Friday, March 30, 2012

Blog Tour: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood--“AS AGATHA SWANBURNE ONCE SAID”

I'm so, so excited to bring you a special guest post from author Maryrose Wood today! Maryrose Wood is the author of several teens books but she is also the author of one of my favorite middle grade series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. The third book in the series is just now available so run out in buy it! You will not regret it. However, if you need a bit more encouragement, I have a special guest post from Maryrose Wood and she is talking about one of the pieces of advice the indomitable Agatha Swanburne hands out to all Swanburne girls. So, read on and enjoy!

‘Trust whom you like, but rely on yourself.” — The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 3: The Unseen Guest

Finding a healthy balance between trusting others to meet our needs and taking responsibility for our own fates can be tricky. Many of us seesaw back and forth between extremes: we see ourselves as helpless victims in need of rescue, or else we soldier on bravely without asking for help, even when it’s desperately needed. 

I admire the work of psychotherapist and author David Richo, who points out that the percentage of our needs that we can reasonably expect others to meet changes throughout our lives. As babies we need near constant care, but our independence increases gradually as we grow up. As adults we are expected to be self-sufficient, and many of us also spend a lot of our time and resources caring for others. And the elderly have legitimate and often intense needs for care, due to health issues or the natural change in abilities that comes with increasing age. 

Of course, at any point in our lives our need to rely on others may change drastically and without warning, due to illness, disability, natural (or manmade) disasters, economic misfortune and other circumstances. Richo points out that an awful lot of everyday unhappiness stems from having unrealistic expectations of what we can fairly expect from others and from ourselves. We despair that no one saves us from problems that we fail to accept as our own, or we stress ourselves sick trying to do more than humanly possible while saying “I’m fine, I’m fine!” to anyone who asks. Sometimes we do both before lunch! It’s not easy being human.

Even in the political arena here in the US, there seems to be an unending debate about how we as a nation meet the needs of those who require care: children, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the poor. The subject of “entitlements” (including education and health care) seems to hover perpetually at the center of our national political divide. Yet dependency and independence are not mutually exclusive values, but rather basic realities of human existence—a continuum that we each will have our chance to traverse over the course of a life, as both caregivers and recipients of care. 

When Agatha Swanburne advises, “Trust whom you like, but rely on yourself,” maybe she’s reminding us that part of a healthy self-reliance is our ability to know when we need help, and to decide whom we can trust to provide it. I do sometimes wish that Agatha Swanburne could step in and host a political debate! What do you think she’d have to say about it all?

(Only a few more stops on the Incorrigible blog tour! See you on April 2nd at The Compulsive Reader!.)

Maryrose Wood is the author of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series for middle-grade readers. You can find her online at maryrosewood.com and follow her on Twitter @Maryrose_Wood

Thank you so much Maryrose! Intrigued?? I bet!

Here's a bit more about the book: 
Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, "They must have been raised by wolves."
 
The Incorrigible children actually were.
 
Since returning from London, the three Incorrigible children and their plucky governess, Miss Penelope Lumley, have been exceedingly busy. When Lord Fredrick's long-absent mother arrives with the noted explorer Admiral Faucet, gruesome secrets tumble out of the Ashton family tree. And when the admiral's prized racing ostrich gets loose in the forest, it will take all the Incorrigibles' skills to find her. But once back in the wild, will the children forget about books and poetry and go back to their howling, wolfish ways?

Learn more about the series from the very beginning: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. And don't forget to visit The Compulsive Reader on April 2 for another look at the ruminations of Agatha Swanburne!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Audiobook review: Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire! by Mrs. Bunny (and translated from the rabbit by Polly Horvath) is a book younger middle grade readers will respond too. It has plenty of funny animal antics and a fifth grade girl who befriends the rabbits. However, as an audio version, this book is only so-so. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it but I wasn't greatly impressed either.

Synopsis: In this hilarious chapter book mystery, meet a girl whose parents have been kidnapped by disreputable foxes, and a pair of detectives that also happen to be bunnies! When Madeline gets home from school one afternoon to discover that her parents have gone missing, she sets off to find them. So begins a once-in-a-lifetime adventure involving a cast of quirky and unforgettable characters. There's Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, who drive a smart car, wear fedoras, and hate marmots; the Marmot, who loves garlic bread and is a brilliant translator; and many others. (Goodreads.com)


Unfortunately, this book is a case where the author has chosen to narrate the story and well, that just was not a thoroughly pleasant experience. I can only hope Polly Horvath does not actually speak in any of the voices she used because that would grate on even the best of friends' nerves. The main narrator's voice in this book is incredibly nasally and at some points, hard to understand. There is almost a lisping quality to it that was driving me a bit insane when I first started listening. Fortunately, the voices she uses (with the exception of Mrs.  Bunny) are not quite as annoying. In fact, some are quite funny! Flo and Mildred, Madeline's hippie parents, are given a slow, soft-spoken voice often beset with confusion and consternation. And it works really well. The foxes who kidnap Flo and Mildred are given equally funny voices which just led me to wonder why in the world the main narration voice chosen had to be so darn annoying!

A two hour car ride however forces me to put aside many annoyances and that is the case here. Once I got into the book a bit more, as I started to laugh at Mr. and Mrs. Bunny's antics and to commiserate with Madeline over her odd parents, I started to enjoy the story more. As I've said before, I do have a rather juvenile humor so animals acting immaturely actually works rather well for me. I enjoyed the silliness of the marmot and the bickering of the bunnies. I think younger middle grade readers (second, third grade) will also revel in the animal antics because they aren't "too cool" yet. After all, I'm betting that most of us at one point in our lives wanted to be able to understand what animals are saying, to speak their language.

I do wish I had checked out my library's book simultaneously because I really would have liked to have seen more of Sophie Blackall's illustrations which I am just betting really enhanced the text. I love the cover of the bunnies in their fedoras and I think I'm going to have to seek the book out and page through it a bit. There is something the audio version has that the paper does not and that is fun little side antics as you listen. At the beginning of each CD, you can hear the bunnies muttering to each other before they get back into the narration. It gives readers a quick glimpse into Mr. and Mrs. Bunny's personal lives, as they chat about deserving limos for their narration skills and more.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire! does take a bit of time to get into. Polly Horvath is not my ideal narrator but it was not an awful listening experience either. This is truly a great family friendly listen though and I know I'll be suggesting it to library customers this coming summer.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire! is a 4 CD set, running 4 hours and 20 minutes from Random House/Books on Tape. Borrowed from my local library.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig is a modern adaptation of the infamous Robin Hood. While it doesn't quite have the same impact, overall it's an enjoyable story.

Synopsis: Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones. 


Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected. 


The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan. 


But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most? (Goodreads.com)


I liked that Willa was initially sucked into the Glitterati. It seemed like a very teenage thing, to be so impressed with the money, the fashion, and the attention. Willa has moved around so much that she has never really had the chance to break into the popular group but by somehow almost being hit by a car, Willa becomes one of "them". The people everyone at high school supposedly envies and wants to be part of. We as readers know that is not always true but I felt that Willa's infatuation with this group seemed genuine and well, realistic. Who wouldn't want to be part of the in-crowd if you get that chance?

While I'm glad Willa was so angry with the Glitterati for writing those awful things on the buzz blog, where rumors and pictures go to kill someone's reputation, and while I'm glad she wanted to do something about it, what I couldn't quite accept was that instead of just turning her back on the Glitterati or at least standing up to them, she decides to steal from them to even the score. I know, I know, she is a teenager. They make silly decisions but as a police officer tells her towards the end of the book, two wrongs do not make a right and that is definitely the case here. I'm not sure how she ever truly thought that stealing from the popular crowd and giving to the scholarship students was the best choice and I had a hard time buying into it. Willa is very close with her mother, particularly at the beginning of the book, and I saw no sign that her mother would have ever taught Willa that something like this would be acceptable behavior.

Now, believe me when I say, I know this had to happen for the story to move forward. I know it. It gives the book plot and forward momentum but I cannot say I ever fully bought into this idea as a reader and in all honesty, I think some teen readers will feel the same. But there are going to be plenty of readers who don't give the idea a second thought and just go with it, caught up in the story and that is plenty okay!

That being said, Willa does own up to her activities and I liked that. She knows right from wrong, even if she isn't always using it as a moral compass, and I was pleased that she took charge of what she did and put the blame squarely on herself.

There are several characters of color in this story and at first, they felt a bit stereotypical but I have to say, as the story moved forward, the characters became a bit more fleshed out. In particular, I'm hoping Ludwig brings back Tre in future books because I know there is a lot more to explored about his character than readers had the chance to in this book. There is a scene in the book where he is walking with Willa in his neighborhood and a security cop (not police) pulls them over for "suspicious" behavior and unfortunately it reminded me all too much of the recent death of Trayvon Martin, a murder in cold-blood of an innocent teen boy. Ludwig doesn't go that far in this book but there are definite shades of racial profiling going on. Fortunately, Tre is much more than he first appears (like most people) and I liked seeing him and Willa on the page together.

Amateur detective books for teen girls must be on the rise again because publishers definitely seem to have a lot of them coming out. While this book isn't a mystery in the way Kim Harrington's Clarity series is, or even Gemma Halliday's Deadly Cool, there is some sleuthing going on as Willa is investigating who the mystery man is in her mother's life and the ending, well, it definitely leaves the door open for more (and there will be more judging by the cover copy).


I'm definitely intrigued and ready for another adventure featuring Willa. It will be interesting to see where the story leads given the ending.

Pretty Crooked is available now from Katherine Tegen Books.

Other reviews:
Mundie Moms reviews Pretty Crooked
In Which Ems Reviews Books reviews Pretty Crooked
The Book Scoop reviews Pretty Crooked

Reviewed from library copy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood is the third book in Wood's series and it proves to be another wild romp through howling, mysterious caves, a random ostrich and the danger of hunters. This is a fabulous series for middle grade readers and it keeps getting better.

Synopsis: Of especially naughty children it is sometimes said, "They must have been raised by wolves."

The Incorrigible children actually were.

Since returning from London, the three Incorrigible children and their plucky governess, Miss Penelope Lumley, have been exceedingly busy. When Lord Fredrick's long-absent mother arrives with the noted explorer Admiral Faucet, gruesome secrets tumble out of the Ashton family tree. And when the admiral's prized racing ostrich gets loose in the forest, it will take all the Incorrigibles' skills to find her. But once back in the wild, will the children forget about books and poetry and go back to their howling, wolfish ways? (publisher)


There is something wonderful about this series. Every time I open the book, I love digging into the wisdom of Agatha Swanburne and seeing Penelope put that advice to use when dealing with the Incorrigibles. Those three kids are trying to be more human-like and they are doing a great job. I loved seeing Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia put their new learned wisdom to use and I also continue to love that Penelope lets them be kids. Of course, she does want to see them educated but she also enjoys their silliness and scuffles.

And what scuffles! Be prepared for some very zany antics yet again in this installment. The hunt is indeed on and it's not just the Incorrigibles being hunted. There is an ostrich afoot on the Ashton estate and the Incorrigibles have excitedly embraced the task of helping to find it. Of course, nothing goes quite as planned and Penelope is left scrambling.

Some new secrets and twists are revealed in this book, particularly revolving around characters who have been quite mysterious in the past (I'm thinking of a certain judicial figure). Maryrose Wood has really mastered the art of creating clues with some answers but creating tons of questions on top of them. I have my own theories in regards to the mysteries surrounding the Incorrigibles of course but it's interesting to see how it all plays out. I will say though that sometimes this book dragged a bit. Part of it was I thought this was the conclusion to the series so I kept expected some wrapping up of the story but that is not the case. There are more books to come so if I had known that, perhaps I wouldn't have been a tad frustrated while reading.

My reading experience for this series is highly, highly compromised (in the best way!) by having listened to the first two books on audio (you can read my review of The Mysterious Howling if you're inclined) so as I was actually reading this book, all the voices of Katherine Kellgren stayed in my head, particularly that of the mistress of Ashton Place, Lady Constance. I couldn't get those voices out of my head and it improved my reading experience.

This is one of my favorite book series for middle graders right now and it's partly because Maryrose Wood does such a great job of mixing the mundane in with the mysterious. Penelope and the Incorrigibles are definitely a great team and I knew they would persevere through all their troubles. It is kind of scary just how weird adults are when it comes to the Incorrigibles and all the wacky schemes they have in store for them.

If you enjoyed the first two books in Maryrose Wood's series, you definitely need to read The Unseen Guest. It's worth revisiting the Incorrigibles and you get to see them in their natural habitat.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest is available today so run out and buy it! And be sure to come back to the blog on Friday for a special guest blog from Agatha Swanburne herself! It's not to be missed.

ARC provided by publisher for blog tour.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley pulls at your heartstrings as you experience life through the eyes of three little boys who have it anything but easy. Two are the sons of Thomas Jefferson, also known as Master Jefferson around Monticello, and the third is a little boy growing up not truly understanding that he is a slave until his family is torn apart.


Synopsis: The author of the acclaimed "Ruthie's Gift" offers a fictionalized look at the last 20 years of Thomas Jefferson's life at Monticello through the eyes of three of his slaves, two of whom were his sons by his slave, Sally Hemings. (Goodreads.com)


Life at Monticello seems pretty idyllic. Beverly, his younger brother Maddy, and Maddy's best friend, James, help around the farm, in the big house, and are loved by their families. Unfortunately, this is really just a smokescreen for the truth of Monticello where Thomas Jefferson owns 130 slaves and those slaves include Beverly, Maddy, and James. Beverly only wants to be recognized by "Papa" but though the truth is known far and wide at Monticello, Master Jefferson is just that, Beverly's Master. He longs for the recognition only a father can give his son but it is not that easy. Though Beverly and Maddy are promised their freedom when they turn twenty-one, there is a lot to learn between being young boys and growing into young men.

On the one hand, these boys are just little boys. They enjoy fishing, helping around the house, annoying their siblings, and finding unexpected mischief. But there is an undercurrent of sadness in their story, an undercurrent of honesty, because they can never truly be little boys. They certainly can't be boys like Master Jefferson's grand-children, growing up in the lap of luxury. Beverly and Maddy are perhaps in a slightly better situation than the other slaves at Monticello but even that creates friction as they don't necessarily face the quite the same uncertain future as their friends.

I was very impressed with the research that Kimberly Brubaker Bradley put into this book. The life of Monticello, its residents from the slaves to Miss Martha, Jefferson's daughter, are chronicled in the day to day actions of a working farm. Fixing up the house, the nailery, the blacksmith. It was truly like stepping back into time and walking the paths of Monticello's residents. The setting, which for me, is an essential element of any story, came alive and enhanced the stories of Beverly, Maddy, Harriet, Sally, and the other slaves of Monticello.

You cannot have a story like this without engaging readers in the story of slavery and of freedom. I thought Bradley did an excellent job of having the characters come to their own conclusions about freedom through conversation, through the actions of other characters, and through the basic understanding of what slavery is. Beverly in particular doesn't quite understand that he isn't free. He wants a father, he loves being on Monticello but Sally, like any mother ever, has hopes and dreams for him and they include getting far, far away from Monticello.

The ending utterly destroyed me. I won't ruin it but the author does not gloss over the reality of slavery in America's past. This is what happened and frankly, from what I can tell, Jefferson had no problem whatsoever owning slaves. There does not seem to be any indication that he thought he was doing something wrong even though he is one of the primary writers of the Declaration of Independence. It speaks to the author's skill at creating multi-faceted characters that I did not totally loath Jefferson. Like everyone, he is human who unfortunately made some very bad mistakes.

This is a great historical fiction story. I will say, it was slow starting up until I got to know the characters a bit more but by the book's end I cared so very deeply for them that I wanted only the best for them but of course, I knew the best is not always what history gives out to even the most deserving of people. Be sure to read the author's note and take a look at the sources listed as they will guide you on your own exploration of Monticello.

Jefferson's Sons is the kind of book that not only reinvigorates my love of history but it does it in the right way, through people and their story, through not just the big names of history but through the people who often become lost amidst history's pages and I think it is through Beverly, Maddy, James, Peter and the other characters in this book that readers are going to become engaged in history. This won't just be another event, this will be actual people who lived and suffered, who found happiness and sadness. Readers will find empathy with these characters and that is a wonderful thing to find in the pages of a book.

Other reviews:
Abby the Librarian reviews Jefferson's Sons
A Fuse #8 Production reviews Jefferson's Sons
That Blog Belongs to Emily Brown reviews Jefferson's Sons

Reviewed from public library book.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Things I Like! (09)

It's Hunger Games time! I'll be seeing the movie today but all week I've been busy listening to the soundtrack. While I cannot say I've loved every song on there, I definitely have a few favorites. I'm really enjoying One Engine by The Decemberists, Take the Heartland by Glen Hansard, and Dark Days by Punch Brothers.

I'm VERY excited to see this movie! I haven't re-read the book because frankly I don't want to spend the entire movie comparing the two in my head which I know I'll do if I had re-read it. I'll re-read it at some point but for now I'm content to just watch the movie adaptation. I hope it lives up to the trailers!

Will you be seeing The Hunger Games this weekend?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The List by Siobhan Vivian

Siobhan Vivian really knows how to nail down the female teen brain: the mind games, the cruelness, the frenemy situation, and the hopes and dreams of girls who are faced with daily peer pressure, daily blasts from the media about whether they are thin enough, and so much more. The List is a look into the mind games females play with each other.

Synopsis: It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn’t matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up. 


This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, “pretty” and “ugly.” And it’s also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two. (Goodreads.com)


There are several different characters in this book and fortunately, for the most part, all the voices are distinct and have their own unique voice. Siobhan Vivian digs into what makes high school both fabulous and totally horrible through the various situations the characters go through. One character goes from being Queen Bee to the person everyone pointedly ignores. A homeschool girl goes from obscurity to total popularity all because of a mysterious List that says she has something special. The fact is, all these girls have something special about them but high school is not the easiest time to discover those talents. In fact, those talents can make you the target of bullies and classmate cruelty.

While this is a fictional story, it rings with the truth of today's high school experiences. That havoc a list, a rumor, an innuendo can create in high school is enormous. It somehow seems even worse when it is girl cutting down another girl. Of course, it's awful when teen boys critique and criticize girls bodies but the sense of competition between girls in this book stands out in particular. As one becomes the new hot thing, someone else tumbles down to the bottom of the high school heap and it is a long and painful fall. You cannot help but feel awful for these girls, even the girls who are suddenly the new "it" girl because it is obvious that status is a mere fifteen minutes of fame.

I love reading Siobhan Vivian's books because she is not afraid to critique and examine what makes high school so difficult for girls. The pressure to be successful and popular is immense. It's not just enough to be smart or pretty because there is always someone trying to take you down. This is not an innocent look at high school. It's not a light and fluffy read. There is a lot of hurtful actions and words in this book but I think it's going to really resonate with high school readers. There is something in each of these characters to identify with and realize that a little bit of you is in this story. Maybe you're the mean girl, maybe you're the queen bee who is about to be brought low, maybe you're trying to rebel against it all and just make it out of high school unscathed. It is not an easy venture by any means. Vivian's writing style is fresh and dynamic and mimics the way teens today think and talk. It doesn't have that fake-teen feel to it but rather, you get the impression that these girls (which are fairly archetypal it should be said) could be found at any school across the world. That is perhaps the most powerful part of this story because no matter that Margo, Danielle, Jennifer and the others are fictional, there are these girls suffering and creating havoc in high school for their fellow female students.

There is a war going on in a lot of ways between high school girls and I truly felt like Siobhan Vivian is giving readers an inside look at it. This is a very timely book given the issues women across the nation are facing as reproductive rights, contraception, and sexuality are being bandied about like they mean nothing when in fact all these things have huge repercussions for today's high school students, male and female alike.

Siobhan Vivian is an intelligent and thoughtful writer and I always come away from her stories feeling empowered. I hope other readers will have similar reading experiences.

The List is available on April 1st from Push/Scholastic. Be sure to head on over to That Cover Girl to read an interview with Siobhan about the cover for The List.

Other reviews:
Bildungsroman reviews The List
YA Lit Ramblings reviews The List
Ladybug Storytime reviews The List

ARC provided by publisher for review.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers

Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers is one of those books that in all honesty, this reader absolutely loathed.

Synopsis: After years of boredom in her rural South Carolina town, Maria is thrilled when her father finally allows her to visit her estranged artist mother in New York City. She’s ready for adventure, and she soon finds herself immersed in a world of rock music and busy streets, where new people and ideas lie around every concrete corner. This is the freedom she’s always longed for—and she pushes for as much as she can get, skipping school to roam the streets, visit fancy museums, and flirt with the cute clerk at a downtown record store.

But just like her beloved New York City, Maria’s life has a darker side. Behind her mother’s carefree existence are shadowy secrets, and Maria must decide just where—and with whom—her loyalty lies. (Goodreads.com)


Talk about a misleading publisher description. For one thing, Maria did not run from South Carolina because of boredom. She ran for a whole other reason that is never fully explained or explored. But let me tell you, boredom is not why she ran. And yes, her father perhaps does finally let her go to New York but he is not exactly thrilled about it. Maria is excited that's true but man oh man is she in for a rude awakening.

The thing I liked best about this book, frankly the only thing I liked, was the descriptions of New York and the music scene in New York in the mid-1990s. It felt like revisiting my childhood and middle school years through Maria who was older than I would have been at the same time period. Meagan Brothers does a great job of setting the scene and New York, the subway, its various boroughs and neighborhoods, come alive throughout the book. 


Everything else in this book was a total mess to me. Maria was contradictory and frustrating as she never really worked out any of her issues. I don't expect everything to be solved and tied with a bow but it didn't seem like she made any progress whatsoever. Her mother is an absolute horror and I cringed every time she was on the page. She is unstable, abusive, a drug addict and so much more. And you know, I realize that mothers like this exist. I know the world isn't perfect but in the context of this book it was annoying and frankly I didn't find anything to like about her. There wasn't even any reason to hope that she could change. and perhaps that is life's truest lesson to be sure, that this cycle of abuse and addiction continues unabated no matter what, but I found it really difficult to have any sympathy for her.


And then there is the Nina, who used to Maria's mom's art patron, but now supplies money to Maria's mom occasionally. I wasn't sure really what role Nina had in the book. She was Maria's teacher at some points and also gave Maria some harsh life lessons but... she wasn't a mom figure, she wasn't even all that nice. She was just...there I guess. I was very confused as why she was even in the story.


All in all, this book went nowhere. The characters were in the same place that they started the book in and honestly, it was so frustrating. I should have stopped reading but I kept hoping I'd get some resolution for Maria but nothing happened. This book, despite the really cool cover and interesting title, was not for me at all. I do believe all books have a reader but this book, well, I'd be hard-pressed to find the right person to give it to.


Supergirl Mixtapes comes out on April 24, 2012, from Henry Holt.


Other reviews:
Auntie Spinelli Reads reviews Supergirl Mixtapes

ARC from Netgalley.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Get out and vote!

Election time has started for the American Library Association. I am running for the 2014 Printz Committee so I hope you will consider voting for me. If you want to learn more about me, please read my candidacy information or check out the interview I did for the YALSA Blog about why I'm running for this committee. I've also got a post today over at Reclusive Bibliophile talking about Printz books I love (and some I don't). I'd love it if you would stop by!

Even if you don't want to vote for me, I still hope you will vote in the elections. ALA has an unfortunate history of low voter turnout and it would be nice if that could be changed, even a little this year. If you're an ALA member you should be getting your ballot information in your email.

Elections run from March 19, 2012-April 27, 2012 so please, take some time in the following month to read through the candidate information and make informed choices (and I hate to say this but PLEASE do not vote YES for rate increases in membership. I say this as a working professional who doesn't make enough to live on sometimes. And okay, that is the end of my little diatribe.)

Author Interview: Jolene Perry, author of Night Sky

I'm excited today to bring you an interview with Jolene B. Perry, author of the new book Night Sky. This book is a departure for Jolene, it's her first book written from a male point of view. Here is more information about Night Sky:

After losing Sarah, the friend he’s loved, to some other guy, Jameson meets Sky. Her Native American roots, fluid movements, and need for brutal honesty become addictive fast. This is good. Jameson needs distraction – his dad leaves for another woman, his mom’s walking around like a zombie, and Sarah’s new boyfriend can’t keep his hands off of her.

As he spends time with Sky and learns about her village, her totems, and her friends with drums - she's way more than distraction. Jameson's falling for her fast.

But Sky’s need for honesty somehow doesn’t extend to her life story – and Jameson just may need more than his new girl to keep him distracted from the disaster of his senior year.


Intrigued? Here's Jolene to talk more about Night Sky!

1. What kind of research did you do to portray a Native American character?
Everyone's asked me this, but honestly, I cheated and used a culture that I grew up around. I'm not Native American, but most of my family lives in the area that Sky was from.

2. How did you try to avoid the ubiquitous love triangle that has popped up in so many YA books?
I don't know that I did totally avoid it. BUT there is never a point where Jameson looks at both girls and thinks that he could have whichever he wants. It is NOT that kind of a love triangle - more of a confusion about different kinds of love, which he figures out pretty quickly.

3. Talk a little about your main character. Jameson seems to be at a crossroads in his life. New girl, losing a friend, and parents not doing so well. How do those events and people change and challenge him?
It was so hard to torture Jameson the way I did. He was such a good guy, and all of the things he faced put him in a position to really mature, even though he was probably already one of the more "grown-up" people at his school.

4. How was writing this book a new experience for you? What challenges did you face throughout the process?
This was my first guy POV. I think the hardest balance was making sure he came across as a nice guy, without making him too much of a wimp. I used my cousins and my husband a lot for this one.

5. What inspires you to write? Where do you discover new ideas?
I get new ideas from EVERYWHERE. My biggest problem is keeping ideas from working their way in so I can concentrate on one project at a time. I got the idea for this book while in the Taco Bell drive-through. I got an idea for another book while brainstorming ideas with a friend for HER book, another idea I got while out running . . . so yeah, everywhere.

6. What makes Night Sky unique? What can readers expect to find within the story that may be different and fresh from other reading experiences?
I love that Jameson is so real. I think the best compliments I've gotten on this book is how real the characters are. It's always fun for me to read a book that's told solely from the guy's POV, so I like that. Sky's culture is a big part of who she is, so those parts were a lot of fun to write. The drum circles, and her totems. Also. There's lots of good kissing ;-O

7. And for something fun, you're trapped on a deserted island with nothing but chocolate and... which three books?
I'm going to sound really lame here, but I'd just want three huge, blank notebooks so I can make my own stories.

Thank you so much for visiting Jolene! I know many people are excited for Night Sky.

For more information about this book, be sure to visit Jolene's blog or find her on Twitter. You can also find out more about Night Sky (like where to buy the book!) at the Tribute Books website.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles

Jo Knowles hits you in the gut with her May 2012 book, See You At Harry's. This is a book that is going to make you cry so be prepared for a story that will leave you heartbroken and in pieces but also that has hope.

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she's not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn't know he's gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there's Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyone's world. He's devoted to Fern, but he's annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn't for Ran, Fern's calm and positive best friend, there'd be nowhere to turn. Ran's mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it's true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same. (Goodreads.com)


Fern is a normal twelve-year-old girl. She feels a bit forgotten in her family, with much of the attention on her younger brother, Charlie, who has three year old cuteness down to a science. And then there is her brother Holden, fourteen, and dealing with his sexuality. Fern's father is busy with his ice cream parlor and Fern, who just wants some affection and acknowledgment from her family, feels a bit lost. She is now in middle school and things are not getting any easier for her. She is dealing with conflicting feelings about her best friend, Ran, and dealing with some bullying at school. Fern is your typical twelve year old and that is what makes this story even more special and sad in so many ways because when tragedy strikes for the family, it is utterly heartbreaking.


I really liked how Jo Knowles deals with tragedy in this book. It will make you cry (I was sobbing like a baby but then books often make me cry) but the author gives you plenty of reasons to feel empathy for theses characters. It is not just the situation but it is the fact that readers will come to care for Fern and Holden and Charlie and the rest of the family. There is no easy way to deal with the emotions that these characters feel because so much of it is from the heart. Grief is such a private and personal experience and even when Fern cannot understand her family's reactions, she knows that what is happening is intensely scary and hard for everyone.


Everything in this book felt so visceral and I think it's because so much of this book is ordinary. Fern and her family are really no one special. They could be your next door neighbor or the family who owns the local business you love to stop in to and visit. They are just a family doing the best they can and thus when hardship strikes, it feels so much more real and personal because this isn't something happening in another country, far away from our emotions, but it is happening in the community, a place where there are friendships, family, memories, and even rivalries. The sense of place in this book is strong partly because Fern's city could be YOUR city, it could be YOUR town that this happens in.


And you feel for Fern because she's just a little girl really. She's growing up sure, but twelve is still so very young, and when something like this happens, well it shakes you to your very core. I don't think I can be unemotional in this review or truly critique it because I really fell for this family, the hardships and their triumphs. Fern, like the character she is named after in Charlotte's Web, is memorable and a true friend. Like anyone else, she isn't always kind and she doesn't always do the right thing but she tries and that counts.


Be prepared to have some kleenex near you when you read See You At Harry's. I think I've made it seem like this totally tragic story but there is redemption and there is hope here. Fern and her family grow and change in this book, for better or for worse, and that is what makes this story stick out to me. It is characters I can relate to and understand. Jo Knowles is never afraid to tackle tough topics and in her first middle grade story, she will leave readers thankful for their families and reflecting on how actions and words can do both harm but also a lot of good. Hand this book to readers who love a good sad story.


See You At Harry's is available on May 8, 2012 from Candlewick.


Other reviews:
Bildungsroman reviews See You at Harry's
Stacked reviews See You at Harry's
Next Best Book reviews See you at Harry's


ARC provided by Netgalley.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Subtle change!

Some happy news today for my domain. After talking with Gail and discovering how easy (and cheap, yay!) it is to register a domain name for my blog, I decided to take the plunge.

You can now access YA Librarian Tales directly by going to yalibrariantales.com. The old blogspot address will redirect you here but feel free to update your links with the change in address.

It's a small thing but a happy thing for this blogger! Now, to work on the layout of the blog. :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Things I Like! (08)

I love, love, LOVE when libraries do awesome things with their websites. Like, really awesome. Well, the Springfield-Greene County Library System in Missouri (where a certain amazing librarian blogger works!) has a fabulous Hunger Games site in celebration of the upcoming movie.


Definitely go visit the site! There is a lot to explore and I think it's so great that this library is really getting into the spirit of such a popular teen book. Well done, Library!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Romance Roundup: March 2012

Not many romance review books for March (though April is going to be a big month!) but I do have two to mention:

Into the Crossfire by Lisa Marie Rice
The Revenge of Lord Eberlin by Julia London

Also, while I didn't review these books, I definitely want to recommend Thea Harrison's newest book Oracle's Moon (SO GOOD!) and Jaci Burton's newest book, Taking a Shot.

Do you have any romance books you've enjoyed lately?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Slide by Jill Hathaway

Slide by Jill Hathaway reminded me of several different books. It has the mystery set in high school scenario of Deadly Cool or Perception and it has the sleep dreaming that is reminiscent (though not the same by any means) of Lisa McMann's Wake series. Unfortunately, Slide left me feeling rather "meh" when all was said and done.

Synopsis: Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting off lately, more distant, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again. (Goodreads.com)



Vee suffers from narcolepsy, so the doctors say. What she really suffers from is sliding. She falls into an unconscious state when she touches an object with a deep imprint on it and "slides" into the owner of that object. It is not a comfortable thing for Vee at all but she doesn't know how to stop it besides trying not to touch or own objects that others could have owned before. But when Vee accidentally slides into the body of a murderer and witnesses the murder of a classmate, she is shocked and scared. Everyone says it is a suicide but Vee knows differently.


Vee is a very conflicted character. She feels very alone because she has no one who believes her about the sliding, least of all her father, an in demand surgeon who is never home. There is no one Vee can turn to and despite being best friends with Rollins, a guy who saved her at one of the worst times of her life, she increasingly feels isolated from him too. The bad thing about Vee is, for me anyway, is that she just doesn't stand out. There wasn't a strong personality behind her to make her come alive for me. She is merely a character who suffers from this odd phenomenon without any characteristics that make her interesting outside of that. She isn't even a great an amateur sleuth like Clare Fern. Vee tries her best and there are plenty of red herrings thrown into the story but as a whole, the story just did not have much spark.


I did like Vee's relationship with her younger sister, Mattie, the best friend to Sophie. The murders unfortunately draws them together but it makes them both confront their feelings regarding their father and their dead mother. Both characters have a lot of suppressed emotion. That being said, there is a plot line that I wish had been better addressed. Vee is almost date-raped and rather than letting the rapist be punished, he continues on at school, hurting girls in other ways. He is truly a despicable character and I feel like, by Vee not taking action, there is some sense of complacency, that the school would not have punished this character or that the law would not have taken Vee's side. It just felt really awful and it soured the story for me.


Slide has a few good points but on the whole I was just not that impressed. It did read very quickly and I think it could be another readalike for teens who are enjoying amateur high school sleuth mysteries but for me, it just did not work very well. The writing is solid but it just doesn't have much spark to take the story onto another level and thus, makes Vee and her story rather forgettable. Of course, what do I know as there is already a second story planned called Impostor, available in March 2013.


Slide is available from on March 27, 2012 from Balzer + Bray.


Other reviews:
The Book Scout reviews Slide
The Overflowing Library reviews Slide
I Swim for Oceans reviews Slide


ARC received from Amazon Vine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Remember how I have been talking about cancer books in YA land? Well, Jesse Andrews has written ANOTHER one. But have no fear, this is probably the least “cancer-like” book of all. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is filled with humor, a great friendship, profanity, and of course, the sadness that comes with knowing someone with cancer. But it is not a doom and gloom story. It is not all sadness and reflection. Instead, it is the sarcastic adventures of two friends who may not have a lot in common but they have plenty of fun when they are around each other.

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Greg has managed to become part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without having any friends, but his life changes when his mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl he once knew in Hebrew school who has leukemia. (Goodreads.com)
The “Me” is one Greg Gaines. A Jewish high school senior with the least Jewish name in the world. He is pretty much an average high school boy. He’s not super popular but he can float amongst groups. In fact, that is kind of his mission in life. He does not have a lot of friends but the friend he has, well, he’s quite the character.

Earl loves swearing, he loves out-grossing Greg, and he loves making movies. These two enjoy the movies that are not exactly typical Hollywood fare. They aren’t blockbusters but instead, the movies that make you think and reflect and laugh though that isn't always one of Greg and Earl's intentions. This is not a book about cancer. It's a story about friends and just getting by in life, in trying to make tough decisions. There is something wonderful about Greg and Earl's friendship that really makes the book shine. For one thing, these two are hilarious together. They act like just about every teenage boy I've ever met. They swear a lot, they make way too many jokes about sex, and they love the violence in some of their favorite movies. They are just funny! I think I laughed on just about every page.

And where does Rachel come in? Well, she's actually fairly periphery in the story though she inspires Earl and Greg in different ways. I liked how Greg basically thinks exactly everything that most people think when they encounter someone with cancer. How they don't know what to say, how they don't know how to act, how they don't want to waste someone's few moments. Greg feels pretty darn ungainly when he deals with Rachel and he feels guilty because of the way he acted towards her in the past. And now, well, she's not doing well. Earl on the other hand tries to please Rachel because he just genuinely wants to make her happy. I loved how he treated her but it wasn't so much because of the cancer it was just because he liked her and wanted to see her laugh.

And then there are the movies! I'll be honest, I probably wouldn't be the best audience for Earl and Greg's movies. I tend to enjoy fairly mainstream movies. BUT I loved reading about how passionate these two were about movies. They educated themselves, they took acting, producing, and directing into their own hands and accomplished great things. I think it sends a really positive message to teen readers and with how easy cameras are to use now and with the ease of Youtube, I think Greg and Earl could be great inspirations.

This book has its sad moments to be sure, believe me. But honestly, this is a really fun reading experience. The text doesn't always read like a straight narrative. Sometimes it is written in script format also. There's something unique about this book that makes it stand out, not only amongst "cancer" books but amongst so many of the YA books on the shelves right now.

And the cover! Take a look at that cover. If that isn't something you wouldn't want on your shelves, well, I wouldn't want to know you. :) Be sure to check out That Cover Girl's interview with Jesse Andrews where the cover gets some great coverage. In fact, it was Capillya who inspired me to pick this book up and I'm so glad I did.

If you're in a reading slump or perhaps you're just looking for a contemporary book with a different feel to it, try Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. And let me know what you think!

Other reviews:
Baffled Books reviews Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Reclusive Bibliophile reviews Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is available now.

ARC reviewed from Netgalley.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick


My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick is a book I have been highly anticipating in 2012. I’m not exactly sure why as the description is not anything particularly special and as far as I can tell, Dial has not been heavily promoting the title but nonetheless, it is a book I’ve been looking forward to reading. Point blank, this is just a book I very much enjoyed.

Synopsis: The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them… until one summer evening Jase Garrett climbs her trellis and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love and stumble through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first romance, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own - even as she keeps him a secret from her disapproving mother and critical best friend. Then the unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? (Goodreads.com)

The Garrett family is kind of like the Pike family of the Baby-Sitter’s Club or perhaps a more modern equivalent, the Duggars. They are a big family and that means that the yard is not always tidy and that yep, there’s some plastic toys sitting around waiting to be picked up. Samantha Reed has lived next door the Garretts her entire life and has enjoyed spying on them from her bedroom roof. She loves the glimpses into their chaotic but seemingly very loving family. They aren’t perfect but from across the way, they look a lot more appealing than Samantha’s mom, the senator who wants everything in the house perfect and is not afraid to criticize her daughter and her choices.

When Jase Garrett unexpectedly starts talking to Samantha, she doesn’t know what to make of it but before she knows it, they are falling for each other. I LOVED seeing these two fall in love. It was not insta-love by any means. It wasn’t necessarily slow but Samantha also didn’t recognize him as HER SOULMATE FOREVER AND EVER! They hung out, spent time with his family, got to know each other a bit. It was a much more natural progression to a relationship and I believed it wholeheartedly.

There is some drama in this book, particularly around Samantha and her mother. Their relationship is not very good and I think the author was trying hard to show different angles to Sam’s mom but honestly, she came off as really rather vile to me, especially considering some of the actions in the book. So much of her was political that I had a hard time buying into her caring one iota for her daughters. And well, there is something very abhorrent about mom and it keeps my opinion of Samantha’s mother very low.

Samantha is a character I really just plain and simple liked and connected with. She is intelligent but yet really questions a lot about her life, particularly her relationships. She has had boyfriends before but Jase is in a whole new category and she does not quite know what that means for her. And you know what else? There is sex. And it’s responsible sex, thoughtful sex that takes place between two teens who clearly care for each other. This book is not going to be for every reader but I thought that Huntley Fitzpatrick took the time to show sex and this couple’s burgeoning sexuality as a complicated thing, not something to just gloss over and just “do it”.

And then there is Tim. Oh Tim, like another Tim (Riggins, that is!) I fell hard for you. Perhaps your drug and alcohol abuse problems were solved rather quickly and without any outside assistance but man oh man, I loved you. You were a jerk but then you started becoming a great guy and a good friend once again to Samantha. Your character arc was not always realistic but I nonetheless really responded to you as a character.

There are problems in this book. It is not a perfect story by any means. The characters tend to take on one trait: the bad guy, the schmoozing charmer, the boy next door, but when it’s all said and done, I did not mind in the slightest because I had such a good time reading this book. I connected to Samantha and the Garrett family and was sad to see the story end. This book had the feel of a contemporary romance to me (adult contemporary romance) and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was because the characters were on the higher end of the teen years and were in fact rather mature.

All I can say is that this is a book I can see myself re-reading. Fitzpatrick has a distinctive voice and pulls you into the narrative, making you care greatly for Samantha and Jase and the troubles that follow. It’s a lengthy story but it has a very swift pace that moves that story along and sweeps the reader up into this tentative but engrossing teen romance.

My Life Next Door comes out on June 14, 2012 from Dial Books.

Other reviews:
Beneath the Cover reviews My Life Next Door

ARC provided by Around the World Tours.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Picture Book Saturday! (04)

Here are two picture books I've used very successfully recently in my Mother Goose Story Time (geared for birth-24 months).

Time to Say Bye-Bye by Maryann Cocca-Leffler is great with babies because it shows them doing all the activities they love. Playing on the swings, visiting grandma, playing with blocks, even playing with ducky in the tub. Babies can relate to these activities and make for great conversations during story time. This book also works on saying good-bye which most of my kids know how to say and we all took the time to wave "bye-bye" as the activities were ending. I really liked the illustrations in this book too. They are very cutesy but it worked well. Also, I liked that the author included babies of color in the book. This is a book where every child is having fun. It was a very successful book with my Mother Goosers.


I Kissed the Baby! by Mary Murphy was another book I used recently after seeing Melissa of Mel's Desk fame mention it. It has a great repetition to it and babies love to kiss things. I brought in a Beanie Baby duck I had (why I still have it I have no idea) but at the end I let them come up and kiss the baby and touch the duck. Again, very soft things make for happy babies. I also created a black and white shape flannel to go along with the illustrations which are are very stark but show great outlines of the animals, allowing young children to get to know the duck and miscellany. It was a fun story time!

Picture Book Saturday is a great feature from A Patchwork of Books so I highly suggest heading over to Amanda's blog to see what she is posting about.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Things I Like! (07)

My new immersion blender!

I'm in love with this thing! I know it's not at all book (or TV related, which as far as you blog readers know, are my two big interests) but I also have a love of food. But this year I've really been trying to make healthier eating decisions, making more homemade meals and in general trying to cut out all the crud that comes with processed food.

I bought an immersion blender last week and immediately had to try this recipe from Annie's Eats: Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus. I love, love, LOVE hummus but I love that it's so easy to make at home. I don't have a food processor but my new immersion blender worked just fine in making it and it turned out yummy. So much more amazing than any store bought hummus you'll ever eat. This weekend I'm going to make a smoothie (or THREE, lol) and I'm trying to find a good soup I want to make.

(It's kind of hard to be excited about soup in March but I'm going to give it my all.)

So, there's a peek inside my personal kitchen. My immersion blender is easy to use, stores well, CLEANS well (even better) and is helping me cut out some of the gross products so many foods contain. Win/win all around!

Do you have a great recipe you'd like to share that may work with an immersion blender? Please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: Taking Off by Jenny Moss

Taking Off by Jenny Moss is the story of a girl who has bigger dreams for herself than her boyfriend or her mom give her credit for. But, how to accomplish those dreams is the bigger challenge.

Synopsis: Reimagining the days surrounding this unforgettable event in history, readers are brought back to 1986 as the astronauts prepare for the Challenger mission, and Christa McAullife trains to be the first teacher in space. When a teen named Annie meets Christa, she is fascinated by Christa's courage. Truly inspired, Annie is determined to make it to Florida to see the Challenger launch, a trip that will forever change how she thinks about herself and her secret desire for her own future. Although she is devastated when tragedy strikes, Annie honors Christa by following her own dream, despite the obstacles. Bringing in her experience as a NASA engineer, Jenny Moss weaves a moving story that recaptures the inspiration teens must have felt years ago as they watched Christa McAuliffe reach for the sky. (Goodreads.com)


The best part of this book is watching the main character, Annie, grow and change and decide that SHE wants more for herself than everyone else is predicting. Annie loves poetry which is as just about everyone knows, not exactly rolling in the career opportunities. When she meets teacher Christa McAullife, Annie is awestruck and inspired. She wants to accomplish her goals and change herself, just like Christa, the first teacher to be going into space. I really liked how Annie started seeing Christa as a mentor and guide. I don't think the idea of mentors plays out nearly enough in teen books (without being obvious) but yet I think it's highly important for teens to have mentors they can admire and talk with.


I'm a big fan of road trips so I was excited to see that there is a road trip storyline in this book. Annie, her father, and Tommy, a friend of her father's and a guy Annie is crushing on hard. He inspires her to look deeper at her poetry and to keep trying, not giving up on herself. It was a bit disheartening to see his opinion being taken so seriously as I wished Annie could have found the strength to persevere without seeming to get "permission" from a guy she liked but that being said, he was a champion for her and we all need champions sometimes.


I was only a very small child when Challenger exploded so I really have no recollection of the event but as soon as I finished this book, I went on YouTube to see it myself (though I'm sure I've seen the footage at some point). It was just as scary and terrible as it was twenty-six years ago. I felt more connected to the event after reading Taking Off and connecting with Annie and the fictional Christa. Jenny Moss did her research and it shows throughout the book as I truly felt I got a glimpse of the amazing woman Christa McAuliffe was and why she inspired so many people. There is a bibliography included so readers can see what kind of research the author did in writing this book based around the real life event. 


I truly felt like I was there for the shuttle launch, like through Annie's eyes, I had my own glimpse into the disappointment of failed launch after failed launch and then the horror of seeing the shuttle explode. I do feel like that just as Christa inspired Annie, so too did the horrors of the Challenger explosion. While this book had a bit of a "leave each day like it's your last" feel to it towards the end, I still found it to be a good message of challenging yourself and to go beyond anyone's expectations. This book is message heavy but it didn't feel that way when I was reading it. Instead, like Annie, I felt inspired to test my own boundaries.


Other reviews:
Bookish Blather reviews Taking Off
The Book Swarm reviews Taking Off
Everyday Reading reviews Taking Off

Copy borrowed from my local library.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mini reviews!

Here are two books I recently read that, while I don't have enough to say for a full review, I believe there are great qualities to these books that will work for certain readers.

Love? Maybe by Heather Hepler This is an author who has the "clean read" down pat. Love? Maybe is a sweet story that takes place around Valentine's Day and centers on romance but it is the kind of book you can hand to a seventh or eighth grader (and older of course!) and not worry because there is no sex, there is no kissing, there is no swearing. This is a very gentle read but it isn't short on emotional heft as the main character, Piper, has to deal with the disappointment she has felt about love her entire life when so many men in her life have let her down. Adding a touch of playfulness are Piper's two best friends who have "The Plan" to fix her up before Valentine's Day so she can understand what all the fuss is about. What resonated with me by the book's end is that Piper does have a deeper understanding of love but she did not need a boyfriend or even a father figure to get her to that point. The strong friendships she has in her life lead her there naturally. Not the most dynamic read but it truly is perfect for those parents or even teens looking for romance without having to worry about the issue of sex.


The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister by Kami Kinard. This is another very "clean" romance read for young girls, particularly sixth through eighth graders. The cover is very juvenile but that isn't bad considering that this is a story appropriate for younger readers. Kara is determined to find a boyfriend this year and she thinks creating a science project around it, with a hypothesis and test subjects, the whole shebang, will get her there. Of course she doesn't count on the unpredictability of boys (particularly immature seventh grade boys). This book is laden with juvenile humor that girls are going to enjoy in spades. It really hypes up the feeling middle school girls have of "OMG I NEED A BOYFRIEND! ALL MY FRIENDS HAVE ONE! I HAVE NEVER HAD A BOYFRIEND" to the extreme which definitely gives the story a lot of drama but which also makes it really readable. Girls can count on a fun story in The Boy Project though of course, all boys are going to be turned off by that cover. While I feel this book does perpetuate to an extent that all girls need a boy to be happy and fulfilled, it fortunately ends with a more positive message than that and that was its saving grace for me. Hand this book to girls who love drama, who are always talking about boys, and who just want a little light, fun reading.

Both  books borrowed from my local public library.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Review: Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo

Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo had me laughing, a lot, but it is also a great reminder that obsessive-compulsive disorder is a very real thing and it is way more distressing than just having to double check you turned the coffee machine off.

Synopsis: Realizing that his OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is out of control, 17-year-old Chuck Taylor, who wants to win back his best friend and impress a new girl at school, tries to break some hardcore habits, face his demons--and get messy. (Goodreads.com)

I really liked Chuck Taylor. His voice rang really true to the teen experience, that awkwardness of liking a new girl, of trying to connect with classmates and of realizing that you cannot always stay on the sidelines. Chuck is not just like any high school boy, he has a debilitating case of obsessive compulsive disorder that controls his life from his wardrobe to how much time he spends in front of his locker to so much more. This is not, as Chuck points out in the book, a thing where "everyone has a little OCD." This is the real thing and it affects his very world: his social interactions in school, going on the senior class trip, and graduation. As much as this book is funny, because it is (Chuck keeps a certain list only a boy would keep) it is also distressing because there are so many things he cannot do because of the OCD.

This is not a book about OCD though, at least not to me. This is about Chuck and how he decides to try to break the cycle. He's losing his best friend but at the same time, he has an immense crush on the new girl at school and wonder of wonders, she is talking to him! This is story about a boy going through all those requisite high school experiences but battling his own personal demons at the same time.


This book shines because the voice is fresh and authentic. Chuck is a great character to spend time with and I cannot wait to suggest this book to some of my older male readers. Be warned: there is a lot of talk of masturbation. This is a totally normal human experience, particularly for teen males so it didn't feel gratuitous or random to me but who knows how parents will be, there are some things that parents don't always want to face when it comes to their teenagers. I only mention this though because it could be a bit more of a sensitive matter in an eighth grade or lower setting. There is also a fair amount of swearing.

There is a scene in this book that I won't give away but it really combines what makes this book so special: it is simultaneously hilarious but so freaking heart wrenching because of the distress Chuck is feeling. My heart really broke for him but it proved to be a great turning point for Chuck. Of course, it's not perfect and he is prone to setbacks which again, felt very authentic in terms of the illness he is suffering from. There is a very healthy discussion of mental illness in this book and I appreciated that Karo took the time to include Chuck trying various treatments to find what worked for him.


Another great thing about this book is the fact that it reads so quickly! This book has great reluctant reader appeal with short chapters (headlined by tallies which have meaning in the story, lol). The short chapters make you feel you've read a great portion of the story in a short time and I think readers will appreciate how quickly the story flows.


I'm not all that fond of the cover honestly, even though I do love a good pair of Chucks myself and even though they are very central to the story. I think it's the orange/yellow lines, just too much for me. But fortunately this is definitely a case where you should not judge a book by its cover because this book has high appeal for readers: humor, an authentic teen voice, and a character readers are going to support and cheer on as the story continues. 


Lexapros and Cons comes out on April 10, 2012 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


ARC provided by publisher for review.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Things I Like! (06)

So, as you may know (since you know, I talk about it a lot!), I kind of love TV. Right now, my obsession is with the ABC show Happy Endings! It hasn't gotten the best ratings but it has a fabulous cast that has great charisma together.

My favorite character is pictured, one Penny Hartz, who is dorky fun all the time!

When I get into a show, I tend to glom onto it and watch it over and over and yep, here I am doing that! The first part of season one needs a bit of work but it has become a lot better since then. I hope it gets a third season! Unfortunately, the ratings are really low but hey, I'm holding out hope.





And here's a little clip to get you interested!



What TV shows do you happen to glom onto? Do you have a favorite character that always makes you laugh? Please share because you know I need more TV in my life. :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Month in review: February 2012

Here's what I read in February 2012:

26. Rivals by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur (2/3/12)
27. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard (2/6/12)
28. Perception by Kim Harrington (2/7/12)
29. About that Night by Julie James (2/9/12)
30. Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo (2/10/12)
31. Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins (2/11/12)
32. Fetching by Kiera Stewart (2/14/12)
33. Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti (2/15/12)
34. There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones (2/18/12)
35. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2/20/12) (Audio)
36. Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson (2/21/12)**
37. The Revenge of Lord Eberlin by Julia London (2/23/12)
38. Love? Maybe by Heather Hepler (2/24/12)
39. The Boy Project: Notes and Observations of Kara McAllister (2/25/12)
40. Taking Off by Jenny Moss (2/25/12)
41. Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic (2/26/12)
42. Into the Cross Fire by Lisa Marie Rice (2/29/12)

Total books read: 17
Favorite book read: About That Night by Julie James and Perception by Kim Harrington
Most disappointing book read: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

In February 2011, I read fifteen books, so I'm slightly up. All in all, it was a good reading month for me!

What was your favorite book that you read in February 2012?

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