48 Hour Book Contest

June 8, 2009

48hbcOver the weekend I participated in the 48 Hour Book Contest hosted by MotherReader.  If you haven’t heard of it, the basic idea is to read as much as you can or want to over a consecutive 48 hour period.  Time you blog about your process or the books you’ve read also counts toward your time.  This year socializing – time you spent reading other participating blogs, commenting, or twittering – was also allowed to add into your time.  My friends and I decided to participate together at NerdGirlBlogging, the blog we share, so head over there if you want to see our posts.

I ended up with a grand total of 15 hours, 30 minutes and 1162 pages.  It was a great experience, and I got to read & hear about a lot of great books.  These are the books I read.

specialsSpecials by Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book in the Uglies series, published in 2006.  It has quite a bit of action in it, especially toward the end.  I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I had Uglies.  Probably because then the series and concept of the books were still new to me.  I  see Specials as the final act of the UgliesPrettiesSpecials trilogy.  However, there is a fourth book called Extras, but Tally is not the main character.  I wasn’t planning on reading it, but I’ve been told by others that they really enjoyed it, so maybe I’ll pick it up after a little break from the series.  I would definitely recommend Uglies to any YA reader, and you can read my review of that book here.

drums20girlsDrums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

This is a really great story from 2004 about Steven, a geeky 8th grader trying to deal with school,  a girl who doesn’t know he exists, and an annoying five-year-old brother, Jeffrey, all while finding time to get better on the drums.  Steven’s year quickly goes downhill when he learns that Jeffrey has lukemia.  Written in first person, Drums really gives us a feel for what Steven and his family are going through.  It has a lot of really sweet, sad, funny, angry, and quirky moments, and I cannot recommend it enough.

devilishDevilish by Maureen Johnson

This was my first Maureen Johnson book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It turned out to be a fairly quick read with supernatural elements.  Jane attends an all-girl prep school with her best friend Allison, who has somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Allison changes drastically when new girl Lanalee arrives at school, suddenly owning expensive things, dying and cutting her hair, and stealing Jane’s ex-boyfriend.  Jane soon discovers Allison has sold her soul to Lanalee, a devil-in-training who also wants Jane’s soul.  I enjoyed the character of Jane; she’s intelligent, witty, and fiercely loyal and protective of her best friend.  Devilish is a pretty light read, though it does have some slightly graphic descriptions at times, so I would recommend it to older readers who like out-of-the-norm supernatural books.

savvySavvy by Ingrid Law

This 2008 book has won numerous honors, including 2009 Newbery Honor and ALA Notable Book for Children 2009.  Main character Mibs is about to turn 13.  A big deal for anyone, yet in her family, turning 13 means you get your savvy — a special talent.  Mibs’ oldest brother creates electricity and another brother can cause hurricanes.  Two days before her birthday, Mibs’ father is in a bad car accident.  Mibs KNOWS her savvy is to wake him up, so she, her older brother Fish, her younger brother Samson, and the preacher’s kids Will & Bobbi embark on an adventure.  Along her journey, Mibs learns a lot about herself, her family, and growing up.  This was a fantastic story with great characters and an exciting adventure.  Highly recommended!  I’m looking forward to more from Ingrid Law.

lincolnsThe Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming

I have only read the first two chapters of this massive book so far, but I’m enjoying it.  It’s a nice book to pick up every now and then to supplement reading typical chapter books.  I love the scrapbook feel, with the pictures and various chunks of text.  It’s such a great way to learn about two important figures in history and what living in their time was like.  I’m looking forward to finishing the book and learning more, but I can already see why it’s so popular and has earned so many praise.  A great book for a variety of ages!

masterpieceMasterpiece by Elise Broach

I’m still working my way through this chapter book too, but so far it’s very enjoyable.  Published in 2008, Masterpiece is the story of Marvin, a beetle who lives in a NYC apartment with a human family, including 10-year-old James.  Of course, the humans don’t know they are there, until one day when Marvin goes into James’ room to leave a birthday present and ends up creating a beautiful ink picture.  When James awakes and sees the picture, he’s amazed and even more surprised when Marvin reveals himself as the artist.  I love that the book is from the perspective of a tiny beetle.  I can’t to find out how Masterpiece ends.


The Maze of Bones

June 3, 2009

39-clues-maze-of-bonesFirst of all, my apologies for a lack of blogging last month.  I recently moved back to Illinois from Iowa, so things were/have been a little hectic.  I’ll be spending some time trying to catch up on my reading and blogging.  Now on to the book…

The Maze of Bones is the first book in the much-publicized The 39 Clues series.  It took me awhile to get around to it because I didn’t quite understand what it was all about, but I’m so glad I finally did.  In the first book, which is written by Rick Riordan, Amy and Dan Cahill attend their grandmother’s funeral and learn they, and several other people they didn’t even know were family, are listed in her will.  The will states that the heirs may either accept $1 million or pass and have the chance to follow clues to find the powerful secret of the Cahill family.  Amy and Dan choose to accept the clues and embark on a huge adventure.

The book was very enjoyable – adventurous, mysterious, and full of puzzles.  It reminded me a lot of The Westing Game (which was a GREAT thing since that’s my favorite book!) and a little bit of A Series of Unfortunate Events (which I also really enjoy).  At times, though, some of the scenes were difficult for me to envision because of how active the characters are in pursuing their clues.  Still, The Maze of Bones was a great, quick read, and I highly recommend it for middle grades, especially fans of The Westing Game or adventure or mystery books.  I can’t wait to get to the next books in the series!


Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

April 10, 2009

sorceryceceliaWritten in letters between two cousins, this 1987 (re-issued in 2003) book by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is a fresh change from the typical novel style.  Throw in a setting of early 1800s England and some magical elements and the story becomes extremely interesting.  While Kate is off in London for the season, Cecelia is stuck back in the country without her.  The two describe their encounters with new friends, “odious” men, and mysterious events and soon realize their separate adventures are connected.

The story begins a little slow.  I had to start it twice after putting it down for awhile the first time, but it was great once I got into it.  Both Kate and Cecelia are relatable characters despite the time period that may be foreign to readers.  They possess a spunk that will make readers laugh and forget about the (now) strange customs of 19th Century England society.  Sorcery & Cecelia is perfect for readers who love the elements of Jane Austen but have trouble with the language of the classics.  If you like Sorcery & Cecelia, I’ve just discovered that there are two follow-ups:  The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia and The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After.  I’m adding them to my to-read list now!


Prairie Town

March 11, 2009

prairieBonnie Geisert has written four picture books based on various types of towns in the United States.  Each one was illustrated by her husband Arthur Geisert.  The first, published in 1998, is Prairie Town.  Next came River Town, which was followed by Mountain Town and Desert Town.

riverAlthough I haven’t read Desert Town yet, I expect it to have the same style as the others.  In each one, Geisert uses simple narration to describe the town over the course of a year and explain how the seasons affect it and the people living there.  Her husband’s birds’-eye-view illustrations make readers feel they are silent, secret observers.

mountainThese books are great for depicting towns and people across the United States.  They are realistic examples of specific parts of America.  Although they’d be great for geography lessons, these books work best in one-on-one reading.  The details in the pictures are best seen up close.  With so much detail in the pictures, however, the story is new every time it’s read.

desertAt the end of each book, Geisert also includes a note to mention events that happened throughout the year (a wedding, carnival, dedication, etc.) that the reader may have missed.  It’s fun to go back through the pages of the story to find evidence of those events in the town.  These are definite reads for anyone interested in small towns across the country.


Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama Queens

March 9, 2009

bestfriends1The third installment in Meg Cabot‘s new series comes out today!  Luckily for me, last month I won an ARC for Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Best Friends and Drama Queens and got to read it early (and then got to have it autographed by Meg when I met her at her signing at Anderson’s Bookshop and the Children’s Literature Breakfast).

I quickly read the first two, Moving Day and The New Girl, and loved them both.  After reading Best Friends and Drama Queens, I concluded that it’s even better.   In this one, a new girl from Canada comes to Allie’s new school and disrupts everything by chasing boys at recess.  Pretty soon she has declared Allie and her friends immature for not wanting to “go with” boys.  Allie tries her best to handle the mean things Cheyenne says, but suddenly it seems too much to take.

Allie is a fantastic character.  She’s so full of spunk and independence and throughout all three books, she writes down rules to help her get through everything.  Some of my favorites:  Don’t stick a spatula down your best friend’s throat, Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good, Treat your friends the way you’d want them to treat you, and It’s impolite not to bump someone’s fist when they are fist-bumping you.

I highly recommend the series, especially for fans of Judy Moody, Ivy and Bean, or Clementine!  Allie definitely belongs in their “Spunky Girls” club!


Volcano & Earthquake

January 26, 2009

Happy Non-Fiction Monday!  I’m instituting this new theme that’s done a lot on other book-review blogs.  I can’t say there will be one every week, but I’ll try my best.

Lately I have been exploring the Eyewitness books.  They’re full of pictures and brief notes, which makes reading non-fiction much more interesting and easier for me.  (I’m not generally a non-fiction reader.)  Volcano & Earthquake is pretty interesting.  I’ve always been fascinated with earthquakes, so I knew I would probably enjoy this book, but I have to say, I was a little disappointed with it.  The book doesn’t go into too many details because it follows the format of showing a picture and explaining a little bit about it.  So, for example, it shows a picture of Old Faithful and explains that it’s a geyser that erupts every hour.  But it doesn’t tell me WHY this happens so regularly.  (And, darn it, I really want to know.)  I guess maybe these books are just good for giving you a basic introduction and lead you to more in-depth information.

Another problem I had with it is that during the earthquake sections, the book only mentions earthquakes along the Ring of Fire.  Growing up near the New Madrid Seismic Zone, I know there are more fault lines than those.  I also know that in 1811 and 1812 there were three major earthquakes in that area, a giant seismic event that is not mentioned in the book or the timeline at the back.

Even with these two problems for me, I still enjoyed the book and learned a lot…the incredibly quick eruption of Mount Pelee in 1902 that completely decimated Saint-Pierre?  Shocking!  The early seismoscope invented in 132 CE?  Fascinating!  A decent entry into the world of volcanoes and earthquakes.


The Secret of the Old Clock

January 8, 2009

After checking my local library, I was pleasantly surprised to see a fairly large Nancy Drew collection.  So naturally I decided I’d begin re-reading them…because I obviously don’t have enough other books on my to-read list.

I love Nancy Drew.  I used to read them when I was younger, I enjoyed (for the most part) re-reading this one, and I currently have The Hidden Staircase sitting on my nightstand.  However, this is a reprint of the 1930 original, and it includes racial stereotyping, female oppression, and antiquated vocabulary (“jaunt” for example?  I also made fun of “roadster” until my dad informed me it’s actually a type of car and not just a random term created to describe Nancy’s blue car).  Fortunately, a publishers’ note mentions this upfront in the hopes that readers won’t be too surprised and offput.

Despite these obvious blemishes, The Secret of the Old Clock is still a classic.  Nancy is a great role model:  intelligent, ambitious, kind-hearted.  Granted, she should probably be a bit safer — chasing after robbers who previously locked her in a closet and left her to starve without telling anyway is probably not the best idea.  In this first book in the series, there’s also no mention of George, Bess, or Ned.  Perhaps they show up later in the series.  I’ll find out soon.