Thursday, June 30, 2011

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

Like most people in the United States, Maddie lives a very ordered, organized life. She attends Digital School from the comfort and safety of her own home. She exercises on a running machine. When she needs to go out, she takes a ZipShuttle exactly where she needs to go. But her life might be a bit different than other peoples' lives, because her father is the creator of the Digital School. As Maddie struggles to make sense of her world and her father, she meets Justin, a mysterious young man who is determined to challenge the Digital School and all it stands for. Maddie's been awakened to a very different way of life...but what does it mean for her?

(Spoilers ahead).

I started reading this book on my Kobo eReader, but that was just too much for me (part of the set-up of Maddie's world is that all stories are on screens and paper books are incredibly rare). One thing that I really appreciated about this book was that Maddie was already rebellious before she met Justin. He helped her to understand some of what was going on, and he certainly, ahem, awakened things in her that she had tried to stamp out, but he wasn't responsible for 100% of Maddie's change. I also liked that in the end, Maddie had the chance to get back some of a regular life; she wasn't trading her father's world for Justin's world and she still had the chance to find herself while being in contact with her family. I didn't understand all of the technical details about how the 'new world' worked, but that was okay for me. I particularly enjoyed the details of what this life was like and how it played out when you started a new life: the slight panic and unease when someone comes to the door, Maddie's terror at seeing fire for the first time, wanting to mix peanut butter and mustard because they look pretty together. Katie Kacvinsky is an extremely talented writer, and I can't wait to read more from her.

I received a copy through NetGalley but Awaken is now out in stores.

Check out Katie Kacvinsky's website.

See more at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Matched by Ally Condie
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

All Amber wants is one perfect day. Well, no, that’s not quite right. There’s a lot that she wants, but she knows it’s not going to happen. So she’ll settle for one day, alone, where she can do whatever she wants. She needs this day, because starting tomorrow, everything is going to change. But all of her plans are thrown for a loop when she meets Cade, a guy who needs to escape as much as she does. As they end up spending the day together, they just have one rule: don’t talk about why they’re there.

I’m still getting used to reading verse novels, but the form worked really well for this story. Amber doesn’t want to dwell on her thoughts; she spends a lot of time in her head, thinking, rather than describing what’s going on. Yes, it was a bit confusing at the beginning, but the good kind of confusing where I was eager for all of the pieces to fit together. I couldn’t help myself – I kept coming up with ideas for what would happen to Amber ‘tomorrow’ (none of them were right). When I finished the book I wanted more: more from Amber about what happens next, more from Cade’s perspective, even more from Amber’s sister Kelly’s perspective. I didn’t want to say goodbye to these characters, and that’s just so thematically perfect and satisfying.

See more at Lisa Schroeder’s website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Far From You by Lisa Schroeder
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams
Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Lochan and Maya depend on each other. Their mother is useless: immature, constantly drunk, and determined to forget that she actually has five children. There's very little money to spend on things like groceries and electricity. School is stressful, but they have to be very careful to make it seem like everything is just perfect, because any notice from any officials could mean that the kids are split up and put into foster care. As the two oldest children, Lochan and Maya need each other. But as their relationship grows closer, it becomes clear that they love each other not just as brother and sister, but as lovers, too.

The book will likely draw comparisons to Flowers in the Attic (older siblings taking care of younger ones, a mother who abandons them, the incest), but it's not a V.C. Andrews rip-off. It's not scandalous for the sake of being scandalous. A lot of work is done grounding Lochan and Maya so that it makes sense when they do make this jump to a different kind of relationship. I think I got more of a sense of Lochan as a character than Maya, and even though the story is split between the two perspectives, it felt to me like it was his story. The book is quite long, so there's a fair amount of "I want to do this/we shouldn't do this/can we do this?/we can't do this/can we do this?/no we can't/well, maybe we can." I don't think anyone would go into this book expecting a happy ending (what would a happy ending even be?) but rather to see just how the story plays out. This is definitely a book worth checking out.

(And is it just me or does anyone else see a Biblical crown of thorns in the barbed wire heart?)

I received an advanced copy through the S&S Galley Grab.

See more about the Book at Simon & Schuster.

Find it at Amazon.

Read it with:
Illyria by Elizabeth Hand
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison

Monday, June 27, 2011

Crazy by Han Nolan

Jason is struggling. At fifteen, he's recently lost his mother and in many ways has lost his father. His dad is frequently barely functional and exists in his own haze of mental illness. Jason must also cope with the number of voices he hears in his own head: a fat bald guy, a sexy lady, Aunt Bee, Crazy Glue. But just having these imaginary friends doesn't mean he's crazy, too, right? Because that's something that Jason can't even think about; he's too busy trying to make sure that everything stays okay.

For me, some of the hardest types of books to read are the ones where teens - kids -have to keep their worlds from crumbling around them because the parents and grown-ups in their lives can't or won't take care of them. Watching Jason come undone in Crazy is heartbreaking. Crazy was named a 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults title by the American Library Association.

I read an copy at NetGalley but Crazy is now out in stores and libraries.

See more at Han Nolan's website.

Read it with:
Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wessellhoeft
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell
Born Blue by Han Nolan
Dancing on the Edge by Han Nolan

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gay Power! by Betsy Kuhn

In 1969, the Stonewall Riots marked a big change in the gay rights movement. Instead of quietly leaving the club after police started their raid, gay, lesbian, and trans persons stayed to fight back against the political system that oppressed and demonized them. For decades their protests had been quieter, more localized. After Stonewall, the protests became louder, more public, and on a much broader scale.Gay Power! looks at the history of the gay rights movement in the United States, included where it came out of, how it progressed, and where it still has to go in the future.

I think my favourite thing about this book is how soon I hope it will be out of date, particularly around (but not limited to) Don't Ask Don't Tell, same-sex marriage, adoption laws, and the Defense of Marriage Act. That doesn't take away from the very accessible way that Kuhn presents the history that lead to were we are today. Information is presented in a number of different ways (narrative passages, pull-out quotes and profiles, photographs, and a timeline) to appeal to a number of readers' learning styles. There was a lot of stuff that was new in here for me. I also like how it doesn't shy away from pointing out things like how the women's rights organizations and civil rights movements of the 1960s were not always supportive and inclusive of the gay rights movement. It's important to understand this history to understand how to keep moving forward.

Find more at Lerner Books.

Read it with:
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Gardner
Prying Eyes: Privacy in the Twenty-First Century by Betsy Kuhn
From Jazz Babies to Generation Next by Laura B. Edge
Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America
Gay America: Struggle for Equality by Linas Alsenas

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dream Big, Little Pig! by Kristi Yamaguchi and Tim Bowers

Poppy knows she is destined to be a star. She just hasn't figured out how. Maybe dancing? Modeling? Singing? None of those things work out. But when Poppy puts on a pair of skates, that might just be the ticket to the fame that she's sure is hers.

This is the first book from Olympic gold medalist (and Dancing with the Stars champion, as it says in her bio) Kristi Yamaguchi, and, like many celebrity-written picture books, she's stuck with a subject that she knows a lot about. Figure skating, like ballet, is a subject that many kids (usually, but not always, girls) are interested in, so there's definitely an audience for a book like this. And, in an added touch, the front of the book is covered with sparkly glitter, making it that much more appealing to young children. The story has a positive message about determination and heart, but by focusing on Poppy wanting to be a 'star' - wanting to be famous - it almost cheapens her accomplishments. Wouldn't it be enough just to do something because you love it? Or to become good at something but maybe not to the level of fame? Still, Poppy is a fun character and her enthusiasm (and Tim Bowers' illustrations) jumps right off the page.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Brontorina by James Howe
A is for Axel by Kurt Browning
How Figure Skating Works by Keltie Thomas
Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner
Elefantina's Dream by X.J. Kennedy

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator! by Mo Willems

Amanda and her alligator are an excellent match. They get along really well and love to have fun together. They both like surprises (well, most of them) and surprising each other. Join them for 6-and-a-half stories about fun, friendship, and the element of surprise.

Could Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator be my new favourite Mo Willems title? I think it might just be. It has the friendship of Elephant and Piggie, the human-toy relationship of the Knuffle bunny books, the bright colours of Edwina, and the humour that it’s in all of Mo’s books – but instead of making it seem derivative, it feels fresh, funny, and just plain delightful. It’s like Calvin and Hobbes crossed with George and Martha (a wonderful, wonderful pairing). Genuine surprises lurk around every page. And a picture book character who reads! If you’d been reluctant to pick this book up because you’d been thinking “Hmm, I’ve already seen a lot of Mo Willems books, is this one anything new?” the answer is yes, it is, and pick it up right away.

Read it with:
We Are in a Book! by Mo Willems
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
George and Martha by James Marshall
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Hippo and Rabbit in Three Short Tales by Jeff Mack

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst and Dan Yaccarino

Get ready, get set, here comes cooking with Henry and Elliebelly! Today they're going to make up some special dishes just for you. Do you like raspberry-marshmallow-peanut-butter-waffles? Are you hungry for barbecued banana-bacon? There's never a dull moment when Henry and Elliebelly are in the kitchen. Don't touch that dial; we'll be right back!

There's so much to love about this book. Henry is a delightful character. Sure, Elliebelly might end up stealing the spotlight just a touch, but Henry is patient, loving, and able to go with the flow. I also love his idea of television and all of the conventions (like commercials) that come with it. I love that it's told entirely in voices; it makes it feel like it is their story. This book is a celebration of the imagination, and, for me, it was a jump start to my imagination. I totally picture Henry and Elliebelly living in New York City, where, when they're not hosting a TV show, they go to children's classes at art museums and have adventures in Central Park. Their mom is an architect or a fashion designer (something where she uses a drawing board). They also have an awesome babysitter for when their parents go out. None of this is present in the book itself, but it was like I knew all about what I imagined their backstory to be. Similarly, Dan Yaccarino's illustration is awesomely deceptively simple, but every object is a delight. At one point there's a hamster who's rolled in on a ball; it looks like he wandered in from another story. When even a background image has a story to tell, you know this is something special. Don't miss this book.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso

A young girl watches as her mother quietly breaks down. A family relives their vacation slides. A teddy bear meets an untimely end. These are three of the stories from The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso, an Ignatz Award-winning cartoonist. This collection of graphic short stories has slice of life pieces (trick-or-treating, learning how to dance, going to the beach) mixed in with more whimsical ones (a fork and a spoon who fall in love) and political ones (a look at how countries fail to support their troops, a longer piece about Alexander Hamilton).

My favourite stories were the one on Halloween (with the thesis of ‘you can learn a lot trick-or-treating’, like what music people listen to, how their rooms are decorated, or what kind of candy they give out) and the three-part Alexander Hamilton story. It’s funny and sad at the same time, all the while demonstrating quite a grip on American history. It reminded me a lot of Canadian Kate Beaton’s work at Hark! A Vagrant (which I also love). Throughout the stories Kelso shows off a wide variety of styles – everything looks like hers, but nothing looks the same. Some stories are in black and white, some are in full colour, and some are in a place somewhere in between. The final story, about a girl growing up in the west, has only blue shades in it with brown lines; it’s extremely striking. The Squirrel Mother made me want to see more of Megan Kelso's work.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso
Queen of the Black Black by Megan Kelso
The Impostor's Daughter by Laurie Sandell
Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis
Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska

There are many kinds of loud. There's the loud when everyone else is quiet. There's the loud that wakes people up. There's excited loud and scary loud. The loud that wakes you up and the loud that means something is wrong. There are good louds and bad louds and everyday louds. In this lovely companion to The Quiet Book, spend some time with these adorable animals as they discover just how many different kinds of loud there are. The writing is clever and the artwork is spot-on. Definitely not to be missed.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
Loud and Quiet by Lisa Bullard
Granny Gomez and Jigsaw by Deborah Underwood
Red Wagon by Renata Liwska
Little Panda by Renata Liwska

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heist Society by Ally Carter

Kat has always been something of a prodigy. At three, she helped her parents case the Louvre. At seven, she was stealing crown jewels. And at 15, she's just staged her biggest con yet: conning her way into a private boarding school. Kat's turned her back on the con life and her family; she wants to be a normal girl. But when an old friend reappears with news that her father's been fingered for a recent heist - a move that could cost him his life. Determined to save her father and prove his innocence, Kat's reluctantly drawn back into the life that she ran away from - and the people she left behind.

This is a very fun book. Not being familiar with Ally Carter's other books, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had heard so many positive things about this book that I was curious to read it myself. It's not a long book, but it's packed with quality stuff. There are twists and turns, action-packed sequences and quiet moments, interesting characters and a satisfying storyline. Kat's on a deadline, and the days are counted down in the book, which keeps the tension going. The international location hopping is somewhat reminiscent of the Carmen Sandiego computer I used to play, which added to my enjoyment of the story. I remember when news of the movie adaption first came out, people who had read the book were upset at the idea that the characters were going to be aged from teenagers to people in their early twenties. After reading the book, I agree - there's something about the fact that they are kids that makes the story. Still, it will be interesting to see what they do with the movie version.

Find it at IndieBound.

Check out Ally Carter's website.

Read it with:
Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
Vidalia in Paris by Sasha Watson
The Mona Lisa Caper by Rick Jacobson

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Liam doesn't fit in. He's always being mistaken for an adult, even though he's only twelve. It's not just because he's really tall; he also has a beard and is quite hairy. It's a real nuisance. But then a mix-up leads him to the chance of a lifetime: riding a rocket into space. Of course, since they think he's a dad, he'll have to act like a dad, and be responsible like a dad, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. The rocket people have everything under control...right?

This book is hilarious. I loved Frank Cottrell Boyce's style. I listened to the audiobook version, and I think that added an extra dimension to it, because the dialogue is so well-written. Kirby Heyborne, the narrator, was brilliant; he added a sadness, a wistfulness to the story that didn't get in the way of the humour. It was just a great book, all around.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Zoom! by Mark Haddon
Fat Vampire by Adam Rex
Moonshot by Brian Floca

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone

Is there any one toy that is more closely associated with childhood - specifically female childhood - than Barbie? Since she was first introduced over fifty years ago, Barbie has been part of so many girls' lives. The Good the Bad and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us tells the story of Barbie and how she went from a toy to a lifestyle. It's also the story of Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie and one of the founders of Mattel. With lots of pictures and images from the last half century, this book is a close look at what Barbie means to different people. Does she represent choice? Does she represent empowerment? Or does she represent a single beauty ideal that no one can live up to?

Stone writes about strong female figures, so it makes sense that Barbie became the focus of her latest book. At times I wished that she answered some of these questions rather than asked them, but then that would be taking some of the hard work away from me, and every other person reading this book. It's something that each person must figure out for themselves. I grew up loving Barbies and had a lot of them (although a lot of mine were generic knock-offs), but I used them more as puppets in my imaginative storytelling than anything else. My Barbies were Russian spies and Olympic athletes; they had adventures but, yes, they looked stylish in their clothes while they did it. I commented in an earlier post about how one Barbie book had shaped my ideas around what was feminine and beautiful. It's a lot to think about - but it's good to think about.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone
Barbie: Her Life and Times and the New Theatre of Fashion by BillyBoy
The Missing Wedding Dress Featuring Barbie by Karen Krugman
Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll by M.G. Lord

Friday, June 17, 2011

What's Up, Baby? by Kathleen Rizzi

Wake up, wash up, eat up, dress up...there are a lot of things that are 'up' in a day! Through colourful photography, What's Up, Baby? takes a look at some of these daily routines. From counting to cuddling, it's all captured here. The children featured come from a number of diverse backgrounds, which is great to see, and the expressive faces are sure to entrance babies and toddlers as they flip through the pages.

Find it at IndieBound.

I read a copy through NetGalley.

Check out some of Star Bright Books other board books.

Read it with:
My Face Book by Star Bright Books
Welcome Song for Baby by Richard Van Camp
Where's the Baby? by Cheryl Christian

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Sutton Mercer is dead. She doesn't know how she died, or who killed her (if she was murdered). All she knows is that she's dead. But no one seems to notice that she's gone, because at the time she died her long-lost twin sister arrived in town. Emma is just as hungry for answers, and since everyone has mistaken her for Sutton, she decides to go along with the lie. As she gets closer to the truth, the more dangerous it gets for her, but she's determined to find justice - and answers - for her sister. Some of the plot points require a certain amount of a suspension of disbelief, but I think that fans of Pretty Little Liars will find lots to enjoy in this new series.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Mr. Popper is a house painter, but he loves reading about polar exploration. After writing a letter to an arctic explorer, he receives a very special gift: a penguin. Mr. Popper and his family try to adapt their home and their lives to their new pet, but many people just don't understand what a penguin is or why one is living with the Poppers. The Poppers' lives will never be the same!

This was always a book that I knew about, but I'd never read it as a child. I remember it always seemed to have a prominent place in the 'classics' displays that book stores seemed to have when I was a kid (they were cardboard and divided into six or nine compartments). So when I saw a copy at NetGalley, and with the movie opening this weekend, I decided to take a look. The book has held up remarkably well over time; unlike so many other children's books from decades ago, there was little that I could see that is problematic from a social or racial point of view (even so, the Poppers' marriage is fascinating to look at). From what I've seen of the TV commercials, the movie will have little in common with the book (Mr. Popper is a bad husband, a bad parent, and seems to hate the penguins?) But it will have Angela Lansbury, and it will likely find the book a new audience.

I read a copy of the book from NetGalley provided by Open Road.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright
Leader by Destiny: George Washington, Man & Patriot by Jeanette Eaton
Hello, the Boat! by Phyllis Crawford
Penn by Elizabeth Janet Gray
Nino by Valenti Angelo

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

All The Things You Are by Courtney Sheinmel

Things are going pretty well in Carly's life. She has good friends and a great best friend. Her mom has a great job working in the clothing department of popular daytime soap opera. She gets along great with her stepfather (she calls him 'Faux Pa'). Sure, not everything is perfect. She doesn't always get along with her step-siblings, her grandmother has Alzheimer's, and her mom has seemed really stressed lately. But everything changes on the day when the FBI arrives at Carly's house to arrest her mother for fraud and embezzlement. Suddenly Carly's life is upside down and she has no idea what's going to happen next.

Carly is at an age where she's too old to be kept in the dark but too young to really make her own decisions. This is a terrible age in real life but a great age for this novel, because it really ups the dramatic tension. Can you love the sinner but hate the sin? Can you forgive your mother for making mistakes that have changed your entire life? There's an honesty, a genuineness in this book. Things aren't sugar-coated; there isn't a magical turn that makes everything okay after all. Things are hard, things are difficult, things are painful. I've never read anything by Courtney Sheinmel before, but this book definitely made me want to pick up her other stuff.

Check out Courtney Sheinmel's website.

See more at Simon & Schuster.

I read an advanced copy from the Simon and Schuster Galley Grab.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Positively by Courtney Sheinmel
Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller
The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies
She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

Monday, June 13, 2011

Murder She Wrote: You Bet Your Life by Donald Bain

The first time Jessica Fletcher traveled to Las Vegas to visit her friend Martha, it was a happy occasion; she was there to celebrate Martha's wedding to a rich businessman that she'd met and fallen in love with. The second time Jessica traveled to Las Vegas to see Martha, it was under less than perfect circumstances. Martha's husband was dead - murdered - and Martha was in jail, accused of the crime. Jessica is sure of Martha's innocence, but it will take more than Las Vegas luck to convince the jury.

As I've said basically every time I've written about a Murder She Wrote novel, these are like comfort food for me. I don't read them expecting great plotlines or sparkling writing; I read them because I have a soft spot for Maine's mystery writer-turned-crime solver Jessica Fletcher. As far as MSW novels go, this one was quite enjoyable. Jessica does seem to make some stupid moves (like getting into a limo with a man that she knows is dangerous, without letting anyone know where she is or who she's with) that aren't so characteristically her, but she also comes through with some brilliant deductions. There are a couple of red herrings that disappear as the plot moves along, but there was enough happening with the story that I barely even noticed that they went nowhere. A solid Jessica Fletcher mystery.

Also, I'm not that familiar with Las Vegas: is that supposed to be a skull in the background, or is it just something that's cropped weirdly?

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Murder, She Wrote: Coffee, Tea, or Murder? by Donald Bain
Murder, She Wrote: Dying to Retire by Donald Bain
Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I'm Kind of a Big Deal by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

Have you ever driven a limo for Justine Bateman? Danced in a Bob Dylan video? Auditioned for Studs? Stefanie Wilder-Taylor has, and she lived to tell about it. While reflecting on fame, success, and life in general, I'm Kind of a Big Deal outlines how she went from having a crush/fixation on a contestant on a TV dating show, to a career as a stand up comic, to writing for what sounds like one of the worst shows in history. Just when you're sure that you know what kind of funny essay will come next, she mixes it up with something sad, bittersweet, or personally revealing - all while never losing her deft touch with words.

I read an advanced review copy from Simon & Schuster Galley Grab.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott

Tess has been in a coma since New Year's Day; her car slipped off the road and ran into a tree. Abby, Tess' younger sister, wants nothing more than to have Abby back. Abby's used to living in Tess' shadow - pretty, smart, popular Tess - and she's built her own identity as the second best sister. No one else really believes that Tess will wake up. But when Abby sees Tess' eyelids move after hearing the voice of a guy in the hospital, she's sure that this boy somehow has the key to waking Tess up. It could be just like a fairy long as it works.

I love how Elizabeth Scott writes. The way this novel shifts and changes is so subtle. Abby suffers from major self-esteem issues and refuses to see herself as someone worthwhile - but she's also blind to the realities of other people. She frequently misjudges Eli (the mysterious boy) and - most crucially - Tess. Her acts almost become self-fulfilling prophecies: by pushing people away, she feels justified in assuming that they will leave her. I think she would benefit from some therapy (maybe some cognitive behaviour therapy) - if she wasn't a fictional character. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on here: self-image, sibling relationships, perception, class differences, mental health, and how to come to terms with reality.

I read an advanced copy from Simon and Schuster Galley Grab.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
I'm Not Her by Janet Gurtler
Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala
The Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn by Donna L. Peterson

It's not easy being Phillip Isaac Penn. First, everyone calls him Pip, because of his initials, and even though he doesn't really like it, it's a name that's stuck. Secondly, everyone tends to call him Pip really loudly - and usually because they're upset with him. He gets blamed for everything that goes wrong. Sure, sometimes he makes mistakes and uses other people's things without asking, but that doesn't mean he's a bad person! Follow him as he tries to get through a week in one piece.

I think that Pip and Kylie Jean would get along great. They're both enthusiastic kids with a lot of energy who have families that love them (even if Pip's sometimes get exasperated with him). I could see this being a big hit with parents who have a child who reminds them of well as kids who feel like they're always being blamed for everything.

Find it at IndieBound.

I read a copy through NetGalley but it's out in stores now (and published by Cedar Fort).

Read it with:
Kylie Jean, Rodeo Queen by Marci Peschke
Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka
Big Nate in a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce

Thursday, June 9, 2011

He's So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott

Summertime - and the living is easy? Not for these poor little rich kids. Ally is still trying to get over the humiliation she faced at a former friend's birthday party. Most of the town still hates her family. And now she has to deal with the fact that her father - the one who lost everyone's money - is on her doorstep, while her mom is dating a wealthy doctor. Jake still isn't over Ally, but she wants nothing to do with him. Even worse, his mom has put her foot down, and now he won't be summering with the rest of his friends at the beachy summer hotspot where they all vacation - he's stuck serving coffee and going to summer school. With so may people falling out and falling apart, is there any chance that these two could make up - and make out?

I was really confused at the beginning of this book, and it didn't help that I didn't know it was a sequel to She's So Dead to Us. (I'd downloaded the book from the Simon and Schuster Galley Grab based on the title alone). The characters kept referencing things that I had no idea about, and I didn't now who was the one keeping Harriet-the-Spy-meets-Gossip-Girl type notes (or if she was even in the story). If I hadn't have been reading this as part of the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I probably would have stopped reading. But then, a funny thing happend: I couldn't put it down. I found myself pushing through to the end, trying to figure out if these kids could cut through the drama and be honest with each other. Yes, Ally does make a lot of her own drama, but she's also really hurting. And Jake makes some bad moves, but there's genuine growth there. As it built to the cliffhanger ending, I was definitely hooked - and can't wait to see what happens next. Well played, Kieran Scott. Well played. Overall, it was a fun, beachy read (but you might want to pick up She's So Dead to Us first).

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott
Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar
Maine Squeeze by Catherine Clark
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Geek Magnet by Kieran Scott

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer

History has made her name a legend. A queen, a seductress, a murderer. In a time before all that, Cleopatra was just a young girl who watched her siblings argue over who would take over Egypt's throne. As loyalties are tested and broken, Cleopatra quickly learns that the only person she can trust is herself. What really happened on her way to the throne? There are things that Cleopatra would like you to know; there are certain things that she would like to confess.

I think that my reading of this book suffers a bit from only having recently finished Stacy Schiff's book Cleopatra: A Life. That Cleopatra captured my imagination; this one, to me, seemed more like a momentary diversion. There's a sweetness about Meyer's Cleopatra, an innocence that she maintains even as terrible things start happening to her family. Meyer's depiction does illustrate Cleopatra's brains and intelligence, but, to me, the story ends just when things get interesting. Still, there is lots for fans of historical fiction and fiction/non-fiction blends to find here. The material at the end of the book (a glossary, timeline, and a bit of an historical perspective) could help interested readers to put Cleopatra's story in its proper context.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
The Bad Queen by Carolyn Meyer
Cleopatra by Don Nardo

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You're Invited to a Creepover: Truth or Dare by P.J. Night

Abby is super excited to have a sleepover with her best friends. They're going to watch movies, eat junk food, and stay up all night. But she can't shake the feeling that something strange is going on. She keeps feeling like someone's watching her, and then something strange happens with her cell phone. Someone is warning her to stay away from Jake, the cute boy who lives across the street. But the only people who know that she likes Jake are her friends, and they would never do anything so creepy...right? Maybe the answer is a bit more...otherworldly.
This is a fun book that plays with ideas of perception and the paranormal. It had a great set-up and a good pace that kept the tension tight until the end. The story played with some ghostly conventions (including one that reminded me of Twin Peaks) but never pushed things into too dark of a territory for this age group. On the whole, it reminded me of a neat mash-up of Mary Downing Hahn and Goosebumps. Check out other titles in this series coming soon.

See more about the series at Simon & Schuster.

I received an advanced copy from the S&S Galley Grab.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
You're Invited to a Creepover: You Can't Come In Here by P.J. Night
The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
You're Invited to a Creepover: Ready for a Scare? by P.J. Night
Goosebumps: Heads, You Lose! by R.L. Stine
The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Adults by Alison Espach

Emily is about to witness the breakdown of her family. Her parents are going to divorce, due in large part to the affair that her father had with a neighbour. The neighbour's husband is going to commit suicide (witnessed by Emily). The affair will result in a baby, and her father will move to Europe. Her mother will become depressed and housebound, hardly ever engaging in the outside world. Emily, still a young teenager, will have to find her own way through the mess created by these adults in order to finally grow up herself.

This was not a book that I could read quickly. I had to take frequent breaks while reading it because there is just so much to take in. There are a number of ways that one could interpret the title, but for me it just emphasized the number of ways that the adults in Emily's life failed her. Her mother, her father, her one really had her best interests at heart. How Emily deals with this and goes on to form relationships with them anyway is, to me, at the centre of this book. The first few sections were the ones that I thought were the strongest, and because of them I was willing to follow the book through to the end. I picked it up because of a mention I saw in Entertainment Weekly, and I hope it moved others to do the same.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Normal People Don't Live Like This by Dylan Landis
One Day by David Nicholls
Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis
The Sky is Falling by Caroline Adderson

Sunday, June 5, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge - Finish Line

9:00 pm (MT) Sunday marked the end of my 48 hour book challenge. How did it go?

Total time reading: 25 hours, 48 minutes
Total time blogging: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Total time networking: 2 hours, 35 minutes
Total hours: 29 hours, 18 minutes

Total pages: 3724 (and 111 minutes of audio book)

Total books read: 18
Books read but not finished during 48HBC: 1 (Something Like Fate)

List of Books Finished During 48HBC
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
My Life, the Theater and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff
Murder She Wrote: Skating on Thin Ice by Donald Bain
I'm Kind of a Big Deal by Stefani Wilder-Taylor
Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
All The Things You Are by Courtney Sheinmel
He's So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott
Koko Be Good by Jen Wang
The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier
What I Wore by Jessica Quirk
And Both Were Young by Madeline L'Engle
Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton
Wheels of Change by Sue Macy
Too Bad by Robert Kroetsch
Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

I didn't have any plans before entering to figure out a donation amount, but to mark how much I enjoyed this challenge, I have donated $100.00 to the Canadian Red Cross.

As I've said, I didn't have any goals for time spent/books read, but I'm not surprised that I ended up reading/blogging/tweeting for over 29 hours. I have an obsessive personality, and when I get into something, I tend to really get into it. Why, then, (you might ask) was it not 48 hours? I love sleep. And I wanted to challenge myself, but the memories of staying up all night for the Royal Wedding (and how bad I felt after that) are all too fresh in my mind. I'm happy with this. I enjoyed what I was reading. I didn't really blog much as I went aside from updates, but I hope to soon write up reviews for most of the books. I finished some that have been on my "to read" list for a year (and some that I just picked up at the library on Friday). There was fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, middle grade, teen, and adult. I read paper books and ebooks (and although I like book, there is something satisfying about having a stack of books). I read and I read and I read...and now I'm done. For now - I still plan on picking up a book to read before I fall asleep.

Check out the others at the Finish Line.

48 Hour Book Challenge

I don't usually do non-review posts, but this weekend I'm making an exception. I've decided to try the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I have no idea how it's going to go. I don't even have a goal really, other than making a dent in the huge pile of books I have sitting in a chair beside me.

(That's kind of a blurry picture, eh? I might try to take a better one later. )

And that pile doesn't even include my overstuffed Kobo...

The challenge is hosted by MotherReader. Here's a list of people taking part. As soon as I post this I'm going to head over and add myself to that list.

The basic rules are to read as much as you can in 48 hours. No picture books, but middle grade, teen, adult, and graphic novels are fair game. You can also count the time you spend blogging, and for every five hours of reading you can spend one hour networking (commenting on other blogs, tweeting, etc.).

My challenge will run from Friday at 9pm to Sunday at 9pm (MT). I left work at 9pm tonight and started off by listening to an audiobook on the ride home.

I'll keep updating this post with the details of how it's going. Okay, I think that's it!

Update #1 - 9:50pm Friday
Time spent reading: 40 minutes
Time spent blogging: 10 minutes
Time spent networking: 0 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Books read: Something Like Fate by Susanne Colastani (audiobook) (40 mins)
Books finished: none yet

Update #2 - 12:08am Saturday
Time spent reading since last update: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Time spent blogging since last update: 17 minutes
Time spent networking: 0 minutes
Total time to update: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Total total time: 3 hours

Books read since last update: Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman (68 pages)
Books finished since last update: Robot Dreams by Sara Varon (258 pages), My Life, the Theater and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff (214 pages read during 48HBC)

So it's not going so badly so far. I think my math is right - the hours and minutes are starting to confuse me, so if I make any noticeable errors please let me know! Also, the date/time of the this post will keep changing because I had other posts scheduled to run this weekend, but I want to keep this at the top. So look below for my review of Hip, Hop by Catherine Hnatov.

I spend a lot of time reading (like many of us, I'm sure) but I can't remember the last time I actually sat down and focused so much on reading. It was a little intense, but in a good way. I was very aware that I was reading, almost like I was an actor playing someone who was reading.

I think I'm at about my limit before I need to sleep, so I'm going to move my reading into bed (too personal?). I'm torn; I've been reading the Murder She Wrote book before falling asleep, but it usually lulls me to sleep (and I say that in a fond way, because I love my Murder She Wrote novels). Should I try for something that might keep me reading for a bit more?

Update #3: 7:05am Saturday
Time spent reading since last update: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Time spent blogging since last update: 20 minutes
Time spent networking: 0 minutes
Total time to update: 2 hours, 22 minutes
Total total time: 5 hours, 22 minutes

Books read since last update: And Both Were Young by Madeline L'Engle (154 pages)
Books finished since last update: Murder She Wrote: Skating on Thin Ice by Donald Bain (170 pages read during 48HBC)

(I should also add that I wasn't sure if there was a standard way of reporting time spent, so I modeled mine on what I saw at Rebecca Reads, because it made a lot of sense to me! So thank you, Rebecca Reads!)

Maybe it was the excitement of the 48HBC coursing through my veins (or maybe it was the iced coffee drink I had around 7pm), but I read for another two hours after I headed in to bed. I decided to go with my Murder She Wrote book and when I finished that I started on the teen novel by Madeline L'Engle. Today I hope to finish some books I have on my Kobo, especially some from the Simon and Schuster Galley Grab that are set to expire very soon.

Update #4 - 11:38 AM Saturday
Time spent reading since last update: 3 hours, 20 minutes
Time spent blogging since last update: 10 minutes
Time spent networking: 60 minutes
Total time to update: 4 hours, 30 minutes
Total total time: 9 hours, 52 minutes

Books read since last update: All The Things You Are by Courtney Sheinmel (143 pages)
Books finished since last update: I'm Kind of a Big Deal by Stefani Wilder-Taylor (145 pages read during 48HBC), Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott (262 pages)
Total pages read during 48HBC: 1414 (plus 40 minutes of audio)

All three of the books I read or started this morning are ones I picked up from the Simon and Schuster Galley Grab.They're either about to be published or have just been published.

Update #5 - 5:57 PM Saturday
Time spent reading since last update: 3 hours, 42 minutes
Time spent blogging since last update: 10 minutes
Time spent networking: 0 minutes
Total time to update: 3 hours, 52 minutes
Total total time: 13 hours, 44 minutes

Books read since last update: Something Like Fate by Susanne Colasanti (audiobook, 35 minutes), Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton (80 pages)
Books finished since last update: All The Things You Are by Courtney Sheinmel (115 pages), He's So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott (370 pages)
Total pages read during 48HBC: 1979 (plus 75 minutes of audio)

A late afternoon nap put be slightly off pace, but that's okay. I knew I wasn't going to be hardcore about this, with the no sleeping/no anything but reading style.

Update #6 - 10:03 PM Saturday
Time spent reading since last update: 3 hours, 37 minutes
Time spent blogging since last update: 14 minutes
Time spent networking: 43 minutes
Total time to update: 3 hours, 34 minutes
Total total time: 17 hours, 18 minutes

Books Read Since Last Update: Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman (55 pages)
Books Finished Since Last Update: Koko Be Good by Jen Yang (300 pages), The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier (192 pages), What I Wore by Jessica Quirk (79 pages read during 48HBC)
Total Pages Read During #48HBC: 2605 (and 75 minutes of audiobook)

My eyes are starting to feel tired. Not strained, but tired. I've only had a few moments where the books are starting to run together (when I was reading All The Things You Are, the main character goes to visit her grandmother, and I thought 'wait, I thought the mother's parents were dead?' and then realized that that was from the book I'd just finished, Between Forever and Always). I did wonder before starting this if it was somehow disrespectful to the books, in an abstract way - that I'd be whipping through them, not paying attention, only focused on finishing them so I could read more, more, more. I don't feel that way now. I think if anything, I am giving the the books more attention than I otherwise would (or at the very least, the same). I'm doing this because I love reading. Normally I have a lot of distractions - my TV is almost always on in the background, I'd be spending more time on Facebook - that happen while I'm reading. Today, though, the only time my TV was on was when I accidentally sat on the remote and turned it on by accident. I'm definitely not saying that I'm going to start watching no television, but maybe...a wee bit less?

Update #6 - 1:57 PM Sunday
Time spent reading since last update:5 hours, 6 minutes
Time spent blogging since last update: 16 minutes
Time spent networking: 30 minutes
Total time to update: 5 hours, 52 minutes
Total total time: 23 hours, 10 minutes

Books Read Since Last Update: Something Like Fate by Susanne Colasanti (36 minutes)
Books Finished Since Last Update: And Both Were Young by Madeline L'Engle (83 pages since last update), Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers (172 pages during 48HBC), Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton (145 pages read since last update)
Total Pages Read During #48HBC: 3005 (and 111 minutes of audiobook)

I'm just about 7 hours away from the end of my challenge. It's kind of nice to be so near the 24 hour mark. I know I said I didn't come into this challenge with any goals, but since I hit about 15 hours I've thought that 24 would be good. My next non-goal is 30 hours, so I'd have to spend almost all of the remaining 7 hours reading, blogging, and networking. Will I get there? Who knows.

I hate to say it, but I wish I'd chosen a different audiobook. It's been a long time since I've come up against a book that so was just not for me. It's not a bad book and I know there's an audience for it, but I'm just having a bad reaction to it.

One of my favourite parts about Fall for Anything was that I had no idea just how dark it was going to get. There were so many possibilities and they were all so possible and it kept me hooked and guessing.

Science Fair Season: I thought I would like it, and I ended up loving it. It's got a ton of crossover potential (adult/teen, fiction readers/nonfiction readers, science fans/non-science fans).

After I'm done blogging, I'm not sure where I'm going to head next. I still have a pile full of books so I'll likely just grab one but right now nothing is grabbing me.

Update #7: 9:00 pm - Finish Line!

I'll just make some notes here and then write up an actual finish line post.

Time spent reading since last update: 5 hours, 28 minutes
Time spent blogging since last update: 18 minutes
Time spent networking: 22 minutes
Total time to update:6 hours, 8 minutes
Total total time: 29 hours, 18 minutes

Books Finished Since Last Update: Wheels of Change by Sue Macy (96 pages), Too Bad by Robert Kroetsch (96 Pages), Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti (271 pages) Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry (152 pages), Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman (104 pages since last update)
Total Pages Read During #48HBC: 3724 (and 111 minutes of audiobook)

I made an error in my last update and overcounted by an hour, so my final total comes in at just over 29 hours.

List of Books Finished During 48HBC
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
My Life, the Theater and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff
Murder She Wrote: Skating on Thin Ice by Donald Bain
I'm Kind of a Big Deal by Stefani Wilder-Taylor
Between Here and Forever by Elizabeth Scott
All The Things You Are by Courtney Sheinmel
He's So Not Worth It by Kieran Scott
Koko Be Good by Jen Wang
The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier
What I Wore by Jessica Quirk
And Both Were Young by Madeline L'Engle
Fall for Anything by Courtney Summers
Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton
Wheels of Change by Sue Macy
Too Bad by Robert Kroetsch
Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
Watching Jimmy by Nancy Hartry
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

Every day, London Lane's memory resets. She has no idea what happened yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that. She writes herself notes to keep her functioning from one day to the next. She does have memories, though - from the future. She knows what's going to happen before it happens. But is her future-memory perfect? Why does she have no future-memory of her boyfriend? Is she blocking him on purpose - and if so, why?

I was completely hooked by this book. I had one of those reading experiences where I looked up and realized I'd been reading 200 pages without knowing it. The story flows so nicely and has a great momentum and pacing. I was afraid that it was going to be too high-concept for me, that I would get lost in the details of the story, but it was very easy to follow (without being boring). It was kind of like Memento, but Memento meets Time-Traveler's Wife, because it had that element of 'past and present' in it. Can you change the future? How do you talk with someone when you know what happens to them in the future? Can you love someone you have no memory of? All of the questions I had while reading it (like, how does she know how to walk or talk?) were either addressed or I could figure out an explanation from what was in the book. I liked seeing the details of how London coped with her semi-amnesia, as well as the chapters that were written where London didn't write herself notes. This is Cat Patrick's first novel, and I can't wait to read her next one (scheduled to come out next year.)

Find it at Amazon.

Read it with:
Num8ers by Rachel Ward
Matched by Ally Condie
The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hip, Hop by Catherine Hnatov

What goes hip, hop? Who sings tweet tweet? Who moves with a splish, splash? Lots of animals are on display in this colourful board book by Catherine Hnatov. The bright blocks of colours are perfect for older babies and toddlers, while the black and white illustrations are perfect for younger babies who are still developing their eyesight. And as far as topics go, animals are generally a crowd pleaser! It's never to early to be reading with children, and this looks like another great board book that will help children learn words, sounds, and letters.

Find it at IndieBound.

I read a copy of the book at NetGalley.

Find out more at Star Bright Books.

Read it with:
Eats by Marthe Joyce and Tom Slaughter
Black on White by Tana Hoban
What's Up, Baby? by Kathleen Rizzi

Friday, June 3, 2011

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson

Emma Freke doesn't really fit in. That doesn't surprise her, considering that her name sounds like "am a freak." Knowing that, though, doesn't make it any easier, especially when her mother isn't at all concerned about Emma's uniqueness. So when Emma has the chance to go to a family reunion and meet the members of her father's family, she thinks that maybe this is her chance to fit in. The Frekes, though, are not what she was expecting. Emma is about to learn a lot about what makes a family and how to truly be a Freke and a freak.

There should be more books set at family reunions. They provide such a natural place for stress, conflict, and big emotional moments. Emma is an engaging character and she's strongly supported by all of the other people in her life, whether she knows it or not. This is a sweet, funny story that I'm glad I picked up.

Find it at IndieBound.

I read a copy at NetGalley courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

Check out Elizabeth Atkinson's website.

Read it with:
A Sudden Change of Family by Mary Jane Auch
From Alice to Zen and Everyone in Between by Elizabeth Atkinson
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ruby Valentine Saves the Day by Laurie Friedman and Lynne Avril

It's almost Valentine's Day - Ruby Valentine's favourite day of the year! It's a perfect day for a party, and everyone in Heartland is invited. But on the day of the party, there's so much snow that no one can come! Will the party be ruined? Or can Ruby find a way to make it work out after all?

This was my first dip into the world of Ruby Valentine, a young girl who apparently lives alone with her bird friend, Lovebird. She has a kind, generous spirit and talks in rhyme. My favourite part of this book were the illustrations, so colourful and expressive. This will be a popular pick around February, but the sentiments of going with the flow and making the best of things are worth reading all year round.

Find at at Amazon.

See more at Lerner's website.

Check out Laurie Friendman's blog.

Read it with:
Love, Ruby Valentine by Laurie Friedman
The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon
Happy Valentine's Day, Mouse by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

Binky is not like other cats. Binky is a Space Cat, and he's here to protect his humans from aliens. Aliens invade his house all the time (in the form of flies) from outer space (outside the house). In order to fulfill his mission, Binky takes rigorous Space Cat training. Finally he's ready to blast off - but there's one thing that he's overlooked...

I loved this book. Ashley Spires uses a lot of humour in the story and illustrations (especially in the details of Binky's training and plans), but Binky is never really a joke; everything that he thinks, somehow, in his own way, makes perfect sense. I loved Spires' design and illustration style. This is a fun book for any age.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
Garfield at Large by Jim Davis