Friday, February 26, 2010
TheVirgin Queen's Daughter
by Ella March Chase
As captivating now as it was more than four centuries ago, the reign of Elizabeth I - with its scandal, intrigue, and resilience - has sparked the imagination of generations. In her sweeping historical debut, Ella March Chase explores a thrilling possibility: that the Tudor bloodline did not end with the Virgin Queen.
Tucked away in the country estate of her beloved father, Lord Calverly, young Nell de Lacy feeds her hungry mind with philosophy, language, and studies of science. Her mother, once a devoted lady-in-waiting to Henry VII's last wife, Katherine Parr, would rather her daughter stop dabbling in the grand affairs of men and instead prepare for her eventual duties as a wife. She knows all too well what menace lurks in royal courts.
But Nell's heart yearns for something more, and a chance meeting with Princess Elizabeth, then a prisoner of the Tower of London, pushes her closer toward finding it. Now, years later, Nell's chance arrives when she is summoned to serve as a lady-in-waiting to the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth. Nell is entranced by the splendor and pageantry of royal life, unaware of the danger and deception that swirls around the monarch and her courtiers.
But a lingering rumor about nine unaccounted for months in the Virgin Queen's past reignites when the flame-haired Nell - a mirror image of Her Majesty both physically and intellectually - arrives at court. Quickly she catches the eye not only of the cunning Elizabeth, but of those who would see the Queen fail. With strong evidence to connect Elizabeth to her newest maid of honor and the politics of England in turmoil, the truth could send Nell and those she loves to the Tower to join the wretched fates of those who've gone before her.
I had heard about this book on someone's blog...I can't remember whose, exactly...and was intrigued. I love alternate history books. This one was brilliantly done, as well! Chase blends historical rumor, fact, and her imagination in such a way that I was almost convinced that Nell de Lacey truly existed.
The details about court life, the descriptions of court dress, the activities presented to readers, all contributed to a rich and wonderful dive into the reign of Elizabeth I. All of the main characters were wonderfully developed and interacted in a truly believable way.
I laughed, I cried, I yelled at Nell to see that yes, Gabriel did love her. I was sucked into this book completely. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Wow. Okay, just had to get this out there...did anyone else watch the new Disneychannel Original Movie, "Starstruck?"
It was very cute. I love most of their movies...but I noticed that the lead female role, played by Danielle Campbell, bore a striking resemblance to Vanessa Hudgens, aka Gabriella from all the High School Musical movies.
All I could think was we've gone from the Barbie blond mold to the Gabriella brunette mold! They are both beautiful girls, and Disney made sure to play up their intelligence and innocence, but hmmm...I can't help but think maybe all the Disney starlets are starting to look similar...
Am I just crazy?
Saturday, February 20, 2010
by Leah Cypess
Reviewed from ARC sent by SLJ. Publication date: April 27, 2010 (Greenwillow)
The Shifter is an immortal creature bound by an ancient spell to protect the kings of Samorna. When the realm is peaceful, she retreats to the Mistwood. But when she is needed she always comes.
Isabel remembers nothing. Nothing before the prince rode into her forest to take her back to the castle. Nothing about who she is supposed to be, or the powers she is supposed to have.
Prince Rokan needs Isabel to be his Shifter. He needs her ability to shift to animal form, to wind, to mist. He needs her lethal speed and superhuman strength. And he needs her loyalty—because without it, she may be his greatest threat.
Isabel knows that her prince is lying to her, but she can't help wanting to protect him from the dangers and intrigues of the court . . . until a deadly truth shatters the bond between them.
Now Isabel faces a choice that threatens her loyalty, her heart . . . and everything she thought she knew.I loved this book! It's been quite a while since I closed a book and sighed... I was actually sad that there were no more pages. This book was everything I loved about Graceling by Kristin Cashore, plus had the court intrigue and political plots of Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series.
Isabel (the shifter) is a character that I routed for wholeheartedly. She was strong, independent, yet vulnerable and easy to like. Her lack of understanding in human emotion only drew me further into the emotional depths of this story.
I can't even really verbalize yet how much I loved this story. It felt as if I had been blown right over, but by a gentle summer breeze. I really hope to read more from Leah Cypess in the future!
Here's the Book Trailer from YouTube:
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
We broke the tweens into different groups first to do "Hot Chocolate Taste Testing" and "Pretzel Rod Dipping."
For the hot chocolate, I made a 60 cup vat o'hot chocolate which we poured into half cups for taste testing. They were able to add mini-marshmallows, peanut butter chips, or mints to create new flavors.
For the pretzel rod dipping, the tweens were given three rods each and they were able to dip in large bowls of melted bittersweet chocolate or melted white chocolate. Then we had about 6 different types of sprinkles they could use to decorate.
Once they'd done those two activities, we brought the whole group together for chocolate games. We had relay races and "hot chocolate potato."
For hot chocolate potato, they all sat in a circle, we played music, and they had to pass the chocolate "potatoes" around. Whoever ended with a chocolate was out (BUT they got to eat their chocolate) and the last person standing won a King-Sized candy bar.
Our first relay race, we divided the tweens into three teams and they each formed a team line. The first person in line would run up to the table, unwrap their mini-chocolate, then cut it into at least three pieces with a plastic knife and fork, then eat it without using their hands. When they were done, the next team mate would run up, etc. until everyone on the team had gone.
For the second one, we used two teams and each tween had to run up and unwrap and eat their mini-chocolate, BUT had to be wearing an oven glove on one hand while they did it.
All the games were fun and the tweens loved eating their mini-chocolates as part of the game.
The very last thing we did was announce the winners of our candy jar guessing game. We had set up two jars full of M&Ms and York Peppermint Patties (to make guessing just a little harder!) and allowed the tweens to guess a candy count for each jar. Whoever came the closest got to take the jar, candy and all, home.
All in all, a very successful, though tiring program!
Next up, "Camp Out Movie!"
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
This World We Live In
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Last Survivors, Book 3
It's been a year since a meteor collided with the moon, catastropically altering the earth's climate. For Miranda Evans life as she knew it no longer exists. Her friends and neighbors are dead, the landscape is frozen, and food is increasingly scarce.
The struggle to survive intensifies when Miranda's father and stepmother arrive with a baby and three strangers in tow. One of the newcomers is Alex Morales, and as Miranda's complicated feelings for him turn to love, his plans for the future thwart their relationship. Then a devestating tornado hits the town of Howell, and Miranda makes a decision that will change their lives forever.
A Conspiracy of Kings
by Megan Whalen Turner
Sophos is the very reluctant heir to the King of Sounis. He would prefer to be a scholar, to read poetry, study philosophy, count the ridges on grasshopper wings, or the growth rings on the stumps of olive trees. But what he wants doesn't really matter until the day all his responsibilities are forcibly taken away and he has a chance to decide his fate for himself.
by Chloe Neill
Dark Elite, book 1
New Girl. New School. Old Evil.
Lily's parents have sent her to a fancy boarding school in Chicago filled with the ultra-rich. If that wasn't bad enough, she's hearing and seeing bizarre things on St. Sophie's creepy campus. Her roommate, Scout, keeps her sane, but keeps disappearing at night. When one day Lily finds Scout running from real-life monsters, she learns the hard way that Scout is involved in a splinter group of rebel teens.
They protect Chicago from demons, vamps, and dark magic users. It's too bad Lily doesn't have powers of her own to help. At least, none that she's discovered yet...
First off, let me mention that I love this cover! It's very mysterious and the use of subtle flame-like coloring just adds to the air of dark drama. Great choice by the design team.
I am so glad that this is the first book in a new YA series by Chloe Neill. I am totally hooked on her Chicagoland Vampires series, but that's really a YA/Adult crossover series. This is definitely pure YA.
It's fun to read. There are a lot of elements I really enjoy....one of which is the "Buffy"-like feel. One of the characters mentions "Gossip Girl" in a scene and it's totally true, this series is pretty much "Gossip Girl" meets "Buffy"... and it works!
The setting at the creepy boarding school in Chicago is intriguing, complete with underground tunnels, gothic turrets, gargoyles, and a three foot tall scale model of the entire city built into the floor of a hidden room. Very cool.
This first book also contains a lot of interesting characters. Though readers are drawn immediately to some as the "good guys," many of the characters are excellent blends of good qualities and distinct flaws. Few characters are purely "good." The fact that they seem to have distinct issues makes each more intriguing and I can't wait to read the next one and see how things play out for some of the secondary characters.
The use of dark magic combined with morality issues makes for a compelling premise. Each teen with powers must decide wether to give up their powers at some point or to start sucking the energy from others to keep using it later. The different types of powers were fun to read about too, and I loved when Lily discovers her latent powers. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next book when it comes out.
Friday, February 5, 2010
When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
2010 Newbery Medal Award Winner
Four mysterious letters change Miranda's world forever.
By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda's mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she's too late.
This was a wonderful book! At first, I was hesitant to read it because I was not fond of the cover. After reading it though, I now appreciate the cover choice. Each element pictured (key, mailbox, shoe, book with note sticking out, etc.) plays an intrigal part in the story and readers can pick out where they fit into the story.
The setting is the late seventies, which also made me hesitate, but it turned out to be very relatable. The $20,000 Pyramid show plays a large role and Stead does an excellent job expaining it so readers can move beyond the foreignness of this game show to focus on the characters and their interactions.
The mystery develops in a beautiful way. Readers start to suspect things, but can only makes real connections as Miranda does. The truth is foreshadowed, but not revealed until the very end and I was pleased that I was unable to fully figure things out ahead of time.
The friendship and family relationships are fluid, realistic, and heartwarming. Miranda comes to understand the people around her much better as the story progresses and readers fully believe what is happening between the characters.
Highly recommended and fully deserving of its award.
by Maggie Stiefvater
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human...until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this book. It has gotten a lot of great buzz! Unfortunately, I LOVE Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause (the book, NOT the movie). This book just couldn't quite measure up to that werewolf romance for me.
I did enjoy the exploration of cold/season change as a cause for shifting. That was a very new idea. I liked the idea that menangitis could potentially "heal" a werewolf, but somehow in the actual writing of this idea, it felt trite and unrealistic.
The chapters were short and the writing was easy to understand so I can imagine a lot of teens will respond well to this book. The romance is also all consuming, which we all know is a huge draw for teens. I did like how even though the romance was overwhelming, eventually, Grace and Sam both acknowledge that they must also interact with the others around them and explain their relationship (in varying degrees).
Overall, though, I just did not love this book as much as I had thought I would. It was good, but it was not great.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Why I Let My Hair Grow Out - Maryanne Wood
And Another Thing - Eoin Colfer
What I Was - Meg Rosoff
Another Faust - Daniel and Dina Nayeri
Gilda Joyce: The Dead Drop - Jennifer Allison
Divine Misdemeanors - Laurell K. Hamilton
The Vampire Just Isn't That Into You - Vlad Melich
Chasing the Bear - Robert B. Parker
Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas - Louise Rennison
Splendor - Anna Godbersen
Front and Center - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Secret Society - Tom Dolby
Merrie - Vivian Schurfranz
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Sleepaway Girls - Jen Calonita
Cat Among Pigeons - Julia Golding
How to Ditch Your Fairy - Justine Larbeleister
Girl in the Arena - Lise Hines
Lily Dale:Discovering - Wendy Corsi Staub
The Pilgrims of Rayne - D.J. MacHale
Total: 20 books
January 2010 Favorites:
Front and Center - An excellent end to the trilogy. D.J. just kept getting better in every book!
How To Ditch Your Fairy - Fairies, moral lessons, romance, humor...I loved it!
The Sleepaway Girls - I just want to go back to camp now! A great summer read.