pi's parents decide to immigrate to Canada and their Japanese cargo ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But Pi survives, along with a tiger, hyena, orangutan, and zebra. His faith carries him through a terrible ordeal at sea until he is rescued.

    I did really enjoy the beginning of the novel, but as it went on it moved slower and I became less interested. I understood the message the author was trying to portray with his story, but I guess I didn't find it as life-changing as the cover advertised it would be. I will say it was well-written, clever and unique (although I did see the end coming), but I was left somewhat underwhelmed. Still, I think it will make for a good discussion this evening.

    Also reviewed by: Piling on the BooksJules' Book Review ~ Bending Bookshelf ~ my cozy book nook ~ Lost in Books ~ At Home With Books ~ Book Clutter ~ Your link here?

    Book 86 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 39 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 8 of 8 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Spain), Book 49 of 50 for the New Author Challenge 

    Source: BookMooch

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy

    Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy (Junie B. Jones, #12)Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy by Barbara Park

    AR Reading Level: 2.6
    On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
    Series: Book 12 of 17 (Junie B. Jones)

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    After reading Junie B. last week, my son JB was delighted to be instructed by his teacher to take a Junie B. home for his nightly reading. We actually own this one as well, so we each read aloud out of our own copies, switching back and forth.

    In this installment, Junie B. Jones wants a pet to take to Pet Day at school. She has a dog named Tickle, but the teacher said no dogs or cats. I won't tell you what she ends up taking in, but there was a raccoon, fish, earthworm (named Noodle), ants and flies involved before the big day actually arrived.

    I love any book that gets kids excited about reading, and this one certainly does the trick.

    Book 85 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 38 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge

    Source: Purchased

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Vanishing - TLC Book Tour

    Vanishing and Other StoriesVanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis

    Publication date: August 17, 2010
    First published: May 12, 2009
    Publisher: Harper Perennial
    ISBN: 9780062007520
    Price: $13.99
    Pages: 288
    Deborah Willis' website here.

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    It has been awhile since I have read a really good book of short stories. Not only was this book beautifully written, but I was easily sucked into each of the stories.

    The stories in Vanishing are linked together by a common theme of loss. In some it is loss of a loved one--a parent, partner, child or spouse. The loss may be due to death, illness, personal choices and betrayals, an emotional withdrawal, or purely unexplained. The stories focus on how the loss affects those left behind to pick up the pieces.

    I have to admit that the stories are gloomy and somewhat dark. There was a lot of sadness and some things were a little disturbing. It seemed like there were a lot of affairs involved, including relationships between teenagers and adults. I probably enjoyed the stories like Rely and Frank a little more since the focus was different.

    This is the first book published by this young author and I think she shows incredible talent. The prose was concise and yet lyrical at the same time. The book had a nice pace to it and the stories seemed well thought out, but they didn't drag on too long. A great debut!

    About the Author:
    Deborah Willis’s work has appeared in the Bridport Prize Anthology, Event, and Grain, and she was a winner of PRISM International's annual fiction prize. Short-listed for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, Vanishing and Other Stories is her first book of fiction.
    I am the last host on this tour. Please visit the other stops: Booksie’s Blog ~ Eleanor’s Trousers ~ The Lost Entwife ~ Raging Bibliomania ~ All About {n} ~ In the Next Room ~ she reads and reads ~ Cozy Little House ~ Rundpinne ~ Confessions of a Bookaholic ~ Life in the Thumb

    Book 84 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 48 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 7 of 8 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Canada)

    Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    June B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying

    Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky (Junie B. Jones, #4)Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying by Barbara Park

    AR Reading Level: 2.9
    On the library stacks: Children's fiction
    Series: Book 4 of 17 (Junie B. Jones)

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This is the second time I've read this one aloud to one of my kids. I wondered if my boy would like it any less than my girl, but he didn't. He's a new 1st grader and this is his first exposure to Junie B. He loved it. As an added bonus, the books are quick to read and I think the humor is hilarious.

    In this installment, Junie B. has a spying problem. She hides in the hamper, scaring her Grandpa who has just taken out his teeth. She also hides in the grocery store where she spies her "perfect" kindergarten teacher pop a grape in her mouth in the produce department. This leads to Junie "accidentally" telling the principal. But on Grandparent's Day, it all comes out right in the end.

    While I think these books are fun, they are not great for the beginning reader who rightfully get hung up on words like "hided" and "pasketti." So, if you are introducing chapter books to a young reader as I am, I would steer clear. But still, this only took us two days to read together and a good time was had by all.

    Also reviewed by: Puss Reboots ~ Your link here?

    Book 83 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

    Source: Purchased

    Monday, September 13, 2010


    Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia BuffsBrainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings

    On the library stacks: Non-fiction
    Recommended for: Trivia fans

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I don't even watch Jeopardy! (don't forget the exclamation mark) nor did I see Ken's historic 74-win run. But I do like trivia and since Ken and I went to the same college at about the same time, I thought I would give this book a try.

    I got an unexpectedly delightful surprise on the first page when I realized that I knew the friend that Ken drove down to the Jeopardy! try-outs with! In fact, I have a picture of him playing a rousing game of Spoons in my college apartment on my 20th birthday. (Katie: It's EARL!) I'll admit that frequent mentions of his friend Earl throughout the book really tickled me, but I would have liked the book without them.

    Set against the backdrop of Ken's $2.5 million stint on national television, this book explores the history of trivia. We learn about how trivia has become more popular in recent years first through books and newspapers, and then radio and television. We learn about pub trivia and the cutthroat world of high school and college quiz bowls. And there are thoughtful discussion of if/why we should even care about trivia.

    I thought this book was fascinating and funny. I laughed out loud numerous times and I loved the trivia questions sprinkled through each chapter. This is a fun book that's a quick read (and you may even feel a little smarter when you get done with it!).

    Also reviewed by: A Reader's Journal ~ So Many Books, So Little Time

    Book 82 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 55 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2006), Book 37 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 48 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

    Source: Purchased at my library book sale