Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Napping House by Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood

“There is a house, a napping house, where everyone is sleeping.” is how this lovely story by Audrey & Don Wood starts out. We then meet the sleeping members of this home’s family one by one until we meet... a flea that’s awake?! Gasp! Your little ones will love meeting the family and animals as they all progressively pile up and take a nap in their own special way. E just loves showing me where the kitty is and playing “spot the bugga”. We got a copy in padded board book form which is REALLY nice with a toddler. It’s more durable than the average board book. It’s also a bit larger too which E really loves. He hauls “The Napping House” around with him everywhere and asks to read it a couple times a day. It makes a great addition to a nap or bed time routine too due to its soothing, repetitive narrative.

Well, that’s it for E’s Pick of the Week. Check back next Tuesday for another awesome book chosen by my toddler. ;)

“The Napping House” is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and is available in hardcover, paperback, board book and padded board book at your local bookstore.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Curse Workers series by Holly Black

Holly Black’s Curse Worker series is too cool for school. Seriously, I felt like such a bad @$$ just reading about this dark fantasy world full of wicked cool super powers and mob bosses. “White Cat” and “Red Glove” by Holly Black are a refreshingly new twist on fantasy. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about mixing two things I love (murder mysteries and fantasy), but I really liked these books. The pacing is fast and furious, in a good way. You can’t put them down. They’re dark without being overly graphic or sexual. Seriously, even if you aren’t a big murder mystery fan (I usually prefer mine on TV), you’re gonna love this series. Holly Black’s writing takes no prisoners. Just trust me on this one.

Let’s talk about the story. I’ll try not to give too much away here to those who haven’t read “White Cat” yet. In the world of Holly Black’s Curse Worker series, some people are born with magical enhanced abilities. These people are called curse workers and throughout the years, due to people abusing their powers, curse working has become illegal so many have turned to the mob or work as con artists. Our hero, Cassel, is a lovable bad boy who wants nothing more than a normal life. Unfortunately, Cassel is from a family full of magical enhanced criminals. His mom is an emotional worker, meaning with just a skin to skin touch, she can influence a person’s feelings. His brothers are workers. Even his grandpa is a worker (a death worker!). Everyone, but him.. Despite being the normal kid in a messed up family, Cassel is haunted. He killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago and has been desperately trying to live behind lie after lie to be just another normal guy ever since. His world begins to crumble though when he starts sleep walking and he starts noticing his brothers acting strangely. Is he part of some larger con and doesn’t even know about it? And why is he being haunted by a White Cat in his dreams? Well, you’ll just have to read and find out.

Holly Black takes film noir and mixes in magic. It’s sexy, dark, and dangerous. If you like crime stories or are just looking for a fantasy that’s a little different, you should definitely check out the Curse Workers series.

I received an ARC of “Red Glove” from the publisher Simon & Schuster for review. The first book in the series, “White Cat” is already available. “Red Glove” will be released on April 5th. Ms. Black will be touring with Cassandra Clare to promote the book. You can find more information over at Ms. Black’s blog. I’ll be at the Mission Viejo event!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

This has been a very hard review for me to write. I am having some difficulty coming to terms with how I feel about this book. I also do not want to be a negative Nancy, but I want to be honest with you guys. Let me just start by saying this was a tough read. No no, it’s not such an intellectual novel that it requires MENSA level intelligence to understand. It’s actually quite the opposite. The characters are like futuristic valley girls, living in a world that is focused on sex and pregnancy. I didn't hate it (I finished it which says something), but I didn't like it either.

“Bumped” sounds so great in theory. It’s a dystopian novel where twenty five years in the future, a virus has made us go infertile by the time we’re adults so teenagers are responsible for the survival of our race. What a big job to put on our world’s teens right? The story revolves around a set of twins who were separated at birth. One twin went to a religious community that evolved from the Amish community and the other is raised by wall street upstarts who groom their adopted daughter to be perfect in order for her egg & womb to bring them a big ol’ chunk of change. The story rotates between the two girls’ perspectives on the events transpiring around them (Harmony & Melody).

It’s obvious that Ms. McCafferty had planned out this version of our world quite thoroughly, even down to the slang being used. It’s immediately thrown out at you in over abundance. Examples include “bumped” (because you want to end up with a BUMP afterwards) instead of f*ed or sex, breedy, pregg (you don’t call it your baby to keep your distance), ectopic (come on, what teenager has ANY idea where that term comes from), etc. The slang all revolves around sex, pregnancy and childbirth since that is the main focus. It’s the job of the teenagers on our planet. You can either be a pro (selling off your egg and womb to the highest bidder like Melody’s parents did for her) or you can be an amateur (where you have sex with a boyfriend or other random guy and then sell off your “pregg” afterwards). To keep girls from getting attached, they feed them “anti-tocin” which fights the chemical attachment a mom feels for her unborn child. Teens also take drugs to stay horny, young men are given sex dolls at a young age to practice, yeah... I could go on and on. It’s a world out of control. The slang is overwhelming and if you can suffer through the first third of the book, it does lighten up and terms do get explained somewhat. Seriously though, what teenage girl who hasn’t had a baby is going to understand half of this stuff? If I hadn’t been through a pregnancy already, I know *I* wouldn’t have a clue and I’m a grown woman.

The slang may be overwhelming and frustrating, but it is the characters that are true downfall of this book. They lack true depth. They each represent the stereotypical teenage girl that has been raised in their societies. There is no.. real personality to either twin. I didn’t care what happened to them at all. The only character I even remotely cared about is Zen, Melody’s best friend. He was the only character in the whole book. (Granted, this could all be on purpose and develop as the series moves on.) He’s the only one who wasn’t all wrapped up in this sex pot lifestyle (or in Harmony’s care - the religious lifestyle) since he wasn’t tall enough to be considered a viable sperm donor. He was able to see the problems and oppression that society has created by developing this system.

I could ramble on and on, but you get the point. I didn’t like it. I really don’t want to be so negative, but honesty is the best policy. I could definitely see this appealing to other readers, but for me, it’s a no go. It got on my nerves. I’m really unsure of how this fits in the young adult market. I do not see it appealing to either of my younger sisters and I worry that the valley girl style characters will turn away adult readers like it did for me. As I’ve mentioned above, this book is SEXSEXSEX... sex as a business for Melody, sex as a way to self-discovery for Harmony. To my readers who are librarians and booksellers, I’d definitely recommend reading this yourself before putting it on your shelf. It is definitely an acquired taste and I’m not sure who will acquire it!

I received a digital ARC of “Bumped” from Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins) via Netgalley.com for review. “Bumped” is scheduled to be released in April of this year.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini

Starcrossed” by Josephine Angelini is being hyped at the “Percy Jackson for teenage girls” (Publisher’s Weekly) so I went into reading this ARC with high expectations. I am happy to say that despite a slow start, it met or exceeded all my expectations. It was engaging, exciting, well written, and full of delicious angsty romance.

Meet Helen, a painfully shy and bashful teen (so shy that she actually gets painful cramps when she draws attention to herself!). She tries to appear to be your average, small town teen, but that’s work for her. For some reason, she can do some pretty extraordinary things. Her dad has no clue and her mom left her with her dad when she was a baby. Things were sticking to the status quo until a new family moved to town and Helen’s whole life changed. She wasn’t the only “freak” in town anymore and for some reason, she’s now being haunted by three women who cry blood, she’s sleepwalking, and …. well, you’re just going to have to read the book to find out now, aren’t you? No cheating and googling for more information. ;) Let’s just say, Helen finds out that just because we’ve assigned the term “myth” to something... doesn’t mean it’s not real.

“Starcrossed” started a bit on the slow side, but after getting past the initial quarter of the book, things really started to pick up. I couldn’t put it down. It is full of action, romance, Greek myth, super powers, and mystery. I was a bit worried because there were a lot of things happening without any explanation at the beginning. I was worried that it’d be one of those "action crazy, then long winded explanation cycle" kind of books that seem to be popping up lately. There were a few questionable moments, but for the most part, Ms. Angelini did a great job at avoiding long winded explanations! Just when I felt that exposition was getting a bit dull, the plot moved on.

I adore Helen. She’s always been different, but never knew why. I love her modesty, her pure heart, and her loyalty to those she loves. She is a warm, tender character, but she’s also not a complete pushover. She’s refreshing. It seems in this genre that we get a lot of stereotypical female leads, generally very strong tough girls or whiny teenagers (who eventually turn into tough females). Helen is a bit wimpy at first, but never resentful about where her life has gone. She may say “Oh why can’t things be normal?” but instead of agonizing over it, she moves on. I like her. I want her to find happiness and look forward to seeing how she grows over the next couple books.

The romance in this book is great. I know I’ve said before that I don’t care for “hate to love” stories, but I like this one. I absolutely adore Lucas. Not only is he a cutie, but his love for Helen is tender and so sweet. It’s my favorite kind of romance... it’s not physical. They become best friends. Love it.

The Greek elements in this book are really interesting. I am in love with these Greek inspired books I’ve been lucky enough to read lately. Again, it’s Greek INSPIRED, not a direct myth retelling so don’t get your panties in a twist if Ms. Angelini’s artistic license of Greek myth isn’t your mama’s Greek myth.

So, okay, I’m rambling now. To put it simply, this book rocks. After a slow start, the pace really picks up. The action is exciting. The romance is beautiful. I agree with the hype. It’s going to be a BIG hit!

I was provided with a digital ARC of "Starcrossed" for review by the publisher HarperTeen (Harper Collins) via NetGalley.com. It is scheduled to be released in May of this year.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Potty by Leslie Patricelli

E’s “Pick of the Week” this week is “Potty” by Leslie Patricelli. I have to admit, I haven’t been a big fan of Ms. Patricelli’s books. For parents, they’re boring. For kids, they’re wonderfully simple and they love them. My son loves the book set his grandparents got him. Whatever makes my boy happy right? Blah! I cannot tell you how I loathe “Yes yes no no”.. I’m a voice actor, so when I read to my son, I prefer books that give me something fun to do. I’m happy to report that this book isn’t as repetitive and boring for parents to read as Ms. Patricelli’s other books. It’s absolutely adorable and a helpful tool for my little guy’s adventure in potty training. He loves the illustrations, seeing what kitties and doggies do to go potty (since we have both), and then seeing the baby take of his diaper and sit on the potty just like he does! He giggled the entire way through the first time we read it. We then spent 10 minutes reading it over and over again. He loves it.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is potty training or going to start soon. It’s a cute tool you can use to help educate your child about going potty. The illustrations are darling and it’s a fun little read!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

Okay. So let me give you a warning - this book is addictive. It’s another one of those “cotton candy” books. It is sweet, fluffy and you want to devour it. Or at least, that’s the way it was for me! I sat down one night to go to bed and read a little...the next thing I knew, it was 1AM and I was done. I won’t go and wax poetic... saying this was the most amazing thing since sliced bread, but it was enjoyable. It’s interesting, creative, and well written.

Here is the summary, taken from Goodreads.com, because I’m feeling lazy today.
“Every girl who has taken the test has died. Now it's Kate's turn.
It's always been just Kate and her mom--and now her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride, and a goddess.”

Let’s talk a little more in detail about it now, shall we?

Party like it’s 500 BC:
  • Kate - she’s smart, no nonsense, but definitely a teenage girl. She cares deeply for others and it’s this characteristic that gets her into this situation to begin with. She’s a strong female character without venturing into “kick ass” land.
  • Kate’s relationship with her mother - for someone who has lost their mom to cancer, this may be a bit hard to stomach. I lost my mom in October 2009 unexpectedly to cancer so... there were moments in this book that had me bawling my eyes out. I really connected with Kate and her intense love and need to care for her mother.
  • The initial setting - Okay. This really wasn’t important to the story, but UPPER PENINSULA OF MICHIGAN - YEAH BABY. I spent four wonderful years of my life going to school in dah U.P. so it warmed my heart to see it in this story.
  • Greek influences - Please oh PLEASE do not come into this expecting some sort of amazing Greek retelling. If you are a mythology-obsessed person, STAY AWAY. From browsing through the reviews on Goodreads.com, Greekaholics loathe Ms. Carter’s very contemporary, very CREATIVE use of Greek myth. This isn’t a retelling. This is a story influenced by mythology. Key word: INFLUENCED! I never understood people getting so uppity about things not being precisely like they have always been. It’s like people who hate books turned into movies because they aren’t the books. I loved the Greek influences. I thought they were a lot of fun!
  • Paranormal romance for those who prefer contemporary - I don’t like contemporary YA much. It’s not my thing. However, I still enjoyed this story. It is definitely a paranormal/otherworldly story, but it will appeal to teens who don’t usually venture too far into this genre.
  • Satisfying ending, but still anxious to read the sequel - THANK YOU Ms. Carter. You wrapped up the story so well that I didn’t end up angry afterwards. Lately, everything is a trilogy and many leave you mid-story waiting for more. I know I know. It’s a great marketing ploy, but it is SO aggravating as a reader and reviewer. I feel bad for my readers that they too are going to get hooked and then have to wait for their next fix. It sucks. So, thank you Ms. Carter for keeping me wanting more, but not making me think about entering YA-rehab as a way to deal with my addiction. ;o)
  • The character development is the one aspect that I think could have been improved. We didn’t really get to know Henry and that bothered me. He’s a vulnerable, romantic and troubled god. Come on, who doesn’t want to get to know him, right? Still, the book was short and so I forgave this.
So.. to all the haters, take a chill pill. Aimee Carter’s “The Goddess Test” is a fun, Greek inspired romp with decent writing. Despite dealing with some darker issues (um, he’s HADES, Lord of the Dead!), it’s a light paranormal story - fluffy, fun and sweet. It would be a great pick to add to your YA bookshelf for some light reading. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.

I received a digital ARC of "The Goddess Test" from Harlequin via Netgalley.com for review. It is scheduled to be released in April of this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No E's Pick of the Week this week!

Sorry to disappoint, but no pick of the week for E this week. Why? Well, because the kiddo is still OBSESSED with "Kitten's First Full Moon". I have it memorized. :) So, it's the winner now two weeks running!

Review coming soon for Aimee Carter's debut novel "The Goddess Test" from Harlequin Teen. I *loved* it. So, keep an eye out for it.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.. dun dun.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

I finished this book last week, but didn’t get to sitting down and writing a review until now. This emotionally poignant novel shows us a World War 2/Holocaust story that many haven’t heard before. In “Between Shades of Gray”, we follow the story of one young woman who was taken away in the middle of the night from all she knew and forced to work in prison camps, being accused of being a criminal, and losing everything dear to her. This girl wasn’t Jewish like beloved Anne Frank though and it wasn’t the Nazis. This girl was from Lithuania and living under the oppressive hand of Stalin. The book is written in the style of first person reflections that in the end, we find out have been published to let everyone know about this little told story. The victims of Stalin’s oppression were treated as criminals even after their release and were forced to never speak of the torture they endured. This story is fiction, but its basis is not. Drawing on research, talking to families of survivors, and on her own family’s story of survival, Ruta Sepetys paints a vivid picture of the cruelty of war and injustice.

It is well written and for a historical novel and a very quick read. The chapters are short, but powerful. I wouldn’t read it without a box of tissues near by. It’s a tear jerker, but it is also inspiring. Lina is just a girl when she and her family are taken, but quickly grows into the woman she needs to be for her family. She is a character I think a lot of young adults can relate to, despite the incredible difference in situation.

This book is wonderful for anyone who loves historical fiction based on true stories. The way it is written appeals to adult and teen readers (who may have a shorter attention span for historical fiction). I think this would be a great book to accompany any lesson plan regarding WWII and shine light on a situation that not many know about.

Powerful stuff... well done, Ms. Sepetys.

I was provided with an ARC from Penguin for review (thanks!). “Between Shades of Grey” by Ruta Sepetys is scheduled to be released March 22nd.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

E’s Pick of the Week - Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes

E’s Pick of the Week for this week is another Kevin Henkes book - “Kitten’s First Full Moon” or as E calls it “KEE KEE MOOOOOOOON”. “Kitten’s First Full Moon” is about a little kitty who mistakes the full moon for a bowl of milk so she goes on an adventure to seek it out. On the way, she comes across many obstacles along with some bumps and bruises. Don’t worry though, she does get to a happy ending eventually. This book is so incredibly charming and Mr. Henkes’ illustrations are gorgeous. I wish I could decorate E’s room purely with Mr. Henkes’ artwork! I can’t say enough about how charming his style is.

“Kitten’s First Full Moon” is published by Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins. It is available at bookstores everywhere in hardcover or you can find it at your local library.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly

L.A. Weatherly’s “Angel Burn” is the first installment of a paranormal trilogy (what isn’t a trilogy these days?). In “Angel Burn”, angels are creatures that stalk human beings and prey on their life energy. They feed on humans’ energies a la vampires and cause lots of residual damage such as cancers, mental illness, etc. Alex is a ruthless assassin who was trained in the art of killing angels instead of having a normal childhood. At seventeen, he works for the CIA as part of a mission to rid the planet of these predators. His life is the same repeated routine for over two years now, get a target, kill a target, move on. Then he meets Willow and everything changes. Without going into too many spoilers, it’s boy meets girl, girl and boy hate each other, girl and boy fall in love and experience a life-threatening adventure to save the world. Ya know, the same stuff that happens to all of us everyday.

I’m on the fence about L.A. Weatherly’s “Angel Burn”. It reminded me a lot of Stephenie Meyer’s “The Host”. I really enjoyed it up until the mushy gushy parts, then it sort of crashed and burned (cue sad trombone noise) for me. The pacing just seemed to slow down dramatically and it became so soap opera-esque. It was a really disappointing turn to the story. Of course, I love mushy gushy parts as much as the next gal, but they can’t completely kill the action in a very action packed book. They need to move with the action and be energized by it.

I think it may just be me though. This book is extremely well loved. I also didn’t like Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” which was hatehatehate and then WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA’AM love. That’s kind of how I feel about “Angel Burn”. There was a lot of negativity and no build up to the romance. No give and pull back... teasing the reader. That’s what makes angsty stuff so delicious.

The other part of this book that got to me was the switching back and forth from first person to third person. The first time this transition happened I was so confused. It was jarring and hurt the pacing of the book a bit too. I adjusted with time, but I would have liked to have heard Alex’s thoughts from Alex directly.

Gosh, I sound like such a negative Nancy today! I did enjoy reading this book (I finished and that says a lot right there) and I will definitely be reading the sequel. I’m just not clamouring for it like I am with other trilogies I’ve read recently. The action sequences are excellent, the twist on angels is fun, and the characters are likable. If you like paranormal action-heavy romance books, you’ll love “Angel Burn”.

"Angel Burn" has already been released in the UK under the title “Angel”. It is scheduled to be released in the US on May 24th of this year. I received a digital ARC to review courtesy of the publisher Candlewick via NetGalley.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

E's Pick of the Week - Oh, the THINKS You Can Think!

This week's book for E's Pick of the Week is another classic - Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the THINKS You Can Think!". We have this little book in board book form and E just adores it. He actually used the word "again" for the first time to let us know he wanted to read it again. How cute is that? We have a lot of fun with this one. We make the "z" on zong as long as it takes to trace the tail, we move left and right, and we just act like big ol' goofs. Who doesn't act a little goofy when reading Dr. Seuss' rhymes? My husband and I both love reading this one to E. It's short and fun!

The board book version is awesome because it makes the book last a lot longer and it's small. It's really easy for him to manipulate and "read" on his own. It is also available in hardcover and paperback.

Go get a copy at your local bookstore or online today. It's a short and fun book that the whole family will enjoy.
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