Life As We Knew It

June 25, 2009

lifeWhen Miranda Evans hears astronomers have predicted that a meteor is going to hit the moon, she doesn’t think too much of it.  But when it hits, because the meteor is denser than believed, it pushes the moon closer to Earth.  This change in distance completely alters life on Earth, creating tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, etc.  Miranda, along with her mother and brothers, must fight for survival in a new world of dangerous weather, decreasing supplies of food and water, lack of electricity and heat, and complete isolation.

Susan Beth Pfeffer wrote Life As We Knew It as a journal from Miranda’s perspective.  This makes the novel extremely compelling as readers get a true sense of what life is like for Miranda and her family.  We see her anger, fear, and sadness when dealing with this drastic change.  The descriptions are so vivid that it’s easy to get lost in the story, believing chocolate chips are rare delicacies and the sight of the large moon is unsettling.  Pfeffer’s second book is called the dead and the gone and follows the same scenario from the perspective of a new character in New York City.  I think I’ll be reading that one soon…


The Lightning Thief

June 12, 2009

lightningthief1Another series that I picked up later than I should have is Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson & the Olympians.  I knew it had won awards and praise from pretty much everywhere, but I think maybe I expected it to be a little bit too much of a boy book for me.  I was so wrong!

If you haven’t read the series yet, book 1 is called The Lightning Thief.  Percy Jackson is a 12-year-old boy who tends to get in a lot of trouble.  He’s been in numerous boarding schools already, and he’s about to get kicked out of another one.  Percy eventually learns that he is a half-blood:  His mother is mortal, but his father is one of the Greek gods.  He sets out on a quest to help his father, knowing that he may not return alive.

The Lightning Thief was really enjoyable.  It has a lot of the same elements as Harry Potter – boy hero finding out something about himself that allows him to enter into a new world, heading off on a quest still learning about this new world, and he even has two sidekick friends- Grover, a satyr who also serves as Percy’s keeper; and Annabeth, another half-blood.  True, Harry Potter also had references to Greek mythology, but it didn’t rely on it as heavily as Percy Jackson, nor did it make Greek mythology as interesting.  Several times while reading I stopped to find more information on an important figure.  Rick Riordan deserves a lot of credit for making the subject so interesting.  Another thing that I think is great about this book is that it may help kids with dyslexia and ADHD feel less self-conscious.  Percy and the other half-bloods do too as it’s a sign of being a demi-god.  The book had a lot of adventure, mystery, action, and humor.  I highly recommend it, especially to Harry Potter fans.  I will definitely be reading the rest of the series!


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!


If I Stay

April 17, 2009

if-i-stay1This new young-adult novel by Gayle Forman has only been out for a few weeks, but already it has quite a bit of buzz – an interesting and serious plot, its own website complete with book trailer, and a movie deal (with Twilight‘s Catherine Hardwicke slated to direct).  From these alone, it’s on the fast-track to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Seventeen-year-old Mia has a great life with her cool (no, really) parents, adorable younger brother, and fantastic boyfriend.  She’s a classically trained cellist, whose most difficult decision at the beginning of the book is whether to leave behind her family, friends, and boyfriend to go to Julliard in the fall.  However, tragedy strikes during a family car ride, and Mia discovers her family has been killed and she is in serious condition.  Now she must decide whether to let go and be with her parents and brother as a family or stay with her friends and boyfriend and live with unbearable loss for the rest of her life.

I did not love this book from the start, but as I got further into it and after I finished, I discovered I liked it better than I thought I would. If I Stay is extremely sad.  More than once I had to put it down because it was too depressing.  The book uses flashbacks juxtiposed with Mia’s out-of-body experience so that readers get a sense of what her life is like.  Her family seems a little too perfect since they get along all the time, but this is probably just to show how difficult it would be for Mia to not have them in her life should she choose to stay.  Mia also annoyed and frustrated me at times because I could see how much she still has to live for – lots of extended family, close grandparents, close family friends, her boyfriend, her best friend, her future, etc.  If I Stay is definitely a great book for understanding mortality and how hard life is.  As Mia says in the book, dying is easy, living is hard.  I can’t say this was one of the best books I’ve read this year (though that may just be because of how heavy it was), but I definitely think it’s worth reading!


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!


Diary of a Wimpy Kid

July 7, 2008

I had been looking forward to reading this book by Jeff Kinney for awhile because I knew it would be a quick read.  It was. I started and finished in about an hour. It’s written in the style of a “JOURNAL, not a diary.” I loved the cartoons depicting various situations. The story tells of middle schooler Greg Heffley’s year and the various problems he has, such as with friends, bullies, bad Christmas gifts, etc. As I read though, I really started to dislike Greg. He’s a jerk to his “best friend” Rowley…he’s bossy and eternally ashamed of him. I know Diary of a Wimpy Kid is really popular, so I’m interested to find out if anyone else had any problems with the “hero” of the story. Other than that, I thought it was a fun read. The cartoons are great. I may read the next one since it goes so quickly.