Thursday, June 30, 2011

Freedom Giveaway Hop





Welcome to the Freedom Giveaway Hop!

This hop is sponsored by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Simply Stacie.


It's a time for celebrating, so what's better than to celebrate with a giveaway. I have for you:


A $10 Amazon Gift Card!


For our international friends, you can get a book worth $10 or less from Book Depository. Please ensure they ship to your country.


So here's how you enter:

Mandatory entry: Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect.

+1 entry for friending on Goodreads
+1 entry for following on Twitter
+1 entry for tweeting about this contest

To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest runs from July 1 to July 7. Winner will be decided by random.org  and then announced on this blog sometime on July 8. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to e-mail or a new winner will be picked. 

Please be sure to check out all the blogs in the hop (a full list is at the end of this post). Thanks for stopping by and GOOD LUCK!



Review: Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon





Title:Cinder and Ella
Author:Melissa Lemon
Publisher:Cedar Fort
Imprint:Bonneville Books
Pub. Date:11/08/2011
ISBN:9781599559063
Pages:209



After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.



(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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This book takes a different approach to a very familiar story. Cinder and Ella are two different sisters with very different personalities. Their father begins to follow in the footsteps of the not-so-charming prince. He disappears and leaves Cinder and Ella with their mother and two sisters. The longer their father is gone, the worse their home life becomes. Their mother withdraws from the world, and she even merges the two girls in her head to create one "Cinderella." Their older sister becomes extremely self-involved while their younger sister becomes a brat. One day, Cinder gets a chance to escape by becoming a servant in the castle. Ella however can no longer take the miserable state of her home and runs away. Their stories then take two different directions, with evil princes and good knights leading the way. 


I loved the concept of people's life forces being connected to trees. Each person had a tree that represented them. The tree's health was directly related to the person's health. This made for an interesting aspect to the story. I also liked how things weren't wrapped up neatly, and people were held accountable for their choices. These added some realistic touches to a very fanciful story.


The writing felt a bit uneven at times. Sometimes it read a bit stiff, but other times it seemed to fit exactly with the fairy tale style. I think this book can appeal to a number of different age groups. It certainly takes a very familiar story and turns it on it's head. It makes me wonder what other fairy tales could use a good reworking. This book can help inspire some creative minds to see things in a whole new way.


Galley provided by publisher for review. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder



Title:The Day Before
Author:Lisa Schroeder
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Simon Pulse
Pub. Date:06/28/2011
ISBN:9781442417434
Pages:320





Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.


Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.


The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him. And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.


(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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Facing a life-changing event, Amber decides to take a day for herself. This book covers this one day Amber uses to spend some alone time at the beach. She doesn't spend it too alone however, as she soon meets Cade. They are instantly drawn to each other, and they are both spending a day trying to forget what the next day will bring.

This was a very enjoyable book. I found the characters to be introspective without being unrealistically self-aware. They felt very much like teenagers faced with these events. I believed their connection. It felt organic and real. I felt for them and the choices they were facing. Many times when you see this immediate connection between two characters, things feel very rushed. I think the author did a good job of making it realistic though.

This book is written in verse, which I think brought an interesting angle to the usual young adult story. This makes the book an extremely quick read, but I don't feel it suffer from the use of verse. In fact, I think that's one of the books strengths. There's a certain beauty to the starkness of the words. So much story and emotion is told in so few words. This book is proof that it's not the number of words you use but the power behind those words that matter.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma


Title:Forbidden
Author:Tabitha Suzuma
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Simon Pulse
Pub. Date:06/28/2011
ISBN:1442419954 (ISBN13: 9781442419957)
Pages:464





Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.




(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

              **************************************************

Oh dear, where do I start? I started this not realizing it was a book about incest. Even then, I think I could have gotten past the ick factor of the incest stuff if it was well written. Sadly, it wasn't. I will say though, it is an extremely fast read. That's probably because there are pages and pages of pointless angst, so you can kind of skim through about 200 pages because it's all pretty much the same. It also reads like an episode of "Dawson's Creek" put to paper. When that show started, I remember people complaining that teenagers don't talk like that. That's how I felt when I started reading this book.

Lochan and Maya are sympathetic enough characters, but I never really got the motivation for why they were in love with each other. The only reasoning they seemed to give was that they "understood" each other in a way no one else could. That's cool, but it doesn't explain why it turned into a sexual relationship. In some ways I think Lochan and Maya were thrown into a parenting role, and maybe their relationship was just an extension of that? I'm not really sure, because the reasoning is never looked at in depth. Mostly this book consists of statements of how they understand each other, some making out, and then both of them talking about how horrible and sick they must be. Repeat this cycle for 400 pages.

When I started reading, I told my husband how I thought it would end, and I was correct. You see it coming from a mile away, but I suppose that there are only so many ways you can logically end a book about incest. In the end, maybe I just didn't get this book. It wasn't some sweeping romance to me. About half-way through the book, I realized I was just reading it for the "freak" factor and not because I was enjoying the book. In the end, I think it gets your attention because of the subject matter, but that's not enough for me. I needed something else in the writing to support the story, and I got nothing.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop Winner!



Once again, the entries have all been counted and random.org has chosen a winner.

And that winner is:

TheReadingOwl

from


Congrats!!! Thanks you to everyone who entered,
and please come back for more reviews and giveaways soon!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller


Title:The Lost Crown
Author:Sarah Miller
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Atheneum Books
Pub. Date:06/14/2011
ISBN:1416983406 (ISBN13: 9781416983408)
Pages:448






Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. Like the fingers on a hand--first headstrong Olga; then Tatiana, the tallest; Maria the most hopeful for a ring; and Anastasia, the smallest. These are the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II, grand dutchesses living a life steeped in tradition and priviledge. They are each on the brink of starting their own lives, at the mercy of royal matchmakers. The summer of 1914 is that precious last wink of time when they can still be sisters together--sisters that link arms and laugh, sisters that share their dreams and worries, and flirt with the officers of their imperial yacht.


But in a gunshot the future changes for these sisters and for Russia.

As World War I ignites across Europe, political unrest sweeps Russia. First dissent, then disorder, mutiny, and revolution. For Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, the end of their girlhood together is colliding with the end of more than they ever imagined.

At the same time hopeful and hopeless, naive and wise, the voices of these sisters become a chorus singing the final song of Imperial Russia. Impeccably researched and utterly fascinating, this novel by acclaimed author Sarah Miller recounts the final days of Imperial Russia with lyricism, criticism and true compassion.






(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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This book covers the last few years of the Romanovs through the eyes of the four daughters- Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. The start of World War I and the Bolshevik revolution is seen through their eyes. They are very sheltered as Grand Duchesses. They don't really get to see a lot of the world outside their palaces and vacations together. This changes some as the war goes on, and the girls minister to the troops in a local hospital. Soon however, they are caught up in a revolution that forces their father to abdicate. They are taken to Tobolsk and put under house arrest. Later, as Russia becomes more deeply embroiled in civil war, they are taken to Ekatarinburg where they are murdered.

I found it hard to read about these girls know what would happen to them. They come across as very sweet girls who were involved in something much bigger than they were. The point of view switches between each girl throughout the book. Anastasia's sections read as very young. You get a real sense of her personality and joy for life in her sections. There is less difference in the writing of the three older girls, but you still are able to get a sense of their different personalities.

Although the author admits she takes some liberties, I didn't mind. It made for a very interesting story. I wanted to be able to change history and let those girls live their lives for much longer. They had so many hopes and aspirations. As they are walking to the basement in the Ekaterinburg, they have no idea this is the end. It was so sad to read. I think that people who enjoy history, especially Russian history, will find this book very interesting. I know I did. Even though I knew how it was going to end, I found it fascinating to read it all from the girls' perspectives. This book is a great way to see history through the eyes of some major participants.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer




Title:Artemis Fowl
Author:Eoin Colfer
Publisher:Disney Book Group
Pub. Date:08/10/2009 (1st published 5/1/01)
ISBN:1423132173 (ISBN13: 9781423132172)
Pages:289








Artemis Fowl should never have kidnapped the fairy. Instead of a pleasant little bedtime story creature, this sprite turned out to be an unholy terror. All of Artemis's genius for crime was challenged by this irritating hazel-eyed little elf. It requires the entire novel to get things back under control


(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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I had seen this book in stores before, but I never read it. I wasn't even sure what it was about. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This book tells the story of a 12 year old evil genius named Artemis Fowl. Artemis comes up with a plan to steal massive amounts of gold from the People, a group of various magical beings such as fairies, sprites, and leprechauns.  His plan is to learn his enemy by reading their book of secrets. Then he captures a leprechaun and holds her for ransom. 


This book was great mix of old fairy tales and modern technology. While the People use magic, they also use amazing technology to do things. They have had to hide underground to get away from humans and keep their existence secret. Artemis was very fun as a not so bad guy. Even though he wants to get gold, he is not completely evil. All the various magical folk were great fun as well. They had varied personalities, and it was fun seeing them try to outsmart Artemis.

Overall, I thought this was a great book. I know there are more in the series, and I look forward to reading them. This is a unique idea written in a fun way. Children and adults alike will enjoy this book I'm sure.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop



Welcome to the Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop!

This hop is sponsored by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.


Whew, almost forgot about this one. Luckily I remembered just in time to make a post. So what's up for grabs?


A $10 Amazon Gift Card!


For our international friends, you can get a book worth $10 or less from Book Depository. Please ensure they ship to your country.


So here's how you enter:

Mandatory entry: Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect.

+1 entry for friending on Goodreads
+1 entry for following on Twitter
+1 entry for tweeting about this contest

To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest runs from June 21 to June 24. Winner will be decided by random.org  and then announced on this blog sometime on June 25. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to e-mail or a new winner will be picked. 

Don't forget to check out my other giveaway for a chance to win Cinder and Ella.

Please be sure to check out all the blogs in the hop (a full list is at the end of this post). Thanks for stopping by and GOOD LUCK!



Review: Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden



Title:Nothing Daunted
Author:Dorothy Wickenden
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Scribner
Pub. Date:06/21/2011
ISBN:1439176582 (ISBN13: 9781439176580)
Pages:320



In the summer of 1916, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, close friends from childhood and graduates of Smith College, left home in Auburn, New York, for the wilds of northwestern Colorado. Bored by their soci-ety luncheons, charity work, and the effete young men who courted them, they learned that two teach-ing jobs were available in a remote mountaintop schoolhouse and applied—shocking their families and friends. “No young lady in our town,” Dorothy later commented, “had ever been hired by anybody.”
They took the new railroad over the Continental Divide and made their way by spring wagon to the tiny settlement of Elkhead, where they lived with a family of homesteaders. They rode several miles to school each day on horseback, sometimes in blinding blizzards. Their students walked or skied on barrel staves, in tattered clothes and shoes tied together with string. The man who had lured them out west was Ferry Carpenter, a witty, idealistic, and occasionally outrageous young lawyer and cattle rancher. He had promised them the adventure of a lifetime and the most modern schoolhouse in Routt County; he hadn’t let on that the teachers would be considered dazzling prospective brides for the locals.


That year transformed the children, their families, and the undaunted teachers themselves. Dorothy and Rosamond learned how to handle unruly children who had never heard the Pledge of Allegiance and thought Ferry Carpenter was the president of the United States; they adeptly deflected the amorous advances of hopeful cowboys; and they saw one of their closest friends violently kidnapped by two coal miners. Carpenter’s marital scheme turned out to be more successful than even he had hoped and had a surprising twist some forty years later.


In their buoyant letters home, the two women captured the voices and stories of the pioneer women, the children, and the other memorable people they got to know. Nearly a hundred years later, New Yorker executive editor Dorothy Wickenden—the granddaughter of Dorothy Woodruff—found the letters and began to reconstruct the women’s journey. Enhancing the story with interviews with descendants, research about these vanished communities, and trips to the region, Wickenden creates an exhilarating saga about two intrepid young women and the “settling up” of the West.





(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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I loved this book! It was so amazing and inspiring to read not only about Rosamund and Dorothy but all the different people trying to make a life of it in Colorado. They really were working hard and making the best of what they had. Of course, the two women at the middle of this book were really fantastic. They approached everything before them with an open mind and good attitudes. Coming from very wealthy backgrounds, you don't see any indication that they think they are better than the settlers in Colorado. Ros and Dotty were determined to make the most of their experiences, and this shaped their entire lives.


There was a lot of history given not only about our heroines, but also Colorado and the railroad there. Some of this was a bit dry to read. However, once the story in Colorado began in earnest, I was thoroughly engaged. I did not want to put the book down. I even found myself cheering for one potential suitor over another. You can clearly feel the personalities of the people coming through. Their stories have some interesting twists and turns, and I was so surprised by some things that happened. More than anything though, I felt like these were two women I could have been friends with. They lived their lives on their terms, and they were able to have some amazing adventures in the process. I think we could all stand to learn to take all the opportunities in our live with equal excitement. This was a great book, and I hope many people will take a chance to read it.


Galley provided by publisher for review.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cinder and Ella Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway



Welcome to the Cinder and Ella Virtual Book Tour!


In Cinder and Ella, the familiar tale of Cinderella is told in a new and very different way. With all the usual fairy tale elements, Cinder and Ella manages to rise above the usual fairy tale with some very unique ideas. I'll be posting a review later, but for this book tour I thought I'd talk about what I thought was one of the most interesting ideas in the book.

Cinder and Ella tells the story of two sisters who have a poor home life since their father disappeared. The prince, a man who surely seems to be involved in something dark and sinister, began to visit their home. After their father disappeared, things began to fall apart at home. A dark cloud settled over their home, and their family was never the same. The only thing that gave Cinder and Ella hope was the fact that their father's tree still stood. It was said that every life essence was tied to a tree, and if your tree was healthy and thriving then the person was alive. If your tree is ever killed, then you can no longer survive.

Cinder and Ella's father was a willow tree, with branches that could shade and protect them. Ella's tree was a fruit tree, giving good fruit to sustain and restore people. Naturally, this got me thinking. What would be my tree? I've always loved willow, and I'd like to think that I provide protection to my family. Or maybe a Loblolly pine. They are native to where I grew up, and they always remind me of home. We are currently trying to nurture a plumeria tree. Plumerias will always remind me of living in Hawaii and all the experiences I had there. It makes me think of friendship, fun, and love.

So what tree would you be? Something practical? Something fun? Let me know what you think!

And now, the giveaway.

I have an ARC or e-book of Cinder and Ella up for grabs. If you are from the US or Canada, you can have your choice of ARC or e-book. If you are from any other country in the world, your option is e-book only (to save on shipping).

To enter all you have to do is one of the following:

-Become a fan of Melissa Lemon on Goodreads
-Follow Melissa Lemon's blog
-Follow Melissa Lemon's Twitter
-Like Melissa Lemon's Facebook page

You must do at least one to enter, but you will get 1 additional entry for each additional one you do. Additionally, you can get one entry for Tweeting about this giveaway.

This giveaway will go from June 17th to the end of the book tour on June 30th. The winner will be picked by random.org on July 1st. Winner will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

To enter, just fill out the form below. Good luck, and thanks for stopping by!

Review: Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer


Title:Cleopatra Confesses
Author:Carolyn Meyer
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Pub. Date:06/07/2011
ISBN:1416987274 (ISBN13: 9781416987277)
Pages:288






It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh's six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history's most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely--herself.

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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I love historical fiction, so I really enjoyed this book. It's a pretty straightforward story covering Cleopatra's younger years. Now, I cannot speak for the authenticity of it, but it seemed plausible to me. I could be completely wrong. However, it's clear the author did her research. It gave the book a very real feel. The details and look into everyday Egyptian life in that time period were so interesting.

I found that young Cleopatra came off a bit too precocious to me. That didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book though. If was a fun read, and it can definitely get people more interested in history. It holds your attention through a well-known story.  I would recommend this book for sure.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: A Young Wife by Pam Lewis




Title:A Young Wife
Author:Pam Lewis
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Pub. Date:06/14/2011
ISBN:1451612729 (ISBN13: 9781451612721)
Pages:352





When fifteen-year-old Minke van Aisma travels to Amsterdam to care for the dying wife of an older, wealthy man named Sander DeVries, she has no idea what awaits her. Within hours of his wife’s death, Sander proposes marriage, and within days the couple sets sail for the burgeoning oil fields of Argentina.
But the future that seemed so bright takes a dark turn the morning their son, Zef, is kidnapped. Dire circumstances dictate that Sander immigrate to New York at once, leaving Minke little choice but to wait for their new baby’s arrival, follow Sander to America, and abandon her firstborn.


What follows is a triumphant turn-of-the-century saga of love, betrayal, and redemption that takes readers from the opulent life in Amsterdam during the 1900s to rough life on the Argentine coast to the impoverished life of a recent immigrant in New York.


An indelible portrait of one woman’s struggle to steer her own fate, A Young Wife is a powerful journey that will stay with readers long past the final page.

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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This was a pretty interesting book. It says it is loosely based on a true story, and I'm curious just how loose it is. A lot of bad stuff happened, and I'm interested in how much of it was real. The book tells the story of a 15 year old Dutch girl who marries an older man she hardly knows. She is then whisked away to Argentina. The city in Argentina is a new world on several levels. Minke has to adjust to her new married life and to an entirely new way of life in Argentina. Through a series of events, Minke ends up immigrating to the United States. There, even more new things await her.

The action proceeds at a fairly quick pace. In fact, there is so much going on, I didn't ever really get a feel for the characters. I like to know what's going on in their heads, and you don't really get any of that in this book. I never really understood why Minke married her husband in the first place. However, that was a pretty minor problem for me. I got engrossed in the book. I found that I had read half of it in one sitting without realizing it. I didn't want to stop without finding out what happened next.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think it will serve people well who just want a quick, interesting read. If you really like to get into the characters' heads, you may not enjoy this book that much. It certainly kept my interest, and I felt compelled to keep reading until the end.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: All The Things You Are by Courtney Sheinmel




Title:All the Things You Are
Author:Courtney Sheinmel
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date:06/14/2011
ISBN:1416997199 (ISBN13: 9781416997191)
Pages:256





Carly Wheeler lives a charmed life. Her motheris a stylist for the soap opera Lovelock Falls, she lives in a nice house, and goes to an excellent private school. But when her mom is arrested and charged with embezzlement, everything starts to unravel. There are shocking stories about her mother's crimes in the local newspaper. Carly's friends start avoiding her. And her stepfather starts worrying about money. How can Carly put her life back together when it feels like she's missing all the pieces?

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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I enjoyed this book a lot. It's the story of Carly, a girl who lives a fairly privileged life. She goes to a very nice private school, and she gets a lot of perks from her mother's job as a stylist on a soap opera. Sounds like a pretty nice life, right? It is until one day Carly's mom get arrested for embezzling from the soap opera. Suddenly Carly's life is turned completely upside down.

One of the main themes in this book is forgiveness. Carly is angry at her mom for making her lose friends and her regular life. She's also upset at those people she thought were friends that abandoned her. Slowly through the book, she comes to terms with things. She also learns that she will have to forgive some things. Carly also learns about acceptance. She learns to accept not only her life, but she also learns to accept those people who are trying to be true friends through it all.

I felt the author did a fabulous job of getting into the mindset of the 12-13 year girls. They vacillate realistically between being kids and being young adults. The ending isn't wrapped up into a neat little bow, but it instead allows you to draw your own conclusions. I liked that, because it follows real life. Things aren't always easily concluded. I felt that Carly's growth was at a reasonable pace. This was a good book, and I sure it will be enjoyed by more than just the intended age range.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Wishes for Beginners by Eileen Cook





Title:Wishes for Beginners
Author:Eileen Cook
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Aladdin
Pub. Date:06/14/2011
ISBN:1416998128 (ISBN13: 9781416998129)
Pages:176



The second in a series of books about Willow's adventures as she masters her secret fairy powers, navigates sprite training, tries to ignore her perfect older sister, and maintains a friendship with Katie, the most un-normal of humans. Miranda, the most popular girl in fourth grade, comes to school with exciting news: her older cousin is getting married, and Miranda will be in the bridal party! This is great news for Willow, because Miranda's cousin has hired Willow's mom to provide the cake. She is certain this is her chance to finally get closer to Miranda. She makes it sound as if she is very involved in her mother's bakery and wedding planning business. Suddenly Willow is gaining popularity as the fourth grade expert on all things wedding. The only one who doesn’t seem impressed is her best friend, Katie. Willow thinks she’s finally arrived when Miranda invites her to an exclusive birthday slumber party. The only problem is that it is so exclusive, Katie hasn’t been invited. Then, when Willow tries to use some fairy magic to make Miranda’s cousin’s wedding even bigger and better, everything goes horribly wrong. She might ruin the wedding, blow her first slumber party, and lose her best friend all in one. It’s going to take magic to survive fourth grade.

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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I haven't read this first book in this series, but I found this book to be quite delightful. Willow in a fairy godmother who has decided to attend human (or as the fairies call them "humdrums") school. Naturally, Willow must keep her status as a fairy a secret from the humans. So not only does Willow have to contend with the normal fourth grade issues like best friends, boys, and being popular (or not), she also has to try and learn to be a good fairy godmother. This includes learning to grants wishes.

Willow's two main issues in this book is trying to keep her secret from her best friend Katie, who always wants to come to her house. This would of course be difficult because Willow's mom, dad, and older sister don't really know how to act around humans. Willow also has a desire to grant her very first wish to a girl in her class, Miranda. Miranda is going to be a junior bridesmaid and desperately wants to keep her very loose front tooth from falling out before the wedding. To make this wish come true, Willow is going to need help from a tooth fairy. Tooth fairies are not know for being cooperative about deviating from their schedules. What will Willow do?

Willow was a fun main character. Naturally she gets in trouble with her wacky ideas, but she really has good intentions. This book was so cute and would be a really fun read for young girls. I'm sure they can feel Willow's pain even without magical powers. The ideas of loyalty and friendship are also discussed. Mostly though, this is just a really fun book.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review: No Room for Dessert by Hallie Durand




Title:No Room for Dessert
Author:Hallie Durand
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Atheneum Books
Pub. Date:06/07/2011
ISBN:
1442403608 (ISBN13: 9781442403604)
Pages:192




All of a sudden it seems like Dessert’s life story is being written in invisible ink! It’s getting harder and harder believe that anyone in the Schneider house even remembers that she lives there. Her school picture hanging on the fridge? Covered! The promise of burritos? Forgotten! Her baby brother doesn’t even know her name! (He calls her “dirt.”) Dessert decides that she needs a plan to get back on her family’s radar—and hopefully make them all feel like “dirt” for a change.


Let there be lightbulbs! Dessert has an idea. All she has to do is win her classroom’s invention contest, which should be a piece o’ cake. But, things get worse before they get better...so bad, Dessert would need all the double fudge sundaes in the world to make her feel like herself again—or maybe just a surprising new friend.

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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No Room for Dessert is about Donahue Penelope Schneider, a girl so sweet they nicknamed her Dessert. Dessert has been feeling left out lately though because as the oldest of 4, she feels like she's being forgotten because her parents are so involved with her siblings. However, when Dessert's teacher proposes an invention contest, Dessert sees her chance to get everyone's attention with her brilliant ideas. Of course, nothing goes as planned. Will Dessert ever get the attention of her parents?

This book was so charming. Dessert is a fun character, and she manages to explain her problems without ever feeling too sorry for herself. All of the characters were a bit quirky but fun. Who wouldn't want a teacher who acted out things and proposed inventing contests? Dessert's parents own a fondue restaurant, which was a fun  backdrop for some of the plot. I thought the invention contest was particularly entertaining. The inventions are the exact types of things I would have found entertaining at that age. The illustrations were also very well done.

I think this is a great book for kids. It's a super quick read with fun characters. It could even get then thinking about their own creative inventions. No Room for Dessert is a very entertaining book.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl by Kelle Groom



Title:I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl
Author:Kelle Groom
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Free Press
Pub. Date:06/07/2011
ISBN:1451616686 (ISBN13: 9781451616682)
Pages:256







At the age of fifteen, Kelle Groom found that alcohol allowed her to connect with people and explore intimacy in ways she’d never been able to experience before. She began drinking before class, often blacked out at bars, and fell into destructive relationships. At nineteen, already an out-of-control alcoholic, she was pregnant. Accepting the heartbreaking fact that she was incapable of taking care of her son herself, she gave him up for adoption to her aunt and uncle. They named him Tommy and took him home with them to Massachusetts. When he was nine months old, the boy was diagnosed with leukemia—but Kelle’s parents, wanting the best for her, kept her mostly in the dark about his health. When Tommy died he was only fourteen months old. Having lost him irretrievably, Kelle went into an accelerating downward spiral of self-destruction. She emerged from this free fall only when her desire to stop drinking connected her with those who helped her to get sober.


In stirring, hypnotic prose, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl explores the most painful aspects of Kelle’s addiction and loss with unflinching honesty and bold determination. Urgent and vital, exquisite and raw, her story is as much about maternal love as it is about survival, as much about acceptance as it is about forgiveness. Kelle’s longing for her son remains twenty-five years after his death. It is an ache intensified, as she lost him twice—first to adoption and then to cancer. In this inspiring portrait of redemption, Kelle charts the journey that led her to accept her addiction and grief and to learn how to live in the world.


Through her family’s history and the story of her son’s cancer, Kelle traces with clarity and breathtaking grace the forces that shape a life, a death, and a literary voice.


(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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This book is a memoir. It was written by a poet, and it's easy to see that in the writing. This was not an easy read by any means. The narrative flows from point in time to point in time with regularity. The book tells the story of an alcoholic, through her treatment and relapse(s). However, most the narrative involves the son she gave up for adoption to her aunt and uncle. Her son dies very young of leukemia, and her desire to reconnect with this missing part of her self directs her actions throughout her life.

Honestly, I don't really feel qualified to review this book. I'm not even sure I got it. This book felt so dark through most of it, as if she could never chase away her demons. I almost want to talk to her now, and see if she has found any peace. Despite all this, I found myself in tears at the end, and not necessarily sad ones. It's not a clear cut happy ending, but I did find some comfort.

The writing is very stylized. Although I find the subject matter difficult to read, the world themselves were beautiful. It's easy to see the poet coming through. While this isn't going to be a fun read necessarily, I do think it is worth reading. There is some satisfaction at seeing her work past her alcoholism and learning more about her son. So while it's not a breezy read, I did enjoy it.

Galley provided by publisher for review.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review: A Love That Multiplies by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar







Title:A Love That Multiplies
Author:Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Imprint:Howard Books
Pub. Date:06/07/2011
ISBN:1439183813 (ISBN13: 9781439183816)
Pages:288


In this second book from the Duggars, they focus on the principles that equip them to face life's challenges—drawing from their most recent challenge with the 3-month premature birth of their newest child, Josie. They also share the new challenges their older children are facing as they prepare for adult life. Central to the book is a section on the principles that the Duggars have consistently taught their children. These simply worded principles are basic to the Duggar family and are shared in a way that other parents can incorporate in their own homes. A special chapter on homeschooling gives valuable information to parents who are considering this route or are already invested in it. The world continues to be amazed by their nineteen well-groomed, well-behaved, well-schooled children and their home life, which focuses on family, financial responsibility, fun—and must importantly, faith. The Duggars show how parents can succeed whether they’re rearing a single child or several.

(Summary and cover via Goodreads)

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I have to admit, I watch the Duggars' TV show. So I was pretty interested to read this book. I tend to find the Duggars' religious beliefs a bit extreme, and there is certainly a lot of preaching in this book. It does make sense though, as their religion is their whole life. The first section of this book covers Michelle's pre-eclampsia and Josie's emergency delivery. There's not really anything new there if you have seen their TV show.

The rest of the book covers their philosophies for parenting and life in general. These are heavily influenced by Bill Gothard and his IBLP. Their beliefs fall under what I would label as (in the words of my nephew) "super mega extreme" conservatism. Once again, there is very little in here that you don't already know if you watch their TV show. A few interesting notes for me was that Michelle and Jim Bob both readily admit that they do get upset and have (in the past anyway) even raised their voices. Shocking, I know. However, it does make them seem a little more human. Perhaps the most compelling thing in the book is Michelle describing what it was like to learn her father was dying while Josie was also fighting for her life. This part was actually a very beautiful example of how her life and beliefs helped to bolster her in a very low point of her life.

There is some useful advice. For example, Michelle discusses taking care of needs and/or bad behavior when it first appears instead of letting it go and potentially become a bigger problem. However, for every useful idea, there are several things that appear not as good to me. Blanket training was a concept I took issue with. I have a 17 month old, and I find it vastly unrealistic to think that he should be able to sit on a blanket and not move for an hour or so. No way am I going to torture both of us by trying this. There's also a strange bit where they talk about training their children (even very small ones) that they have to look everyone directly in the eye, lest they come across as disrespectful. What if the child is naturally shy? Or going through a clingy stage? It seems odd to me.

The writing was just OK. It's written in the first person, but the narrator switches between Michelle and Jim Bob a lot. It got kind of annoying to find out who was talking half-way through the section. I wish that had flowed a bit better. There were also some things that seemed thrown in to quiet critics. For example, there were several recipes in the book, and almost all of them included lots of fresh veggies and fruits. Maybe that is how they really do eat, but I know they have gotten some criticism for how their diet appears on the show. They also have a section about how their daughters would be allowed to live out there dreams and even go to college (even though Bill Gothard seems anti anything that takes women out of the house and authority of a male). Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.

Overall, this book is pretty good. If you watch their show, there is not much new to be gleaned from this book (unless you want to memorize Duggar approved Bible verses). It is a fairly quick read. Be prepared to get products (especially those from places like IBLP and Vision Forum) heavily endorsed. There is quite a bit of that in the book. If you really love the Duggars, then you will probably enjoy this book. Otherwise, most the book will probably leave you shaking your head.

Galley provided by publisher for review.