Tuesday, January 31, 2012

RIP Bill Wallace

Favorite children's author, Bill Wallace passed away yesterday. Wallace was famous was a former teacher and has had 29 children's books published. These include titles like: Snot Stew, A Dog Called Kitty, Beauty, and The Christmas Spurs. 

Several years ago when I was student teaching, Wallace came to visit my school. I had the pleasure of meeting he and his wife during the luncheon. I can honestly say that he was just as funny and kind in real life as his books portrayed him to be. 

After the visit, my class closed out our letter-writing unit by sending letters to Bill Wallace. We were so thrilled when we received a response back. It wasn't just a form letter, like you would receive from most celebrities. He had taken the time to personally respond to several of the students' questions. 

My favorite part, though, was the fact that he had written a letter personally to me. He was so encouraging and heartfelt. One of his biggest pieces of advice to me was that if I wanted to write, just write. He had received a drawer full of rejection letters before anyone took a chance on him. I'll never forget his kindness, his humor, or the wise words he took the time to deliver specifically to me. 

Rest in peace, Mr. Wallace.   

Friday, January 27, 2012

All The Lovely Bad Ones

All The Lovely Bad Ones
   by Mary Downing Hahn
   192 pages
   My rating: C+
   Source: Purchased

A creepy Vermont inn. A brother an sister with a propensity for making trouble. A group of unruly young spirits. Can Travis and Corey solve the mystery of the Lovely Bad Ones before the inn goes under and they get sent back home and are forced to go to summer school? 

This was a quick, fun MG ghost story. It was spooky, but not overdone. I can see MG readers loving the chilling descriptions of a few characters. This got really high reviews and was even on the Sequoyah Masterlist at one time. I don't think it is a life-changing novel by any means, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Explosive Eighteen

Explosive Eighteen 
   by Janet Evanovich
   305 pages
   My rating: B-
   Source: Library 

In the latest installment of the Stephanie Plum novels, we find Stephanie returning from Hawaii with a tan line on her ring finger and two very upset men in her life. On top of that, someone keeps sabotaging her cousin Vinnie and her arch rival, Joyce Barnhardt, has gone missing. She may even be dead. Stephanie has to unravel the nonsense in her love life while still trying to make a living from catching skips. How many cars will she lose in this book? 

I can't help it. I know they aren't great literary fiction, but I can't get enough Stephanie Plum. I can usually nail down the plot before I even crack the cover, but I can't seem to stay away. I liked the latest book, but I really would have loved to see some more steamy action between Stephanie and her two favorite "maybe" men in her life. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Packing for Mars

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

   by Mary Roach 
   334 pages
   My rating:  B+
   Source: Purchased

Mary Roach is a non-fiction master. She takes details that have the possibility of being quite mundane and weaves them into what almost seems like a narrative work. I believe this is Roach's 5th non-fiction book, and once again, she doesn't disappoint.

Packing for Mars is all about the trials and tribulations that the space program has encountered through the years: everything from taste-testing food in a tube to the perils of urinating in space. Who knew Nasa's dirty little secrets could be so humorous? 

If you're at all a space-junkie like me, grab this and you won't be let down. Seriously, how does one get a job like this? Sign me up!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Name of The Star

The Name of The Star
   by Maureen Johnson
   372 pages
   My rating: A
   Source: Purchased (e-book)

Rory Deveaux finds her self plucked from Louisiana and stuck right into a boarding school in London. Just as she thinks she might get used to the cute English boys and the rainy weather, her fate becomes intertwined with a mysterious happening. Someone seems to be re-creating the Jack the Ripper murders of the late 1800s, and Rory's school is right in the thick of the action.

I actually read this back in December, right after it came out. Last year when I met Maureen Johnson and she was telling about this new project of hers, I was instantly intrigued. Boarding school in London AND Jack the Ripper? I'm in. 

Again, I can't say enough how much I love Maureen Johnson's voice. Her characters are so relatable and realistic, even in this paranormal thriller. I was instantly a fan of Rory and her friends. This isn't just another boarding school novel. It was sufficiently scary enough without being grotesque or shocking. I cannot wait for #2 to come out!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Reading Challenge

You know that post where I said that I wasn't sure I would hop onto any reading challenges this year? Well, I guess I lied. I blame it on Goodreads. If they hadn't created the shiny new 2012 Reading Challenge buttons and widget, I may not have caved. 

I have no self control. At least now you can keep up with how many books I've read and yell at me if I start slacking, right?

Did you join?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reading Fiction Makes Productive Workers

I came across this article in the Huffington Post the other day and it intrigued me, so I thought I'd pass it on: 

The Business Case for Reading Novels - Anne Kreamer - Harvard Business Review

Apparently, reading fiction makes us better at doing our jobs. It helps us learn interpersonal and situational skills, which in turn make us more productive workers. So see... you shouldn't feel bad about reading on your lunch break! The next time someone asks, tell them that you're honing your interpersonal skills.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)

Spirit Bound

   by Richelle Mead 
   489 pages 
   My rating: B
   Source: Library

*May contain spoilers if you haven't read previous books in the series.*
After traveling the world to do the unthinkable, Rose is safely back at St. Vladimir's Academy with all of her friends. She may have failed at her task in Siberia, but Rose won't let that stop her. After finding out that it might actually be possible to save a strigoi rather than kill it, a tiny sliver of hope begins to form in her mind. Can she save Dimitri or is it too good to be true? 

I really love that book 5 was so action-packed. I also appreciated the fact that it wasn't just Rose who jumped in and got her hands dirty. Lissa took some initiative and actually showed that she might live up to the expectations of all of her friends after all. At parts, the story drug on a little and I was pretty much ready for this whole "searching for Dimitri" to be over. There were just enough surprises thrown in, though, to keep this interesting. Lastly, I love Rose and Dimitri together, but Adrian's hotness factor multiplied in this book for me. Let's see more of him!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Name of This Book is Secret

The Name of This Book is Secret
    by pseudonymous bosch
    364 pages
    My rating: B+
    Source: Purchased (ebook)

Cass fancies herself to be a survivalist, always prepared for what to come. Whether it's the wild imagination or the backpack filled with camping and first-aid gear, she's always ready for a new adventure. After accidentally stumbling across a box filled with colorful vials of unknown liquids and a secret message from the previous owner, Cass enlists her friend Max to help her solve the mystery. Can they solve it in time to keep themselves out of harm's way?

This was such a fun MG mystery! I loved the way pseudonymous bosch keeps the reader guessing throughout the entire story. The whole book is presented as a deadly secret to the reader, and is filled to the brim with puzzles and mysteries. If you love solving riddles, this is a quick, fun read. It's the first in the series by bosch. I'll definitely be checking out the rest!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Giveaway time!

Because it's my dad's birthday, because I love shopping online, and because I'm feeling generous (and really want to try using Rafflecopter for the first time), I'm giving you stuff!    

You can use the $20 to Amazon or B&N for whatever you want, of course, but books are my obvious choice. 

Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Entries left by just commenting on the blog are appreciated, but won't count for the contest. 

The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and you must be 13 or older to enter. The giveaway ends on Friday, January 20th. Good luck! 

Shannon Messenger's Cover Reveal

I've been reading Shannon Messenger's blog for several years now. Last April, I happened to see (via facebook) that she would be at the same book festival I was. I happened to "accidentally" run into her. (Stalker much???) She ended up being just as sweet and adorable in real life as she is online.

Not long ago, she made the announcement that she'd been given a 3-book deal and would be published this year. Just the other day she was able to reveal her cover for her book, Keeper of Lost Cities.

I'm so excited to read this, and I love the cover. Yay for Middle Grade! What do you think of it?

I stole this from Shannon's blog. Surely she won't mind. After all, I HAD to share this great cover with you!

If you've not checked out Shannon's blog before, you should head over there. She's funny, she's a Bookanista, and she loves to read Young Adult and Middle Grade novels. How could you NOT love that?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street

   by Sandra Cisneros
   128 pages
   My rating C-
   Source: Purchased

The House on Mango Street is a series of vignettes about life as a young Hispanic girl in Chicago. Esperanza tells her tale of living in the wrong house, not being quite pretty enough, and having to deal with the pressures of going to Catholic school. She struggles with her identity, while trying to grow up at the same time. 

This was one of those novels that most people were made to read in English class in Middle School or High School. Not me. I don't know why I put it off for so long, because it isn't a very long read at all. 

Cisneros has long been applauded for this novel, as well as her works of poetry. I can see that she would probably be a very interesting poet to read, but I just didn't care for this book at all. The sections were very choppy and it didn't give me enough time to really connect with the characters. Some of Cisneros' descriptions were beautifully written, but it just didn't override the fact that there was little character development and cohesiveness between the vignettes. 

Am I the only one that feels this way? I feel like this is one of those stories that so many people love, but I'm just not able to jump on that bandwagon. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it much more than I did. This will probably go in the pile to donate to the public library.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

My local library held a "Book a Month" challenge last year. Last January, I grabbed the form, threw it on the fridge and sort of forgot about it after that. Basically, you just had to read at least one book a month (easy, peasy) and record them. Since I keep track of what I read on Goodreads.com, I wasn't terribly worried about forgetting. The grand prize was an e-reader (of an undisclosed type). 

A few weeks ago, I saw the form and realized that I better get my butt in gear and fill it out. I'm so glad I did, because I got a call a few days ago saying that I won. Woohoo! Since I already have an e-reader, they said that they'd just furnish a giftcard in place of it. I got an email with this inside: 

I wish I had a picture of me to share with it, but this will just have to do for now! 

I was really excited about this (for obvious reasons), because of the "no-book buying" goal. Now I can buy a few e-books and not break my goal. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Five

It's late, but now is the first time I've had the mental fortitude today to write this post. I apologize in advance for the glum mood I may portray. 

1. I woke up this morning to find out that a girl who grew up with my husband and I died of liver failure. That sucked.

2. I had to sit in pointless meetings all day. That sucked more. 

3. I found out today that my grad class for this semester (which was supposed to start next week) was cancelled. There's absolutely nothing in my program that they are offering this semester that I haven't already taken. So, it appears that I won't be in grad school this semester after all. I'll probably have to take 4 classes this summer now. This also sucks. 

4. On top of that all I'm not feeling super fabulous. Blah. 

5. I have great friends. They called a little while ago and called to see if they could kidnap me and take me to my happy place (the bookstore) and buy me coffee. I of course said yes. The laughs and smiles don't end the pain, but they sure do help. I'm so thankful for the people I have in my life (in "real life" and my online girls, too.) Hug your people tight tonight, my friends. 

And because I don't like posts without pictures, I'll throw in a bonus. 

6. Last week, my friend Belinda and I were at the bookstore. A man walked in wearing a quite interesting outfit and she proceeded to discreetly elbow me until I noticed him. She was rather amused by it. Me? Not so much. I swear my dad totally has this same outfit. You don't get the full effect from the picture, but I assure you it was epic. I give you my dad in 10 years: 

Sorry about the star, but I have to protect his privacy. I highly doubt he reads this blog, but you just never know!

Sorry for being such a downer. Maybe next week will bring a more fruitful Friday Five (see what I did there? :wink, wink:).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, New Goals

In December, I did a lot of thinking about whether or not I wanted to have any New Year's Resolutions or not. I decided that I did need goals. I'm just not sure how many reading-related goals there will be. My husband and I are hoping for some big changes in our household this year (including getting healthy again, of course). I don't know that I want reading to be something I am having to work for. That may change as the year goes on. I did set a few small goals, though.

1) There will be no buying of books in the Madame Bookworm household for the foreseeable future. I have too many sitting unread on my shelf and frankly, books are expensive. We have some bigger things we are trying to save for. While buying books is certainly fun, it's not a necessity. (Gasp!)

2) I will try to stay caught up with reviews on the blog, but I will not let it become a burden or get in the way of my other big goals. Let's face it: blogging is WAY more fun that hitting the gym. Unfortunately, it doesn't really make for a very healthy bookworm, now does it?

3) I will try to read more Middle Grade lit. I have a deep love for YA, but I teach Middle Graders and I will likely be a librarian in an Elem/MS setting, so it's important that I read it. Plus, I'll be taking an Advanced Children's Lit class this spring, so I'm sure you'll be seeing more of it here on the blog.

Okay reader friends, that's all I have for now. What bookish goals did you set for yourself this year?

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