Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Shorts

The Vampire Diaries: The Fury by L.J. Smith
published 1992
308 pages

Synopsis from publisher -
Love can kill

Elena: with Damon at her side, and wild with her craving for blood, the changed Elena struggles to control her desires.

Damon: his hunger for the golden girl wars with his hunger for revenge against Stefan.

Stefan: tormented after losing Elena, he will do anything to get her back. Even if it means becoming what he once despised. . . .

Getting what they want may come at a deadly cost.

My thoughts -

Well, it certainly doesn't get LESS cheesy, but it was a satisfying wrap-up to this guilty pleasure series. I did enjoy the campy drama, and can't help but think Elena is a far better role model for teen girls than Bella Swan. I don't know that I am interested enough to pursue the next trilogy in this series, but I certainly had fun with this one.

Finished - 10/7/13
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - R for violence and adult themes
My rating - 7/10

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kid Konnection - It's Raining, It's Pouring by Peter, Paul, and Mary

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

It's Raining, It's Pouring

text - public domain
music - Peter, Paul, and Mary
illustrations - Christine Davenier
published 2012

Synopsis -
One of the most beloved children's songs gets a rollicking picture book treatment by the beloved trio Peter, Paul & Mary. Featuring witty and whimsical art by the renowned illustrator Christine Davenier, this stunning new book offers plenty of fun, whether it's raining or not.

Complete with a CD featuring Peter, Paul & Mary's marvelous version of the title song, along with Peter Yarrow singing "Believe Town" and Noel Paul Stookey performing "Glory of Love" this beautiful picture book is perfect for rainy days, bedtime, or any time.

My thoughts -

David and Sophia really enjoy singing - especially singing along with songs they know - so when I found this lovely book with the classic children's song that included a CD of Peter, Paul, and Mary performing, I knew they would love it. They were both so excited the first time we listened, and it's been a daily request since we checked it out from the library.

The illustrations are fantastic, and the book itself tells a story greater than just the song - Grandpa bumps his head and the grandkids have to come inside during a rainstorm. Most of the kids play hide-and-seek, except for one little one that chooses to read with Grandpa, instead. By the end of the game (and the end of the book), all the kids can be found with Grandpa. It's good to read aloud, and great to listen along with the CD. This one is a delight!

Do you have any suggestions of book-and-CD combos? I think it's something we'll have to start doing more frequently!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Thoughts - If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
published 2009
320 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces — to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

My thoughts -

I find myself a bit conflicted about this novel. Forman certainly gives readers an affecting novel, full of hard decisions and sad goodbyes. Mia is an engaging and sympathetic heroine, surrounded by friends and family who all act perfectly appropriately given the extreme situation. The writing was quite good, and I liked Forman's use of flashbacks to tell Mia's story.

I think, for me, it just felt a little too perfect - Mia's parents are perfectly understanding about everything in her life. Her boyfriend is perfectly accepting of her, even though they are worlds apart. Her friends are perfectly funny. Her little brother is perfectly precocious. It seemed a little bit like Foreman set up this world on purpose, so the reader had no choice but to feel sorry for Mia - to understand completely why she would NOT want to stay.

I think I was looking for a little more conflict - I little more shading - to make Mia's pre-accident world feel a little bit more realistic. I think it would have made her difficult decision feel a little more true. I certainly didn't NOT like the novel - it just felt a bit simplistic, and I would have appreciated more depth.

I know this novel is almost generally beloved in the blogging world, and I do understand why. It's a lovely story of unconditional love and acceptance. It raises some interesting questions, and keeps the reader guessing until the last page. With just a BIT more nuance, I would have enjoyed it very much.

Finished - 11/10/13
Source - South side library
MPAA Rating - PG-13 for language and adult situations
My rating - 7/10

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kid Konnection - There Was an Old Simms Taback

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback
published 1997
32 pages

Synopsis -

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.......

everyone knows this one, right???

My thoughts -

This is, of course, a classic, and it was a lot of fun to share it with my kids for the first time. Of course the silly rhyme made them giggle - Sophia told me she didn't want the lady to die, so in our version it was, "There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.....perhaps she'll sleep."  Silly girl.

What made this book particularly fun was the cutouts on each page - strategically placed over the old lady's stomach so the kids could recount what she had swallowed on each page. The author also had a peanut gallery of animals wisecracking their way through the story - comments like, "She left us high and dry", and "Why, oh why??" kept me chuckling, which made it a great pick for reading over and over again.

This is a great version of a classic - one both kids AND their parents can enjoy!

My kids really enjoy rhymes - books that rhyme, songs that rhyme, rhyming chants, etc. What are some rhyming stories or books we should check out next?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Thoughts - The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass
published 4/23/13
323 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

My thoughts -

I am very impressed with this YA series. When I picked up the first book, I expected fun and froth escapism, and it was all there. But underneath the princess-y exterior, I noticed Cass begin to explore deeper issues - race and class, wealth and poverty, love and infatuation.

I was happy to note that she continued her exploration of these issues in the second novel in the series. America has a lot of complicated decisions to make, and Cass invites her readers to really think about the consequences of each choice, both good and bad. Nothing is as easy or as glittering as it seems, and America's struggles felt honest and true.

It is also, however, a lot of good fun. There is just enough suspense, just enough romance - I flew through the novel, and can't wait for the final installment. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA series, and I wouldn't be surprised if it found it's way into my permanent collection. Recommended.

Finished - 11/5/13
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13 for some violence and adult situations
My rating - 8/10

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kid Konnection - From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Kid Konnection is a weekly feature hosted by Booking Mama, featuring all things kid's books. Since I spend a good deal of time each week reading kids books, I thought it would be fun to join in!

From Head to Toe by Eric Carle
published 1999
28 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

What does an elephant do? It stomps its foot. Can you? From the creator of such beloved classics as The Grouchy Ladybug and The Mixed-Up Chameleon comes this interactive story that invites kids to imitate animal movements. Watching giraffes bend their necks or monkeys wave their arms is fun, but nothing could be better than joining in. From their heads down to their toes, kids will be wriggling, jiggling, and giggling as they try to keep up with these animals!Alligators wiggle, elephants stop, gorillas thump, and giraffes bend. Can you do it?

My thoughts -

I am doing my best to raise kids who love to read, and one of the ways I'm trying to keep them excited about reading is our weekly trip to the library. Each week we participate in Story Time, and then I let them pick out books. Each kid gets to pick out their own books - whatever catches their eye, no input or suggestions from mom. They love having the freedom to browse through the stacks and grab the books that THEY want to read.

I think this might be the first Eric Carle book I've read with the kids - I'm not sure how that happened! David picked this out last week, and it's been a lot of fun to read. Both kids enjoy the interactive aspect of the book, and I've even found them "reading" this one to themselves when I'm not around. Of course, Eric Carle's illustrations are wonderful, and really hold their imaginations. I think this would be a great book to have in your household library - who knows, it might wind up in ours!

What is YOUR favorite Eric Carle book - apparently I need to check out more! Is there another author like Eric Carle that I shouldn't miss?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Thoughts- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
published 2005
909 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor", and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history. The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known — and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula.

Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself — to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed — and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends?

The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign — and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages. Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions — and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad's ancient powers — one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil.

My thoughts -

You see how the synopsis for this novel seems to go on and on? That's mostly the problem with the whole book. I like the idea for the story - I felt sympathetic toward the main characters - I was creeped out in appropriate places. It's not a bad book - it's actually quite good - there is just SOOOOO MUCH of it.

Much of the novel is presented in letter form, either from one character to another or from one character to a separate personage. I don't mind this literary convention most of the time, but it seemed like the author in this case used it to give readers and info dump - and then it just happened over and over again. Just when the story seemed to be picking up momentum, I'd turn the page and it would be another letter. It was hard to ever feel a real connection with any one character because the letters kept intruding on the storyline.

The other major problem I had with the novel was that it was often difficult to distinguish exactly whose story we were reading at the beginning of each chapter. There were no chapter headings of any kind, and with a story this complicated it often took me several paragraphs in before I realized in which time period we were heading.

It was a shame I had these struggles with the novel, because I found it to be quite engaging in many places. Despite the fact that I found it to be occasionally frustrating, I was intrigued enough to keep reading. The ending was quite exciting, although I would have loved more detail. (Ironic, right?)

Ultimately, the excessive length kept me from fulling enjoying the novel. It was an interesting reading experience, but probably not one I would easily recommend.

Finished - 10/31/13
Source - my shelves
MPAA rating - R for adult themes and violence
My rating - 6//10

Sunday, November 3, 2013

R.I.P wrap-up - Success!

My first R.I.P. challenge has come and gone, and while I didn't quite read ALL the books I'd hoped I could. I still think I had a successful challenge.

I read and reviewed The Road by Cormac McCarthy - definitely my favorite of all the reading I did for this challenge.

I also read a bunch of "creepy" books with my kids - they liked this one so much they've checked it out of the library for 3 weeks straight!

I also listened to The Vampire Diaries: The Fury by L.J. Smith, and participated in the Estella Society Read-a-long of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Thoughts on those books will be coming soon.

My goal for this challenge was to read four books, and I think I'm going to say I succeeded. It was a lot of fun, and I will definitely be participating again next year!