Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Reading Recap / Top Reads of 2013

I have 190 books recorded on my LibraryThing.   This IS counting a number of picture books, but maybe 10 to 15 at the most.  The rest are at least fifty pages or longer as that was my criteria that put in place when I was ten years old (fifty pages or so to make the list.)

Here are the books (including picture books) that made five stars out of five stars.  I rated them as I read them.  Some may have been already featured on this blog this year. They may or may not have been new this year.  They were all new-to-me books.

The list is in alphabetical order by title.

My Top Reads of 2013:
The Amish by Donald B. Craybill (Adult Nonfiction)

Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg (Adult Nonfiction/Family History)

Apollo's Outcasts by Allan Steele (YA/Teen Fiction/Science Fiction)

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Lee (Fiction)

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson (Fiction)

Below by Meg McKinlay (Juvenile/YA/Middle Grade Fiction)

Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell (Juvenile Nonfiction)

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction)

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction) - One of my hopes for winning the Newbery Award this year.

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds (Picture Book)

The Drama Years by Haley Kilpatrick (Nonfiction)

 Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction - Fun!)

Expecting Better by Emily Oster (Nonfiction)

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach (Nonfiction)

Hey, America, Your Roots are Showing by Megan Smolenyak (Nonfiction/Genealogy)

Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar (Nonfiction)

How They Croaked:  The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg (Middle Grade Nonfiction)

If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother by Julia Sweeney (Nonfiction/Memoir)

Keepsake by Kristina Riggle (Fiction)


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Fiction)

Listen to My Trumpet by Mo Willems (Picture Book / Easy Reader)

 Losing It by Erin Fry (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction)

Mean Moms Rule by Denise Schipani (Nonfiction/Memoir/Parenting)

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine (Juvenile/Middle Grade Fiction/Autism Spectrum/Sibling Death)

Monkey Ono by J. C. Phillips (Picture Book)

Moving Miss Peggy by Robert Benson (Nonfiction/Memoir/Dementia)

Noni is Nervous by Heather Hart-Sussman (Picture Books/Anxiety)

OCD, The Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn (Teen/YA Fiction)

Paging the Dead: A Family History Mystery by Brynn Bonner (Fiction)

Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsley (Nonfiction/Memoir)

The Supper Club Book by Dave Hoekstra (Nonfiction)

The Truth About Love and Lightning by Susan McBride (Fiction)

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nichols (Juvenile Fiction)

A Wilder Rose by  Susan Wittig Albert (Fiction/Historical Fiction/Biography)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

I will be posting more soon .  . . but let's just say that I haven't read true horror in a long time (in my teens and into my twenties, I loved it.  I've kind of gotten away from it for the most part since then.  Well, except for Unwind, but I won't go into that now.)   I think this is horror, but not gratuitous horror.  So far, it is very well done.  I will post more  when I finish reading it.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce

Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce  -  This is the first novel by Ms. Bryce who live in the UK.   

The main character, Megan, has some kind of brain cancer (it’s not revealed right away) and the novel opens with Megan’s arrival on the pediatric oncology unit of the hospital.  She does not care for this because, after all, she is almost fourteen.   There are elephants on the curtains!  Her elderly grandfather (he is 95) assures her that this is more “fun” then being with old grumpy adults.  There is only one other teen with cancer in their wing, and they are friends of sorts.  His name is in the title: Jackson.   He is quite outgoing, and Megan wants him to be wrong when he informs her that he friends will not visit.  He was not wrong.  

Anyway, I need to do a bit of comparison to similar books (books about teens with cancer) I have read over the years.   To do that, the comparison can be summed up with the following:  It is better than Lurlene McDaniel’s books (example: Six Months to Live), but not as good as John Green‘s The Fault in Our Stars.  I have read most of McDaniel’s books, just to note – and many of them when I was twelve and thirteen years old.  And just to note an even older book in this type of genre  that I read at age 12 or so, I think I like Waiting for Johnny Miracle by Alice Bach more than this book in some ways. (The characters seem more developed for one thing.)

 I suppose part of my complaint is that the reader does not get to really know Megan very well.  There is an air of detachment, to be honest, and throughout the entire book.   As I read, I started to understand that Megan is trapping her feelings and thoughts in herself, and talking to no one, but it is difficult to see this at first.   The remainder of the characters remain relatively undeveloped.  Jackson himself comes partially “alive” as a character, but even with him, as the title character, I expected to get to know him a little more.   Once again, there was a feeling of distance.

This book is definitely for young middle grade readers - ages 9 to 12 or so.  I personally would have liked this book at ages eight or nine - I loved Angie and Me at age 8, for instance.  (Here is my blog post on that book from 2008.) 

Date Published: January 2013 in Great Britain; April 2013 in USA – by Bloomsbury.

Date I First Read Book: October 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Matter of Days

A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer (2013)  YA/Teen Fiction

Nadia and her younger brother Rabbit are alive after their mother die from BluStar, a virus that travels around the world and kills 99% of the population.  Their uncle Bean is a doctor who has been working in a top secret project for the government. He has a vaccine that he gave to Nadia and Rabbit, but their mother refused it.   He has returned to his father's home across the the country, and when their mother dies, Nadia and Rabbit set out to join their uncle and grandfather in West Virginia.  This is the story of their adventures along the way.

I really enjoyed this book - maybe in part because it is not nearly so "scary" as Stephen King's The Stand, and maybe in part that it is general not so full of "bad" people and violence as other books of similar nature and content.   Even though there is SOME violence - and some hinted at as well - in the aftermath of this disaster, it is not overwhelming.  Generally most of the characters are good people.  I'd like to think that most people would be nice in the aftermath of such a disaster.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Weight of Water

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan (2012 in Great Britain, and 2013 in the US.)

This is a novel in verse about a girl new to England with her mother, from Poland. Kasienka (often known as Cassie in England) and her mother are there to look for their father and husband.  Kasienka's tata had left them and gone to England some years before.   Her mother is desperate to find him.   They take a small room in a boarding house, and Kasienka starts going to school.  The school head incorrectly assumes that Kasienka needs to being in a lower grade level because English is not her first language.   Kasienka eventually takes tests and blows them all away.  She is moved up to her proper age group.  She navigates the pitfalls and bullying from other girls as she discovers the new life her father is living, a relationship with a boy, and how well she can do on the school swim team.  

This is a good read for middle grade kids.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind by Valerie Hobbs

Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind by Valerie Hobbs

Minnie is a sixth grader who is relatively new to her school, as her family had to move to a small town for her mother's job, after her father lost his job as a lawyer due to being a whistle-blower.  Minnie is not quite sure what a whistle-blower is, and that is one of her many questions.  She is full of questions, and she loves her new language arts teacher, Ms. Marks, at school.  However, many of the parents are not quite so happy as Minnie is about this teacher, who encourages her students to think about all the many questions that are out there.

I am halfway through listening to this book on audio CD.  I love Minnie, but at the same time I am frustrated with her.  My sixth grade self understands her completely (she does not want to write anything in her journal that Ms. Marks might read that mean anything), and my adult self just wants her to write all she is thinking about already!  (I am upset with my sixth grade self for not writing all that much of interest or consequence in my sixth grade journal for English class.  Guess why?  Well, because my teacher might read what I wrote and then tell my parents!  That would be such an invasion of privacy!  I wish I had written more, now, but back then, it seemed impossibly difficult.)

I will return to this post and let you know what I think about the remainder of the book.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Ability by M. M. Vaughan

The Ability by M. M. Vaughan
Copyright 2013

This is a fantasy and/or science fiction story is intended for middle grade readers. The main character and his friends are all 12 years old.  Christopher Lane and his friends have been chosen to go to a private government school because they show particularly strong "Ability" skills.  The premise is that all twelve year olds (starting with their 12th birthday, and lasting only until they turn thirteen) have some "ability" but some have it stronger. They have been invited to a posh school to learn how it works, and to help save the Prime Minister who is in danger - from an incident that happened thirty years ago.  Meanwhile, there are twin boys being trained elsewhere to use their abilities for more sinister reasons.  

I enjoyed this book.  There is nothing on this book to say that is the first of a series, but it could be, indeed. The ending, which I will not give away, lets me think that there will be more in the future.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Just Grace and the Super Sleepover by Cherise Mericle Harper

Just Grace and the Super Sleepover by Charise Mericle Harper
Publication Date:  January 7, 2014

First, let's get the business part out of the way:   I acquired this book as a paperback ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) at ALA 2013. . . so just a couple of weeks ago!   Let's remember I that I am a Librarian who primarily is a stay-at-home-mom at present.   However, I thought this that this book would be an interesting read for my 7-year-old niece who is about to begin second grade. As a note, it might still be a little beyond her reading abilities, yet, but when I gave this book to her to read, she was thrilled with it.  There are many illustrations as Just Grace illustrates many of the stories in her book! Niece spent lots of time going over the illustrations.  Yay!   The book is recommended for readers ages six to nine years old.

This is the latest installment of Just Grace series of books. One of her friends, Grace F, is inviting over several girls for her birthday party, which is to be a sleepover in a tent!  Outside!  Everyone else is excited, but Just Grace is not exactly excited. She is rather scared of the idea of sleeping outside in a tent.  Is it safe?   Meanwhile, Just Grace talks a lot about learning about the Earth in school (third grade), and the songs that her teacher makes up to help them learn.

 I will admit here that this is the first Just Grace that I have read, and I really enjoyed her as the heroine of this story.   The author does an excellent job of capturing the voice of a third grader.  For me, as an adult, it was a quick and easy read, but it also found my third-grade self lurking . . .  I would have loved this book when I was in third grade!

(In third grade, I read books such as The Little House books, Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Superfudge, Carolyn Haywood's Betsy books and other books such as Rebecca C. Jones' Angie and Me.)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Moving Miss Peggy by Robert Benson

Moving Miss Peggy: A Story of Dementia, Courage and Consolation
by Robert Benson

I read this little book early this past Sunday morning.   The copy of it was acquired on Saturday afternoon at ALA 2013.  Mr. Benson was there in person to sign copies of it.  I had never read any of his works before.  I may send him an email now that I have read the book.

This is a very well-written and poignant story.  It is written in the third person for the most part.  It is not written from the point of view of the author, although he is obviously a character in the story.  Sometimes it is addressed as "we" (the four siblings who must decide what to do with their mother), and then each sibling or spouse is named when necessary.  

Miss Peggy, as she is most often called, married young and gave birth to five children over the next 16 years.  After her husband passed away fairly young (their youngest child was still just 16 years old), she led a rather independent life working and enjoying living.   However, in the last couple of years, some things haven't been quite right with her, and her living children gather to decide what must be done for her, and who will do what things for Miss Peggy.

She is experiencing dementia, and it is getting worse.  She is not quite the self she used to be.   She has already had to give up driving.  It is finally decided that she must be moved into an assisted living facility, and her large townhouse must be sold   The siblings set out to find just the perfect location for their mother.  In the meantime, they are trying to carefully dissolve their mother's household and belongings.  Various pieces of furniture goes to various grandchildren who are moving out on their own, for instance.

It is a beautiful story, and it really resonated with me.   I have experienced some of these things recently with my grandpa recently moving into assisted living.  I inherited some very special furniture. . .  and this past Sunday, my grandpa was able to share again the story of how he and grandma acquired that furniture more than sixty years ago (they were moving, and many of their possessions were lost in a flood.  This was some of the new furniture that they were able to get at cost.)  Grandma died seven years ago now, but she was experiencing dementia at the time.

I highly recommend this book.      

Friday, June 21, 2013

Below by Meg McKinlay

Below by Meg McKinlay (Published 2011; First US Edition 2013 - Candlewick Press)

I just read this book today - started it this morning, and finished it this afternoon.  I saw the book on the new book display at my local library, and had to pick it up.  In the case of this book, the cover is good, and grabbed my attention and imagination.   The cover portrays the main character and her friend swimming over a town vaguely positioned below the surface - as you can see to the left.

The day 12 year old Cassie was born (several weeks too early), the old version of their town was flooded on purpose for the good of the water supply in their area (it is a town in Australia.)   Now, people are not permitted to swim or boat or do anything beyond a certain point of  the new lake.   The actual area of the town under the water is off limits.   It is so peaceful there, and Cassie loves to swim in the forbidden area.   However, there seems to be a mystery as to why no one is permitted there.  The mayor says that it is dangerous, but the old town is so far down, that it is not really a problem.   What secret is the mayor hiding?

Overall, I liked this book so much that I did not want to put it down.  It was a quick read for m)e, but it also moved at a quick pace, and I never had the urge to skip ahead to the end!   I would highly recommend this book to fourth to seventh graders (ages 9 to 12, generally)!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson (Published in 2008)

I just read this book a couple of weeks ago.

I should have read it earlier, but to be honest, I forgot about it.  I remember a co-worker reading it in 2008, but at the time, my son (the first one) was struggling for his life and then died, and then we were packing up to move 1,800 miles away.   I just did not have the time or energy just then.  And then I forgot about it.  Perhaps I forgot about it on purpose, because it was not written by my beloved L. M. Montgomery.   Nevertheless, it happened, and a couple of months ago, it was suggested to me as something I might like on GoodReads.

I have been more active again on GoodReads in the last few months because I was mostly curious about what recommendations it could produce based on what I've read.   I still don't have everything I've ever read listed there.  I am still short, a bit, on LibraryThing, where I have been a full member for over five years as I still prefer it over GoodReads any day.   I've been trying to get every book I've ever read listed on there, but that will be difficult because even though I started keeping lists of books I've read age age 11, I only counted books that were 50 or more pages in length.   Picture books I am way behind on.  I am already trying to remember.

Anyway, I borrowed this book from the library, and reluctantly started reading it.  Within the first ten pages, I had trouble putting it down.   What I liked the most were the glimpses into the short lives of Anne's parents. There was not really enough about them! (One of my only criticisms of this book.)  The saddest parts were how Anne cannot go to school very often due to the circumstances of the families she lives with.   She wanted so badly to go to school.  She wants so badly to have real family and friends.  Actually, it is fairly depressing at times - but I had to finish the book anyway to make sure everything would lead up to Matthew picking up Anne in Bright River.

The author does not try to capture L. M. Montgomery's voice, which was good, because that would have been difficult to do. The author herself does a fine job in her own voice trying to capture the story of Anne before she arrives on Prince Edward Island.

I award this book five stars, despite it being rather depressing at times!

One more note:  The most upsetting section of this book is when ALL of Mrs. Hammond's children are given away.  She does not get to keep even one of them.   That did make me want to vomit.  Perhaps I will give this book 4.5 stars instead.   

Thursday, June 13, 2013

When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour

When the Dikes Broke by Alta Halverson Seymour (Published in 1958.)
Juvenile/YA Fiction

I was 13 or so when I first read this book.  That is perhaps a little over the intended audience age . . . but when I discovered it, I HAD to read it.   As I have said in a previous post, I was once a meteorology major.  I liked anything weather and/or disaster-related even then.  

I also have to note that I appreciate the fact that this takes place in the Netherlands and relates what could be the story of some of my ancestors.  At age 13, I did not have much interest in family history . . . that interest was sparked around age 19 (a little maturity never hurts.)   My great-great-grandmother's family left the Netherlands - one of the island-like areas that were made, in fact, by the dikes - in the late 1880s after their land was flooded a number of times.  They were farmers and shepherds, and the flooded land did not help them make a good living.   They send my great-great grandmother Blazina with two of her siblings to relatives in Wisconsin, and then they came later with their youngest (living) child.  (Blazina's parents had at least ten babies, but several of them did not survive infancy.  A couple of them were recorded as being born still.)

So this book has given me interesting insight into the lives of my ancestors . . . except for the scenes involving helicopter, of course!  It takes place during the flooding of 1953.  The main character is 13-year-old Lisa Van Rossem.   The book opens with all of the family gathered around sharing their greatest wishes.  They go to bed, and then awaken in the night to half of their house already under water.  They must get up to the attic if they are to survive.  At some point they must get up on the roof.  Suddenly Tante Anna, who is pregnant, is swept off the roof into the water.   They now must all go out in boats and search for her.   Some of them do that while some of the men go to the dike and try to fill in the hole so the ocean will stop flooding their land!

In light of the flooding of 1953 (the failure of, in some cases, very old dikes), the Netherlands has rebuilt their levee system to be the best in the world according to this article:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Summer to Die by Lois Lowery

TitleA Summer to Die
Author: Lois Lowery
Original Publication Date: 1977
Date I First Read: 1987ish
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:  Meg and Molly's family have just moved out to the country.  Molly is popular while Meg is Meg.  Meg is into photography and such.  She becomes friends with the neighbors and is on hand when they birth their baby at home.  In the meantime, it has become obvious that Molly is terminally ill with leukemia.    Meg learns many lessons about life and death at a tender young age.  

Cover: This (above) is the paperback cover I remember seeing when I first read this book  Molly looks like a ghost already.  Either that, or it was this hardback book jacket cover (below.) 

What I Remember About the Book: I need to re-read this book!  I think I actually own a paperback copy, so I'll have to dig it out and then re-write this post.   I remember Meg being there when the neighbors had their baby, and then 



her sister dies.  

Man, I really need to re-read this book!  It's been at least 15 years since I last re-read it.   I don't know it I want to.  Ever since we had our first son, and he died, I've been really sensitive to books where children and young people die.  

And yes, this book is completely superior to Lurlene McDaniel books . . . of which I was a fan as a pre-teen and young teen.  Yes, as a youth librarian, I have continued to read most of them.  I can't see I've liked them all.  They never made me cry like A Summer to Die made me cry.  Therefore Ms. Lowery's book is definitely superior.  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Apollo's Outcasts by Allen Steele

Title: Apollo's Outcasts
Author: Allen Steele
Original Publication Date: 2012
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction and Science Fiction

Basic Summary:  Jamie Barlowe has lived on Earth since being born on the moon during the early building of the colony.  His mother was killed.  His father brought him back to Earth, but because he was born in a different state of gravity, his bones don't support him. Jamie lives in a "moblile", but feels really free in water . . .  and loves swimming.   His father is involved in some scientific community . . . and all of their lives are in danger when the president dies and there is a coup d'etat.   Jamie, his sister, and several other kids, are sent to the moon colony.   For the first time, Jamie is "normal" and can walk!  He decides to become a Ranger . . . which is very excited about.   

What I Remember About the Book: Jamie loves that he is able to walk while living on the moon.  

What I Took Away From the Book:  I found that I do like some science fiction.  This is quite accessible without being too science-fiction-y!   The families living on the moon, and the descriptions of their homes and how they live, were believable and made me want to read more.  The action was just enough without being too violent (which I appreciated.)  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney 
Published 2013
YA/Teen Fiction


This is the fifth (and maybe final) book about Janie Johnson. Overall, it sews things up for Janie/Jennie (because she decides she's going to be Jennie after all.) I also like getting Hannah's deranged view of things. Her hatred of librarians is interesting!  

I personally had several problems with this book. First of all, it takes place in the present day. Texting and Facebook play a roll. This is a major problem for me, as I read the first book ('The Face on the Milk Carton') when it first came out over 20 years ago! This book should, at least in my mind, be taking place in the mid-1990s. Yes, there could be some online activity and email, but not everything else. In my mind, Janie/Jennie should be in her mid-to-late 30s now. Instead, she was born just about 20 years ago. It just seems weird. Never mind that the face on the milk carton initiative was LONG over by the mid-1990s.

And secondly . . . 

SPOILER (sort of . . . ) 

Secondly, Janie/Jennie is way too young to get married. . . I sound like such a grown-up saying this.) It was really annoying when Janie/Jennie kept saying she was going to college to find a husband because that is the best place to find one. (This is in the first part of the book, so not giving too much away. That is just such an old fashioned thought. I didn't find mine in college!)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell

Title: Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berline Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"
Author: Michael O. Tunnell
Original Publication Date: 2010
Date I First Read: 2010
Basic Category:  Juvenile Nonfiction. 

Basic Summary:  This is the story of Gail S. Halvorson, the Chocolate Pilot.   One day, while landed to deliver supplies to Berlin in the late 1940s, Lt. Halvorson was inspired to give a group of children there at the landing strip two pieces of gum to share.  After that, he wondered how he could deliver more treats to the children of Berlin.   His fellow pilots donated some of their own candy rations, and from the plan, he would drop the candy by attaching little parachutes made of handkerchiefs.   

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   Some of the children who received chocolate have stayed in contact with Gail Halvorson over the years.  

Notes:   This is a good book for 4-6th Graders.   It is also a 2014 Caudill Award Nominee.   
Rating (1-5 stars):  4.5  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg

Title: Annie's Ghosts
Author: Steven Luxenberg
Original Publication Date: 2009
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / Genealogy

Basic Summary:  The author was surprised after his mother's death that he had an aunt.  His mother always claimed that she was an only child.   After her death, the family received a letter from the cemetery where their grandparents were buried asking if they wanted to plant flowers for them, and for a woman named Annie Cohen.   Mr. Luxenberg investigates, and interviews over a hundred people in an attempt to learn the whole story behind Annie, and why his mother kept Annie a secret.    Much of their unknown family history is also discovered (along with changes of surnames upon arrival in America.)   

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   I just finished reading this book a week ago . . . It is amazing that they wanted to hide their second daughter.   At the time her physical and mental disabilities were considered shameful, at least in their family, and in the area Annie's parents were originally from.   It made me feel very sad for them all.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Arlene on the Scene by Carol Liu with Marybeth Sidoti Caldarone

TitleArlene on the Scene
Author: Carol Liu with Marybeth Sidoti Caldarone
Original Publication Date: 2010
Date I First Read: 2013
Basic Category:  Juvenile Fiction (The main character is in fourth grade.)

Basic Summary:  Arlene is starting the fourth grade . . . but over the summer, she has acquired new purple leg braces.  She has a disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, which makes her legs and hands  weak.   With the braces, she can walk better.  Still she worries, so she concocts a plan to prove herself.  First, she convinces the school principal that fourth graders should be able to run for student government, not just the fifth and sixth graders . . . and then Arlene starts campaigning hard! She learns a lot about her classmates in the meantime.  

What, from this book, has stayed in my mind:   Arlene's speech in front of the student body just prior to the election.  

What I Took Away From the Book:  This is a book I would have loved to read when I was in third or fourth grade - maybe because Arlene is so unlike me at that age.  Not because of physically abilities, but because of her outgoing personality.  I would never imagine doing anything like she does in this book!  Go, Arlene! 

I also learned about Charot-Marie-Tooth.  It is a neuropathy disorder that is usually inherited, but sometimes it just shows up (as in the case of Arlene and her mother, and in the case of the co-author Marybeth Sidoti Caldarone and her daughter.) 
Rating (1-5 stars):  4.5  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: This World We Live In
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Original Publication Date: 2010
Date I First Read: 2010 (Reread in epub format in 2013.)
Basic Category:  YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:  This is the third book in the Last Survivors series.   Here is the author's blog for this book
Miranda, who through her diary narrated the first book, which I love, titled Life As We Knew It, is now back writing in her diary.  It had been a year since the moon was shoved closer to the earth and all h-ll broke loose.  Her mother and brothers have survived.  Her brothers go off to fish, and Matt brings him his new young wife.  And then her father shows up with his wife, new baby, and three more people who are like family now.  

What I Remember About the Book: Before I re-read it, mostly all I remembered well was the food and van Miranda and Alex found, and then the disaster near the end of the book. I don't want to give away too many spoilers.   

What I Took Away From the Book: That I will never really survive a disaster unless I have access to a good pharmacy with allergy and asthma meds in stock.  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

1)  There is a new book in this series coming out in August 2013!  It is titled The Shade of the Moon.  
2) One of the earlier "chapter" books I remember reading was also by Ms. Pfeffer.  It is titled What Do You Do When Your Mouth Won't Open?  I read this book about thirty years ago now, and it was something that I understood . . . it happened to me daily.  I chatted at home quite a lot, but outside to other people?   A very difficult task!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

5 Apps (Only Some of Which Pertain to Books)

The theme for today for the WordCounts 30-Day Blogging Challenge is 5 Favorite Apps.   I don't have a device at present that really uses apps!   I use my husband's iPod touch sometimes, and sometimes my mom's iPad.  Otherwise, I have been a big Facebook app user for six years.  Does that count?  The problem is that some apps are not for PCs (I have a laptop that I use regularly.)

 On Facebook, Words with Friends,  Farm Town (not Farmville, which always rather sucked in comparison), and now Candy Saga.

On Chrome - Angry Birds.  Yes, I first got this for my son (for free), but I admit to playing it sometimes! It's difficult!

On devices that I don't own but use occasionally - Scramble with Friends (no app for PC - annoying!).

Other apps that I would use if I could - (actually, I don't know if they have an app, but I am on the website all the time.  I have had a paid account there for over five years.)

I used to have a weather app years ago on a previous laptop.  I was a meteorology major for a year of my life - nearly twenty years ago now.

Ah . . . I do use an Adobe Digital Editions app (or is it just software?) to download books from the library in epub format and load them onto my Kobo.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Title: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Authors: Judi Barrett
Original Publication Date: 1978
Date I First Read: Summer 1980ish
Basic Category: Children's Fiction / Picture Book

Basic Summary:   The town of Chewandswallow has unusual weather with no need for grocery stores.  All of their food needs came in with the weather.  That is until things started going awry!  

What I Remember About the Book: The bacon and eggs in the tree before the weather took a turn for the worse, and after, the giant pancake (with syrup) on the school.  

What I Took Away From the Book: Weather can be really fun!  

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 

Notes:  I have re-read this many times over the years.  I even bought a new copy for myself after the old copy from 1980ish from my cousin fell apart.  I have used this book for preschool storytimes. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Christ Crutcher

Let me just preface this by admitting the following:  I graduated from high school twenty years ago today.  In celebration, I post about a book I first read that year.  In fact, I will post a book by a well-known author who I had a chance to meet a full ten years later!  

Title:  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Authors: Christ Crutcher
Original Publication Date: 1993
Date I First Read: Summer 1993
Basic Category: Fiction / YA/Teen Fiction

Basic Summary:   Eric and Sarah Byrnes were childhood friends because they were both different - Eric was fat and Sarah had burn scars from early childhood.   Sarah is now catatonic, and Eric is trying to help her.  And then there are the school scenes - a Contemporary American Thought class, where different classmates have different views, and Eric ends up being injured.  

What I Remember About the Book: The hypocritical views on abortion among the classmates. The classmate who was always spouting conservative Christian rhetoric in class. . .  and then his girlfriend became pregnant, and he encourage an abortion.  I was stunned by that at the time. I always thought that if you really believed in something, you should stand by those beliefs. This made me start question - more than I had already - what I personally believed.   

What I Took Away From the Book:  I loved this book the first time I read it.  I walked around thinking about it for days.  I have been afraid, honestly, to re-read this book.  What if I feel differently twenty years later?  I have an autographed copy of this book in the paperback edition from 2003.  

Meeting Mr. Crutcher and hearing him talk either in late 2003 or early 2004 was great.  He does put much of his experience as a counselor, etc,  into the books 

Rating (1-5 stars):  5 (At the time.  I am thinking about re-reading it.) 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Data, A Love Story by Amy Webb

Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet my Match by Amy Webb
Original Publication Date:  2013
Date I First Read: 2013
Category:  Nonfiction/Memoir

Summary:  Ms. Webb thought she would meet her future significant other while on international journalism assignments.  After some rather bad relationships, she decided to try online dating.   That wasn't working out so well, either, until she signed up as a man, and tried to see what men liked in the most popular profiles of women.

What I Liked About the Book:  I picked up this book because I, too, decided to joined an online dating site and create a profile.  And I found my eventual spouse quite quickly!  In fact, Ms. Webb got into online dating at the same time I did.   When she started mentioning instant messaging, I dated it as 2005, and I was correct.  I enjoyed getting another perspective on it . . .  it rather validated the idea that we did the right thing.  We aren't the only ones!

Rating (1-5 Stars): 5 Stars 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

(I just want to note that I am not being paid in any way at this time for my reviews.  I mainly get books to read from my local public library.  Occasionally I get picked to receive an Advanced Reader Copy from LibraryThing, in exchange for a review. That is it at this time.)

 The Lost Husband by Katherine Center (2013)

Sometimes I have trouble getting into fiction that is intended for "adults" that is not supposed to be full of humor.   This was was not full of humor, but indeed, I had trouble putting this book down.  At the gym I, in fact, opted to walk on the treadmill so that I could keep reading! (This was a week ago.)  

Libby Moran's husband died suddenly a few years ago in a car accident after picking up their daughter Abby.  Abby's leg was crushed at age four in the same accident, and now at age seven, she still has a small limp.  Libby worries about her quite a bit.  Her younger child, Tank, doesn't remember his father at all.  Libby moved back in with her mother after discovering the financial mess her husband had them in (he cashed in his life insurance for an investment at some point.)   She and her mother don't get along very well.  Her mother has been in search of something her whole life, but has no idea what that may be.  Libby finally receives a letter from her aunt Jean, inviting her and the children to come live and work on her goat farm.  Libby accepts, and discovers a whole new life.  

I highly recommend this book!

Rating (1 to 5 stars): 5

Saturday, May 25, 2013

One+One=Blue by M. J. Auch

One + One = Blue by MJ Auch (2013)

This book is intended for middle grade students  . . . so it could be be placed in the juvenile fiction or in junior high fiction, depending how libraries, for instance, are cataloging individual collections.  

I had first learned about synesthesia several years ago from the Wendy Maas book A Mango-Shaped Space.  This book is more of a "boy" book than Mango-Shaped as the main character (named Basil after his mother's favorite herb!) is a boy.  

It seems that the author experiences number-related synethesia, and so gave Basil her particular number/color combinations - including something that can make math more difficult than it needs to be:  both three and six are shades of yellow.   

Basil and his new friends Tenzie are each having tough times individually in their families.   Tenzie feels that she is being completely ignored at home.  Basil's long lost mother has returned for the first time in seven years.   He likes his life with his grandma, but he wants to love his mother, who may prove to be just as flighty as ever.  

I could not put this book down as I read it earlier this week.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Potty by Leslie Patricelli

Potty by Leslie Patricelli (2010)

My son received this board book for his second birthday a little over a year ago.  I had seen it online, and had requested this book in physical format for him.  A friend gave it to him, and it soon became a favorite book in our household.   We liked it so much that we presented it to my cousin and her soon-to-be-born daughter earlier this year.

The little character in this book is never identified as a boy or girl.  My son thinks it is a little boy like himself, and we let him think that.   In a Persian translation of another book in this series by Patrcelli, the character seems to be named "Chil-Chil", so we call him/her by that name in our household.

In the course of the book, the main character sees how the family pets go potty, and finally he/she tries going potty, too.

In terms of the success of this book within our household?  We love to read this book, and for a little someone, reading it on the potty is great fun..  Reading readiness is high in our now three year old. With the actual potty issue?  Not yet!

Participating in Another Month-Long Blogging Challenge

I am going to participate in the following blogging challenge:

We'll see how it goes.  I have had less time to pre-write blogs as I did with the A to Z blog challenge.  I have been looking for another challenge and this seems to fit the bill.

I might also start tweeting more often . . . 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

2014 Illinois Caudill Award Books (That I Have Read Thus Far)

Here is a link to the .pdf of the current Caudill Nominees:'

When this list was released rather recently (an award voted on by fourth to eighth graders in Illinois), I had already read a couple of books on the list (and can't recommend them enough):  Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012) and The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (2011).   However, I hadn't read any of the others!

Since the list was released, I have read the following titles:

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson (2010) - A girl with a different name and a different kind of family life learns more about who she is.

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer (2011) - A girl whose mom is on the run from a bad relationship wants to become a famous baker.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg (2011) - This is a fun (if sometimes a little disgusting) book that I would highly recommend to my eleven-year-old nephew.  It is really about famous people in history and how they died - and what happened in some cases before and after they died.

Mockingbird: (Mok'ing-bûrd) by Kathryn Erskine (2010) - A girl with Aspergers is dealing with her own grief (as well as how to manage her OCD and thought processes), and her father's, after her older brother died in a school shooting.  (I could not put this book down.)

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nichols (2008) -  A boy is dying after several years of living with cancer.  He writes his memoir for everyone to remember him.  He also makes a "bucket list" of things he wants to do before he dies.   His incredible family and friends make many of these things happen for him - even a first kiss and a ride in a blimp. (Warning: Both this book and the book listed above this one are definitely tearjerkers!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray (Illustrated by Mike Lowery), 2011.

This picture book is a 2014 Nominee of  Illinois' Monarch Award.  The winner of this award is voted on by students in Illinois in grades K to 3.

This book really is perfect for kids in kindergarten.  The children listening to this book read aloud need to have the context of being in school to really get the excitement of being lost in the school - and getting into the principal's office!  This illustrations are almost in graphic novel format, so that each page contains visuals for each line, sentence, or action.   It is definitely one I would take school visiting for kindergarten and perhaps first grade.  It takes the read through a myriad of emotions while also being rather silly at times, and it has a good ending.

(I am not in any way connected with the Monarch Award and nor am I being paid to review this book. I checked this book out from the local public library!)

Monkey Ono by J. C. Phillips

Monkey Ono by J.C. Phillipps, 2013

This picture book is about a cat (based on the author/illustrator's real cat), a dog, and a stuffed toy monkey who wants to, badly, go to the beach with their family.

Alas, Monkey Ono is left at home, and he hatches several plans to get there - even the silly one of being flushed down the toilet to be able to reach the ocean (aptly named "Operation Swirlie." Eventually, Java the cat and  Telly the dog save the day for Monkey Ono.

This is a fun story that is rather sweet at the same time.  It is definitely one I would use for a preschool storytime!

Note: I have borrowed this book from my local public library.  I have not been paid or whatnot to review this book.   I just love this book as a Librarian and as a mom.  My three year old son loves it, too.  

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Weather-Related Quotes From Books

Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, I kept a notebook with quotes from books and movies related to weather.  I was a meteorology major for a year, but loved reading about weather. 

These are some selections that I noted.

"Almost overhead now, the tumbling, swirling clouds changed from black to a terrifying greenish-purple.  They seemed to draw themselves together, then a groping finger slowly came out of them and stretched down trying to reach the earth" (254).   - Laura Ingalls Wilder, These Happy Golden Years

"As they dashed into the kitchen the light seemed to vanish, as if blown out by some mighty breath; the awful cloud rolled over the sun and a darkness as of late twilight fell across the world.  At the same moment, with a crash of thunder and a blinding glare of lightning, the hail swooped down and blotted the landscape out in one white fury" (211).   L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

"The sun had now been set sometime; heavy cloud whose lower skirts were tinged with sulphurous crimson, lingered in the west, and threw a reddish tint upon the pine forests, which sent forth a solemn sound, as the breeze rolled over them" (406).  - Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho

"Derry wind speeds were being clocked at an average of fifty-five miles an hour, with gusts up to seventy.  The anemometer in the courthouse registered one gust of eighty-one, and then the needle dropped all the way back to zero.  The wind had ripped the whirling cuplike device on the courthouse roof off its moorings and it flew away into the rainswept dimness of the day" (1042).  - Stephen King, IT

"In the lightning that tore across the sky every few minutes, I could see the clouds were still low and boiling.  I didn't know if we'd be safe anywhere, even when we got out" (66).  - Ivy Ruckman, Night of the Twisters 

"The next day the rain poured down in torrents again, and when Mary looked out of her window the moor was almost hidden by gray mist and cloud.  There could be no going out today" (51).  - Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden  

"Suddenly there was no sunshine.  It went out, as if someone had blown out the sun like a lamp. The outdoors was gray, the windowpanes were gray, and at the same moment a wind crashed against the schoolhouse, rattling windows and doors and shaking the walls" (84).   - Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter 

"I wondered at the beauty of its intricate design / I breathed, the snowflake vanished / but for moments, it was mine" (41). - Jack Prelutsky, It's Snowing! It's Snowing!

"The only thing really that was different about Chewandswallow was its weather.  It came three times a day at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Everything that everyone at came from the sky . . . it never rained rain.  It never snowed snow.   And it never blew just wind.  It rained things like soup and juice.  It snowed mashed potatoes and green peas.  And sometimes the wind blew in storms of hamburgers" (7-8).   - Judi Barrett, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 

"It's true there were dark storm clouds - heavy, black, and pendulous, toward which they were driving."  - 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'  [Not a book . . .  but this has always been my favorite line from this movie.]