Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Booking Through Thursday - Why You Read

Suggested by Janet:
I’ve seen this quotation in several places lately. It’s from Sven Birkerts’ ‘The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age’:
“To read, when one does so of one’s own free will, is to make a volitional statement, to cast a vote; it is to posit an elsewhere and set off toward it. And like any traveling, reading is at once a movement and a comment of sorts about the place one has left. To open a book voluntarily is at some level to remark the insufficiency either of one’s life or one’s orientation toward it.”

To what extent does this describe you?
I don't travel because I'm searching for something or escaping something. I travel to remind myself that yes, there are other worlds out there - some wonderful and magical, some dark, exotic, dangerous, depressing - but I am thankful for where I come from, and travel separates me from my place so that I can see my home and my life with new, appreciative eyes. I believe that's why I read --  to visit for a while, not for any insufficiency, but for a renewed commitment to the life I'm living.

What do you say?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tween Tuesday: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

Tween Tuesday is a meme hosted by Green Bean Teen Queen and it focuses on great books for tweens.  Please check her out for more reading ideas.
Title: Feathers
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: Scholastic (January 8, 2009)
Paperback: 118 pages
Rating:  5 of 5 stars
Honors: Newberry Honor

From the back:
Frannie doesn't know what to make of the poem she's reading in school. She hasn't thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more "holy." There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And althrough the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he's not white. Who is he?
 During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light--her brother Sean's deafness, her mother's fear, the class bully's anger, her best friend's faith and her own desire for "the thing with feathers."
My thoughts:
Frannie, the 6th grade narrator, is fascinated with Emily Dickinson's poetic lines, "Hope is the thing with feathers. . ." and struggles with making meaning of the poem in her own life. Woodson is an expert in the tween voice and her characters are keen observers as well as moral centers for her books. Although Frannie faces so much sadness, both in her life and those around her, she shows a great maturity and sensitivity. Woodson reminds us in her books that there is hope, and goodness and dignity.

This Newberry Honor book swept me away from page one with its sparse, poetic rhythms, strong imagery and vivid color.  Woodson writes:
The day before, Ms. Johnson had read us a poem about hope getting inside you and never stopping. I had written that part of the poem down--Hope is a thing with feathers-- because I had loved the sound of it. Loved the way the words seemed to float across my notebook.
The lives of Frannie, Jesus Boy, Sean (her deaf older brother), and Mama float across the pages of this book and "perch in my soul."

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Title: The Choice
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Publisher: Revell (January 10, 2010)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3385-8
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was given this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
About the book: from Goodreads
With a vibrant, fresh style Suzanne Woods Fisher brings readers into the world of a young Amish woman torn between following the man she loves--or joining the community of faith that sustains her, even as she questions some of the decisions of her elders. Her choice begins a torrent of change for her and her family, including a marriage of convenience to silent Daniel Miller. Both bring broken hearts into their arrangement--and secrets that have been held too long. Filled with gentle romance, The Choice opens the world of the Amish--their strong communities, their simple life, and their willingness to put each other first. Combined with Fisher's exceptional gift for character development, this novel, the first in a series, is a welcome reminder that it is never too late to find your way back to God.
My thoughts:
In this overscheduled, chaotic world we live in, it's such a breath of fresh air to read this book where the characters are rooted in what ultimately is important to survive in this world: family, faith and a community who anticipates your needs before you can articulate your needs. The characters are so precious. I found myself sad at each loss and triumphant at each success. The Choice is just a feel-good book that allowed me to slow down a little and be immersed in a different world. This wasn't a fantasy world, but the way things are in some places, and perhaps the way things could be again.

We have specials on people who live "green," or the newest "green house" in the neighborhood, but I'm fascinated by the Amish lifestyle from this book and eager to learn more about their ways. As a self-proclaimed techie, and gadget hoarder, I was fascinated when Carrie and her new husband Daniel move into their new house and the community comes to work on the house to get it ready for them. Working on the house for them meant undoing all the modern conveniences to make it suitable. They disconnected the electricity, unhooked the telephone jacks, hauled away the washing machine, electric dryer, air conditioning, and even pulled screens off windows. I understand about the washing machine, but I don't get how the screens on the windows are a modern convenience. What could I live without? It really wouldn't be that hard to live in Hawaii without electricity, county water and telephones. It's even possible to live without dryers and stoves. The fishing village of Milolii is totally off grid, but I think the faith and the support of the community would need to be strong in order to live like this.

I think we need more innocent books like this and I can't wait for more books to come out in the Lancaster County Secrets series. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kitchen Chat event tomorrow with Marc Klaas

"A mile a minute - that is how fast your child can disappear."  Haunting and truthful words posted on the website for Klaas Kids.

On Friday, February 19th, Margaret McSweeney will interview Marc Klaas, father of Polly Klaas who was kidnapped and murdered in 1993.  As a legacy to his daughter, Marc founded KlaasKids Foundation to help stop crimes against children. Please tune in to Kitchen Chat with Margaret McSweeney Friday at 11:00 am CST!


Here is an excerpt from Marc's journal that is posted online:

"There is nothing that can prepare one for a murder trial. My family sits as the last few hours in Polly's life are dissected, analyzed, de-constructed, reconstructed, cross-referenced and compartmentalized. The constant assault on our sensibilities by horrible revelations that defy the principles of civilization seem overwhelming much of the time. It is impossible to withstand or rise above the continual dehumanizing facts that are revealed in a constant, monotonous stream of revelation. There is no room for anything but the processing of nightmarish information. The killer laughs throughout the video tape and I want to shout, yet I must sit unflinching and stone-faced for fear of causing a mistrial. Every day my family is drawn into the world of murder, mayhem, rape and deprivation and there is no way out."

Learn about effective ways to keep your children safe from harm and find out what you can do to help stop crimes against kids.  Please tune in and call in with your questions for Marc this Friday 11-12 CST on Kitchen Chat.

Booking Through Thursday - Olympic Reading may have noticed–the Winter Olympics are going on. Is that affecting your reading time? Have you read any Olympics-themed books? What do you think about the Olympics in general? Here’s your chance to discuss!

I don't have any Olympics reading, but I do love the Olympics. It's not really the sports, but the stories behind the athletes, and there are many. I love being one of a million people really rooting for the Chinese pair skaters, Shen and Zao who have been skating together for 18 years, and came to the Olympics with every honor except the Olympic gold medal. I cheered and cried when they won. Didn't you?
Do I read less during the Olympics? No. I actually finished The Choice while watching Shawn White, the flying tomato, win the half pipe gold medal last night. Thank goodness for DVR.

Do you have any Olympics readings?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Linger Giveaway!

Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading 2-15-10

This is my favorite meme, now hosted by Sheila @ One Person's Journey Through a World of Books
It's easy and it makes me realize that unlike a lot of other bloggers, I am a one book a week reader. Yes, it's sad, but after camping with 96 8th graders from Tuesday to Friday last week, I realize that when I'm responsible for that many kids, there's no time to read. 
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
Still reading:
Ghost Girl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley
The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher
Up next:
based on last week's comments and suggestions from others
Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

I'll check the other blogs to see what everyone's reading, but I still need to be ok with being a one book a week reader. Please add to my TBR list. Mahalo!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Title: My Most Excellent Year: a  novel of love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park
Author: Steve Kluger
Publisher: Speak (February 19, 2009)
Paperback: 416 pages
ISBN: 978-0142413432
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Synopsis from Booklist
In his first novel for young readers, Kluger revisits themes in his adult titles: baseball, romantic sparring, and social activism. Boston teens T. C. and Augie are such close friends that their families acknowledge them as brothers. Alejandra has recently arrived from Washington, D.C., where her father served as a Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Written in multiple voices and nontraditional formats, including instant messages and school assignments, Kluger’s crowded, exuberant novel follows the three high-school freshman through an earth-shaking year in which musical-theater-obsessed Augie realizes that he is gay, Alejandra reveals her theatrical talents to disapproving parents, and T. C. tries to make a deaf child’s greatest wish come true. At the center are heart-pulling romances (even a few among adults) and a broadening sense of what family means.

My thoughts: 
The story centers around an 11th grade English assignment for Ms. LaFontaine's class, and the three friends, T.C. Keller, Augie Hwong and Alejandra Perez decide to tell their story together about their "most excellent year." Through letters, IMs, essays and email, the three talk about their 9th grade year. The story is told by the three of them, but the voices sound somewhat alike, so it's helpful that each chapter identifies the name of the storyteller. I found the characters likeable and although the different love stories were predictable, I did find the relationships authentic and I especially enjoyed the growing relationship between T.C. and the six-year-old Hucky saccharine sweet, yet  lovely.

T.C. is the baseball fan and civil rights warrior. After he lost his mother at six, he befriended Augie and the two became brothers, even to the point where they both call T.C.'s dad Pop and Augie's parents Mom and Dad. They each have their own beds in each others' houses and T.C. is the one that accepts Augie with all his eccentricities and diva-ness. T.C. is totally in love with Ale as well as the deaf foster child, Hucky.

Augie is the Ethel Merman wannabe, the thespian and musical theatre diva. He has parents who accept him as a gay teen, even before he officially "comes out." He too is in love with Hucky, as well as Andy Wexler.

Alejandra is the former Mexican ambassador's daughter who moves to Brookline, Massachusetts during her freshman year. She is connected to Augie through the theatre and connected to T.C. through their interest in Manzanar and JFK.

The story is unbelievable at times, but it's ok to believe in magic and I didn't have a problem with that, especially when Kluger actually has a real website for the characters. The different interests will appeal to different readers for multiple reasons, and that is the true appeal of this book.

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading 2-08-10

Sheila from One Person's Journey Through a World of Books  has inherited this wonderful meme and she's put a little incentive into commenting, so check out her blog and participate in this. 

I'm on my way to Molokai, the Hawaiian island made famous by Father Damien, so maybe I'll get a chance to read more. Of course I'll be there with 96 8th graders, but hey, I can hope.

Read and reviewed this week:
Fearless by Max Lucado
Listened to:
by L.A. Meyer

Reading (still) this week:
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley
The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher

If you found a MUST read this week, I hope you share it - I rely on this weekly meme for my TBR lists, so THANK YOU!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Review and Blog Tour for The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Title: The Choice
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher
Publisher: Revell (January 10, 2010)
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3385-8

Description from the publisher :
Lancaster County has always been her home--but where does her heart belong?
One moment Carrie Weaver was looking forward to running away with Lancaster Barnstormers pitcher Solomon Riehl--plans that included leaving the Amish community where they grew up. The next moment she was staring into a future as broken as her heart. Now, Carrie is faced with a choice. But will this opportunity be all she hoped? Or will this decision, this moment in time, change her life forever?
A tender story of love, forgiveness, and looking below the surface, The Choice uncovers the sweet simplicity of the Amish world--and shows that it's never too late to find your way back to God.

About the author:

Suzanne Woods Fisher, unlike the Amish she writes about, is very much "online." She is a  wife and mom, raiser of puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and an author of Christian books, both non-fiction and fiction.

Her relatives on her mother's side are Old Order German Baptist Brethren, also known as Dunkards. That's where her interest in Anabaptist traditions began. Her grandfather, a former teacher in a one-room school in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and a publisher of Christianity Today, inspired Ms. Fisher to write.

Interested yet?
I personally do not have a copy of The Choice, but I will purchase one on February 15th, the official kickoff date. I read many blogs about this book and I'm eager to start reading. If you want to get involved too, here's some contests and events:
Live Chat with Suzanne Woods Fisher  - join Ms. Fisher for a live author chat on Monday, 2/15 at 8 pm EST at the link above. Purchase a copy of The Choice on the 15th and send in your receipt to to be entered for a $25 gift certificate to There'll also be great prizes during the live chat.  (Check out Suzanne's blog for the answers to the trivia questions during the chat).
Contest - Enter to win a signed copy of the book! Tweet this:
Psst... pass it on! Join @suzannewfisher for a Book Bomb & Author Talk! Details here #thechoice 
Please make sure to use the hashtag #thechoice to be entered. BONUS: Every blogger on the tour who tweets this will be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Amazon. There is no limit on the times you tweet it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado

Title: Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear
Author: Max Lucado
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: September 8, 2009
Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0849921391
Rating: 4/5

From the author: Fear seems to be in the driver’s seat these days. People are troubled and anxious. Finances are tumbling, rockets are launching, and seemingly solid institutions are teetering. It's tough for folks to know where to turn.

Two years ago I began writing a new book entitled Fearless. Little did I know then what we'd be facing now, but God did. The book examines Jesus' statements about fear and encourages us to take heart in difficult times.

The antidote to the fear epidemic? Trust. If we trust God more, we can fear less. What a comforting promise.
My thoughts:
I'm a Max Lucado newbie, and not one to read spirituality and personal growth books, but Fearless was an enjoyable, thought-provoking read. I don't think I'm fearful. I describe myself as steady in conflict and stoic in chaos, but through Lucado's anecdotes of so many different kinds of fears, practical advice and a foundation of scripture, I found a different kind of peace, as well as a realization that my fears were waiting to be acknowledged. This book was helpful, even when I wasn't looking for help.

This ebook was given to me from Thomas Nelson for an honest review.

Booking Through Thursday - Winter Reads

The northern hemisphere, at least, is socked in by winter right now… So, on a cold, wintry day, when you want nothing more than to curl up with a good book on the couch … what kind of reading do you want to do?

In Hawaii, winter means that the tradewinds come from the north and we have 60 degree evenings. Brrr. When the wind is blowing and the temperature is hitting the low 60's, I like to read dystopian, perpetually winter books like Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I can hunker down into the blankets and the reading makes me feel like the weather is colder than it really is.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid by Lemony Snicket

Title: Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid
Author: Lemony Snicket
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: April 24, 2007
Hardcover: 176 pages
ISBN: 978-0061240065

Although the reading level for this book is at ages 9-12, the irreverent humor in this book may be lost on the young. In true Lemony Snicket, doom and gloom style, this book is the darker twin of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. They are aphorisms and short "truths" about home, family, school, work, entertainment, literature, travel, emotional health, affairs of the heart, a life of mystery, the mystery of life, and an overall feeling of doom that one cannot ever escape no matter what one does.

The snippet on the back cover says, "Life is a turbulent journey, fraught with confusion, heartbreak, and inconvenience. This book will not help." True, this book will not help if you are stuck in a conundrum or a barrel of monkeys, but I found myself chuckling out loud, then looking around to see if people were looking at me strangely. The only bad thing about this book was when I thought that something was extremely funny, then shared it with someone and they didn't get the same wicked smile on their face as I did. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this book is not for Snicket amateurs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Review Policy

Updated February 22, 2018

Dear Authors/Publishers/Publicists:

I am happy to receive ARCs of books. As a former middle school reading specialist, a former 6-12 English teacher and now a University faculty teaching middle/secondary teacher preparation, I am always on the lookout for YA books that will appeal to middle school readers, especially reluctant readers. I think teacher candidates need to be aware of what is currently out there and bring a variety of books and voices into their classrooms. I also blog for Net Galley and get my ARCs there since I have a full teaching and research load, however, I am happy to look over emails from publishers trying to get their books into the hands of readers.

If I do ask for an ARC, I  will give each ARC/book my full attention, and evaluate them as fairly as possible. Once a review is published, you have my permission to use anything I have said in promotional material, as long as quotes are attributed to me.

Electronic materials are preferred (which is a 360° degree shift for me, but it is because I have been teaching English for over 25 years).

Please email me at if you are interested and be specific about the time frame that you will need something reviewed. I also will put the review on Goodreads. My policy is to not post a review earlier than 2 weeks before publication date. If your policy is different, please let me know. 

My Rating System

I do not rate books. I only review what I at least liked. I am trying to read for a variety of reader types so if I personally did not care for it, but I publish it, I will be specific about the kind of reader that the book may appeal to.

Please know the rating is a personal opinion. I try to be a fair critic and I will try to back up my reviews with valid reasoning. If you as the author or publisher have something to add or if you feel like I've missed the mark, I welcome your comments on this blog post.  I base my opinions on the value of the book for the clients I am reading for. I am constantly on the lookout for books for those students who either choose not to read anymore or who don't have the skills needed to read independently. Middle school tends to be the time when we lose readers, so this time is crucial for ensuring that we support and find great reading materials to create lifelong readers.

I think that covers everything. I will add more information as issues come up.

Thank you,


It's Monday! What are you reading 2-01-10

This is the last week that this meme will be hosted by J. Kaye. Thank you J. Kaye  for your hard work!
Read this week:
Crossing the Bridge by Michael Baron (review) - not really my cup of latte

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid by Lemony Snicket - hilarious - perfect for reading between basketball quarters, as long as you're not afraid to be caught chuckling to yourself
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse - novel in verse about the dust bowl - using it with our 6th graders
 My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger - I just love the title and I must say the inside flap was quite clever.
Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley - I'm slogging through without reading the first book, which may be the problem.
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingstone - this is such a lovely cover.
I've been hearing a lot of talk about Going Bovine so that's up next


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