I picked up this book out of blatant intrigue, but was filled with doubt at what I would find. I expected a bashing of Liberty University and a mocker...moreI picked up this book out of blatant intrigue, but was filled with doubt at what I would find. I expected a bashing of Liberty University and a mockery of their rules and conduct codes. I mean...come on, a 19 year old Brown student decides to just head to one of the most conservative colleges in the country to study it's culture? An extreme liberal going ultra conservative? What I found, was the exact opposite of what I expected. Roose wrote an incredibly mature and open-minded account of the experiences he had, the people he encountered, and the courses/rules/daily life of Liberty without the bashing I had intended to read.
I was completely swallowed up in this book from the very beginning, intrigued by why students decide to go to Liberty, just how many disagree with it's incredibly controversial founder Jerry Falwell, and the level of doubt by some of the students. One would think, having chose to go to Liberty, all of the students would be devout Christians, literally living out God's word, but plenty of them are more liberal than one would believe. And some are definite extremists.
Roose's writing is amazingly mature for his age and I truly enjoyed reading his work. I learned a lot about the culture I suppose I identify with, being a Christian, though I also learned why I would definitely not be the right fit at Liberty (though I would like to take some of the courses offered) and how much I still disagree with the teachings of Jerry Falwell. Watching the author grow into a more spiritual individual was heart warming and I really loved that he questioned constantly, throughout the entire journey. That made his experience feel real and honest.
I love, love, love this book...and not simply because I'm a Christian. This is a sociological study in cultures (which is what my Bachelor's degree happens to be in). Anyone with an interest in religion and how some Christians spend their college experiences should read this. It's interesting, funny, thought-provoking, and informative, all while being well-written and honest.
Overall rating: 5 out 5 My first 5 of the year! I can't wait to see what else Kevin Roose decides to write about in the future. Very talented!
I gave my favorites of 2009 earlier this month, listing Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney in one of the YA spots. Honestly, I've been really t...moreI gave my favorites of 2009 earlier this month, listing Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney in one of the YA spots. Honestly, I've been really thinking about this review, because I can't say enough wonderful things about this gem of a book, without sounding somewhat ridiculous and overly sappy. Truth be told, I really AM ridiculously sappy and gushy about Blue Plate Special. So here I am...doing my best to express my love for this book:
Jacket description: "Doomed loves, failed families, nixed dreams someone else's leftovers are heaped on our plates the day we come into this world.
Big Macs and pop tunes mask the emptiness as Madeline watches her mom drink away their welfare checks. Until the day Tad, a quirky McDonald's counter boy, asks Madeline out for a date, and she gets her first taste of normal. But with a life that s anything but, how long can normal really last?
Hanging with Jeremy, avoiding Mam, sticking Do Not Disturb Post-its on her heart, Desiree's mission is simple: party hard, graduate (well, maybe), get out of town. But after Desiree accepts half a meatball grinder, a cold drink, and a ride from her mother's boyfriend one rainy afternoon, nothing is ever simple again.
Too many AP classes. Workaholic mom. Dad in prison. Still, Ariel's sultry new boyfriend, Shane, manages to make even the worst days delicious. But when an unexpected phone call forces a trip to visit a sick grandmother she's never met, revealing her family's dark past, Ariel struggles to find the courage to make the right choice for her own future.
As three girls from three different decades lives converge, they discover they are connected ways they could never imagine. Each of them finds strength that brings her closer to healing a painful past, and faith that there is a happier future."
Such a heartbreaking, yet hope-filled novel. Each character, Madeline, Ariel, and Desiree have their own strong voice and spoke to me in entirely different ways. I think truly connecting with character is really rare and I was able to connect with all three. Very impressive. And the unique layout of the story was fun to follow and piece together. These stories are going to stick with me for a long, long time and I can guarantee this will be my go-to book for gifts this year.
I had the pleasure of being a first round judge for the Cybil Awards this fall, on the YA panel, and that's where I happened to have this lovely book fall into my hands. As a panel we decided that it definitely deserved a place on the shortlist (of only 7 books out of 168). Go get it now! No, really...do it.
Blue Plate Special is Chronicle Books first venture into the realm of Young Adult, and I would say it's an absolute success. An amazing, multi-generational story, that I put all of my recommending power behind.(less)
I am now in love with honey bees. Well, not really, but I am just completely fascinated with them. These insects have a complete society, with a hiera...moreI am now in love with honey bees. Well, not really, but I am just completely fascinated with them. These insects have a complete society, with a hierarchy, building plans, and social network that easily rivals anything I've ever seen before. SO cool!
The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz is part of the amazing "Scientists in the Field" series. If you have yet to pick up a book in this series, you must run out to the library now and grab them. Such fantastic information with brilliant photographs.
In this installment, readers are first given a glimpse into a working beehive and what it's like to be a beekeeper. We learn about supplies, including thick gloves, clothing, and the ever-important smoke machine, that are necessary before heading in to tend to the honey bees and their product.
We then move along to Dave Hackenburg and his missing bees. Over 20 million of his honey bees just vanished in 2006, sparking the news stories about missing honey bees all over the place...a huge problem which is continuing today.
Throughout the course of the book, readers get to meet different beekeepers and bee scientists all over the country, all committed to finding out what is causing colony collapse disorder among honey bees. Some are simply trying to make their living bottling honey and others are in it for the scientific angle. All are incredibly intriguing.
Readers learn about the actual bees making the honey, the process of making honey once the bees do their part, possible enemies of the bee, all while viewing beautiful photography by Loree Griffin Burns. A mystery of sorts, that the reader is able to follow along with and continue researching after they finish with this book.(less)
A dog is a dog right? Not if it's a cat. Or a squid. Or a moose! Imagine that! Silliness definitely plays a huge role in this new picture book, from the funny storyline to the bright (and sometimes downright devilish) illustrations, your kids will love shouting out what they think the next animal will be...and you can laugh when they're wrong. ;)
If you're looking for a great read aloud, this is definitely one to pick up next time you're at the bookstore or library. A lot of fun, with excellent rhyming and a bit of quirkiness drawn into the illustrations. A really nice choice to liven up story time and stray away from the same old reads. (less)
Up until 5 years ago, Taylor and her family went to their house on Lake Phoenix every single summer. That's where Taylor met her best friend Lucy and her first boyfriend, Henry and had a wonderful couple of months at the beach. But, 5 years ago, everything changed and Taylor ran away, not returning to Lake Phoenix until this year. This year, everything has once again changed and she's back at the beach, scared of what's before her.
Taylor's dad is sick and his request was for the family to spend one last summer together at their lake house. Taylor knows her dad just wants a normal summer for them, but knowing she'll run into Henry and Lucy, she's terrified about returning and once she gets there, learns she has a right to be scared. What happens that summer teaches Taylor what second chances really mean.
I LOVE MORGAN MATSON. Ok...now that I've gotten that out of the way, let me just tell you that this book broke my heart in all the right ways. I loved each and every character... from smaller characters like Elliot and the screenwriter neighbors to Henry, Taylor, her dad, Warren, etc. Each one was written perfectly and added to the story in such a fantastic way, that you'll end up caring about what happens to each of them, not just the main character.
It's the perfect book to prep for your own summer vacation or if you're like me and sticking around home this year, you can live vicariously through Taylor and imagine movies on the beach, ice cream every day, and warm weather. Ooh...but, bring your tissue box, you'll need it.
A great book for fans of Jenny Han's "Summer" series. (less)
Teddi Overman has loved restoring antique furniture since she was a girl. Her mother always thought it was a huge waste of time, even if Teddi sold every piece she touched almost immediately. After graduating high school, Teddi decides to take a chance and move away to pursue her dream, landing in Charleston working for an antiques dealer.
Fast forward a few years and Teddi owns her own successful shop and creates beautiful pieces of art, salvaging broken furniture from yard sales and scrap piles. Even with her success, Teddi is still drawn back to her home in Kentucky when she learns her brother Josh, who disappeared years before, may still be alive.
This has got to be one of the best books I've read this year. Teddi was a quirky main character with a fun and unique passion, making for an easy hook in the beginning. There was enough humor to occasionally make me chuckle, despite the heaviness of portions of the story, and Southern culture just dripped from the pages. I wanted to be friends with Teddi about as much as I wanted to buy a piece of her furniture.
Though definitely a stand alone story, I almost wish Hoffman would create a series around Teddi's shop, like Marie Bostwick's quilting books or the knitting series by Debbie Macomber. The book was charming and lovable and I want to hand it to everyone I know! Now, I'm off to read Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.
As I was cozied up on the couch yesterday, feeling incredibly sorry for myself, I read The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor. It was a great choice to take my mind off the queasiness in my stomach! It takes place in Old Town Alexandria, where I worked up until November when I decided to stay home with my little guy. It's such a beautiful town, with a truly old fashioned feel, which made for an excellent setting for a story.
The main character, Daisy, loses her job in finance and is forced to move back home to help run her family's failing bakery on Union Street. In the family for generations, everyone expects Daisy to save the place, though she's not even sure she can. She doesn't really want to be there, doesn't get along with her sisters who also assist in the running of the business, and on her first day back is approached by a crazy old lady who insists she knows Daisy's birth mother who left her at the bakery when she was only three years old.
There's a bit of a ghost story, a slave's journal, and plenty of baking deliciousness all thrown into the story. It was a quick read, complete with amazing recipes that I cannot wait to try, and characters that were easy to like.
Even in my stomach flu haze, I did feel like there was a lot going on in the story, but it didn't make me stop reading. I think the ghost portion could have been left out and it would have made for a better flow of plot. The setting, however, was spot on and really fun to read about being a frequent visitor to Old Town.(less)
Such a good sequel! Really a 4.5 over a 4, but I had a few teeny tiny issues that made me not give it a 5. Other than those I really loved it and am p...moreSuch a good sequel! Really a 4.5 over a 4, but I had a few teeny tiny issues that made me not give it a 5. Other than those I really loved it and am pretty much going to pace the floors until I can have book3. (less)
The Moon and More is Sarah Dessen's latest book for teens and is another great summer read from this favorite author of mine. She transports you to Colby, a beachside town, and right into Emaline's life.
It's Emaline's summer before college and she just isn't sure what's right anymore. Stay or leave? Old boyfriend or new guy? Allow her dad back in her life or not? Dessen tackles typical issues with teens with a knowledge unlike any other adult author. Her characters feel incredibly authentic and her beach location is ideal for summer reading. Unfortunately, no beach trip for us this year, so I lived vicariously through Colby for a couple of days while reading this one.
The Moon and More was not my favorite Dessen novel (hard to top Lock and Key and Along for the Ride for me), but I still really enjoyed it. Emaline did come off a bit flat at times and, unfortunately, I didn't totally care about either of the guys, but the setting and realistic writing made me still enjoy the book. I just wish she could write a little bit faster and give us a book a year!
I always appreciate finding new books that speak about differences between children in a thought-provoking, yet age-appropriate way. The beautiful collage illustrations in this one, paired with verse that offers questions surrounding color.
"If flowers had no colors, would they smell as sweet?" and "What color am I to the moon? What color am I to the sea?" are great examples of how the book not only questions what skin color means, but also what color in general means, in a manner that even toddlers can understand.
The illustrations are fabulous and though I'm not familiar with other work by Nelson, I'll definitely be seeking her illustrated books out.(less)
Every once in a great while, a book comes along that change the way I view my life and how I've been living it. The latest book to do that was 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Now, I'm sure the author didn't mean for her book to leave me blubbering in tears, but she took a few thoughts and emotions that I'd been battling with for a long time and put them into actual words -- a feat that I never thought could be accomplished -- and, as a result, I'm making a few positive changes, despite the difficulty in doing so.
Hatmaker basically identified 7 key areas of excess within her family's lifestyle and addressed each of those areas over a period of 7 months, drastically attempting to reduce their food, clothing, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. Obviously some areas were much more difficult than others, but the experiment was amazing in showing how most people in the world might live compared to how many of us live every day and just how wrong that is.
I think, as Americans, we often forget that most of the world lives in extreme poverty, without access to 15 pairs of shoes in their closet, an overflowing pantry, and e-readers and iPads. Hatmaker's writing is incredibly eye-opening, not just as a reminder of the blessings we have, but also as to what is really wrong with the way many of us think and feel we are "entitled" to for working hard every day.
I've been committed to reducing our "excess" for the few months after reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. I've been slowing reducing the amount of clothing in my closet and extra "stuff" I've been holding onto for years, convinced that it will be of use at some point. Donating those things to people in need felt great, but what was more important was the weight I felt lifted after getting rid of the mindset that I need tangible items to feel happy. Hatmaker helps to expand upon that thought by explaining why God is where our focus should be and not on the extra. The people with nothing should be our focus rather than trying to figure out where to take our next vacation or whether we should get an e-reader in addition to our iPad.
She also talks about the power of the churches we attend and how that coincides with our feelings on excess. This topic was the most heart-stopping to me out of the entire book. Since living here, we've attended a church that we really like, but have never fallen in love with and I could never pinpoint exactly why. When people would ask us what we loved about our church, I often only had one answer: "the worship music is AMAZING." While great worship music is all well and good, there should be a deeper answer and we are absolutely not getting that where we currently are.
Hatmaker talks about the concept of a "barefoot" church and now the husband and I are once again on the search for a new place with that very concept in mind. I want a barefoot church, free of excess, focusing on the right things and one that "gets the point" as Hatmaker says. It's very emotional to move on after all this time, but I'm so very thankful to the author for finally opening my eyes to what was wrong with our thinking and our actions.
Even if you are not a Christian and aren't looking for a big spiritual revelation, I highly recommend picking up this book. It gives excellent tips on reducing excess in these 7 key areas and I cannot say enough how good it feels to do some of these things. (less)
Journey, written and illustrated by Aaron Becker, is a powerful story of imagination. A little girl, bored and lonely, wants desperately for someone to play with her. When she's turned down time after time, she decides to maker her own fun and journey to another world in a special red boat. When captured by an evil emperor after performing an act of kindness, she must rely on kindness in return to make her escape and head for home.
I love wordless picture books, when done right, with an easy-to-follow story, and this one is illustrated so beautifully that you can't help but fall in love with this little girl's adventure. It's one of those special books that should be on everyone's shelves!(less)
When WWII begins, 10-year-old Franziska's family is terrified for their safety. Choosing to be separated while awaiting passage out of Nazi Germany for their entire family, they place Franziska on the kindertransport, a train taking Jewish children to Britain to stay with foster families until Germany becomes safe again. She doesn't understand why she has to go, since her family doesn't even practice Judaism and she wears a cross around her neck!
Taken in by an Orthodox family that, over the years of the war, becomes closer to Franziska than her actual relatives, she is not only faced with confusion and heartache over being separated from her parents, but she's also forced to deal with the concept of religion and what it really means to be Jewish and Christian.
I was super impressed with Anne Voorhoeve's book. I had picked it up a couple of times and read the first few pages, not necessarily being drawn into the story right away, but once it got going, I was completely hooked. The kindertransport was something I had heard of, but never really read about, and it was just an amazing learning experience for me, not to mention an emotional roller coaster.
I felt for Franziska's parents having to make the decision to save their child by sending her away and the absolute devastation and feeling of abandonment felt by the main character. Even, years later, after hearing the stories of what she had been spared, she still just didn't quite understand how her parents could send choose to send her to live with strangers.
I think this was a completely realistic portrayal of what it meant to be a Jewish, German child being sent out of the country during WWII. I believed her story and I can imagine there are so many other stories almost just like this one out there. The story felt like it was being written from a child's perspective and then from a teen's perspective as Franziska grew, both physically and emotionally. The religious aspects were perfect and I could feel her indecisiveness throughout the story in regards to those elements.
It's hard to say I loved a book on such a tough subject, but I definitely did. Even with the young protagonist, I would probably be more apt to give this to kids 14 and up, only because of the heavier subject matter. It may go over the heads of anyone much younger. (less)
I wasn't sure what exactly the plot was supposed to be identifying as. Quirky romance? Fun love story abroad with a mystery? Political romance? Hate-o...moreI wasn't sure what exactly the plot was supposed to be identifying as. Quirky romance? Fun love story abroad with a mystery? Political romance? Hate-on-all-things-Russian? Parts were super light and others were incredibly heavy, without having a great blending or balance.
I loved How to Say Goodbye in Robot, but was left really confused about this one. And not that it matters, but I really, really hated the guy on the cover. He was not at all realistic. (less)
Karma Wilson's "Bear" books are some of my favorite to read aloud. The rhymes are always done really well in terms of flow and the silliness of the story comes through perfectly.
In this latest Bear installment, poor Bear has a loose tooth! He's worried about what it means to have a loose tooth, until his faithful friends come to his rescue, as they always do. If you've read the other stories, you'll know Bear is a big worrywart and his friends are always there to comfort him and make him feel better.
Just enough silliness for some giggles and a touch of that sweetness I love in picture books. These books are great to read aloud with your family or for a storytime. I highly encourage checking out the others in the series, as well as Karma Wilson's other titles. She has a lot!(less)
Brilliant in its concept. So brilliant that I wish I had thought of it!
Taking completely unaltered rocks the author personally found, we are given a...more Brilliant in its concept. So brilliant that I wish I had thought of it!
Taking completely unaltered rocks the author personally found, we are given a simple, yet totally cool alphabet book. The rocks are each in the shape of a letter of the alphabet, as is whatever the letter is standing for. We have "b is for bear," "q is for question mark," "i is for igloo," and my favorite "g is for ghosts."
At the end, readers are given a neat explanation of how McGuirk came about the idea of this book and how the collection even came to be. I was so glad to see these tidbits included, because I was definitely wondering as I flipped through the pages.
This one is great for kids AND parents. Visually stimulating and a lot of fun...plus it just may spawn some ideas for kids starting their own cool collection. (less)
Rebecca's parents have just separated and she is having an incredibly difficult time dealing with the changes. Her mom takes her to live with her Gran, far away from her father and her home, mixing up her entire world and confusing her even more.
When she discovers a bread box in her Gran's attic, one that just happens to be magical, delivering whatever Rebecca asks for, she believes she's found the answers to all of her troubles. Not only can she use the breadbox to fit in with the kids at her new school, asking for cool clothes and such, but she can also use the breadbox to help get her parents back together. Or so she thinks...
A very eloquent and intelligent child, Rebecca explains her emotions regarding the separation of her parents in a thought-provoking, yet age-appropriate way. It definitely has a touch of fantasy, but the bread box portion of the story is blended so seamlessly into the different changes in Rebecca's life that it felt like complete realistic fiction. I would imagine it would be quite difficult to accomplish that, so kudos to Snyder!
Bigger Than a Bread Box is a smart story with great elements of humor and hope. I could definitely see this being helpful to children going through significant changes in their lives, as well as being simply an enjoyable leisure read. Super cute cover too!(less)
One word. ADORABLE. The animal friendships featured in this book are completely unexpected, but so much fun to read about. From the orangutan and the tabby cat to the badger and the fox and my favorite, the dog and the cheetah, you'll be "awwwwing" all the way through the book and the kids won't be able to stop flipping through either.
I loved the inclusion of a short poem on each page about friendship for each animal pair, such a nice touch to the already sweet book. The photographs are gorgeous and the paragraphs on the friendships were the perfect length for younger children.
More of a fun book to look at and talk about than an "educational" book, the overall lesson that comes across is one of tolerance of differences. Don't get me wrong, great things can be learned from this book, however it's more fun than "fact."(less)
It's been awhile since I've read a book that both captures my attention from the first couple of pages, not letting it go until the very end of the story AND makes me laugh out loud repeatedly. Author Joe Schreiber definitely scored on all levels with this one.
Perry is a pretty typical high school kid...plays in a band, does his homework, dreams about girls he can never get with, etc. After finally landing the biggest gig of his life, Perry's thoughts of stardom are dashed when his parents force him to take their incredibly geeky Lithuanian exchange student to the school's prom, the same night his band is supposed to play in NYC.
Well, Perry definitely ends up making it to NYC, but it's definitely not going as he wanted it to. His exchange student date? She's actually a trained assassin (and quite hot) out to perform a few last "jobs" before heading back to Lithuania. And Perry is now along for the ride, attempting to stay alive while Gobi kills people. Totally violent, hilariously fun, and even a bit sweet at times.
I will warn, there is definitely some language in this one (but no f-bombs that I can recall), lots of violence (like bullets, stabbings, etc.), and a whole bunch of sexual references. Most definitely a teen book and one that will appeal to both guys AND girls, which is nice.
I had a lot of fun reading this one! Would have made a great "beach book," had it been out during the summer. (less)
This one will most likely be in my top-5 favorite picture books of the year. It has everything i look for in an interactive picture book: a fun concep...moreThis one will most likely be in my top-5 favorite picture books of the year. It has everything i look for in an interactive picture book: a fun concept, bright colors, silliness, and short text.
Using a simple yellow dot, the reader is encouraged to follow exact instructions, each of which leads to more fun on the next page. You'll touch the pages, shake the book, tilt the book, all while fun, bright dots explode on the page. Tons of fun for toddlers and great for getting those that still aren't quite sure if they like books into reading.(less)
The concept of this one isn't exactly unique--trying to figure out what may be on the page using small clues--but the format of this particular spying...moreThe concept of this one isn't exactly unique--trying to figure out what may be on the page using small clues--but the format of this particular spying book is fantastic. You get a spy hole!
Each page gives a small clue as to what might be hiding on the next page, paired with a spy hole giving a glimpse of the color of the animal. You'll find whales, polar bears, and even an orangutan hiding in the pages!
The illustrations are nice and bright and the pages are large, making it a great storytime read. I used it for a 3 and 4 year old group and they loved it!(less)
13 year old Ollie is used to living on the road. Her daddy, Reverend Everlasting Love, is a preacher, leading tent revivals all across the country for a living. Ollie, along with her parents and sisters, live in the travel trailer they pull along from town to town, being homeschooled and teaching the country about God.
When the family arrives in Binder, Arkansas, Ollie expects the three days to be like every other revival time. Passing out flyers, singing, collecting the offering, and packing up. However, she meets Jimmy Koppel, a troubled boy whose mother is in jail for murdering his father. Jimmy knows his mother didn't commit the crime and Ollie wholeheartedly believes him.
Convinced her family needs to help Jimmy, Ollie must prove to her father that they have to stay in Binder for longer than their usual three days, whether they're wanted in Binder or not.
This little book was such a heartwarming example of friendship and kindness that I smiled through almost the entire thing. Ollie has such a brave and strong persona, that even cruel townspeople are no match when she puts her mind to helping Jimmy, even when everyone else has simply cast him aside as a troublemaker.
A colorful cast of characters adds to the richness of the novel and the added bit of mystery will appeal to those that like more meat to their story.
Though Ollie and her family are driven to Binder by their faith and their are moments of quoted Scripture, I would definitely not be classifying the book as religious fiction. Simply a plot point and an added character trait in Ollie, I thought it was beautifully woven into the realistic fiction nature of the overall story. No need to be wary if you typically stray away from books mentioning God.
Ollie and her story carved a little place in my heart and I would love to get this in the hands of kids, as it has a great message of compassion. Though Ollie is 13, I would recommend this for the middle grade age range of 9-12ish. Nothing objectionable, easy to read, etc. Would make a nice family read too. (less)
Though definitely action-packed and filled with an impressive creep factor, I felt like this one had been done before. And it was SO long. Lots of pla...moreThough definitely action-packed and filled with an impressive creep factor, I felt like this one had been done before. And it was SO long. Lots of places where the story could have ended or chunks that could have been left out. (less)
I love this story! Even revisiting it years later, it still has that same magical effect. I'm not sure Laura Ingalls would have described her simple l...moreI love this story! Even revisiting it years later, it still has that same magical effect. I'm not sure Laura Ingalls would have described her simple life as magical, but to those of us that live in the busy life now, a log cabin in the woods does indeed seem magical. (less)