Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last day for Best of 2011 Giveaway!

Today's the last day to enter the Best of 2011 Giveaway! Check out my original post here!

Enjoy your reading, and have a safe and happy New Year's!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Giveaway Reminder

Want to make sure everyone's entered my Best of 2011 Giveaway! The post is here, and contest closes on 12/31.

Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hooked by Catherine Greenman

Have you entered my Best of 2011 giveaway yet?

Hooked by Catherine Greenman
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, August 9, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge

Summary from Goodreads:
Thea Galehouse has always known how to take care of herself. With a flighty club-owner mom and a standoffish, recovering-alcoholic dad, Thea has made her own way in her hometown of New York, attending the prestigious and competitive Stuyvesant High School. But one chat with Will, a handsome and witty senior, and she's a goner—completely hooked on him and unable to concentrate on anything else.Always worried that she loves Will more than he loves her, Thea is pleasantly surprised when their romance weathers his move to college and Will goes out of his way to involve her in his life. But then, Thea misses a period. And that starts Thea and Will on a wild ride that neither of them could have possibly prepared for. When they decide to keep the baby, their concerned parents chip in what they can to keep Will in school and give both teenagers a comfortable place to raise their child. But when a freak accident leaves Thea shaken and threatens to upend their little family altogether, Thea is forced to turn to the last place she would have chosen for comfort: her stiff, uncompromising father.This smart, touching first novel brims with realistic, beautifully drawn characters, and reminds us that love is never as easy or predictable as we might like it to be.
I really enjoyed this debut novel, and I was so excited to sneak one more debut author in for 2011! There was a lot about Hooked that made it stand out from a typical teen mom novel. The tragedy that's mentioned in the summary isn't what you'd expect, and comes up almost out of nowhere--there's no leading up, no foreshadowing. But, I found this refreshing, because after all, in real life aren't tragedies too often thrust upon us with little or no foreshadowing?

Thea's mom is a tough cookie, and I appreciated that she didn't get all uber-grandma the minute she set eyes on her grandson. Likewise, Dad's desire for Thea to go to college doesn't fade away when he meets Ian. The relationship between Thea and Will is drawn fairly realistically, I felt. There's swoon, and strain, an everything in between.

Does Hooked show the realistic side of teen pregnancy? I didn't really think so. There was a lot about the pregnancy, and Ian's infancy, that was glossed over. In addition, Thea and Will are lucky enough to have parents wealthy enough to help them get there start as parents--I don't know mane teens (or adults) whose parents can do the same. But, I felt the dialogue between Thea and her parents to be very real and typical. Most parents want so much more for their kids than they had, and Thea's parents are no different. I will say that I felt Thea's dad was a little overzealous about her future, especially seeing as how underzealous (yes, I just made that up) he was about her present. I also felt that although this was a story about teen pregnancy, it wasn't a story about teen pregnancy, but about a teen couple who gets pregnant. I can't really describe the distinction, but I made one while reading this book.

All in all, I thought Hooked was a good story, and a strong debut. While I didn't feel it was completely realistic, I did appreciate that it wasn't a happily-ever-after fairytale. There were several moments throughout the story where I visibly cringed, thinking of all the possible, horrible outcomes. Catherine Greenman has a knack for creating stressful situations, and I can't wait for more!

Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

25 Days of Jubilation Winner!

This was by far my most successful giveaway, as far as entries go--I had 454 entries! Thank you to all of my followers, old and new. Unfortunately, only one of you could be the winner, and the trusty Rafflecopter moderator has selected that lucky person:


I've already contacted the winner and she will have her prize shortly.
Don't despair, I have another giveaway going on now! Enter to win one of my favorite reads from 2011. If I hit 1000 followers during this giveaway, I'm choosing 2 winners!
Click here for all the details.

Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop!

It's the holiday season, so why not toss one more giveaway at all of my lovely followers before the end of 2011? The Best of 2011 Giveaway Hop is hosted by Kathy over at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer, and is a way for blogs to showcase their favorite reads from 2011.

I am taking this hop quite literally and am only listing my favorite reads that were published in 2011. This past year was my first *full* year both as a librarian (I started in May 2010) and as a blogger (September 2010), and I felt it was an incredible year for YA literature. In fact, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to narrow my favorites down to just ten. So, I'm not. Here, I present to you my top 11 books of 2011 (in no particular order)! Links will take you to my reviews.
  1. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
  2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  3. Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan
  4. The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
  5. Trapped by Michael Northrop
  6. Dear Bully edited by Megan Kelley Hall & Carrie Jones
  7. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
  8. The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young
  9. Pearl by Jo Knowles
  10. Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
  11. Stick by Andrew Smith
And so what's the giveaway, you might ask? One winner will get his or her choice of titles  from this list, shipped directly to them from Barnes & Noble. BUT! If this blog should happen to get to 1000 followers during this giveaway, I'll pick TWO winners!

Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form with your name and email address. Extra entries are available! This contest is open to US residents age 13 & up, and will close on December 31.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Today is the last day to enter my Jubilation Hop Giveaway--you can win a $25 electronic gift card to Amazon! Click here!


Just wanted to wish all of my friends who celebrate a very merry Christmas! I hope you were nice enough that Santa brings you everything you've asked for!

Enjoy your reading!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In My Mailbox (66)

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In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week!

From the library:
  • The Zombie Handbook by Dr. Robert Curran (actually got last week but forgot to mention)
  • Alchemy & Meggie Swann by Karen Cushman (juvenile fic)
  • Big League Dreams by Richard Brignall (juvenile nonfic)
  • Set to Sea by Drew Weing (2011 DAC)
  • Outrunning the Darkness by Anne Schraff
  • The Little Prince: adapted from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery by Jann Sfar (juvenile fic)
  • The Firefly Letters: a Suffragette's Journey to Cuba by Margarita Engle (juvenile fic)
ARC received from publisher: The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder (thank you, Razorbill!). One more debut to get through before the end of 2011!

From: ???? I suspect this is my Holiday Swap gift, but I have zero information--it all arrived directly from Amazon! They are three titles from my wishlist, however:
Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder, The Future of Carmen Navarro by Jen Bryant, and Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan (one of my 2011 top titles!). Thank you, whoever you are!

What did you get? Better yet, are there any books you're hoping to find under the Christmas tree tomorrow?

Enjoy your reading!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Scary School by Derek the Ghost

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Scary School by Derek the Ghost

HarperCollins, June 21, 2011
Summary from Goodreads:
You think your school's scary?Get a load of these teachers: 
Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire 
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess 
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie 
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex! 
Plus Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose 
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch 
The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost! 
Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends—including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf—and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky!
This was a fun middle grade read--definitely geared for boys. There's death and dismemberment, there's crude humor, there's monsters galore--what's not to love?

I was a little concerned at the death and blood at the beginning of the novel (well, actually the death and blood are throughout the whole novel. I was concerned at the beginning), because the suggested ages are 8-12, and I don’t know that most 8-year-old have quite the grasp on death in fiction that’s required for this story. I want to have my 9-year-old daughter read it--actually, the original plan was for both of us to read it and then write the review together. BUT, she’s making her way through Darth Paper Strikes Back, and I didn’t want to hold this review off because of her. I do plan on passing it off to her, although I don’t think I would have if she were 8.

But I digress. The story itself is simple but engaging--both human and monster kids are enrolled at Scary School, where the teachers are all monsters of varying degrees of terrifying. And in this world, human parents are well aware of the fact that each day at Scary School might be their child’s last. They have to sign a waiver, you see.

And our narrator, eleven-year-old Derek the ghost, is entertaining to listen to, with his promises of “more about that later” and his insider knowledge of the school. It really is a shame that he perished in that chemistry incident--and I do hope that he’ll be able to make his presence known in future books.

That’s right, Scary School is the first of a series, with more books promised each year. I can see myself continuing to read this series, and recommending it to reluctant readers. While there is, as I mentioned, tons of death in this book, it’s all done tongue in cheek. The characters are fun and there are lessons to be learned (some, like Rule #5, might not make much sense, but still.). Besides, the dead are hardly ever really dead at Scary School.
Review copy provided by the author.
Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

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The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
Razorbill, November 21, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:
It's 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They've been best friends almost as long - at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh's family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they're automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn't been invented yet. And they're looking at themselves fifteen years in the future. By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they're forced to confront what they're doing right - and wrong - in the present.
LOVED this book! I loved  it! While the premise is so unbelievable--really, time travel through a free AOL CD?--Jay and Carolyn make the story so fun that it doesn't even matter. I mean, if you were given a time portal to glimpse into the future, you'd totally do it, right? I would! And if you didn't like what you saw in your future, might you to try to change that future? I so would. But, changing one thing about your future alters everything else--do you see what kind of dilemma Josh  and Emma face?

The story is told in alternating viewpoints through Josh (written by Jay) and Emma (Carolyn). There are plenty of references to 1996, which is really fun for those of us that remember 1996, but the references aren't off-putting to 2011 readers. Well, maybe the whole AOL-on-a-CD-thing might be kind of weird, but...Anyway. 1996 Emma and Josh are given glimpses into 2011 trends, too, like Glee, Netflix and Harry Potter

Josh and Emma are both incredible characters. They're both just so...normal. They're nice kids who have good friends, who look out for each other, and who are strong enough to look past some prior uncomfortable situations to continue their lifelong friendship. I--while I do love reading about the screwballs--usually, the screwier, the better!--it's nice to see well-rounded characters like these two.

Oh! Another thing I loved about this story was that there are scenes that take place in a library! With a librarian who is actually nice! And helpful! Yay for libraries! A final,  interesting tidbit I noticed is that each of the author bios on the back flap have links to the author's Twitter pages, but not their Facebook pages. I wonder what 1996 Emma and Josh would think of Twitter?

Borrowed book from the library!
Enjoy your reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2012 Standalone Reading Challenge

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Red Button

I'm already committed to three challenges for 2012 (Debut Author, Sophomore, and TBR), but this one sounds like fun, too, and as long as crossover titles are allowed, I think I'll be good. For this challenge I have to read 15 standalone titles--not sequels--that are released in 2012. Hafsah from IceyBooks and Britta from I Like These Books are hosting this challenge.

My list might change, but right now I'm selecting these 15:
  1. Fracture by Megan Mirand
  2. Cracked by K.M. Walton
  3. Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard:
  4. The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
  5. The Story of Us by Deb Caletti
  6. The List by Siobhan Vivian
  7. Touched by Cyn Balog
  8. Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser
  9. In Honor by Jessi Kirby
  10. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  11. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  12. Drowning Instinct by Ilsa Bick
  13. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
  14. In Too Deep by Amanda Grace
  15. Miracle by Elizabeth Scott
Whew! I have a lot of reading to do this year--thankfully, most of these titles were already on my to-read pile for 2012. BUT, I am officially DONE. No more challenges for me--4 might be too many!

What challenges are you participating in for 2012?
Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

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Just want to wish all of my Jewish followers and friends a very happy Hanukkah! Enjoy the first night of lights!

Enjoy your reading!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala

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Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala
HarperTeen, January 3, 2012
Summary from Goodreads:
Joy Delamere is suffocating... 

From asthma, which has nearly claimed her life. From her parents, who will do anything to keep that from happening. From dangerous Asher, who is smothering her from the inside out. 

Joy can take her cruel words until the night they go too far. 

Now, Joy will leave everything behind to find the one who has offered his help, a homeless boy called Creed. She will become someone else. She will learn to survive. She will breathe…if only she can get to Creed before it’s too late. 

Set against the gritty backdrop of Seattle’s streets and a cast of characters with secrets of their own, Holly Cupala’s powerful new novel explores the hurt of bullying, the meaning of family, and how far a girl will go to discover her own strength.

I really enjoyed this book. I felt that Holly Cupala gives us a startlingly realistic glimpse into the lives of homeless teens. It's scary stuff. My town and the immediate vicinity cannot be considered big towns, so we don't have a strong homeless population--or perhaps I should say that if we do have a strong homeless population, it's not as obvious as it's portrayed in this novel. 

Anyway, our narrator, Joy, is suffering from so many issues that you just want to scoop her up and hug her. Joy has asthma, and not the seasonal kind like my daughter--she might develop a cough once or twice a year after a cold and have to take an inhaler twice a day for a couple days. No, Joy's got asthma so severe that she must always carry an inhaler (at least one, I think she usually has more with her). She constantly has to be hyper-aware of the air quality of her surroundings or risk a life-threatening lung infection. As a result of this, her parents are understandably protective.

Here's what I don't get, though. As soon as Joy was diagnosed, her well-being became her older brother's responsibility. Wait, what?  There's a difference between watching out for your kid sister on the playground and being told that it's up to you to make sure she doesn't die. No wonder the poor kid ran off to college--that's a pretty heavy burden for anyone to have to handle.

So you'd think that as soon as Big Bro heads off to college, Joy's parents would 1. ease up on Joy a little bit or 2. step up to the plate and start micromanaging looking out for Joy themselves, right? OK, but here's what they do instead--they pass the Joy baton on to Asher, son of a millionaire and not a nice guy. Hey, parents of children with asthma, here's a tip for you, courtesy of Christi the Teen Librarian! If your asthmatic kid comes home smelling like cigarettes, and you KNOW she's not stupid enough to smoke, that means her boyfriend is smoking. And if her boyfriend is SMOKING AROUND SOMEONE WITH ASTHMA, perhaps he is NOT THE RIGHT PERSON TO ENTRUST WITH THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF YOUR ASTHMATIC DAUGHTER. I'm just sayin'. And forget about the fact that, guess what? Asher is really, to put it mildly, NOT a nice guy. 

So, yeah, this book addresses tons of issues. But Holly Cupala has created a compelling story here. Obvs. if I'm this worked up about the parents of a fictional character, she knows how to create a realistic novel that manages to create hope out of the most desolate conditions. 

Read book through ARC blog tour hosted by Me, My Shelf and I. Thank you, Amber!
Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In My Mailbox (65)

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In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week!

Received from ???? I *think* this might be my Bookworm Santa gift, and he/she did a fantastic job of selecting books for me! One is one of my 2011 faves, and a MAHROAT, to boot, and the other has been on my to-read list forever (and my library doesn't own it). Thank you, thank you!!

Purchased from Fireside Books: 2 signed copies of Across the Universe by Beth Revis in paperback, with some bonus swag!

Now, you might recall that I already own 2 copies of ATU in hardcover. Why, you might ask, do I need 2 MORE signed copies? Well, one is simply signed, and I'm setting it aside as a summer reading prize for my teens (I'm so good to them!). This is why I needed a signed paperback copy for myself:

All the early fans got a mention in the paperback edition! Squee, my first book mention--I'm famous! LOL

ARC received from publisher (thanks, Hachette!): Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

What did you get?
Enjoy your reading!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My shiny new button!

Happy Saturday!

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Look, I have a shiny button! I finally worked up the courage to ask someone to create a button for my blog. Enna over at Squeaky Books came up with this for me, isn't it great? Thanks, Enna! If I ever figure out how else I'd like to personalize my blog, I'll be emailing her for sure.

Feel free to grab my button if you'd like!

Enjoy your reading!

Friday, December 16, 2011

2012 TBR Reading Challenge

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I attempted a similar challenge for 2011. Basically this challenge requires you to read books that have been on your to-be-read pile forever. I, ahem, failed this challenge for 2011. Still, I'm determined to give it another shot this year.

While I learned about this challenge from Evie at Bookish, the challenge is actually being hosted by all of these lovely bloggers: Bookish, All I Ever Read Hands and Home, Book Passion For Life,  WatchYA ReadingMission To ReadBooks, Biscuits & TeaHooked On Books Fans Of Fiction, and Mermaids Vision

I'm shooting for the shortest amount of books--1-10: a firm handshake
  1. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
  2. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  3. Tighter by Adele Griffin
  4. Identical by Ellen Hopkins
  5. Popular by Alissa Grosso
  6. Starstruck by Cyn Balog
  7. Flash Burnout by LK Madigan
I have way more books that I could add, but I don't want to overwhelm myself! 
Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Crossed by Ally Condie

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Crossed by Ally Condie
Dutton Juvenile, November 1, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:
In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.
Um, I have been waiting for this sequel since Matched was released. And when I started reading it...I was completely lost. I had almost NO recollection of Matched at all. I'm not alone, either--a fellow librarian said the same exact thing to me: "I remember loving Matched, but I can't remember anything about it."

So, it's with some trepidation that I admit...that I didn't really enjoy Crossed at all. I felt that there was very little action in this book, and I spent so much time trying to figure out how this book went along with Matched. This entire book revolves around the Rising, which is cool and all, but it's just SO different from the first book. Plus, Cassia started to annoy me. "I love Ky and would cross the earth to be with him. But I need to have Xander, too!' I dunno, as with most love triangles (Twilight), I just don't see why the female is so awesome that she has two guys fighting over her. Not that Xander and Ky are fighting over her, but you get my point. 

So, yeah, I felt there wasn't that much movement in this book--except that I really love Vick as a character (VICK!!)--I really got the sense that Crossed is a space-holder for Book 3. Which of course I will be reading, but I'm hoping it's more of Matched and less of Crossed.

Those of you that loved this book, tell me what I missed!
Borrowed book from the library.
Enjoy your reading!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Perfected by Girls: a Novel by Alfred C. Martino

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Perfected by Girls: a Novel by Alfred C. Martino
Coles Street Publishing, November 1, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:
Navigating high school isn't easy for Melinda Radford. She's the lone girl on the Ashton High wrestling team, grappling with opponents who refuse to compete against her, a few who want to crush her, and a coach who's less-than-pleased having a female in his practice room. At home, Mel s parents forbid her from seeing her new boyfriend, her grandmother insists she start preparing for her future by taking a dreary office internship, and her infuriating older brother, who s the varsity team captain, flirts with her best friend, Jade. Just when it seems things can't get any more complicated, an off-handed comment puts Mel at odds with her teammates, her brother, and, worst of all, her coach. But through a strange twist of tragedy and fate, Mel is given an unexpected opportunity to accomplish something no girl in her school's history has ever done something that just may redeem herself in the eyes of her detractors. But is she strong enough to handle the pressure?
I thoroughly enjoyed Perfected by Girls, even though I have absolutely no knowledge of wrestling at any level. Fortunately, while this story is about a female sophomore who is the first to wrestle on her high school's all-boys team, it's also a story about a female sophomore learning to navigate her life.

It's clear that wrestling is a true interest of the author and he doesn't waste a lot of time explaining the various moves. This was fine with me--I was able to glean what I needed for the story from his writing, and the internet can certainly provide me with a more in-depth education on the subject. Rather, Martino weaves the wrestling elements throughout the other plot lines. And are there other plot lines! Melinda's domineering older brother, her parents, who hold said brother in a much higher regard (there are all sorts of double standards in this book), her teammates, who for the most part act like stereotypical, ignorant boys, Mel's best friend Jade, who, as far as I'm concerned, should NOT be allowed to hold that title. Oh, and let's not forget the hot boy, Stewart, who might really like Mel, but might just be trying to get into her pants. And of course her parents decide on first sight that he's No Good For Melinda. And weird, wealthy Grandma, who holds strong to an image of who she thinks Melinda should be--who cares what Melinda wants? 

Seriously, there's so much going on in this story that to many it might seem like too much. I sort of thought that way, at first. However, as I reflected on the novel for this review, I realized that most teenage girls have way too much going on in their lives, so why should Melinda be any different? 

Melinda is a strong character, which is admirable when you consider that she really doesn't have anyone in her corner (or whatever the wrestling-equivalent-term would be). No one seems to take her wrestling seriously--she's barely tolerated by her teammates, her brother (God, is he a jerk!) mocks her, her parents barely even acknowledge her existence...even "best friend" Jade spends more time ogling Mel's brother than cheering on Mel. It's not until Mel attends an all-girls wrestling clinic that she realizes what support is supposed to look like. That clinic is a turning point for her life, not just her wrestling career.

Although I did truly enjoy this book (and OMG I was brought to tears at one point near the end), I felt the ending was unsettled. Realistic, yes, but I did want more for Melinda. Such is life, I suppose. Overall, Perfected by Girls is an enjoyable novel that I  would recommend for girls in high school and above.

eBook received from author in exchange for an honest review.
Enjoy your reading!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

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The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore
Harper Collins, August 15, 2011

Here's a short review. I was way underwhelmed by this book. You all know that I was practically forced by my teens to read I Am Number Four. It was sort of an interesting story, and said teens promised my\e that Six was sooooo good and actually so much better than Four. I was already invested in the story, so I had no problem placing a hold for it at the library.

I had to literally drag myself through this book. I felt there was too much review of what had happened in the first book (I hate that! Move on with the story already. Do a really brief refresh; if people want to know more, they can read/reread the previous book!). In addition, I felt there was this story. It felt like a filler. Other reviews talk about how suspenseful, compelling, action-packed, etc. the story was, and I just didn't get it. Perhaps because I know it's the early stages of a series and I suspect that the six who are left are going to be around for at least another book.

Told you this was a short review! Look, those of you who loved I Am Number Four have already read The Power of Six, and I'm not going to argue why this book wasn't for me. To each his own, right? If you haven't read I Am Number Four, you have your reasons, and this review shouldn't change your mind. I gave these books a fair shake, and now I'm done. I will rely on my teens, and the reviews of fellow bloggers, to carry me through the rest of the series. Believe me, it's very difficult for me to give up on a series once I've started--I did not come to this decision lightly!

Have there been series you've given up on?
Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In My Mailbox (64)

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In My Mailbox is an Internet meme hosted by The Story Siren to share new books received, purchased, or borrowed.

So here's what I got this week!

Won from a contest over at The Story Siren: a signed copy of Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde (thanks, Kristi!):

Won in a contest over at Alison's Book Marks: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch, iBoy by Kevin Brooks, and Underdogs by Marcus Zusak, and courtesy of This Is Teen/Scholastic (thanks Alison & Scholastic!):

From Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab: Never Enough by Denise Jaden (thanks to Denise herself for providing the link!).

Borrowed from the library:
  • Sweet Treats & Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald (juv fic)
  • Departure Time by Truus Matti (juv fic)
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (audio CD)
What did you get?
Enjoy your reading!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

November in Review

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My worst reading month yet--I only read ten books! I am never going to make my goal of 200 books for the year, I'll just have to accept that, I guess. Sigh. But November was a very busy month for me--I wrapped up my first set of visits to the high school and middle school (I'm returning in December), we took a Disney trip, the stress of Thanksgiving, and gearing up for Christmas.

Not only did I only read ten books, but none of them qualify for my A-Z Reading Challenge, which means that I have to scramble to read K, Q, and Z-titled books in December if I want to complete that challenge. My other challenges are DONE for 2011, yay! Well, I've already admitted defeat on the Off the Shelf Challenge but the others are complete.

This month I also decided which challenges I'd like to participate in for 2012--I'll have those posts up later this month. I'm going to shoot for four next year, we shall see!

In work-related news, I'm going to be a reader for the NJLA Garden State Teen Book Awards and in November I got my list of assigned reading. I have a lot of nonfiction titles to get through, several fiction grades 6-8, and just a few fiction 9-12 (probably because I've already read so many of them!). I can't wait to get involved in the debates over books!

How was your November?
Enjoy your reading!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Movie review: The Muppets

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I don't get to the movies nearly as often as I'd like, and 99.9% of the time I do get to the movies, it's to see something that Best Girl wants to see--although to be fair, I usually want to see the same movies! We were lucky enough to get to the movies twice over Thanksgiving weekend, and I absolutely fell in love with both films.

For a review of Hugo, the first movie we saw, click here.

On Black Friday, instead of fighting the shopping crowds, we decided to head out to see The Muppets. Best Girl and I took my mom, nephew (age 4), and niece (almost 3) to the movies--it was the littles' first movie experience! We grabbed our popcorn and settled in. Again, we were early so we had a nice selection of seats (and it was the 11am showing, as well), but the theater got pretty full by the time the movie started.

First of all I have to admit that I grew up with the Muppets. I have vivid memories of me, my little bro, and my parents setting up a card table in the living room on Saturday nights so we could watch The Muppet Show while we ate dinner (and, strangely enough, I remember eating lobster on a lot of those nights). I had (and still have) a Miss Piggy ornament (dated 1980) on my Christmas tree each year; Little Bro has (of course) Kermit. We were young--I was maybe four or five, and Little Bro was only 3 or 4--but those Saturday nights are some of the happiest memories of my early childhood. (Other happy memories revolve around watching Fraggle Rock on HBO; seems that Jim Henson was an integral part of my childhood happiness!) And of course we loved the movies--The Muppet Movie, the original, is still the best, but The Great Muppet Caper is a lesser-known but still fun favorite. The Muppets Take Manhattan is my least favorite of the original trio, but it did introduce us to the Muppet Babies, which is what Littlest Bro grew up watching.

So obviously I'm attached to the Muppets for sentimental reasons, and I've made every effort to get Best Girl to love them, too. She loves the original movies as much as I do, and actually had just rewatched The Muppet Movie the night before our journey to see the newest film.

If you were a fan of the Muppets growing up, like I was, you will absolutely adore this movie. It's old-school Muppets all the way. You've got the corny jokes, you've got the random celebrity cameos (Mickey Rooney  and Neil Patrick Harris were favorites, as was John Krasinski--especially because both Amy Adams and Rashida Jones, who are both in The Muppets, played John's love interests on The Office. Yeah, my mind works like that.), you've got the singing and the dancing. Amy Adams is one of new favorite actors--she is just so much fun and you can tell that she really loves what she's doing. I'm a little less enamored of Jason Segel--something about him just doesn't sit well with me. But, I totally get that he co-wrote the movie, so, OK. He just seemed a little bit stiff in the role.

Of course Best Girl loved the film, although she wasn't welling up with sentimental tears the whole time, like I was :) It ran a little bit long for Niece (who fell asleep in my lap) and Nephew (who started to get antsy about 20 minutes before the movie ended), but they enjoyed the movie as well as they could. We all loved the Toy Story short at the beginning, too (and yes, I teared up seeing Buzz and Woody again. I am a sniveling mess when it comes to anything remotely sentimental).

I can't wait for The Muppets to come out on DVD, because I know there are tons of little things that I missed during the first viewing. This movie is one that can be loved by children of all ages!

Enjoy your reading (and viewing)!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Lover's Giveaway Hop Winner!

Thanks to all my followers, old and new, who entered my latest giveaway! But alas, there can be only one winner, and that person is...

Rachel B.!

Rachel has chosen an Amazon gift card, which I will get to her very shortly!

If you're not Rachel, please don't despair. I have my 25 Days of Jubilation giveaway right here (the winner gets a $25 Amazon gift card!) and I might have one more giveaway before the end of the year!

Enjoy your reading!

25 Days of Jubilation

Welcome to my stop on the 25 Days of Jubilation! I am so honored to be be a part of this blog event; many thanks to Cyndi, Jacinda, and Yani for organzing this amazing event.

Christmas is a very special time in our house. I'm very big on creating traditions and special memories for my daughter. Decorating the house and tree is an all-day affair, and I can tell you exactly where each and every ornament came from (and yes, some are from my childhood!). When Best Girl was 4 I was able to get her into dance class, and although that only lasted a year, we've had a Mommy-Best Girl day each Christmas season to see a locally-produced version of The Nutcracker since then. Of course we bake cookies--although I will readily admit to not making ALL of the doughs from scratch! Each year we also decorate a gingerbread house, and I always help Best Girl create a homemade gift to give the relatives as a gift "from her"--usually some kind of ornament for the tree.

I also love that the books, movies and music that were so important to me as a child are now so important to my own child, and that we've got many new favorites, as well. Here are a list of just some of them:
  • Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (book and cartoon version, although Best Girl does like the Jim Carrey version)
  • The Year Without a Santa Claus (we love the Heat Miser!)
  • A Christmas Story (love the 24 hour marathon on TBS! "Daddy's gonna kill Ralphie!")
  • The Polar Express (book and movie--is there anything Tom Hanks can't do?)
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation ("Fixed the newel post!")
  • Elf (a relatively new favorite)
  • Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (we recently purchased this for, like $6. I don't know that Best Girl really loves it--and I'm not sure that I do, either, but it does remind me of a happy time in my childhood, so hopefully it will have the same effect for Best Girl!)
  • "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" (we have this in book form, as well!)
  • "Dominick the Donkey"
  • "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
  • The entire John Denver & the Muppets Christmas CD
What are some of your holiday traditions?

And now, for the giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon electronic gift card. This way, you'll be able to treat yourself to something nice that may not have made it under your tree/menorah/kinara/Festivus pole. Simply fill out the Rafflecopter to be entered. You don't have to be a follower, but that will give you an extra entry. Contest closes on Christmas Day and I'll announce the winner shortly after that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Faking Faith by Josie Bloss

Today's the last day to enter my Book Lover's Giveaway--click here!

Faking Faith by Josie Bloss
Flux, November 8, 2011

Summary from Goodreads:

After a humiliating "sexting" incident involving a hot and popular senior, seventeen-year-old Dylan has become a social outcast—harassed, ignored, and estranged from her two best friends.
When Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's fascinated by their old-fashioned conversation themes, like practicing submission to one's future husband. Blogging as Faith, her devout alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the group's queen bee. But growing closer to Abigail (and her intriguing older brother) forces Dylan to choose: keep living a lie or come clean and face the consequences.
This was an enjoyable read. I'm finding that I enjoy reading realistic fiction about religions that are different from what I've experienced before. Dylan is your typical teen girl who makes one mistake and ends up a social pariah. I think this novel touches on the possible implications of sexting, but it doesn't push one agenda over the other, and I felt this was a nice touch. I don't think a girl who willingly sends pictures of herself should be prosecuted in the same way as a man who hunts and downloads illegal pictures of children, you know? But it really is a fine line, and thinking about the ethics of sexting really starts to make my brain hurt, so I'm glad this story didn't revolve around the sexting incident, but Dylan's life after the incident.

I felt that Dylan's trip into the world of Christian homeschooled girls was a natural one. I mean, there are plenty of other worlds she could have been exploring on the internet; this one was relatively tame. I think Josie Bloss did a great job of describing how a non-religious girl gets sucked into this vastly different online world. I was a little concerned at how quickly and seamlessly Abigail accepts "Faith" (Dylan) into her life...she's got parental guidance and all, but it still seemed like it would be really easy for someone who's not-so-nice to worm his way in.

Anyway, the story was quite enjoyable. Abigail's family is way-out-there...I'm all for different strokes for different folks, but I think some basic tenets should be observed--you know, like women are equal, children are children, not slaves--and should be properly educated and allowed to make their own decisions regarding their futures, etc., etc. But still, it's an interesting glimpse into this way different world, and it truly provides a learning experience for Dylan-as-Faith. Fans of contemporary fiction should enjoy this novel.

Borrowed book from the library.
Enjoy your reading!