Beastly and Bewitching

9780061963285_p0_v1_s260x420A while back we shared our review on Towering, by Alex Flinn, which we kind of enjoyed.  There’s still a month left in the summer – still more time for summer reading.  What have been you been reading?  Kelly and I have both  been on a YA kick lately.  After reading (well almost reading) Towering I wanted to go back and reread a good Alex Flinn book so I picked up Beastly and found Bewitching as well.

Beastly is just what it sounds, a modern take on Beauty and the Beast.  I love this story, I really like this take on this story.  One of my favorite parts of this book is the periodic chat sessions between the “beast” and characters from other fairy tales that have been transformed or in the case of SilentMaid are thinking about transforming.  Moderated by a human who has studied fairy tales extensively this group talks through several fairy tales: Little Mermaid, Princess and the Frog, and Snow White Rose Red (btw if you’ve never heard of this story go look it up, this is not that Snow White it’s a different one but it’s really good story).

9780062024169_p0_v1_s260x420Kyle Kingsbury is a rich handsome teenager used to getting everything he wants because of his money and good looks.  He disparages those that don’t look as good like the mysterious Kendra, big mistake.  He “asks” Kendra to the big dance and naturally takes someone else.  When he gets home that night Kendra is waiting in his room no longer fat and ugly, she is thin and gorgeous and Kyle is in shock.  She casts a spell to turn him into a beast, he has two years to find someone who loves him for who he is on the inside or he will be a beast forever.  Pretty standard telling of the tale and Kyle goes through the pretty standard stages of grief for his former self before coming to some level of acceptance.  One night a robber breaks into his yard when caught the man offers up his daughter as a way out of trouble.  Kyle now Adrian takes him up on his offer and the story really gets going.  This is definitely a book worth reading.

Bewitching is a sequel/companion to Beastly.  This is Kendra’s story and other fairy tales as well.  At first I was bothered by the fact that this wasn’t just Kendra’s history, that was what I was expecting but she is telling you (as the narrator that is) more about herself and her history through the stories of others she has helped/tried to help.  The one big problem I had with this book is that she tells of helping the Little Mermaid just after the sinking of the Titanic so 1912, yet the author used LM in Beastly.  Really two different mermaids fall in love with human males and give up their voices to get legs?  This really affected my suspension of disbelief.  However the “Princess and Pea” and “Cinderella” stories are good adaptations.  I especially like the fact that I didn’t see the end to the Cinderella story happening the way it did.  The story varies from the traditional but that’s good, it makes it more interesting.  Another book worth reading!

 

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The Inn at Boonsboro

Ready for another summer romance?

9780425243213_p0_v1_s260x420Nora Roberts purchased the Inn in her small town of Boonsboro, Maryland. While remodeling and opening the Inn she wrote a trilogy of books about the process and a trio of brothers. I really enjoy when romance novels follow the male lead characters, this is something Nora Roberts has done before and does well. These books alternate between the male and female characters, a strategy not seen often but certainly one I enjoyed. The trilogy is also not the standard romance novel it is in essence a mini-series. We are introduced to many of the characters and places in the town. This seems to be overwhelming to some readers but as I am a big fan of book series this worked well for me.

Book one is The Next Always and centers on Beckett and Clare. Beckett has been in love with Clare since they were teenagers but she was madly in love with another man. They married, he entered the military and she moved away. She’s home in Boonsboro now a widow with three boys. Like the rest of the town, Clare is very interested in the remodeling of the old Inn, when she is offered the chance to write copy for the Inn brochures and website she jumps at the chance. Beckett selflessly, LOL, volunteers to give her a tour of each room. These “stolen” moments leave them both occasionally breathless and another member of the town vengeful.

9780425246030_p0_v1_s260x420While we meet many of the townspeople we are also introduced to the ghost Beckett has nicknamed her Lizzy. Lizzy lives in the Inn, throughout the trilogy she seems to come more and more to life as the Inn is rebuilt.

Book two is The Last Boyfriend and moves on to Owen and Avery. They have been friends for years but Avery suddenly has a new appreciation for and a new interest in Owen. The Inn is nearing it’s opening date and the two grow closer. We catch up with Beckett and Clare as well as getting to know Avery and Clare’s friend Hope. Lizzy appears again and the search begins to figure out who she is and just why she “lives” at the Inn.

9780425246047_p0_v1_s260x420Book three is The Perfect Hope, and as you would expect the story of Hope and the last Montgomery brother Ryder. Ryder wants nothing to do with the perfect fancy innkeeper but she’s gotten under his skin. Just out of a relationship that wasn’t what she thought it was Hope isn’t interested in getting into a new one but there’s something about Riley. While they find their way with each other Hope works with Owen to find the solution to the mystery of Lizzy.

I really enjoyed this trilogy, they were the first books by Nora Roberts I had read in several years. This set sent me back to her shelf at the library to see what else I could find. Check it out.

Fallout

9780763655341_p0_v2_s260x420I have a friend who is obsessed with post-apocalyptic stories.  There have been many stories about a possible apocalypse, nuclear war, or distopian society – this is a really popular genre, and it has been for a while.  She recently passed along a book called Fallout, about a family with a fallout shelter in the early 1960s.  The author of the book, Todd Strasser, has written numerous books for young people, it’s interesting he would choose this subject matter.  No one in the target audience of this book would have lived through the Cold War, and few would really understand (or even know about) the Cuban Missle Crisis.

This book was inspired by the author’s own experiences when his father built a bomb shelter in their backyard.  Strasser’s family was the only house in their neighborhood with a bomb shelter.  Scott, who is the main character of the story, is also the only boy on the block with a bomb shelter.  This Strasser’s 100th book, and its interesting that he would wait this long  to write this book that seems so personal.  Unlike the author’s own experiences, Scott’s family actually uses their shelter.

What would have happened if the bomb was dropped?  That’s the question this book tackles.  So many books in this genre have become just as popular with adults as they are with the intended YA audience.  One thing I noticed while reading it was the references to the 1960s that even the smartest kids will have a hard time understanding.  I just don’t think it resonates. Elementary school students who never lived through the “duck and cover” drills won’t understand the imminent threat of nuclear war that Americans lived through during the Cold War.

Shortly after Scott’s father finished building the bomb shelter, the neighborhood is shocked when they believe the country is under nuclear attack.  They were prepared, though.  As their neighbors are panicking and scrambling, Scott’s family prepares to get into the shelter.  As Scott’s father prepares to close the hatch a few of their neighbors are right outside, begging and fighting to come in.  It was hard to turn them away, and with a few extra people in the shelter, things are quite crowded.  One of their neighbors who had been the most opinnionated and cynical when Scott’s father began building the shelter made it in.  Even though he’s enjoying the benenfits of the shelter, he feels free to continue to criticize Scott’s father, making the situation immediately tense.

One thing this outspoken critic said sticks in my mind: “But we know who always has to have the last word.  ‘According to Nietzsche,’ Paula’s father replies, ‘In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments'”.  He is the first to give up hope.  Even though the days are hard to count for those living in the shelter, and with supplies quickly running out, this negativity is contagious.  Everyone in Scott’s family regrets letting this man into the shelter – it’s just one more of the difficult situations in the shelter.

This may have been required reading for children of my generation (I was in junior high when the Cold War officially ended).  Even though I liked the book, as did my friend who is obsessed with the end of the world, I am not sure it’s something kids today will enjoy.

Chesapeake Shores

9780778326267_p0_v1_s260x420This series is perfect for summer reading.  I actually live on the Chesapeake Bay – and love spending time over the summer at the beach.  We hope that you enjoy these books as much as we have!

Once again a series introduced to me by my bibliophile mom. I’m a big reader, I read 100 books last summer, but I think she even out reads me. This series by Sherryl Woods is about the O’Brien family of Chesapeake Shores, Maryland. The Inn at Eagle Point is the first book of the series, we meet Abby. She has come running home from New York City to help her younger sister Jess. Jess has decided to make her lifelong dream come true and purchased the titular Inn at Eagle Point, however she’s struggling to maintain it as she has ADD and is therefore naturally very easily distracted. Abby and Jess are two of Mick and Megan O’Brien’s five children. Mick and Megan are divorced and have been for many years. Mick is a workaholic and Megan simply could not take it any longer so she moved out, all the way to New York City leaving the children behind. The five O’Brien offspring: Abby, Brie, Kevin, Connor and Jess are affected by this in a variety of ways as we see throughout the following books. Throughout the 9780778326342_p0_v1_s260x420series Mick decides it’s high time he got Megan back as he still loves her deeply and we see them struggle to make it work again.

First we see Abby struggle with the stress of her job, a divorce, twin girls, and trying to help her beloved little sister, then reuniting with the man she left behind. Then Bree comes back to town in Flowers on Main. Failing as a playwright twice after a major first play success she is feeling dejected. As you can guess from the title she opens up a flower shop. She also comes face to face with the man she left behind, like sister like sister I suppose. In the last book of the original trilogy: Harbor Lights, as these have also been released in threes, former army medic, widower and single father Kevin moves home to surround himself and his son with family. We also meet Thomas O’Brien, Mick’s younger brother one to whom he does not speak. The three O’Brien brothers: Mick, Thomas and Jeffery created Chesapeake Shores together. Mick the 9780778326410_p0_v1_s260x420architect, Thomas the environmentalist, and Jeffrey the real estate agent worked together until Thomas saw that Mick was breaking rules about the Bay and turned him in, from then on the two have only spoken when they’ve had to at family dinners.
Between this trilogy and the next is a small novel A Chesapeake Shores Christmas, Mick and Megan have reconciled and agreed to once again tie the knot but how will this go over with their five children? If the kids don’t all approve will they even get married again?

The next three books begin with Connor’s story, Driftwood Cottage. The combination of his parents’ divorce, mother’s abandonment, and job as a divorce lawyer have Connor sure marriage will never work. Still he can’t seem to stay away from his son and former girlfriend, who left because she will settle for nothing less than marriage. Jess’s turn is next. She has always been self-conscious because of her ADD. She worries that 9780778313090_p0_v1_s260x420she is being judged by everyone because of it and in the case of Will Lincoln she’s sure she’s being analyzed. It may just take a trip to Moonlight Cove to help her find the truth. Susie O’Brien, Jeff’s daughter, and Mack Franklin have been “not dating” for so long neither of them are sure how to move on to actually dating. Mack has a plan until it gets derailed by his job loss. Susie is there for him and then it becomes his job to return the favor. Beach Lane is their story.

Time for another Christmas book: An O’Brien Family Christmas. Mack and Susie take the entire family along on their belated honeymoon to Ireland. This gives her brother Matthew the chance to convince Laila Riley that they are meant to be together, age difference be damned. It also gives the matriarch of the family Nell the chance to reconnect with an old flame.

The book that was supposed to wrap up the series is The Summer Garden. Moira, granddaughter of Nell’s old flame Dillon has come to town with her grandfather. Luke O’Brien, Jeff’s youngest child has fallen for her, but he’s not sure how to win her. He wants to convince her to stay in Chesapeake Shores with him.

I said Summer Garden was supposed to be the last book, so obviously it’s not, but the new book is just that new so I’ll give it, it’s very own post.

Kelly

Bedtime Books

9780394800912_p0_v2_s260x420Like Amy, one of my favorite times of day has always been bedtime reading to my son. Now my kiddo is 9 years old but we still read every night, hubby and I take turns. For the most part we have graduated to reading chapter books but just a few weeks ago he got back on a children’s book kick specifically my old favorite bedtime read: Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book.

We’ve been reading this one to him since he was little bitty. I love it! Read it nice and slow and quiet and it really will leave you yawning. Or read it for fun fast and loud and giggle over the silly Seussian creatures and how they sleep. (Side note my computer recognizes Seussian as a word, that should give us all some hint of the man’s impact on the world).

I wanted to share some of our other favorite bedtime books just in case you’re looking for something new, or maybe to remind you of something old.

From the time I was pregnant until we hit the chapter book stage there were three books we read over and over. Yes we were one of those couples that read to my belly lol. The first is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, we read it so many times hubby and I both had it memorized but T just loved it. As he got older we would recite it to him randomly during the day in funny voices and he would laugh until he got hiccups. On nights when he was up sick we would sit beside his bed and whisper it to help him calm down. Not long ago we were talking about our old bedtime favorites and discovered that though it’s been years since we’ve read it between the two of us hubby and I can still recite the whole book.

9780060775858_p0_v3_s260x420The next book we read almost every night was Goodnight Moon. A classic, and another one we can still recite after all this time. We haven’t pulled it back out to read but we just might have to do that. There are some great parodies out there of this book. Amy already posted about Goodnight iPad, which I love, there is also a Goodnight Goon, that’s probably one I need to pull out for the kiddo. I’m pretty sure he’d love it.

There was another Dr. Seuss book that we read frequently, yet another book we memorized: The Foot Book. I think one of the advantages of the Dr. S books is that they just flow so well, they’re so easy and so fun to read any time of the day or night.

There was one book that I found I loved to read, hubby not so much but maybe it was that I was teaching communication arts (English) at the time and it’s full of onomatopoeia. The Quiet Farmer by Marni McGee, the title alone tells you it’s a great soft bedtime story, or a great calm the kiddos down story. It’s a sweet day in the life of a farmer filled with the sounds of the farm.

As far as chapter books go I think my favorite to read has been The Wizard of Oz. There are some big differences from the movie but the heart of the story is the same and well worth the read.

So what are your favorite books to read to your kids at bedtime?

The Leftovers

9780312363550_p0_v1_s260x420Last summer I was super excited to watch The Dome when it premiered. Based on Stephen King’s behemoth novel that I found impossible to put down, I was really disappointed in the TV adaptation of the story. A few episodes in the show seemed to stray too far from the original story to keep me interested.  This summer it’s back – but I’m not watching.

This summer HBO is premiering a TV series called The Leftovers, based on the Tom Perotta novel of the same title.  Perotta is one of my favorite authors, so I was interested to see this TV adaptation.  I was not only intriguied because I loved the book, but the series was co-created by Perotta and Damon Lindelof who also worked on Lost.

The pilot premiered just last week.  Before watching the first episode I wondered how a book that was relatively short could be turned into an ongoing TV show.  I’m still not sure how the series will play out – but I was impressed that the first episode seemed to stick to the story line really closely.  Based on the raputure experience that is foretold in the New Testament, The Leftovers follows people who are just that – leftover after God has raptured his believers.  The world continues on, and the individuals who are left are struggling with what happened.  Many of those who were left behind are wondering if life is even worth living anymore.

Although I did really enjoy the book, I remember being slightly confused at the end of the book.  If the show follows that same path, I think viewers will be just as stunned as I was. It’s still worth watching – to see how society might function in the absence of true believers.

Award winning books of 2014 (so far!)

9780763660406_p0_v6_s260x420Many of the literary awards for the year of 2014 have already been announced. In case you needed a new book to read for the upcoming 3 day weekend, this can be your guide!  A few we’ve read (and loved), and a few we haven’t read but will be on our TBR list!  This is not the definitive list, of course, but books and awards worth mentioning.

This year’s Newbury Medal was awarded to Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventureswritten by Kate DiCamillo.  Ms DiCamillo has once been awarded the Newbury Medal before, this story about an unlikely hero is story anyone can relate to – and love.

The Caldecott Medal was given to Locomotive, written and illustrated by Brian Floca.  This book was also award the Silbert Honor.  Set in the summer of 1869, a family travels along the first transcontinental railroad to meet their father who had been working out west.  Train lovers will enjoy this one, along with parents who may be history buffs.  My daughter and I really enjoyed this one!

9780316055437_p0_v5_s260x420The National Book Award – Not yet announced, but I heard that the awards ceremony is going to be hosted by Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket).

The Pulitzer Award  went to The Goldfich.  I’m not surprised this book, written by Donna Tartt, was recognized and rewarded by the Pulitzer people.  This book has been on so many lists of the best books of the year so far.  It’s been on my to-be-read list, but I haven’t read it yet.  I always make it a point to read the Pulitzer winners, so this may get bumped up to the top of my list!

The Children’s Book Council gives out four major awards each year.  The awards are given for four separate age groups.  The award for grades K-2 is The Day the Crayons Quit.  9781426311024_p0_v1_s260x420Written by Drew Daywalt, I have read this story so many times to my daughter I could practically recite it.  No joke – it’s still hilarious though!!  For grades 3-4, the award went to Bugs in My Hair, written by David Shannon.  A tale about head lice, this is a story that any grade schooler can relate to!  The award for grades 5-6 went to National Geographic Kids: Myth Busted.  Written by Emily Krieger, this book focuses on busting myths that have been passed around by kids for many years.  Looking through this book, I recognize some urban myths that I heard about when I was a kid.  I know someone who is a huge fan of the show Mythbusters who would absolutely love this book! The Teen Book award was given to Allegiant.  Given the popularity of the series, and the movie that was released not too long ago it’s no surprise this award was given to Ms. Roth.

If your beach bag isn’t full enough already – stick one of these books in it.  These books will also come in handy if you’re trying to keep kids busy this summer.  Enjoy!