Saturday, March 31, 2012

Keyword Searches Fun

I was checking my Stats today and found several odd keyword searches.
I think my favorite one is cute magicians doing hocus pocus. What were you searching for? I need to know! Did you find it on my blog? You might try A Matter of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede.
I also had mole was tired of cleaning. Makes me wonder what book review that was from!

Other interesting ones:
bunny wearing a hat illustration
humor book witches
getrude ederle when she died
girls pretending to be boys
magic windows

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key 
by Tatiana de Rosnay
294 pages
Adult, World War II

Book Jacket Summary
A New York Times bestseller. Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

My Thoughts
This is one of those books that I felt I should read because it was on the best sellers list for such a long time. Then the movie came out and I knew I had to read it before it popped up during one of my friends movie nights. I kinda knew going into the book that I would get emotional because it is about World war II and the atrocities levied against the Jews in Europe. De Rosnsy obviously did a lot of research on Vel d'Hiv because it was not taught in her school's history books. It is something that the French people do not talk about because it mostly effected Jewish women and children. The story of Sarah's life and what she went through and what she lost is horrible but it is something we need to remember lest it be repeated.
Overall, good for a book club or for readers who are interested in World War II. It is well written and I can see why it was on the best seller list for so long. Julia is someone with determination and is almost ruthless in her pursuit of what happened in the apartment her husband is remodeling. She must make difficult choices when she finds herself pregnant and her husband is reluctant to be a father again. All Julia can focus on is finding out where Sarah ended up and is she is okay. 

Book Pairings
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen

Snow in Summer 
by Jane Yolen 
256 pages

Book Jacket Summary
With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father's garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he's born, taking Summer's mama with him, Summer's fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer's world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she's up to no good - and is afraid she's powerless to stop her.This Snow White tale filled with magic and intrigue during the early twentieth century in Appalachia will be hard to forget.

My Thoughts
Jane Yolen is such a prolific writer but never seems to run out of good ideas. She is also a hit or miss with me and I either love her books or cannot finish them. This is one that I finished and really appreciated. A retelling of Snow White is a difficult task because their are so many variations out there that finding a new angle is hard because it feels like the reader has read it before. This version of the tale is set in the mountains of West Virginia in the 1940's. The cover makes it look like a more fairy tale-esque time period but the time setting works in its favor.
Summer in Snow leads an idealistic childhood until her mother dies in childbirth and her father falls into a deep depression. Her Cousin Nancy takes care of her and makes sure she is feed, clothed and loved. This suddenly changes when a woman enchants her father and quickly becomes her Stepmama. All Summer wants is to be loved by her new Stepmama but quickly learns that it is not to be so. Stepmama is really a witch who is after the family property and will stop at nothing to get it.
The book is told through many points of view but it is mostly Summer's story and how she handles the situations her Stepmama places her in. Cousin Nancy wants to help but the restrictions of society and some pride on her part make it difficult for her to take Summer out of harms way. I really like Cousin Nancy and how she did fight back in small ways. The story heavily relies on Appalachian myths and turns of phrases. It was interesting seeing the tale of Snow White in such a place. There are many parts that talk about menstrual cycles and birthing, so if you are squeamish about that in literature I would stay away. 
I would recommend this book to those who love fairy tale retelling and definitely those who are fans of Jane Yolen. The woman knows how to spin a tale.

Book Pairings 

The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales by
Toads and Diamonds by

Monday, March 26, 2012

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

War Horse
by Michael Morpurgo
165 pages
Tween/Crossover Appeal

Book Jacket Summary
A powerful tale of war, redemption, and a hero's journey.In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

My Thoughts
This book should be up there with Black Beauty and The Black Stallion for best horse stories. Joey is a wonderful narrator that pulls the reader into the World War I experience through the eyes of a war horse. 
The story starts with Joey, a yearling, being sold at an auction. He is bought on the whim of a drunken man but quickly becomes the favorite of the son, Albert. Albert loves Joey and Joey loves Albert. They support each other cope with Albert's drunken father and his frequent bouts of rage. However, their idyllic life is cut short when Joey is sold to the cavalry. The cavalry quickly learns that horses will not win a war against machine guns and tanks. Joey is captured, used as a cart horse, becomes a friend, and a hero. Joey lives an exciting life but always longs to be with Albert. 
For such a short book it packs an emotional punch. I had my reservations about seeing the movie until I read the book because I was worried about how graphic the war would be depicted. I now know that I would not be able to handle the multiple deaths and hard times that Joey faces. I did cry at least once during and this was only a 160 page book. I would highly recommend this one to loves horse books. It is a multi-genre book though and would be perfect for horse lovers, World War I enthusiasts, and historical  fiction fans.

Book Pairings
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Firehorse by Diane Lee Wilson 
National Velvet by Enid Bagnol

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Extra Yarn 
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Picture Book

Book Jacket Summary
 It looks like an ordinary box full of ordinary yarn. But it turns out it isn't.

My Thoughts
Extra Yarn is a magical book about a girl named Annabelle who finds a box with a never ending supply of yarn. She makes everything beautiful in a town that is made up of of black, white, and shades of gray. There is an explosion of color once she knits herself a sweater and then one for everyone in town, even the animals. An evil arch duke wants to steal the box but the magic does not work for him. The box ends up back with Annabelle and she continues to knit contentedly. 
I just read Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back and the forest animals from that book end up on Extra Yarn (sans hat but now decked out in awesome sweaters). I would recognized that bear anywhere. I love his style of drawing! Barnett wrote a lovely story that feels like a modern fairy tale. I really like this book and plan on buying it for my knitting friends. If you knit it will make your day and you will wish for an unending amount of yarn. If you don't knit it is still a beautiful story that will make you smile and wish that you could knit. It reminds me of the "yarn bombs" that you might see in Austin, TX. People knit objects, such as trees and telephone poles. Highly recommend this modern fairy tale to everyone.

Book Pairings
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

by Doug TenNapel
267 pages
Graphic Novel

Book Jacket Summary
A page-turning adventure of a boy's journey to the land of ghosts and back.Imagine Garth Hale's surprise when he's accidentally zapped to the spirit world by Frank Gallows, a washed-out ghost wrangler. Suddenly Garth finds he has powers the ghosts don't have, and he's stuck in a world run by the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, who would use Garth's newfound abilities to rule the ghostly kingdom. When Garth meets Cecil, his grandfather's ghost, the two search for a way to get Garth back home, and nearly lose hope until Frank Gallows shows up to fix his mistake.

My Thoughts
Garth is dying of an incurable disease and his mother has dragged him to another specialist but there is nothing the doctors can do at this point. Frank Gallows works for the Supernatural Immigration Task Force as a ghost hunter. He is lazy about his job and accidentally sends Garth to the afterlife while chasing a rouge Night Mare. Garth must now navigate Ghostopolis with his grandfather's ghost and the Night Mare he names Skinny. Frank tries to make up for his mistake by getting Garth back to the real world with his ex, Claire. They all converge after having adventures and must fight the evil Vaugner for the control of Ghostopolis.
I liked this graphic novel because it deals with a lot of issues, like abandonment, death, and believing in oneself. It reminded me of the movie Iron Giant (which I love) in the character features and slightly in tone. I would recommend this one to the guys and anyone who likes action/adventure graphic novels. Characters are well formed and grow, figuratively and literally. Enjoy!   

Book Pairings
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
  Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Lady and The Lion retold by Laurel Long and Jacqueline K. Ogburn

The Lady and The Lion 
retold by Laurel Long and Jacqueline K. Ogburn   
illustrated by Laurel Long
Picture Book

Book Jacket Summary
Love and honor can overcome even the fiercest obstacles, as we see in this spellbinding fairy tale, with shades of "Beauty and the Beast." To save her father, a young woman must go to the castle of a menacing lion. She fears for her life, but finds kindness rather than danger there, for the lion by day is a gentle young man by night-a prince under the spell of a wicked enchantress. Soon the lady and the lion fall in love.
Unlike the more familiar tale, however, this story has only just begun. The prince is not yet safe from the enchantress, and it will take all of the lady's strength and courage, through a seven-year quest, to rescue him. Dazzlingly romantic and visually magnificent, this is a book for the ages-an exhilarating tale of virtue, heroism, and the power of love.

My Thoughts
I was searching through our stacks and pulled out this beautifully illustrated fairy tale. It combines Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun, West of the Moon to make a perfect fairy tale. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is my favorite fairy tale and I love any rendition that is out there. I always felt it was a type of Beauty and the Beast story anyway and seeing them combined makes it perfect. The author’s note says that this tale is also known as The Singing, Springing Lark. I will have to look that one up soon! So glad I was combing through our stacks because I would have missed this one! 
I cannot fully explain how beautiful the illustrations are in this book. This is what I think of when I envision what a fairy tale world would look like. The gowns are gorgeous and intricate. I am Laurel Long’s newest fan and I will be trying to collect all her book covers. Check out her website:

Book Pairings
Cupid and Psyche by M. Charlotte Craft
Beauty and the Beast  by Marianna Mayer
East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
243 pages

Book Jacket Summary
 Danica Shardae is an avian shapeshifter, and the golden hawk’s form in which she takes to the sky is as natural to her as the human one that graces her on land. The only thing more familiar to her is war: It has raged between her people and the serpiente for so long, no one can remember how the fighting began. As heir to the avian throne, she’ll do anything in her power to stop this war—even accept Zane Cobriana, the terrifying leader of her kind’s greatest enemy, as her pair bond and make the two royal families one.
Trust. It is all Zane asks of Danica—and all they ask of their people—but it may be more than she can give.

My Thoughts
 I first read Amelia Atwater-Rhodes when I was in high school. It was fascinating that a girl my own age could write and publish a real book. It is now years later and I am returning to her because a friend pressed this book into my hands. It does have that draw that I felt as a young teenager and I still like her style. Atwater-Rhodes' characters are well rounded and there is no love at first sight. Instead there is a bitterness but understanding that the two kingdoms would be better off united than being at war for another hundred years. Danica is willing to marry Zane if it means the killing will stop and their kingdoms can know peace. She is sure that there will never be love or friendship between them, only an understanding that they want what is best for their people.
Danica is strong willed in a society that has breed warriors for battle but she must be protected because she is the last royal heir to the avian throne. She goes against her mother's wishes and becomes pair bonded with Zane when she is crowned queen. This sets in motion an assassination plot against both of them and they must fight to save their lives. Although Danica is afraid of Zane, a trust builds slowly between them and it looks like they will be able to build their kingdoms together in peace. This is only the start of a series, so trouble must follow. I hope to be able to read the rest of the series soon.
I would recommend this one to fans of fantasy or shapeshifting books. It has a great blend of characters and world building that will fill the need in most fantasy readers.

Book Pairings
Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
Wolf Tower by Tanith Lee
In the Forest of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling
 222 pages

Book Jacket Summary
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

My Thoughts
It has been a while since I've read a funny memoir type book and I'm glad I start with Mindy Kaling's book. I have been eying it at the bookstore for a while and when I finally saw it on the shelf of the library I grabbed it. I have been needing something different in my diet of picture books and teen angst. Mindy Kaling fit the bill. She basically writes essays on a theme, such as her childhood, friendships, her writing experiences, and her looks. I think I picked this book because I happen to think this title in my head. It was nice to know that even a celebrity felt this way at some point. Mindy is really funny and I think the back cover of the book cemented the fact that it went to the library checkout with me. You kinda have to see it to believe it. Plus, as Mindy stated in her book, never explain the joke.
Mindy Kaling, as most of you know, writes and stars in The Office on NBC . She plays Kelly Kapoor but does not want people to assume she is Kelly.  A good chunk of the book describes how she got into writing comedy and how she landed a writing job on The Office. She talks about how awesome the people on the show are in real life but that is not the entire book. I did think it was funny that she believes that Steve Carell is the nicest person in the world and kinda hates him for it. Her outlook is hilarious and I am so glad that others have the need to gossip and make inappropriate jokes. I laughed out loud several times when Mindy described her childhood and making friends.Plus she has a whole chapter about the the pictures on her blackberry. This tells a lot about a person and what it tells about her, is that she likes to check her makeup and make sure not to much cleavage is showing. I totally need to do this too!
I would highly recommend this one to people who love The Office or just love comedy. Mindy Kaling obviously does and that is what makes the book do special. She is someone that I will be watching for a second book! 

Book Pairings
Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch
Bossypants by Tina Fey

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson

A Boy Called Dickens
by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by John Hendrix
Picture Book

Book Jacket Summary
 For years Dickens kept the story of his own childhood a secret. Yet it is a story worth telling. For it helps us remember how much we all might lose when a child's dreams don't come true . . . As a child, Dickens was forced to live on his own and work long hours in a rat-infested blacking factory. Readers will be drawn into the winding streets of London, where they will learn how Dickens got the inspiration for many of his characters. The 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth is February 7, 2012, and this tale of his little-known boyhood is the perfect way to introduce kids to the great author. Here is historical fiction at its ingenious best.
My Thoughts
Charles Dickens’ life reads like one of his novels and Deborah Hopkinson’s new picture book makes good use of his childhood. The story focuses on the hard work that Dickens was forced into because his father and the rest of his family lived in debtor’s prison. He would visit them on occasion, when his job permitted. He works ten hours a day pasting labels onto bottles of polish and living in a cold room eating penny bread to survive. This made him the advocate for human rights that he became as an adult. His books brought the plight of working children, debtor’s prisons, and poor houses to the masses. Hopkinson creates a relatable boy that longs for an education to children who may have heard the name but never knew the real Charles Dickens. The illustrations show a cold and grimy England that Dickens knew. I like the ghost like waifs that follow Dickens throughout the book. These are the characters he creates and they follow him like Marley’s ghost; very invocating illustrations. I would recommend this one to all children because Dickens is such an influential writer, even now. We constantly quote or reuse his stories to prove point. A Christmas Carol is a Christmas classic and everyone has seen at least one production.   

Book Pairings
 Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played With Puppets by Kathleen Krull
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
George Washington's Birthday: A Mostly True Tale by Magaret McNamara

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dodsworth in Rome by Tim Egan

Dodsworth in Rome 
by Tim Egan
Early Reader

Book Jacket Summary
With trips to New York, Paris, and London under their belts, its snappy words and playful illustrations, it will surely be a spaghetti-twirling sight to see. Ciao!

My Thoughts
The real reason I picked up this book was to reminisce about my own travels through Rome. It was fun to read about Dodsworth drive past the Coliseum, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon on their rented scooter. I especially liked the gelato stand because I tried many of those same flavors. My favorites were hazelnut and pistachio. Sorry to seem so nostalgic... back to the book. 
The book is basically a comedy of errors when the duck Dodsworth traveks with loses their luggage. They go around Rome seeing the best sights and eating pizza and gelato. The book is an introduction to things to see in Rome but does not go into detail about the history or the real culture. Dodsworth has gone to Paris, London, and New York in other book; he must be quite the world traveler. This would be a good book series for young children who are interested in traveling and want to know what is in a particular city. Cute drawings and sweet characters make this a charming book for younger children.

Book Pairings
Dodsworth in Paris by Tim Egan
Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan

Friday, March 16, 2012

TGIF {4}: Social Networking

TGIF is a weekly meme created and hosted by GReads! that recaps the week's posts and has a different question each week.

Social Networking: Do you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your blog?  How has it benefited your book blogging experience? If not, how do you promote your blog? Share your twitter handle and/or Facebook link!

I feel a bit out of the loop because I don't use Twitter or have a Facebook page for my blog. I guess that is something that I have to start looking into for more exposure for my blog. I do go to Book Blogs and post my updates but I have not seen a large increase in traffic. Meme's are my ususal large traffic draws and I like to see what other people are saying about the same questions I answer. Guess I have to get with the times and start using Twitter everyday to start promoting my blog. Any advice?

Update: I am now on Twitter

I’m Here By Peter H. Reynolds

I’m Here
By Peter H. Reynolds
Picture Book

Book Jacket Summary
I’m here.
And you’re there.
And that’s okay.
maybe there will be a gentle wind that pulls us together.
And then I’ll be here and you’ll be here, too.
Pure, powerful and deceptively simple, bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds reminds us that children—and the friendships they make—can take flight in unexpected ways.

My Thoughts
We can always use a new picture book about children who have autism and how they interact with the world. This one focuses on a lonely boy who sits on the side lines observing how he hears the sounds of children play as “one big drum. A big drum. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.” He listens to the wind instead and plays out a fantasy of flying on a paper airplane he created to the cheers of the other children. He sets his plane flying and a little girl brings it back to him. After I read this I went back and looked for the little girl in the story and noticed she also hung slightly away from the crowd. She was on the fringe. Hopefully she will be able interact and be friends with the boy. Reynolds wrote this book to “help us all reach out, embrace, and appreciate children in the autism spectrum, as well as anyone who is different from ourselves.” This is a lesson we all struggle with, not just children. Hopefully this will help start or close a lesson on autism and how children with autism see the world.

Book Pairings
Only One You by Linda Kranz
Making a Friend by Alison McGhee

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Brain Camp by Susan Kim

Brain Camp
by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan
illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
160 pages
Graphic Novel

Book Jacket Summary
Neither artistic, dreamy Jenna nor surly, delinquent Lucas expected to find themselves at an invitation-only summer camp that turns problem children into prodigies. And yet, here they both are at Camp Fielding, settling in with all the other losers and misfits who’ve been shipped off by their parents in a last-ditch effort to produce a child worth bragging about.
But strange disappearances, spooky lights in the woods, and a chilling alteration that turns the dimmest, rowdiest campers into docile zombie Einsteins have Jenna and Lucas feeling more than a little suspicious . . . and a lot afraid.

My Thoughts
Jenna, an artist in a medically minded family, and Lucas, a slacker with an attitude, are sent off to Camp Fielding with promises to their parents that they will be turned into brilliant students with chipper attitudes. What Jenna and Lucas don't know is that their are experiments being run on the students and things might go wrong. They bond over the usual camp experience of bad food and mean campers, plus things are just plain weird at Camp Fielding. Jenna and Lucas must find out what is going on and how to stop it before the whole world it taken over.
This was a strange graphic novel with kids throwing up dead birds in an experiment gone wrong. This is not a spoil because it happens in the first few pages. It is definitely for older teens with references to a girl getting her period and a boy having a wet dream (ah the joys of puberty). At least they are addressed because most stories, even the gritty YA, gloss over these moments of entering your teenage years. I would categorize this one as SciFi/Horror but I am not sure to whom I would recommend this graphic novel. It has an odd combination of gore and things that YA does not usually reference. I am not a big fan of this graphic novel but I can see how certain teens would appreciate the creepiness and bonding the characters go through. 
I did notice a reference to an old movie called So Long At the Fair. One of the campers tells a story where a girl goes to a hotel with a family member. She returns to the hotel to find the room her brother was staying is no longer there and the hotel staff claim she came alone. This story does relate to the Brain Camp theme, however I think in the future I will just watch So Long At The Fair.   

Book Pairings
Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel
Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
Morning Glories by Nick Spencer

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