Summary: What was I like when I was born? The perennial question receives a fanciful response in a tale that takes an interspecies tour of mothers and babies.
Holly loves to hear the story of the night when she was born—but first she needs to ask a lot of questions. Did her mother hatch her out of an egg? Did she carry Holly in her pocket? Maybe she fed her baby mice for dinner? As Holly and her dad rule out one imaginary scenario after another, little listeners will be eager to join in, while learning some interesting details along the way. And they’ll be just as comforted as Holly to hear one final, satisfying tale of a happy and loving human mother on the day her baby was born.
Review: My daughter has been a little baby obsessed as of late (she really wants a sibling) and when I saw this at the library I thought it would be perfect... and it is. I love the information about other types of babies (I learned things I didn't know) as well as the dialogue between father and daughter. There is lots of silliness as they pretend parts of their discussion and it ends with a serious and sweet moment, when the conversation finally gets around to the day Holly was born. This is perfect little exploration for curious minds and a wonderful bedtime story.
This will soon be another permanent addition to our shelves, because it is a favorite in our house (nb. I brought it into my office to write this and my daughter demanded to know what I was doing with her book!). But fair warning, Holly's father didn't want to tell her about shark mommies and you may not want tohear about them either...
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Summary: What was I like when I was born? The perennial question receives a fanciful response in a tale that takes an interspecies tour of mothers and babies.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Summary: London, 1914. World War I is looming on the horizon, women are fighting for the right to vote, and global explorers are pushing the limits of endurance in the most forbidding corners of the earth. In this volatile time, the sweeping, multi-generational saga that spanned The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose continues. With myriad twists and turns, thrilling cliffhangers, fabulous period detail and a large cast of vivid characters (some new, some familiar), The Wild Rose provides an exhilarating and satisfying conclusion to an unforgettable trilogy. ~JenniferDonnelly.com
Julie's Review: I have been waiting 2+ years for The Wild Rose. Sometimes patiently and sometimes not. As soon as it was available for pre-order; it was ordered.
The Wild Rose does not disappoint this fan of the trilogy. It was everything I could have hoped for and perhaps a bit more. Ms. Donnelly does a remarkable job of bringing back the beloved characters from The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose with relevant story lines. She also added in several new characters that rounded out the story and were well developed.
The final novel focuses on the youngest brother in the Finnegan clan, Seamus or Seamie. Seamie is an explorer who helped founded the South Pole. So he's a bit famous and of course he's utterly handsome. Seamie has been in love with Willa Alden since they were teenagers but that relationship was stopped abruptly when an accident befalls Willa. They might be torn apart by circumstances but their hearts still long for one another.
The Wild Rose is set against the backdrop of the entry of England into World War I with Germany and then the long war. It shifts back and forth between Europe, Arabia, Africa and the Far East. Ms. Donnelly writes these locations with ease because they come alive on the pages. Not only is World War I predominant but so is the Suffrage movement. This is where Fiona and Joe Bristow are reintroduced. Fiona supports the non-violent movement to get women the right to vote and to serve in Parliament. Ms. Donnelly also brings back Sid and India during a vital part of the novel as well.
Obviously, I'm not going to giveaway major aspects of the book because that wouldn't be fair. The book offers something for everyone: history, romance, war and politics. I loved every aspect! The characters are well developed and intriguing. There is a good vs. evil element, but who is good or evil isn't as clear. It's ambiguous and keeps your mind sharp for the details.
It evident again that Ms. Donnelly does her homework when it comes to research. The amount of detail given for both the war and the suffrage movement is monumental and well executed.
This has been one of my favorite trilogies. For a long time after reading the books, the characters would jump into my head again just so I wouldn't forget them. I don't think I'll ever be able to forget these characters. In fact, at some point I will re-read them and it won't be that far into the future.
If you are looking for three historical fiction books to sink your teeth into then I urge you to pick up The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and now The Wild Rose
I am sorry to see the stories of these characters end, but I'm extremely grateful that I found them.
The Wild Rose will be released by Hyperion/Voice on August 2, 2011!
Final Take: 5/5
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Please note that if you haven't read the final book, the movie review could contain spoilers.
Julie's Review: I don't know why I bothered wearing makeup; specifically mascara to the movie. By the end it was gone. I haven't cried this much during a movie since I saw E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as a kid.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is mesmerizing and exhilarating. It is momentous and upsetting. It is everything I wanted in the final movie of a beloved series. I knew what to expect and yet I still found myself anxious during the movie. I found myself easily reduced to tears and sometimes sobbing.
I loved how Harry relied on those he loved but when it came down to it, he faced Voldemort on his own. He realized that it was up to him to destroy and to face him once and for all. I'm sure people who were expecting a huge showdown between Voldemort and Harry might have been a bit taken back. I always appreciated how JK Rowling wrote the final showdown and it came across beautifully on screen. I sobbed like a baby when Severus died and again at the very end when we saw their lives 19 years later.
As with the book, I thought the movie tied up the series extremely well. Yet, both endings give the fans hope that perhaps someday we can return to Hogwarts.
While the movies are wonderful in their own right, nothing replaces the books and the imagination they encourage.
I have to say Thank You to Jenn and Lisa for harassing me until I read the series. I am so grateful that they kept encouraging me. I can't imagine what I might have missed out on if I hadn't read them.
It is hard to watch the final scene and know that there is no more future Harry Potter books or movies. It is comforting to know that I can re-read the books and watch the movies whenever I feel the need for that young boy wizard who grew up into a fine man.
Julie's Final Take: 5/5
At first I was disappointed that the final showdown between Harry and Voldemort was alone, which was not as JK Rowling's wrote it, but as I considered it further I realized that she wrote so much into that final scene that it couldn't possibly be conveyed properly on screen. However, it did make for the only two awkward moments in the whole film though -Molly Weasley's battle with Bellatrix (fans would have been furious if this had been omitted, but it seemed out of place) and Harry explaining wandlore to Ron and Hermione after the battle. I also felt the epilogue, which was redone after initial screenings, was a little anticlimactic, but I remember wanting more the first time I read that too.
But now it is time to say goodbye to 'The Boy Who Lived', no, wait, not good-bye...
Jenn's Final Take: 5/5
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Review: I was really looking forward to this book, so I was excited about the opportunity to read it from Netgalley. Unfortunately, though it has all the makings of a fantastic story, it fell short of the mark.
First and foremost, I'm not really sure what this story has to do with Cinderella other than the time period and the girls' names. To me it was more Sondheim meets William Goldman's The Princess Bride with none of the depth or humor. The character's are paper thin archetypes and I couldn't get attached to any of them. I'm not sure what any character's motivation was or was meant to be. I was halfway through the book and I felt as if I was still waiting for it to begin. I'm not even sure whether this is supposed to be a middle grade read or a YA as some of the symbolism was rather heavy yet the writing leaned towards simplified.
The one thing I did love was the Legend of the Trees. Basically, every life is entwined with that of a tree, as long as one thrives, so does the other. It's a beautiful concept and I wish Ms. Lemon would have explored it further. As it was, it seemed to be jumbled in with many other underdeveloped ideas.
I have heard this is a series, so I hope this will give the author the opportunity to dig into the legend of trees, explore the kingdom she created, and develop her characters a little further. As for me, I may or may not get around to reading a sequel. It's hard to afford room in my TBR pile when I am so underwhelmed by this book. Cinder and Ella is due out November 8th, 2011 from Bonneville Books
Final Take: 2.5/5.0
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Summary: It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” ~randomhouse.com
Alice's Review: I found this sweet little mystery at the library at work, by library I mean about 20 or so books left by employees for the use of others. I picked it up for two reasons. The first is that it’s set in the 50s and the second is that I loved the main character’s name, Flavia de Luce. I know those are not exactly the best reason to choose reading material, but that oddness never failed me before. And it hasn’t failed me yet.
When I first read the back cover, I thought Flavia was much older. I wasn’t expecting a quirky 11 year old. I’m glad that’s what I got. Flavia and her cast of slightly off-center characters were fantastic. I can’t say enough about what a unique character Flavia is. She has moxie, a great sense of humor, and she has a “passion for poison.” Not only is this novel a mystery but it’s laced with humor, especially in the ongoing feud between Flavia and her sisters Ophelia and Daphne.
There were a few things I loved about this novel, underlying things that Mr. Bradley snuck in there that completely tugged at my heart strings. Flavia has a slightly troublesome relationship with her sisters. They treat her like the little sister and try to make her life as difficult as possible (when they are not ignoring her, that is). She’s not fazed by this and gives it right back to them. I love how she refers to one of her sisters as the Devil’s Hairball. Yeah, I’m pretty sure those are fighting words. There are times when she feels alone and unloved yet she doesn’t let that affect her. One of my favorite things about her is while riding Gladys, her trusty rusty bicycle, she thinks to herself, “I was me. I was Flavia. And I loved myself, even if no one else did.”
I was thoroughly impressed with the way Mr. Bradley showed Flavia’s vulnerable qualities. He does it in such a way that it reminded me she is only 11 years old, much younger than she acts. She has a yearning for her mother, who passed away when Flavia was born. She is a bit envious of her sisters, of their memories of Harriet. She even refers to her as Harriet. The mother she never knew, just a woman who happened to give birth to her.
Another great surprise was Flavia’s relationship with her father’s wartime friend Dogger. Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress, Dogger keeps to himself. The only one he bothers with is Flavia and I believe she loves him the most, more than her selfish sisters and absentee father. He’s the one she turns too when she finds the dead body and he’s the one she keeps going back to for help and comfort.
Overall, I found the mystery to be entertaining at best. But more than the actual mystery, it was Flavia who kept me coming back. She’s the one who made me want to keep flipping the pages to see what happens next. Although at this time I’m not in a rush to read more in this series, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a good mystery and an unlikely heroine.
Alice's Final Take: 4/5
Julie's Review: Hmmm, I was wrong. I was wrong about the mystery in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. It seemed so simple to me. I figured it was simple so that we could get to know Flavia and the cast of characters that will (I bet) continually pop up in the series. Did I love this book? Not really. Did I love Flavia? YES!! She is a gem, a dynamo and smart as a whip. I wish I had her brains when I was her age. Ok, I wish I had her brains now! She is a delight. I love how the book was told from her point of view and not 3rd person. It really wouldn't have worked well if told any other way. We get to know her view of her family and the world. Does it skew things? Of course, but I had no problem with that. Her sister's live in their own little world and treat Flavia like she's a tick that they can't get off their backs.
I honestly didn't really care too much for the mystery. It didn't intrigue me. I can't really put my finger on why though. I think I was more interested in the way Flavia was going about trying to figure it out, than the actual murder/mystery it's self.
I loved all the character's in the book and had a good time visualizing her part of the English countryside and Buckshaw during the 1950s. Although, at times I did feel like I was reading a book set in the late 1800s because of the writing style.
While I said I didn't love The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, it certainly isn't going to stop me from reading the rest of the series and seeing what other kinds of messes Flavia can get herself wrapped up in. So far there are a total of 4 books in the series. The next one is: The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag.
Julie's Final Take: 3.75/5
Monday, July 25, 2011
Earlier today we brought you a great interview with Dana Precious. Now we are pleased to bring you the opportunity to win your very own copy of her debut novel, Born Under a Lucky Moon: A Novel .
Must be a resident of the US to enter. The deadline for entry is Midnight EST August 1.
Please fill out the form below.
As always, Girls Just Reading uses Random.org to choose our winners.
I recently reviewed Born Under a Lucky Moon: A Novel by newcomer Dana Precious. Read it here. Ms. Precious took time to answer some questions for us. I am pleased to say she is as lively and funny as her novel. Enjoy!
Girls Just Reading (GJR): The past and present stories in this novel can easily stand alone yet you wove them with ease. Did you write them simultaneously or separately? How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
Dana Precious (DP): I wrote the stories simultaneously. Honestly I’m not even sure why I felt the 2006 story had to be in there. It just kept fighting its way in. I was told several times to cut that part out but I just couldn’t. Once I came up with the ending it became apparent to me. It was something that was just waiting to be revealed to me as a writer. The idea for the novel is inspired by my family. So many people say, the book is so funny but those things could never have happened. Believe me, I couldn’t have made a lot of this stuff up!
GJR: You grew up in a small town. Does your family still live there? How often do you go home?
DP: My mom still lives there in the same house I grew up in. My dad passed away several years ago. My brother and his family still live a half mile away from my mom, just across from her on Bear Lake. I go home every summer and love it. It will always be home to me and I love introducing my four year old son to all the things I did as a kid. We sometimes go home for Christmas but its an adventure getting there akin to climbing Mount McKinley. Once it took my family 36 hours to get home! The planes always get cancelled in Chicago due to snow.
GJR: I loved all the sisters. Did you base their very different personalities on women you know? Although this is Jeannie’s story and I enjoyed the time I spent with her, Sammy was my favorite to read about. Who was your favorite to write?
DP: It’s really interesting to me to see which sister the readers gravitate to. You’re the first one to mention Sammy. I’d love to hear why. I wonder if people are drawn to the sister that they themselves are most like. I’m the youngest of five kids. Just like Jeannie I have three sisters and a brother. I had more estrogen running around me than you can imagine. So yes, I did base the personalities on women I know but I exaggerated their characteristics quite a bit. My favorite character to write was Evan. When I started writing, I had no idea he would turn out to be the philosopher in the book. But he became a way for me to tell some of the stories I had heard while growing up and using them as a metaphor for what was happening to the characters in my book.
GJR: The unspoken hero to me is Jeannie’s mom. She is the glue that holds the Thompson’s together. Did you model her after your own?
DP: I absolutely did. I’m so pleased to hear you say that she is the glue. I guess I wrote it right because my own mom is the glue that keeps a lot of nutty, now adult siblings, from pulling apart.
GJR: What motivates you to write?
DP: I have no idea. I’ve always written since I was a kid. I never took a writing class though. Somewhere I must have figured someone would tell me I couldn’t do it. I’m pretty susceptible to criticism. I probably would have stopped if someone told me I wasn’t good at it. I did, and still do, read a tremendous amount. That probably has something to do with it.
GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, what is the premise?
DP: Yes, I am. The working title is ‘Jump and the Net Will Appear’. That will probably change. But it’s about taking chances. It is again about Jeannie’s family but takes place in a one month period of time. All of the siblings are home as their grandmother from Texas has been brought to Michigan and she is on her deathbed. The siblings, as usual, pick each other clean with the issues that are stopping them from getting on in life. Part of the novel also takes place in 1940’s West Texas with Rose (the mom in Born Under A Lucky Moon) as a young girl. I’m not sure why I keep writing about two separate time periods. I think I like seeing how families evolve and what makes them tick.
GJR: Who are your favorite authors? Why?
DP: I love historical murder mysteries and read Jaqueline Winnespear and Victoria Thompson. I also love the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. I read Susan E. Phillips when I’m depressed and need a lift. Richard Russo, Steve Erickson, Dani Kollin, Fannie Flagg, Lee Child. I loved The Help. I pretty much read anything I can get my hands on.
GJR: What are you currently reading?
DP: I just finished 22 Britannia Road last night. Really good book. Before that I read The Unincorporated Man by the Kollin brothers. That was a truly fascinating great read. I’m sure I’ll start a new one today but I have to go brouse. My ipad is my new passion. I fought against the technology because I love the smell of books and turning the pages. But the iPad is like having a bookstore in my house. I don’t mean to sound like an ad for Apple!
GJR: When you write, do you have total quiet or background noise? Can you describe your writing environment?
DP: I need noise! A lot of my writing has taken place at The Novel Café in Santa Monica. Born Under A Lucky Moon got started at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport Oregon. It’s a writer’s hotel on this cold, wide open beach. I had read about it when I was about 20 years old and always wanted to go there. But honestly, I can pretty much write anywhere. I worked as a copywriter for years and had to deal with very noisy ad agencies. I’m also a pretty fast writer. When you are on deadline and have ten minutes to come up with a good copyline you stop worrying about every word you put on the page. You just do it and then refine it.
GJR: How do you decide to whom to dedicate a novel?
DP: Born Under A Lucky Moon is dedicated to my husband, who puts up with me, my son, whom I adore and my mom who is ‘the glue that holds everything together’. My mom is my best friend. I wouldn’t know what to do without her.
GJR: Something different: Come on…who is Ms. F.U. based on?
DP: Hey, I’d still like to work in Hollywood for a while! I won’t say who Ms F.U is. But while the character is an amalgamation of stars I worked with, Ms. F.U. definitely is drawn a lot from one in particular. Ms. F.U. also plays a significant role in my new book.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Review: I was delighted to find out when reviewing Freckleface Strawberry that there was a 2nd book out! I ordered it immediately for my daughter. This book was just as delightful as the original and with another important message for kids.
While the first book dealt with loving yourself, this book takes on fear of trying new things. You see Freckleface Strawberry dreads going to before school care because while there are many fun things to do; there is also Dodgeball. It just looks scary to her and she hasn't even played. You see Dodgeball is ran by the Bully, Windy Pants Patrick. He has no fear when throwing that ball. He'll throw it at your head if he has to.
Unfortunately, for Freckleface Strawberry she can no longer avoid Windy Pants Patrick and his dodgeball of hurt. How will she face her fear? How will she feel afterwards? Will she prevail?
Facing our fears no matter how big or small will make kids feel better about ourselves and build their self-esteem.
Ms. Moore has found herself a second career as a children's author. I can't wait to see what else she writes.
I am thrilled that the 3rd book: Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever is coming out on September 13 and I have already pre-ordered for my daughter.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Congratulations to Cindi & Karen who each won a copy of Love Story by Jennifer Echols! Ladies, please send you contact information to Jenn so that the books can be mailed out by the publicist as soon as possible.
Thank you to everyone who participated. Check back soon as we always have a new giveaway around the corner.
As always, Girls Just Reading Blogspot uses Random.org to select our winners.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Summary: Some friends just fit together.
With unraveled embroidery and fraying hems, the Traveling Pants are back for one last, glorious summer.
Join Ann Brashares’s beloved sisterhood once again in a dazzling, fearless novel about a summer that will forever change the lives of Lena, Carmen, Bee, and Tibby, here and now, past and future, together and apart.
Review: It's been a while since I visited with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to pick it back up again so I put it off even longer. I shouldn't have, it's like falling in with old friends again, though I thought I left them in better places in their lives, but that's what happens when you haven't kept in touch, isn't it? Things keep moving without you, and they certainly have for the sisterhood. Although I think one of the reasons this seemed so familiar to me is that a lot of the second movie came from the fourth book. (I try to avoid watching the movie before reading the book for just this reason. I read books 2 and 3, I thought it would be safe to watch it...) Regardless, it was still an enjoyable read.
I love Ann Brashares writing style; I always have. It flows beautifully and is always warm and inviting, even when the girls are... not. However, I found myself a little more impatient with her switching character voices this time through, but only because I was invested with what was going on with each of the girls.
I will say I am a little dissatisfied with where things ended up for some of the girls. While Bee and Carmen moved forward, I'm not so sure that Lena or Tibby did. At one point Lena tells Tibby, 'some people only fall in love once' and, as a woman but especially as a mom, I don't like the message that sends to girls. There are all kinds of "falling in love" and all kinds of depths. First loves usually aren't the only loves and they are hard enough to get over without placing more importance on them than they deserve. Sometimes those loves can hold you back from experiencing life and doing what you are meant to do. While I think Lena is on the brink of discovering this, I'm not sure she's there yet. I'm actually relieved that there is a sequel that picks up eleven years later, Sisterhood Everlasting. I think I would have been disappointed had I ended things with Forever in Blue.
Personal feelings aside, it is still a great read and solid book in the Sisterhood series. The girls learn that, though the pants can help them feel closer when they're apart, they can't rely on the pants to keep them together. I love watching how their friendships grow and mature. I only hope my daughter will know friends like these. I'm glad that Alice and I will be doing a group review of Sisterhood Everlasting soon because I'm not ready to say goodbye to the girls.
Final Take: 4.0/5
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Congratulations to the following readers who won our prize packs from Blog Fest 2011.
Please send Julie your mailing address as soon as possible so we can get you the books!
Prize Pack 1: JayJay A. Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 2: Jennifer J. Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 3: Kristin D. Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 4: Kandee K. Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 5: LindseyWrites Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 6: Kelsey O. Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 7: Babs Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 8: Cheyenne Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 9: Marjie P. Claimed her prize!
Prize Pack 10: Missie Claimed her prize!
As always, GJR uses Random.org to chose the winners.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Summary: Born Under a Lucky Moon is the tale of two very important (but distant) years in the lives of Jeannie Thompson and her (embarrassing, crazy) colorful family members to whom "things" just seem to happen. From the Great Lakes of Michigan to Los Angeles and back again, it is a story of surprise marriages, a renegade granny, a sprinkler system cursed by the gods, and myriad other factors Jeannie blames for her full-tilt, out-of-control existence. But it's also about good surprises—like an unexpected proposal that might just open Jeannie's eyes to her real place among the people she loves most in the world . . . the same ones she ran far away from to begin with.
Review: Right off the bat, I want you all to know I loved this book. I loved the setting, the characters, the story. I love that Ms. Precious kicked it old school and set half the story in 1986. I love that it centered around a family, specifically sisters. I loved that I laughed out loud so many times, in public, on the train crowded with people giving me odd looks. I loved the title of the novel. I loved that it was about love.
From the beginning, Ms. Precious lets us know where we’re going. I have to admit she had me at this:
Like every relationship in every family, this story doesn’t reside in the black and white of right and wrong. It resides in the gray area called love.
Yeah, I was hooked. I dived into the story of Jeannie and her sisters head first. I loved the wacky Thompson family adventures. From unintentional fires to a grandmother with devious intentions to the exasperated police officer, Marv who puts up with them, this story had everything.
It bounces seamlessly from 2006 to 1986 without missing a step. I enjoyed how Ms. Precious revealed the past to explain the future. Truth be told, it was done so well the stories could have been told separately, one without the other would have made a great novel.
There was so many nuggets of goodness in this novel. I loved Evan’s Milwaukee metaphor. You'll have to read that one for yourself. However I will leave you this from Rose Thompson, Jeannie's mom, about family and love...
One thing I do know for certain is that no matter how much you kids complain about each other, you all drop everything to be there when someone in the family is in trouble. I think a family is measured by how it shows its love. Some people think that love is like a pie, that the more people you have to serve, the smaller everyone’s piece is. But that’s not the way it is. The more love you give, the more you create. My parents and your father’s parents poured their love into us. We poured that love into you. Elizabeth will pour that love into her baby and so on. Everyone has human weaknesses, and problems, but those will come and go during life. Love goes on nonstop forever.
Born Under a Lucky Moon is the kind of novel I will go back to: to read again, to laugh with the Thomspons, to fall in love, to appreciate family in all their crazy looniness, even mine.