Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Acquisitions!

Is there anything better than a brand new book? The crisp pages, the unbroken spine, the adventures ahead! Swoon.

 I could get lost in a bookstore every. single. day. That is, if I had the budget to come out with the ten books that I invariably pick up every time I set foot in a bookstore. Recently, I put myself on a book-buying freeze. I realized that since I had started writing this blog, I thought that it was justification for buying myself every book that caught my eye. The result? I have about twenty new books on my shelves that I still haven't read yet. Still, keeping myself away from the bookstore is a difficult task. I can't be the only one with this problem, right? (Right???)

So, while I was suffering from withdrawal, the beautiful angels at Penguin publishing sent me a little relief. A few months ago I had participated in a pilot test for the MTEL, the state-licensure test for teachers that I'll be taking soon. It was good practice for me (the test can be super tricky) and for my two hours of hard work I was granted a gift card to Penguin. I was saving it for a rainy day, but a few weeks ago I received an e-mail that, gasp, my gift card would be expiring soon! So you see, I just had to get a few new books.

After browsing the (virtual) shelves at Penguin, I selected five books to greet me when I got home for Easter weekend, (aka my little brother's birthday weekend, aka Patriot's Day, aka Marathon Monday!). Below are my picks:

{on Goodreads}

The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret by Catherine Bailey
I chose this one to come back to school with me for rest of the semester and I'm already halfway through. It's a non-fiction story (usually not my wheelhouse), but it reads like a mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie. Victorian-era ghost stories give me the creepy-crawlies; this one is full of public deception and family secrets. It all plays out in correspondence between family members whose lineage can be traced back to the middle ages. I came across it in a newsletter from Oprah magazine on perfect Spring Break reads featuring books that are good picks when your brain is feeling fried. Seeing as how I have four days left in the semester and then final exams, "fried" is the perfect adjective for the state of my brain. Thank goodness for books, they keep me (mostly) sane.

{on Goodreads}
The City of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte
Speaking of books that are super easy to read and perfect for times when your brain is feeling overworked-- this series is it. I bought the first book in the series in the bargain section at B&N and flew through it. I'm not going to say that the writing is superior or that the plot is super complex, but it did provide me with some good laughs and I'm going to continue to follow the series.

{on Goodreads}
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This book made it onto my list of books to look forward to back in January. Can I just say, every single edition of this book has a beautiful cover. Sue Monk Kidd blew me out of the water with The Secret Life of Bees and I am really looking forward to diving into this one as soon as summer starts.

{on Goodreads}

No Book but the World by Leah Hager Cohen
A confession about why I bought this book: the cover is so beautiful that I want to frame it. So, the moment I saw it, click, into the shopping cart it went. For the record, the story also sounds really compelling and the major theme is sibling relationships. As my little brother just turned 18 last weekend (no, it's not okay...and yes, I do feel really old now), we're starting to interact more as adults than kids so the theme is relevant to us. Though, in this tale the brother winds up in jail, so not all of it will be relevant. I hope.

{on Goodreads}
On the Road: The Original Scroll by Jack Kerouac
This book gave me another case of cover crush. The bright colors, the's perfect. This is the first draft that Kerouac wrote of his infamous work. Fun fact: he wrote it in just three weeks. Impressive, right? I actually bought it because I saw that one of my favorite bloggers (also a bookworm) was reading it. I love that you can happen upon a new read in the most random of places.

Counting down the days until summer is here. I can't wait to tote these books to the beach and finally relax!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Children's Review: The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book II)

{on Goodreads}
Maryrose Wood's The Hidden Gallery is endearing, humorous, and entirely shrouded in mysteries about to be uncovered! This second installment in the series lives up to the first book in its lively tone, plucky characters, and looming mystery. As the blurb states, "something wicked this way comes," and it's up to Miss Penelope Lumley to get to the bottom of it, all while being a top notch governess to her three formerly wild pupils. Yes, she still has to placate them when upsetting situations have them howling at the moon, but overall Alexander, Cassopeia, and Beowulf are on their way to becoming civilized young children. When Lady Ashton has the family relocate temporarily to busy London, Penelope looks forward to taking the children on educational tours of the city. As soon as they arrive, Penelope feels overwhelmed and lost but is saved by the valiant (and handsome) Simon Harley-Dickinson, who soon becomes a close friend to her and the children. While in London, Penelope continues to search for answers regarding her long-lost parents, the strange circumstances of the children's abandonment in the woods of Ashton place, and the mysterious condition of Lord Ashton, who takes to scratching and howling when the full moon shows itself. These many enigmas are puzzling, and yet Penelope may just be close to finding some real answers.

This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. I love the historical features of the book, as Wood is deft at subtly incorporating lessons in history, literature, and the like, while still keeping the story accessible to readers. Penelope Lumley is such a wonderful character, full of wisdom and grace and devotion to her three pupils. What I love especially about this sequel is that we start to find out more about the perplexing relationship between Penelope and the children, all while even more mysteries are being added to the plot! Definitely a must read for fans of the first. This series would make a great gift for any young voracious reader, as you really do need to read the whole series to find out all the answers!

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
Recommended for readers age 8-12 (grades 3-7)

Title: The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book II)
Author: Maryrose Wood
Publisher: Balzer & Bray, 2011
ISBN: 9780061791130
Price: $6.99
Format: Paperback
Source: Amazon
Book #11 of 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

In the running for favorite book this year!
{on Goodreads}
Where'd You Go, Bernadette is the story of fifteen-year-old Bee and her eccentric mother, Bernadette. Bee achieves perfect grades in school and claims as her reward a family trip to Antarctica. She's been studying it all year and is eager to see the vast white plains in person. Her mother agrees to the trip but realizes that such an adventure means leaving her house, a feat that she's rarely achieved since moving to Seattle. Bernadette is not like other moms; she has a virtual assistant in India run all of her errands and is uninterested in the PTA politics of her fellow private-school mothers. As the trip draws closer and Bernadette approaches a mental meltdown, the family dynamic begins to change and suddenly, Bee finds herself with a mom that's MIA. Told through e-mails, faxes, letters, and the perspective of Bee, this novel brings together themes of family, identity, and accepting people regardless of their quirks.

I loved this book. It was so different than I expected and kept me laughing until the last page. The characters were perfectly crafted, the plot ridiculous and yet all of it was so believable. Maria Semple did an especially good job capturing the voice of each character through their different mediums: the PTA moms' gossipy interchanges via e-mail, the fed-up school administrator via memos, and Bernadette through her rambling e-mails to her virtual assistant. Bee's voice was especially strong and I applaud Semple for nailing the adolescent point of view in all of this chaos. This would be a great bookclub read and one that I hope to pass around to friends and family to hear more feedback. The idea that a person can have a literal meltdown and come out of it with a new direction and a new sense of purpose is the best part of this read. It left me feeling empowered, knowing that whatever happens, I can always face it with all of the grace and humor of Bernadette. Not to mention, the cover is perfect and it happened to match my nail polish color the day it arrived in the mail (it's the little things in life). 

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
Title: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Publisher: Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown and Company, 2012
Price: $14.99
ISBN: 9780316204262
Format: Paperback
Source: Amazon
Book #16 of 2014