Sunday, October 28, 2012

Semi-Charmed Winter 2012 Book Challenge

Photo via Ana Luisa Pinto on Flickr; Design by Megan C. Stroup

Welcome to the Semi-Charmed Winter 2012 Book Challenge! I had so much fun hosting the summer challenge that I decided to do it again. It will be a little shorter this time (four months was just too long), and I will also only be hosting monthly check-ins instead of weekly. Thanks to everyone who submitted category ideas for this challenge!

  • The challenge will run from November 1, 2012, to January 31, 2013. (I know this should technically be the Semi-Charmed Winter 2012-2013 Book Challenge, but that is just too long and doesn't make as nice of ahashtag.) No books that are started before 12 a.m. on November 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on January 31 will count.
  • No re-reads (unless specifically stated)! I want you to experience new books with this challenge.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audiobooks are fine, as long as the print versions meet the page requirements.
  • A book can only be used for one category. If you want to switch the category later, that's fine, just be sure to account for that in your point total.
  • The highest possible total is 200 points, and the first five people who finish the challenge will win a featured/guest post on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. Good luck!

The Challenge:
5 points: Read a book written by an author you have never read before.
5: Read a book you already have at home but haven’t gotten around to yet (from the library, from a bookstore, borrowed from a friend, on your e-reader, whatever).
10: Read a book written in the decade that you were born. Submitted by Summer Book Challenge finisher Hannah.
10: Read a book that takes place in the state/province where you were born. If you were born outside the U.S. and Canada, read a book that takes place in the country you were born.
15: Read a book titled The _______'s Daughter or The _______'s Wife. (There are a ton, I promise!)
15:  Read a book that was originally written in a language other than English.
20: Read a book with a number in the title. This could be an actual digit or a number like “hundred” or “thousand.” No arbitrary numbers are allowed (e.g. several, few, many, couple).
20:  Read a book set during Christmas or another winter holiday.Submitted by Jessica of Sweet Green Tangerine via Twitter.
20: Read a book written by an author who shares your initials.Submitted by Sarah of The Roaring Twenties via Twitter.
25: Read a Pulitzer Prize winner or finalist for fiction.
25:  Re-read a book. (Personally, I’m going to re-read a book from my childhood that I don’t remember well, like Narnia or The Phantom Tollbooth, but you can re-read any book you’d like.)
30: Read three books from three different genres (e.g. romance, historical fiction, horror, biography, etc.). Remember, the books used for this category cannot count for any other category. Submitted bySummer Book Challenge winner Momma Sunshine.

How to keep track: I’ll post a check-in on the first day of every month, on which you can comment with your progress. I will also include the scoreboard from the previous month on each check-in post. The first check-in post will be Saturday, December 1.

Boy Toy

Barry Lyga did it again. Simply marvelous! I've never seen an author capture young adult literature nearly so well as Lyga does (I read "I Hunt Killers" a month back, look for my review, it's equally amazing!). One of my professors told me that I absolutely, positively, HAD to read this book. I am soo glad I did.

This young adult novel follows eighteen year old Josh as he tries to come to terms with his shameful past. As a twelve year old he had a relationship with his middle school teacher, the fall out that followed Josh still has him confused. His teacher Eve was arrested and Josh became a social pariah, thankfully his best friend Zik never left his side. He wants to get close to his old friend Rachel again, but he is too ashamed of his past to try and attempt. Josh is so sure that everyone is silently judging him and he is counting down the days til he can get out of town and go to college. He has Zik, baseball (he's kind of amazing at it), and numbers (literal math whiz) to try and take his mind off matters but he can't stop thinking back to the "affair" he had with Eve. How long can he blame himself?

Trust me you will want to read this novel. The concept sounds grim but it is utterly fantastic to watch Josh learn and grow from his unfortunate past. It  is super compelling and nearly impossible to put down. Truly one of the best young adult books on the market. Read it!!!! I dare you!!


This may not have been the scariest Stephen King book that I've ever read but I still thoroughly enjoyed it! I of course had seen the classic Stanley Kubrick adaptation years back and loved the movie so I was excited to see how the book would measure up. Pretty damn good! King is beyond creepy of course and I got goosebumps every time someone encountered something sinister in the creepy Overlook hotel. I was hoping for a little more terror (like in the movie) but instead I got suspense (which is still a damn good thing). Basically, read this book, it's classic Stephen King and definitely helped get me in the mood for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Because of Winn-Dixie

I haven't read this book since it was first released and it was certainly a joy to rediscover it. The story follows ten year old India Opal as she tries to adjust to a new town in Floridia where here dad is a preacher. While grocery shopping she encounters a stray dog and immediately falls in love with him once he smiles at her. She names him Winn-Dixe and he becomes her first friend in the small little town. In no time at all practically the whole town is smitten with the well-behaved and loving mutt. Winn-Dixie gets India acclimated with the people and soon she has become friends with the pet store worker, the old librarian, the friendly "witch," a five year old girl and a few other kids. Winn-Dixie along with her new friends fill the void in India's life that her mother left her, India learns " can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now." I think that is a great thing for children to learn. India realizes that even though Otis went to jail, he is still a good man. Not dwelling on the past is important, India finally realizes this towards the end when she has to let go of and forgive her mother. She is still lucky enough to have a father that loves her very much.

Overall, it is a great read filled with wonderful messages of love, forgiveness, and friendship. This book won a Newbery Honor and is considered by many to be in the top 100 all time greatest children's books. It has even been turned into a movie (2005).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gooney Bird Greene

Gooney Bird Greene is an adorable story about the new girl in school who quickly wins over every one. Gooney isn't your average second grader, she is a very eccentric dresser and she has some of the most outlandish tales the children and teacher have ever heard, although she insists they are real ("I tell only absolutely true stories!").

As the class starts to learn about what makes a good story they all volunter Gooney Bird as the character because everyone is so intrigued by her. Gooney Bird, happy to oblige, spends the next week telling one story a day. It quickly becomes everyone's favorite part of the day. She doesn't want to steal the limelight indefinitely though. When she runs out of stories, she convinces her classmates that they all have fun stories to tell and helps them figure out just what those stories are.

Overall, this book is a little goofy and a lot of fun. I can see why small children would get a kick out of reading about a character like Gooney Bird Greene. She's inventive, eccentric, and a fantastic storyteller (with tales like, "How Gooney Bird Came from China on a Flying Carpet" or "Beloved Catman is Consumed by a Cow").

This book would be a lot of fun read aloud and I think children up through fourth and fifth grade would even enjoy this book. The School Library Journal writes, "The cleverly titled stories could spark children's interest in writing their own stories." It's not my favorite book that I've read this semester, but I can see where children would thoroughly enjoy this book (and the pictures!).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gone Girl

HOLY. SHIT. This book is freaking mind blowing! Just when you start to think you have the whole story down pat, it switches gears and you have no idea what to expect. It's nearly impossible to describe this story without giving anything away, but trust me, you want to read this!!!!!! Gillian Flynn is a master at messing with your mind (in the best way possible) and this story of a husband and wife is so messed up and tantalizing that it is impossible to put down. Definitely one of the most thrilling and mind blowing books I've read this year :D

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls

I thought it was rather amusing when my book club decided to read a book about a book club. Thankfully my book club meets because they want to, not because they have to. In "The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls," four teenagers find themselves thrown into a book club with their mothers, it wouldn't be so bad if they had happened to be friends, but the girls couldn't be more different. Adrienne, is the narrator, she thinks of herself as being plain and boring. Instead of spending the summer with her best friend canoeing through Canada, she is forced to stay home because of a knee injury. Next there is CeeCee, she is gorgeous, wealthy and uppity and unafraid to get what she wants. Jill is a smart, future oriented young girl who works at the snack stand at the pool. Finally there is Wallis, she is shy and meek and no one really knows much about her. Out of all the girls she is the only one that really wants to be there and her mother is the only one that mysteriously never comes to book club.

The girls start off despising each other but within no time at all find themselves living through the craziest summer ever. Their differences help bring them together in this funny and easy to read young adult book. The true definition of a beach read.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Keturah and Lord Death

I wish I would have rediscovered young adult literature long before this class (and book club), I feel as if I need to really catch up! Every post I write on this forum I rant and rave about how awesome the book is and unfortunately, I'm going to do it again! I have been very impressed with everything I have read so far in this class, so bear with me while I get real excited about this book as well. 
"Keturah and Lord Death" was a phenomenal read. I will admit that I wasn't immediately intrigued (it took about 2 chapters for me to get really hooked) but once I was I read this bad boy in one sitting. It is a tale of "magic and love, of daring and death, and one to comfort your heart." (Leavitt, 9). Sixteen year old Keturah, lost in the forest, meets Lord Death and instead of being taken by him she captivates him with her charm and one of her stories. She tricks him into letting her live another day and promises that she will return to him the following night to continue her tale. Lord Death keeps threatening that Keteruh will die unless she finds her true love so she spends busy days with her two best friesnds trying to find her true love in the village and trying to outwit Lord Death another night. It is a captivating tale and vaguely reminiscent of "One Thousand and One Nights" where the wife tells tales every night (always unfinished) in order to save her life. Howverer as the story continues it becomes evident that Lord Death is in love with Keturah and wishes to take her as his bride. He bends to her will and even agrees to save her village from the plague. She tries vainly to find love in a villager named Ben, but then in a shocking conclusion realizes that her one true love is Lord Death. Instead of being a sad ending, it is a happy one for all that Keturah set out to do: see her friends wed, save the townsfolk from the plague, etc. she accomplished. 
Unlike many fantasy novels this one isn't too far over the top (magically speaking), the only "magical entity" is Lord Death and the tale is told in the form of a legend by villagers. According to Tunnell et al. this tale could probably fill the fantasy category of, "novelized traditional tale" because death is a character found in many legends, cultures, and traditions. 
Overall, I thought that narration of this tale really draws the reader in even though it is very simplistic, everyone has had experience with death and I believe that this tale helps add a dimension to a powerful and sad thing that comes for us all in the end. The author acknnowledges her young sister who dies of cystic fibrosis at the age of eleven and writes, "I realize what a long journey dying must be like for a child to make alone. I wish I could have walked with her a little way. This book is my way of doing so."
Leavitt, Martine. Keturah and Lord Death. Asheville, N.C.: Front Street, 2006. 
"One Thousand and One Nights ." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.>
Tunnell, Michael O. Children's literature, briefly. 5th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tales From Outer Suburbia

Tales From Outer Suburbia is easily my favorite book that I have read for class this semester. I loved everything about it, from the goofy yet impactful story, to the utterly fantastic drawings. Needless to say, I just placed an order from Amazon to make this book part of my collection.

This fantasy novel is a collection of short stories, poems and drawings about "outer suburbia." It is a place where giant marine animals can show up on your front lawn, missles are part of everyone's yards, stick figures roam the streets, and you can make pets out of garbage. Pretty much anything goes in this imaginative and inventive collection of short tall tales. It doesn't contain all the fantasy story motifs that Tunnel et al mentions but it is definitely chalk full of fantastic objects and magical elements. The illustrations that accompany the stories practically jump off the page and into your imagination, they really stick with you!

As an adult I loved this book, although if I was a small child though I would probably be scared of some of the drawings and stories. One of the lines that stuck out to me was, "... in the olden days... they got the bends because they didn't know about decompressification and how it turns your blood into lemonade." It's a pretty creepy thought, and it gave even me the heebie jeebies. I agree with the School Library Journal review that ranked this novel as fourth grade and up. This book is not intended for the very young.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic book. It was given eight major book awards including: Publisher's Weekly Best Book of 2007, New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2007, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2007. A great addition for any collection!
Check out some of these other amazing illustrations...



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Time Warp Trio

Having been a fan of Jon Scieszka and his humorous fairy tale adaptations (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Odd Tales, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) I was more than happy to sit down and read one of his beginning reader novels. The Time Warp Trio is a cute little series and Knights of the Kitchen Table is the first in the series. This story follows three young boys as they are magically transported back through time to the age of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. They quickly realize that this little trip is no cake walk. They have to live without baseball, tv, and showers! Plus they quickly discover that in order to prove themselves to the court they have to help defend the kingdom from the Big Black Knight, a giant, and a dragon. Are they up for the task? Will they ever make it home in time for dinner?


This story contains many of the characteristics/motifs that Tunnel et al. mentions are present in traditional fantasy stories. The thee boys find themselves playing the role of hero of the kingdom, there are magical elements (getting sent back in time), and fantastic objects (the book Joe receives for his birthday that sends the three friends back in time).

Overall, I think that kids would really enjoy reading this book. It isn't complex, it is a simple, straightforward read that is made humorous and engaging by the captivating illustrations that are thrown in throughout the book.