Monday, January 23, 2012

Kobo "Winter Escape" Contest

For the next few weeks, Kobo is holding a "Winter Escape" contest.  All you have to do is buy an e-book from Kobo between January 23rd and February 19th and you'll be entered to win a trip for two to a sunny vacation destination!  Sounds pretty good, right?  Even better, the contest is open to readers in the US, Canada (excluding Quebec), and the UK.

Any books bought from Kobo count (even the inexpensive ones), so head on over there and see what they have to offer!  Try these links to get started:

Kobo Books

eBooks from Indie Authors all under $1!

Kobo Cheap Reads

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review - Pictures of Hollis Woods

Pictures of Hollis Woods
by Patricia Reilly Giff
Date: 2002
Publisher: Dell Yearling
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 166
Format: paperback
Source: library

Hollis Woods has been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all. She even runs away from the Regans, the one family who offers her a home.

When Hollis is sent to Josie, an elderly artist who is quirky and affectionate, she wants to stay. But Josie is growing more forgetful every day. If Social Services finds out, they’ll take Hollis away and move Josie into a home. Well, Hollis Woods won’t let anyone separate them. She’s escaped the system before; this time, she plans to take Josie with her.

Yet behind all her plans, Hollis longs for her life with the Regans, fixing each moment of her time with them in pictures she’ll never forget.

(synopsis from Amazon)

I saw the TV movie version of this book a few years ago. It was a pretty good story, and I thought I might like to read the book. I finally got around to it. Unlike the last Newbery Honor book I read, this one really deserved the honour.

Hollis tells us the story in the first person.  She's not really as tough as she seems, and she's an interesting character.  I liked seeing the different aspects of her personality come out, depending on whom she was dealing with.  We also get to know the other characters by seeing them through her eyes.

There wasn't much I can complain about with this one.  I quite enjoyed it.  Even though it's a middle grade title, it doesn't really read like one; there's no condescension on the part of the author and it'll hold an adult's interest as well as a 10-year-old's.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.57 out of 5

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review - Olive's Ocean

Olive's Ocean
by Kevin Henkes
Date: 2003
Publisher: HarperTrophy
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 217
Format: hardcover
Source: library

"Olive Barstow was dead. She'd been hit by a car on Monroe Street while riding her bicycle weeks ago. That was about all Martha knew."

Martha Boyle and Olive Barstow could have been friends. But they weren't -- and now all that is left are eerie connections between two girls who were in the same grade at school and who both kept the same secret without knowing it.

Now Martha can't stop thinking about Olive. A family summer on Cape Cod should help banish those thoughts; instead, they seep in everywhere.

And this year Martha's routine at her beloved grandmother's beachside house is complicated by the Manning boys. Jimmy, Tate, Todd, Luke, and Leo. But especially Jimmy. What if, what if, what if, what if?

The world can change in a minute.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'd never heard of this book, but when I saw it at the library, I thought it looked like something I might enjoy.  It was a fairly good read, though not perfect.

The book takes place on the Atlantic coast, at Martha's grandmother's house.  It's sort of a coming-of-age story, with early romantic feelings playing a role.  The side story about Olive Barstow was just that: a side story.  I wish that that aspect of the plot had been a little more developed.  I also would have liked to see more about Martha's desire to be a writer.  For someone with that aspiration, she didn't seem to write very much.

I wasn't sure I liked the supporting characters in this book.  Martha's little sister was a total brat, a product of atrocious parenting by a couple of stereotypes (a frazzled stay-at-home father and an overachieving mother who's clueless about her offspring); it made me wonder how Martha and Vince (her older brother) could've turned out so normal.  Martha was a likable enough main character, though she didn't always come across evenly.  Sometimes she seemed her age, but at other times her thoughts and speech seemed just a bit off: too mature and sophisticated.  It was almost as though the author was struggling to see things from inside the head of a 12-year-old girl.

While I would have liked to see more in the way of plot, what was there flowed along nicely.  The writing was good but, again, the style didn't really fit with the age of the characters or the reading audience.  (I don't have that small of a vocabulary, and there were a few words that had me pulling out the dictionary!)

All in all, it wasn't a bad book, and I did somewhat enjoy it.  I'm confused as to why it received a Newbery Honor, though; I didn't think it was that great.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.43 out of 5

Monday, January 9, 2012

Review - Blue Chicken

Blue Chicken
by Deborah Freedman
illustrated by Deborah Freedman
Date: 2011
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: We Give Books

In this deceptively simple picture book, author-illustrator Deborah Freedman has created an irresistible character that springs to life and wreaks havoc in a farmyard with a pot of blue paint. The innocent chicken just wants to help, but things get worse and worse -- and bluer and bluer -- the more she tries. Playing with colors and perspective, and using minimal text, this richly layered story reveals new things to see and laugh about with each reading.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Sometimes I'm just in the mood for reading picture books.  There are some great ones out there, some with awesome stories, others with amazing art (and some with both, of course).  I stumbled across this book as a link for the We Give Books program; if you read this book online, you'll have an opportunity to give a book to children in need.  What a neat idea!

I wasn't expecting much from this short little book, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The premise is simple, but the illustrations really bring the story to life.  Can the chicken fix the blue mess she's created?  You'll have to read the book to find out.  (It's only 40 pages, with very little text, so it won't take you very long... unless you get sucked into poring over the cute illustrations!)

Premise: 5/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4.4 out of 5