Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

I just wanted to take a few minutes to wish you, my readers, a very Merry Christmas!!  It has been a great year and here's hoping next year's even better!  Thank you for stopping by my blog and sharing my reading with me.

However you celebrate, I hope today is a great one for you and your family.  Please take some time away from the presents and decorations, to remember what Christmas is all about!

From my house to yours - Have a blessed Christmas!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Review: The Paper Bag Christmas

Author:  Kevin Alan Milne
Review Copy Provided by:  Center Street

About the Book: (from Powells)  Dr. Christopher Ringle is the last person you'd expect to find moonlighting as Santa Claus at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. But it is there that he meets a young man named Molar Alan, who desperately needs a new perspective on the underlying value of Christmas. Dr. Ringle recruits Mo and his older brother as volunteers at a nearby children's hospital for the holiday season. At the hospital, Mo is tasked to help bring holiday cheer to the young cancer patients on the fifth floor. His biggest challenge is befriending a decidedly angry girl who is so embarrassed by her scarred appearance that she hides her face behind the safety of a paper bag. Almost in spite of himself, Mo finds that Christmas joy emanates from a source far greater than the North Pole, while the young girl learns that she is more beautiful than she had ever imagined.    

My Review:  To say I loved this book would be an understatement!  I have had this book since last year, but just haven't had the time to read it.  Well, yesterday when I headed out to the chiropractor, I took it along.  I'm so glad I did!  My wait was longer than expected, so I nearly finished it.  At just 150 pages, this is a quick read, but one that will stay with you long after the book is closed.  If you don't believe in Santa or Christmas miracles, you may change your mind after reading this!  I laughed, I cried, my heart hurt and was filled with joy!  This is just a sweet little story about how one boy's life was changed, Christmas when he was 9.  Not only did his life change, but the lives of those around him were changed as well.  A boy learned about Christmas, a girl learned that beauty is on the inside, and families came together, with the help of one doctor, or Santa Clause, you decide!

It's amazing how one event can change your life.  Maybe one little book could change yours...this could be the one!  Whether you read it now, at Christmas, or at any other time during the year, I hope you will take the time.  It's truly moving!  May you keep Christmas in your heart and never get to old to believe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday - The Life of Glass

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Life of Glass
By Jillian Cantor
Publication Date: March 1st 2010 by Harperteen

Before he died, Melissa’s father told her about stars. He told her that the brightest stars weren’t always the most beautiful—that if people took the time to look at the smaller stars, if they looked with a telescope at the true essence of the star, they would find real beauty. But even though Melissa knows that beauty isn’t only skin deep, the people around her don’t seem to feel that way. There’s her gorgeous sister Ashley who will barely acknowledge Melissa at school, there's her best friend Ryan, who may be falling in love with the sophisticated Courtney, and there’s Melissa’s mother who’s dating someone new, someone who Melissa knows will never be able to replace her father.

To make sure she doesn’t lose her father completely, Melissa spends her time trying to piece together the last of his secrets and completing a journal her father began—one about love and relationships and the remarkable ways people find one another. But when tragedy strikes, Melissa has to start living and loving in the present, as she realizes that being beautiful on the outside doesn't mean you can't be beautiful on the inside.

I really like the message in this one.  Melissa probably learns some life long lessons in this book.  I'm anxious to see how it all turns out for her.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Because of A Book with Susan May

 I just love to hear author's stories about the books they loved as a child!  Today, our guest is Susan May, author of Nick's New Heart.  Although not a holiday story, it is a true story of love, strength, and courage.  I hope that you will consider this as one of your next reads.  With that said, here's Susan!

Susan May is the author of Nick’s New Heart a book about her son who received a heart transplant at one year old. He is now twenty and doing well. She is currently working on a romance novel about an American female who is hired to repair an Englishman’s castle. Susan is also working on a nonfiction book about her great uncle who was a flight surgeon during World War II. After traveling for a summer in Europe with her four teenager children, she is putting together a book about that adventure as well.

Susan has been married to her husband for twenty-seven years and they live in north Georgia. They met at Auburn University, and remain devoted Tiger fans. For the past seventeen years, Susan has been a substitute high school teacher, and that… is another story in itself.

As a child I fell in love with books when my fourth grade teacher read the Little House on the Prairie series to our class. When I had children I even bought a set to share with them when they got old enough to enjoy the stories.

I didn’t really become a reader until I was in the sixth grade and I made a poor grade in math, and my punishment was no TV for six weeks. I started reading and haven’t turned back. I read Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, and Nancy Drew and found Harlequin romances by the time I was in high school. I borrowed copies from a neighbor by the bags full. I spent hours curled up on the porch of our lake house traveling in my mind to other parts of the world.

On the advice from a friend, I read All Things Great and Small and fell in love with James Herriot’s adventures as a veterinarian in rural England. I also had to have a set of Herriot’s books. While in college, I went through all on Auburn University library’s copies of Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

Since my youth I’ve read thousand of book both fiction and nonfiction. Always have a book that I’m reading. All the books that have passed through my life have given me a love for the written word, and because of that I became an author. No matter what we read it affects our life.

About Little House on the Prairie series:
Meet Laura Ingalls . . .

. . . the little girl who would grow up to write the Little House books. Pa Ingalls decides to sell the little log bhouse, and the family sets out for Indian country! They travel from Wisconsin to Kansas and there, finally, Pa builds their little house on the prairie. Sometimes farm life is difficult, even dangerous, but Laura and the family are kept busy and are happy with the promise of their new life on the prairie.
Laura and her family journey west by covered wagon, only to find they are in Indian territory and must move on.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells

About Nick's New Heart:
NICK MAY WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL HEART TRANSPLANTS IN THE UNITED STATES, PERFORMED ON A ONE-YEAR-OLD BABY, AS TOLD BY HIS MOTHER. Most people associate heart problems with old age. However, many children also suffer serious heart, kidney, eye or other medical problems that once were insurmountable. In the past, infants with the heart defects that Nick once had invariably died. However, with surgical and medical advances, this sad situation has changed, providing not only life for these children, but a good quality of life. The story of Nick is similar to a roller coaster ride without seat belts or safety bars. Here is a true story that is often more dramatic than fiction, as excellent doctors worked together with a caring, intelligent family not just to save a life, but to provide a good life. Great experiences, deeper understanding, hope, love, faith, and steadfast support from friends, relatives, nurses, staff, and doctors have been the result...along with a wonderful book. Author SUSAN MAY skillfully weaves a story of strength, ability, determination, faith, teamwork and inspiration in her book, as she recounts the story of her baby Nick and the overwhelming odds he faced. Although his birth at first seemed normal, Nick's worried mother asked, "Is my baby fine?" Her question either went unanswered or was met with a simple, "I do not know. More tests are needed." She did not realize then that the adventure had only begun, as tests revealed that this baby had a catastrophic problem potentially more deadly than cancer. The author describes the brilliant care and dedication of the highly-skilled doctors and staff who were able to turn the life of a dying baby from a tragedy into a triumph. Often touching, sometimes sad and scary, sometimes funny, this story demonstrates the extraordinary results of doctor/family teamwork, positive attitudes, and the needed support of others when a serious medical condition strikes any child.

Buy it at Amazon

Sunday, December 20, 2009

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday - 12/20/09

Welcome to another edition of In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday, where I show you what books came into my house via the mailbox. In My Mailbox is hosted every Sunday by Kristi at The Story Siren and Mailbox Monday is hosted on Mondays by Marcia at the Printed Page. Both ladies have wonderful blogs, that I hope you will take the time to visit. I appreciate each of them for hosting these memes so that book bloggers can share the books that they receive to review. To see what others have gotten this week, visit these ladies and check it out!

Here's what came in my mailbox this past week...

For Review:

Calendar Mysteries: January Joker by Ron Roy, from Random House
A brand-new series by Ron Roy, spun off from A to Z Mysteries!

Green Lawn, we have a problem! When Bradley Pinto wakes up in the night to strange lights in his backyard, he thinks there are aliens in town. When he sees three-toed footprints in the snow, he’s sure of it. His twin, Brian, and friends Lucy and Nate aren’t so certain. But then Lucy’s cousin Dink, the twins’ brother, Josh, and Nate’s sister, Ruth Rose, all disappear. Are there really aliens in Green Lawn? And where could they be taking Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose?

Calendar Mysteries: February Friend by Ron Roy, from Random House
A brand-new series by Ron Roy, spun off from A to Z Mysteries!

It's a Valentine's Day party! Bradley is passing out his class’s valentines, but one of them has no name on it. Inside, the card tells the class to look in the closet. When they open the closet door, the kids find a rabbit named Douglas in a cage! What mysterious “friend” left him there? And why? Then the bunny gets sick. It’s up to Bradley, Brian, Lucy, and Nate to track down his owner and figure out what is wrong with poor little Douglas.

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein by Libby Schmais, from Delacorte Press
An adorable, completely original YA voice.

Lotus Lowenstein's life is merde. She dreams of moving to Paris and becoming an existentialist. Yet here she is trapped in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a New-Agey mom, an out-of-work dad, and a chess champion brother who dreams of being a rock star. Merci à Dieu for Lotus’s best friend, Joni, who loves French culture enough to cofound their high school’s first French Club with Lotus. At the first meeting, the cutest boy in the world walks in. His name is Sean, and he too loves French culture and worships Jean-Paul Sartre.

At first, Lotus thinks Sean is the best thing to happen to her in years. He’s smart, cultured, and adorable. Unfortunately, though, Joni feels the same way. And having an existentialist view of love, Sean sees nothing wrong with enjoying both girls’ affections. Things come to a head when all three depart for Montreal with their teacher, Ms. G, on the French Club’s first official field trip. Will Sean choose Joni over Lotus? And will Lotus and Joni’s friendship ever recover?

I So Don't Do Spooky by Barrie Summy, from Delacorte Press
Someone’s out to get Sherry’s stepmom. . . .Can she save her before it’s too late?

Did you know that the main campus of the Academy of Spirits is at a Dairy Queen in Phoenix? Me either. Until now. Some weird stuff has been happening to my stepmother, Paula, and the Academy has asked me, Sherry Holmes Baldwin, to get to the bottom of it. They think someone’s trying to hurt her.

I really don’t want to get involved—my life is way too busy. Josh and I are celebrating two blissful months of togetherness. And my best friend, Junie, is finally showing a teeny bit of interest in clothes and makeup after years of brainiac behavior. But being that my mom is a ghost and all, me, my brother, and my dad rely on Paula a lot. So it’s not like I can just ignore what’s going on. Especially since my mom is competing at the Ghostlympics. If she comes in first place, she earns five minutes of Real Time.

And that means I’ve got to get involved in a creepy, freaky mystery.

But . . . I so don’t do spooky.

The Ever Breath by Julianna Baggott, from Delacorte Press
Follow the secret passageway . . . and discover the magic!

In a world where locust fairies flutter and firebreathers burst from snowbanks, two children are having the adventure of their lives. Truman and his twin sister, Camille, have just met their grandmother . . . and she’s a little strange. She whispers a tale about something called the Ever Breath, an amber orb that maintains the balance between our world and a dreamy one of imagination—and evil.

Soon Truman and Camille find themselves in the Breath World, a magical place where ogres clash and a mouse holds the key to a mystery. Some creatures want to help them—and some want them D-E-A-D. That’s because the Ever Breath has been stolen, and an epic battle is raging to bring it safely back. Can the twins save not only one world—but two?

Princess for Hire (ARC) by Lindsey Leavitt, from Hyperion Book
When an immaculately dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and asks you if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you
a) run
b) faint
c) say Yes!
For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C--that is, once she can stop pinching herself. As her new agent Meredith explains, Desi has a rare magical ability: when she applies the ancient Egyptian formula "Royal Rouge," she can transform temporarily into the exact lookalike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don't know? Or when a princess's conflicted sweetheart shows up to break things off--and you know she would want you to change his mind?
For Cybils judging:

A Friend
Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes
Waiting for Winter
Not All Animals Are Blue

I have truly enjoyed the Cybils judging process. We are winding down and starting to work on our short lists as we look for that one book that will be "THE" Children's Fiction Picture book for this past year.

What did you get in your mailbox?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giving Books for the Holidays IV

I have 4 older nephews.  By older, I mean tweens.  They are all readers, but they enjoy books like Guiness, Top Ten..., etc.  So, with this in mind, I took care when choosing their books this year.  Maybe someone on your list would enjoy one of these picks.

Blast Lab by Richard Hammond
Richard Hammond strikes again with more fun and fantastic science! Readers can get their hands dirty-literally-in this wacky lab manual that walks them through more than 100 awesome experiments. Hammond's irreverent text and easy-to-follow instructions reveal the key principles of biology, chemistry, physics, mechanics, and more, getting readers truly engaged in scientific study.

96 pages
Ages 9-12

My Thoughts:  I found this one at our school book fair and just knew the boys would love it!  The great thing is that a book I get for one, is eventually shared by all 4 of them, because they trade.  I'm hoping they'll do some of these experiments together.  The experiments in the book are divided into 6 sections:  Up, Up and Away; Bright Ideas; That's Incredible!; Eww, Gross!; Playing with Food;  Turn up the Volume.  I wonder which section they'd like most?  My choice is food because you can make Ice Cream in a Bag.  Each experiment has colored pictures as well as pencil drawings.  There are step by step instructions for all, and a "How Does it Work" section for many.  Most of them can be done with simple items you have around the house.

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Enter the world of science as Bill Bryson unmasks the mysteries of the universe.

Did you know that:

• Every atom in your body has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to being you?

• If you are an average-sized kid, you have enough potential energy inside you to explode with the force of several hydrogen bombs?

And—What happened to dinosaurs? How big is the universe? Why are oceans salty? Is a meteor going to hit us?

Tackling everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bill Bryson’s inimitable storytelling skill makes the why, how, and, just as importantly, the who of scientific discovery entertaining and accessible for young readers. 
176 pages
Ages 9-12
My Thoughts:  Kids don't know enough about history.  It seems these days they aren't real concerned with it.  That's a shame, because we learn from our past.  All of the history in this book is about science.  How can that be, you say?  Well, it's easy...Bryson explains the history behind the mighty atom, an asteroid hit, Earth's five major extinction episodes, just to name a few.  My nephews love science and history, so I thought this combination was perfect!  Thanks to Knopf for the review copy that I can pass on.  The pictures in this book are real as well as drawn and colored.  I think it really helps children to see real pictures when reading non-fiction, but I like that the author added illustrated pictures to bring fun and whimsy to the book.  This will attract ones who may steer away from non-fiction, because it looks more like a picture book would.

With annual sales of 200,000 copies, Top 10 of Everything is clearly the place people go to get the lowdown on what or who was the best, worst, richest, fiercest, deadliest, or simply biggest of practically anything. It features over 7,000 intriguing facts and stats on history, science, sports, music, movies, nature, people, and places—from the stars of stage and screen who shone the brightest to the terrestrial animals that weigh the most.
Some of the lists are entirely new, some are updated with the latest news, and all appear on attractively illustrated spreads. “First” and “Fast” fact boxes pinpoint the pioneers and the most recent achievers in various endeavors. It’s entertaining and educational!

256 pages

My Thoughts:  Every time I look at this book, I think of David Letterman's Top 10.  How funny is that?  Some of the top 10's in this book are just as bizarre and/or funny as his were.  My nephews love stuff like this!  I have loved looking at it, thanks to Sterling Publishing.  Some of the top 10s include:  The 10 Most Venomous Reptiles and Amphibians, The 10 Least Corrupt Countries, Top 10 Albums by Groups in the USA, Top 10 Halle Berry Movies, Top 10 Motor Vehicle-Owning Countries (USA is #1).  Interesting, huh?  The lists go on and on.  It's illustrated with real color photographs, charts, graphs, and tables.  A must have for anyone who wants to be "in the know" or to impress others with random facts of trivia.

This all new 6th title in the best selling Ripley's Believe It or Not! annual series, is a compendium of incredible bizarre facts, stories, interviews and features all presented in a stunning bright new design. This year's book also features icons that guide readers to astounding video clips on our new fully-integrated website, where they can see some of our subjects in action. Also, a dramatic eight-page gatefold section presents some extraordinary performers of the past, and additional black and white Ripley archive photographs feature throughout the book.
Be amazed at the dentist with no arms, the snake that swallowed a wallaby, an underwater sculptor and a four-eared cat! For the legions of dedicated Ripley's fans, and anyone else on the planet who loves unbelievable facts and jaw-dropping images, the latest annual in this successful series is a feast of delights.

256 pages

My Thoughts:  That eye on the front cover is really a hologram...the eye appears to open and close.  Pretty cool!  The book is appealing, from the blue cover to the bright, vivid photographs throughout.  I have to admit that some of the things in this book grossed me out, but my husband loved them, so I'm sure my nephews will as well.  What was gross?  Well, for one, the man who crams 11 LIVE Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches into his mouth...ewww!!  There are interesting facts, like, did you know the Devil has a swimming pool?  It's the most dangerous pool in the world, located on the Zambezi River in Africa.  Or, the swiss auto company that created a completely submersible convertible.  Oddities are included such as the kitten born with 2 heads or the Chinese olympian that pierced his head, face, hands and chest in the Olympic ring colors with 2,008 needles.  He was celebrating the 2008 Olympics.  You want facts, oddities, unbelievableness, you get it and plenty more in this book!  There's even a fold out section, in black and white, showcasing Barnum and Bailey's Sideshow.  So much for readers to learn...they will be learning as they go through the pages!

Who on your list would like one of these books?  My problem is, I hope my nephews will have enough room on their bookcases for these great new titles!  Oh, well!  I guess they could always ask Santa for another one if they don't fit.  I know I could use a new one right about now!

"Waiting on Wednesday" -

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Token of Darkness
By Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Publication Date: February 9th 2010 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Cooper Blake has everything going for him—until he wakes from a car accident with his football career in ruins and a mysterious, attractive girl by his side. Cooper doesn’t know how Samantha got there or why he can see her; all he knows is that she’s a ghost, and the shadows that surround her seem intent on destroying her.

No one from Cooper’s old life would understand what he can barely grasp himself. . . . But Delilah, the captain of the cheerleading squad, has secrets of her own, like her ability to see beyond the physical world, and her tangled history with Brent, a loner from a neighboring school who can hear strangers’ most intimate thoughts. Delilah and Brent know that Cooper is in more trouble than he realizes, and that Samantha may not be as innocent as she has led Cooper to believe. But the only way to figure out where Samantha came from will put them all in more danger than they ever dreamed possible.

Once again, I was drawn by the cover.  Ghost stories are really popular right now, and I'm glad because I love the paranormal!  I'm not too crazy about the font used for the title, but, oh well...seeing ghosts, now that's the good stuff.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Giving Books for the Holidays III

Tonight I just have one book to share with you.  This is a book that I found through a BLU (Blogger Link Up) post.  I am so glad that I take the time to read the issue on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I have found some great books and contacts through there.

The Snowman's Song: A Christmas Story by Marilee Joy Mayfield

The Snowman's Song is an enchanting tale of longing and fulfillment. A little snowman yearns to sing Christmas carols, but is desolate because he hasn't a voice. From the kindness of others, he dares to believe in the impossible and experiences a Christmas miracle. Beautifully told in melodic verse, this inspirational story shows that impossible dreams do come true and reminds us of the true reason for the season.

44 pages
Ages 4-8

My Thoughts:  What a beautiful book, with a beautiful story!  The pictures are very crisp and vivid.  The snow people appear to move and act real due to the illustrations.  The blues and whites in the pictures just make it look cold!  The pages are shiny like a present at Christmas.

Young children will enjoy this one because it rhymes.  Older children will enjoy the story because of the wonderful message it brings.  It's okay to dream; you just have to believe you can and you can.  It is a great message for children, especially at Christmas.  I love how the author created this beautiful story with meaning behind it, not just a storyline.

One of the best things about this book is that it comes with a CD of the author reading the book.  I love to be read to, as an adult, and children do to.  Whether you read it to them, or they listen to the CD and follow along, they will be hearing a wonderful story.

Who on your list might enjoy this book?  For every book that is sold direct to readers, the publisher gives a book to charity.  Just click on the title of the book to take you to the website.

Because of A Book with Kristin Bair O'Keefe

I'm honored to bring you the second WOW author of the month!  Please help me welcome, Kristin Bair O'Keefe!  Please note that Kristin is 13 hours ahead of us so if you leave a comment or question for Kristin then check the next day for a reply. Comments left at 10 am are arriving at Kristin's computer at 11 pm--and as the mama of an active toddler Kristin has an early bedtime!

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s life is a melding of many cultures. A native Pittsburgher(Go Steelers!) raised with the Croatian traditions of her grandparents, Kristin lives in China with a husband who was raised in Ireland and her Vietnamese daughter.

During their four years in China, Kristin has taught writing, written a blog “My Beautiful Far-flung Life, and attempted to learn Mandarin Chinese(unsuccessfully according to her neighbors). Oh, and written the novel Thirsty. Thirsty opens in 1883 when Klara Bozic arrives in the New World ready to start a new life with her new husband. She quickly learns that her new life in the Pennsylvania steel town of Thirsty is very much like her old life of beatings, isolation, and poverty. For forty years she endures with the help of a few misfit friends she makes: her fun-loving neighbor Katherine Zupanovic; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and Old Man Rupert, the town drunk. Only when her daughter enters a similar marriage punctuated by pain and terror does Klara resolve to free herself, her daughter, and her granddaughters from this life sentence of brutality and find peace.

If she hadn’t become a writer, Kristin suspects that she would have become a ventriloquist, roadie for Meat Loaf, or time traveler. (And yes, she has read The Time Traveler’s Wife.) Among other things, she would use her time traveling powers to frequently return home and enjoy the magic that is the hoagies at Danny’s Pizza.
Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel Thirsty (Swallow Press, 2009) tells the story of one woman’s unusual journey through an abusive marriage, set against the backdrop of a Pittsburgh steel community at the turn of the twentieth century. Her work has been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Poets & Writers Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, The Baltimore Review, The Gettysburg Review, and many other publications. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and has been teaching writing for almost fifteen years. Kristin lives in Shanghai, China, with her husband and daughter. If you’d like to learn more, visit and

Because of a Book

Because of the Bethel Park Public Library in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, I discovered some of my best childhood pals: Sara Teasdale, Edward Ormondroyd, Bram Stoker, Roald Dahl, Phyllis Whitney, Emily Dickinson, Astrid Lindgren, and dozens of other brilliant writers.

As a kid, I was lucky enough to live within walking distance of the library, and at least once a week, I trotted down the gravel side road near my house with a stack of eight or ten books that I’d read since my last visit and my library card tucked into a pocket or, more often than not, my sock. At the end of the gravel road, I crossed the abandoned railroad tracks (in the summer stopping to gorge myself on the wild blackberries that grew there), continued down the long road that led to what was then Slater Supply, crossed one busy street, a set of trolley tracks, and another busy street, then arrived at the library…always with a deep, red crease in the crook of my left arm where the stack of books had dug in.

I loved this private walk during which no one suggested that I clean out the garage or asked, “What are writing in your diary?” It was just me…me, my books, and my thoughts. On the way to the library, I walked fast, looking forward to a few hours huddled in the quiet stacks, opening this book and that book, letting an author’s name or a book’s cover or a crazy title (like Dracula) grab my attention. I loved sitting cross-legged on the floor reading back covers and first pages, and I loved that the librarian only checked on me when he noticed that I wasn’t totally absorbed in my task.

As a super shy kid, taking my books to the counter to check them out always scared the bejeebies out of me. Honestly, I would have rather walked on hot coals or slept on a bed of nails. To minimize the torture, I’d lurk behind a bookshelf, prematurely organize my books with my library card on top, and wait until there was no one else in line. If, heaven forbid, the checkout librarian asked me who my favorite author was or if I’d read a particular book, I’d turn the color of a ripe cherry, mumble some incoherent reply, try not to burst into tears, and escape as quickly as possible. (Thankfully I grew out of that.)

On the way home, I’d hum with excitement. So much to look forward to! I’d walk with my head down, studying whichever book I’d strategically placed on the top of the stack. “This one first?” I’d ask myself as I retraced my steps: busy road, trolley tracks, busy road, Slater Supply, long road, abandoned railroad tracks, gravel side road. Halfway there I’d shuffle the books. “No, no, this one first.”

And then?

Ah, the glory. I’d curl under a tree or on the comfy gold chair in our living room or on my bed and spend as many hours as possible reading…until, of course, the inevitable happened…

“Kristin, can you clean out the garage?”

About the book:  It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic's girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband Drago is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.

In Kristin Bair O'Keeffe's debut novel, Klara's life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn't afraid of Drago's fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.

"Thirsty" follows a chain of unlikely events that keep Klara's spirit aloft: a flock of angelic butterflies descends on Thirsty; Klara gives birth to her first child in Old Man Rupert's pumpkin patch; and BenJo gives her a talking bird. When Klara's daughter marries a man even more brutal than Drago, Klara is forced to act. If she doesn't finally break the cycle of violence in her family, her granddaughters will one day walk the same road, broken and bruised. As the threads that hold her family together fray and come undone, Klara has to decide if she has the courage to carve out a peaceful spot in the world for herself and her girls.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at IndieBound

Monday, December 14, 2009

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday - 12/14/09

I'm a little late with this post, but better late than never, right?  Today was our Teacher Christmas Luncheon at school.  The principal and I planned the menu, cooked, and served our staff today.  So, I spent all of yesterday making 4 King Ranch Chicken Casseroles, 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 3 dozen mint crisps, and 4 dozen brownie bites.  Then, today, I mixed salad, warmed casseroles and bread, made tea, passed out presents, lit candles, and played Christmas music on the CD player.  Needless to say, I'm exhausted, but blog posting is therapeutic, so here I am.  Besides, I've missed you all, and with Christmas coming, I feel the need to get in a lot of blogging so that I can enjoy my family.  Yes, I will be scheduling posts, but these I needed to get in.

Welcome to another edition of In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday, where I show you what books came into my house via the mailbox. In My Mailbox is hosted every Sunday by Kristi at The Story Siren and Mailbox Monday is hosted on Mondays by Marcia at the Printed Page. Both ladies have wonderful blogs, that I hope you will take the time to visit. I appreciate each of them for hosting these memes so that book bloggers can share the books that they receive to review. To see what others have gotten this week, visit these ladies and check it out!

For the first time in a while, I had a slow week.  I've gotten more selective about the books I request and/or accept for review.  I'm glad for the slow week, because the books I received are going to take up most of my reading time during the holidays, as they are both books I want to read and study to use with my teachers at school.

Simple Compassion: Devotions to Make a Difference in Your Neighborhood and Your World by Keri Wyatt Kent
“True devotionals should stir us to devote our lives to something bigger than ourselves. [Simple Compassion] will not just warm your heart but will actually break your heart with the things that break God’s.” —Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and recovering sinner "Keri's journey of compassion is truly a reflective of a woman who wants to impact her community and her world ... I think these stories will stir others to do the same." —Heather Larson, Director of Compassion and Justice Ministries, Willow Creek Community Church An invitation to change the world, one life at a time. Starting with your own. This fifty-two-week devotional invites you to discover a life overflowing with creative compassion. Through poignant stories and fresh insights from the Bible, you’ll learn how small acts by ordinary women just like you can lead to meaningful change. Along with a clear vision of God’s heart for the poor and marginalized, Simple Compassion provides manageable action steps to help you move beyond asking, “What difference can I make?” to actually doing something. In each week’s reading, you’ll find inspiring meditations from the Bible blended with suggestions for living out principles of justice and compassion right where you are. Step into the adventure of following God’s heart, and discover the power of Simple Compassion.

This is one that I'm really looking forward to starting in the new year.  I received a review copy from The Blog Tour Spot, who will be touring the book on blogs from Jan 4-8.  I will be joining in the tour as well as the Simple Compassion Challenge:

Take the ideas from Simple Compassion to the next level by implementing them. Choose to intentionally perform one "act of compassion" per week for the month of January. It could be as simple as writing a note of encouragement to a friend or as involved as giving up a Saturday to take sandwiches to the homeless in your area. Feel free to be creative, the only stipulation is to be intentional. Then tell us about your experience(s) either on your blog or at (details on how to post your video there will be found on our tour site).

Deep Brain Learning: Pathways to Potential with Challenging Youth by Larry K. Brendtro; PhD, Martin L. Mitchell, EdD; Herman J. McCall, EdD
Professionals with decades of experience working in the field, Larry K. Brendtro, Martin L. Mitchell and Herman J. McCall set out to demonstrate how combining brain research, human values and practice expertise can lead to success with at-risk youth. Much has been written about educating and working with challenging children, but what's often missing from those theories are what youth think and how they feel. According to Dr. Brown of the William Gladden Foundation, "This book places the voice of the young person at the center of evidence-based practice, building respectful alliance to surmount challenges."  Deep Brain Learning uses the voices of youth, case studies and insights gained over decades in the field, to create powerful principles for success with youth, who often are more concerned with looking good than doing good. The road maps created in this book show that true, lasting transformations come from person-centered approaches where quality relationships are key. You will discover 25 principles that lead to transformational change in challenging children.
I'm reviewing this one for Basil & Spice and will be reading it over the holiday break.  We have some challenging students on our campus, and I'm hoping that this will give me some insight and new ideas to use with them.

What did you receive in your mailbox last week?

Giving Books for the Holidays II

Today I have 3 books to share with you, thanks to Chronicle Books, that I will be giving as gifts to my nieces and nephews.  I have shared these in my In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday post previously, but wanted to share them here, along with my thoughts.

Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman
An elegant addition to any library, this deluxe alphabet book features 120 pages of Andrew Zuckerman's breathtaking wildlife photography. From alligator to zebra, each featured animal boasts two striking studio portraits against a clean white background, offering a unique up-close view of the animal kingdom. Readers can flip to a helpful glossary in the back for extra information. From the sleek beauty of a smiling hippo to the powerful majesty of a roaring lion, this gorgeous new book is both a stunning work of art and a ferociously fun way for young animal-lovers to learn their ABCs

120 pages
All ages

My Thoughts:  I love this ABC book!  The pictures are phenomenal and it is a different twist on an ABC book.  Mr. Zuckerman put a lot of thought into this book for young children.  So many times, you see the same pictures or words for letters of the alphabet, like a for apple, but this is different.  Each letter features a different animal, sometimes more than one.  The pictures are sharp and clear, just perfect for youngsters who are learning their letters.  They will be enthralled with this book!  I'm sure my nephew will love it.

Stereobook: Vehicles by Ben Grossblatt
Stereobooks feature built-in stereo speakers, so readers feel surrounded by sound as they listen to the 15 action-packed scenes in each book. Vehicles features a space shuttle blasting off and Formula One race cars zipping around a track.

32 pages
Ages 4 and up

My Thoughts:  For a child who loves any kind of vehicle, this is the perfect book!  The added bonus, is that they not only get to read about the vehicles, they get to hear them as well.   This book has bright vivid pictures that are so realistic you feel like you are there, on the street, the runway, the sky, or wherever the vehicle may go.  Boys will pick this one up again and again.

The Little Books Boxed Set by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Three adorable characters in three adorable board books! These clever twists on dinnertime, bedtime, and clean-up time will delight all the little mess-makers, picky eaters, and night owls in your life.

30 pages each
Ages 3 and up

My Thoughts:  These are cute books, each in their own way!  I love that they are packaged together, perfect for gift giving.  Little Pea will help children learn to eat their vegetables.  Little Hoot will help them learn to go to bed, and Little Oink will help them learn to clean up their messes.  All of these are situations that young children find themselves in at one time or another, and what better way to help them with them than by making them fun, in a book.

Maybe someone on your Christmas list would enjoy one of these books from Chronicle.

Blog Tour - Just Breeze

I am privileged to bring you this book review today, as part of a Pump Up Your Book Promotion blog tour!

Title:  Just Breeze
Author:  Beverly Stowe McClure
Review Copy Provided by:  publisher

About the Book:  Eighth grade starts out the same as every other year for Breeze Brannigan. She's still the tallest student, boy or girl, in her class, wears shoes that would fit an elephant, and her smile reveals dazzling braces that blind everyone within ten feet. Then she meets Cam , the new boy in school who speaks with an accent and must be from another planet, for none of the earthling boys she knows are so polite. He also has a secret, a secret that could mean life or death for Cam and his mother and that Breeze must help him keep. 

My Review:  I have to start off by telling you that what first attracted me to this book was the cover.  I fell in love with Breeze's hair on the cover.  Yes, I'm a cover is what initially attracts me to a book. 
Just Breeze is great for your tween readers!  It's one that I may be giving to my niece for Christmas.  Breeze experiences many of the same issues that young girls do:  parents, siblings that annoy her, a best friend and falling in love.  I found it to be a quick read, that I had a hard time putting down.  I wanted to know what would happen to Breeze next.  The author weaves good values into the book as well, which is something that I feel is lacking in many tween books these days.  It is something that our children don't always get at home either, so it's great when they can read it in books.  Breeze and her friends are respectful and well mannered, with truth and honesty sprinkled into the pages of text.  Just Breeze shows a young girl going through young girl things...changes.  We don't usually like them when we're going through them, but many of them are inevitable and we can grow and learn to look for the beauty within ourselves as well as others.  I truly enjoyed this one!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Interview - Kami Garcia/Margaret Stohl

This summer, I had the awesome opportunity to read an ARC of Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.  I fell in love with the characters, the story, everything!  So, today, I am honored to bring you an interview with the authors.  I am so honored that they agreed to do this!

photo credit:  Alex Hoerner

WFAR (Write For A Reader):  Tell a little about yourself.

Margie: I’ve had my nose stuck in a book since Kindergarten. I didn’t speak to anyone outside my family until third grade. I went to a college where I could take only literature and writing classes. I went to a writing school in the UK. I wrote screenplays. I made videogames. I have a husband, three daughters, and two bad beagles. And I read a book almost every day of my life.

Kami: I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and spent most of high school filling about forty notebooks with poetry. I’ve always been a reader, drawn to fantasy in particular, since I’ve always been a little dark. I have an MA in education, and I’ve been teaching for thirteen years. Currently, I’m a Reading Specialist and when I’m not teaching kids to read, I’m discussing books with them.

WFAR:  How did you end up writing a book together?

Margie: We’ve been friends for so long, we emigrated over from being book- swappers to critique partners to writing partners. I guess we just ran out of other things to talk about!

Kami:  And the fact that Margie’s daughters, and some of my other former students, dared us to do it. We were always talking books with them, and I taught them to be demanding readers when they were in my class. They definitely remembered the demanding part – but it’s the reason we wrote and finished BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.

WFAR:  Can you give us some of the back story on BC?  How did this story come to be?

Margie:  It involves a long lunch, lots of Diet Coke, writing on the backs of many napkins, a love of the South, and the words “Sixteen Moons.” From there it was a short leap to Ethan, and telling a supernatural boy meets girl story from the perspective of the boy. Everything just sort of rolled out from there.

Kami:  It was a completely caffeinated, salsa-induced, brainstorming session of epic proportions.

WFAR:  BC is set in the South and you live in California. Did either of you live in the south once? If not, how did you decide on this setting?

Margie:  Our maternal families are both from tiny towns, mine in the west and Kami’s in the South. We both eventually lived with these three generations under one roof, so we have a shared casserole culture between us. I also came to the South through spending many years studying American Literature, and loving Eudora Welty and Harper Lee and Flannery O’Connor.

Kami:  My mom’s family is from North Carolina, and living with my grandmother and great-grandmother, I lived in a world of sweet tea and sass. My mom still remembers her summers on her aunt and uncle’s farm. But small towns are small towns, aren’t they?

WFAR:  What made you choose the YA genre?

Margie:  That’s what we read. My teenage girls and I are practically our own book club!

Kami:  We read YA, so there was never a question about writing it. I think YA is raw and real in a way few genres are. We’re pretty raw.

WFAR:  You have a blog called the Caster Girls. Can you tell the readers about the significance of the Caster Girls and how they can find out more about them? (plugging Vania's blog; it's shameless, I know)

Margie:  The Caster Girls are the girls who have been our first readers, right from the start. The blog their own authentic teen voices, which we felt were important to put out there. They can always be found at, or from links at

Kami:  The blog is actually theirs. They run it, write it, and maintain it. And they do an amazing job.

WFAR:  Lena, the main character, is a strong-willed character. Is she based on anyone?

Margie:  She’s more of a reaction to many YA heroines than anything else. We wanted her to be powerful and strong and opinionated. The teen girls we know are more individualistic and brave than we are!

Kami:  Lena is as strong as we wished we were as teens. She wants to be herself. But more importantly, she tries to be.

WFAR:  Can we expect a sequel? If so, have you already started? Title?

Margie:  The sequel is just finished, hooray! And we can’t tell you the title yet, but soon!

Kami:  We think the sequel will be out next December, and there are lots of surprises.

WFAR:  What are your writing "must haves,” the things you just can't write without?

Margie:  I think they’ve been fairly well documented: Diet Coke, Starbucks, Wheat Thins, Earphones, Reading Glasses, my MacBook Air and the soundtrack to Spring Awakening. Though sometimes my sister- in-law will make me a mix to go with what I am working on; I’ve had both a Sixteen Moons and a Seventeen Moons writing playlist that have really helped. And I have to start writing with the same song, every time.

Kami:  Aside from food, which Margie covered, I need quiet to write. No music. I hear the voices of the characters in my head as I write, and I need silence to hear them.

WFAR:  How does it feel as you wait to see your book on bookstore shelves?

Margie:  Crazy. Surreal. Amazing. Like a dream. The first time I saw the ARC I cried like a baby. The first time I saw the book on the shelf I forced Anna the bookseller to autograph it.

Kami: The book is actually on the shelves, and it is totally surreal. It’s like I’m living in an alternate universe, looking at something that someone with the same name as me wrote.

Fast Five: Margie
Favorite food and drink – Cheese & Diet Coke
Place you've always wanted to go – Prague
Favorite place to read – In bed with my 8 reading next to me
Word you love to use – “You know what I mean?”
Your wish – for my family to finally not have the flu anymore. And once that happens, to get to keep writing!

Fast Five: Kami
Favorite food and drink – Hot Fudge Sundaes & Diet Coke
Place you've always wanted to go – Italy
Favorite place to read – In bed
Word you love to use – Seriously?
Your wish – For everyone I love to be happy and healthy, and readers to find the book that makes a difference for them. Hopefully, for some, it will be BEAUTIFUL CREATURES.

WFAR:  Ladies, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you.  Beautiful Creatures is a wonderful book and I can't wait for the sequel!!

You can keep up with Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl at
Visit Little, Brown’s Beautiful Creatures website at

Beautiful Creatures is out in stores and would make a wonderful gift for Christmas!
Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells
Buy it at Indiebound

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Giving Books for the Holidays I

I thought, that for the next two weeks, I would post daily about books that would be good to give for the holidays.  The books I will be posting are either holiday titles, or books that I myself will be giving as gifts.  If you are a book lover like me, then you probably love to give books to the people you love. 

Today, I have 3 holiday books for you, courtesy of Random House, and the great news is that 3 of you will have a chance to win your choice of these books.  I have not received my review copies yet, so I'm just going to give you the descriptions.  My hope, is that you will find a book to give to someone, through these posts.

ZIGAZAK!: A Magical Hanukkah Night
by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Jon Goodell

On the first night of Hanukkah, two tricky devils arrive in the town of Brisk to cause mischief. They use a magic word — Zigazak! — to make dreidels dance and latkes fly. The good citizens of Brisk panic and appeal to their wise rabbi for help. He triumphs over the devils in a contest of wits, and soon sends them packing. But his real triumph is the ability to see the good in all things, even devils’ tricks, helping the townsfolk enjoy their most magical Hanukkah ever.

November 11, 2009
$19.99 / $22.99 
Ages 4–8
32 pages
How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Party Edition
by Dr. Seuss

The Grinch has been foiled!

The Grinch hates Christmas, and wants to stop it from coming. So he forms a devious plan: to impersonate Santy Claus and to steal the Whos’ Christmas presents. But come Christmas morning, the Grinch is in for a shocking surprise. He did NOT stop Christmas from coming! And the Grinch realizes something new. That maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. That maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!

Now always available with a foil cover!

Random House
August 11, 2009
$15.00 / $18.99
Ages 6–9 
64 pages

A CHRISTMAS MEMORY 50th Anniversary Edition
by Truman Capote; illustrated by Beth Peck

First published in 1956, this much sought-after autobiographical recollection of Truman Capote's rural Alabama boyhood has become a modern-day classic. We are proud to be reprinting this warm and delicately illustrated edition of A Christmas Memory--"a tiny gem of a holiday story" (School Library Journal, starred review). Seven-year-old Buddy inaugurates the Christmas season by crying out to his cousin, Miss Sook Falk: "It's fruitcake weather!" Thus begins an unforgettable portrait of an odd but enduring friendship between two innocent souls--one young and one old--and the memories they share of beloved holiday rituals.

Alfred A. Knopf
October 10, 2006
$17.95 / $23.95 Can.
Ages 12 up
48 pages

Thanks to my friends at Random House, one of these books could be yours to either gift or keep for yourself.  Just leave me a comment as to which one(s) you would like, by Sunday at midnight, and I'll randomly pick 3 winners on Monday, Dec. 14th.  Winners will recieve one of the 3 books.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Because of A Book with Lynn Goodwin

For the next few weeks, I will be featuring some WOW! Women on Writing authors.  I am so excited that they are participating in Because of A Book.  Please make them feel welcome.

This week's author is Lynn Goodwin.  Here's a little about Lynn:

During the six years she spent caring for her mother, B. Lynn Goodwin found comfort in the journaling she did. She eventually began teaching journaling workshops and writing a book to guide other caregivers through journaling. You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers offers encouragement, instructions, and over 200 sentence starts to help anyone start putting their thoughts on paper.

It is for current, former, and long distance caregivers. These are the people who take care of spouses, parents, children, special needs children and themselves. It is also for professional caregivers including nurses, social workers, teachers, and anyone in the helping professions.

Lynn is also a teacher , editor, and writer. Her work has been published in Hip Mama; the Oakland Tribune; the Contra Costa Times; the Danville Weekly; Staying Sane When You’re Dieting; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; Career, Caregiving, and Self-Care NCDA Monograph; 24/7—a caregiving anthology; We Care; Families of Loved Ones Magazine (forthcoming); Kaleidoscope (forthcoming) and numerous e-zines and blogs. She also publishes Writer Advice at

WOW-Women on Writing is doing a Month of Journaling on Twitter. Every other day we tweet one of Lynn's writing prompts to followers so they can dip their toe into journaling. On Dec. 17 the month will be wrapping up on where everyone can share how their journaling experiment went.

Because Writing Empowers People

As I drove my mother to her medical appointments, stopped at the pharmacy, microwaved Lean Cuisine, answered questions, wrote checks for her to sign, and helped her get dressed, I planned the memoir I would write someday. I was going to show the toll her aging took on both of us.

After she was gone, I came up with several solid scenes, but I grew uncomfortable as I workshopped them. My mother was a private person. Sharing her story felt like a betrayal.

After reading my piece, workshop participants often slid into their own stories of caring for a parent or spouse, and then lapsed into tales of caring for their special needs child, their tough-as-nails teen, or the 38 students in their seventh grade class. My stories seemed to open up theirs.

About 36 hours after I talked with a writing partner who was planning a collection of prompts for writers, I heard the words “Journaling for Caregivers” from a voice just outside my head. There was no one in the room but me, and the source of that voice remains a mystery. As soon as I heard those words, though, a plan clicked into place.

I needed to write a book that would empower caregivers to explore their stories. Journaling does that. It helps you vent, process, analyze, discover and find hope. It gives perspective and restores sanity. Writing is therapeutic, and research shows it saves lives.

All anyone needed was encouragement, instructions, and a way to avoid the blank page, so I wrote You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers. It explains the healing powers of writing, gives simple instructions, and offers over 200 sentence starts to help anyone begin the process.

Those who have tried journaling love it. Sharon Bray, the author of When Words Heal: Writing Your Way Through Cancer said, "As someone steeped in the therapeutic value of writing during pain and loss, I think B. Lynn Goodwin's book meets a need that has yet to be addressed."

Want to try the process? How would you respond if the sentence start is “Today I want…”? Finish the sentence and keep going. Dig in. Let one idea lead to the next, and see where the writing takes you.

If you want to post what you’ve written, I’m happy to write back and tell you what stays with me.

Because of this book, I am able to honor my mother in a way no memoir could. I hope You Want Me to Do WHAT? helps you tell your story.

Lynn, thank you for stopping by today and sharing your book.  What a sweet way to honor your mom!

About You Want Me to Do What?: 
Over fifty million caregivers spend every spare minute driving to medical appointments, stopping at the pharmacy, cooking, answering questions, paying bills, and helping with matters that used to be private. They feel trapped in an endless loop and need to release the stress of caregiving. B. Lynn Goodwins new book, You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers allows users to process their stress and celebrate what is right. It gives readers open-ended instructions on spilling their guts in the safety of a private journal and offers two hundred sentence starts to help them begin writing. Caring for oneself is as essential as breathing, but caregivers lose sight of that fact. Think of the flight attendant who says, Put on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you. Journaling is a caregivers oxygen mask, which You Want Me to Do What? provides.

Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Powells
Buy it at Indiebound

Monday, December 7, 2009

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday - 12/6/09

Happy Monday!!  I did a lot of reading and house cleaning this weekend.  I unplugged for 2 days, and did miss you all, but enjoyed the reading time and got a alot done around the house as well.  We are finally decorated for Christmas!!

Welcome to another edition of In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday, where I show you what books came into my house via the mailbox. In My Mailbox is hosted every Sunday by Kristi at The Story Siren and Mailbox Monday is hosted on Mondays by Marcia at the Printed Page. Both ladies have wonderful blogs, that I hope you will take the time to visit. I appreciate each of them for hosting these memes so that book bloggers can share the books that they receive to review. To see what others have gotten this week, visit these ladies and check it out!

Here's what came into my house over the last week:

For Review:

The Purloined Boy by Mortimus Clay, from the author via Amazon

The Purloined Boy, by Mortimus Clay, is a work of fantasy literature for young adults. In parts dark and grotesque, in others luminous and inspiring; it could be described as R. L. Stine meets Plato. It begins with the question, Where do all those children on the milk cartons go? It provides the answer through the eyes of one of those children, a boy named Trevor Upjohn, the purloined boy. Trevor was stolen by a bogeyman as a toddler. But he can't remember that. And he's not the only one. Thousands of children just like him were stolen by bogeys and taken to Superbia, the worst place in the universe. There, the children are cared for by group of officious and unfeeling humans known as the Guardians. For what purpose you ask? A dark and sinister purpose: the most horrid one any could possibly imagine! Fortunately Trevor is not left to fend for himself. A conspiracy comes to his aid, a conspiracy made up of an old man with one good eye, a red-haired girl named Maggie, and a mysterious but very powerful mouse named Zephyr.

Fallen by Lauren Kate, from Random House
There's something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price's attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He's the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.
Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce--and goes out of his way to make that very clear--she can't let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.
I'm actually reading the ARC of this one right now and am loving it!  It releases tomorrow, Dec. 8th, and I'll have a review up later this week.

Mozart in the Future by Tania Maria Rodrigues-Peters, from Smoky Mountain Books

Max is really a boy like any other, but he has a talent for music and a strict mother who wants him to be a great musician. When the doctor says that Max must not to go to school for a few days, Max has no idea that he is about to meet one of his heroes: Mozart, the genius who was one of the greatest composers of all times. Can you imagine Mozart as a child, going down a snowy slope on a sledge, watching cartoons on TV or eating hamburgers? Well, in 'Mozart in the Future' all that and more is possible when you follow their adventures as they try to return Mozart to his own time, helped along by a mysterious fairy-like being called the Spirit of Music.

For Cybils Judging:

But Who Will Bell the Cats?
Erika - San
Mouse Was Mad
When it's Six O-Clock in San Francisco
Two at the Zoo
My Abuelita
Martha Doesn't Say Sorry
I Always Always Get my Way

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