Monday, January 30, 2012


Gaiman, N. and McKean, D. (illus.). (2002). Coraline. NY: Harper Collins Publishers.
YA Lit / Sci-Fi? Horror? Fantasy? Adventure?

 Since I absolutely adored Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, I snagged this from Half Price Books and didn't put it down until I was done.  I didn't see the movie, so I was unfamiliar with the storyline.  This is a fascinating, creative, and creepy story that is very easy to visualize, but even moreso with the aid of Dave McKean's illustrations.  Coraline is a brave and precocious little girl, and I don't think her parents are worthy of her!  I thoroughly enjoyed this quick read and highly recommend it for young and old.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Larson, H. (2010). Mercury. NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
YA Fiction / Graphic novel-comic / historical fiction, but with some fantasy
Eisner Award Winner; Junior Library Guild Selection

I didn't intend to read this.  A freshman at my school checked it out at the end of the day, and it was turned-in first thing the next morning.  I opened it up to see what was either so dull or so fascinating that it could have such a quick turn around, and I was surprised to see it was an illustrated novel.

I flipped through and saw that there were two storylines; one in the present and one in the past.  I was drawn in quickly, and couldn't put the book down! Though some of the drawings were confusing (especially since one storyline involved two teens who greatly resembled one another), it was definitely an entertaining, well-drawn, and quick read.  I enjoyed it and liked how the ending left you with just a few thoughts to ponder.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Strasser, T. (2011). Famous. NY: Simon and Schuster.
YA Fiction / Realistic Fiction

I won this signed copy in the Holiday Break Reading Challenge, sponsored by Edgy & Edifying.  Thanks Karin & Julie!

This book had an interesting format where each chapter was written from a different perspective - the main character's, her best friend's, a celebrity stalker's, a detective's, a newspaper clipping or a text - and not necessarily in chronological order. The result is a bunch of pieces, much like a puzzle, that the reader puts together to figure out what will happen with several different storylines going along simultaneously.

It was a quick read and a bit predictable, but I enjoyed it.  It was definitely a reminder of the less than glamorous side of fame and the pursuit of it - and the lengths people will go to in order to keep it.  No sex, violence, or bad language.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Rapp, A. (2009). Punkzilla. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.
YA Fiction / Realistic Fiction ? I hope not!
Michael L. Printz Honor Book

Wow.  I am not sure if I should let this one sink in a while before writing about it.  This book is a bleak and raw story, written in letter/journal entry format, about a fourteen-year-old boy who becomes a "street teen" after running away from military school and trying to get to his dying brother.  I hate to think of this as realistic fiction because I hate to acknowledge that kids are living this way.

As a warning, the book has everything that would make it a guaranteed challenge: vulgar language and situations, sex, pedophiles, drug use, alcohol use, gay and transgender characters, bigotry, racism, crime without remorse, violence  . . .  I'm sure I've forgotten some offensive item!  But the story is real, and the main character, Jamie (a.k.a. Punkzilla) is real.

At times, it did seem as if the author was intentionally shocking for the sake of being shocking and those scenes didn't really move the story along.  Jamie's intelligent and likeable, despite his deeply flawed and disturbed character, but I went back and forth between feeling sympathetic and angry with him. There was a shard of hope at the end, though my feeling is that Jamie maybe can't really be helped and probably won't change his ways.

Worth reading? Eh. Jury is still out.  Appealing to teens? Absolutely.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Michelle Madow, author of Remembrance, will be speaking at my school on February 14th!

Check out this fan-made trailer (below) and click to read my review of Remembrance and the sequel Vengeance

After hours in the bookstore. . .

The Joy of Books.  This is great - wonder if I could get some kids at school to do a mini-version of this in the library? Takers??

Coming Soon: Born Wicked

See the trailer for 'Born Wicked
by debut author Jessica Spotswood.  
Release date is February 7, 2012!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Help

Stockett, K. (2009). The Help. NY: Amy Einhorn Books.
Adult / YA Fiction / Historical Fiction

This was a fantastic book, and I just can't believe that this was the author's first effort! I hate to believe it, but I know it's an accurate depiction of life in Mississsippi in the early sixties.  Stockett did an incredible job really bringing the characters to life and giving them depth. The varied writing styles allowed me to really "hear" each of the main characters' voices, plus the format of rotating chapters between Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen kept the story fresh and rolling along. Parts of it were so painful, parts so joyful, and parts were infuriating, and I was sorry the book ended.  I wondered what happened next in the lives of these three ladies, but I have a feeling they turned out very well. 

Not sure whether I'll see the movie; I've heard split reviews from friends who also read the book.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top 11 of 2011

My choices. . . (okay, a few adult choices in there, but hey, I am an adult after all.)




It was definitely tough to come up with just eleven books for the year! This is not so much because I read so many wonderful books, but because I was again reading at all.  Work and life had separated me from my love of books, and once we were reunited, it seemed nothing I read was unworthy. (With one exception, and I still can't find any use for the book Jumped. Read it if you want to feel hopeless about this generation of kid. )  My dear friend has a term for people like me - people who love everything they read, just love it.  It's not a polite term, but it's apropos. You'll have to message me off-blog to find out that one. :-)  I did see a pattern in my favorites, and that is apparently I like books with illustrations. Guess I see where my son gets-it from after all.
All these books are featured on this blog site, so just search and find!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Selznick, B. (2007). The Invention of Hugo Cabret. NY: Scholastic Press.
YA Lit / Graphic novel / mystery / historical fiction / picture book

This was an incredible book and quite possibly my favorite of the year.  The drawings were amazing - all 284 pages of them! Even the format of the book in its layout, coloring, style, and construction truly contributed to the storyline.  And the storyline was great and kept me turning the pages.

Prior to starting the book, I had read an article that talked about the automaton (I want one of these of my very own!!! Maillardet's Automaton) and another about Selznick's inspirations.  It is fascinating, shows a bunch of Selznick's drawings from the book, and lists his 20 favorite books. It's easy to see who influenced him, and I encourage anyone who's read or not read the book to check it out:
Author Brian Selznick Shares 20 Favorite Children's Books

In case you haven't figured it out, I HIGHLY recommend this book to young and old.  It's a treasure.

UPDATE: I made this little book trailer after I named this book my favorite book from 2011.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Sunday Philosophy Club

McCall Smith, A. (2004). The Sunday Philosophy Club. NY: Anchor Books.
YA Lit / Adult Lit for YA / Mystery

The first Isabel Dalhousie novel.

I bought this book because I am a huge fan of Alexander McCall Smith's #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, (just got the latest for Christmas but got this one LAST Christmas so I thought I'd better knock it out first.) and I wanted to see if he possibly could delight me as much with another set of characters in another country doing other things.

So, I think this is meant to be adult literature, but I think young adults might enjoy it as well. Though it takes place in modern times, the Scottish setting (click here to see a photographic tour of Isabel Dalhousie's Edinburgh) and Ms. Dalhousie's character harken back to a time when things were more proper and manners were more important.  She's the same age as me, and I often felt like she had to be a little old lady, but then she'd say or do or think something that was a reminder she was not so old. . . or prim and proper.

The violence is not graphic, there are just allusions to sex/sexuality, and the mystery element is really just an undercurrent to the bigger story, which is one of life and love, commitment and morality, and of course, ethics, given the profession of the main character.

I did find myself getting impatient at all of Isabel's internal philosophical dialogue, but I was definitely drawn to the intelligent language (being a grammar geek) and much like The #1 Ladies' series, the book felt comfortable and cozy.  Overall, I think I liked it well enough to pick-up the second in the series and see if I keep coming back for more.

Visit Alexander McCall Smith's website and watch him discuss the Dalhousie books and more.

Holiday Break Reading Challenge 2011-2012: Part 2

Here are days 9 - 17! Check out Part 1 on this blog for days 1-8.


The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick  

This one barely squeaked in on 2011 - see my recent blog for more of my thoughts - but it probably would have still been #1 for 2012.  Whether you see the movie or not (I haven't and probably won't) all young and old must read this book.

DAY 16: TOP 11 OF 2011
The challenge didn't say we were limited to YA novels, so I'm including everything from children's to adult!


It was definitely tough to come up with just eleven  (ten shown here!ah, the mystery) books for the year! This is not so much because I read so many wonderful books, but because I was again reading at all.  Work and life had separated me from my love of books, and once we were reunited, it seemed nothing I read was unworthy. (With one exception, and I still can't find any use for the book Jumped. Read it if you want to feel hopeless about this generation of kids.)  My dear friend has a term for people like me - people who love everything they read, just love it.  It's not a polite term, but it's apropos. :-)  I did see a pattern in my favorites, and that is apparently I like books with illustrations. That's a hint at what my top pick will be for tomorrow! Stay tuned.
Done! My first goal for 2012 is to have reading and blogging goals!  Whoo hoo! That felt good.

I'm going to be careful, here. On Jan. 2nd, I am starting a full time job - one that requires I be some place a certain time and stay there until a certain time.  I haven't had this kind of job in nearly 16 years!  There will be some adjusting, I believe.  On Jan. 17th, I begin my 5th semester of grad school, and I'll not only have my course load, but an exit exam to study for and a portfolio to assemble.  Oh, and let's not forget my volunteering obligations and my family to take care of. . .and my husband traveling out of town during the week. I have a tendency to over-commit myself and end-up overwhelmed. So. . .
READING GOAL 1:  Don't stress-out about getting books read.  Reading is a pleasure activity, and when it becomes an obligation, then it loses much of its charm.
READING GOAL 2: Always have a book in progress, and try to knock-out a couple of YA books each month. And in that regard, refer back to goal 1.
READING GOAL 3: Keep track of books read on Goodreads.

I just started my blog due to a class requirement over the summer, and I have faithfully reviewed all the children's and YA books I've read, and posted links to articles I felt were relevant. But I'm pretty sure that I am the only one who looks at my blog.  So. . .
BLOGGING GOAL 1: Get others to look at my blog and comment. I probably will try to do this through the kids on library council or my professional Facebook account, and through Twitter.
BLOGGING GOAL 2: Improve the look and functions of my blog.  I am not sure if I'm willing to pay to have a blog, so I may be limited to what I can do, but I will take the time to figure it out.
BLOGGING GOAL 3: Stay committed to blogging about every book I read and posting something YA related at least once a week.
This is very cool.  I used to drag & drop the book covers to make my collage.  I did not include all the children's books I read, and I didn't include all the textbooks I had to read for grad school. And since I wasn't using Goodreads until the summer, I probably have forgotten a lot of the books I read!  Nonetheless, that left me with 61 YA and adult books read this year - not a bad start for my re-entering the world of reading.
Here's my collage:

Since I am newly returned to the world of reading after years in the corporate world, I definitely have my very own reading challenge to fit in (on top of my full time job, grad school, and family obligations). That is very simply to be actively reading a YA book every week, and to try to get through several a month.  This is a huge commitment for me!  I realize I can't go back and catch-up on this front, but a way to stay current will be to participate in a reading challenge or two.  These are two that interested me, and I probably will choose one or the other so I don't spend to much time on new-ish authors.
It looks like there are some good mini-challenges and contests on the DAC, so that might keep me more in-line with it; however, there aren't specific guidelines as to how many books we're supposed to read.

I like the idea of the sophomore reading challenge - the second time around for an author. We'll see about the book lists that come out.  It may be too hard for me to find a sophomore book that's not a sequel to something I haven't read yet!

Should be fun!
ACK! I spent waaaaaaay too much time on this and only could figure out 8 of 10!  Fun, but a not-so-gentle reminder to me that I have no self-discipline with this kind of stuff. Like a treasure hunt!


". . .ticular reason, poisoned him with a dish of spotted eels, . . ."
Nancy and Plum, by Betty McDonald
My copy
latest release