Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jan/Feb Reading Recap

January Reading Recap
  1. Ash by Malinda Lo - review - read 01/06/10
  2. Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley - review - read 01/07/10
  3. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima - review - read 01/10/10
  4. Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew - review - read 01/16/10
  5. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - review - read 01/17/10
  6. Need by Carrie Jones - review - read 01/18/10
  7. Adventures in Burrwood Forest by John Lechner - review - read 01/19/10
  8. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger - review - read 01/24/10
  9. The Case of the Missing Marquess (An Enola Holmes Mystery) by Nancy Springer - review - read 01/25/10 
  10. Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation by Tim Hamilton - review - read 01/28/10
  11. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George - read 01/30/10
  12. Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney - review - read 01/31/10 
January Favorite: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

January Challenge Progress:
12 Library books
3 Graphic novels
1 Middle grade novel

January # of pages: 3,195

    February Reading Recap
    1. Darklight by Lesley Livingston - read 02/01/10 
    2. Splendor by Anna Godbersen - read 02/09/10
    3. Korgi (Book 1): Sprouting Wings! by Christian Slade - review - read 02/10/10
    4. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (An Enola Holmes Mystery #2) by Nancy Springer - read 02/11/10
    5. Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund - review - read 02/15/10 
    6. Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman - read 02/16/10 
    7. Once was Lost by Sara Zarr - read 02/19/10
    8. High Five by Janet Evanovich - read 02/20/10
    9. The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff - review - read 02/22/10
    10. The Maze Runner by James Dashner - review - read 02/26/10
    11. Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi - review - read 02/27/10
    12. Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi - review - read 02/28/10
    February Favorite: Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

    February Challenge Progress:
    12 Library books (24 total)
    3 Graphic novels (6 total)
    1 Middle grade novel (2 total)
      February # of pages: 3,056 (6,251 total)


      Saturday, February 27, 2010

      The Maze Runner by James Dashner

      The Maze Runner
      The Maze Runner by James Dashner
      published October 2009 by Random House
      384 pages (hardcover), YA
      He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.

      Metal ground against metal; a lurching shudder shook the floor beneath him. He fell down at the sudden movement and shuffled backward on his hands and feet, drops of sweat beading on his forehead despite the cool air. His back struck a hard metal wall; he slid along it until he hit the corner of the room. Sinking to the floor, he pulled his legs up tight against his body, hoping his eyes would soon adjust to the darkness.

      With another jolt, the room jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft.

      Harsh sounds of chains and pulleys, like the workings of an ancient steel factory, echoed through the room, bouncing off the walls with a hollow, tinny whine. The lightless elevator swayed back and forth as it ascended, turning the boy's stomach sour with nausea; a smell like burnt oil invaded his senses, making him feel worse. He wanted to cry, but no tears came; he could only sit there, alone, waiting.

      My name is Thomas, he thought.

      That... that was the only thing he could remember about his life. (p. 1)
      When Thomas is discovered, he finds himself in the Glade, surrounded by boys his own age who went through the same disorienting experience of waking with no memories in a metal box. He's the new guy, Greenbean affectionately, and he has a ton of questions about this place. The Glade is a self-sustaining community, almost utopian, except for the fact that there is no way out. Just outside the Glade, surrounded by a high, ivy-covered, retractable wall, is the Maze - the only hope for discovering an escape route. For two years, the eldest of the Gladers have been searching for an exit, with Runners to map out and try to solve the Maze. When Thomas arrives, everything changes. He's different, and everyone knows it. But without any memories, it's impossible to know how or why.

      I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I tore through the pages and was constantly surprised by unexpected plot twists and turns. Really, the whole book was unexpected. Although I liked being in the dark like Thomas was, I was anxious to figure it all out and hopeful that they would find a way out. What I didn't think too hard about was the state the world might be in if/when the boys did escape. After all, who sends a bunch of teenage boys to a happy little trap of an environment with an unsolvable Maze? Oh, and did I forget to mention that there are Grievers, terrifying monsters I'd care not to envision, out in the Maze with the sole purpose of killing anyone who attempts to stay in the Maze past dark? Suspenseful, action-packed, and a little mind-boggling.

      As much as I loved this book, I have to gripe a little bit. Let me show you how this book concludes:
      Really? Really?! That's it. I'm reading the last page before I start another book. I cannot handle another series/saga/trilogy. I'm just tired of it. I can't keep them straight. And I can't wait. I'm not the most patient of gals. And chances are, I will forget this book by the time the next one comes out. I read too much to remember them all. But even more, none of my questions were answered in this book! Where did these boys come from? Will they eventually remember their old lives? Who is responsible for their sad fates? In a nutshell, what in the world is going on?!

      So, if I knew (and I should have known) that it was going to be a trilogy, I would have waited to read it until they were all published. Maybe then I wouldn't be so frustrated. But if that's the only criticism I have of the book, then that must mean it was a pretty darn good one.

      Read-alikes: The House of Stairs by William Sleator, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

      Other reviews:
      Presenting Lenore, Guys Lit Wire, Books at Midnight, Pure Imagination, Book Crazy, Jen Robinson's Book Page, My Friend Amy


      P.S. What is it with Utah and awesome YA authors? Is there something in the water?

      Tuesday, February 23, 2010

      The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff

      The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff
      published August 2009 by Penguin
      224 pages (hardcover), adult (YA appeal)
      On the morning of August the twelfth, eighteen hundred and fifty something, on the day she was to be married, Pell Ridley crept up from her bed in the dark, kissed her sisters goodbye, fetched Jack in from the wind and rain on the heath, and told him they were leaving. Not that he was likely to offer any objections, being a horse. (p. 1)
       And so Pell takes off, leaving the only life and family she's ever known behind, besides Jack her horse and her little brother Bean who happened to be awake and willing to leave too. They journey through rural England, avoiding nearby towns where they will be recognized, hoping to find work at Salisbury Fair. Hoping that the universe will be kind to them and that they can start their lives anew somewhere far away from the oppression and expectations of home. Of course, that doesn't happen. Pell is faced with trial after trial - townspeople who shun her and her bastard child for their uncivil ways, unfavorable weather conditions, lack of food, and losing both her brother and horse in an instant. Is there a happily ever after in this story? Well, there's an ever after, and it's as happy as can be given the circumstances.

      It's futile to try to summarize this story because it's so much more than its plot elements, but hey, I tried. It's the writing that I connect with and Pell's unrelenting courage and desire to be free, her need to be in control of her own life. Seeing her mother raise nine children and deal with an alcoholic husband, Pell knew that was not a life she would choose for herself. But it's the nineteenth century, and Pell doesn't exactly have the luxury of options. Marry or leave home. But leaving home is no picnic, and Rosoff writes it like it is. Hard, ugly, depressing, terrifying. Somehow though, Pell perseveres - what choice does she have? Either she pushes forward or she dies. She's strong, determined, and practical. And that's why I loved this book.

      Other thoughts:
      Angieville - "The dark and the dreary are balanced by the truly beautiful writing, the sharp glints of irony, and by the brief but shining moments of perfect understanding and compassion you feel when you're reading."
      Bibliophile By the Sea - "The character of Pell was well developed, the historical detail was good, but as for the rest of the story and characters -- something seemed missing to me."
      My Friend Amy - "The writing is lovely and perceptive and probably what kept me reading [...]"
      things mean a lot - "Pell’s journey is an intense one, and in only a few months she experiences emotions to last her a lifetime: discontentment, loss, anger, love, peace."


      ETA: I totally forgot to say that this book is one of the 2010 Alex Award Winners! Woo!

      Monday, February 22, 2010

      It's Monday! What are you reading?

      It's Monday! What are you reading?
      Just discovered this meme hosted at One Persons Journey through a world of Books by way of Jan at Eating Y.A. Books.

      It's a way to highlight books read in the past week and books waiting to be read this week. Sheila has a bit of extrinsic motivation working for this meme - for every 10 comments on a fellow It's Monday! What are you reading? post, one entry will be contributed to a prize box - sounds yummy to me!

      Since I've already told you about my week in books, I'll skip ahead to what I hope to read this week.

      Currently reading:
      The Bride's Farewell
      The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff

      It's a busy week for me, so I'm hoping to read at least one of the following:

      The Maze Runner by James Dashner
      Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
      The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
      Hot Six by Janet Evanovich

      What are you reading?


      Saturday, February 20, 2010

      Read this week (7)

      Read this week

      Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
      I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Read about it here.

      Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
      This book was #4 on the Top 10 Unsung YA Heroes list, so I thought I'd give it a shot. And the cover blurb by Stephenie Meyer says she recommends this book to just about anyone she meets. I don't know that I'd go that far. I didn't love it as much as others seemed to, but I thought it was fun and a little silly. The story centers on two best friends - one is completely wacky (marches to the beat of her own drummer kinda gal) and the other is shy but loyal, following her friend in all her schemes and obsessions. The latest is a Pride and Prejudice phase, wherein the girls infiltrate the all-boys' private school dance in search of a Mr. Darcy. It's a quick, lightly romantic, clean teen read.

      Once was Lost by Sara Zarr
      People have had nothing but good things to say about this book, and it made it on YALSA's 2010 Best Books for Young Adults list, but I didn't really love it. I liked it. And I can see how the main character could be relatable to teens, especially those going through similar struggles - issues with God and faith, a mom in rehab and a potentially adulterous father, friends who keep secrets and act differently towards the "pastor's kid." And this all comes about because a girl goes missing, and that's all anyone can think or talk about. Small town. I don't really understand small towns. And the tragedy never really sinks in or seems to be all that important even though it's written into so many of the pages. I just wasn't feeling it.

      High Five by Janet Evanovich
      What's not to love about a Stephanie Plum novel? Fast-paced, hilarious, with several mysteries all in one. I'm slowly going through the series because they're not really the kind of books you read one right after the other. In this one, Uncle Fred goes missing, and it takes Stephanie two weeks to figure out what in the world happened. Morelli is still an irresistible love interest, but Stephanie chooses chocolate instead. And Ranger is turning on his charm - but he's a bit more man than she can handle at the moment. Though she will work for his morally sound, legally ambiguous company in order to make the rent. It was a refreshing read.


      Wednesday, February 17, 2010

      Shelfreading - 1

      Shelfreading is a weekly personal meme that I created in order to showcase, remember, and reflect on the books on my shelves.

      See, I don't buy books. Hardly ever. I'm very particular about what books I keep. The books on my shelves all have some meaning, some memories attached to them. Here I'll share them, a few books at a time.

      This week, I'm going back to fifth grade. My favorite grade school year. Because my teacher loved to read, and boy, did she show it. She shared so many wonderful books with us and got us excited about reading for fun. I don't remember much else about fifth grade except the reading. These are some of the books that stuck with me.

      Abel's Island
      Abel's Island by William Steig
      c1976, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
      Early in August 1907, the first year of their marriage, Abel and Amanda went to picnic in the woods some distance from the town where they lived. The sky was overcast, but Abel didn't think it would be so inconsiderate as to rain when he and his lovely wife were in the mood for an outing.
      How do you not fall in love with a book that begins this way? To fifth grade me, it was like magic. From sentence structure to word choice, I was inspired. I'm not much for survival/adventure stories, which this most certainly is, but I admired Steig's way with words and adored the illustrations (this is definitely one of my all-time favorite covers - I'd buy a poster print of it if I could find it!) so much that this instantly became one of my beloved books. In fact, I think it deserves a re-read this weekend.

      From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
      From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
      c1967, published by Bantam Doubleday Dell
      Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away. That is, running away in the heat of anger with a knapsack on her back. She didn't like discomfort; even picnics were untidy and inconvenient: all those insects and the sun melting the icing on the cupcakes. Therefore, she decided that her leaving home would not be just running from somewhere but would be running to somewhere. To a large place, a comfortable place, and indoor place, and preferably a beautiful place. And that's why she decided upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
      Well, it's obvious now that I judge a book by its first paragraph. I need a hook. Doesn't have to be exciting. In fact, both of these books mention picnics on the first page - not that I have a particular bias toward picnics. But the author's writing style should shine with those first few sentences, and they do here.

      My fifth grade teacher read this book aloud to the class, a little bit each day during the school year. I hated listening. Didn't really know how. I often fell asleep. But because of that hooker of a first page, I stayed awake every day to hear more of Claudia and Jamie's adventures at the Met. And I learned to listen. Before, when we would do round-robins (you know, when each student reads a paragraph of the textbook? ::shudders::), I wouldn't absorb a single thing. I would always have to go back and re-read on my own. But after learning - perhaps accidentally - to focus my attention on my teacher while she was reading this book, I became a much better listener.

      Miss Spider's Wedding
      Miss Spider's Wedding by David Kirk
      c1995, published by Scholastic

      I don't remember if this was the Miss Spider book that my fifth grade teacher shared with us, but this is the one on my shelf. I bought it many years later because I happened upon it in a bookstore, and it instantly took me back to my fifth grade classroom. I remember being in awe at the saturation of color in the illustrations. The pages were so shiny, filled on all edges with reds, greens, blues, yellows - just look at that cover! And what I especially appreciated is that my teacher shared a picture book with her fifth grade students. This came as a surprise to me because I was under the impression that picture books were for kids who couldn't read very well - so they needed much shorter books with lots of pictures. Who knows how this absurd notion got into my head, but it quickly retreated once I laid eyes on this one. Picture books can be for all ages - and can be loved for both their literary and artistic value, a lesson learned at the age of ten.

      Well, I certainly enjoyed that trip down memory lane. And you? I'm starting to think that I should have made this meme more general, maybe something like "reading memories," so that others can join. But I like how personal this is. Instead, I'll end with a question.

      What did you read in fifth grade?


      Monday, February 15, 2010

      Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

      Academy 7Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund
      published May 2009 by Penguin
      272 pages (paperback), YA
      Aerin Renning is a scarred fugitive, Dane Madousin a rebellious son of privilege. On the surface, they have nothing in common. But the two most competitive freshmen at Academy 7 share an undiscovered bond. Both harbor a dangerous secret that threatens their own destruction. And while their safety depends upon their staying apart, the two are inexplicably drawn to each other. Even as unknown forces conspire to separate them, their competition turns to friendship, and their friendship to romance. Now not only their lives--but their hearts--are at stake. To survive, the two must unite all their knowledge, skills, and gifts to uncover a secret bigger than either could have imagined. A secret as big as the entire universe...
      I don't usually include back-of-the-book summaries (because they tend to give away a bit much), but I did this time because it gives away nothing. Nothing at all. Yes, there are two main characters who are drawn to each other, the two most gifted students at Academy 7. Too bad there's no mention of Academy 7 being on the planet of Academia. Yep, it's science fiction. And I'm puzzled as to why this fact was so intentionally hidden.

      Perhaps because it's not necessary to be an avid science fiction reader to enjoy this book. It's probably better not to be. There's only so much development of a universe 3000 years in the future that can occur in the space of 200+ pages, but I think it was enough to give me a sense of place without bogging me down with all the minute details.

      Aerin has no home planet. She lost her father in a shuttle crash (which she witnessed) some seven years ago and has been enslaved on an X planet since then. When she finally escapes, she is rescued by an Alliance ship, where she takes a series of tests that gain her entry into the most prestigious school in the universe, Academy 7. Dane, on the other hand, is a troublemaker, son of a General and Council member. He's dangerous, suicidal even, but extremely intelligent, even if he tries to mask it with disdain. His father doesn't expect him to be accepted to Academy 7, his alma mater, because the golden child, his older brother, was not. All the more reason for Dane to attend this fancy-pants school. Dane and Aerin drive this story - their secrets, their inner conflicts, and their need to share the most painful parts of their lives.

      Some books are like fast friends. After reading merely a page or two, you just know that you won't be able to put it down. This book was that for me, and even though it left me with a lot to think about and question, the experience of reading the book was quite enjoyable. I certainly didn't agree with all that occurred, but I saw how it could happen the way it did. What surprised me the most was that this book left me wanting more. And that's probably the best bookish feeling ever. Aerin and Dane are two characters that I'll probably keep with me - their stories, emotions, and actions felt so genuine, and their attraction to each other was almost a necessity. Today's teens will relate to this intense relationship, for sure.

      Other bloggy thoughts:
      lucy was robbed - "[...] will appeal to readers of the less swoony paranormals out there and budding (or closet) sci-fi fans."
      The Story Siren - "I was absolutely intrigued by the world Osterlund created. I might just have to change my outlook on Sci-fi."
      Reading Rocks - "Osterlund manages to make a simple scene of talking or hand-holding into something as intimate and tender as the best of kissing scenes in other books."
      Rebecca's Book Blog - "I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy teen fiction. It honestly has something in it for everyone - science fiction, fantasy, adventure, and a story of friendship and romance."


      Sunday, February 14, 2010

      Because I loved Shiver too much to wait any longer for Linger

      Linger Cover LargeIn 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 Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

      At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

      Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

      Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

      Thursday, February 11, 2010

      Myriad of mysteries

      I did take last week's challenge to myself seriously (read out of my comfort zone), but I might have chickened out a bit. Instead of faeries and princesses, I gravitated toward mysteries during yesterday's library trip and came back with a nice selection. Had I not been forced to read in multiple genres in an LIS course I took last spring, I don't know that I would have ever stumbled upon mysteries again in my adult life. Sure, I read Nancy Drew and the Boxcar Children as a kid, but I don't think that I realized that they were "mysteries." I associated them with series like Sweet Valley High and the Baby-Sitter's Club. After a little bit of genre study, I found that all kinds of books I was reading were in fact mysteries. Here are the ones I picked up yesterday:

      The Case of the Left-Handed LadyThe Case of the Left-Handed Lady (An Enola Holmes Mystery #2) by Nancy Springer
      published January 2007 by Penguin
      192 pages (hardcover), middle grade

      I am so happy that I gave Enola Holmes another chance. I gobbled this book up last night and want to read the rest of the series RIGHT NOW. For some reason, I thought that she was younger than 14 in the first book, which is partly why I didn't fancy it so much. I thought that she was acting much older than her age, but I stand corrected. She is her mother's daughter, an independent gal who can take care of herself just fine. Her relationship with Sherlock develops some in this book, and I grew to enjoy the multiple plot lines - it's not just about the mystery of the left-handed lady, but also about Enola's adventures in London, her efforts not to get caught by her brothers, and her desperate need to communicate with her runaway mother. Oh, I just loved it.

      Murder at MidnightMurder at Midnight by Avi
      published September 2009 by Scholastic
      272 pages (hardcover), middle grade

      Confession: I've never read a book authored by Avi. There are plenty of them, so I see on my library shelves, but I've never had the impulse to pick one up. So, I asked my boy, who was on this library trip with me, to choose a "boy book" from the children's new books section, and this was his selection. It's set in Renaissance times, which just might kill me, but I will give it a shot because the story does sound compelling (murder! magicians! midnight!) and well, it's Avi.

      The London Eye MysteryThe London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
      published February 2008 by Random House
      336 pages (hardcover), middle grade

      It's been on my to-read list for too long.
      When Ted and Kat watched their cousin Salim get on board the London Eye, he turned and waved before getting on. But after half an hour it landed and everyone trooped off - but no Salim. Where could he have gone? Haws he spontaneously combusted? (Ted's theory.) Has he been kidnapped? (Aunt Gloria's theory.) Is he even still alive? (The family's unspoken fear.) Even the police are baffled. Ted and Kat follow a trail of clues across London in a desperate bid to find their cousin, while time ticks dangerously by ...

      Sammy Keyes and the Hotel ThiefSammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin Van Draanen
      published August 1998 by Random House
      176 pages (paperback), middle grade 

      This may prove to be another addicting series. Samantha Keyes is a seventh-grade sleuth, who happens to be at the right place at the right time - that is, snooping out her window with a pair of binoculars, spotting a hotel theft. I imagine it will be a quick read.

      The Calder Game
      The Calder Game by Blue Balliett
      published May 2008 by Scholastic
      379 pages, middle grade

      Well, I loved Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3, so it's about time that I followed Calder and Petra in a new adventure. Unfortunately, this one doesn't take place in my beloved Chicago but instead in a small English village. I can only hope for the same sort of puzzles as the first two books, the main draw to the mysteries for me. But oh boy, it is a hefty volume.

      Cover-UpCover-Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl by John Feinstein
      published August 2007 by Random House
      304 pages (hardcover), YA

      I read Feinstein's other sports mystery novels The Last Shot and Vanishing Act at a time when I had absolutely no interest in sports - and I enjoyed each one of them quite a bit. Therefore, I'm rather excited about this one because it's about football - a sport I've grown to love recently. Woohoo! My boy also informs me that John Feinstein is a sports writer that he follows regularly, so I suppose the author has a bit of credibility to his name. Honestly, I had no idea.

      The Eyre AffairThe Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
      published February 2003 by Penguin
      384 pages (paperback), adult (YA appeal)

      I can't begin to count how many times I've checked this book out of the library - never to even glance at the first page. The trouble is - my expectations for this book have reached so high that if I don't love love love it, I'll be rather disappointed. And I'm afraid that I won't recognize all of the literary allusions. Does it come with a Cliff's Notes guide?

      High FiveHigh Five (A Stephanie Plum Novel) by Janet Evanovich
      published June 2000 by St. Martin's
      340 pages (mass market pb), adult

      I used to be a literary snob, and then I got over myself. I started reading the Stephanie Plum series last spring, and oh, what fun! When I need a break from serious reading or I'm in a reading rut, these books pull me out and let me laugh hysterically. I won't turn my nose up at bestsellers anymore. You know, they're bestsellers for a reason. Like most people, I read for a variety of purposes, and I'm no longer ashamed to read fluff or formulaic fiction, both terms that serve to devalue some books. That's the shame.


      Wednesday, February 10, 2010

      Korgi (Book 1): Sprouting Wings! by Christian Slade

      KorgiKorgi (Book 1): Sprouting Wings! by Christian Slade
      published May 2007 by Top Shelf Productions
      84 pages (paperback), all ages

      I fancy wordless graphic novels. This one does not disappoint. The adorable korgi pup on the cover sitting next to a waifish girl in the forest at sunset was enough for me to pick this slim volume up. By way of an introductory note from Wart, "Scrollkeeper and Historian of Korgi Hollow," we find ourselves in a magical world where the special Korgis live peacefully and collaboratively with the Mollies, the woodfolk. Ivy is the cover girl and Sprout is her Korgi cub - the two characters we follow in their adventures exploring the wood.

      Although I liked this book, I wanted to like it more. Or perhaps I just wanted more of it. Sprout sets off chasing something like a dragonfly and Ivy runs after him. They come to a cliff where a disturbing picture is etched into the overhang, then fall through the earth to a dwelling of monsters, where Sprout exhibits some of his magical powers. The two friends escape, but more adventure ensues. The illustrations are pencil-drawn, in a sketcher's style, with lots of lines but not so much cross-hatching. The effect is soft and lovely. Though, I was sad to reach the end! It's a quick read, and I wonder if it would have pleased me better to have the second volume attached to this one or to maybe expand on some of the existing scenes.

      The inside flap suggests this book for Tolkien fans, readers of Bone by Jeff Smith and Andy Runton's Owly enthusiasts. I definitely agree. Now I just need to pick up the second volume from the library!

      Oh, and I read this for the Animals in Comics February Mini-Challenge at Stuff As Dreams Are Made On...  And I couldn't resist using this custom button. :)


      Friday, February 5, 2010

      Princesses, faeries, and debutantes

      I'm in a serious girlie rut right now. I have been steadily gravitating toward the more feminine type of book (I'm not in the mood for this debate - but yes, I do gender stereotype. I am a product of society, what can I say?), and I'm just about sick of it. I haven't seen a male protagonist in who knows how long. ::checks GoodReads:: Okay, I read the graphic novel of Fahrenheit 451 last week, and there were a couple others last month, but it certainly feels like a lot longer. It's all princesses and faeries and debutantes these days.

      Be warned - these are not reviews of books but reflections on my reading experiences. Sometimes, that's just more interesting (to me, at least).

      Princess of the Midnight BallPrincess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
      published January 2009 by Bloomsbury
      288 pages (hardcover), YA

      Well, I really enjoyed this book. It's a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, and we all know how much I love my retold fairy tales. Even though I was not all too familiar with this one. I just appreciate Jessica Day George's writing so much. It's the kind that's effortless to read, like it would just flow off your tongue if you read it aloud. It's not too flowery, but it's still beautiful. She has a gift of setting a scene without using too much description. I have quite a few mental images of the castle and the garden and even the town outside the castle, but I never felt like I was trying to get through detailed passages to move on to the action (coughHobbitcoughcough). I can't speak much to the originality of the story because it's a retelling, and I don't know the original tale that well. I liked it well enough and will be happy to read the companion Princess of Glass (a Cinderella retelling!) when it comes out in May.

      DarklightDarklight by Lesley Livingston
      published December 2009  by HarperCollins
      312 pages (hardcover), YA

      I read the first book Wondrous Strange sometime last year or maybe earlier upon the recommendation of a student. She thrust the book into my hands (an ARC, I believe) and said, "You have to read this!" So, I did. I will always read a student recommendation - a professional courtesy, I think. Anyhow, I liked it okay, but I knew that she loved it, so I let her gush until her heart's content. Why did I read the sequel if I only liked the first so-so? Let me tell you, I have very little self-control when it comes to faeries and series - and this one hit them both! It was action-packed (and mildly confusing - who's whose parent?) for a cover like this (which is also another weakness of mine, ack), which definitely intrigued me. But I found myself sighing in exasperation and putting the book down a few too many times. I needed more character development. I needed to remember better what happened in the first book. And I needed to just plow through it instead of reading it in short spurts. An average read for me, but I'm not a fan of average. I would prefer to be wowed.

      SplendorSplendor by Anna Godbersen
      published October 2009 by HarperCollins
      391 pages (hardcover), YA

      Am I the only one hooked on these books? And am I the only one wondering if Gossip Girl will ever come back to the television screen? While I wait for a new GG episode, I have a Luxe novel to hold me over - over what, I don't know. I suppose I should explain the connection between the two - high society New York, Luxe set in the early 1900s, GG present day. This is the fourth and final book in the series, where I'm told much is wrapped up nicely. I've only just begun reading it, but I don't anticipate writing a review, so I thought I'd share it now. I can't explain the draw to these books - not much more than "they're pretty." They're the kind of books I imagine Melissa de la Cruz would like reading (among many others, of course). The writing is grand, in tune with the lifestyles of the rich and proper girls it describes. It's a pleasure to read, really, but I think it may be an acquired taste. I need to find a day to spend curled up with this book because I don't like having to break it up.

      My goal in the sometime near future is to re-evaluate the books I have currently checked out of the library. Unfortunately, some of them will have to be returned unread. There are only so many hours, so many days. And the real goal - the challenge - is to find books that are out of my comfort zone, that are "boy" books, and that I wouldn't normally pick up or give a second glance at. Because I know that I can read more broadly and enjoy it. I just have to remember to do it more often.


      Monday, February 1, 2010

      Nonfiction Monday: Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride

      Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp StrideSojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney
      published November 2009 by Hyperion
      32 pages (hardcover), picture book

      I am not an avid fan of nonfiction, but I do happen to like narrative nonfiction. Tell me a story - and if it's true, I'll try not to hold it against you. So, I was delighted to find this little gem of a book in my library's new children's nonfiction section.
      She was big. She was black. She was so beautiful.
      This is the beginning of Sojourner Truth's story. What a hook! I am very much in love with what this husband-wife duo has produced here. Truth's story is told conversationally from her birth to her "Aint I a woman" speech" - and what ties it all together is her shoe size. Those size 12 feet stomped on the beetles on the farm in her childhood and would stomp on ignorance and injustice in her adult life. And that's the way a successful, interesting, kid-appealing nonfiction picture book is written - with flavor and style and a bit of pizzazz. Yes, I said pizzazz. Brian Pinkney's watercolor and ink illustrations are gorgeously soft and evocative - no complaints here in the picture department. But Andrea's text is what captured me - and that is a rare occurrence in a picture book that I particularly enjoy. I am generally drawn to illustrations and am often let down by boring writing. But there are no letdowns here! The text works so well with the illustrations - they are inseparable. In a scene where Truth is walking across many fields of greens and yellows with a large, swirling sun overhead, Pinkney writes:
      Belle soon learned that to celebrate freedom, she had to speak her beliefs [...] Freedom meant she would 'travel up and down the land' to share her ideas. That's when Belle changed her name. She gave her slave name the boot, and called herself Sojourner Truth. She said the name Sojourner was just right for someone who was a traveler. And Truth--well, that was what Sojourner did best--she told it like it was.
      Oh, I just love it! Go and read it for yourself!

      Nonfiction MondayAs it is the beginning of February (hooray!), I am reminded that it is Black History Month. Because I know that local schools celebrate in various ways, I am happy to share this book today since it would be an excellent read-aloud for the elementary set. Though the inside flap reads "Ages 5-9," I probably wouldn't go younger than third grade, which still seems a bit young to me. Definitely for fourth and fifth grade. Background information about the times may be helpful before reading this book to students. Maybe a discussion about what freedom means to students too. Or looking up the word "sojourner" in the dictionary. There is certainly plenty that can be done with this book!

      Nonfiction Monday is hosted at Wild About Nature this week. Check it out for the roundup of posts!

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