Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Friday, September 28, 2007

More great news for Twilight fans...

So today I'm messing around on the Internet and I decide to just do a quick check of when Stephenie Meyers 4th book in the series is due out. 1/2 hour later, I'm still scrolling through her site, seeing that she and I share a bunch of the same favorite books, wondering if I should or shouldn't buy the Edward Cullen fan club shirt, looking at the FAQs (are you kidding me, someone actually asked her if this story is autobiographical -- did they READ it???), an on and on. And then I finally got to the place where it talked about her next novel (due out fall 2008) and I saw there was ANOTHER ONE!!! Of course I had to check it out.

Turns out, Stephenie is hoping to write the Twilight novel over again, but this time with Edward as the narrator. How cool is that? And how cool is this??? Here' a link to the whole first chapter of that book ONLINE!!!


Gotta go, got vampires to read about!


Ella Enchanted - Gail Carson Levine

I had never read this sweet little story, but after I read the dark Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister for my book club, I was looking into other Cinderella stories, and this title popped up. Did you know Cinderella stories have been told for thousands of years? I didn't. I mean I knew they'd been around for a long time, but thousands of years??

This is a somewhat traditional Cinderella story, with mean stepsisters, a Cinderella figure worked to the bone and covered in ashes, a pumpkin coach, and a handsome prince. But there are differences. One new twist that I really like is Ella has a magical book that I haven't heard of in any other Cinderella stories (tell me if you have). When other people (or elves) look at it, it's pretty much like a regular book. But when Ella looks at it, it will show her people or conversations or letters or whatever, that involve other people in her life. For example, when she gets sent off to finishing school with her nasty wig-wearing stepsisters, she has letters from her best friend the cook, Mandy. Sometimes she sees letter written by those nasty stepsisters to their mother, or letters from their mother to them. It's a bit of a way to spy on them. And she hears from the prince. This books comes in quite handy for Ella.

The story is a little bit different than other versions in that Ella knows the young prince long before the ball and is friends with him...or is it more? She knows him so well that she must hide her face when she goes to the ball. This is actually similar to something that happened in the Confessions tale, although the reasons are a bit different.

And the enchantment of the title is also different from other versions. In this re-telling, Ella HAS to follow any order. It's a "gift" bestowed on her by the not so delightful fairy, Lucinda. Lucinda has a bad habit of bestowing this type of gift, and throughout the story we see her making a mess of many a person's life through her "gifts."

I would definitely recommend this book to readers, and I've heard the movie is good, too, so perhaps a trip to Blockbuster is in my future :)

Happy reading!


Monday, September 24, 2007

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

This was my book club book for this month, and it is not one of my favorite books, but I did like it better as I got further into it than when I first started it. It's a revisionist tale of Cinderella, and what I really want to do now is watch the video of the real Cinderella so I can see the differences. I haven't actually read or seen Cinderella for many years, but I am pretty sure this one is significantly different from the original. I need to go to Mr. Massey's and borrow his daughter's videotape of it!

I'm interested to see what others in the book group thought of it because it was really popular, and I'm not sure why...

I wouldn't put this at the top of your "TO READ" pile...

Shackleton's Stowaway - Victoria McKernan

This YRCA novel was a fabulous story! It's a historical fiction piece based on the 1914 journey of explorer Ernest Shackleton to Antarctica where he was hoping to cross the continent. Eighteen year old Perce Blackborow stowed away on that boat, but what he was envisioning as a grand adventure was not exactly how things turned out. Their ship, The Endurance, wasn't actually able to endure, and after getting trapped in the ice, it eventually sank, forcing the crew into three small lifeboats in the middle of nowhere in horrible weather conditions. The story is dramatic and suspenseful, as well as bordering on horrific in some places. I found this to be a fascinating read about exploration in a part of the world where even now it's extremely dangerous and difficult, let alone nearly 100 years ago!

I would highly recommend this novel.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

We Read for the Record!

Mrs. Gardner's 6th graders did a FABULOUS job with their Reader's Theater presentation of The Story of Ferdinand today as part of the Jump Start “Read for the Record” campaign. We were part of a group hoping to get a world record for the most people reading the same book at the same time. Hopefully we got the record. The sixth graders performed for the kindergartners in Mrs. Stinson’s class.

You can see some photos from our event here:

Jinx - Meg Cabot

Now this is the kind of Meg Cabot I like. Funny and a little suspense and GREAT voice. Much better than the other Cabot book I read recently. It’s not her best ever, but it is good.

This story is about a teenage girl who has grown up with the nickname "Jinx" because the night she was born there was a power outage and ever since then her string of bad luck has seemed to continue. She's hoping that will change when she moves to New York to live with her aunt and uncle, but when she arrives and no one is there to meet her, it doesn't look too good.

It also doesn’t look good when her cousin, someone she thought was a nice person, doesn’t seem to be too thrilled that she’s here...and that’s putting it nicely. Her cousin Tory is convinced that she has witchcraft powers inherited from their great-great-great-great-grandmother and she’s convinced Jinx does, too. Jinx refuses to join Tory’s coven, further irritating her cousin who, despite Jinx’s dire warnings, turns to black magic to try and get what she wants.

As in many Meg Cabot books, there’s also a cute boy and a little bit of romance, but that’s not the overriding theme in this “bewitching” novel.


Check out the Maximum Ride blog!

OK, this morning in the car I started listening to the new Maximum Ride book and they said Fang had his own blog. I wasn't sure if it was just part of the story or if it was real, but I checked it out, and it was for real (well, ok, sort of for real, since Fang is, after all, a fictional bird kid...). It's quite cool. If you're a Maximum Ride fan, I'd highly recommend perusing it.


And if you're a Maximum Ride fan you'll also be interested to know that on the blog I read they're going to make these books into a movie! They're looking for a writer - anyone interested?



Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Queen of Babble in the Big City - Meg Cabot

I've read nearly every Meg Cabot novel that's come out, and usually I really like her work. This one, however, one of her books for grown ups, left me flat. This story is about a young woman who wants to design wedding dresses, so she moves to New York to chase down her dream, and about the only thing I really liked was that at the beginning of each chapter there were all these different style/design tidbits about wedding dresses (with drawings), and I thought they were pretty interesting. But I thought the main character was pretty flighty and shallow and the plotline didn't really draw me in. I wouldn't recommend this particular Meg Cabot novel, but you can't hit a home run every time, so I'll cut her some slack beause she really is a fantastic novelist.

Artemis Fowl The Lost Colony - Eoin Colfer

I listened to this book on CD and it was really great because the author is Irish and so the reader they chose is Irish, too, and who doesn't love an Irish accent? I'm always so impressed by all the different voices these narrators can do. I can really tell which character it is after a while just by the voice.

I really like Artemis Fowl books, number two is my favorite, but I'd gotten just a little tired of them, so I was really happy that Eion Colfer put a new twist in this one - a rival for Artemis who's his own age AND a girl. Her name's Minerva and I, for one, think she's pretty fabulous. And so does Artemis (this whole puberty thing is really throwing him off).

This book has all the usual magic and fairies, but things are heating up in this one because a time tunnel is unraveling and if it does, there could be some serious consequences for both the human AND fairy worlds. It's really exciting and by the time I was near the end of the book I was once again inventing places to go in the car just so I could hear more of the story.

A really good story and a great narration of it on CD.

Lean Mean Thirteen - Janet Evanovich

I blame Mrs. McBride for getting me hooked on this series :)

This is the thirteenth novel in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, and these are just great, easy reading, fun and funny mystery books for grown ups.

If you are a mystery fan who is not afraid to laugh out loud, you should snuggle up with Stephanie this fall and be entertained. These are not deep, frightening, highly developed or intricate mysteries, but I love them. And then there's Ranger and Morelli. Wow! I'm not sure how she does it, but Mrs. McBride and I will continue to live vicariously through her as long as we can.

When's the movie coming out???

Romance books - Dream Factory and Girl at Sea

Dream Factory is kind of an interesting premise. All these kids who've just graduated from high school go to work at Disneyworld for a summer because the regular WDW workers are on strike. So it's a little bit of an inside look at Disney World which was kind of interesting. You don't really think about the fact that Cinderella marries the prince twice a day or more every day, and it's always the same people, and do they even like each other? Would they kiss for real? And it's pretty hot in Orlando, but do you really think about how it smells inside those costumes? And who washes them? And how often? Of course you have to take it all with a grain of salt because it is, after all, a novel, not all facts, but there are a lot of WDW facts in there, too. Ever wonder how all the plants stay so green? Where do they keep those hoses? You just don't see them laying around...

Brad Barkley + Heather Hepler wrote this book, and like in Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (which I thought was better than this) they write in alternating chapters from a boy's point of view (Luke) and then from a girl's point of view (Ella). This is, at it's heart, a romance novel, but there's enough other action, some deeper issues, and some very amusing characters, to make it appeal to more than those who revel in the romance genre. I thought it was a pretty good quick read.

Girl at Sea is by Maureen Johnson who wrote Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes which I believe I blogged last school year. This book is also at its heart a romance, but it has as much to do with Clio's relationship with her recently divorced parents and her feelings about that as it does with romance. Clio is a high school junior who is pretty bitter that her father left her and her mother, so when she finds out she's going to have to spend the summer with him, never mind that it's on a yacht in ITALY!, she's not exactly jumping at the idea. Plus it will mean she doesn't get to work a the art store with her mad crush Ollie. When she gets to Italy, she doesn't make it easy, and in fact, she definitely makes it difficult, but the secrets are getting to her and she feels like everything is spiraling out of control.

I thought this book had just a little bit too much that was not believable to make it a great story. I can usually suspend disbelief, but there were just some things in here that were too over the top for me. I'd give it three stars as what I call a beach book - a great book when you don't want to think too much, you just want to be entertained.

A Heart for Any Fate: Westward to Oregon 1845 - Linda Crew

Linda Crew is an Oregon author who wrote one of my very favorite YA books called Children of the River. It's awesome. This book turned out to be just as good.

This is the story of Nahum and Sarepta King and their family, one of whom is the narrator, Lovisa, one of their teenage daughters. This is a real family who set forth for Oregon from Missouri, but since there were not many documents about this particular family, most of the details are made up. However, even though they're not real details about these people, they're very historically accurate. The events are things that DID happen to people on the Oregon Trail.

What I liked about this novel was how real Linda Crew made the characters in this novel feel for the reader. I felt like these people were friends of mine when I was finished with the book. I found myself fearful during stressful situations, of which here were many. When people died, I cried. When they survived, I cheered! I was so relieved when they finally made it through the Meek cutoff, although it did not happen without a high price.

This book is a fabulous look at the Oregon Trail, of how difficult this journey to Oregon was and why the people who undertook it were willing to sacrifice everything they had to begin a new life in the West. I am so glad they came here, but I am even more glad that I just get to read about it and don't actually have to DO it becasue those people had to be way tougher than I ever even though of being!

Down the Rabbit Hole - Peter Abrahamson

I just liked the title on this one, plus it mentioned Sherlock Holmes on the cover AND it's a mystery, so I had to read it. It was so much fun. Typical kid super sleuth solves a mystery that's been puzzling grown-ups because she really puts her mind to it. There's lots of action and suspense all written in an easy, enjoyable style.

Ingrid, the main character, finds herself embroiled in a murder when she inadvertently leaves her soccer cleats at the home of "Cracked-Up Katie" who is murdered the same night. Ingrid didn't know Katie well, in fact she had only been in her house because she'd become lost, but she liked her, and she can't believe someone would have murdered her! Even worse, she can't believe HER soccer cleats are at the crime scene. Not to mention she's sort of dating the police chief's son, which makes things a little tricky. Add school, Ingrid's acting career, and some strange goings on with Gramps, and you've got quite a story.

I'd highly recommend Down the Rabbit Hole, the first in the Echo Falls mystery series.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Award winners - Copper Sun by Sharon Draper and American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Copper Sun won the Coretta Scott King award and is a story of a young woman taken from her home in Africa and brought to the US as a slave. As with most slavery stories, it is difficult to read because slaves were treated so badly by most people. They were not considered human beings at all, and it's very disturbing to read about the awful things that were done to them. This book is not very graphic in most areas, but even inferring what is being spoken about is hard. That being said, I think books that discuss difficult issues are powerful, and this book is no exception. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to 8th graders who will be studying the Civil War this year.

American Born Chinese is a graphic novel (parents, we used to call these comic books, they're just longer now). There are three sort of different strands to this book - a Chinese fable, Jin Wang, a young man who's trying to fit in as a Chinese American and struggling with racism, and Danny whose very stereotypical Chinese cousin comes to visit him every year. It's a little confusing how these things fit together, but they are tied together nicely at the end. I have to say I'm not big graphic novel fan myself - I'm really into characterization and creating relationship with characters which I personally just don't get with this genre, but it's a well done graphic novel and fans of the genre are sure to love it AND learn from it. 7th grade and up for this one.

Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer

I've been waiting and waiting for this book, but at the same time, I was afraid I'd be disappointed, so I almost didn't want to read it. I am so glad I did!

This is the third book in a series (there is supposed to be one more) - the first two are Twilight and New Moon. These are vampire books set in the present in Forks, Washington. Twilight is the best vampire book I've ever read, and New Moon just really didn't match up to it when it came out. This book, however, may have surpassed it. The characterization, the most important element for me personally, in this series is incredible. Stephenie Meyer has created vampires and werewolves that a reader cannot help but believe in. The action is also intense and non-stop with several surprises.

This is a can't-put-it-down full box of kleenex ending, so be ready. I only had a sweatshirt and the whole sleeve was soaked.

A MUST read series for vampire fans.

See previous entry for a link to an interview with the author.

The Linnett Bird - Linda Holeman

Linda Holeman is the author of Search of the Moon King's Daughter which is in our library and is awesome.

This book is one of her novels for adults. I read another book by her earlier in the summer and really enjoyed it, so I decided to give this one try. It's set in England and India in the late 1800s, and it had very interesting parallels with my book club book for July, An Inconvenient Wife. I have to say that I definitely take my freedom as a woman for granted, and reading these books really reminded me of that. It was disturbing to see the depth of dependence on men women had and the lack of control they had over their own lives. This book was very suspenseful, and although the first fifty pages or so are really bizarre, it's worth it to finish it because a lot of interesting and surprising things happen.

Will you believe it - 10 books in a week! 4 OBOB books

We went camping in the Wallowa mountains, and since I'd just been released from my brace for my broken ankle, I wasn't out doing a lot of hiking. Mostly just hanging out by the lovely creek that ran next to our campsite reading. It was awesome!

Several of the books I read are on this year's Oregon Battle of the Books list, and I enjoyed them

Code Orange by Caroline Cooney is a suspenseful book about a boy who's just doing his homework (for once) and might have just landed himself in the middle of a bioterrorism nightmare. Or not. He's not sure.

The Kite Rider (NOT the Kite Runner) by Geraldine McCaughrean is a story set in ancient China that had great action and suspense plus some history. Good read.

Cages by Peg Kehret. I have to say I really didn't want to read this one, but I ended up being pretty impressed with it. It had a good message and was an easy read. It's about a girl (I think she's in 9th grade, but maybe 8th) who makes a bad choice and gets caught. Notice there is a picture of a dog on the cover...and you know what that probably means.

Eleanor's Story - Eleanor Ramrath Garner. This is a WWII non-fiction memoir about an American girl who lived in Germany during the war and how difficult things were during that time. It's a different approach to the time period from most WWII books I've read. It was pretty interesting.

I've now read 13 of this year's BOB books, and I have to say, it's an excellent list. I'm looking forward to getting our team together for the regional competitions! It will be open to 6-8th graders. Keep your ears open for more info.