Cover Characteristic

Cover Characteristic: Brothers & Sisters

This Week’s Characteristic: Brothers and Sisters

Cover Characteristic is a weekly meme hosted by Sugar & Snark.

Instead of doing my favorite covers with brothers and sisters this week, I’m sticking to series or books that I’ve read. From left to right, these are The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #1) by Lemony Snicket, Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, #1) by Mary Pope Osborne, The First HOrror (99 Fear Street: The House of Evil, #1) by R.L. Stine, The Power of Two (T*witches, #1) by H.B Gilmour and Randi Reisfield, Claudia and Mean Janine (The Baby-sitters Club, #7) by Ann M. Martin, and January Joker (Calendar Mysteries, #1) by Ron Roy.


Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

I’m actually going to be doing the top twenty today–or, perhaps more accurately, two top tens. First, the Top Ten Books I’ve Read Again This Year, followed by the Top Ten Books I’ve Read for the First Time This Year. Multiple books from a single series are being counted as one “book”.

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1-2

The Bad Beginning and The Reptile Window, the first two books of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, are books I’ve enjoyed since I first read them sometime in middle school. They’re definite favorites of mine, and I’m rereading the series this year–though these are the only two I’ve gotten through so far. I hope to reread the rest later this year.

Deltora Quest #1-3

The Forests of Silence, The Lake of Tears, and The City of the Rats are the first three books in the Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda. I’ve loved these books since elementary school and am rereading the series for review in 2014. I’ve only finished these three so far, but I’ll be reading the next four, as well as the sequel trilogy and its sequel quartet sometime in the next few weeks.

I highly recommend this series for youngsters looking to read fantasy.

3. A to Z Mysteries #1-26

The A to Z Mysteries series was my favorite chapter book series growing up. I reread the entire set of twenty-six books this year, and it was a really charming blast of nostalgia.

Check out my reviews of the A to Z Mysteries books, as well as the A to Z Mysteries: Super Editions books, here.


[Book Review] Meet Kirsten: An American Girl (American Girls: Kirsten #1) by Janet Beeler Shaw

In the summer of 1854, after a long and dangerous journey on a small ship, Kirsten Larson and her family arrive in America. Everything in the new land is different from the small village Kirsten left behind in Sweden. The way people dress, how they talk, and the ways they travel all seem strange to her. Will she ever feel at home in this new place? Getting lost in a big city and parting with her best friend make her wonder. It is only when the Larsons arrive at a tiny farm on the edge of the frontier that Kirsten believes Papa’s promise–America will be a land filled with happy opportunity for all of them.

Kirsten Larson, debuting in 1986, is one of the original American Girls (the other two are Samantha Parkington and Molly McIntire). Meet Kirsten: An American Girl is her debut children’s novel, which introduces her as a Swedish emigrant turned Minnesota pioneer girl. Unlike most of the American Girl novels, which focus on a single major event in a given year of the children’s lives (usually sometime between their ninth and twelfth birthdays), Meet Kirsten tells the story of the Larson’s months-long journey from Sweden to their new home, with each chapter focusing on a particular “chapter” of the trip: chapter one tells about the Larson family’s sea voyage; chapter two tells the story of Kirsten becoming lost in New York City while the family saves money to go west; chapter three skips to three months later, telling how Kirsten and her friend Marta part ways on their journey to Minnesota and fear they will never see each other again; chapter four introduces greater conflict, what with the Larsons travelling on a cholera-stricken boat up the Mississippi, and deals with grief; chapter five, the final chapter, deals with loss of physical possessions as the family approaches their relatives’ farm, and Kirsten bonds with her newly introduced family. And, as always with American Girl historical series, the book ends with a nonfiction chapter about what life was really like in Kirsten’s era.

It’s a sweet story, but, as the above implies, it’s very disjointed. It comes across more as a scrapbook than a novel, and though there are mature themes present in the story, little time is spent on exploring them. Compared to the majority of American Girl novels, I’d say the writing of Meet Kirsten is quite weak; I’m happy to say, however, that it’s a one-time deal. The next book in the Kirsten series, Kirsten Learns a Lesson, settles into the typical American Girl novel format, and it’s a much better story.

Meet Kirsten definitely works to set up Kirsten Larson’s life; it successfully shows her transformation from Swedish peasant to Minnesotan pioneer. But it could certainly have told the story in a more cohesive and compelling way, and I have to say that as an introduction to the American Girl franchise, this isn’t the greatest. I haven’t read Meet Molly or Meet Samantha yet, so I can’t say for sure whether or not they’re written in the same, very sectional style. If they are, I highly suggest starting your child’s (or your own!) American Girl experience with Meet Felicity, and then moving on to the original three and eventually the later girls. I’d hate to think of anyone getting turned off of the franchise because of Meet Kirsten‘s abundant Early Installment Weirdness.

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[Book Review] The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: We quit!

Beige is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown. Blue needs a break from coloring all that water, while Pink just wants to be used. Green has no complaints, but Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking to each other.

What is Duncan to do? Debut author Drew Daywalt and New York Times bestseller Oliver Jeffers create a colorful solution in this playful, imaginative story that will have children laughing and playing with their crayons in a whole new way.

So, The Day the Crayons Quit is fairly acclaimed, as far as year-old picture books go. It won the 2013 Goodreads Choice Award for picture books, which is how I discovered it (and, no, before you ask, it was not my vote; I favored The Dark by Lemony Snicket). I’ve seen it called “laugh-out-loud funny”, “the best new children’s book of 2013”, “one of the best picture books of all time”, “a winner for sure”, etcetera–just about any praise you can come up with, this book’s received it from somebody. And, uh, I ain’t seeing it.

Sure, it’s a cute book. The crayons are pissed about their repetitive lives–they keep being used for the same things!–and they rebel. Little Duncan learns to think outside the box, so to speak. Yadda, yadda, the end. That’s a really typical kidlit message right there, and I think I’ve seen it so many times that I simply cannot be bothered to care about another delivery that isn’t outright fantastic. And while The Day the Crayons Quit is an entertaining concept, it’s also kind of a one-note gimmick. I can’t really be amused for thirty pages about the idea of angsty crayons, and I’m kind of surprised that so many people can.

Me, I can totally take it or leave it.

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Top Ten Books in My Beach Bag Today

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

This really is the ideal Top Ten Tuesday prompt for me today, as I’m actually about to head out to the beach. Since I don’t like to swim in the bay, I mostly spend beach days reading beneath the shade of the local beach’s willow trees; I have a lot of books due to the library in the next seven days, so that’s what’s made it into my beach bag this time around. Those books are: