Book Review: The Owl Keeper

For today's Tween Tuesday hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen I am reviewing The Owl Keeper by Christine Brodien-Jones.

Summary
Maxwell Unger is a sweet boy who loves and the night and lives within it.  He has a condition that makes sunlight deadly for him.  He doesn't leave home except to sneak out in the middle of the night and go to what he calls his "owl tree", a tree that holds a rare silver owl that has been injured and cannot fly.  You see, more than anything in the world, Max loves the silver owl - an owl that the government has deemed bad and to be destroyed.  The silver owl has been blamed in large part for the current state of the world - a world falling into despair and ruin controlled by a government that doesn't want its people to think for themselves.  Taking care of the owl puts Max in great risk, but he takes even greater risks after meeting a mysterious girl named Rose who also finds the owl tree.

My thoughts
This story is a blend of sweetness and adventure.  Max is such a sweet boy that seems to have been dealt a bad hand in life.  Even though his life isn't lived like all other children his age, he isn't overly bitter or angry - something that changes as his story progresses.  I think this sweetness in him really helps you see how much he changes as the story goes along - and how much he grows and strengthens.  It also creates a soft spot in your heart for him, so you feel a sense of pride in who he becomes. 

It is the introduction of Rose into his life one night at the owl tree that pushes Max away from everything he has ever known and believed.  To be honest, I didn't really like Rose at the start.  I didn't trust her, and I felt like she was harsh and pushy! Of course this was what Max needed.  He wouldn't have taken the steps that he did if Rose had been just like him.  There would've been no tension within the story and within Max without Rose.  She did grow on me throughout the story, and by the end I did appreciate her and her strength. 

Now I said at the start of this review it was a blend of sweetness and ADVENTURE! That's what's cool about this book, it has a ton of action. Rose and Max need to find The Owl Keeper in hopes of helping their families and the world. During this search the story is full of events that really got my heart beating  From dangerous creatures that roam the forest to dark forbidden cities, many times I wondered how Rose and Max were going to get out of the situation they were in.  There was this one scene in a supposedly empty building that just about had me yelling at them to get out! Silly I know.  I think kids reading the book will really be hooked and pulled along by this part of the story as well as the mystery of who the Owl Keeper is. 

There were a few parts that confused me a bit (not overly so but a bit) including what happened to the world an what the government was doing now.  I had to make sure I read carefully when these things were being explained.  I also had a few things figured out before they happened, so something weren't a surprise for me. I don't think kids would figure them out as easily though, so I'm not worried about it affecting them.

Final thoughts: A great balance that fantasy lovers will love.
Best stick-with-you image: The owls holding them.
Best for readers who: love fantasy
Best for ages: 10-13
6

An Awesome Giveaway for Spaceheadz and Other Great MG Books!

I have a great opportunity for my readers!  This is your chance to learn about a fun new middle grade book, Spaceheadz, by Jon Scieszka.

Before I tell you what else you can win, let me share with you some things about this book.

First here's a bit about the book:

Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn't hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren't kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But with a hamster as their leader, "kids" who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?

The perfect combination of the age old experience of holding and pouring over a physical book with newest media technology that kids love!

How you see this connection between the physical book and techonology is through some really fun websites.  You HAVE to check them out!  I think kids will really love going to them while reading the book.

At sphdz.com, you can sign up to be a SPHDZ and help stop the Earth from being turned off.
At antialienagency.com, you can see what the government is doing to protect the Earth from the alien menace. (This is my favorite website for the book.  Very realistic!!!)
At mrshalleyscomets.com, you can see Michael K.'s fifth-grade class website. (As a teacher I found this one really fun)

You should also check out the review I wrote for the book back in March.  You can FIND IT HERE.


And of course some about the great author Jon Scieszka

He is the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, named by the Library of Congress. He is the author of some of the best known and funniest books written for children including The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Time Warp Trio series and the Caldecott Honor Book The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales. He is the creator of the Trucktown series, of which Smash!Crash! was an NY Times bestseller for many weeks. Jon is a former elementary school teacher, and a avid promoter of literacy—particularly for boys. His website http://www.guyssread.com/ focuses on his national campaign. Jon lives with his family in Brooklyn, NY.



If that isn't enough to grab you check out the book trailer :)


OK OK NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

One winner receives a Simon & Schuster MG book pack, including:
Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka
Brixton Bros: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett
Amelia Rules! The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular by Jimmy Gownley
Nightmare at the Book Fair by Dan Gutman
Keepers of the School: We The Children by Andrew Clements
 
To Enter:
Leave a comment with your email address
 AND
Since Spaceheadz has to do with aliens and advertising tell your favorite commercial OR favorite alien
 
+1 either tweet or sidebar.  MUST LEAVE LINK!
 
Be sure to also leave a way to notify you.
You don't need to be a follower but it would be nice if you did :)
Closes in two weeks - Sept 13
US Residents Only
8

Survey on Reviews

Hey all I've got 10 reviews to write (YIKES!), and I'd like a little feedback before I get the bulk of them done.  If you could help out and fill out this suvey I'd love it.  I'm not looking for feedback on MY reviews.  I'm looking for feedback on REVIEWS IN GENERAL.

Thanks!!!

1

Lots of Winners to Announce!


Ok so I've got a bunch to announce.  I've been slow about this sorry!  If you are a winner I will try to get you emailed by the end of the day, but feel free to email your info if you see this first.  My email is foltzsfantasticbooks at gmail.com

Winner of The Pack by LM Preston

Natalie A.

Winner of Dork Diaries and DIY Lip Balm Set

Meredith M.

Winner of In the Middle Reading Challenge Update

Kathy from Ms. Martin Teaches Media.  You can pick from the following books:

Mamba Point
Mackenzie Blue
SIGNED COPY OF Karma Bites plus some fun swag!
Bran Hambric
A Place for Delta
Countdown
Middleworld: The Jaguar Stones


STAYED TUNED FOR ANOTHER GIVEAWAY WHERE I CLEAR MY SHELVES
and
ONE FOR A GREAT, FUN MG BOOK!
2

Indie Bookstores Vs. Big Name Bookstores

When I first started blogging I saw a lot of references to Indie Bound and indie book sellers.  I had no clue what people were talking about! I had an idea, but I wasn't sure I was right.  I decided it was time I learned.

I went to Indie Bound and learned. For those of you that don't know what Indie Bound is, here is the description from their website:

What is IndieBound?



IndieBound is a community-oriented movement begun by the independent bookseller members of the American Booksellers Association. It brings together booksellers, readers, indie retailers, local business alliances, and anyone else with a passionate belief that healthy local economies help communities thrive. Supporting local, indie businesses means that dollars, jobs, diversity, choice, and taxes stay local, creating strong, unique communities and happy citizens.
 
Ok so maybe I'm lame, but it took me really looking at Indie Bound to really get what "indie" was.  It's those fantastic bookstores that aren't the size of a warehouse.  The ones that are owned by individual people not just a corperation.  The ones that struggle when a Barnes and Noble comes in.  The ones that can be hard to find. How could have I not gotten that right away?
 
Now I wanted to visit my local indie bookstore. On Indie Bound you can search for the nearest Indie bookstore near you.  Want to know how many I have close by?  One.  That's it. And that one is over 20 minutes away.   There are others, but they would be a drive.  Now you need to know I live in a suburb of a large(er) city.  When I really thought about it, I couldn't think of one bookstore near me that wasn't a Borders or Barnes and Noble.  Not one! Isn't that kinda sad? Are we losing these small bookstores?

Beyond just learning about indie bookstores, I also learned how shopping at local indie bookstores is a more green way to shop, and it helps my local economy.  Indie Bound has a great explanation of how shopping indie does this.  Go here to read it. 
 
Now don't get me wrong, this post isn't about the evils of big box bookstores.  I love my BN and Borders!  I'm there a lot. This post is more about my new awareness of the benifits of shopping indie and the lack of independent bookstores near me. I'd love to have a small bookstore nearby that might remember me when I come in.  One that, when I shopped at it, I would be helping my community grow. It makes me pretty sad that I don't have that chance near me. If there is one near you, I encourage you to visit it.  I doubt you'll regret it.
 
If you want to know more about Indie Bound and how indie bookstores help the community check out Indie Bound FAQ.  Then make sure to check out the rest of the site. They have a really cool Indie Next List that gives you some great books to look at.
1

Ok Fine I'll Join the Read-a-Thon


After reading everyone else's posts about the Dusk til Dawn Read-a-Thon and wanting to get up to 25 books read this summer I've decided to join! This is a read-a-thon being hosted by Book Crazy.   I'm a bit nervous because the last two times I joined one I first got a migraine and then I got sick! Hoping 3rd times a charm :)

Setting my bar a lot lower this time.  Looking at reading 18 hours from today (yes it starts today!) through 8 a.m. on the 29th.  And actually the number of books read is more important to me than hours. 

I want to read 4 books. 

They are:

Hex Hall
Mockingjay
Guardians of Ga'Hoole #1
Incarceron

I won't be able to officially dive in until tomorrow night, because I need sleep tonight! But I'll kick it into gear then :) Wish me luck.
3

Waiting on Wed: The Hole in the Wall

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared.
This week I'm waiting on:
 
The Hole in the Wall
by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Released: Nov 1, 2010
 
After reading the summary for it I'm super curious! It sounds fun but yet mysteries.  Like it has some humor but yet action.  I can't quite figure out where it would be placed.  But I do know that I'm interested in it!!!

From Goodreads
Eleven-year-old Sebby has found the perfect escape from his crummy house and bickering family: The Hole in the Wall. It’s a pristine, beautiful glen in the midst of a devastated mining area behind Sebby’s home. But not long after he finds it his world starts falling apart: his family’s chickens disappear, colors start jumping off the wall and coming to life, and after sneaking a taste of raw cookie dough he finds himself with the mother of all stomachaches. When Sebby sets out to solve these mysteries, he and his twin sister, Barbie, get caught in a wild chase through the tunnels and caverns around The Hole in the Wall — all leading them to the mining activities of one Stanley Odum, the hometown astrophysicist who’s buying up all the land behind Sebby’s home. Exactly what is Mr. Odum mining in his secret facility, and does it have anything to do with the mystery of the lost chickens and Sebby’s stomachache? The answers to these questions go much further than the twins expect.
2

Two for Tween Tuesday

Yesterday I got a huge box of books I ordered from Book Closeout (check out that place if you haven't http://www.bookcloseouts.com/).  In the box were two books I'm very excited for.  One, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, I've highlighted on Tween Tuesday, but I though it deserved to be highlighted again.  The other, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate won the Newberry Honor this year.  I think it sounds really good.  Check out the summaries below.


The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner
Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project—or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Bianca Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy, as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important.
The Evolution Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
The summer of 1899 is HOT in Calpurnia Virginia Tate's sleepy Texas town, and there aren't a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spends a lot time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life - all you have to do is look through a microscope!
As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
Tween Tuesday is hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
3

Back to School

So in two days I head back to school - well teacher workhops.  I thought you all might like to see the number of bags I have to take back to school.  Most of the bags are, yes, books for my classroom library.  Now I didn't buy ALL those books.  I came about them in several ways.  Some I brought home from my classroom library to read, some are ones from my daughters bedroom library that she didn't want, some people gave to me, some I won and of course some I bought. 

Here's all the bags!



Here's all the NEW books I'll be adding to my library.


And I wasn't just getting books this summer, I was getting owls too.  Here is all the new owl stuff I'll be adding to my room! My family just shakes their head!



6

Sunday Shelves: Book Coffee Mug


Sunday Shelves is now a multitude of things about books. It might be cool bookshelves I've seen or shelves of other bloggers. It might be cool books I've found that you should add to your bookshelf. It might me items related to reading like bookmarks, artwork. Or it might be a shoutout to fellow bloggers highlighting things they are doing. Sunday Shelves will be anything related to reading and books. Things your bookshelves might want added to them :)


Today:

A fun book related coffee mug
While buying a cookie at Barnes and Noble for my son (yes for my son not me!) I was looking at the coffee mug display. I'm always looking for a cute new mug. Well I found a super fun one! It says "Books to Read" with lines and you can write you TBR list on it using a white board pen. Then it wipes off when it's time to change! I knew I had to have it for school, so my students would get even more book titles shown to them.

Check out the pics.


The back


My only concern is how easily the writing will rub off when I hold the mug.  I'll deal with it if it does just because I had to have it :)
12

Meme of Reading Questions

I thought I'd do something a little different this Friday and let you all learn a bit more about it.  I found this fun meme on reading questions over at Book Through Thursday. 

Here we go!
1. Favorite childhood book?
    Little House on the Prairie

2. What are you reading right now?
     Soulstice (The Devouring #2)

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
     None.  I don't use the library :(

4. Bad book habit?
    Judging a book by its cover

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
     None

6. Do you have an e-reader?
    A Nook

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
    One or I get confused

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
    Yes - I don't base my next pick on what really interests me as much but I am trying to change that back!

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
    I really don't know! None are jumping out at me!  Maybe This World We Live In. I was disappointed by it.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
       Before I Fall - LOVED IT!

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
      Hardly ever.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
       YA urban fantasy.  MG realistic fiction

13. Can you read on the bus?
      Yes.  I use to read on the subway all the time when I lived in Boston.

14. Favorite place to read?
      My couch :)

15. What is your policy on book lending?
      I have a huge classroom library, so I've really had to let go of worry about books I lend.  If they are very special to me tho - I won't lend them. 

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
      NEVER!

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
      Only if it's a book I'm teaching.

18. Not even with text books?
      Of course then.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
       Since I only know English it would have to be that one.

20. What makes you love a book?
      When it makes me think and when it moves me emotionally some way - even if that through laughter

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
       Just the simple fact of getting someone reading! I got my sister, the nonreader, to read by talking about books to her a lot.  Finally she took my recommendations and read :)  This is why I recommend books - as a 7th grade English teacher I really feel I need to keep these kids reading.  If they stop now I've probably lost them.  If I've lost them as readers they've put themselves a step behind.  I can't let that happen!

22. Favorite genre?
      Urban fantasy mostly.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
      Historical fiction.

24. Favorite biography?
      I honestly don't read them.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
      Yes I've read several.  They all helped to some degree.

26. Favorite cookbook?
      I like cookbooks that churches put out because you know they are recipes REAL people use!

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
      Before I Fall

28. Favorite reading snack?
      I eat a lot of saltines.  I always have even as a kid.  But I also like to have coffee.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
      Twilight.  I loved loved loved the book when I first read it.  Now I can't even stand to see the movies.  It's sad because I did so love it and then all the hype took it away.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
      Really about 50/50.  But in a weird way.  Negative reviews don't affect me that much, but when a book gets tons of great reviews I'm usually let thrilled with them.  I think this is because I've set the bar so high for the book that anything would be a let down.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
      I may say what I didn't really like, but I won't give out and out bad reviews.  Mainly because I share my reviews with my students.  I know that if I don't like a book it will turn a lot of kids off.  Now I won't lie and say it's fantastic if it's not! But I always try to focus on what type of reader may like the book. 

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
      French.  I just love the sound of it.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
      Canterbury Tales.  I had to read it in college.  The professor was really tough and it scared me!!!!

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
      The Bible.  I don't think I could read it cover to cover

35. Favorite Poet?
       Walt Whitman and Robert Frost.  I named my old dog after Walt Whitman.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
      zero

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
      none since I don't check them out

38. Favorite fictional character?
      Ponyboy from The Outsiders - Johnny too

39. Favorite fictional villain?
      I'm like Quiten in Soulstice

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
      Quick simple "nonthinking" books.  I read Once Dead Twice Shy on my last vacation and that was perfect for vacation.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
       After my daughter (now 11) was born then my son I stopped reading for a while.  I didn't have time or energy.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
      Artemis Fowl  I've tried it three times!

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
      My 3 year old :)

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
      Because of Winn Dixie.  Loved the book.  Loved the movie.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
     City of Ember! Yuck yuck yuck

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
      $100

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
     A lot.  I'll start reading a book and then skim it, reading the last page (ok that should be my bad book habit!).  Then I read.  It keeps me reading.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
      It goes nowhere.  The action stops.  The characters don't change.  It just stops.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
      In my classroom they are alphabetically by title.  At home the only arrangement is that all my signed copies are together.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
      Most of the books I read go on my classroom library.  If I can't put them there, then I Bookmooch them or give them away.  A few I will keep.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
      I had been avoiding Catching Fire just because I knew it would be quite a ride, but I finally read and loved it.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
      A Child Called It.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
      I didn't think I'd hate it by any means, but I liked it way more than I thought I would - The Pack by L.M. Preston.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
      This World We Live In.  I was so disappointed in it.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
      The House of the Night Series.  My very guilty pleasure :)
1

Review: Catching Fire

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic

From Goodreads
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
My Review
Ok, ok so yes I'm probably the last person to read this one (I was the last one to read The Hunger Games too!), but I kept putting it off.  I knew it was going to drag me back into Katniss's world and part of me wasn't ready for it because I knew it would be a force of action, sadness, suspense, terror and so on.  And yes it was.  I loved The Hunger Games and I loved this one too.  What I really loved about it is I felt like I got to know the world they lived in better - I felt like I got to understand it better.  This book takes you into more of the districts, so you really see what life beyond the Area, Capital and District 12 is like.  That was good - it helped me develop a sense of what was really happening.  You also got to know some of the people from the district better - they weren't just enemies to fight in the arena - they became real people that lived under the control of the government as well.  Speaking of that control - WOW could you see it even more throughout the whole story.  It became even clearer how powerful the government is and how far they'll go to keep that power.  A few times I gasped when I read what they did!  In all the story not only made me love Peeta, Gale and of course Katniss more, but it made me know their world more - it rounded out their whole story. 

My one teeny tiny complaint- it did drag a bit in the middle.  That may have been just because I knew what was coming and wanted to get to it!  It wasn't horrible by any means, just a little bit so.

Final thought: Um, don't be like me and wait forever to read it - just READ IT!
Best stick-with-you image: Katniss's wedding gown during the interview
Best for readers who: like action, suspense and strong characters
Best for ages: 12+ (well into adulthood) although my 11 year old read it and loved it.

Parent note:  There is definitely some graphic scenes that might bother some younger readers.  I will say it could have been way more graphic, so it's not as bad as it could be.

Now bring on Mockingjay!!!!!!!
2

Waiting on Wednesday: The Limit

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared.

This week I'm waiting on:

The Limit
by Kristen Landon
Release Date: September 7

Wow this one sounds good.  It's dystopic for the middle grade reader! So much dystopia is for older readers, so it's great to see something a bit more appropriate for a younger reader.  I'll be getting this one right away I think!

From Barnes and Noble
An eighth grade girl was taken today . . .



With this first sentence, readers are immediately thrust into a fast-paced thriller that doesn't let up for a moment. In a world not too far removed from our own, kids are being taken away to special workhouses if their families exceed the monthly debt limit imposed by the government. Thirteen-year-old Matt briefly wonders if he might be next, but quickly dismisses the thought. After all, his parents are financially responsible, unlike the parents of those other kids. As long as his parents remain within their limit, the government will be satisfied and leave them alone. But all it takes is one fatal visit to the store to push Matt’s family over their limit—and to change his reality forever.
9

Review: One False Note - 39 Clues #2

Title: One False Note
Author: Gordon Korman
Publisher: Scholastic

From Goodreads
THIS JUST IN! Amy and Dan Cahill were spotted on a train, hot on the trail of one of 39 Clues hidden around the world. BUT WAIT! Police report a break-in at an elite hotel, and the suspects ALSO sound suspiciously like Amy and Dan. UPDATE! Amy and Dan have been seen in a car . . . no, in a speedboat chase . . . and HOLD EVERYTHING! They're being chased by an angry mob?!?
When there's a Clue on the line, anything can happen.

My Review
Definitely a fast paced book! I couldn't believe how fast I read through this second installment of the 39 Clues!  I see now why my daughter reads through them so quick.  Now what did I think of it?  It was good.  I wasn't as excited about this one as I was the first one.  Now I expected that all the books couldn't stay at the level of the first one, so I'm ok with it.  I won't go into much details, because I don't want to give much away.  What I did like was that it didn't rehash the entire first book.  So many times I read a second book and it feels like a ton of it is just reviewing the previous story.  This had some of that of course, but not so much that it got in the way of the current story.  I also loved the pace - with 10 of these to read they CANNOT drag!  They need to keep pulling the reader right along.  What I didn't really like - the clues seemed a bit more convoluted and muddy.  Even when they were all explained I still felt a little like I needed to say "uh?".  The clues in the first book really fell together.  These seemed like the pieces fit but someone didn't sand off the edges so they fit well.  At the end I had to flip back and remind myself what was found.

What I am liking about the series as a whole is that not only are they fun and work your brain some - they teach you a bit.  This one taught me some facts about Mozart I didn't know and I took piano lessons for 11 years! As a reader that is fun but as a teacher that is fantastic!

Final thought: Keeps the ball rolling and the clues coming
Best stick-with-you image: The Janus Head Quarters - cool!
Best for a reader who: liked the first book and likes mysteries
Best for ages: 8-12

Parent Note: Nothing here to worry about :)

CymLowell
3

Up Coming CSN Review

A while back I was asked to review a product from CSN, so I was super excited when I received and email offering me another chance to review one of their great products! 

 I sat down and looked around my house wondering what, of their many items, I should review.  I could use some dining room furniture.  My dining room chairs have gone through 3 kids and have a layer of grime! Trust me - they are yucky! We are redoing our den, so a great new filing cabinet like this one would also be nice. 

 But in the end it was the bedroom of my two sons that needed the most TLC.  What did I decide?  Come back in a few weeks to see. 

 In the meantime, go to CSN.com and check out all their great products!
1

Read-a-Thon Finish Line


Well I'm a bit disappointed.  I ended up waking up sick Sunday morning, so didn't get to read at all on Sunday :( 

 Here are my final numbers:

Books read:  5
Hours read: 15

Books:

Shade
One False Note
Mister Monday
Heist Society
Thirteen Days to Midnight
STARTED Soulstice but was up late alone and had to stop when I felt myself getting a bit freaked out!

Hey 5 books in about 2 days isn't bad I guess - I had must hoped for more.  Hope you all did great! And thanks to Monica at The Bibliophilic Book Blog for hosting!

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Read-a-Thon Update #1

Well I just finished my third book.  So far I have read:

Shade (loved it!)
One False Note (39 Clues Book #2)
Mister Monday (Keys of the Kingdom #1)

Up next - I need something different.  Soustice or Heist Society (not in my original pile)

I have read 9 hours.  I wanted to read more, but sleep totally took over last night!! Today is gonna be hit and miss since I'm home with all three kids.  I'll be sneaking in reading time whenever I can :)
Good luck to all the other readers!

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Read Your Own Books Read-a-Thon Start Line


Ok peeps here is my starting line for the Read-A-Thon hosted by Monica at The Bibliophilic Book Blog.  This is my stack of books to start with but I reserve the right to change my mind :) 
They are:

Shade
Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday
Only the Good Spy Young
Guardians of Ga'Hoole Book #1
Hunted: House of the Night
39 Clues Book #2
Soulstice
Catching Fire (yes I haven't read it yet!!)

I'm starting with Shade and remember my goal is a lofty one - 45 hours. Yikes!!!!!

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Friday's for the Guys: The Enemy

Every Friday I highlight books and authors that are ones boys might really enjoy. I'm not saying girls wouldn't read these books, but they are clearly "guy" books.

 
This week I'm highlighting:
 
The Enemy
 
by Charlie Higson
 
 
From Goodread
In the wake of a devastating disease, everyone older than sixteen is either dead or a decomposing, brainless creature with a ravenous appetite for flesh. Teens have barricaded themselves in buildings throughout London and venture outside only when they need to scavenge for food. The group of kids living at Waitrose supermarket is beginning to run out of options. When a mysterious traveler arrives and offers them safe haven at Buckingham Palace, they begin a harrowing journey across London. But their fight is far from over— the threat from within the palace is as real as the one outside it. Full of unexpected twists and quick-thinking heroes, The Enemy is a fast-paced, whiteknuckle tale of survival in the face of unimaginable horror.
Why I like it
There are a lot of zombie books out right now, but many of them seem girl centered.  This is a great sounding one that seems to have more boy appeal.  Besides, have you seen the book trailer??? See below if not!


I also found two other covers.  I like the one at the top of the post best, but what do you think?


Wait there's another trailer too!!!


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Review: This World We Live In

Title: This World We Live In
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

From Goodreads
It's been over a month since Miranda Evans has written in her diary, a month of relative calm for her and her family. It's springtime, and with warmer weather comes rain, and the melting of the winter's snow. The shad are running in a nearby river, and Miranda's brothers Matt and Jon leave home for a few days to see if they can catch some to supplement their food supply.



When they return, Matt brings with him a girl named Syl, who he introduces as his bride. But that's not the only shock Miranda and her family have to deal with. A few weeks later, Miranda's father, stepmother, and baby brother show up at her door. Accompanying them are three strangers, a man named Charlie Rutherford, and two teenagers, Alex and Julie Morales. These five people have crossed America together, becoming, in their own way, a family.


Miranda's complicated feelings about Alex, curiosity, resentment, longing, and passion turn into love. Alex's feelings are equally complex. His plans to escort Julie to a convent where she can be taken care of, so that he will be free to enter a monastery, are destined for failure. He wants desperately to live up to his moral code, but his desire for Miranda is too strong. He proposes to Miranda that they take Julie and go to a safe town.
But before Miranda and Alex can go off together, a devastating tornado hits the town of Howell, and in its aftermath, Miranda makes a decision that will change forever her life and Alex's, and the world that they live in will never be the same.
My Review

WARNING - IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!

I was so very excited when I saw this book was coming out.  I loved This World We Live In and The Dead and the Gone was great.  The idea of knowing more about what happened to these people - to see them live on, was awesome.  Maybe I could see Miranda grow even stronger.  Maybe I could see Alex find someone to help him so he doesn't have to go alone so much of the time.  Maybe I'll see how the world moves forward in hope and promise.  Ok, so maybe I was naive.  I won't say I hated it because I didn't, but when I finished this book I felt disappointed.  I felt sad.  I didn't hate it.  I liked seeing Miranda more.  I liked learning more about her family.  The author pulled me right back into that world of desolation, hunger and uncertainty.  But, for me, the problem was it didn't end any of that.  You see I had went into the book needing an ending that promised hope for the characters involved.  I didn't feel that in the end.  If anything I felt even sadder because these people seemed to be hiding more secrets, refusing help more, trudging on without a light at the end of the tunnel.  None of that was there.  Again, FOR ME, it ended as sad as it began.  Maybe that was more realistic in terms of the world they lived in, but I wanted more.

I also have to comment on Alex.  If I had never read The Dead and the Gone, I would've hated him.  In TDATG he very much hated to ask for help and didn't want pity or to be a burden, but I understood where it came from.  He was the only person left to take care of his sisters - he was the responsible one. In this book, if I hadn't known his history, I would not have had patience for him.  He was unbending, almost rude and kind of arrogant.  I let a lot of it go because I knew what he had gone through, but at times it was hard.  I knew he was trying to take care of Julie the best he could by taking her to the convent, but I didn't like how unwilling he was to change his plans, and it was never, in my opinion, explained clear enough why he felt the needed to take her there. 

Lastly - the relationship between Alex and Miranda.  I had hoped it would soften each of them some.  In a way it almost made them have a hard edge because of Alex's refusal to change his plans even though he had feelings for Miranda.  I also had a bit of a hard time buying into how fast things happened with them.  It seemed quick.  Now I understand that in that world, there was no time to waste, but it still seemed too fast.  Actually a lot of the relationships in the story seemed fast - like the one between Miranda's brother and Syl.  I never fully understand that relationship.

Ok enough.  Like I said - I didn't hate it. It just seemed under done, like a few more chapters could've been added. Over-all I was just disappointed that it wasn't what I had hoped for.  That it lacked the HOPE I had hoped for.

Final thought: If you've read the other two - read it so you have the complete story.
Best stick-with-you image:  What Miranda find in a pile in the snow. (I'll leave it at that!)
Best for reader who: are ok with reading emotionally sad stories and can handle some graphic description of a world in distress
Best for ages: 12+

Parents need to know: there are some more graphic descriptions of death.
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Waiting on Wednesday: The Candymakers

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared.

This week I'm waiting on:

The Candymakers
by Wenday Mass
Release Date: October 5

Wahooooooo! another book by Wendy Mass.  I love her books, and so do most the students that read them.  This one looks different from some of her other ones, but it still good. It seems to cover some of the same themes as her other books like friendship and overcoming obstacles. I cannot wait for this book!

From Goodreads
Four children have been chosen to compete in a national competition to find the tastiest confection in the country. Who will invent a candy more delicious than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Lightning Chew?



Logan, the Candymaker's son, who can detect the color of chocolate by touch alone?
Miles, the boy who is allergic to merry-go-rounds and the color pink?
Daisy, the cheerful girl who can lift a fifty-pound lump of taffy like it's a feather?
Or Philip, the suit-and-tie wearing boy who's always scribbling in a secret notebook?


This sweet, charming, and cleverly crafted story, told from each contestant's perspective, is filled with mystery, friendship, and juicy revelations.
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Tween Tuesday: The Zombie Chasers

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to hightlight awesome books for the 9-12 year old set. AKA Tweens. Any book highlighted on Tween Tuesday does count for the In the Middle Reading Challenge.

This week's book is:
 
The Zombie Chasers
by John Kloepfer
 
With all the zombie books out there (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Generation Dead, You're So Undead to Me and on and on) it was excited to see a fun looking one for the tween set.  I think this just looks like a fun book. 
 
From Goodreads
When brain-gobbling zombies invade, a sleep­over at Zack Clarke's house quickly turns into a Level-3 creep-over. The undead have infested the streets, filling the air with deathly moans and the stench of rotting flesh.
Meet the Zombie Chasers:

Zack: His house is a wreck, his sister's a zombie, and he's stolen his mom's Volvo. He's totally going to be grounded if he survives the night. . . .


Rice: He's studied The Zombie Survival Guide, but is he prepared to fight the living dead?

Madison: She seriously cannot believe her best friend has become a zombie and left her alone with these dweebs!


They're on a mission to save the world, but first they have to survive their flesh-eating, half-dead neighbors—and one another. Can the Zombie Chasers make it out alive?

A picture of it in the wild!


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Monday Reading Madness

Hey everyone just a quick Monday update, reminder and sharing.

Update:  I'm almost finished with The Owl Keeper (really liking it!), and I just recently finished The Replacement (liked it but also found it odd).  I'll be writing reviews for those as well as several other books.  Next book up?  HMMMMMMMM, I don't know.  Maybe Soulstice, The Dead Tossed Waves, or Heist Society???? Thoughts????

Reminder:  Share your middle grade reviews if you are part of the In the Middle Reading Challenge.  Ever review you link enters you in the giveaway.  I've extended the end date to August 23.  Check out the update post here!

Don't forget to enter for the Dork Diaries giveaway! Enter HERE!!

Sharing:  My dear daughter started her own book review blog called The Turtle.  If you want some cute reviews from a tween about tween books, you should check it out :)  Just click The Turtle to see it. 


*********************
And last - I haven't had an Owl of the Week in a while, so here's this week's:

Super cool! You might have seen it on the news.  A female and male barn owl with hatching babies.  You gotta check it out! Just click above.  Be sure to have your volume on too.
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Sunday Shelves - A Read-a-Thon Next Weekend

Sunday Shelves is now a multitude of things about books. It might be cool bookshelves I've seen or shelves of other bloggers. It might be cool books I've found that you should add to your bookshelf. It might me items related to reading like bookmarks, artwork. Or it might be a shoutout to fellow bloggers highlighting things they are doing. Sunday Shelves will be anything related to reading and books. Things your bookshelves might want added to them :)

Today:




I was very excited to see this read-a-thon.  It's just what I need to finish up my summer and boost my reading minutes.  The read-a-thon starts at 9 a.m. on Friday the 13th (eek!) and ends 9 a.m. on Monday the 16th.  I'm going big and hoping to read 45 hours! Fingers crossed there :)

If you're looking for a fun way to finish up your summer on a great reading note, join in.  There will be prizes! :)
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Friday's for the Guys: The Secrets of the Magical Medallions

Every Friday I highlight books and authors that are ones boys might really enjoy. I'm not saying girls wouldn't read these books, but they are clearly "guy" books.

This week I'm highlighting:

The Secrets of the Magical Medallions

by Sean McCartney


The author himself contacted me about this book, and after looking at what it was about, it looks like a perfect book to highlight on Friday's for the Guys.  It seems to have action, adventure, suspense and mystery - all the things that make for a great boy's book.            
Be sure to check out the website!               

Book Summary
A Treasure Hunting Legend...


Four Ordinary Kids...
Two Magical Medallions...
Pursued By An Ancient Evil...
In One Extraordinary Adventure.


Join the Treasure Hunters Club as they look to unlock the Secrets of the Magical Medallions.


...Some Secrets Are Better Left Alone.


When Tommy Reed received a medallion from his famous treasure hunting uncle "Diamond" Jack Reed he didn't think much of it.


Now an ancient evil is pursuing his every move and his treasure hunting club friends, Shannon McDougal, Jackson Miller and Chris Henderson are on the run.


They must unlock the secret to the medallion before evil can hunt them down.



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Two new books I want :)

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Waiting on Wednesday: NERDS Book #2

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared!

This week I'm waiting on:

NERDS Book 2: M is for Mama's Boy
by Michael Buckley
Release Date: September 28

I've had some kids read the first bok and really liked it, so I was excited to see a second book coming out.  This just looks like a really fun series.

From Goodreads (sorry it doesn't say a lot!)
In this second outing for the 5th grade super spies, Duncan Dewey, codename "Gluestick", is the point of view character. This time the group must fight a very unlikely villain - he still lives with his Mum. In other words, it's the NERDS against a nerd.
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Review and Giveaway! Dork Diaries


Title: Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Popular Part Girl
Author: Rachel Renee Russell

From Barnes and Noble
Recipe for disaster:

4 parties.
Add 2 friends and 1 crush.
Divide by 1 mean girl out to RUIN Nikki.
Mix well, put fingers over eyes, and CRINGE!


Settled in at her new school and flanked by awesome friends Chloe and Zoey, life is looking up for Nikki Maxwell, especially since her crush, Brandon, asked her to be his lab partner—a seriously awesome development. However, when Nikki overhears mean girl Mackenzie bragging that Brandon’s taking her to the Halloween dance, a bummed Nikki signs on to spend Halloween at a kids’ party with her little sister, Brianna, instead. After she finds out Mackenzie was lying and her dream of going to the party with Brandon could be a reality, Nikki has two events to juggle . . . plus plenty of other entertaining trials and tribulations along the way!
My Review
Last school year I had a bunch of girls read the first book in this series, Tales From a Not-So-Fabulous Life, and they LOVED it.  At the end of the year they had to pick a book and make some sort of promotion for that book.  Several chose the Dork Diaries.  Now I see why they liked them! These are perfect and fun for the tween set. Written in diary form with fun pictures - they are fun and funny BUT they are also full of so much of what a tween can relate too.  Nikki faces everything in the lives of tweens.  She has a crush, but she think he likes someone else.  She's over committed and doesn't know how to deal with it.  She has a fellow student that loves to "ruin her life" as Nikki sees it.  She just wants to have fun, figure out if Brandon really likes her and not make her friends mad.  But life won't let her do that!  Her emotions are on a roller coaster - actually that part would make me laugh because one entry would be all sad and the next super happy!

What I really liked was the dilemma Nikki feels between her friends and Brandon.  She's excited by things he does, but doesn't want to upset her friends when their crushes are working out.  She wants to be at the dance with Brandon, but she doesn't want to make her friends mad by not doing what they originally planned.  This all comes to a head in a hilarious scene involving Nikki rapidly changing in and out of three costumes! I was chuckling and shaking my head at her.  Of course as an adult I thought - JUST ASK FOR HELP! - but of course Nikki doesn't see that as an option.  You know this is something tween girls do all the time! It's clear what's going to happen, but what's not clear is how will Nikki be at the end.

As for that ending - I liked it.  It gave closure to everything without completely wrapping it all up - leaving room for the sequel.  I really liked where Nikki and Brandon's relationshop ends up in this book.  It may not be where all readers would want it to be, but I think it makes the most sense. To top it off, Nikki learns a nice lesson that isn't preachy or over down, just clear and simple. 

Final thought: CUTE! Yes a lot like Diary of a Wimpy Kid BUT unique and fun.
Best for a reader who: is a girl, likes fun kinda goofy books.
Best stick with you image: Nikki in the rat costume
Best for ages: 9-12

NOW FOR THE CONTEST!!!!
Rachel Renee Russell has offered to give one lucky winner a copy of BOTH Dork Diaries books!! Yes both!
But that's not all. 
The winner will also recieve a DIY Lip Balm Making Kit from Kiss Naturals.  Isn't that super cool?

To learn more about Dork Diaires check out the Dork Diary website.  While there you can even make your own comic strip staring you!

To enter fill out the form below. 
Open to U.S. and Canada Residents
Ends Aug. 18th







CymLowell
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