Thursday, February 27, 2014

Currently Coveting {February}

A Quick Note:
I apologize for the absence of posts here in the past week and a half, due to schoolwork I've unfortunately had less time to read and write! You can expect posts to be more regular as my semester progresses (perhaps with a few hiatuses during exam weeks), but I probably won't be posting several times a week again until summer arrives. With that in mind, I am always available via e-mail ( to chat about books or offer recommendations. Don't feel to shy to contact me if you are in a rut and looking for your next great read!

Moving on from that, I still am trying to quell my habit of buying more books than I can fit on my shelves (more on that soon) but that doesn't keep me from adding to my already long wish list. Below are just a few of the books that have been on my mind lately. I'm hoping someone else will read them and give them glowing recommendations so that I can justify buying them move them to the top of my to-read list. 

The Devil's Highway: A True Story
This book was recommended to me a few years ago by a classmate. I put it on my to-read list and promptly forgot about it until more recently; I've searched for it at my local libraries but never found a copy, so this is one that I'd probably have to order through the local bookstore or buy on my kindle. It's the story of a group of men who cross the Mexican border in Arizona, and what happens to them as they traverse what is referred to as "The Devil's Highway." It looks really compelling; I'm drawn to it because I've been feeling a bit like I live in a bubble (college campuses will do that to you), and I could use a jarring perspective change. This one promises to be just that, and I'm interested to learn more about the things that take place at our nation's border.

American Gods
This book's description is so strange, yet the ratings for it on Goodreads are so high (a 4/5 average from 250,000 readers really speaks for itself) that I figure it just has to be as captivating as they say. Neil Gaiman, if you don't recognize that name, is the author of Coraline, which just happens to be one of my top three animated movie favorites and a revered children's book. It's hard for authors to master both children's literature and adult literature, so I'm looking forward to experiencing his style in the adult sphere.

The Lavender Garden
Two things that I love: Paris, and WWII-era stories. This looks to be in the same vein as The Postmistress and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which are two of my absolute favorites in general and in the WWII/historical-fiction genre. This book spans two generations and a whole lot of secrets; a breathtaking château, family relationships, Nazi danger, etc. So perfect when you need a book to keep you enthralled and transport you to a different time and place.

Which books are you currently coveting?

P.S. Looking for more? You can view my Amazon wish lists here and here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

If you liked that, read this!

If you liked :

Read this:

If you've read and enjoyed Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, then you'll love I Was Told There'd Be Cake. It's the same vein of Kaling's hilarious short essays, only geared more towards those of us who don't enjoy life on the sets of highly successful TV shows. Crosley's series of essays spotlight a common theme in literature: just a woman trying to figure out how to navigate life- but told in the most hilarious terms. Crosley's book is the one that got me into this kind of literature, as I was never a huge fan of the short stories and essays genre before. She has the most fantastic ability to convey life in a way that makes it seem manageable..if only one can have her grace and good humor. This book would make a great gift for any woman who's in need of a some wine, a long bath, and a good laugh.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Heart Day!

I carry your heart with me
e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done 
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the star apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

{on Goodreads}
Looking at Lincoln is a great book to share with the little ones in your life during any time of the year, but especially today! Abraham Lincoln was born 205 years ago today and to honor his birthday, I picked out a very special read- one that I would highly recommend to mark this holiday. Maira Kalman examines Lincoln from a great perspective, that of a child with a curiosity that fuels her to find out about the little and big things that made Lincoln one of the most admired Presidents in the history of our country. Our narrator finds out so many interesting tidbits about Lincoln's past: that he went to school for only one year, his favorite dessert was vanilla cake, and other things that create a great picture of who Lincoln was as a regular man. She digs into the history of Lincoln's time as President too; how he worked so hard to abolish slavery and bring the country back together during the Civil War are some of the focal points of this depiction. This book honors the memory of President Lincoln and gives young readers a chance to find out about our country's history along the way.

As Kalman notes in this book, there are over 16,000 books written about President Lincoln. He is one of my favorite Presidents, and there are so many great ways to introduce his memory to a young reader. I picked this book because I wanted to target young readers who may have no idea who Lincoln was. I think the book's best feature is the tone of curiosity that is carried throughout. Who was Lincoln? What did he like to do? Did he have any pets? These are questions that are relevant to a younger age group, and this book is sure to have them engaged with its colorful illustrations and attention to the details that matter to young readers (Lincoln did have a dog, by the way, whose name was Fido). Note: I am especially in love with the cherry blossom painting (having lived in DC for the past two years). As February also marks National African American History Month, this is a great way to tie the two themes together. It mentions some prominent African American activists, such as Sojourner Truth. The introduction of these figures is an opportunity to take this mini history lesson a step further.

Recommended for Kindergarten-3rd Grade (ages 5-8)
Bottom Line Rating 5/5

Title: Looking at Lincoln
Author: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (An Imprint of Penguin Group), 2012
Price: $17.99 (I paid $13)
ISBN: 9780399240393
Format: Hardcover
Source: Amazon

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Homicide in Hardcover

Brooklyn is a book conservationist, having studied under the finest professional in the country. Growing up in a commune, she was surrounded by an eclectic group of people, but each of one them has come to mean a great deal to her- especially Abraham, who introduced her to the book business when she was only eight years old. Brooklyn attends an event at the prestigious Covington library, where Abraham has been working on restoring Goethe's Faust, which is supposdely cursed. At the Covington, Brooklyn finds Abraham sprawled on the floor of his workroom, a victim of murder. She is hastily signed on to complete his work, but she finds herself distracted by the mystery of his murder, and puts herself in several dangerous situations as a result of her determination to solve the mystery. Navigating the murder case on her own is risky enough, though she is soon aided by a handsome British security agent. Brooklyn knows that she's missing an important piece of the puzzle, and while she searches for the clues that Abraham left behind, she encounters a number of ill-meaning adversaries. It appears that whoever the murderer is, Brooklyn's the next target. Is finishing the conservation of the Faust worth her life? Perhaps the curse has more power than she thought...

Like Killer Librarian, I picked this book because it's a Bibliophile Mystery. I did enjoy reading about the book binding process and loved the sinister provenance of the Faust. I had some trouble connecting with Brooklyn; her humor was forced throughout the book, and I found her constant need to eat junk food as an odd choice for her defining characteristic. There was room for more literary moments, and I would have appreciated those in place of the many cheesy clichés and similes. That being said, I did not correctly guess the identity of the murderer, and I was pleasantly surprised by the resolution. Though this mystery is not a feat of literary genius akin to the work of Agatha Christie, I'll certainly follow the series, as it gave me a nice break after having finished a heavier work of historical fiction. 

Bottom Line Rating: 3/5

Title: Homicide in Hardcover
Author: Kate Carlisle
Publisher: New American Library, 2009
Price: $7.19
ISBN: 0451226151
Format: Paperback
Source: Public Library
Book #5 of 2014

Friday, February 7, 2014

Caldecott & Newbery Awards {2014}

This is a very exciting time of year for teachers, librarians, and reading enthusiasts. On January 27th, the Caldecott and Newbery award winners were announced, along with a bevy of other awards that recognize great authors and illustrators in children's and young adult's literature. The authors and illustrators behind these books are the best of the best, and books with the golden and silver seals are revered by readers of all ages.

This year, the American Library Association offered a livestream of the award announcements. On the morning of, I sat at my computer watching the entire ceremony live, waiting for the moment when they would announce these two awards. Though you may have seen some of these books featured on shelves in local bookstores and libraries, I thought it would be fun to round up all of the honorees and winners here.

The Caldecott Award
"The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." - From the ALA Website. You can read more about the organization and the award here.

2014 Honor Books
Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

Journey by Aaron Becker*

2014 Caldecott Award Winner
Locomotive by Brian Floca

The Newbery Award
"The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." - From the ALA Website. You can learn more about this award here.

2014 Honor Books
Paper Boy by Vince Vawter*

2014 Newbery Award Winner

I haven't read most of these yet, but I am looking forward to putting them on my to-read list. As a future teacher, I hope to be able to add many of these award winners to my classroom shelves over the years. They are sure to inspire young readers and young writers!

*I usually don't like to link directly to online booksellers, but these books are not yet listed on Goodreads, so I've linked them to Amazon (though they can be easily found through other vendors, such as Barnes & Noble). 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Children's Review: The Cabinet of Wonders

The Cabinet of Wonders is the first in the Kronos Chronicles, in which we learn of the adventures of Petra Kronos, a young and vibrant girl living in the kingdom of Bohemia during the time of the Hapsburg Empire. Petra's father, Mikal, is a brilliant inventor with a magical talent for working with metal. He receives a commission from the young prince to build a clock- one that is unprecedented in its beauty and its magical abilities. Mikal succeeds, and is returned to his home without payment and without his eyes. Petra is horrified by the injustice, though her father is adamant that his injury is for the safety of their family. Determined to infiltrate the castle and recover her father's eyes, Petra sets off for Prague with her tin spider, Astrophil. He is just one of her father's inventions, and his unrivaled intelligence helps Petra out of more than one tricky situation. In Prague, Petra makes friends with a pair of siblings- Romanies with the connections she needs to get into the castle. Petra plans to steal her father's eyes and return home, but there are countless obstacles cropping up, including the intimidating and notorious John Dee. Petra finds herself in more danger than she could have predicted, and even worse, she has put her friends in danger too. 

Marie Rutkoski has captured my attention with The Cabinet of Wonders, and I am anxious to follow the series and explore more of her work. I loved that the story was set in a period of real history, Rutkoski did an incredible job of weaving magic into the story in such a way that it felt like it was naturally part of the historical setting. Petra and her friends are so likeable and so genuine, and their relationships have room to grow- something that I am looking forward to in the next two books. I am eager to see what becomes of Bohemia, as I became very fond of the quirks of Petra's home. Another reason to add this to my favorites list? Petra is what we refer to as a 'mighty girl'- that is, she is a female character who exhibits independence, integrity, and intelligence, all role model traits for young readers (both boys and girls!). 

Recommended for grades 5-9
Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Cabinet of Wonders
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 2008
Price: $16.95 (Paperback on sale on Amazon for $3.20!)
ISBN: 0374310262
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Book #3 of 2014

Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Queen's Gambit

Queen's Gambit is the story of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of King Henry VIII of England. Henry is one of the most infamous kings in British history, with his first five wives either deceased or divorced after having suffered his terrible temper. Katherine is twice-widowed and over the age of thirty when she becomes the new object of Henry's affection. She can hardly imagine the king interested in marrying her- she has never been able to bear a child and is unlikely candidate for providing an heir. She believes that his attention will pass, and in the meantime falls in love with the charming Thomas Seymour, with whom she hopes to finally achieve a love match. Unfortunately the king has other plans and soon announces his intention to marry Katherine. She is unable to deny his request- to deny the king's wishes would mean death to her and her family. Katherine manages to maintain an air of happiness as she reluctantly weds Henry. During the course of their marriage, she brings together the king's neglected daughters (Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn), becomes a mother to his heir (the solemn young Edward VI, son of Jane Seymour), and and is named Regent. She believes herself to be an agent of change, hoping to bring Henry around to the new faith; but the balance of power is fragile, and Henry is not fond of outspoken women. Told from the perspective of Katherine and her loyal servant, Dot, this is an enthralling account of Katherine's reign as Queen of England- the only queen to survive her marriage to King Henry VIII.

I can already tell that this book will be hard to beat for favorite read of 2014. It's definitely the book that sparked the biggest (emotional) response in me this year (albeit I have only read eight books so far). To put it simply, I loved this book. Katherine and Dot were both pillars of strength in their time, and despite the vast difference in stations, their relationship is the closest that Katherine had throughout her time as Queen. Katherine had so few people that genuinely cared for her happiness- Dot being one of them. Katherine was barely allowed more than a brief moment of happiness in her third marriage and I greatly admire her willpower and perseverance. Books of this era can sometimes feel tedious but I was caught up in every moment of the story. This is one of those books that I'll be recommending all year long.

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5 {Read it now!}

Title: Queen's Gambit
Author: Elizabeth Freemantle
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2013
Price: $19 (on amazon)
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Book #5 of 2014