Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Wonderstruck" (ARC) ~ Brian Selznick


This is a captivating book that tells three stories at once.  Ben's story is told only in words, while Rose's is told only in pictures.  The third story is what unfolds when the first two converge through a unique turn of events that really did leave me Wonderstruck (and reaching for the tissues) when it was over.

Click here to read more
Does This Book Make My Butt Look Big?  (The art of the negative review.)

I'm not a writer so I have no idea what's it's like to spend months or years on a book.  I don't know the blood, sweat and tears of pouring my heart and soul into a story, watching as the characters move from my imagination and onto paper.  Being able to see/touch/feel what was once just an idea turn into something solid with a pretty cover that now sits atop a shelf in my local bookstore is beyond my comprehension because again, I'm not a writer.  

I don't know what it feels like to have this work, this creation, this "baby" if you will, out there for people to read and OH MY CUPCAKE! voice their opinion about it.  Then those people tweetblogfacebookmyspacegoodreads EVERYONE.THEY.KNOW!  *chews nails*  What if they hate it?!  What if nobody buys it?!  

The only thing I can equate it to is... 

Giving birth and people telling you, "That is one ugly kid!" or
Shopping with a friend and asking, "Do these pants make my butt look big?"

I am not a writer but I AM a reader/reviewer/blogger and while I'm certainly no expert I do think there is an art to writing a negative review. (OK, so maybe it's not an "art" but it's sounds nice doesn't it?)

If I don't like a book, do I still write a review?  Yes. I do.  Why?  Well, because I think the author wants honest feedback.  Maybe I'm wrong.

Not every book is going to WOW! you because frankly, there are some lame books out there.  It's also a fact that not every book is for every body.  Why?  We're all different and we like to read different things and that's OK!  

I honestly don't understand when a reviewer crosses the line and starts attacking the author's personal character simply because they didn't like what their story was about.  It's not cool and damages the reviewers credibility in my opinion.

Each time I write a review I always consider the author and their feelings first.  If they ever come across my review of their book, how will they feel when they finish reading it?  My hope is always that they will be encouraged in some small way, even if it's obvious I didn't like their book.  

I stress over negative reviews a lot more than I do over glowing ones because I never enjoy the idea of hurting someone else's feelings - even complete strangers who most likely could care less about mine.  Ha!

When you think about it, the art of the negative review is much the same as the Golden Rule: "Review Unto Authors As You Would Have Them Review Unto You."

Friday, December 30, 2011

What's Coming in 2012 
Here's a list of some pretty awesome books that are coming out in 2012.  A few I've had the privilege to read already but the others I'm having to be patient and wait for, unless, of course, I can figure out who I can bribe with cupcakes for ARC's.  ;)       

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

 Insurgent (Divergent, #2) 

I.CAN'T.EVEN... If there was a fear scape I needed to go through in order to receive an ARC of this book I would do it.  Even if that meant eating meatloaf, making a phone call or dealing with spiders, clowns or Heaven forbid...owls. 

Timepiece (An Hourglass Novel) by Myra McEntire
This is a cover worth going to the bookstore just to pet it's so purdy and it's from Kaleb's POV! 

Timepiece (Hourglass, #2)

Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky

Publication date is January 2 (according to goodreads) Read my review

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Another beautiful cover and we'll get to find out what happened Lena and Alex!

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments Book 5) By Cassandra Clare

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever (The Chemical Garden, #2)

Dreamless by Josephine Angelini

Dreamless (Starcrossed, #2)

A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Publication date is January 1st according to goodreads.

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2)

A few other books that have 2012 publication dates (although that can always change) but whose covers have yet to released are:

Mara Dyer #2 by Michelle Hodkin

Hidden (Firelight #3) by Sophie Jordan

Matched #3 by Ally Condie

Hush Hush #4 by Becca Fitzpatrick 

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homeschool Rewind

For those who aren't too familiar with homeschool life or whose only point of reference are the ones that have their own show on TLC and a few more kids than I do (quite a few more) well, here's a peak at what our homeschool life is like.

Before I begin, I should warn you - what you see may not always be pretty, neat, tidy, orderly or even look like learning at all, but I assure you, we're constantly learning (even if it's how to make a fool of oneself).  Oh yeah, there will be dancing too, so prepare yourself.

Why do we homeschool?  The easiest answer is because we feel led to at this stage of our lives.  It's a good fit for our family and creates endless learning opportunities for the boys but it's not for everyone and I'm cool with that.

One of the BEST things about homeschooling?  The field trips!  I am all about the field trips!  We get to take a lot of them when everyone else is IN school which is even better.

The Lego Store is a FAVORITE of ours!

They offer some really cool, age appropriate classes and the kids come home with free Legos. You heard me Moms...FREE LEGOS!


 It's also a great place to practice planking

The Science Center is another fun place.

Where else can you touch a tornado?

Or lie on a bed of nails?

We took a trip to D.C. & V.A. recently which was an adventure that would require it's own post but here are a couple highlights.  I grew up only 20 minutes outside D.C. and visiting my old stomping grounds with the hubs and kids was a treat. If you're planning to visit the area, riding the Metro is the way to go! 

The boys were able to make actual cotton in a cotton gin at the Museum of American History.

We said "Hello" to Honest Abe.


We got super close to The Washington Monument aka Big Giant Pencil to the 7yr old & the obelisk to the 12 yr old whose read "The Red Pyramid"

The topiary gardens was a new stop for us this year & really cool although the one area looked slightly "Shining-ish". 


Gives new meaning to having your head bitten off. :D

Sometimes our field trips take us a little further from home and require different modes of transportation like...


Zip lines

Or the very rare "Upside Down Unicorn" (don't ask...)

We're also part of a co-op that meets weekly for activities (roller skating, hay rides, etc.), service projects (we cleaned & readied a widow's yard for fall, made blankets for the homeless & cards for soldiers) and parties.  I was the party planner this semester, in part because that's my comfort zone (sort of), everyone seems to enjoy my cupcakes and because I'm the Mom who doesn't seem to have an issue with making a fool of myself whether it be dancing, or planking.


Planking on top of old school arcade games, directly under a security camera.

We went to the local pumpkin patch/apple orchard via hayride.

Our co-op Halloween/Harvest party had the kids (& Mom's) dressing up as they're favorite literary character & taking the time to share why they chose that person.  I went as Tris from "Divergent" (neck tats & all!). My oldest was Percy Jackson & my youngest, well, he's Dauntless to the core & wanted to be a pirate. 

So see, we're always learning whether it's a day at home, (under a table),

socializing with friends at a co-op outing

or making gingerbread houses with our other homeschool BFF's.
Finally, I said there would be dancing.  
This "project" incorporates, artistic expression, creative & technical arts, music, dance, PE and character traits like selflessness and humility or is it humiliation?  Either way, this is how you show your kids you love them - by agreeing to make a dance video and then posting so other people can see it.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011

As the close of 2011 creeps up and it becomes glaringly obvious that it is, in fact, the end of the year and not still the middle of the summer, which found me sitting in the sun with a book in hand, I thought making a "Best of" list would be fun.  The irony of this whole situation being, this time last year I didn't have this blog, wasn't into reading for fun and wouldn't have known what an ARC or a galley was if it hit me in the face and made me cry, "CUPCAKE!" In no particular order except for #1...

Best of 2011~ Books
Divergent (Divergent, #1)
"Divergent" by Vernoica Roth ~ this is my FAVORITE book of the year! I have given this book as a gift numerous times and even went as "Tris" for Halloween.
Click below to read my review

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)
 "The Uncbecoming of Mara Dyer" by Michelle Hodkin ~ Read my review

Hourglass (Hourglass, #1) 
"Hourglass" by  Myra McEntire ~ Read my review

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)
"Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn't have)" by Sarah Mylnowski ~ Read my review

 Saving June

The Iron Knight (Iron Fey, #4)
"The Iron Knight" by Julie Kagawa ~ Read my review

 "There You'll Find Me" by Jenny B. Jones ~ Read my review

Lola and the Boy Next Door
 "Lola and the Boy Next Door" by Stephanie Perkins ~ Read my review

Silence (Hush, Hush, #3)
"Silence" by Becca Fitzpatrick ~ (The Walmart Special Edition has an extra chapter at the end that shows Patch & Nora's first meeting from his point of view.) Read my review

 All These Things I've Done (Birthright, #1)
"All These Things I've Done" by Gabrielle Zevin ~ Read my review

 We'll Always Have Summer (Summer, #3)
 "We'll Always Have Summer" by Jenny Han ~ Read my review

 What Alice Forgot
 "What Alice Forgot" by Liane Moriarty ~ Read my review

Best of 2011~ Music

One of cool things I discovered along with some great books this year is that many authors put out playlists - music they either listened to while writing or that inspired their characters/books.  These playlists introduced me to new artists and/or songs for which I'm grateful for.  I *hearts* music just as much as I *hearts* books.

#1 Blind Pilot ~ 3 Rounds & A Sound ( I discovered this band while reading "Saving June" and the lead singer will forever be the voice of Jake Tolan for me.)
#2 Blind Pilot ~ We Are The Tide
#3 Flyleaf ~ Memento Mori 
#4 Coldplay ~ Mylo Xyloto
#5 Gungor ~ Beautiful Things
#6 Foster the People ~ Torches
#7 Switchfoot ~ Vice Verses (My favorite band since they hit the E.C. in '03)
#8 The Decemberists ~ Forgone
#9 Bon Iver ~ Bon Iver
#10 Hillsong United ~ Aftermath

What are your favorites from 2011?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sometimes It Happens ~ Lauren Barnholdt

Sometimes It Happens
Senior Year is supposed to be the best year of High School but for Hannah, all she can think about is surviving the first day without all Hades breaking loose. 

Why? Well, for starters, she'll have to come face to face with Sebastian, the guy who broke her heart on the last day of Junior Year and Noah, the guy she's spent all summer with and who she thinks might just be the love of her life.  Then there's Ava, her longtime BFF whose just gotten back from her summer job in Maine and from whom Hannah's keeping a secret; one she knows could destroy their friendship.  Btw, did I mention that Noah happens to be Ava's boyfriend?, now you can see how her first day has "recipe for disaster" written all over it.

Will she make it through or will she lose everyone she loves before the final bell rings? 
Author, Barnholdt opens the book with Hannah's first day of school and uses alternating chapters to explain what happened during the summer so the reader gets a complete picture by the end of the book.  We watch as Hannah goes from a girl who merely basks in Ava's shadow to one who realizes people and situations aren't always what they seem and sometimes things happen that are beyond our control.
Noah was the most enjoyable character for me and the most redeemable.  He's kind and considerate, doing his best to watch out for Hannah, (like Ava asks him too). He sticks up for her too and even though he falters a bit, he does show a good amount of self control throughout the story especially for a teenage boy.  Another good quality about him is, he gives people the benefit of the doubt which is not always the case when you put teens and the rumor mill together.

Hannah was a little frustrating in the beginning but not in a bad way.  She's your typical, insecure, angst ridden teen who doesn't see herself as she really is because Ava garners most of the attention.  In their BFFship, Hannah plays "wing man" to Ava's "pretty girl".  She goes along with whatever Ava says because she trusts her judgement and she believes Ava is looking out for her best interest.  That's what BFF's do, right?   It isn't until she spends a significant amount of time away from her that Hannah really comes into her own person.  It's during this time though that things between she and Noah begin to change.  One of the best things about Hannah is her is patience.  She's been patient with Ava all these years and she's incredibly patient with Lacey and all of her issues.

Ava and Lacey, both of Hannah's friends but not fans of each other, come with their own set of problems.  Ava's number one flaw is her self centeredness and passive aggressive behavior which was rather annoying.  Even when it appears that she's doing something nice for Hannah, it's just that, an "appearance".  Lacy is her own brand of "crazy" (laughs while typing) but you can't help but love her.  That leaves Sebastian and he is a typical teenage guy.  He's not thinking too much beyond the "here and now" and is all about having a good time, whoever that good time might be. 

I enjoyed this book even if I didn't always agree with the choices the characters were making.  It has all of the dramatic highs and lows of a popular T.V. teen drama with a famous zip code, while also incorporating a "Groundhog Day" feel.  The only difference being, these characters don't have to repeat the day's events over and over again.  

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Book Basket

I've just finished some great new reads thanks to YA Books Central, Netgalley & Thomas Nelson (see my reviews below). 

My "To Read" list continues to's a peak at what's in my Book Basket now... 

War Horse (War Horse, #1)Every You, Every MeWonderstruckPast Continuous (Future Imperfect, #2)Incarnate (Newsoul, #1)Sometimes It Happens

"Red Heart Tattoo" (ARC) ~ Lurlene McDaniel

Red Heart Tattoo

Thank you Netgalley for this ARC.  This was an interesting story about young love, loss and learning to move on after a senseless tragedy.  There was a definite Columbine feel to this and anyone who remembers where they were when that story broke will no doubt appreciate the similarities.

"At 7:45 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving break, a bomb goes off at Edison High. Nine people die instantly. Fifteen are critically injured. Twenty-two suffer less severe injuries. And one is blinded."  Life as these students know it is forever changed and they must now figure out how to go on living.

We get a glimpse of their lives before the bombing and we see the usual high school social landscape with Student Council President Morgan, her jock boyfriend Trent, and the rest of their popular friends. Then there are the outsiders like inked up Roth, the guy with the troubled past who can't seem to stay on the straight and narrow and his long time friend "with benefits", Liza who has enough piercings to send a metal detector up in smoke.

Morgan and Trent are the "It" couple of the school but of course, it wouldn't be high school without drama in the love department.  Trent loves Morgan, Morgan loves Trent, Roth secretly loves Morgan, Morgan likes the attention Roth gives her and Liza is madly in love with Roth. (Got it all straight?) 

From all appearances, Roth and Morgan couldn't be more different and as hard as Morgan tries to unite the student body, even she can't bridge the gap between the naturally occurring cliques.  Roth wants to get closer to Morgan but so far is content to watch her from the sidelines.  Liza is insanely jealous of the attention Roth pays Morgan and tries desperately to get him to love her back.  When he shares a secret with her, Liza makes the mistake of repeating it to some friends, and the information gets back to Morgan.  Her decision not only damages Roth's reputation but their friendship as well. (Not the best way to get a guy to love you back.)

This story makes a good point of how "judging a book by it's cover" is often a mistake.  Roth and Trent, while physically different in appearance, are both good guys.  Trent is the All-American jock who enjoys taking every chance he can to make out with his girlfriend but does show restraint with Morgan.  He truly loves her and wants to spend forever with her, after they finish college first.  He is willing to do anything for her - literally.

Roth seems to fit the bad boy image but once you look past the ink, you see a boy whose sweet, kind and who wants the love of a beautiful girl just like the next guy.  He's lived through a horrific childhood and has acted out over the years as a result.  He tries to change but gets pigeon holed a lot because of past mistakes.  His sacrifices are surprising to some but not to those who really know him. 

Morgan is smart, pretty and a fighter.  She's determined to succeed at whatever she puts her mind too whether it's a school function, her relationship with Trent or her future. She has everything planned out and doesn't want anything or anyone to mess those plans up.  Roth is the only thing that rattles her.  Something about the way he looks at her and makes her insides twist, could throw a wrench in her plans with Trent, if she lets it.

On what seems like an ordinary school day, life changes in an instant when that bomb goes off.  In a flash, Morgan's future with Trent is no longer crystal clear and Roth's past will once again come back to haunt him.  The only thing that is certain is how Morgan and Roth's lives will be intertwined in a way neither of them ever imagined.  

*Normally, I'm a fan of the "Epilogue" but this one felt incomplete somehow like it focused on the wrong characters. This is just my opinion but it would've seemed more appropriate or interesting to have it be the five or ten year anniversary showing where they were now.