Friday, July 30, 2010

Beezus and Ramona

Beezus and Ramona Movie Tie-in EditionBeezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

AR Reading Level: 4.8
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Series: Book 1 of 8 (Ramona)
Recommended for: Grades 2+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My mom has been in town for a few weeks. She taught second grade for years and she has the best read-aloud voice ever. As an incentive, I told my kids that whoever listened to Nana read Beezus and Ramona would get to go to the movie at the end of the week. My 6, 8, and 9-year old kids all took up the challenge and we had a blast, both listening and watching.

This initial installment in the Ramona series features 9-year old Beezus and 4-year old Ramona. Ramona is into everything--riding her tricycle in the living room, taking over Beezus' art class, destroying library books, eating one bite out of every apple from an entire box, inviting her friends over for a party without telling anyone, and ruining Beezus' birthday. I actually really felt for Beezus! (and for my 9-year old since we have our own little 4-year old "Ramona").

I laughed and cried both reading the book and watching the movie. I didn't realize that the movie is actually based on ALL the Ramona books, not just this one. But it captures the spirit and essence of the books perfectly. This was a fun summer activity for our family, and I definitely recommend both the movie and the book.

Also reviewed by: The Book Bluff ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Book 68 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge

Source: Purchased

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The City of Ember

The City of Ember (The Ember Series, #1)The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

AR Reading Level: 5.0
On the library stacks: Children's/YA Fiction
Awards: Book Sense Book of the Year Award/Honorees; ALA Notable/Best Books
Series: Book 1 of 4 (Ember)
Recommended for: Grades 3+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The city of Ember is always dark. When it is time to wake up, the electrical lights that power the city turn on and everyone heads to school or work.

At the age of 12, the students are each randomly assigned a job. Lina and Doon swap their assignments so that Lina becomes a messenger, running messages through the city, and Doon works down in the Pipeworks. Lina and Doon both realize that the mayor is up to no good. There are frequent blackouts in the city and low food and light bulb supply rations seem to indicate impending disaster.

I thought this book had good ambiance, appropriate for the dark city of Ember. I enjoyed the story of Lina and Doon and their quest to save their dying city. It's good post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction appropriate for the younger grades, but I think older kids who enjoy the genre will like it too. As an adult reader, I read a spiritual awakening metaphor in the plot that I enjoyed mulling over.

Now that I've finally gotten around to reading it, I will let myself watch the movie...Well, maybe I'll wait until after my kids have read it first so we can all watch together.

Also reviewed by: Emily's Reading Room ~ Tiny Little Reading Room ~ At Home With Books ~ book:thirty ~ Bending Bookshelf ~ The Bluestocking Society ~ Teen Lit Review ~ The Book Group Broads ~ It's All About Books ~ Ticket to Anywhere ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Book 67 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 42 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 32 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 28 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 48 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2003)

Source: Purchased

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Language of Trees - TLC Book Tour

The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby

Publication date: July 20, 2010
Publisher: Avon A
ISBN: 9780061898648
Price: $14.99
Pages: 368
Ilie Ruby's website here

As warm weather approaches the small town of Canandaigua Lake, Grant Shongo returns to his family's summer home to recuperate after his failed marriage. His high school love, Echo, also returns as her father appears to be dying and Echo and Grant reunite in the awkwardness of their shared past.

The town is haunted by the tragedy of the drowning of little Luke Ellis years earlier. And when Luke's older sister Melanie goes missing, some think she's had another drug relapse. But those closest to Melanie think something darker may be at play, and Grant becomes involved in her rescue.

This is a novel about love, pain, choices, consequences, guilt, recovery, and ultimately letting go. This story has a unique setting infused with Seneca tradition and a cast of characters that I really cared about. I also liked the use of magical realism. I felt like there was some uneven pacing in the plot and I had a rough time with the use of present tense. There were a lot of flashbacks and I was sometimes unsure of what was past and what was present. But the words were beautiful and I felt transported to the town as I read.

This is Ilie Ruby's first novel and I think she has a promising career ahead of her. She writes her characters with depth and their relationships with real emotion, which made this an ultimately satisfying novel to read.

Other tour stops:

Tuesday, July 20th: I’m Booking It
Wednesday, July 21st: Café of Dreams
Wednesday, July 28th: Fizzy Thoughts
Thursday, July 29th: Alison’s Book Marks
Monday, August 2nd: Chaotic Compendiums
Wednesday, August 4th: Take Me Away
Thursday, August 5th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, August 9th: Jenny Loves to Read
Tuesday, August 10th: Chefdruck Musings
Thursday, August 12th: Books Like Breathing

Book 66 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 41 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 5 of 6 for the What's in a Name? 3 Challenge

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

Friday, July 23, 2010


Linger (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #2)Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

AR Reading Level: 5.4
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Series: Book 2 of 3 (Wolves of Mercy Falls)
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Because I'm too afraid of accidentally including spoilers, here's the product description:
In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.
This is a great second book to the series. It is well-written and entertaining. I enjoyed the four different voices of Grace, Sam, Cole and Isabel, and the story took a direction I wasn't anticipating. I wasn't 100% sold on the green font the book was published in though. I look forward to the finale next year!

Also reviewed by: Not enough bookshelves ~ Beth Fish Reads ~ My Friend Amy ~ Your link here?

Book 65 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 31 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge

Source: Borrowed

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


HootHoot by Carl Hiaasen

AR Reading Level: 5.2
On the library stacks: YA/Children's Fiction
Awards: ALA Notable/Best Books; Young Reader's Choice Award/Nominee; Agatha Award; Newbery Honor; IRA's Teachers' Choice Award; Parent's Guide Book Award/ Honor Book; Smithsonian's Notable Book
Recommended for: Grade 6+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I bought this book ages ago at a used bookstore. I even started it once before, but for some reason I was in the right mood this time. I thought this was a really fun book!

Roy is a newbie Florida kid who gets beat up on the bus, follows a running boy who has no shoes, and ends up fighting the construction of a pancake house where protected owls have their burrows. There is an excellent cast of supporting characters including:
  • Curly, the pancake house foreman
  • Dana, the dim-witted bully
  • Beatrice, the soccer chick
  • Chuck Muckle, a VP at Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House
  • Officer Delinko, the police officer in charge of investigating strange acts of vandalism at the pancake house site.
I also loved Roy's parents and was very pleased at what a positive influence they had in this book. There is a little bit of junior high potty humor present, but I think kids of that age will love this book. I need to see the movie now!

Also reviewed by: So Many Books, So Little Time ~ Your link here?

Book 64 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 27 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 30 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 47 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2002), Book 40 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Source: Purchased

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster BoyLizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

AR Reading Level: 5.9
On the library stacks: Young adult fiction
Awards: ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Michael Printz Honor Book; ALA Notable/Best Books; SLJ Best Book; Newbery Honor
Recommended for: Grades 7+

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gary Schmidt is my favorite newly discovered author this year. While this book is very different from The Wednesday Wars, it was equally moving in its own way. Based on true events, this is beautifully written novel told with depth and poignancy.

13-year old Turner Buckminster is a minister's son, trying to find his place in Phippsburg, Maine in 1911. Having just recently moved from Boston, Turner has a tough time integrating into the small town dynamics where all eyes are on him watching his every move. But soon he meets Lizzie Bright who lives nearby on Malaga Island, a small settlement of African Americans. Their friendship has serious consequences for Turner, his family, and the entire town.

I really loved this book. It's touching, haunting and full of emotion and heart. It's a coming-of-age story in the way Turner learns to view the world, to question, and to understand the complex nature of the human experience. Everything about this book just seemed so real and genuine. I laughed and I teared up. Highly recommended.

Also reviewed by: Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ Book Clutter ~ Beth Fish Reads ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ Good Clean Reads ~ Your link here?

Book 63 for 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 26 of 50 for the RYOB Challenge, Book 29 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 46 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2004)

Source: BookMooch

Friday, July 16, 2010

The 13th Hour

The 13th HourThe 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch

On the library stacks: Adult fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The unthinkable has happened to Nick Quinn. His wife Julia has just been murdered in their own home, and the police are convinced that he has committed the crime. But when he is offered a chance to go back in time twelve hours, one hour at a time, he is determined to make sure that when the thirteenth hour arrives, his wife will be alive and well. What Nick can't foresee, is the complicated mess that unfolds as he not only solves the crime, but how he alters the course of history as the hours run backward.

The thriller element gets 4 stars for me. I carried the burden of Nick around with me until I finished the book and I loved the time travel. But I had some issues:
1. The writing/editing: parts of the story were super repetitive, the use of ... to build suspense, the misspellings and punctuation problems.
2. The one-dimensional characters. Nick and Julia are pretty much perfect--the perfect house, the perfect marriage, perfect jobs, and trust me, Nick has the perfect answers for everything.
3. The over-the-top sickly sweet Hollywood ending. Don't get me wrong, I like a happy ending. And I think that this one should have had one too, just not THAT happy.

I really did enjoy this book when I was reading it. I think the idea behind it is clever and unique and I would say fans of time travel should give this book a try.

Also reviewed by: Book Journey ~ Your link here?

Book 62 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 20 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge, Book 39 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Source: Library

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

She Walks in Beauty

She Walks in BeautyShe Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clara Carter is a studious girl who would much rather have her nose in her precious book of Byron poems than worry about which New York City socialite she should marry. But her aunt and father abruptly decide that she is to debut a year earlier than planned when the De Vries heir returns home from his Continental tour a year early. They tell Clara that she must capture the heart of the heir and marry him to restore her family's honor, but Clara wants to marry for love.

This is an engaging historical fiction novel set in the Gilded Age of the 1890s. For the city elite, that means life revolves around dinner parties, corsets, balls, fashion, and carriage rides. But for others, it means horrific factory working conditions, poverty, and tenement living. Clara has been sheltered her whole life from such unpleasantness, but as she uncovers the truth of her family's role in the social strata, she rightly questions the social, political, and economic powers in play.

One thing that I really liked about this book is that Clara doesn't turn into some kind of superhero that would be inconsistent with the time and place. She does recognize the limitations placed on her because of her sex and class, but she does work within them as she can. The whole Christian element of the book (it is published by Bethany House) was kind of a distraction in my opinion. The religious thread just didn't seem to work it's way evenly through the book, so when it did, infrequently, come up it felt a little awkward to me. Although the book was somewhat predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed Clara's journey--especially the romance and historical elements. Recommended.

Also reviewed by: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews ~ My Friend Amy ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Book 61 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 19 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge, Book 38 of 50 for the New Author Challenge

Source: Library

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Only the Good Spy Young

Only the Good Spy Young (Gallagher Girls, #4)Only the Good Spy Young by Ally Carter

On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Series: Book 4 of 6 (Gallagher Girls)
Recommended for: Grades 6+

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Warning: There may be spoilers in this review if you haven't read the earlier books in this series.

It's winter break and Cammie Morgan is with her best friend Bex in London. After an earlier kidnapping attempt by the Circle of Cavan, Cammie is being closely monitored. All of a sudden, the lights go out and Cammie is grabbed. But she recognizes the voice: It's her teacher, Joe Solomon. And for once, he's not in control. He's scared.

This is probably my favorite book in this series so far. There were lots of twists and turns and many questions were answered, but some new ones came up too. The action was pretty intense and we also get to see quite a bit of a certain boy from previous books. I couldn't imagine a better book for the middle of this series.

Also reviewed by: Sarah's random musings ~ Your link here?

Book 60 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 18 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge, Book 28 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge

Source: Library

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle (Castle, #1)Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

AR Reading Level: 5.4
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Recommended for: Grades 6+
Awards: Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors; Phoenix Award/Honor
Series: Book 1 of 3 (Castle)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three girls in a land where being the eldest means inevitable failure. After her father dies, her sisters are apprenticed to a witch and a baker and she stays behind with her step-mother to run the hat shop. But when the Witch of the Waste comes to pay her a visit one day, turning her into an old woman, Sophie ends up at supposedly-evil Wizard Howl's Castle where she poses as a cleaning woman, hoping that the fire demon named Calcifer can break the spell she is under.

I thought this book is a clever fantasy with a little humor thrown in for good measure. It's a cute, fun book that I read with a smile on my face. It's also very fast-paced and would make a good read-aloud. This is the first book I've read by this author and it won't be my last.

Also reviewed by: Confessions of a Book Habitue ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Bending Bookshelf ~ Puss Reboots ~ Your link here?

Book 59 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 37 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 17 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge, Book 27 of 50 for the YA Reading Challenge, Book 4 of 6 for the What's in a Name? 3 Challenge

Source: Library

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On Folly Beach

On Folly Beach On Folly Beach by Karen White

Publication date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: NAL Trade
ISBN: 9780451229212
Price: $15.00
Pages: 416
Karen White's website here

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1942, Margaret owns a bookshop/general store called Folly's Finds on Folly Beach. She takes care of her 9-year old sister Lulu, and because of a deathbed promise, her beautiful cousin Cat, recently widowed from the war, also lives with her. Because of its proximity to Charleston, naval men are often in Folly Beach on weekends, and dances are held on the pier. Usually men are drawn to Cat, but one night Margaret meets Peter, a civilian from Iowa and he appears to have eyes only for her.

In 2009, Emmy awakens in the night with the sure realization that her husband serving in Afghanistan has been killed. Her mom, a native of Folly Beach, encourages Emmy to purchase Folly's Finds and move from Indiana to South Carolina. The change is difficult for Emmy, but when she finds love letters written in the margins of old books from Folly's Finds, she finds purpose in unraveling the mystery of the old lovers from WWII.

This book is my favorite work by this author so far. I loved the setting on a barrier island near Charleston, I loved the mystery element, and I loved the bookish references. I found myself so immersed in this book I even dreamed about it at night. I liked how the book switched perspectives between the two time periods, and I enjoyed how the stories overlapped. This would make a great beach read this summer.

Also reviewed by: Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ Savvy Verse & Wit ~ write meg! ~ Peeking Between the Pages ~ Diary of an Eccentric ~ Linus's Blanket ~ Your link here?

Book 58 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 45 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2010)

Source: Publicist Joy Strazza - Thank you!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Awards: 2007 French Booksellers Prize; 2007 Brive-la-Gaillarde Reader's Prize; Prix du Rotary International

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Renee Michel is a fifty-four year old concierge for a luxury apartment building in Paris. She lives in her small loge where she successfully plays the role she is expected to by the residents. She's poor, uneducated, loves her cat, and stays relatively unnoticed. But Renee has a secret: She's incredibly intelligent. She reads Russian literature, studies philosophy, appreciates art, good food, the cinema, and Japanese culture.

Paloma Josse is a 12-year old resident in Renee's building. Born to privilege, she tries playing the role she is expected to play. She does well in school (but not too well), smiles and nods when her parents have guests. But Paloma has a few secrets: She has decided to end her life on her thirteenth birthday and burn the apartment down. Startlingly gifted and wise beyond her years, Paloma is secretly disgusted with the hypocritical way her parents and older sister choose to live their lives. She doesn't want to end up like the adults she sees who spend a great deal of time trying to make their lives have meaning when there's no substance behind their actions.

This is a slow meandering book where the threads of the plot come together nicely at the end. It is a character-driven novel and I enjoyed the dual voices of Renee and Paloma. This is a good book for those who enjoy musing over art, philosophy, politics, religion, culture and morality. I thought there were a few times it got a little heavy-handed and over-the-top, but overall I enjoyed this one. I have a feeling that some ideas brought forward in this book will stick with me for awhile. It isn't a book to rush through, but it is certainly well worth the time I spent with it.

Also reviewed by: Life and Times of a "New" New Yorker ~ Novels Now (Caribousmom) ~ Novels Now (Laura) ~ The Avid Reader's Musings ~ Your link here?

Book 57 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge, Book 36 of 50 for the New Author Challenge, Book 44 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2006), Book 5 of 8 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Morocco)

Source: Purchased