Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2015

This week's topic was Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015 (with links to my reviews).  Books are listed in no particular order.  

Young Adult

These two books were recommended to me by the ladies at TheMidnightGarden.net.  I don't typically read much Contemporary/Realistic Fiction, but I instantly loved Simon.  He is just so lovable.  I also loved Lila in A Darker Shade of Magic.  She is so independent and strong willed, plus alternate London's.   


Middle Grade 

My true passion usually lies in middle grade and my options were pretty wide open so far this year.  I enjoyed reading each of these books for various reasons, be it that they included cooking, puzzles, humor, magic, were scary or just down right fun to read.  These were a few of my top picks.  



So, what books would make it on your favorite reads for 2015 so far? Feel free to share your TTT links in the comments.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Classic Read Along: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

June's  pick for the Classic Read along with the Midnight Garden was To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  You can follow along or join in the discussion at http://www.themidnightgarden.net or #tmgreadalong on Twitter.  

This is my first time reading To Kill A Mockingbird.  I know, I know how did this happen?  I blame my high school teachers, isn't this when most people are first introduced to this book? Anyways, I'm not truly sure how I missed reading this growing up, but I'm really happy it was chosen for the Classic read-a-long this month.  Like so many others, I'm now left waiting for the sequel, Go Set a Watchman.   

It is really easy to see why To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic.  It's the kind of book that I know I will read again, if only to take a step back in time to this fictional town and time period.   I think it's also the kind of book that resonates with people on a very personal level.  I just adored the small town feel of the story. The kind where kids are playing within yelling distance, everyone knows everyone else, well and everyone's business too. The kind of place where neighbors keep and eye on each other, and share gossip across the fence. You can walk to school and down to the neighborhood grocery store without a care in the world. Where as a kid, you feel safe at home with your parents and you've got roots. Roots and families that have a history in the town.  Maycomb is a very idealistic town at first, but soon neighbors and the main characters are forced to look at each other in a new light.   And what they find brings out both the good and bad in them.  
One of the things that instantly struck me was how young these characters actually were.  I mean Scout is six and Jem is ten at the beginning of the story.  They just seemed so advanced for their age but also so innocent.  Yet, it felt necessary having Scout's point of view and her reflections on events in later years.  It allowed for a childlike innocence to the story, given the serious themes of social injustice, prejudice, rape and racism.  Scout was the perfect narrator, helping us to see the world she lived in and the characters around her beliefs and prejudices.  Even having to face some of her own, when her brother tells her she is “behaving more and more like a girl” and then her Aunt wanting her to be more like a Southern lady.  How confusing this must have been.  
There were many religious themes in To Kill a Mockingbird,  with Miss Maudie's  conflict with the Baptists over her flower garden, how Atticus was choosing to bring up his children with his same values, even during the ladies tea time and bible study.  But, they seemed to fit into the time period, setting and theme's that Lee was trying to portray.  Nothing ever really came off as heavy handed, it just seemed to fit.
At the same time, Lee seamlessly blends in a coming-of-age story where Scout and Jem are learning about the world around them, but also learning about who their father is and what he stands for.  It's sad how they loose some of their childhood innocence as the events of Tom Robinson's trial unfolds.  
 Atticus was my favorite character throughout the story, well and Scout, she is just so adorable.   But, Atticus is a wonderful father with his calm demeanor and humble honest approach.

When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em.’

I could quote him for days. He just epitomizes what is good, moral and just, and represents an honorable man with a high standard of integrity. He is such a great role model to his two children and the wisdom he passes on about “never really understanding a person until you consider things from his point of view or until climbing into his skin and walking around.” are just wonderful life lessons. Atticus doesn't ever have it easy either. He wants to do what he feels is morally correct and his duty, by defending Tom Robinson. It's interesting that there are other people in town who agree with him, but it's like they make him their spokesperson.  Atticus does what he feels he should do, otherwise he “couldn't hold his head up in town.” His moral compass is very strong and Lee has developed this wonderful character for others to look up to.

‘The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.’

There were a few things about Atticus parenting style that I never fully understood though. Why did he allow the children to call him by his first name, rather than father?  Was it their way of showing him respect?  I keep wondering about this throughout my reading.  And why did Atticus allow his brother (Uncle Jack) to give Scout a licking after she used some foul language?   But, most of all I loved the compassion that he showed to Mrs. Dubose, even though they had very differing views.  
Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird was a wonderful story and I really can't say much more than that.

Favorite line:  "It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."  

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and if you've ever had a Scuppernong please let me know how they taste.  I'm kinda curious now.   

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Recipe for Adventure: Paris! by Giada De Laurentiis

17572915Paris! (Recipe for Adventure #2)
by Giada De Laurentiis's
Hardcover: 141 pages
Published: September 3, 2013 by Grosset & Dunlap 

Source: Library
Age Range: 7 to 10 years old

I saw this at the Library as I was browsing. My kiddo and I have decided in addition to reading books together over the summer, we would do some cooking.  Recipe for Adventure seemed just like the right book to get me in the spirit of things. 
 Aunt Zia has just come to live with siblings Alfie and Emilia.  Not having read the first book, I missed out on a few things, but it was pretty easy to get up to speed.   Aunt Zia appears to have the ability to transport the siblings to famous cities around the world (in the first it was to Naples), just by making them one of her special home-cooked meals.  Aunt Zia has a passion for cooking and she wants the siblings to grow an appreciation for home cooked meals (not the store bought imitations), but the real deal, foods made from scratch.   So, not only do they get to try new foods, they get to spend time exploring the new city they are in.  In this case, they travel to Paris where they are mistaken for students in a French cooking school.  They still don't know how Aunt Zia's magic works, but they'll have to figure it out in order to get home.

I have to admit that I didn't know who Giada De Laurentiis was until I picked up this book, so I didn't know that she went to Le Cordon Bleu or that she worked at Spago in Los Angeles.  I pretty much didn't know that she has an Emmy Award show for the Food Network, not to mention all the cookbooks she has written. Which now I think is pretty cool.  She certainly brings a passion to cooking that was evident while reading. Laurentiis really gave me the feel of Paris, and the food descriptions were lovely.  "He scooped another bite of the cheese and bread-it was warm and oozed slightly over the edge of the bread.  He added a slather of purple olive spread, which gave each bite a tangy flavor."  Yep, I'm hungry.   Recipe for Adventure is a lot like The Magic Tree House series, in that siblings are magically transported, except here everything was rooted in present day Paris with all it's famous landmarks and foods.  Included at the back are two recipe cards (for Hot Chocolate and Crepes), which I wonder why they didn't make them permanent pages and not one's that could be torn out.  Anyways, I thought this was a very fun book, I loved the description of Paris and the foods.  I would have liked a little more description on preparing the foods, but it just prompts me to do some exploring of my own. A great book for a young reader who is interested in cooking, plus the next locations sound wonderful, Hong Kong, New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, and Hawaii.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

Top Ten Books On My TBR For Summer 2015

This week's topic was Top Ten Books on My TBR For Summer

Last week's top ten highlighted some of the books that would have made it on to this list, so I'm going to list some books I'm currently reading and a few that I know are coming up that I want to read.  

25205326232819191.  I received a copy of Circus Mirandus from the publisher as a part of participating in the Release Day Blitz for the book hosted by Word Spelunking.  

2. The Mysteries of Cove: Fire of Inventions releases in September, but I'll be working on my review over the Summer.  


  3.  The Island of Dr. Libris just showed up on the new releases at my library, so I'll probably be reading this soon.  

4.  Each Summer I try to re-read one Harry Potter book, this year it's The Chamber of Secrets.  


5&6 Are for read-along's in the month of June and July.  

22024488The Ever Afters 4
7 & 8 Are two that I've purchased and am waiting on their release to start reading. 


9& 10 Are books that my kiddo and I selected for Summer read together's.

So, What books are on your TBR for the Summer? Fill Free to add your links in the comments.  

YA Review: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

SilverInTheBlood.jpgSilver in the Blood
by Jessica Day George 
Young Adult 

Ebook, 368 pages
Expected publication: July 7th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens 

Source: E ARC from NetGalley

Cousin's Dacia and Lou were born and raised in New York, after their mother's left Romania in their early twenty's.  Someday, they had planned to take the girls to Romania to meet the Florescu side of the family.  "A treat that was promised to them when they were somewhat older."  Yet, when Dacia has an "incident" involving the handsome Will Carver, her Aunt Kate deceides it's time for them to head to Romania.  Lou is to join them with her mother, father and two brothers in tow. The Florescu family has a rich Romanian history that has been linked with another noble family, the Dracula's for many years.  Now that the girls are seventeen, Lady Ioana, the head of the Florescu family, has plans for them. Plans that involve overthrowing the current monarchy and replacing them with Prince Mihai Dracula.  The family is also harboring secrets that are to be revealed at a special dinner planned in the girls honor. However, Lou and Dacia are determined to escape as soon as an opportunity arises. 

Silver in the Blood really piqued my interest because of the setting and a premise that involved a shape shifting family. Given the Romanian setting,  I anticipated a story that would somehow include Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, and was not disappointed.  I loved that there was a more historical approach to Vlad Tepes versus a story that featured a blood sucking vampire. You can tell that George went to great lengths to give historical accuracy to the story as well as giving the reader the feel for the time period of nineteenth century Romania.  

The story is told between the alternating perspectives of Lou and Dacia.  Dacia is the more bold and wild of the two, she says what she thinks and doesn't back down from anyone.  She has this energy about her that wants to run freely. Lou is the more dutiful daughter, obedient, shy, nervous.  The one who worries about fitting into society, being pretty enough or making her family proud.  Many of the chapters begin with letters and diary entries written by the two girls.  It gives a glimpse of their personalities, illustrates the closeness that they share and details some of the history.  Once they determine their abilities, it was interesting to see the roles of the two girls reverse.   Lou becoming the more defiant, strong willed, bolder.  While Dacia, who once thought of herself as beautiful, becomes repulsed with what she has become and backs away. I have to admit that I enjoyed Lou the most.  I loved her growth in the story and how she had such a special bond throughout the story with Dacia.  

Silver in the Blood is what I would call a slow moving story.  Much of the beginning of the book is getting the girls to Romania, giving insight into the families complicated history, and setting up the mystery behind the Claw, the Wing and the Smoke.  Once they're finally in Romania, things began to pickup.  That's when the shape shifting comes into play and Lou and Dacia find out just what kind of secrets their family has been hiding.  The story is helped along with little hints of romance between Dacia and Lord Johnny and Lou and Theo Arkady.  Two handsome men that are a part of a secret organization called the Archangels, charged with preventing the overthrow of King Carol.  The girls enlist their help to try and escape from their family and they all get wrapped up in a battle involving the King and Prince Mihai Dracula.  While the story is resolved in a satisfying way, George leaves room to add on to the series.  Overall,  I enjoyed reading the historical aspects of Romania, and despite the plot revealing itself slowly, felt there was just enough action to keep me interested.  And once Lou and Dacia's abilities became evident, I was vested in finding out what would happen to them.     

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Top Ten Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest of 2015

This week's topic was The Top Ten Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest of 2015

Books that I pre-ordered and I'm waiting their release:

 October 6th 2015 
The Ever Afters 4
June 30th 2015
August 25th 2015 

YA Books that I really want to read:

 September 29th 2015 

Books that I Own:
 Technically not out until 2016 


Uprooted came highly recommended by Kim at The Midnight Garden
The Maze Runner is actually one that my kiddo picked out for a read together and Nooks and Crannies was one that I won in a giveaway.  I just love the cover and all the lovely details (Keyhole in the title and mouse in her pocket), plus it's a mystery too.   

Books by Release Date that I really want to read:

Published June 2nd 2015 by Aladdin

 September 1st 2015
 September 15th 2015
 September 1st 2015 

September 15th 2015 
: September 29th 2015 

 November 3rd 2015
 November 10th 2015 
Wow, how did my September get so crazy?  So, did I pick any books that you're eagerly looking forward to?  Any MG Fantasy that I may have missed?  Feel free to leave me your TTT link in the comments.  

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Love to See as Movies

This week's topic was  Books I'd love to see as movies, in no particular order.
This weeks topic was such fun to gather together, it pits two things that I love into one (Movies and Books).  

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd1.  A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
19547856There is sweet sisters, a down home feel, magic, and a girl who see's words floating around people's heads. 

2. Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Simon is just so adorably cute and I would enjoy seeing his story unfold on film.   

13555073  3.  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Alternate London's, magic and Lila.  Ahh it would be fun to see Lila.

4.  The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
This would make a lovely ghost story.  

72495225.  The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West
I would love to see the talking cats and Olive realized on film.  There is just the right amount of creepy that this could be fun.  

6.  The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
I think this could make for an interesting movie, there is lots of potential with the magic, mystery, setting.  

18289482160748437.  The Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach 
 Fairytale retelling with adventure, great friendships.  Well thought out characters
 and just oozes middle grade fun.  

8.  All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
There just needs to be a movie about a food loving girl who is a secret food critic, plus that creme' bruele incident would be worth it alone.  

12969560176754629.  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Why is this not a movie yet?   Come on, the premise
 is if Blue kisses  her true love, he will die.  
Plus Ronan and Gansey and Adam...this is one 
I really hope for.  

10.  The Hero's Guide To Saving your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
I would love an animated version of this with the characters looking a lot like the illustrations.  

I certainly have a mix now that I look at them all up there.  Not sure how they all would do as movies, but I still think they would be fun to watch.  What made it on your list?  Feel free to share your links in the comments.