Tag Archives: Book Reviews

YA Nonfiction Review

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of FaithCharles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed listening to this book and I learned a lot about Charles Darwin that I never knew before – actually, I really never knew much about him except that the idea of Evolution came from him. I thought it was a nice turn from a typical biography, with the focus being mostly about Charles and Emma, not just Charles and his accomplishments. Though the book was also largely about that as well. I thought it seemed well-written and researched and I found that I enjoyed it more than I originally thought I would. Some of the little details about their everyday life were nice and made them seem like real people. Biographies & Nonfiction are not my favorite genre, but I like to break out of my fiction box every now and then and this was a pleasant side trip 🙂

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YA Audiobook Review

Abandon (Abandon Trilogy, #1)Abandon by Meg Cabot

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Slightly disappointed in Abandon. The premise is definitely a good idea and I would like to read the rest of the trilogy just to see what happens (and hope it gets a little bit better.) I wasn’t crazy about the main character – I felt like she was intended to be something she wasn’t – if that makes any sense at all. There were some plot tie-ins and connections made that felt a bit stretched. However, I did listen to this on CD so I always feel like if I didn’t like a book on CD, maybe it would have been better to read. Sometimes the voice or even the pronunciation of certain words might turn me off.

At any rate, still willing to give the rest of them a try.

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Picturebook Friday ~ Me…Jane

Little Brown ~ 2011

This picturebook is so lovely, from it’s photo album-like jacket design, to its 19th & early 20th century engravings, and all of the wonderful illustrations by Patrick McDonnell in between. I have been hoarding this book in a pile to review for awhile, and I was so happy to see it was a Caldecott Honor book (along with another favorite, Grandpa Green.)

Me…Jane is like a scrapbook of Jane’s young life, combining actual photos of Jane with her stuffed chimp Jubilee, with the muted engravings of animals, leaves and other things from nature, as well as the gentle comic-style illustrations of the main story. The colors are soft and muted. Most of the text appears on the left page, along with the engravings, and the illustrations on the right, giving the story a slower pace and the reader time to take in the story.I particularly love the double-spread filled with Jane’s actual drawings and diagrams from when she was a child.

The story begins with Jane receiving her stuffed monkey, Jubilee, and takes the reader through her childhood of being outside and observing nature. She learns as much as she can, reading books about animals, and falling in love with Africa, through stories of Tarzan. All of this is done with a very life-like Jubilee by her side. Then she falls asleep, only to wake up in Africa, grown up and studying the chimpanzees. The final picture is not an illustration, but the famous photo of Jane Goodall with a hand outstretched and touching a baby chimp, doing the same as her. The final few pages contain information about Jane, a message from her, and some information about the illustrations and engravings.

Completely Caldecott-worthy. Love it!

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Middle-Grade Book Review

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1) The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1) by Maryrose Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very cute with a younger Jane Eyre-ish quality, but not nearly so dark and dreary. The young heroine, Miss Penelope Lumley, is a perky governess fresh from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She is determined to civilize three children who were found in the woods, apparently raised by wolves. She knows there is hard work ahead of her and she supposes French and Latin can wait a few weeks while human speech and eating with utensils takes precedence. This is a funny and endearing story, with several mysteries that still remain unsolved at the end: Where did the children come from? Why does Lord Ashton insist on keeping them? Who stirred up trouble at the Christmas party? Who or what is making those noises in the attic? And last, but not least, where does Miss Penelope Lumley come from?

I will have to read book two!

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Book Review

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG. I have a girl-crush on Mindy Kaling. No. I have an actual crush on Mindy Kaling. Honestly, this book is hilarious. I saw Mindy speak at BEA in New York this past spring. She introduced Jeffrey Eugenides, Charlaine Harris and Diane Keaton at an author breakfast, and (though I secretly went specifically to see Charlaine Harris because I am a huge fan of Sookie Stackhouse) I thought Mindy was so funny and eloquent, and she really was the best part of the whole thing. (I felt so sad when Diane got choked up!)

I read the excerpt of this book, which I received at the breakfast, and I was so excited to read the rest. I kept reading passages to my husband and laughing in the middle of them so that he eventually had to hide out from me until I finished. The pictures are priceless. And no, it’s not Tina Fey’s book, but it might just be a super close second…..just kidding, Mindy. You Rock! Not that you will read this and even if you did, you’d be like “gee, another awesome review of my book, *Yawn*.)

But I hope you don’t.  ❤

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Apple Tree Christmas

(Reposted from Guinea Pig Writers)

When I decorate my house for any holdiday, I love to display my holiday-themed picture books. Most of these are books I had when I was younger and simply could not part with when I moved into my own house. One of my favorites is Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble.

Katrina, her younger sister Josie, and their mother and father live in the end of a cozy old barn, with their animals living underneath. Near the barn is an old apple tree, where the family picks apples to make pies, cider and apple fritters, and they choose the most beautiful apples to decorate their Christmas tree. The girls spend many hours playing in the old tree, Josie on her swing made from the grape vines that grow around the tree, and Katrina in her “studio” – a branch where she draws her pictures. A fierce winter blizzard rages for three days, while the family and animals are snug in the warm barn. They make it through the storm, but the old apple tree does not and to Katrina, it just does not feel like Christmas anymore. But Christmas Day brings surprises for both Josie and Katrina, as they realize their beloved tree is not gone after all. And it finally feels like Christmas to Katrina.

I love this book because it makes me feel all warm and cozy. The watercolor illustrations are lovely. The story takes place in the year 1881 and has that simple, old-fashioned feel, but not so much that children can’t relate to it. I was an artist growing up, so I could relate to Katrina’s sadness at losing her art studio. I was also a big fan of Little House in the Big Woods – it was the only book I had from the Little House series and so far I have still not read the rest! But Apple Tree Christmas has that same “Laura Ingalls” quality that I love to this day.

Happy Holidays!!!

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Middle-Grade Book Review

Moon Over ManifestMoon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed listening to this book on CD. The story feels solid, and true, like you could pick it up and feel the heavy weight of it. I found myself arriving at work and not remembering how I got there, I was so into the book. There are several stories, drifting in and out of each other, spanning the years of 1918 and 1936 in the town of Manifest, Kansas. This novel is like a colorful, tightly woven braid that brings all of its stories and characters together in the end. I feel like I know these people, and when the CDs ended, I felt like I had lost friends. The actors readings were very well done and I highly recommend the audio production, as well as the novel itself.

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