Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review #1245
Where's Walrus by Stephen Savage
Rating: three stars (out of four)

I really liked this book. The illustrations were fun and amusing. The walrus and his antics kept me turning the page to see where he was hiding next. I also liked the style of the pages and how neat and sleek everything looked. It felt modern and timeless at the same time. It also reminded me of books I had read as a child. I would definitely recommend this book.

Book Review #1244
The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I liked seeing how the story the boy heard from his mother came into play with his imagination. Even though I liked the story, I still felt like something was missing and it wasn't my favorite of Allen Say's books. The illustrations were still beautiful and I loved the scenery of the garden and the detail. I would probably recommend.

Book Review #1243
Six Crows by Leo Lionni
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This book had a simple message of peace. It seemed a little forced, but might still provide entertainment for children. I thought the illustrations were fairly nice, but I didn't care very much for the overall story. I probably wouldn't recommend unless you loved Lionni's work.

Book Review #1242
Trouble in the Barkers' Class by Tomie dePaola
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This was a good book with a positive message about making friends. I thought Tomie did a good job of portraying a difficult situation and providing a solution children could learn from. Even though this offers a good lesson it was well blended with the story and the illustrations and didn't feel like a lesson. I would probably recommend this book.

Book Review #1241
How Murray Saved Christmas by Mike Reiss, illustrated by David Catrow
Rating: one star (out of four)

The rhyme scheme for this book was pretty good and I definitely thought some of the rhymes were clever, but I didn't enjoy the overall story. I felt like I had already heard it somewhere else. I think other people might enjoy this book more than I did, but it wasn't for me.

Book Review #1240
If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This was an amusing story, if not a little far-fetched. I thought it was interesting to see how each activity reminded the pig of something else Completely Different and that the little girl put up with his craziness. The illustrations were pretty cute. I'd recommend if you were a fan of pigs.

Book Review #1239
Tillie and the Wall by Leo Lionni
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This book was a little boring. I found the plot predictable (not that I knew what was on the other side of the wall, but I knew Tillie would find it.) The ending wasn't surprising and I felt like the story was kind of bland. I would only recommend reading if you were a die-hard Lionni fan.

Book Review #1238
Merry Un-Christmas by Mike Reiss, illustrated by David Catrow
Rating: three stars (out of four)

I enjoyed this book. The premise was funny and I definitely think children will enjoy seeing Christmas from a different perspective. The illustrations were comical and endearing. The ending was my favorite part. I'd recommend this book.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review #1237
Tony's Bread by Tomie dePaola
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This was a fairly entertaining read. There were a couple of parts I found a little ridiculous, but they didn't bother me too much. I also thought the story was a bit random, but still enjoyable. And of course, I always like Tomie's illustrations. I'd recommend, especially if you like reading Italian folklore.

Book Review #1236
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow
Rating: three stars (out of four)

This book made me smile! I loved Molly Lou Melon's personality and how she took everything in stride because of what her Grandmother had told her. I also LOVED David Catrow's illustrations - they were hilarious and perfect for this sweet little story. The message and characters in this book were a delight. I would definitely recommend!

Book Review #1235
Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems
Rating: four stars (out of four)

How can you not love this fun and hilarious book about the major dilemma of sharing ice cream? But seriously, I loved the antics of Elephant and all his thoughts and decisions about whether or not he should share with Piggie. I'm always amused by Mo Willem's books and this was no exception - his books are immensely entertaining. The end was comical as well and I had to laugh. I would definitely recommend this book!

Book Review #1234
Shortcut by David Macaulay
Rating: one star (out of four)

This book was confusing. I know it's supposed to be a fun and light-hearted look at cause and effect, but I don't think children will get it. I may have given up too quickly, but after one read I was just not impressed and didn't feel like it was worth my time to pick it up again. This book wasn't for me. I wouldn't recommend.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review #1233
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This story was wacky and amusing. I loved the little chick's enthusiasm for storytelling, even if he did interrupt too much. The different illustrations were also enjoyable and I liked seeing how the chick would change the story each time. I found this book funny, but I wasn't totally in love with it. I was just a tad bit surprised to see that it had won a Caldecott. I would still recommend though.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Review #1232
The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This was a pretty good book. I really liked the concept of looking at Mark Twain from the point of view of his daughter, Susy. Her notes on her father and what she thought people should know about him were often entertaining and insightful. I also liked the little notebooks with journal entries from Susy's biography. The pictures were fun as well. I'd recommend if you were a Mark Twain fan.

Book Review #1231
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
Rating: two stars (out of four)

The illustrations for this book were cute. I liked the animated little cat and his bouncy personality that seemed to fly across the page because of all his excitement. The story seemed a little far-fetched, but I still enjoyed seeing the antics of the characters. I was also amazed that the girl put up with this demanding kitty! But it is definitely a book I think kids would enjoy. I would recommend.

Book Review #1230
If You Give an Author a Pencil by Laura Numeroff
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This was different than I expected. It wasn't as informative as imagined because it was written in a format that children could read and understand. I thought it did a good job of giving a snapshot of a writer's life and how the whole writing process looked, even if it was brief. I also appreciated that Laura mentioned how many times she had to submit a manuscript before it got published or even if the publisher rejected it. There were a lot of photos as well and those were fun to look at. I might recommend for fans of Laura Numeroff.

Book Review #1229
Ribbit Rabbit by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Mike Lowery
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This was a fairly cute children's book. I liked the word play throughout the story and how the two friends interacted. The drawings were whimsical and colorful, but not so busy they were distracting. The story is pretty typical for kids, something they could read and see in illustrated in their own life. It also has a good message of forgiving and not letting things get in the way of your friendship. I might recommend.

Book Review #1228
Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose by Tomie dePaola
Rating: three stars (out of four)

I loved the illustrations throughout this book. Tomie dePaola has such a way of illustrating characters which exude sweetness. His pictures have a softness about them that I love. I also like how he can portray humor on any face. It was nice to see his drawings paired with nursery rhymes. Some of the rhymes were different than what I grew up with, but it was just a slightly different translation or wording. I enjoyed looking through this book and I would recommend it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review #1227
Let's Make Rabbits by Leo Lionni
Rating: two stars (out of four)

This was a fun little book. The story was very simplistic, but still sweet. I enjoyed seeing the different art medias interacting through the two rabbits. It felt like a very short read though, but that's probably because the story line was so simple. I might still recommend to Lionni fans.

Book Review #1226
Chalk by Bill Thomson
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I thought the illustrations for this book were marvelous and realistic. I could see the children's faces so well and I knew exactly what they were thinking. There weren't any words in this picture book and you didn't need any because the pictures expressed everything so well. I loved the interaction between the children and their crazy day. It felt like a brief, magical snapshot of a child's imagination. I would definitely recommend.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Review #1225
Spellbound by Jacqueline West
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I didn't like this book as much as the first. I felt like things were a little off with the story and it definitely felt more ominous and dark. The talking cats were still amusing, but I wasn't in love with them or anything. I also little disappointed in how Olive acted in this book. I didn't think she had as much spunk and she didn't seem to hold her own for some reason. It was an interesting turn of developments and I thought the plot was fairly engaging, I just wasn't sure I liked it. I probably won't be reading any more of the Elswhere books.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review #1224
Troublemaker by Andrew Clements
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I felt like this book was trying too hard to prove a point. While I agreed with the sentiments and thought kids could definitely take pointers, the story just felt forced. The message could have been woven more subtly. The writing felt a little immature, but that was probably because I'm older than the intended reading age, but still, it was irksome. The interaction between Clay and his older brother was interesting, but I felt like something was missing. The consequences were pretty strict and I'm glad that Clay finally realized how much trouble he could have gotten into because of his reputation. It still wasn't my favorite book though and I probably wouldn't recommend.

Book Review #1223
Dead Guy Spy by David Lubar
Rating: one star (out of four)

Initial thoughts: This book made me feel kind of sick. There's just some things I don't want to read about involving bodily functions. I didn't care for the story line either.

The title of this book should have given me a clue, but this story featured a lot of gross descriptions and scenarios. It definitely felt like a "boy book" with the crazy concoctions, bizarre scenarios and off-beat humor. But still, even though it was unlike anything I had read before, it made me feel a little queasy...and that's never a good thing. I actually put it down for a while and then a few months later I picked it back up and finished it. I didn't like it. The characters weren't relatable and I never felt anything for Nathan's plight or his well-being. It might have helped to have read the first book in the series (this is book two) but after finishing this I didn't want to read any more. Not my taste at all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review #1222
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I was excited to read this series because I knew a lot of people who had read it and loved it. But I'm just not seeing the hype. I'm not completely engrossed in the story and I'm not in love with the characters. It might be just me, but I think the biggest issue I have with this series is Sam and Grace's relationship.

Another thing that really bothered me. What was up with the whole connection between Cole and Isabel? What? Really? It didn't make any sense. Why couldn't they seem to control their emotions - or a better question, why did they have this connection when they didn't even know each other? Come on, that's supposed to make me happy? It didn't. I was frustrated with all of their interactions together.

Also, I wasn't a fan of how Grace disregarded her parent's authority to be with her Soul Mate because she "figured" she knew best and her parents were good for nothing. Um, really? Just because you have faulty parents doesn't mean you can make up your own mind and do whatever you want. Especially if your parents start to shape up and start acting more like parents. I know some of their expectations and rules for Grace were a little unrealistic, but they were still the authority figures in her life and it really bothered me how easily she discarded their judgements and deemed for herself what was right. She's just a teenager! I didn't like how Grace treated her parents. And all for a boy! Sure, I wasn't a big fan of the parents, but I also thought Grace was way out of line with some of her actions.

And then Grace and Sam's complicated we really have to have so much drama about how Grace and Sam need to be together? It got on my nerves. It might be a little while before I read the last one...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review #1221
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I had been meaning to read this book for a while because of the reviews I had seen on Goodreads. So when I finally sat down to read it, I made sure I had a decent amount of time so I could speed through it. Sadly though, I wasn't as big of a fan as I thought I'd be. I know some people will be annoyed with me saying this, but it reminded me of a werewolf version of Twilight. Yeah, some of you are cringing and shooting me death glares - sorry!  Let me explain: Yes, I thought it had better writing then Twilight, yes, I thought there were original and thought-provoking ideas in this book, and yes, I liked it better than Twilight. But I definitely was Not In Love With It.

I thought there were some things that didn't make much sense. Like at the very beginning of the book where the wolf is stalking her? Um, wouldn't most people find that Creepy? Grace didn't. And her incident with the wolves when she was a little girl? I just couldn't see how her reaction could be so subdued! She should have Major Mental Issues from that kind of situation, but she didn't. That did not fly for me.

I think though, the biggest thing that got on my nerves was how entirely devoted Sam and Grace were to each other. I didn't feel there was enough justification in the story to show how they had become so attached. I kind of felt like it was Kabam-We-Are-Now-Instantly-In-Love-And-Need-To-Be-Together-Forever-Or-We-Will-Die kind of relationship. I wasn't buying it. I wanted more depth with their attraction besides the fact that Grace had an unhealthy obsession with wolves and Sam had an unhealthy obsession with Grace.

As far as other negatives, there was one scene involving sexual content that I did not think was necessary and wished had been left out.

Okay, conclusion? Even though there were several things I didn't like in this book, I still found it enjoyable and sped through the story. Unfortunately, I didn't like it enough to add to any of my favorite shelves or go around telling all my friends that they Had to read it. I am still interested to see how things will work out in the next two books.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review #1220
The Jewel and the Key by Louise Spiegler
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I really liked the cover of this book - but it was totally different from what I was expecting. The historical elements were pretty well done, but I never felt fully drawn into the story. I would have liked a better connection with Addie. I saw all the things that happened to her, but I didn't really have any feelings for her. The romantic elements felt a little forced, but it didn't bother me too much - kind of because I was a little apathetic towards the story. I wasn't a big fan of the ending, I wanted more closure, something to grasp, but the author chose to take a different approach. Even though I didn't love this book, I might still recommend to people who like this genre. It just wasn't for me.

Book Review #1219
The Shadows by Jacqueline West
Rating: two stars (out of four)

It was an intriguing concept, and it reminded me a little of Coraline by Neil Gaiman. But I didn't enjoy it as much as Coraline. The main character certainly had spunk and I wanted to know how things would turn out, but there was something missing. The setting was intriguing and I thought the author did a nice job of making the story suspenseful without going over the line into "scary" - and it was a nice blend for it's middle school age group. The cats were an interesting touch, but I wasn't totally in love with them. I can't say that I loved this book, but I did like reading it and I'm going to read the sequel (partly because I picked it up at ALA) and I'd probably recommend for readers who want a touch of "eery" in their stories.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review #1218
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Rating: four stars (out of four)

My initial thoughts after I finished the book:


Okay, sorry, I just had to get that out of my system. But really. I just don't know what to feel right now. It's 1am in the morning and I just finished this novel. I don't know how I'm going to sleep tonight. My mind keeps spinning. I gasped while reading the book and was shocked at some of the revelations and had to text my friend with updates (she told me I had to read the book) and now I know why. Oh my goodness. My head, my head, my head. Dystopia fiction makes my head spin. But it's the best kind of dizziness. The kind I can't get enough of... 

Be Brave!

After thoughts:

From the very first page I was hooked. I sped through the book like my life depended on it. I was COMPLETELY fascinated with the different factions and their habits and people. I absorbed everything I could from the pages and read late into the night because I couldn't stand NOT knowing how it ended. By the time I was done, I was nearly breathless. Needless to say, I'll be anxious to get my hands on the next book. Not that I'm saying it left readers in a lurch or anything like that - it ended well enough, but I want to read more about these characters I now love.

The society was unique and different from other books I had read, I felt like the different cliches were well thought out and realistic. I also liked realizing things right as Tris realized them, or a little sooner. There were several plot twists that I didn't see coming and completely amazed me when I read them. Sometimes I would talk out loud while I was reading (in the privacy of my own home, of course). Example: "Oh no! I can't believe I didn't realize that before - thatmeansACK!"

There were some things that I did find a little disturbing. Some of the violence in the book was graphic...not that I felt sick or completely repulsed, but a couple of times I gasped in shock and had to read through some paragraphs quickly. There were also some situations that would have made me uncomfortable if I had to see them instead of read them. I kept thinking, "Drat, if this was a movie, I don't think I'd be able to stomach this part...." and I'm a little anxious because I've read stuff online that said it MIGHT BECOME a movie....which I would TOTALLY want to see, but I'd be nervous about the violence.

As much as I loved this book, it still doesn't take the place of The Hunger Games. I would definitely recommend it as Turn To Next In Dystopian Fiction after you've finished the HG. I loved the plot, the twists, the characters and their emotion depth. The story was crazy and thrilling. If you haven't read Divergent and you're a fan of Dystopias you should DEFINITELY pick this book up. Prepare for your mind to be blown away.

Additional Bonus Backstory!:
I had remotely seen this book around and I had it on my to-read list, but I just wasn't sure when I was going to get around to it. While at ALA conference VERONICA ROTH was sitting at a little table SIGNING and my friend, Karly convinced me we both needed to buy the book and get it signed. Karly said she had seen it all over the Internet and Publishers Weekly and it was getting great reviews. Then she mentioned it was a dystopian novel, and I was instantly  intrigued. So I bought the hardback for $10 and got it signed. Veronica wrote, BE BRAVE! on my copy (and now I know what THAT means.) After reading the front flap I was really excited to read it. Karly read it before me and told me I HAD TO READ IT NEXT OR ELSE. (I hadn't gotten around because I had just gotten home from an 8-week-long internship and I hadn't read anything for 2 months). And, well, you know the rest, because you just read my review!

Book Review #1217
My Misadventures as a Teenage Rock Star by Joyce Raskin, illustrated by Carol Chu
Rating: two stars (out of four)

Though this book is marketed as a young adult novel, I often felt like the voice of the main character, Alex, was a little immature sounding. In the beginning, I thought Alex sounded a lot younger based on how she talked and her emotions. Parts of the book seemed random and under-developed. I didn't see how Alex could take things so easily. Sure, she cries for several weeks, but then she's over it - and this happens in the space of about 2 pages.

This book needed more depth. It seemed like an outline of a more interesting story, but it wasn't fleshed out enough. I also thought she "learned" things far too quickly. How long did she play the Bass before she was playing on stage? I don't know, but it felt like it was in 3 pages, which just didn't fly. I also thought she got over some things too fast, and her "well, my parents know best so even though I was annoyed with them at the time, I can see things from their point of view now" adage was a forced and unnatural at times.

I also didn't really believe some of the prejudices against a girl playing guitar. I don't think the stereotype is that bad today, and I thought it was annoying how many times Alex ranted about people treating her differently because she was a girl. It was also hard for me to believe that all of these things happened while she was still fourteen! It seemed like a long jump with character/plot development and not enough pages describing how or why it happened. The ending was a bit of a let down. I didn't realize it was the ending until I flipped the page and there was no more story. That was weird. I can kind of see what the author was trying to do, but I would have liked more closure.

There were some aspects of the book that I did like. I appreciated that the main character steered clear of drugs and drinking. She was fairly young and hung out with other people who did those kinds of things but she never let them talk her into doing that behavior. She had principles and she stuck to them. I also liked her friend Sal and the positive image she portrayed.

I did feel like elements of the book might be considered "preachy." I feel like other readers might find these annoying, and there were a couple of parts I found irritating. While I thought there were some positive messages in this book, I still felt like this story only barely touched the surface of Alex and her rock star life and I can't say that I'd recommend it to others.

Book Review #1216
Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
Rating: two stars (out of four)

I loved the beginning of this story. The smooth and slow style of the narration felt like books I had read before and loved. I didn't care for the rest of the story though. It was like something was missing, or that the book wasn't going deep enough. I felt like the story only skimmed the surface of Mattie's emotions and depth. I wanted more, but the story just ended after giving the reader a quick taste.

It was really short. I think I read the entire book in 45 minutes. The characters were spunky and life-like, I just didn't think they were developed enough for the kind of story I was anticipating. I loved the vocabulary of Uncle Potluck. I could kind of glimpse what the author was going for with her story, but she didn't reach it. It was a little bit of a letdown. I probably wouldn't recommend.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review #1215
Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler
Rating: two stars (out of four)

The first couple of chapters had me laughing out loud at the witty banter and I was excited to read what else was in store. Unfortunately, the story didn't live up to those first chapters. I liked that it was a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility, but sometimes the characters got on my nerves. I thought the interaction between the sisters was a little too dramatic, I wasn't sure how they functioned if there main relationship was Not Getting Along All The Time. I wanted the younger sister to grow up. I wanted the older sister to chill out. There was definitely some drama going on in this book.

S P O I L E R  W A R N I N G

I was also surprised with the ending. I felt like it was a little rushed and I was a little weirded out with how the relationships played out. I didn't feel like there was enough development for things to end like that and I was disappointed.

E ND  O F  S P O I L E R

All in all, it was a fairly enjoyable read, there were some parts that I felt were unrealistic and forced, but it was interesting to see how the author interpreted this classic into a modern story. I might recommend if you were a big fan of Austen retellings, but if you're looking for a fun and light-hearted read, I'd pass on this novel.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Review #1214
Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray
Rating: zero stars (out of four)

What's the one word that I had ringing through my head after I read this book?


I did not like the ending. I didn't like the way people behaved. I didn't like the violence. I didn't like the romance between Ophelia and Hamlet. Basically, there were a lot of things I wished had been different.

The first part of this book was a completely different pace than the second half, which seemed to whip by. I thought there was too of the crazy relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet. I didn't see why there had to be so much build up, I get that they're crazy about each other, can we move on? I was tired of hearing Ophelia rant about Hamlet, I just wanted them to stop thinking of the other person. I got a little sick of the constant love/hate/love/hate turmoil between them.

I think the reason this book was so disturbing to me was because of the drastic results of corruption and the amount of people who got hurt. I just wanted the corruption to stop. I didn't see why everything had to happen like that. I know it's based on the Shakespeare play, Hamlet (and I admit that my recollection of that plot is not good) but I did not like this interpretation. I didn't like the destruction of the characters and the conclusion. I don't want to go into great details because I don't want to add any spoilers, but I just did not like the ending at all! It wasn't necessary and I felt like there wasn't a point to the story after I had finished reading it. I read the entire book to have some sort of satisfying conclusion or a moment of peace - but there was absolutely nothing and I was just left with that depressing finale. Totally Not Satisfying.

Uh, well, so much for spoiler free...
Be warned, there might be S P O I L E R S in the next section.

I also thought it was unrealistic how much the book relied on Ophelia and all the people that loved her. Near the end I felt like practically everyone had been driven to madness because of Ophelia. I also didn't understand how the people in Denmark didn't think it was remotely strange that the queen remarried her husband's brother 2 months after he died! What? And why didn't the DDI investigate why the king died so suddenly or notice how a lot of people were covering key facts and information? But as soon as everybody is dead they start questioning Ophelia? Really? I didn't care for those sections of the book at all. The questioning seemed like an added filler to the story, and I didn't think it really helped move the plot along.

End of the S P O I L E R S 

I didn't appreciate the sexual content in this book. Needless to say, I would not recommend this book.