Category Archives: Uncategorized

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

ImageObviously it’s been awhile…I haven’t been blogging because I feel like the act of having to write about what I read diminshed the joy I have always found in reading.¬† But every once in awhile, I might have something to say. ūüėČ

I recently read a blog post that made a case for high stakes in literature.¬† Books where the stakes are high, either physically or emotionally, are the books that grab you.¬† The books you can’t forget.¬† The books you rush to the end of but then are sorry to put down.¬† (read full post here:

Liar & Spy was not that book.

Maybe Rebecca Stead and I just don’t understand each other.¬† I didn’t fall all over myself like most of the children’s lit population when When You Reach Me came out either.¬† But I decided to give her another chance.¬† Sadly, I think this is where Ms. Stead and I will part ways.

Liar & Spy is well written.¬† The characters are good, the story is good, but there is nothing that reaches out and GRABS you.¬† There is nothing that makes it GREAT.¬† Several reviewers who have been singing its praises on Goodreads have called it “subtle”.¬† Hmmm.¬† In this case, subtle, to me at least, equals boring.

I’ve read lots of books that are just ok and haven’t felt the need to say anything about them.¬† But lately I feel that many of these books are getting so much attention that they don’t deserve.¬† Am I missing something?¬† Are my tastes so completely different from those of the general population of readers?


Leave a comment

Filed under Children's Literature, Uncategorized

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

Gaby Rodriguez decided early on that she wouldn’t be another stereotype.¬† Even though her mother and older sisters had babies while they were teenagers, Gaby realized that she wanted more and worked hard in school to ensure that her future would be bright.¬† So it was quite a shock that for Gaby’s senior project she decided she was going to fake her own pregnancy.¬†¬†

Telling very few people the truth, Gaby perpetuated a pregnancy in order to find out what it was like to be a pregnant teen.  Would all of her accomplishments be negated because of this one mistake?  What would people say about her?  Who, if anyone, would offer their support?  The implications would go much deeper and spread far wider than Gaby could have ever dreamed.

Gaby’s story is told in a straight-forward, easy-to-read manner that I think will be appealing to teens, but for me it fell flat in places.¬† It was hard for me to connect emotionally to her writing.¬† Her tone is reflective and puts distance between the reader and the events.¬† Other than that, I think she has a strong message on an issue that has become something of an epidemic in this country and a real heart for those in need.

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez
Young Adult РMemoir | 218 pages | Simon & Schuster | January 2012 | 1442446226  | Library copy

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Uncategorized, Young Adult Literature

Garden State Teen Book Awards 2013 Ballot – Fiction Grades 6-8

Last week¬†was the first day of deliberations for the GSTBA 2013 ballot. Thankfully everyone played nice and we were able to get a list together without too much bloodshed (I’m not so optimistic when it comes time to discuss the Grade 9-12 fiction list!). In no particular order, here are the titles:

  1. Scrawl by Mark Shulman
  2. Countdown by Deborah Wiles
  3. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  4. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
  5. Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve
  6. Trash by Andy Mulligan
  7. Crazy by Han Nolan
  8. Heist Society by Ally Carter
  9. 90 Miles to Havana by Enrique Flores-Galbis
  10. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  11. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
  12. Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine
  13. Sons of Liberty by Alexander and Joseph Lagos
  14. After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick
  15. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  16. Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  17. A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard
  18. Mindblind by Jennifer Roy
  19. Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
  20. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Young Adult Literature

Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

“By the way, do you two know what ‘hobo’ really means?”
“No, ma’am.”
“It means ‘homeward bound’.”

Fifteen-year-old Iris Baldwin is alone. Her mother died when she was five and her father has spent the years in-between providing for Iris, but not caring for her. Now he wants to open up a new shoe store in Kansas City but unbeknownst to Iris, she will not be joining him and his young girlfriend. Instead, she will be shipped off to rural Wellesford, Missouri, where she has been hired out to serve as housekeeper and companion to Dr. Avery Nesbitt’s elderly mother. Slowly, Iris allows herself to be drawn into this warm and compassionate little family. But as is too often the case in Iris’s short life, tragedy strikes again and she must find a way to make peace with her past in order to carve out her future. Set in 1926, Stuber’s debut novel is a quietly beautiful tale of love, loss, family, and growing up.

Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber
Young Adult | 240 pages | Margaret K. McElderry | July 2010 | 1416997032 | Library copy

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Top Twelve of 2011

It’s that time of year again.¬† List time.¬† Even though I haven’t been blogging regularly anymore, I still can’t resist a good list.¬† So here, in no particular order, are the best books I read in 2011.¬† I couldn’t keep it to just 10, so I figured 12 was ok without¬†overdoing it – 12 months, 12 books…you get the picture.¬† ūüôā¬†

  1. The Night Circus by Erica Morgenstern :¬† An atmospheric, spellbinding debut about magic, illusion and love that I couldn’t put down.
  2. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett :¬† I’ve been a fan of every one of Ms. Patchett’s books that I’ve read and this was no exception.¬† An intriguing look at personality, loyalty and ethics set in the Amazon jungle.
  3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett :¬† Still can’t believe it took me this long to actually read this book!¬† One of my favorite ever!
  4. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning :  A down-to-earth look at what the Gospel is really about.
  5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese :¬† A sweeping family saga about doctors in an Ethiopian mission hospital.¬† So, so, so different from a lot of what I’ve read and so, so, SO, good.
  6. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys :¬† The gripping story of a family ripped from their home in 1941 Poland and their struggle to survive being shipped off to Siberia.¬† I’ve read a lot about this time period, but never knew much about the Siberian work camps.¬† Have the Kleenex on hand for this one.
  7. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain : An evocative¬†look at Ernest Hemingway’s life through the eyes of his first wife, Hadley Richardson.¬†
  8. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park :¬† One of the best and most compelling¬†books I’ve ever read.¬† Don’t be fooled by the slimness of novel – it packs a HUGE punch.
  9. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King :  This book took me by surprise with how much I loved it.  It’s a complex and nuanced exploration about the complicated nature of love.
  10. I Will Carry You:  A Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith :  Cried my way through this one.  A heartrending story about grief, faith and how the love of God can get you through even the most painful of circumstances.
  11. I Married You For Happiness by Lily S. Tuck :  A fresh and honest look into all of the things, good and bad, that make up a marriage.
  12. The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan : Another poignant exploration about the complexities of relationships and love.


Filed under Uncategorized

2012 TBR Pile Challenge

2012 To Be Read (TBR) Pile Challenge:

The Goal
Once again Roof Beam Reader¬†¬†is issuing a challenge to finally read 12 books from your ‚Äúto be read‚ÄĚ pile, within 12 months.¬† I’m not signing up for the official challenge, but hopefully this will be motivation for me to finally pick up these books!¬† (*Note: some of my choices are books I read in high school but have been wanting to re-read for years).

01.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
02.  One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
03.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
04.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald*
05.  Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier*
06.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*
07.  Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
08.  The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
09.  Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
10.  Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
11.  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
12.  The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

01.  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
02.  The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt


Filed under Uncategorized

The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin

J. J. Tully is a retired search-and-rescue dog who’s living out his glory days on his trainer’s farm.¬† Compared to the excitement and danger of his previous job, farm life can be rather boring.¬† When a wacky chicken named Millicent (Moosh) shows up in the doghouse doorway needing J. J.’s help to find her two missing chicks, Poppy and Sweetie, he quickly negotiates cheeseburger payment and is on the case.

The trouble with chickens, J. J. soon realizes, is that they’re hard to read.¬† And they get in the way.¬† And they possibly know more than they say they know when they know it.¬† If J. J. is going to have any chance of rescuing Poppy and Sweetie from the evil house dog, Vince the Funnel, he needs all the information…and someone’s not talking.¬†

From the author that brought us Click Clack Moo:¬† Cows That Type, Bounce, and Wiggle,¬†comes a new¬†series for young readers.¬†¬†The¬†Trouble with Chickens:¬† A J. J. Tully Mystery¬†is Doreen Cronin’s first venture into chapter books.¬†¬†¬†This book has been getting a lot of love around the kidlitosphere and I can see why:¬† short sentence structure, a mix of familiar and new vocabulary, dead-pan humor, vivid descriptions¬†and a fast-paced plot make this a good choice¬†for a read-alone¬†or¬†read-alouds.¬†¬†¬†¬† However, I¬†felt the shift between narrators was a little awkward at first and that I didn’t have those laugh-out-loud funny moments others were raving about.¬† I really, REALLY wanted to love this book, but for whatever reason the elements didn’t come together for me.¬† Still, I¬†can see the appeal for¬†many readers in¬†The Trouble with Chickens and would have no problem recommending it.

See other reviews at A Patchwork of Books and Bookends.

The Trouble with Chickens:  A J. J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Juvenile Fiction | 128 pages | Balzer & Bray | March 2011 | 0061215325 | Library copy

1 Comment

Filed under Book Discussion, Children's Literature, Uncategorized