Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekly Review (24 October - 30 October)

In Weekly Reviews, I summarize the posts I've published over the week, as well as the books I'm currently reading, books I've finished over the week, some upcoming reviews, and any comments I'd like to include about the past week. The weekly review feature was inspired by Small Review and Butterfly Feet Walking on Life.

In case you've missed anything, here's what I posted from Monday, October 24th through Sunday, October 30th.


Memes & Features

Keep Teaser Tuesday? (poll still open!)

Books Completed

Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones
A Kiss in Time, by Alex Flinn
Cloaked, by Alex Flinn

Dogsbody was a nice book, but it wasn't the right book for me. I never felt that involved, but I generally liked it. Both A Kiss in Time and Cloaked were excellent fairytale retellings taking place in today's world. Fun and light. 

The Son of Neptune, by Rick Riordan
Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu

The Son of Neptune was not phenomenal, but worth reading. I liked it more than The Lost Hero, and some parts were fun. Breadcrumbs was fantastic - by far the best book this week. It was grounded in reality but rose to fantastical heights. I will definitely write a review for this one.

[schoolbooks not pictured]

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories, by Washington Irving (for school)

The Narrative of Frederick Douglass (for school)

Currently Reading

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George

JDG is dependably fun. I'm having a lovely time reading Tuesdays at the Castle. 

[schoolbooks not pictured]

Tales from Grimm and Andersen, by The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen
Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe (for school)

General Updates

It's great to be back. More reviews and features are coming this week!

What's going on this week for you?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In My Mailbox, 16th Edition

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.
Participants are encouraged to talk about anything bookish they received during the week.

The Coming of the Dragon, by Rebecca Barnhouse
Received: Gift (Thank you, M!)
The Coming of The Dragon is a retelling/spin off (not sure which) of Beowulf, which I read last summer, told from the perspective of Rune, a supporting character in the original. I haven't heard much about it, but I have the sequel, The Peaceweaver, on my TBR. I'm pretty sure The Coming of the Dragon is MG, but if it's not, I'll find out soon. I'm really looking forward to picking this up. It sounds great.

Seventeenth Summer, by Maureen Daly
Received: Gift (Thank you, M!)
I have no idea what this is about, but according to my very good friend, it's fantastic. And it seems out of my normal genre, so I'm happy to try something new.

The Book of the Maidservant, by Rebecca Barnhouse
Received: Gift (Thank you, M!)

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George
Received: Pre-ordered
Jessica Day George! I love JDG books, and I have high hopes for this one. I've read a few very positive reviews as well, so I'm very excited.

Between the Sea and Sky, by Jaclyn Dolamore
Received: Pre-ordered
I really liked Jaclyn Dolamore's debut, Magic Under Glass, and happily, her second book, Between the Sea and Sky, was just released. The premise to this one sounds great - a mermaid falls in love with a boy with wings (although it's much more complex than that) - and it looks short and sweet.

Forest Born (Special Edition), by Shannon Hale
Received: Pre-ordered
Yay! I read Forest Born in March of 2010, and I think it's time for a reread. I'm so glad the publisher came out with this beautiful edition.

What's in your Mailbox?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Love That Dog & Hate That Cat

by Sharon Creech
Start Date: 21 October 2011
End Date: 21 October 2011

Love That Dog
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Joanna Cotler

Summary (from Goodreads):
"I guess it does
look like a poem
when you see it
typed up
like that."

Jack hates poetry. Only girls write it and every time he tries to, his brain feels empty. But his teacher, Ms. Stretchberry, won't stop giving her class poetry assignments -- and Jack can't avoid them. But then something amazing happens. The more he writes, the more he learns he does have something to say.
With a fresh and deceptively simple style, acclaimed author Sharon Creech tells a story with enormous heart. Written as a series of free-verse poems from Jack's point of view, Love That Dog shows how one boy finds his own voice with the help of a teacher, a writer, a pencil, some yellow paper, and of course, a dog.

Hate That Cat
Hardcover, 148 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Joanna Cotler

Summary (from Goodreads):
Room 204—Miss Stretchberry

February 25

Today the fat black cat
up in the tree by the bus stop
dropped a nut on my head
and when I yelled at it
that fat black cat said
in a

I hate that cat.

This is the story of
and cat.

My Review:
I never thought
I liked

But I guess
I forgot
about these

because I love these books.

no matter
Sharon Creech
a genius.

I first read Love That Dog in elementary school, and although I realize now that I didn't fully understand or appreciate it, I loved it. I've reread it many times since then, and my fondness for it has only increased over time. Throughout the two novels, Jack, who at the beginning is reluctant to share anything about himself, finds his voice and a love for poetry in a story at once both hearbreaking and heartwarming. I would quote the first few lines here, but it's impossible to stop once you've started.

Despite, or perhaps as result of its short length, every word is amazing. Creech gives us perfect insight into Jack's world, and his way of thinking. Told in a journal format, Jack responds to the poetry that his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, reads to the class, and through his responses, we see him slowly open up.

The books incorporate a lot a poetry, and I loved reading Jack's interpretation of them. In Love That Dog, I got my first taste of an appreciation for poetry. Last year, my English class spent several months analyzing poetry, and now I can read the book from a totally different point of view. Whether you know about poetry or not, you will love the way it's incorporated in Love That Dog.

Of the two, I prefer Love That Dog. In Love That Dog, Jack goes through a remarkable transformation. In Hate That Cat, he continues to grow and develop, but the leap has already occurred. In Love That Dog, Jack finds himself through poetry; in Hate That Cat, Jack finds his love for poetry through his experiences. Nonetheless, both are works of art.

Overall Thoughts: Somehow, I can't seem to find the words to describe the magic of these books. But please, give them a try. Even if you don't generally like verse novels (like me), they are wonderful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Judge a Book by Its Cover - Secondhand Charm

In Judge a Book by Its Cover posts, I compare different covers for the same book, and judge which cover, in my opinion, best fits the book, either because it is the cover I'd be most likely to pick off the shelf or because it fits the style, mood, or plot of the book. I'd love to hear your opinions on these covers. I choose books for Judge a Book by Its Cover by randomly scrolling through my Goodreads library, or by reader suggestions (click for the form).

For today's Judge a Book by Its Cover, I'm comparing the two covers of Secondhand Charm, by Julie Berry. Click on either image for a larger view.

Cover No. 1

Cover No. 2

Cover No. 1: I like this cover because it captures a bit of the whimsy and loveliness of the tale, and because it features the charm that plays a large part in the story and which inspires the title of the book. The entire cover says "nice, light book" to me, yet I want to know more about the snake. Why a snake? On the other hand, it's not a very eye-catching cover, and I might pass it by in a bookstore. It's intriguing, but it doesn't make me need to pick it up. Also, the model is very ordinary-looking, nothing special. I feel like this cover could have been great with a little tweaking, but it doesn't quite get there.

Cover No. 2: This cover is overall far more appealing to me, but it doesn't necessarily capture the mood of the book. The girl appears to be running away from something, which I don't really understand, and there is no sign of the charm in the title as there is in the first cover. However, the general design of the second cover it much more attractive. I really like the swirls on the side and the way the title is formatted, although I think the formatting for the author's name could have been different.  Generally, I like this second cover better, but it doesn't necessarily fit the book.

Which is your favorite? Judge this book by its cover!

Want to suggest a book for Judge A Book by Its Cover? Click Here for the form!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review: Circle of Magic

by Tamora Pierce
Start Date: 30 September 2011
End Date: 9 October 2011

Sandry's Book
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Scholastic

Of the four Circle of Magic books, Sandry's Book is the one I had the most and fondest memories of. Sandry's Book, more than any other book in the quartet, this one focuses on the characters more than the actual events that take place. In the other Circle of Magic books, there is  one central goal throughout the book (although perhaps not the focus of the entire book). In Sandry's Book, however, the focus is on each of the four characters' development individually and as a group.

Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar are four children (young adults, really) who come from very different backgrounds, but each for some reason or another find themselves alone. Sandry comes from a noble family, hidden away when sickness (a pox, I think) strikes the family, and a mob takes over the estate, leaving her orphaned. Tris, a merchant's daughter, is considered by her family to be unnatural and possibly possesed because of the strange things that happen, such as lightning striking without a storm when she is upset, and is sent away from home. Daja is a Trader, the only survivor of a shipwreck. When she is rescued, she is deemed trangshi, bad luck, and therefore is forbidden to have contact with any other Traders. Briar, called Roach at the beginning of the book, is a "street rat" who burgles and picks pockets for a living. He has been caught a third time and is about to be sentenced to life's labor at the docks. They are each discovered by the mage Niklaren Goldeye, or Niko, as he is called, and taken to the Winding Circle temple, where they learn magic based on ordinary skills. Sandry's magic has to do with weaving and threadwork, Tris is a weather mage, Daja works with metals, and Briar has plant magic.

This series was not Pierce's first, but it seemed that she used this book to really get to know the characters before diving into the crises of the other books. In hindsight, this makes sense as the four main characters must come together to overcome all of the challenges they face. As a character person (well, I'm an everything person, but I like strongly developed characters), Sandry's book and the series as a whole was refreshingly character-centered. Within the book, the story switches between the four, which may frustrate some (although it stays in third person), but it was one of my favorite parts. The secondary characters, such as Niko or their guardians at Discipline (where they live within Winding Circle), Lark and Rosethorn, all of the characters are well developed, one of Pierce's obvious strengths.

Sandry's book was written for a middle grade audience, so it was nice to take a break in some ways, even though I was reading more than I usually do. The books are not overly complex, but they are well-written and fun to read. They not nearly as intense as many YA books, and although intense, high-speed, plot-based books are often fantastic, it's nice to have a break.  And although I feel like I'm contradicting myself, I have to mention that they're not overly light and fluffy. Although they're not books that keep you from sleeping until you finish, they have complex characters with struggles of their own, and not everything ties up nicely, just as they don't in life.

Overall Thoughts: A good opening to the series. Very character driven. No set goal established at the beginning of the book - the characters need to find each other before they can work together. A strong MG.

Tris's Book
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by Scholastic

In Tris's Book, Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar have lasted together through the events of Sandry's Book and are recovering and continuing with their training when rumors of approaching pirates turn out to be more than merely rumors, and each of the children's skills is needed in order to defeat pirate invaders.

After  the very character-driven Sandry's Book, the beginning of Tris's Book was a little bit disappointing. It seemed like nothing much was happening, and that it was a lot of routine and learning this or that, but after the first third, it really picks up, and both the character development and the plot get far more interesting.

Overall Thoughts: Although by far not the best book in the four, if you enjoyed Sandry's Book, Tris's Book is ultimately worth reading.

Daja's Book
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by Scholastic

In Daja's book, the four main characters, along with their mentors and Sandry's uncle, Duke Verdris, travel to Gold Ridge Valley, a province in North Emelan, where the residents are struggling with drought and fires. Our heroes are called upon to control the fires sweeping the area and threatening those living there. Additionally, the magic of the four young mages is blending together, creating unexpected and sometimes dangerous results. Daja accidentally creates a living piece of metal that grows as a plant does, and when a group of Traders want to purchase it from her, giving her another taste of her family's culture and her life before Winding Circle, she must reevaluate who she is and who she would like to be.

The first two books in the Circle of Magic series are good, but I think Daja's book is where Pierce begins to hit her stride. Pierce manages to create an exciting and fast-paced plot while keeping the character development of the earlier books. In fact, I'd say there's more development in Daja's Book than Tris's Book. Also, Daja's Book gives the reader their first glance outside of Winding Circle. Although the story ventures into the city some in earlier books, Sandry's Book and Tris's Book both take place almost entirely within Winding Circle.

Overall Thoughts: An excellent addition to the series. A great blend of characters and action, of complex problems and digestible writing.

Briar's Book
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 1st 1999 by Scholastic

Briar's Book was my favorite of the four. Each character came into his or her strength during the course of the book, and although in the previous books Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar had to deal with earthquakes, pirates, and fire, in Briar's Book the stakes seemed higher than ever.

When visiting the city of Summersea near the Winding Circle temple, Briar likes to hang out with his "street rat" friends and relive a bit of his life from when he was Roach, before he became a mage. On one such trip, he is not greeted by his usual friend, Flick, and is instead fetched by another boy who takes him into the sewers where Flick has fallen ill with a blue pox. Briar and Rosethorn bring her to an infirmary to take care of her, but it soon becomes clear that this pox is a plague sweeping Summersea - and that it is deadly. Time is running out, and each in the Circle of Magic must contribute in order to find a cure for the pox.

Note: Briar's Book is not the best read for when you're sick. Just mentioning.

Overall Thoughts: Great. The best of the four.

General Series notes:
In all of Pierce’s books (including the Song of the Lioness books) there are some repetitive lines, especially when describing secondary characters. For example, Pierce mentions Duke Verdris several times “wearing power like a cloak.” The primary characters, however, are fully fleshed out, and a pleasure to read about.

Although Briar's Book was great, it did not necessarily feel like a conclusion to the series. Thankfully, there are several more books about Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar, starting with the Circle Opens quartet, which I will definitely be picking up soon. The Circle of Magic is highly recommended for middle grade readers who like character-strong books.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Keep Teaser Tuesday?

I have been posting Teaser Tuesdays for almost 10 months, but I realized while I was gone that they're not exactly the most interesting of posts, and I'd like to get your opinion as readers. Do you like the Teaser Tuesday posts, or should I get rid of them? Would you rather I just changed the format of the post, such as putting a cover for each quote or only posting one quote a week? I put a poll on the sidebar. You have until November 1st to vote.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekly Review (10 October - 23 October)

In Weekly Reviews, I summarize the posts I've published over the week, as well as the books I'm currently reading, books I've finished over the week, some upcoming reviews, and any comments I'd like to include about the past week. The weekly review feature was inspired by Small Review and Butterfly Feet Walking on Life.

In case you've missed anything, here's what I posted from Monday, October 10th through Sunday, October 23rd.

Note: This weekly review covers the past two weeks.


none this week!


In My Mailbox, 15th Edition
Teaser Tuesday, 33rd Edition


Books Completed

Lioness Rampant, by Tamora Pierce
Daja's Book, by Tamora Pierce
Briar's Book, by Tamora Pierce

Lioness Rampant started out mediocre, but the seconds half got very good and wrapped up the series strongly. However, the first two Song of the Lioness books were by far better than the second two.  Daja's Book and Briar's Book were both excellent, but didn't necessarily wrap up the series. Luckily, there are more books about Sandry, Tris, Daja, and Briar, starting with the four The Circle Opens books, which I read years ago but remember next to nothing about. I'll probably take a break from Tamora Pierce for now, but I'm looking forward to returning in the future. I will be posting a review of the Circle of Magic books later this week.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
The Scorch Trials, by James Dashner
The Death Cure, by James Dashner

I reread The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials so that I'd have them fresh in my mind for The Death Cure (which I highly recommend - my brother read The Death Cure without rereading the previous two books, and mentioned that when starting TDC, he had forgotten who some of the characters were, and some of what had happened in The Scorch Trials). The first time I read TMR and TST, I liked the former far better, but this time around, I found myself preferring the latter. But that is almost irrelevant because The Death Cure was SO EPIC. Oh my gosh. Just one thing right after another, and I wish I could squee about it all day but I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't read it yet. And the only people I had on hand to rant about how good it was were my friends who hadn't read it yet, and so of course I couldn't give anything away, so they had to listen to my running commentary without knowing what was going on, which was a lot of me getting more and more excited as the book raced toward the end. I'm not sure if I will be able to write a review for these books, as my thoughts are not quite in order yet (see above), but I'm hoping I can get a review up in the next few weeks. If not, please read these books. They are so good.

Dangerously Placed, by Nansi Kunze
Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech
Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech

I read Dangerously Placed for review. I liked it, and it was nothing like what I normally read. The word that comes to mind is unique. A unique twist on a good ol' mystery. Love That Dog and Hate That Cat are both fantastic verse novels. Review to come.

Currently Reading

[schoolbooks not pictured]

Tales from Grimm and Andersen, by The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories, by Washington Irving (for school)
Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe (for school)
The Narrative of Frederick Douglass (for school)
Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones

Lots of reading for school... yippee *rolls eyes*

General Updates

Well, I definitely needed the blogging break this week. I barely had time to read, much less blog. (The "books completed" section seems to refute that statement, but it's true!) But now I'm back, and there's lot of fun stuff to come!

What's going on this week for you?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blogging Break

Hi guys.

As you may have noticed, I haven't been posting much recently. I've been far busier than normal, and I barely have time to get my regular work done much less have extra time for blogging, so I've decided to take a short blogging break until I get everything under control again. I'll be back in one week, on October 24. See you then!

Winner of Caster Chronicles Giveaway

The winner of the Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness bracelet and keychain is...


I've emailed Erinberry, and will send out the bracelet and keychain in the next few days. Congrats, Erinberry!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In My Mailbox, 15th Edition

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.
Participants are encouraged to talk about anything bookish they received during the week.

The Death Cure, by James Dashner
Received: from Pre-Order
So, so, so excited for The Death Cure. It's going to be amazing. I'm currently rereading The Scorch Trials (just finished The Maze Runner) so that I have them fresh in my mind for The Death Cure.
Tris and Izzie, by Mette Ivie Harrison
Received: from Pre-Order
I really liked Harrison's Princess and the Hound books, and I always love fairy tale retellings, so I was very excited for this, but I've read a few negative reviews, so now I'm not quite as eager to read it right away, but I still have my hopes.

From the library:
Birthmarked, by Caragh M. O'Brien
I've heard really good things about this one. It looks like another original and well-written dystopian.

Cloaked, by Alex Flinn
A Kiss in Time, by Alex Flinn

I've been trying to get my hands on Alex Flinn books for a while, but there always seems to be that 1 book that takes precedence when I'm buying on a budget. Now I'm determined to get though at least one of them. I really liked Beastly (and no, I have not seen the movie), and I've read positive reviews for both of these, so I'm looking forward to them both.

Dogsbody, by Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones. Need I say more?

Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve
I read this series in middle school and really liked it, but now I find I can barely remember it. As that was pretty much my experience with Here Lies Arthur, and I loved it upon rereading it, I figured Mortal Engines will be fantastic as well.

Plain Kate, by Erin Bow
I have been trying to get a copy of this book for months. It sounds like exactly my type of book. I am definitely picking this up, and I'm sure I'm going to love it.

The Bridge to Neverland, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Of all the books I got this week, this is the one I might not end up reading. I liked the original three books of Barry and Pearson's Starcatcher series, but thought the fourth was not even close to as good, and their book Science Fair was just ridiculous. I got it mainly because I might decide to give it a chance, and/or might pass it on to my brother, who also liked the Starcatcher books.

What's in your mailbox?


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