July 29, 2010

Book Review: Karma Bites

Title: Karma Bites
Authors: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

From Goodreads
Her best friends aren’t speaking, her parents just divorced, and her hippie grandmother has moved in. The only karma Franny’s got is bad karma.

Then Franny gets her hands on a box of magic recipes that could fix all of her problems. It could even change the world! Finally, life is looking up.

But Franny is about to learn that magic and karma aren’t to be played with. When you mess with the universe, it can bite back in unexpected ways.

My Review
This was such a cute book!  Ok at first it had the cringe factor for me.  Not the writing or anything like that but because of Franny's actions.  Once she learns of her grandmother's "magic" box that can give her ways to "fix" things I cringed left and right at what she decides to do.  As an outsider I knew it wasn't going to work but was helpless to stop her! Her actions just made me cringe! That said, I really liked Franny.  As a 7th grade teacher Franny rang true for me.  She just wanted to blend, to fit in, to not stand out in a way that might make her noticed and targeted.  She knew she needed to wear the right clothes, do the right thing and not rock the boat.  I see that with a lot of my students.  So when she feels like life isn't going her way, it's not a suprise that she does things that, to an outsider, might seem crazy. But because she's so realistic they are understandable.  I also liked that I could see how Franny was giving up parts of herself for her friends.  Because she was torn between two friends and wanting to make them both happy, she wasn't doing anything for herself.  She didn't get to do what she wanted to do.  I see that happening with some of my students - not to this degree but it's there. I think this will help them relate to Franny even more.

In the end what I really like about the book was the message within the chaos Franny creates. Franny learns there are no easy fixes. What seems like an easy solution may actually make it worse.  She's told over and over by her mother, grandmother and even Lama Tensing Pasha to talk to her friends about how she feels.  Of course she ignores them and goes to extreme measures that backfire. In the end she does learn that fixing something is best done through the simplest means - it may not be what you want to do, but it's the best way to go.  What a great lesson!!  There is also a secondary lesson about being true to who you are.  Franny's friends Joey and Kate know that - each having their own style.  It's Franny that has to figure out that's ok, and they don't need to change to fit in. This is something girls this age struggle with all the time.

There were a couple of things I wasn't over excited about in the book.  I didn't like the slang her friend Kate used.  I found it hard to read and a bit over done.  Also the social ladder in the school was a bit much.  I know it's there, but not in such an obvious way.  These are minor things that didn't take away from the over all enjoyment of the book, but I did notice them.

Final thought: Cute book about what happens when we try to change things to the way we want them
Best for readers who: are girls in 5-7th grade
Best stick-with-you image: The english teacher dancing to Katy Perry!
Best for ages: 9-13

Don't forget that this is one of the books up for grabs for the In the Middle Reading Challenge update.
Make sure to share your reviews. You can still join!!!
 If you pick this book the authors have offered to send a SIGNED copy plus some cool swag!!!!!

Here's the trailer for it.  And make sure to check out the Karma Bites website.

July 28, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - Hero

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared!
This week I'm waiting on:
Hero by Mike Lupica
Release Date: November 9, 2010
Mike Lupica has been known for his sports books.  I've had many many boys read his books and really enjoy them.  This one seems to be a step away from that.  I'm curious to see how well it goes over.
From Goodreads
Fourteen-year-old Billy Harriman can feel the changes. The sharpening of his senses. The incredible strength. The speed, as though he can textmessage himself across miles. The confidence and the strange need to patrol Central Park at night. His dad had been a hero, a savior to America and a confidante of the president. Then he died, and the changes began in Billy. What Billy never knew was that his father was no ordinary man-he was a superhero, battling the world's evil. This is a battle that has been waged for generations and that knows no boundaries. And now it's Billy's turn to take on the fight. It's Billy's turn to become a hero.
So those of you that have read Mike Lupica - what do you think?????

July 26, 2010

In the Middle Reading Challenge Update +Giveaway Time

Hey everyone it's time to update your In the Middle Reading Challenge progress! Using Mr. Linky below please link to any reviews you've written since our last update.  Here's the link to that update if you can't remember what you linked last time.

If you still want to join the challenge you can!!!! Here's the link to the info on the challenge :)

 If you don't have a blog you can leave links to reviews at places like Goodreads, Shelfari or Amazon etc.

My MG reads have been:
(linked to my review or Goodreads if I haven't reviewed yet)

Up for grabs is your choice of:

Any of the books listed above :)
You'll need to wait for Karma Bites - it's not out yet.

A runner up will win some various swag.

Open to US residents only.
Ends Aug 10.

July 21, 2010

Blog Tour: Jaguar Stones an Interview with Jon and Pam Voelkel

Today I have the honor of interviewing J&P Voelkel authors of The Jaguar Stones: Middleworld
 I reviewed the book about and month ago.  You should go read the review! In short - I liked it :) 
 Since then The Jaguar Stones was selected by The Today Show as it's children's book club pick.  A perfect choice I thought!

So without further ado - here's a bit of what they had to say.

1. My students hate revising what they've written. How many revisions, or how long did you spend, revising The Jaguar Stones?

Your students wouldn’t believe how many times we revised the manuscript – at least twenty times, maybe more. Some of it was due to our evolving knowledge of the Maya, but most of it was due to plot refinements. The story changed a lot and so did the characters. Some went from good to bad or vice versa, one even went from male to female. Whole episodes got cut to make the story flow faster. There’s a real satisfaction in editing: it’s like you’ve written the music and you’re a choreographer asking your characters to try out some new dance steps. Sometimes when you watch what they do or hear what they say in your head, the characters edit themselves. It’s also a good idea to read your work out loud to find any clunky bits. I know your students don’t want to hear this, but the first draft is never any good. Revisions make the book.

2. I really like that there is a strong girl character in the book, Lola. Did you set out to make sure she was great role model for girl readers?

Lola is not just a strong girl character – she’s something very rare in children’s literature, a strong Maya girl. But she’s no noble savage; she’s savvy about the modern world and she’s smarter than Max most of the time. We wanted to show that there are many different ways to live your life, and newer isn’t automatically better. Lola doesn’t have all the answers, but she understands the importance of being connected to the world around her. She has an intelligent and practical approach that sees her through. Because she’s not as reliant as Max on technology, she is able to cope better. But Lola has her own identity issues. And like many Maya today, she’s caught between the old and new.

3. Is Max based on anyone or complete fiction?

In many ways, Max is based on Jon as a child. Jon had a very adventurous childhood in Latin America, but he always wanted to live in a city and eat fast food and have all the latest gadgets. But he took a lot longer than Max to reassess his priorities!

4. I was excited to see The Jaguar Stones picked by the Today Show for their kids' reading series. How did you learn about this, and what was your first reaction?

The publisher’s PR company called us two days before Al Roker announced it, but we were sworn to secrecy. We were dancing round the office at home. When it sank in and we realized we’d have to go on The Today Show, my next reaction was sheer terror!

5. Who are your favorite authors?

Jon likes Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pamela likes Harper Lee.

Thanks Jon and Pamela for taking time to answer my questions! Can't wait to hear more about The Jaguar Stones!

Waiting on Wed: The Black Book of Buried Secrets

This is a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post we talk about books yet to be released that we are excited about. I do that, but sometimes I also like to talk about great books I have, but are waiting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers are using so that more books are shared!

This week I'm waiting on:

The Black Book of Buried Secrets (39 Clues)
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2010

I shared this book with some of my students at the end of the school year, and the ones who have read the series were super super excited about it! They love that they might get to find out the answers to some of the questions they've had.  I usually don't go for these types of books, but I think this one looks good.

From Goodreads
For the past five hundred years, the Cahills have silently dominated the world. Their desperate hunt for the 39 Clues lies behind some of history’s biggest enigmas – the curse of the Hope diamond, the race to summit Mt. Everest, the wild life and death of Harry Houdini. And now – finally – the secrets are out. With an introduction by Rick Riordan, The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets reveals the shocking truth about history’s most notorious family.

In full, lush color, The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets lays bare each hidden fact, concealed strategy, top agent, lost founder, secret base and hushed-up scandal of the Clue hunt. This complete guide to the Cahills contains information on all five branches, including the notoriously elusive Madrigals. The must-know information includes:

-Full files on the enigmatic Man in Black.
-The true purpose of the Madrigal branch.
-The complete story of the fire that split the original Cahill family.
-The truth about the night Hope and Arthur Cahill died.
-Open access to the secrets of the Lucian, Ekaterina, Tomas and Janus branches.
It’s never too late to join the hunt – especially with The 39 Clues: The Black Book of Buried Secrets to provide complete access to the Cahill’s most deeply-buried secrets.

July 20, 2010

Going Live - Authors From the Middle Resource Page!

Today I'm going live with a new page here at The O.W.L. It is a resource page linking to as many middle grade authors as I can.  Authors you may know and authors who are just becoming known.  This page is still a work in progress but it's coming along! Right now every author is linked to their personal web page.  I've got books listed for each author (we'll see if I'm able to keep up with that!).  I'm working on getting those books linked to their Goodread page. 

 If you know of an author I left off the list drop me a comment or an email (foltzsfantasticbooks at gmail.com), so I can add them. 
AUTHORS! there is a special form for you if you want to be added to the list.

You can also find the link along the top of the blog under my header.  Fingers crossed you all like it!

Up next will be a resource page for Bloggers from the Middle.  If you want to be added please fill out THIS FORM!
You need to blog about MG books over half the time to be added.

ps - I'll be having a check-in and giveaway for the In the Middle Reading Challenge next Tuesday so get your reviews ready.

July 19, 2010

Book Extravaganze WINNER!

Thanks everyone who entered! What fun!!!!

So the winner of The Owl Keeper is:

Kai Charles! 

Congrats.  I'll be dropping you and email to get your mailing address :) Hope you enjoy it.

July 18, 2010

Sunday Shelves - Bargain Books

Sunday Shelves is now a multitude of things about books. It might be cool bookshelves I've seen or shelves of other bloggers. It might be cool books I've found that you should add to your bookshelf. It might me items related to reading like bookmarks, artwork. Or it might be a shoutout to fellow bloggers highlighting things they are doing. Sunday Shelves will be anything related to reading and books. Things your bookshelves might want added to them :)

Today: Bargain Books

If you're like me you buy books! And when you buy books you'd love to get a bargain as well.  Well, fellow blogger Tynga at Tynga's Reviews took it upon herself to help us all find those bargains.  She has started a Great Deals Page on her blog sharing all the great deals on books she has found!!!!! Isn't that awesome??? Now we can all stock our shelves with fantastic books at a cheaper price.  You must check it out!

Here's the link:
The Great Deals Page


Also Yan at Books By Their Cover has been posting bargain books.

Check out her latest post!!
Bargain Books at Books By Their Cover

Now go check them out :)

July 16, 2010

Book Extravaganza Giveaway

Today I am participating in The Book Extravaganza. This awesome event has tons of blogs giving away tons of stuff all within one weekend.  Contests start today and end Sunday. Be sure to go to Bookworming in the 21st Century to see a list of giveaways.  Then get your fingers ready and enter, enter, enter!

Now on with my giveaway.  Since I'm here to promote middle grade books and authors I wanted to make sure to stay true to that.  But what book??? I finally decided that I wanted to give away one that seemed sweet and exciting and perfect for middle school fantasty lovers. 
The book I picked is:

The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones

From Goodreads
Maxwell Unger has always loved the night. He used to do brave things like go tramping through the forest with his gran after dark. He loved the stories she told him about the world before the Destruction—about nature, and books, and the silver owls. His favorite story, though, was about the Owl Keeper.

According to Max’s gran, in times of darkness the Owl Keeper would appear to unite owls and sages against the powers of the dark. Gran is gone now, and so are her stories of how the world used to be. Max is no longer brave. The forest is dangerous, the books Gran had saved have been destroyed, and the silver owls are extinct. At least that’s what the High Echelon says. But Max knows better.

Maxwell Unger has a secret. And when a mysterious girl comes to town, he might just have to start being brave again.

The time of the Owl Keeper, Gran would say, is coming soon.

Check out book trailer and The Owl Keeper website!

To enter you must:
be at least 13
Live in the US
Fill out the form!
Starts today and end Sunday July 18th

July 14, 2010

Waiting on Wed: The Lost Hero

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared!

This week I'm waiting on:

The Lost Hero
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2010

I think it should be pretty clear why I'm waiting on this one.  Rick Riordan + More Olympians = kids wanting to read!
It's a teacher's favorite combination.

From Goodreads
Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently she’s his girlfriend Piper, his best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids.” What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.

July 13, 2010

Review: Mackenzie Blue Series by Tina Wells

Titles: Mackenzie Blue, The Secret Crush and Friends Forever
Author: Tina Wells
Publisher: Harper

My Review
I'm going to jump right into the review since I want to review the series as a whole.  This is a super cute series completely perfect for the lower tween set! Mackenzie (or Zee as her friends call her) is facing all the things girls this age face.  What to do when your best friend moves (Mackenzie Blue)? How to handle a crush (Secret Crush)? What if your friends don't get along (Friends Forever)? How to handle all this without making everyone hate you?  So many young girls face all these issues, and I think Mackenzie is a great role model for how to deal with them all.  She's sweat, confused, nice, worried, uncertain, motivated - everything a tween reader would be feeling.  I really appriciated how well they stuck to what were realistic problems - it made the stories much more relatable.  And watching Zee work through them will help girls going through similar issues.  I also liked that not all the problems were completely solved in the end. That is very unrealistic, and the reader would know that. This is really clear in Zee's crush on Landon. Many girls could relate to her confusion over the whole situation.

I liked that - even though each book teaches a lesson - they didn't become overly preachy.  When Zee has her "light bulb moment" the story could've really clobbered the reader over the head with what should be learned.  It didn't.  Yes the lesson is clear but it doesn't come across as annoying or know-it-all.  This is something that middle grade books really walk a careful line on.  They need to teach a lesson, but they can't turn the reader off by talking down to them.  This book handles that line well. To go along with that it was very realistic that Zee didn't do the right thing all the time.  A few times I cringed at her plan for how to fix things, but I knew she had to try to wrong way in order to truly get the right way.  Again - very realistic.

One small issue I had as an adult was that as much as I liked Zee she did get a bit perky at times.  I don't think young readers will have an issue with this, but as an adult reader it did get to me now and again.  Being around this age group though - I have seen girls just like her, so she is realistic to a degree. Also a few of the situations were unrealistic.  As a teacher I knew many of the events that happened on the field trip in Friends Forver? would not have really happened.  But they were things that allowed the story to progress, and more importantly things this age reader would want to happen.  They'll have no problems with the events. 

I also need to comment on the covers.  I have an 11 year old daughter.  She looked at the covers and immediately said they looked "babyish".  I'm thinking that since these books are for ages 8-12, that's not a good sign.  I think the covers are cute and perfect for girls in 4th or 5th grade, but they might not be best for the older end of it's audience.

Final thought: Super cute series with a fun main character figuring out how to be in middle school. As a mom I would have no issues giving these to my young daughter.
Best stick-with-you image: It isn't an image but a saying.  Zee always says "Oh Mylanta".  The first time I read it I rolled my eyes but guess what I found myself saying (and still saying!)
Best reader for the series: 3-5th grade girls who maybe don't have an older sister for a role model
Best for ages: 8-11

From Goodreads
Mackenzie Blue
Meet Mackenzie Blue, aka Zee

She has it all—smarts, talent, humor, and style. . . .
Is it enough to survive middle school?

Countdown to a 7th Grade Meltdown
1. Your BFF moves away.
2. Someone steals your diary and reveals your deepest secrets—to the entire class.
3. You have one chance to become a rock star and one chance to totally blow it. Guess what!? All three happened to me! School's a disaster already. Don't get me wrong—I love Brookdale Academy and I have a fabulous crew of friends. (At least, I think I do.) But, if I'm going to survive, I need all the help I can get!

Secret Crush
Mackenzie Blue has a crush!
But how can she get Landon—the cutest boy in school—to notice her? The class's new rock-and-roll musical is her chance.

Reasons why our musical is going to be amazing:

I could be the star! Landon could be my co-star . . . which means we'll hang out together. Working on the sets, props, music, script, and costumes will be tons of fun.
There's so much to do, I'd better get started!

Between her crush, the musical, and her friends—not to mention school work—Zee is torn in a thousand different directions. With all the real-life drama going on, will she lose sight of what's really important?

Friends Forver?
Mackenzie Blue is hitting the trails!

It's time for Brookdale Academy's camping field trip, but Zee has much more to deal with than a lesson about nature. . . .

1. My BFF, Ally, is visiting all the way from Paris! Ooh la la!
2. My friends and I are so going to win the environmental scavenger hunt!
1. We have to stay in teeny-tiny log cabins. How will we all fit?
2. The legendary (and terrifying) Mountain Man . . .

July 12, 2010

Book Review: Mamba Point by Kurtis Scaletta

Title: Mamba Point
Author: Kurtis Scaletta
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date: TOMORROW!!!! July 13, 2010

From Goodreads
When his dad gets a job at the U.S. embassy in Liberia, twelve-year-old Linus Tuttle knows it’s his chance for a fresh start. Instead of being his typical anxious self, from now on he’ll be cooler and bolder: the new Linus.
 But as soon as his family gets off the plane, they see a black mamba—one of the deadliest snakes in Africa. Linus’s parents insist mambas are rare, but the neighborhood is called Mamba Point, and Linus is sure the venomous serpents are drawn to him—he can barely go outside without tripping over one. Then he hears about kasengs—and the belief that some people have a deep, mysterious connection to certain animals.

Unless Linus wants to hide in his apartment forever (drawing or playing games with the strange kid downstairs while his older brother meets girls and hangs out at the pool), he has to get over his fear of his kaseng animal. Soon he’s not only keeping a black mamba in his laundry hamper; he’s also feeling braver than ever before. Is it his resolution to become the new Linus, or does his sudden confidence have something to do with his scaly new friend?
From Kurtis Scaletta comes a humorous and compelling story of a boy learning about himself through unexpected friends, a fascinating place, and an extraordinary animal.

My Review
This is the second book I've read by Kurtis Scaletta, and I've been impressed both times.  This is a sweat book about a young boy growing up.

The Characters: At first I didn't know what to think of Linus (yes he gets Peanuts jokes about his name!). He seemed like a nice enough kid, but a bit too serious.  He gets scared really easy, and his parents tend to shelter him more because of this.  I wanted to see this change as the story progressed - I wanted to see him come out of his shell.  And guess what? He did! But not your typical way.  Linus develops a kind of friendship with a deadly black mamba.  This friendship is described as a kaseng - or a strong connection to certain animal.  I don't know about you, but if I had a connection with an animal I'd rather it be a bunny or something! Linus's fears are put to the test as again and again he comes upon the same black mamba. Through these encounters he gains more and more self confidence.  It was really cool to watch it progress. I felt his pride as he begain to do things that would've caused panic attacks before.  Although I will say the mom in me was not pleased! I mean he carries the mambo into the apartment and lets it stay there with him as he draws it!!!! Yikes! The Linus at the end of the book turned into a much more mature young man than the fearful one at the start.

Plot: Other than the story of Linus and the mamba there is a whole story involving the country of Liberia.  It doesn't play a huge role other than to really show Linus maturing in multiple areas of his life, but setting it against the back drop of this country so different from what Linus knows heightens his growth.  Had his changes just be within a comfortable known setting you would've noticed the change, but that fact he has to learn how to navigate a world he doesn't understand shows how far he comes within the course of the story.  This isn't to say that Linus completely gets it - but you know he's on the right path.  The plot isn't action driving - although there is definately some action - it's more driven by the relationship between Linus and the mamba, the country and the people around him.

Final thought: Very cool and unique way to show a boy growing up and learning about himself
Best stick-with-you image: The mamba crawling up Linus and becoming a "belt" around him!
Best reader for the book: Middle school boys that love creepy crawlies
Best for ages: 10+

To read my review on Mr. Scalett's first book, Mudville, click HERE.
To see his visit to my classroom this past fall click HERE.

July 11, 2010

A New Sunday Shelves

 Sunday Shelves is now a multitude of things about books. It might be cool bookshelves I've seen or shelves of other bloggers. It might be cool books I've found that you should add to your bookshelf. It might me items related to reading like bookmarks, artwork, or things other bloggers are doing. Sunday Shelves will be anything related to reading and book. Things your bookshelves might want added to them :)

Today I'm sharing with you the Book Buddy. This is a cool pillow that holds your book for you so you don't have to.  The idea is that sitting and reading will be more comfortable without having to hold the book.  I saw this awhile back and thought it looked kinda cool.  My only question is how much I'd useit.  I do think it would be great for people with arthritis, fibromyalgia or limited mobility. 

You can find them at Reading Comfort.com as well as various other online stores.

Here's my favorite design. 

And here's it holding a book.

What are your thoughts about it?

July 9, 2010

For the Guys Friday: Ranger's Apprentice Series

Every Friday I highlight books and authors that are ones boys might really enjoy. I'm not saying girls wouldn't read these books, but they are clearly "guy" books.
This week I'm highlighting:
The Ranger's Apprentice Series
by John Flanagan
I've only had a few students read this series, but one of them gave it the best endoresment.  He's not huge on reading, but he loves this series.  Every Tuesday I would show my students book trailers, and he wanted this one shown all the time - even when I had already shown it! (pssst see below for the trailer)
I just bought the first four books from BN.com.  They were on sale, and I figured if this student liked them, they deserved a spot on my shelves. 
Book One, the Ruins of Gorlan, summary from Goodreads
He had always wanted to be a warrior. The Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways, made him nervous. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now fifteen year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger's apprentice. What he doesn't realize yet is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied . . . .

July 8, 2010

Book Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Title: 13 to Life
Author: Shannon Delany
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

From Goodreads
Something strange is stalking the small town of Junction…

When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.

The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early.
My Review
I read this book in one day so that should tell you something! It moved along so fast and easily that I just kept reading and reading.  I also wanted to know what happened, so that motivated me as well.

Characters: I liked the main character Jessie.  She seemed like a pretty strong independent girl that didn't put up with much.  I really loved how she delt with Pietr when asked to show him around school and how she wasn't caught up in his looks.  There is a bit of mystery surrounding Jessie and her mom.  You know her mom died, but the full story isn't told until most of the way through the story.  I was impressed with how Jessie delt with this loss, but I could also tell that she wasn't dealing as well as she let on.  She seemed stuck trying to make sure everyone around her was taken care of, ignoring herself.  As her story is told more, I expect to see this unravel some. There were more things about her that I would've liked to have seen explored more.  We learn she was skilled at shooting, but it's kinda mentioned and then forgotten.  I wanted to know more about it!

As for Pietr, he was interesting.  The boy of mystery that all the girls go gaga over.  I did like that he didn't come off as cocky as he could've.  He seemed pretty down to earth treating everyone nicely - well except Jessie's crush Derek.  They do not like each other, but it's not clear why - another question left unanswered.  Pietr is where I felt the most frustrated in terms of answers.  Some are given.  Some aren't. And for me, most frustrating - some are partially given.  Like his parents, or where they came from and why.  It was answered but I was like "what? that's all?"! I'm hoping they are explained more in the next book. 

Plot: The plot has enough mystery, suspense and budding romance to get me reading (remember I read it in a day!).  Not only was there the mystery of Pietr and his entire family, but a side mystery about Jessie and her friend Sarah.  Through the whole thing I couldn't figure out why Jessie treated Sarah how she did.  Thankfully that was fully answered! I had kinda figured it out but not completely.  The one part of the plot I didn't like was the whole Derek story.  Because it's left so open, I wasn't completely sure why it was there.  Again - maybe it will be clearer in the next book.

Final thought: Good start to what looks like a promising series
Best stick-with-you image: When Pietr crashes on the 4-wheeler
Best for ages: 12+

July 7, 2010

Waiting On Wed: Monster High

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on:

Monster High by Lisi Harrison
Release Date: September 1, 2010

I'm excited about this one for a few reasons.  I think it just sounds fun and cute and fun (I mean the cover screams cute!), plus I have so many students that have read the Clique series that I know they'll be excited to see a new series by the same author. 

From Goodreads:
From Lisi Harrison, the New York Times bestselling author of The Clique and Alphas, comes a new series with a fresh twist on high school, romance, and the horrors of trying to fit in.

They prefer to call themselves RADs, but some call them monsters. So far, the "monster" community has kept a low profile in Salem, Oregon, but this year two new girls enroll at Merston High School, and the town will never be the same.
Created just fifteen days ago, Frankie Stein is psyched to trade her father's lonely formaldehyde-smelling basement lab for parties and friends. But with a student body totally freaked out by rumors of monsters stalking the halls, Frankie finds that life in the "normi" world can be rough for a chic freak like her.
She thinks she finds a friend in fellow new student Melody Carver--but can a normi be trusted with her big secret?

July 4, 2010

A New Sunday Shelves

As some of you know I do a semi-regular feature called Sunday Shelves where we look at other bloggers' bookshelves.  Well I'm still learning about myself as a blogger and what I have time for and what I don't.  I'm finding that I don't have the time to make sure I've contacted a blogger, get the guest post etc.  So I've decided to change my Sunday Shelves to something I can do better. 

Sunday Shelves will now be a multitude of things about books.  It might be cool bookshelves I've seen or shelves of other bloggers.  It might be cool books I've found that you should add to your bookshelf.  It might me items related to reading like bookmarks, artwork, or things other bloggers are doing. Sunday Shelves will be anything related to reading and book.  Things your bookshelves might want added to them :)

If you really liked the idea of seeing other bloggers' bookshelves check out Book Chick City.  She's doing a much better job at a blogger bookshelf feature.  Here's her current post on the topic. 


So with that I give you something super cool I found on Etsy.  If you want to show the world that you read and you think they should do, you need one of these neat necklaces!

Isn't it cool??? And it comes in different colors.  Go HERE to see the listing. 
And you should check out the whole store Gibberish2.

And pssst - shouldn't I get this one????

July 2, 2010

Book Review: Bran Hambric the Farfield Curse

Title: Bran Hambric Farfield Curse
Author: Kaleb Nation
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

From Goodreads
In a bustling metropolis where magic is outlawed, a six-year-old child is found inside a locked bank vault. A scrap of paper reveals his name: Bran Hambric. The child remembers nothing of his life before the vault. Only magic could have done this. But why would any mage risk breaking the law to place a child in a bank vault? For years, he has lived with one of the bankers, wondering why he was left behind- until one night, when he is fourteen, he is suddenly confronted by a maddened creature, speaking of Bran’s true past and trying to kidnap him. Bran finds that he is at the center of a plot which started years before he was even born: the plot of a deadly curse his mother created…and one that her former masters are hunting for him to complete. Haunted by the spirit of his mother’s master and living in a city where magic is illegal, Bran must undo the crimes of his past...if it's not already too late.

My Review
I don't always like comparing one book to another, but in this case it works.  If you've enjoyed the Harry Potter books, and you're looking for another series that has magic, mystery and suspence, you need to try this book.

The plot starts out with a bang with Sewey (the man forced to adopt Bran after finding him in a bank vault) and Bran on the roof of the house trying to catch a thief.  Instead they are attacked by some sort of creature that seems to want Bran.  That starts Bran down the path to learning who is and who is mother was.  The reader is brought along as he realizes what he thought is definately not the truth and people are not who he thought they were. Bran learns that, in a city where it's out-lawed, he can do magic. I like how the magic was revealed - coming out when he needed it the most.  Thankfully there were people to help him.  But they didn't always give him all the answers or answers he wanted to hear.  I did find some of this confusing because of the lack of details at this point.  I think it was to make you relate to Bran - to feel what he did, but as a reader I needed a bit more .Plus there were a ton of details about the whole magically world, and I found myself lost now and again.

After the scene on the roof, the action builds nicely until a battle between Bran's past is fought.  It is clear that this battle will solidly place Bran on one side or the other.  It will help him learn the truth about him mother - the real truth and accept it.  Nation did a nice job putting answers Bran needed within this final battle, it wasn't just a fight but one you needed to pay attantion to if you wanted more of the story.  That held my interest quite well! After this battle the book wraps up, but definately sets up for further books in the series.

The book was enjoyable.  I really liked Bran - a young man that could've been completely bitter about where his life was.  Instead, as unexplainable things start to happen to him, he jumps in and tries to come to terms with it.  Not to say he's all fine and dandy with it.  There is a scene where Bran runs away in the rain, that I found very understandable and real.  This whole scene made me really feel for Bran and want to help him find answers and happiness.  That is what will bring me back for future stories.

I do want to comment on a few other things in the story.  The town Bran lives in has out-lawed all magic and gnomes - both accepted in the rest of the world.  This was an interesting part of the plot because it made Bran's discovery even harder for him to accept - how could he have magic in a town that has laws against it?? The whole story line with the gnomes was interesting, but at times I wasn't sure why it was there.  Maybe as the story progresses I'll learn.  This was the same for the storyline of Rosie.  As part of the family, she was more maid than anything, but she was Bran's only true friend in the house. I'm still not completely sure why it was included, but maybe it too will play a bigger role later on. 

Final thought: Fun read and one to give to Harry Potter lovers that are looking for something new to read
Best stick-with-you image: When Sewey meets the gnome - you just need to read the book to know why!
Best for ages: 9ish-14 This one is more tween than teen