Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekly Update (9/29/14): What I'm Reading Now

I didn't get as much reading done last week as I'd hoped to.  My kid got sick and that was that.  I also updated my Review Policy.  But I did manage to squeeze some reading time in.  Here's what I've been up to:

What I read last week:
All of these were good books, for obviously different reasons.  I love Jessica Day George.  She writes some of the best books out there. My daughter loved Eerie Elementary.  It was a good read to get into the Halloween spirit. 

What I'm currently reading:
I'm almost finished with Doon.  It's been okay, nothing to write home about, but okay. I'm half way through Atlantis Rising, and it's gotten kind of slow.  Foundations in Comic Book Art is a great primer for artists and I've been enjoying reading it.  I'm reading Kid Presdients to my girls and they love it.  My first grader asks for another chapter every night. 

What I plan to read next:
I just have a few books left on my September TBR list.  I won't get them all finished before the end of the month (in 2 days), so whatever I don't finish will carry over into October.


What are you reading?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #25: Meet My New Books!

Welcome to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  This is where I share the new books I've gotten recently.

I got some fun books this week for my kids, and we've already read most of them.  The reviews will be up soon.  Here's what we got:

Middle Grade Books:

I bought Eerie Elementary for my daughter because she loves spooky themes. She was not disappointed with it. I read it to both my kids, ages 6 and 4, and they loved it! I will post a full review later.

A big thank you to Quirk Books for sending me Kid Presidents! My daughter loves American history and she's been enthralled with the book since it showed up on our doorstep. I've had to pry it out of her hands at dinner, at bedtime, and before school.

Young Adult Books:

Can you blame me? I've been ogling this series since the first book, Etiquette and Espionage came out. I have several friends, plus my mom, that tell me the series is amazing and fun. I am planning on reading the entire series in October to prepare for the release of Waistcoats and Weaponry in November. It's going to be so much fun!

Non-Fiction Books:

While I'm not much of a comic book reader, I love art! Thank you to Random House for sending me Foundations in Comic Book Art.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blog Tour and Author Interview for The Strength of Ballerinas

Welcome to my stop on The Strength of Ballerinas Blog Tour!  I had the wonderful opportunity to interview the author, so make sure you scroll down far enough to read it and enter the giveaway.

About the Book:

The Strength of Ballerinas by Nancy Lorenz

Age Range: 12 and up

Genre: Contemporary/illness

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Sweetwater Books (September 9, 2014)


All Kendra wants to do is dance for the Manhattan Dance Company. So when her family's forced to move to California, her dreams of auditioning are shattered. Still determined to dance, Kendra faces social isolation and family pressures in her new home. But when she's diagnosed with a debilitating illness, Kendra must decide which dreams are worth fighting for.

Interview with Nancy Lorenz:

What inspired you to write a book about ballet?
I always loved ballet from the time I was a preschooler until now. I always wanted to wear those wonderful, ethereal tutus. Dancers looked so fairy-like in tulle, as they floated across the stage. Every time I saw ballerinas on television, I told my mother, “I want to do that!

I poured my heart into my book – The Strength of Ballerinas - my aspirations, dreams, feelings, tunnel-vision goals, but also obstacles. I think though, that my dreams are also those of many, many girls who dream out there. It’s the stardust of it all that makes us aspire and want to interpret the world’s greatest choreography to the world’s greatest music. Whether one makes it or not, the stardust is not only in the eyes; it’s in the blood.

I think that writing about ballet is also in my blood. I did my Masters thesis in graduate school on feminine virtue demonstrated in ballet choreography in the musicals of Americana, such as: Oklahoma, Carousel, and The Music Man. I also got an academic paper on philosophy and the arts published last June (2013) regarding the 1948 ballet film, The Red Shoes. Six months later, my book, The Strength of Ballerinas was published by Cedar Fort Books!

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Again, I knew it from the time I was in grade school. My mother was a writer, submitting short stories to women’s magazines, so I thought I’d try writing too.

I wrote dialogue for my version of the play, Sleeping Beauty, which I staged in my basement. I was writer and director, as well as actress. My sister and I set up chairs, and I charged a nickel per child. I was only ten years old at the time. It was a success in the neighborhood, so I began to work on a “pirate” play. The pirate play was never finished; however, I did write an article – a helpful hint - for a magazine for tweens, and they sent me a check for $25! At that time, I was twelve! I guessed that gave me true writing fever!

When I grew up and worked in network television, I wrote many scripts to submit to TV show production companies. I was a runner up in several script contests, but later, I switched to writing fiction. And here I am today with a YA fiction!

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
A short answer – chocolate!

What do you like to do in your free time?
Well, I am a teacher, so I do grade a lot of homework. In my real free time, I write, write, and write some more! I also belong to a writer critique group, and read. I belong to Goodreads (Yay!) and am trying to do a book a week but my schedule is a bit hectic right now. I will need to catch up! I also do drama ministries (plays) at church, and love watching good movie musicals and dramas on television and Netflix to relax. I love to cook when I have time, but my favorite activity is to do things with my family.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
If I could have a superpower, I would try to eliminate the suffering of all children, whether it is from hunger, poverty, abuse, neglect, or emotional starvation, lack of love, nurturing, or educational opportunity. It sounds a bit like a Miss America contestant answer, I know, but it is the truth. Children are precious commodities that must be protected, and, they are the future of the earth as well.

If you could visit any time or place, when and where would you go?
I think I’d visit Victorian England. I love Dickens, the time period, the clothes... I love Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre as well. A close second would be the Regency period (right before the Victorian) with Jane Austen for the same reason. Love those Empire dresses and bonnets!

Other than your own, what is your favorite book of 2014 so far?
I love The Book Thief. For one thing, I love historical novels. Second, the narrator is so unusual. The story is told with a very unusual structure. Markus Zusak uses much more than foreshadowing. The beginning of each chapter tells three or four things that will happen in the chapter before you read it, and I was always amazed that it became true.

I also loved (TFIOS) The Fault in Our Stars, and The Selection as well.

Thanks Nancy!  I loved your answers!

Tour Wide Giveaway:

Win a $25 Amazon gift card

Signed copy of the book

Ends Sept 27, 2014

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Middle Grade Review of Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Age Range: 8 - 12 years

Grade Level: 3 - 7

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (February 14, 2012)

Genre: Contemporary/bullying

Source: Library

My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

About the Book:

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that has captivated over 1 million readers.

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

"Wonder is the best kids' book of the year," said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.  

My Thoughts:

Wonder is a surprisingly emotional book about a young boy with a severely disfigured face. He goes to school for the first time in fifth grade and deals with all the ups and downs that come with being different in middle school. He suffers some heartbreak, some embarrassment, and some betrayal, but over the course of the year, August begins to change. As he changes, so do the kids around him.

This book is so beautiful for so many reasons. August puts his best foot forward as he bravely faces the challenges that come each day. He has a wonderful support group in his family and the friends he makes. I loved the different points of view the book is told from. It gives us not only August's experience, but those of the people he is around and the way they see him.

It's a wonderful story about bravery, kindness, and hope. Everyone should read this book.

Content: Bullying and a few instances of taking the Lord's name in vain.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

YA Review of Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (September 23, 2014)

Genre: Science fiction/thriller

Series: None (I think)

Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book:

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this action-packed debut thriller with a Katniss-esque heroine fighting to regain her memories and stay alive, set against a dystopian hospital background.

Sarah starts a crazy battle for her life within the walls of her hospital-turned-prison when a procedure to eliminate her memory goes awry and she starts to remember snatches of her past. Was she an urban terrorist or vigilante? Has the procedure been her salvation or her destruction?

The answers lie trapped within her mind. To access them, she'll need the help of the teen computer hacker who's trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, and a pill that's blocked by an army of mercenary soldiers poised to eliminate her for good. If only she knew why . . .

"This is a snap-the-whip story, dark and fast. The sparks of humor in the voice won me over. Bottom line: I think the cocktail of suspense and believable smart-assery adds up to an addictive dose of reader appeal." --Blythe Woolston, author of the William C. Morris Award winner The Freak Observer

About the Author:

Kristen Lippert-Martin has an MFA from Columbia University. She's worked at Time, the world-renowned Brookings Institution, and even had a stint as a stand-up comic before turning to writing full-time. She was awarded the SCBWI's Work-in-Progress grant in 2010.

She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and four children. Tabula Rasa is her first novel.

Visit her online at kristenlippertmartin.com and follow her on Twitter @KLipMart. The author lives in Arlington, VA. 

My Thoughts:

The book opens with Sarah undergoing a surgery to erase a piece of her memory, but the power goes out during the middle of the procedure and someone slips something into her hand. Before long, Sarah's sterile hospital world is torn apart and she is on the run from an unknown enemy. She makes some interesting allies as she tries to avoid capture and stay alive.

A fast paced read, tabula rasa is a page turner that starts off with a bang. Even though the book is fairly short and action packed, the characters are nicely developed and as a reader, I couldn't help but be sucked in. I wanted to know who Sarah was and what she had done to receive the "special treatment" at the hospital. I also liked Pierce/Thomas and his story. I loved the way the two of them interacted together.

While it wasn't a perfect book, it was a pretty good way to spend an afternoon. If you are looking for a clean thriller for your teen (or yourself), give this book a try.

Content: A couple mild curses and some violence, but pretty clean for the genre.

Source: I received a digital galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Non-Fiction Review of The Little Book of Book Making

The Little Book of Book Making by Charlotte Rivers

Age Range: Adult (and crafty teens)

Genre: Non-fiction/arts and crafts

Series: None

Print Length: 176 pages
Publisher: Potter Craft (August 12, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC

Source: From publisher for review

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book:

Making books by hand has never been cooler, with this inspiring guide to 30 top bookmakers working today, plus 21 tutorials for essential techniques to make your own books.

Crafters, artists, writers, and book lovers can't resist a beautifully handbound book. Packed with wonderfully eclectic examples, this book explores the intriguing creative possibilities of bookmaking as a modern art form, including a wide range of bindings, materials, and embellishments. Featured techniques include everything from Coptic to concertina binding, as well as experimental page treatments such as sumi-e ink marbling and wheat paste. In addition to page after page of inspiration from leading contemporary binderies, Little Book of Bookmaking includes a practical section of 21 easy-to-follow illustrated tutorials.

About the Author:

Charlotte Rivers is the author of 14 design books, including Little Book of Letterpress and I Heart Stationery, and has contributed to a number of design magazines, including Cent, Grafik, and UPPERCASE. She blogs regularly about art and design as Lottie Loves at http://charlotterivers.blogspot.co.uk.  

My Thoughts:

This is a great book for book lovers! If you love books, especially hand made books, you should get your hands on this one. Most of the book is dedicated to showcasing books that have been made by artists all over the world. I was amazed by most of the books. They were gorgeous! I wish that there had been instructions spread throughout the book, but all the techniques were clumped together at the back.

The instructions were easy to understand and follow. The supplies wouldn't be too difficult to find, and the books ranged in difficulty to make. There are several different binding techniques, cover and paper treatments, and book spine stitches included.

This would make a great gift for someone that is crafty or that loves books.

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Weekly Update (9/22/14): What I'm Reading Now

The weather here in North Carolina has cooled off considerably, and it's actually tolerable to go outside. :)  We found a snake under our front porch the other day.  That was exciting. 

In book news, I've been reading a lot of non-fiction and short chapter books.  It's been a fun to change things up a bit. 

What I read last week:

This list looks more impressive than it really is.  You would think that all I did all day long is read, but all of these books (with the exception of How Come?) are pretty short and only took less than an hour to a few hours at most. 

What I'm currently reading:
My daughter is about half way through The Critter Club and she's loving being an independent reader.  Thursdays with the Crown is fabulous, but I knew it would be.  Writing Great Books for Young Adults is good, but a little dry.  I'll post reviews for these books once I'm finished reading.

What I plan to read next:

Isn't this a gorgeous lineup of books?  I am looking forward to all of them, but I need to get cracking!

What are you reading?

Giveaways to Enter:

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