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Showing posts from June, 2012

My Favorites of 2012 So Far....

2012 is shaping up to be one of the best years for reading ever. I have read so many amazing books  and fallen in love with so many wonderful characters. And it's only half done. Doing the end of the year Top 10 is going to be SO HARD. Fortunately, for the mid-year round up I don't confine myself to just 10 books.

Titles linked to my reviews and listed in the order in which I read them:
Winterling by Sarah Prineas
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Swift by R.J. Anderson
Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse*
Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
The One and Only Ivanby Katherine Applegate
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Wonder by R.J. Palachio
The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
Crow by Barbara Wright
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein*
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (releases 7/10; my review will post 7/3)
Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
The Drowned Vault by N.D. Wilson* (releases…

Dogsbody

The newly re-released Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones was one of the books I bought with my birthday giftcards. I didn't even bother to learn what it was about. It was written by Diana Wynne Jones and that was enough for me, even if it was going to be about some hapless person trapped in a dog's body (my assumption-not what it's actually about).

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The Dog Star, Sirius, is tried - and found guilty - by his heavenly peers for a murder he did not commit. His sentence: to live on the planet Earth until he can carry out a seemingly impossible mission - the recovery of a deadly weapon known as the Zoi. The first lesson Sirius learns in his lowly earthly form is that humans have all the power. The second is that even though his young mistress loves him, she can't protect either of them. The third - and worst - is that someone out there will do anything to keep Sirius from finding the Zoi. Even if it means destroying Earth itself.

Diana Wynne Jones…

If I Stay AND Where She Went

Yes, it has taken me a ridiculously long time to get around to reading these books. I have a reason though. My family being in a devastating car crash leaving one of my kids on their own is one of those things that while I don't go in constant fear of it does haunt every road trip we take.  I knew coming at If I Stay from a mother's perspective was going to not be entirely pleasant. And it wasn't.  It is a really good book. I read both If I Stay and Where She Wentin the same day and, let me tell you these books make you FEEL. I went through so many emotions. Gayle Forman can write for sure.

If I Stay Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of famil…

The Diamond in the Window

The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton was a book I had never even heard of until it made the Fuse 8 Top 100 Poll. I in no way feel obligated to read every book on the list that I haven't. The synopsis for this one intrigued me enough to see if my library was still circulating a copy. And they were. Yay for my library!

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Eddy and Eleanor Hall have always known that their family was a bit out of the ordinary. After all, they live in one of the most remarkable houses in all of Concord. But they never guessed just how extraordinary their house really is, or what tremendous secrets about their family's past it holds. That is, until they discover the magical attic room with its beautiful stained-glass window, abandoned toys, and two perfectly made-up, empty beds that seem to be waiting perhaps for two children just like themselves....

This book has several elements I enjoy when reading. Siblings on a quest, an old house to explore, secrets to uncov…

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Every now and then I want to read a light contemporary read with a bit of romance. These are not go to books for me, just something I read to cleanse the palate. I often find myself disappointed when I read them, they never quite live up to what I want them to do. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sightby Jennifer E. Smith was an exception. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe…

The Dark is Rising

I had one major reading goal this year and that was to read The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. I never had. I know. It was this huge blight on my record. It is there no longer I have now read all five books. In one day. It was an interesting, but slightly disappointing experience. Yes. I said it. I was disappointed. Only slightly though. For the most part I enjoyed it. Especially books 2 and 4.

As I began reading book one I was delighted. I love a good sibling story and this was most definitely a good sibling story. Over Sea, Under Stone follows the adventures of the three Drew children Simon, Jane, and Barney during their summer holiday in Cornwall. They are staying an old house with their mysterious "great uncle". They find an old map while exploring the house that leads to an artifact from the days of King Arthur, but there are forces at work that want the artifact for their own nefarious purposes.  Exploring old houses. Mysterious relations. Treasure hunts. Sibl…

My Favorite Chapter Books

As we are coming toward the end of SLJ's Top 100 Children's Chapter Book Poll over at Fuse 8 I give you the 10 books I submitted. Again, they are not in the order I put them in. I bet you can all guess what went in my #1 slot.


You can see more of my favorites by viewing this Pinterest board.
And feel free to share your own favorites in the comments.

20-11 SLJ"s 100 Children's Novels

We are getting oh so close to the end now. As usual I have linked to Fuse 8's original posts.
20. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Of all the dog books out there this is my favorite. I did find the quirky factor to be a little over the top in spots, but it does not detract from the excellence of the book at all. I couldn't keep this on the shelf in my classroom. It was always being read.

19. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Hmmm. I am surprised this one is higher than Little House on the Prairie. I always found this one to be slow and kind of boring. It is the first in the series so that may explain it.

18. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
The Chronicles of Prydain is one of my favorite series. Again I'm surprised this is the volume in the top 20, but again it is the beginning so it makes sense. (I just love The Black Cauldron and The Castle of Llyr SO MUCH. And The High King. AND...I just really love this series. But this is definitely my l…

The Swan Kingdom

I read and reviewed Zoe Marriott's Shadows on the Moonearlier this year (my review) and decided to track down some of her other novels. I started with The Swan Kingdom, a retelling of "The Wild Swans", because I like fairy tale retellings.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When Alexandra’s mother is slain by an unnatural beast, shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom. Too soon the widowed king is entranced by a cunning stranger — and in one chilling moment Alexandra’s beloved brothers disappear, and she is banished to a barren land. Rich in visual detail, sparked by a formidable evil, and sweetened with familial and romantic love, here is the tale of a girl who discovers powerful healing gifts — and the courage to use them to save her ailing kingdom.

The story is basically a longer version of the original giving a more detailed accounting between the time the brothers are turned to swans and Alexandra sets them free. Marriott does end her own little spin on the end to how …

Cold Cereal

Cold Cerealis my first Adam Rex book. I have read lots of books he's illustrated, but none he's written.  I always enjoy reading his stuff online I just hadn't read one of his hooks yet, but Cold Cereal  seemed a good place to start. It looked like the sort of book I would have no trouble getting my 4th-6th grade boys to read. I wasn't disappointed.

Synopsis (from Goodreads although it doesn't do it justice-on the book flap this is done in the form of nutrition information on a cereal box):
Cold Cereal Facts Serving size 1 chapter Number of servings 40
Primary human characters 3
Scottish Play Doe, aka Scott possible changeling Erno Utz genius Emily Utz supergenius 

Magical creatures at least 3
Mick Leprechaun (or Clurichaun)
Harvey Pooka (rabbit-man)
Biggs indeterminate origin (hairy, large)
Evil organizations 1
Goodco Cereal CompanyPurveyor of breakfast foods aspiring to world domination 

Adventure 75%
Diabolical Schemes 40%
Danger 57%
Legend 20%
Magic 68%
Humor 93%
Puzzles 35%
My…

The Princess Curse

The Princess Curseby Merrie  Haskell is a retelling of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". Yes. Another one.  I have officially lost count of how many this makes. This one is a bit different though because it doesn't just stick to that tale.

Synopsis (from Author's Website):
Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling—and downright silly—curse. Ridiculous though the curse may be, whoever breaks it will win a handsome reward.
Sharp-witted Reveka, an herbalist’s apprentice, has little use for princesses, with their snooty attitudes and impractical clothing. She does, however, have use for the reward money that could buy her a position as a master herbalist.
But curses don’t like to be broken, and Reveka’s efforts lead her to deeper mysteries. As she struggles to understand the curse, she meets a shadowy stranger (as charming as he is unsettling) and discovers a blighted land in desperate need of healing. Soon the irreverent apprentice is faced with a daunting choice—wi…

Earwig and the Witch

Reading Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones was such a bittersweet experience as it was the last book Jones wrote before she died and so obviously the beginning of what would have been an absolutely delightful series.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Got the other twelve witches all chasing me. I'll be back for her when I've shook them off. It may take years. Her name is Earwig.
Earwig has been at the orphanage ever since she was a baby. That's just how she likes it. She has her best friend, Custard, and everyone always does exactly what Earwig wants. She never wants to leave, so she makes sure no one ever picks her.
Then a very strange couple comes to the orphanage. They try to make themselves look ordinary. But Earwig knows they are not, not in the least. And they choose her, out of all the other children.
Earwig could be in for quite an unpleasant surprise. But so could the very strange couple.

This book is for a younger audience than I usually review books for.…

30-21 of SLJ's 100 Children's Novels

I'm getting behind!!! It is because VBS started at our church yesterday and for some reason 4 hours doing that exhausts me more than teaching all day. Anyway, here are the next 10. We are getting down to the end now and I'm interested to see what is in the top 20. In the meantime we have these. As always they are linked to the original Fuse 8 posts.

30. Matilda by Roald Dahl
I don't love this book. I don't have major issues with it like I do some of Dahl's books. I can take it or leave it.

29. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
Oh yes. This is a wonderful book about family and friendship and childhood wrapped up in purely awesome storytelling. I have read it at least 5 times. One of those times was aloud to my daughter who also loved it. One of those times was while teaching it to a group of 4th-6th graders, most of whom also loved it. Yes, even the boys.

28. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman 
I haven't read this one yet. I keep meaning to really. I just hav…

Criss Cross

Criss Crossby Lynne Rae Perkins is a Newbery winner of the past decade that for whatever reason I hadn't read yet. I thought it was about time to change that. I can see why the committee liked it.

Synopsis (from author's website):
The people in this book are fourteen years old, and there is romance, but it’s mostly the kind of romance where one person looks at another person and that person looks at the first person, but their looks miss each other, maybe only by a second, and they don’t connect. There is a a scene in the Hitchcock movie Strangers on a Train where the wacko guy does this with his hands and says, “Criss Cross.” He’s talking about something else (murder) but I’m talking about those just-missed opportunities to connect. This might sound discouraging, but I think it’s actually encouraging to know that we came pretty close, and if we keep trying, we’ll get it right.

In the beginning I really thought I was going to love this book. It has the sort of language …

Summer Book Challenges

To me summer has always meant reading as much as possible. And reading whatever I feel like I'm in the mood for at the moment. No obligations. Well, except for the looming library due dates. Reading becomes my top priority. Right after making sure my kids are safe and fed. This is why I love the different summer reading challenges that pop up.
First off, next weekend (June 8-11) is Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. (Click through for detailed information.) Unfortunately I will be unable to participate in this one this year. My sister and her family are in town that weekend and while I could stay up all night reading I don't think anyone would appreciate the results. I had plans for the 48 Hour Book Challenge this year though. I had been making them for months and part of them was reading The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. Because I never have. (I know.) Unable to let go of that lofty goal I am doing an unofficial personal challenge this weekend. Also there …