Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Counting By 7s a Strange Little Tale About An Even Stranger Little Girl

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When things go haywire in Willow Chance's life, the 12-year-old soothes herself with numbers.  Something about counting by 7s just makes things all better.  The routine never fails—it always calms Willow, restoring order to her topsy-turvy world.  But when her adoptive parents die in a car accident, numbers can't ease her pain.  Nothing can.  The fact is, she's completely alone in the world.  No friends.  No family.  No comforting ritual to make her troubles disappear.

Willow's taken in by a Vietnamese family, a situation she knows can only be temporary.  The Nguyens are already squatting in a cramped garage with no bathroom and little ventilation.  Despite their kindness, Willow knows it's only a matter of time before she's thrown into foster care.  She can't stand the thought, but it's her only option.  Unless she can somehow convince Dell Duke, her crusty, unhelpful guidance counselor to take a chance on a strange, grieving girl.  He despises children in general, misfits in particular, so he's about the unlikeliest savior in Willow's world.  And yet, he's her only chance.  Can Willow persuade him to do the unthinkable?  Can she put the shattered pieces of her life back together again?  Or will her grief swallow her whole?

Counting by 7s (available August 29, 2013), a middle grade novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan, is a strange little story about an even stranger little girl.  Willow's a sympathetic character, of course, as any twice-orphaned child would be.  It's easy to root for her, even if her circumstances are just plain weird.  The subterfuge Willow goes through in order to evade the wrath of Child Protective Services is hardly believable, which makes the tale a little difficult to digest.  Still, Counting by 7s teaches some important lessons about triumphing over tragedy, finding hope even in your darkest hours and, mostly, about the true meaning of family.  The story's definitely a little odd, but it's also uplifting and hopeful.  I didn't love it, but it's still a decent read.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:  


for (vague) references to sex and subject matter most appropriate for readers 10+

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Counting by 7s from the generous folks at Penguin.  Thank you!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Turns Out, There's Something to This "Dry Heat" Thing

It's only been twelve days since I last posted here on BBB, but I feel like I've been gone forever.  Taking two week-long vacations in one month will do that to a person!  It was lovely in upstate New York, though.  My family and I had a great time visiting LDS Church history sites, exploring the Finger Lakes region and getting soaked at Niagra Falls.  We stayed in a cottage at a B&B on Lake Cayuga; its lush, green lawn offered the perfect reading spot.  There's just nothing like savoring a good book (or two or three) in such a beautiful, serene setting.  Between my lazy, lakeside lounging and the 9-hour (round trip) plane ride, I managed to finish several books.  Now, I just need to review them.  I'll get to it.  Promise.

At any rate, it's good to be home.  As much as I complain about Arizona's hellish summer temperatures, I'm actually glad to be back in the dry, desert air.  I used to laugh when Arizonans said, "At least ours is a dry heat."  I thought hot was hot, didn't matter whether it was a dry heat or a humid one.  Yeah.  That was before I experienced New York's wet, sticky version.  Yikes!  If I have to endure blazing temps, I'll take them dry, thank you very much.        

Now that my vacationing is over, it's time to think about getting my kids ready for school.  They start on August 7th.  My oldest is entering high school, a fact that still boggles my mind.  Even though it's making me feel downright elderly, I'm anxious to get on with this new phase of life.  It's always good to get back into a routine, even if it does involve waking up early, dealing with homework, and taxiing my kids all over the globe for dance class, karate lessons, choir rehearsal, Cub Scouts, etc.  Reading's my stay-sane strategy so, never fear, I'll keep inhaling books and giving you my always professional, totally unbiased (ha!) opinions on what I read.

In the meantime, I'd love to know what you've been up to this summer.  Have you taken a great vacation?  Read a thrilling book?  Do tell.      




Friday, July 12, 2013

The Perfect Summer Read? Kinda ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Caymen Meyers is all about the dolls.  Okay, she's not.  Not at all.  In fact, the porcelain playthings creep her out with their vacant eyes and permanent smiles.  Still, it's up to the 17-year-old to push the merchandise at her mother's doll shop—it's the only way to keep the bill collectors at bay.  Even though her mom urges her not to worry about their dwindling finances, it's all Caymen can think about.  Unlike other high school seniors, she can't focus on boys or parties or even college, not when it's up to her to make sure the shop turns a profit, no matter how meager it may be.

When gorgeous Xander Spence wanders into the store on an errand for his grandma, Caymen tries to resist his easy charm.  She doesn't have time for a guy, especially not an entitled snob like Xander.  And yet, there's a sweetness about him that makes her wonder if she's judging him too harshly.  She knows a relationship between them would never work out, but maybe it's worth a shot.  Except, there's the shop, which requires all her extra energy.  And her mother, who constantly warns Caymen to stay away from rich boys.  Her mom's already acting strangely—Caymen doesn't dare cross her.  Not now.

But.

The more Xander comes around, the more Caymen's resistance slips.  Isn't it time she did something for herself?  Even if it costs everything she has, including her fragile heart?

The Distance Between Us, a contemporary YA romance by Kasie West, has been getting lots of buzz around the book blogosphere.  With its soft, pretty cover; sparkly seaside setting; and easy-breezy premise, it's being lauded as a perfect summer read.  A sentiment with which I agree.  Mostly.  The best thing about the novel is, without a doubt, the sweet, slow-growing relationship between Caymen and Xander.  It's fun and innocent, if not very realistic.  The big problem with the couple's story lies in the novel's almost non-existent plot.  Because, really, not much happens in this book.  The central conflict exists mostly in Caymen's head and the big, dramatic moments are all pretty contrived.  Overall, then, I found The Distance Between Us cute, but lacking.  Even for a "beach read," it's pretty substance-less.  Bummer, that.   

(Readalikes:  The book's being billed as "Pretty in Pink meets Pride & Prejudice," which sounds pretty accurate to me!)

Grade:  



If this were a movie, it would be rated:

 for mild sexual innuendo and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Distance Between Us from the generous folks at HarperTeen.  Thank you!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

You Know You're a Book Blogger When ... and a Winner

I don't usually do these posts so close together, but I couldn't resist posting this one:

You know you're a book blogger (or a super reader) when ...

... you're browsing in the book section at Target and your 8-year-old says, "Mom, this is, like, your toy aisle, right?"

Ha ha.  Too right, son!

**********

We also have a winner in the Matilda prize package giveaway.  It's ... drumroll, please ... Mindy Grant!  Mindy's not just a loyal BBB reader, but she's also my husband's bubbly, sweet cousin.  Lest you think I'm playing favorites, just know that this is the first of my contests she's won.  Congrats, Mindy!  I already have your mailing address (at least I think so -- email it to me, just in case), so I'll pass it on to the publicist who will be sending out your book.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway.  Stay tuned for more great contests and reviews!



Monday, July 08, 2013

You Know You're a Book Blogger When ...

... you come home from a 10-day vacation to find 53 review books waiting on your doorstep and in your mailbox ...



Yes, really.

My husband snapped these photos of my unwashed, ticked-off looking self picking up our accumulated mail/packages on Saturday when we returned from a 10-day trip to Utah.  I'm not sure why I look so bothered, since I was actually as giddy as a little kid at Christmas.  I guess that's what 10 hours in the car with five kids (mine + a friend) will do to a person!

As much as I love to travel, it's also really nice being home—especially when I have lots of fun packages to open.  I won't be melting in this Arizona heat for too long, though.  The fam and I will be boarding a plane bound for upstate New York on Saturday.  After a week of sightseeing, I'll return home, hopefully to another awesome book haul :)  
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