Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (#3)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews and gives us a chance to share with you what books we have recently bought, won, been given, or stole. ;-)
I decided to hijack Stacking the Shelves this week ;)
I have been pretty slow reading lately.  Why?  I have a booming (well I like to think so) new Baby Boutique.  An incredibly active 6 month old.  Plus, I recently enrolled in my program to become a Labour Doula!
In addition to Family Friday I needed to contribute somewhere in this wonderful world we have created!  Then I thought to myself...well when I was pregnant I often used Google to find book reviews to help select books on breastfeeding, labour, pain methods, post partum and more!  So why should I leave my newest additions out?  Since I am required to write reviews on the books anyways I might as well post them here too!
Here they are!

Jenn C <3

Friday, June 21, 2013

Family Friday # 2: Review - The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler - MacMillian Children's Books

The Gruffalo

The "Facts": Paperback, 32 pages, 20 minutes

Summary: From Goodreads

Walk further into the deep dark wood, and discover what happens when the quick-thinking mouse comes face to face with an owl, a snake "and "a hungry gruffalo . . .


Oh how I love The Gruffalo!  This was one children's book I had never heard of.  When at the bookstore I loved the bright colours on the cover and decided to add it to Emmett's book collection.

I am so glad that I did.

The Gruffalo is about a clever little mouse making his way through the forest.  At the bottom of the food chain, he encounters many animals who see him as lunch!  He develops a clever tale of what he thinks is a mythical creature - a Gruffalo - to keep these predators from eating him!

Then to the mouse's surprise he meets a real gruffalo! Of course the Gruffalo wants to eat the little mouse. 

Little mouse uses his quick thinking and tells the Gruffalo that he is the biggest creature in the forest!  He dares him to follow him through the forest to see.  When all the animals see him coming with the Gruffalo they run and hide.

I love that this story has a nice rhythm to it.  Even though it seems like it may be long for a younger child it is an easy read with a nice flow.

The illustrations are colourful and fun. 

Although the moral of the story may be to advanced for younger children it does teach about the food chain and animals in their habitat.

Rating: 4 stars

Jenn C

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Review: If You Find Me

If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch – St. Martin's Griffin
The “Facts”:  Hardcover, 256 pages, 3 days

Summary: (Taken from Goodreads):  There are some things you can’t leave behind… A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

My Review:  Have you ever read a book and finished with appreciation for the author? It's a weird feeling to have this sudden 'I need to thank this author' feeling, especially when you've never met and the book isn't a 'life-changer.' So, why am I appreciative?

This author, Emily Murdoch, gets it. She understands a true character's crisis and keeps the characters real. For example, the main character in this book was raised to believe her father was abusive. She knows her mother allowed and encouraged nightmareish things to happen to her, however when she is 'rescued' and given back to her father, she isn't necessarily happy. This character is not trusting, and still hangs on to her mother. Even though her mother was a bad woman, she was her mother and that was where her loyalty would lay.

Not only that, but her characters show range. They grow, they have flaws, they are not flat and predictable. They feel real. 

This is the story of Carey, and her return to normalcy after being abducted by her mother, living in terrible conditions ferreted away in a camper in a park. This story could have easily drug on. It could have easily been distracted with side-stories, and details. Emily Murdoch was able to tell a story without bogging it down with details or extraneous information. Emily Murdoch is a story-teller, a true craftsman, and I thank her for that. It isn't often I come across a book where I was left satisfied and still wanting more. I thought about this book, days after finishing it. I didn't feel like all questions were answered, and with this topic, it felt right that way.

If you haven't checked out this book yet, I HIGHLY recommend you do so. You won't regret it.

Rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: The Selection

                                       The Selection - Kiera Cass - HarperTeen
The “Facts”:  Paperback 327 Pages - Took about a week to read between tasks
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads): 
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

My Review:
When I picked this book up at the bookstore, it immediately caught my interest. Then a worker told me it was her pick of the month because it had a Bachelor like feel to it. That comparison almost made me put it down because I'm not a fan of the show. I decided to still give it a try, and I am very happy that I did.
America is already one of my favourite female protagonists. She seems strong, but she is also humble and relatable. The caste society really made me sad. There were so many people that were struggling and it seemed like they weren't cared about. 
When the author first introduces Aspen, I was on board with Aspen and America as  a couple. The fact that he was a caste lower than her played on my heart strings and I was rooting for him. Even after she first arrived at the Palace for the Selection, I was still trying to come up with a way for them to be together, then we met Prince Maxon.
Maxon is a such a lovable character and I really started to like his interaction with America. As time went on, I found myself no longer shipping Aspen and America, but now Maxon and America. They are really cute together and they seem to really understand each other. 
There was a pretty big shocker near the end and I cannot wait for the Elite to come out to see what happens!

Rating: 5 stars

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Teaser Tuesday! (#2)

Good Morning!

Even though I've got a bunch of books from the library that I should be finishing, I HAD to read this one first. This is a YA series that I had heard about from numerous people and I decided to give it a try. I really love it so far and I already cannot wait for the next one!

Teaser Tuesday is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading, in which we post a little *non-spoiler* teaser of the book we are currently reading.

"I promised myself that, if I could help it, Lucy wouldn't have to go through that again."

"Tears welled in Anna's eyes as Celeste whispered something to her and swiftly left the room."

I had a hard time finding a teaser that didn't give very much away! I really like this book. You should definitely add it to your to-read list.

-Jenn D

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (#2)

Welcome to our second Stacking the Shelves post!

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, and gives us a chance to share with you what books we have recently bought, won, been given, or stole. ;-)

So, this week was pretty busy for me, book-wise. As I've mentioned before, I'm a middle school 'librarian.' When I first took the job in March, my local Barnes and Noble told me I was not eligible for their educator discount card, because "It is ONLY for teachers." I argued with him, and in the end called their customer service. Oh my goodness, people. Reading comprehension is a difficult skill, I know. However I couldn't believe the craziness I was about to go through. On the website, you can find the following:

"The Barnes & Noble Educator Program is eligible to: Educators employed by an accredited pre-K through Grade 12 public, private, or parochial school. Those eligible include but are not limited to teachers, guidance counselors, principals, and reading coaches. (Substitute, student, and retired teachers are not eligible.)"

The man I talked with asked me where it specifically said school librarians were included. I then reiterated the above, in which it states "NOT LIMITED TO". Then, I went on to the next paragraph on their website:

"What discount will I receive by joining the Educator Program?
Barnes & Noble offers pre k-12 educators, librarians, and homeschoolers a 20% discount off the publisher's list price on select items that we consider suitable for use in the classroom or with the student population, including most hardcover and paperback books, toys, and games."

At this point the man on the phone, who admitted he did not know anything about this program and was using the website as his guide told me they would have to look into this and call me back, as their website is "confusing" and "contradictory." 

Guess who never received a phone call back?

Well, this week I visited a different location, and once again inquired about the educator discount card. They smiled and gave me the application form. One of the first sections on the form is where the applicants needs to mark off which profession they are in. Guess what? Librarian was one of the options. While I'm very grateful I finally received my card and I can buy books for my school at a much nicer price, I'm still saddened and disappointed with their customer service. If a company takes my number and e-mail and tell me they will call me back, I expect them to actually do it!

With that being said, I bought the following books this week for my library, but I will be reading them this summer first.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Family Friday Review: Zen Shorts

Zen Shorts – Jon J Muth – Scholastic Press

The “Facts”: Hard Cover, 40 pages, 20-30 minutes

Summary:  From Good Reads

Jon J Muth, author of the best-selling book, THE THREE QUESTIONS, has crafted another profound and winning picture book.

"Michael," said Karl. "There's a really big bear in the backyard." This is how three children meet Stillwater, a giant panda who moves into the neighborhood and tells amazing tales. To Addy he tells a story about the value of material goods. To Michael he pushes the boundaries of good and bad. And to Karl he demonstrates what it means to hold on to frustration. With graceful art and simple stories that are filled with love and enlightenment, Jon Muth -- and Stillwater the bear -- present three ancient Zen tales that are sure to strike a chord in everyone they touch.

Review:  I love children's book that have a lesson.  Even though Emmett is not old enough to understand this yet I feel better knowing that someday our beloved story time will also teach him things.

Zen Shorts does exactly this.  Three siblings befriend a Giant Panda named Stillwater.  Stillwater in the spirit of Zen teaches each child a life lesson about a situation that has presented itself to them at that time. 

The illustrations in this book change with each story and are vibrant and captivating for a young child.  They are also quite cultural.

This book keeps the characters simple and has a humble story line, allowing young readers to follow along with ease.

Anyone can enjoy this book.  Even an adult that needs a time out or a lesson in morals!

 Rating: 4.5 stars

While I enjoy reading this to Emmett at bedtime it is not designed for children his age.  Children 5 and up would likely be the best audience.

 Jenn C

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Identical

Identical – Ellen Hopkins – Margaret K. McElderry Books 
The “Facts”:  Paperback and Audio Book, 565 pages, approximately 1 week to finish
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads): Do twins begin in the womb?

Or in a better place?

Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple. As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family -- on the surface. Behind the facade each sister has her own dark secret, and that's where their differences begin.

For Kaeleigh, she's the misplaced focus of Daddy's love, intended for a mother whose presence on the campaign trail means absence at home. All that Raeanne sees is Daddy playing a game of favorites -- and she is losing. If she has to lose, she will do it on her own terms, so she chooses drugs, alcohol, and sex.

Secrets like the ones the twins are harboring are not meant to be kept -- from each other or anyone else. Pretty soon it's obvious that neither sister can handle it alone, and one sister must step up to save the other, but the question is -- who?
My Review: First of all, if you don't know who Ellen Hopkins is, you need to go out and pick up one of her books. I really don't think you can go wrong with any of them. 
Ellen Hopkins is THE must-read author in my library. In fact, I had one of her books go 'missing' this year! I can hardly keep them on the shelves, and Crank was continuously on a wait list. (Seriously, that book came out in 2004!) 
Sadly, I had never picked up any of her books because I wasn't sure I would like a book written in verse. When I first started my job at the school, I figured it was time to step it up, and read what was popular with my students, and I am glad I did.
Identical is one of those books that will stick with you. It will make you think, say 'what?' and haunt you for days after reading it. I STILL find myself thinking about it, when I read this book earlier in the month!

This book is told through the eyes of twins, and focus' mostly on addiction. Addiction to drugs, to love, to that 'safe' feeling. The twins, with their parents, were in a car crash very early in their lives which changed their family dynamic, drastically. One twin is addicted to drugs, and pushed from her parent's love, craves that which is taboo. The other is overly-close with her father, and wants her mother's attention more than anything.
Each sister has at least one secret, one vice. That is the Ellen Hopkin's way. She is not afraid to tackle the big ideas, the taboo ideas, the subjects that leave you with a feeling of senselessness.
Does that explain anything? Probably not. The easiest thing I can say about this book is that it will haunt you, in it's easy to read but striking verse form, and it's unseen twists and jolts. You will either love it, for these reasons, or hate it for the same reasons. For me, this was love. 

Rating: 5 stars

This book deals with many taboo and triggering subjects, such as incest, self-harm, and drug use among others.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teaser Tuesday (#1)

Good Morning!

The baby is sleeping, and while I should be cleaning, I'm catching up on my reading! 

While I promised my husband to read only Name on the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, I've been sneaking in If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. I only bought this book on Friday, but I just couldn't wait to read it!

Now, I wasn't going to post this. I didn't want to over-run this blog with Meme's, but while reading I came across this paragraph, which I felt was the PERFECT teaser to this book. So, without further ado, here is my Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesday is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading, in which we post a little *non-spoiler* teaser of the book we are currently reading.


"I shift in my seat, feeling like I'm betraying Nessa's trust. But the fact of the matter is, her choice to remain mute concerns me, too. As if it isn't bad enough we're poor, backward folk; Janessa's lack of speech is enough to cast her as a freak. She's so trusting, so innocent. That's what worries me the most."

Seriously folks, this is one of those books that hooks you from page 1. It is SO HARD to put this book down. I guess it's a good thing I have a cute baby, otherwise I would have forgone sleeping to finish this book!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (1)

Welcome to our first Stacking the Shelves post!

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tyga's Reviews, and gives us a chance to share with you what books we have recently bought, won, been given, or stole. ;-)

We've been a bit busy this week, and since we are still figuring things out, our post is a little lacking. However, it's about the books anyways, right? Well, here they are!

What books have you acquired lately?  Let us know!

Friday, June 7, 2013

What's up, June?

The weather is starting to become warmer, and we’re all planting! Planting our noses in books, that is! Here are the books we are all currently reading:

Here are the books we plan on reading soon!

Review: Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter – Shilpi Somaya Gowder – Harper Collins

The “Facts”:  Paperback, 339 pages, approximately 4 days to finish

Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Secret Daughter, a first novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, explores powerfully and poignantly the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love through the experiences of two families - one Indian, one American - and the child that binds them together.

A masterful work set partially in the Mumbai slums so vividly portrayed in the hit film Slumdog Millionaire, Secret Daughter recalls the acclaimed novels of Kim Edwards and Thrity Umrigar, yet sparkles with the freshness of a truly exciting new literary voice.

"Moving and thought-provoking and informative and imaginative and beautifully executed.  What a wonderful story!"--Mary Jane Clark

"This book is a must for anyone touched by adoption, or India, or the delicate dynamic between adolescent girls and their mothers."”—--Sujata Massey, author of Shimura Trouble

My Review: 
 I read this book for the first time while pregnant.   Based on other reviews I have read that may have prejudiced my personal opinion of the book.  I don't care.  I LOVED this story.   While I didn't relate on a personal level to Kavita, an Indian Mother who secretly sends her second born daughter to an orphanage to escape infanticide at the hands of her husband, I felt for her.  I mourned for her loss.  My heart broke for this woman, over and over again. 

Meanwhile in America another woman, Somer, longs for a child of her own.  Struggling with infertility.  Again, while I couldn't relate, my heart again broke for this woman as I felt my own child kicking inside me.

This novel jumps back and forth from India to America following the lives of these women.  Somers husband is Indian and they adopt Kavita's secret daughter.  This is how their stories intertwine

Daughter, Asha, curious about her heritage goes to live in India with her father's family.  Her Mother, Somer, doesn't understand their culture and this is a difficult spot for her and her spouse's family.

This is a captivating story with an adequate ending.  I would especially recommend this read to women.

Rating: 4 stars

This book deals with many controversial issues prevalent to undeveloped countries.  These topics may offend some readers.

Jenn C

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wedding Night

Wedding Night – Sophie Kinsella – Bantam Press

The “Facts”:  Hardcover, 368 pages, approximately 6 days to finish

Wedding Night

Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago.
Their family and friends are horrified. Fliss, Lottie’s older sister, knows that Lottie can be impulsive—but surely this is her worst decision yet. And Ben’s colleague Lorcan fears that this hasty marriage will ruin his friend’s career. To keep Lottie and Ben from making a terrible mistake, Fliss concocts an elaborate scheme to sabotage their wedding night. As she and Lorcan jet off to Ikonos in pursuit, Lottie and Ben are in for a honeymoon to remember, for better . . . or worse.

My Review:

I had originally picked this book up because it was Ms. Kinsella's newest book. I have never disliked a book by her, and this time was no different. It was a typical Sophie Kinsella book, full of romance, likable characters, a fluffy storyline and fun content.

The book started off with Lottie and her dinner date with Richard. Immediately  I was drawn into the storyline with the fact that she had bought him a ring. She was funny, and I felt bad for her when the proposal she was expecting was a huge flop. 

Shortly after Lottie's breakup occurs, we are introduced to her sister Fliss, who is just as hilarious as her sister. Her sister is having her own problems with her divorce and raising her son. Even though she is preoccupied with her jerk of an ex-husband, she still has her sister's back through the break-up.

When Lottie receives a note from an old flame of hers, she decides to meet up with him eventually. Ben wants to reconnect, and marriage is brought up. Although Lorcan and Fliss do whatever they can, Ben and Lottie are married.

Fliss' next plan is to stop them from consummating their marriage so an annulment is possible. This starts the train of hilariously horrible events that stop the newly married couple from enjoying their wedding night.

Overall, the book was pretty funny. I do have to say that it became a bit far fetched that some of the things would happen. The ending was a tad predictable, but good.

Rating: 4 stars.
This book has some mentioning of sexual activity. It's not very graphic doesn't really describe much at all.

The Boy on Cinnamon Street

The Boy on Cinnamon Street – Phoebe Stone – Arthur A. Levine Books

The “Facts”: Book, 240 pages, 1 week to read

Summary: (From GoodReads) A story about a wounded girl and the boy who won't give up on her.
7th grader Louise should be the captain of her school's gymnastics team - but she isn't. She's fun and cute and should have lots of friends - but she doesn't. And there's a dreamy boy who has a crush on her - but somehow they never connect. Louise has everything going for her - so what is it that's holding her back?
Phoebe Stone tells the winning story of the spring when 7th grader Louise Terrace wakes up, finds the courage to confront the painful family secret she's hiding from - and finally get the boy.

My Review: Like usual, I must point out that I ‘judge’ a middle school/ya book much more harshly than I would any other type. This must be from my teacher/librarian mindset, but when I find a book to recommend to my students, I look for the best of the best.
Sadly, this book was not one of them. Do I think younger readers might enjoy this book? Yes. Do I feel like this book should have delivered more? HECK YES! Unfortunately, I can not explain to you exactly why I feel this book lacked some punch, due to spoilers and all that.
To begin with, the cover of this book is adorable. When this book was returned to the library, I chose it based on the cover and quick blurb on the back. I was expecting a short, sweet, romantic tale. What I got was a story about a girl who has had a difficult past, and is too blind to see what everyone else can. Not to mention the fact that the story revolves around her and her ‘crush.’ Sadly, she doesn’t even really like the guy! How can one describe a book to be about a girl’s crush, when it isn’t true?
This book should have been two completely different books with two completely different characters. The author tried- and failed- to have a sweet romantic book with a darker/edgy side. She really should have stuck with one or the other. When the novel did finally delve into the darker side of the book, the author completely derailed from the original sweet story line, and when she came back to it, it was as if the secondary plot line never happened.
All-in-all, this book annoyed me. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t terrible, it was just chaotic and hard to follow. I know my younger readers love this book, so there is something to say about that. However, in my line of work, it is not one I would actively recommend.

My Rating: 2 stars.

Warning: This book is not as happy and sweet as the cover appears, and briefly touches on darker themes.