December 31, 2010

Advice you seek? Yoda is your man!

Are you a Star Wars fan? Have you even seen a Star Wars film?! Do you at least know who Yoda is and his role in The Force? If not (or even if so), this book is for you! Actually, this adorable book is for everyone, no matter age or interests (or disinterests with a certain franchise).

The premise of this novel revolves around a middle school boy trying to survive, well, middle school. Since he is only 11, it is important that he not make his own decisions. Enter one Origami Yoda. He is real after all. I mean, his advice always pans out, so that can be the only reason. It cannot be that a young, 11-year-old boy simply lacks the confidence of his own decision making, right?

The novel itself chronicles the proof that Origami Yoda is real and gives great advice. If you don't believe me, read the book. Origami Yoda really is real! Take my word for it...or you can read the case file in the book and decide for yourself.

At the end, the author provides a step-by-step instruction manual on how you too can own your very own Origami Yoda. How can you survive in life without one? I mean, it is Yoda after all.

This novel is perfect for anyone looking for a light read, anyone looking for a light giggle, or anyone looking for a book that appeals to boys (or Star Wars fans). Don't think I'm not going to book talk this bad boy to my high school students. Who says childrens books are just for children? We all need a little lightheartedness in our lives.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda will make believer out of you too. Read it today!

Who knew Jenny Cooper was this interesting?!

I am a Jane Austen fan, but not because of Pride and Prejudice. No, I introduced myself to Austen through the likes of one Gwyneth Paltrow. She was so charming in Emma, and who can resist the coupling of Emma and Mr. Knightly? So, I read the book. And to this day, it is my favorite Austen novel. I find myself attracted to Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy as well...but not like my love for Mr. Knightly. And yet, I am always looking for books about Jane, not just by her. I do not like reading those who try to imitate her style; it just does not work. But I do love when authors are able to take this remarkable woman and create story-telling about her through her surroundings.

This leads me to this wonderful shelf find. Yes, I found this simply by browsing the shelf at B&N and knew instantly I must read it. I had high hopes for this novel, after all, can you imagine Jane Austen at 15?! After all, she is Jane Austen.

The premise of this YA novel is simple: Jenny Cooper and Jane Austen are cousins. Ages are changed to accommodate the plot (the author divulges this at the end), and the two are at boarding school together. Jane falls ill and it is not the Head Mistress that is her savior but Jenny! Jenny risks everything, but more importantly her reputation, to send a letter to Jane's mother at the fear that Jane will not survive this illness.

And thus we are thrown into the world of Jane Austen, but through the eyes (and diary entries) of Jenny Cooper, cousin-extraordinaire. The two are rescued by Mama and Papa Austen and taken back to Jane's home; they spend a splendid year together - balls, walks, talks, and of course men. But there is one man who has caught Jenny's eye, and she has caught his. BUT, he is the keeper of a very important secret...will he "spill the beans" and reveal all, completely ruining Jenny's reputation and any prospects of marriage? Or, will he take her in his arms and promise to devote himself to her as his husband? After all, even though the story is from Jenny's point of view, this is an Austen novel.

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend will not disappoint, whether you are a fan of Austen's or not. If you've never read an Austen novel, well, what are you waiting for?! No, this novel is a nice introduction into the fifteen-year-old destined to be immortalized through the guise of books forever.  It is well-researched and presents the Austen family in a realistic light. They are a struggling family who love one another deeply, but ultimately they must all marry money...just like Miss Jenny Cooper.

I give this novel an enthusiastic two thumbs up!!!

December 27, 2010

A Yummy Read!

I am a browsing shopper. While I appreciate suggestions from others, ultimately I enjoy visiting the book store/library and browsing for myself. The covers attract me as do the titles. And sometimes I pick up a book and it just feels right. (After all, sometimes covers are deceiving.) It is as if the book whispers to me, "Buy me Crys. You will enjoy me!" Eggs over Evie is one of my "whisper" finds.

This book has it all: a thirteen-year-old heroine, divorced parents, a cat, a dog, and a cooking class. I was unsure how the author would intertwine to make these work, but she does.

The characters are fun, dealing with everyday struggles in a lighthearted way. Evie in particular is struggling with the fact that her dad will now be dad to twins, twins that will be born to another woman (AKA stepmother; it does have to be G-rated here). While in many novels this type of plot consumes the life of the character and eats at him/her, Evie keeps the part of her dad she loves the most, cooking. Her dad is a famous television chef, and she has a knack for it as well. So much so, she decides to take a cooking class one evening a week during her summer break so she can learn the ropes of it all. 

Evie is able to keep that part of herself and of her dad and make it into a positive. Many of us could take a page from Evie's book - she is a delightful, vulnerable character who really just wants her family back, but she accepts that life is continually changing, and she moves forward. This is refreshing to read...and it makes the book one I would recommend to anyone ages 10-13 who is dealing with divorce.

Another clever element to the book: Evie leaves you the recipe of what she is cooking within that chapter at its end, offering a nice cooking tip as well. 

If you love childrens literature, if you love food, and if you love a happy ending, Eggs over Evie is a definite read for you!

December 25, 2010

The Books of Elsewhere...a mysterious beginning

The purchase of this book was sealed with the promise of the dusk jacket: "For fans of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman comes a tale at turns haunting, moving, and darkly funny (and best if read with a flashlight  under the bed sheets--shhh!)." And the dust jacket did not disappoint. This was a lucky, browsing find.

And thus began my journey with Olive, an eleven-year-old who moves into a spooky old mansion on Linden Street. Olive feels as if she doesn't belong, as if she's ignored, as if she doesn't matter. Until a mysterious pair of old-fashioned spectacles changes her perception of all things Olive. These spectacles allow her to step into another world, Elsewhere, a world that is being preserved until...

Elsewhere is the creation of one man - the mean man, the dark man, the scary man - through paintings. Yes, that is correct. He has created an alternate world with his paint brush, a world he controls and a world he hopes to return to one day. At every turn Olive is being "tricked," a master plan to bring back an old master and a claim to what he believes his rightfully his, the mansion (who cares that he's been dead for a while). Can Olive learn to trust in herself in order to save the world? Okay, not literally the world, but at least the spooky old mansion she and her parents call home. 

Jacqueline West's book one, The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows, will leave readers hungry for more Olive, more Morton, and more reading "with a flashlight under the bed sheets." But be very quiet, HE is waiting, HE is watching, HE is listening - for you.

December 19, 2010

A Reading Festival (AKA avoiding grading papers)

Okay, it's not really a ready festival, but I have read three books this weekend. Okay, that's not really true either. I've read two books and finished a third...but still. It all counts in the greater world of reading, right?

My first finish is Linger, the sequel to Shiver. I read Shiver a few weeks ago, but I have not had time to do a review; therefore, I will do both in one.

Stiefvater brings to YA the Wolves of Mercy Falls series with a tale of forbidden love, because in the world of teens, all love is forbidden. But, in this series you have love between two souls, one human and one wolf. That, of course, is metaphorical because Grace and Sam are both human and wolf.

The author presents readers the story of Shiver through the alternating viewpoints of Grace and Sam. We learn the truth of their love and devotion to one another both in the human world and in the wolf world. In this case, Grace is fighting and searching for a way to keep Sam from the woods and in human forever. Stiefvater leaves of with just the right ending, leaving the reader craving more.

Linger introduces us to a new character, Cole. And through the points of view of Grace, Sam, Isabelle, and Cole, the reader is thrown into another dimension of  the Wolves of Mercy Falls. We learn that things are not always as they appear, and sometimes they are. Steifvater takes a different approach and leaves Sam fighting and searching for a way to keep Grace with him, presenting a cliffhanger that fits smoothly into the world of waiting for Forever. What will be the fate of Grace and Sam? Can one live while the other survives?

This series will appeal to all kinds of readers, but especially to those who have grown tired of supernatural novels. The author offers a fresh new idea in the world of the supernatural, an idea that has long been needed.

My second devoured novel is one that is true to its writer, Clements' The Last Holiday Concert. In this "school situation" novel, Clements introduces readers to Hart Evans, the most popular boy in sixth grade.

Hart's popularity lands him as the director of the Christmas concert, the last for his school due to budget cuts. But soon Hart learns that popularity does not mean organization and comradeship. It means headaches and enemies, but only when others do not get their way. Hart is an adorable character who just wants to please everyone, and who really does NOT want to be in charge of this concert. But democracy rules, and he must move forward and find solutions to the many problems his classmates keep presenting. Can Hart balance his life, his school work, and the choral Christmas concert?

Clements presents readers with a tight plot, rife with just enough drama to keep the reader turning the page and ending with the same sweet note to which Clements readers are accustomed. This is a must read for the holidays.

And my final read of the weekend, Word after Word after Word, is a fast, inspirational read. Anyone who loves to write, anyone who teaches writing, or anyone who loves words will devour this book. It is meant for readers 8-12, but we all can learn a lesson with it. After all, words are the most powerful when on paper.

The fourth graders get a life-lesson in this novel, "What is the writer's tool in all of this? Making people laugh, or cry, or be angry, or think? Words, yes, magical words." This novel is a reminder that we all have a story to tell, and that those stories are worth more than we could know. We own the power of words, own them because they are ours. We own them because we are "we" together.

An absolute must read for English teachers, writers, lovers of words - Word after Word after Word is worth the hour and a half it will take for you to devour, to appreciate, to love.