Tag Archives: book blogs

Another World: Children’s Lit

For the first months of 2017, I was immersed in reading children’s books.  They soothe my soul; they provide mentoring for my own writing; and I have the opportunity to share the best with my blog readers. 2016 provided a variety of excellent children’s titles, but I am most excited about sharing the best nominees of Easy Readers and Early Chapter books.  What a surprise when I met prize-winning authors in competition with new authors.

The creativity of well-illustrated books with original texts was obvious in this judging assignment.  Mo Willems and Kate DiCamillo were nominated in this eclectic mix of 10 titles for me to choose the “Best Of,” as shared with children’s bloggers in CYBILs (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). I was honored to be among teachers, parents, and fellow bloggers led by the creative Jodie Helliker Rodriquez, whose “Growing Book By Book” blog has always amazed me with her own creativity and sharing.

Wait until you get the winning book for Early Chapter Books in your hand.  It is appealing from the cover illustration featuring Mango Allsorts and her new pet. Look for a black and white and lavender cover!  Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig begins a new series by Polly Faber and Clara Vulliamy.  What originality!  Faber’s endearing new character Mango Allsorts finds a Malaysian tapir stuck in the middle of a traffic jam. The setting is a busy city and Mango, on her own most of the time, discovers a strange sight as she walks home from karate class.  It’s “not a pig” is lying down on the busy street camouflaged in the white stripes of the highway!  This book of four experiences with new friends, Mango and her tapir Bambang, is difficult to describe. It would not be the same without the original illustrations by Vulliamy.  I want to purchase all the Mango books in the series. Each new book uses a different palate than the original lavender highlighted in this debut.

Mo Willems’ titles turned out not to be written by him.  Remember Go Dog Go, the P.D. Eastman title confused as a Dr. Seuss favorite?  That little Cat in the Hat in the corner of the cover made readers think we had another Seuss winner.  Of course, Eastman had his own classic even with “I Can Read It All By Myself” series stamp on the corner of the cover. Mo Willems did the same thing, adding his name to the title page of a book series called “Elephant and Piggy Like Reading! Despite the appealing title, We are Growing  and  The Cookie Fiasco  were not my favorites. Check them out from your library and see if you agree.

In the category of Easy Readers I discovered Snail and Worm: Three Stories about Two Friends by Tina Kugler!  This debut title is definitely an easy book for new readers.  The illustrations are delightful.  Kugler’s characters share values of friendship, pride and understanding.  Her tongue-in-cheek pictures with Snail and Worm’s animated and inanimate friends will resonate with her intended audience.  Repetition in the text will help these readers. This book was the winner for the Easy Reader judges from CYBILS nominees for 2016.

My second favorite Easy Reader is a longer story. The Infamous Ratsos by Kara La Reau is at first funny, cute and endearing when the Ratso brothers try to be tough like their single Dad.  I can see why it was nominated by the CYBILs first round of judges.  Readers will identify with the bullying scene, the plans to be mischievous, and the bonding with the father.  At the second reading I wasn’t certain if parents reading with their children would find the situations funny.  Who is going to buy this book?  We judged it too long for early readers; still reluctant older readers may enjoy the high jinx of these rat hoodlums.  There is a lesson by the end and the main characters all learn that being bad is not good!

Kate Di Camillo’s latest entry in the Early Chapter books category was a fun read.  She writes about neighbors of the popular pig Mercy Watson.  Baby Lincoln and her aged sister Eugenia are unusual characters introduced in Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Adults will understand Lucille’s need for a “necessary journey,” but I am uncertain whether children ages 6-9 will find these strange characters engaging.  DiCamillo is an expert in plot, dialogue and voice, as well as a challenging vocabulary.  This title didn’t spark my interest as much as Faber’s Mango and Bambang  book did.

What children’s books do you recommend from your reading in 2016?  As usual, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Happy Reading in 2017!

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Filed under Children's Literature, First Novels, Prizes

My Reading Challenge for 2016

My Reading Journal is full of titles I want to read this year.  My goal is 75 books of all genres including children’s literature.  That goal was set at the New Year on Goodreads, but I am excited about a newer reading challenge that appeared on Facebook in two places.  I have been joining other reading and writing blogs for two months and I discovered a fun one called Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Of course, the title grabbed me immediately because my daughter and I are huge Jane Austen fans.

Want to hear about this fun Reading Challenge for 2016?  You only need to read 12 books per year! I plan to expand on the titles I read but I want to share the 12 categories which are intriguing.  For a mystery lover, I find I will have to do some sleuthing in the library and pick my own brain to come up with the titles which match the categories.  Here are the celebratory ideas some creative readers have shared with us (BTW, the order is arbitrary).

  1. What is a title of a book that you should have read in school.  (this category is my hardest to choose.)
  2. Choose a book you can read in one day!
  3. Read a book recommended by a librarian or bookseller.  ( I am compiling the ones I read in 2015 to match these categories, too, just for fun.)
  4. Choose a book recommended by a spouse, a sibling, your child or your BFF.
  5. Re-read a book you have read already at least once.  (What fun to re-discover a fav.)
  6. Read a book you have abandoned.  (You may want to write notes in your journal telling why you abandoned the book and what you think now.)
  7. Find a book to read that was written before you were born.
  8. Can you read a new book published in the current year?
  9. Check out a list of banned books and read one you never read.
  10.  Choose a book that has always intimidated you.  (Ulysses by James Joyce, anyone?)
  11. Look on your shelf at home for a book you own and have never read.  ( A treasure!)
  12. Read a book you have always been meaning to read.
If I had been creating this challenge, I would add a few more categories, such as
  13. Read a new book by a favorite author.
  14.  Choose a children’s classic to read.
So far in 2016 I have completed eleven adult books, with two fitting on the MMD challenge.  Jump Cut by Libby Fischer Hellmann was just published this month and available at Amazon.com.  I highly recommend Libby’s thriller for its fast-paced contemporary style.  Elle Foreman, a continuing character in one of her series, has a fascinating job as a film editor.  She discovers a mystery while handling a large project for her editing firm.  Who is that mysterious man who shows up at the film site and freaks out one of the clients when his face is seen on the video? Read Jump Cut to see.  I was fortunate to read and advance reader copy and review this gem on Amazon.
The second book I love to add to my 2016 Reading Challenge is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  This non-fiction title was the subject of a great TED talk: it was recommended by readers at my local library’s Book Lover’s Book Club,  held at my local library with no assigned reading choice.  That meeting is sponsored by my local library director, Michele Noble, a great source for ecletic titles.
In addition to my adult reading, I have started to read nominees for Malice Domestic Agatha Award for the category of children’s and YA mysteries.  I completed Woof by Spencer Quinn.  He writes novels with dog characters for adults and children.  If you are a dog lover, you will love the tale of Bowser and Birdie, a mystery which will remind you of Kate di Camillo’s Because of Winn Dixie (a Newbery winner).  My favorite genre of children’s literature is usually middle grade mysteries, so I have four more checked out from the library waiting for me to tackle.
The To Be Read list is growing, providing me with fun leisure time and I hope more reviews to share with you this winter.
I mentioned book blogs and I will share some links to some more entertaining book blogs in my next post.  Please remember to follow me, send comments and tell your friends about BESTBOOKSBYBETH.com
Happy Reading in 2016!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Award winning books, Book Clubs, Children's Literature, First Novels, Malice Domestic, Mystery, Reading challenges, reading journals

THRILLS AND CHILLS

Do you enjoy thrillers? I have a fun surprise for you from a great thriller writer!
I just finished Libby Fischer Hellman’s latest book Jump Cut and she has an offer for you readers out there. I know you will love this page-turner. It can be read so quickly, but that doesn’t mean there is not substance in her writing. You will be amazed with the currency and thrills she has put in her latest book! We have included her link to her books, so find them soon so you don’t miss out on the excitement! Here’s the link:
http://libbyhellmann.com/my-books/jump-cut

Look above for a partial view of the offer. I cannot get the picture to paste into this blog, but here is the scoop:  Pre-order Jump Cut for 99 cents at the link above and you will also receive a copy of another Ellie Foreman book, An Eye for Murder!

What more can I say? This page-turner is intriguing and scary with just the right amount of details and secrets any thriller reader will want to read! Readers like me who love mysteries and thrillers will want to read all the Ellie Foreman books, from her adventures referenced in Jump Cut. Hellmann’s description of the characters, her well-thought out clues, the pace, and the many mysterious plot twists kept me reading to complete the novel in one thrill-packed  weekend.
Looking for a lighter read? Florida is the setting for Checked Out! Had to try this one that takes place in a library! What would you do if you heard $1,000,000 was lost in a library book? Helen Hawthorne, a PI with her husband Phil, takes a dead-end job to help the Friends of the Library and her client discover a famous painting which was left in a book donated to the library. Elaine Viets adds her usual humor in this 14th book in her series in FL. (I love her mystery shopper series which is set in St. Louis suburbs, too.) Being a library volunteer doesn’t sound like a Dead-End job to me, but Helen is not paid a salary in this caper, only she does get a commission as she follows all the clues to catch the culprit. Cosy mysteries are the best reads on the beach or vacation.
Maybe you are looking for a mystery for your child or grandchildren. The latest one I can recommend is a new author for me. Lisa Papademetrious created a unique title which reminds me of So You Want to Be a Wizard! Similar to Diane Duane’s series, A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic features a magical book. The settings of USA and Pakistan with two young girls who do not know each other adds so much intrigue, you will be drawn in to discover how their stories relate to one another. Clues abound and you will be amazed at the similarities of their lives and adventures throughout this short book. Thank you to Erik at http://www.ThisKidReviewsBooks.comfor his recommendation of this title.

Happy Reading in 2016! I am well on my way to a new Good Reads goal for the year!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Children's Literature, Links, Mystery

FRIENDSHIP

Books are my best friends. They help me travel, have adventures, fall in love, understand others, and escape to a place where no one is my critic! Just recently I was reunited with a college friend, a fourth grade teacher who joined me at a charity book buying venue. We had such fun choosing books we both loved for her classroom library.

Then, just this week, I found a new blog site to recommend to you for the very same purpose. Find http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/ which shares book lists for parents and teachers and lovers of children’s books. Erica’s categories are easy to navigate for book choosing at the library or your favorite Independent bookstore. I highly recommend her site which I discovered from a new author who mentioned it on Facebook. Thank you to Arti Agarwal Sonthalia for introducing me to this book blog. She mentioned Erica’s list called “10 Picture Books that Nurture EMPATHY.” I was familiar with many titles, but some were new to me. “19 Book Series for kids who like MAGIC TREE HOUSE” is another with popular books to befriend.

What books have I been reading?  By Andrea ChengThe Year of the Book by Joan Bauer Squashed, by Beverly A. Ferber Julia’s Kitchen,  by Sydney Taylor, All-of-a-Kind Family, by E. L. Konigsburg, The View from Saturday and a new, young author Dania Ramos’s Who’s Ju? are my newest friends. Who’s Ju? (The 7th Grade Sleuths) (Volume 1) Each book deals with friends and quarrels among friends and each one creatively and uniquely solves the problems children face as they grow up trying to learn who they want to be. I almost forgot my newest friend who is an author of many middle grade fiction books. Read Frances O’Roark Dowell to find more authentic characters who will appeal to middle grade readers. New writers will gain insights into the craft of writing for upper elementary students by reading this diverse group of titles.

Better return to my own writing where I am attempting to create characters who you will want as friends. Thank you for any suggestions and comments to make this blog more meaningful for you as a reader for your own pleasure or for the books you select for others. Check out reviews on Amazon and find the links for purchasing yourself.  Follow me and my fellow bloggers.

Happy Reading in 2015!

Book Blog

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Filed under Award winning books, Children's Literature, First Novels, Mystery

READING FOR LIFE

June is the month of baby showers and graduations and weddings.  What better time to share a book.  In fact, some organizers of celebrations are suggesting that we add a book inscribed to the honoree instead of a card.

Here is a task not too hard/ Enclose a book instead of a card.

I received an invitation recently with these words added to the announcement of a shower.  So today, I will suggest some classics for including in your celebration presents no matter the occasion.

 Pat the Bunny is a great first book for any baby and new parents.  Don’t worry if multiple copies arrive at the party:  these books wear out with continued reading and feeling.  If you have never seen this gem, it is a pop-up book with each page a new touch for baby.  Reviews mention that the books aren’t that sturdy, but that is why you need a backup copy! Pat the Bunny Book & Plush (Touch-and-Feel)

Guess How Much I Love You is another favorite of young families.  You have heard the expression “I love you to the Moon and back,” I am certain.  This line is from Sam McBratney’s book.  Guess How Much I Love You 20th Anniversary Edition  You can guess why this title is so well-loved.  I hear children still love it when they are toddlers, so you can get your money’s worth for your gift.

Maybe you want to honor an elementary school graduate.  Some buy a thematic Dr. Seuss book such as The Lorax  The Lorax (Classic Seuss)or  Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Oh, The Places You’ll Go! You may not be the only friend giving one of these titles, so you may want a fun book for the student for summer reading such as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Libraryor Greenglass House by Kate Milford, books I recommended in other posts this year.Greenglass House

How about high school graduates, don’t they deserve a great book to add to their library, too?  1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die1,000 Places to See Before You Die, the second edition: Completely Revised and Updated with Over 200 New EntriesI have heard that John Green’s Looking for Alaska is better than The Fault in Our Stars, so see if that book fits the need for your teen graduate. Looking for Alaska

This post was an experiment to see if I could link titles from Amazon for you to purchase easily.  Let me know if you like this service from my blog.  If you buy the books from this link, I will receive a few pennies for each item purchased. The money will help me to enter writing contests.

Happy Reading and Book Buying for yourself and others in 2015!

Let me know what you recommend and title you suggest to this blog in comments.

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Filed under Adult Literature, Children's Literature, gifts, Links, Mystery

Enlightenment: How Historical Fiction Reveals the Truth

All the Light We Cannot See appeared in my dream the other night, so I knew this important title would be the focus of this blog post.  After mysteries, historical fiction is my favorite genre.  I am exploring what makes historical fiction so compelling and reveals the truth of our history?

All the Light We Cannot See is a perfect example to answer that question.  When an author describes using each of his senses in his setting, you are transported into the lives of the characters. You can taste, smell and touch the places the author has revealed in his words.  Many authors pepper in visual descriptions, so you can see what the characters see.  But when an author such as Anthony Doerr reminds us of the other senses, we are there during a bombing raid or living in a tenement or hearing the rush of the ocean in Ocean City.

Anthony Doerr shows exemplary skill  in this title using his senses because his main character is blind.  Marie-Laure is taught by her father to explore her sightless world so she can live an independent life.  She becomes aware of each brick, manhole cover, and scent in her neighborhood and we experience her scientific and literary world along with her.

Werner, Marie-Laure’s counterpart in this story, uses his fine sense of touch and hearing as he explores the world of radio waves.  I do not understand the science, but I was transported to the bombed out basement with Werner when he scanned “frequencies by feel.”  Read this book to see what a master Doerr is with language and sensual description!

What other historical fiction titles can compare to this new masterpiece?  I have Erika Robuck to thank for reminding me of recent evocative historical fiction titles.  Her TopTen of 2014 is a wonder and it includes Doerr’s latest title.  Check out her blog MUSE for a list you will want on your bedside table.

Since I often switch from adult books to children’s literature, I’ll recommend a few extra bonus books here.  Karen Cushman, Katherine Paterson and Avi are masters in this genre for middle grade readers.  You will be surprised at the tightness and the concepts in the writing these authors present which will interest adults as well as children.  My favorite children’s review blog will inspire you to read even more of these great ones.  www.ThisKidReviewsBooks.com

Until next time:  Happy Reading in 2015!

http://www.erikarobuck.com/Blog.html

http://www.karencushman.com/

http://www.terabithia.com/about.html

http://www.avi-writer.com/

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Filed under Adult Literature, Children's Literature, Historial Fiction

REVIEW SOURCES: YOUR HELP FOR YOUR NEXT BEST READ

Up until this post, all the titles I have recommended are books I have read.  Let’s explore, with anticipation, reviews of new titles we want to read in 2015! Newspapers and magazines print the “best of” lists to remind readers which books are not to be missed.

My favorite review sources include The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Book Review.  Independent booksellers provide their own “Indie Bound” suggestionsMy local library offers a free periodical called BookPage.  (Look below for the online URLs.)

The book on the top of many “Best of 2014” lists is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  This title is on my Amazon.com wish list and my Goodreads “to-read” shelf.  Since it is a second novel for Doerr, I am intrigued to check out his first, About Grace: A Novel, which one personal reviewer compared to the writing of the Japanese author Haruki Murakami.   (So many books, so little time.) See the Amazon.com reviews of Murakami’s Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, (2010) or IQ84 from 2011.  The NYT Book Review called Murakami “a rare artist and “a magician.”  What a comparison for both authors, Doerr and Murakami, two literary authors to read and watch for further masterpieces!

Some friends ask me how I enjoy my 3 Kindles. “Don’t I long for the feel of a physical book and pages to turn and look back upon?” they query.  I know what they are saying, still I use my Kindle devices as a virtual library:  I can keep my favorites to review and peruse any time.  I can also sample books I have seen reviewed or recommended, books I may want to purchase, and I often use my Kindle to search for titles and their reviews by editors and readers on Amazon or Goodreads.

I’m most impressed when the reviews have bylines. One of my favorite reviewers is Tom Nolan who recommends mysteries in the WS Journal every Friday.  I also enjoyed reading the author Carolyn See’s mystery reviews in the Washington Post. She is the mother of the prolific Lisa See, although she has now retired. For children’s book reviews, I read Meghan Cox Gurdon’s “Children’s Books” column in WS Journal.  Gurdon’s insights are valuable to all who enjoy various genres and many grade levels of children’s book titles.  Librarians find Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, written for professionals interesting sources to check for recommendations each week or month, although they are not always available to the general public.  We can all purchase the New York Times Book Review which is available from bookstores and libraries separate from the large daily newspaper.

They chose “10 Best Books of 2014” published December 14, 2014 (our mother’s birthday).  Five fiction and five non-fiction titles were chosen. The books reviewers gave us are a cross-section of genres including the highly-rated Doerr’s who writes “brisk chapters and sumptuous language” in All the Light We Cannot See, a metaphorical tale; a historical fiction Euphoria by Lily King about Margaret Mead; and  Redeployment, a debut story collection by a former Marine, Phil Klay.  The non-fiction list is similarly varied with a biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, a writer who published her first book at 58 (Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee); a graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast; and an environmental examination The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.  The “Best of” list concludes with a political treatise described as “profound” and “gripping” with “clashing personalities” called Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright. (I did not write about all from the Times’ list.)

“Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness!” to parrot Mollie, my favorite character in Annie.  I need to stop writing and start reading with so many great titles to consider! I am salivating over the language and creative ideas put forth by the reviewers and the authors of these new books of last year.

Three novels I still have on my own “to-read shelf” include highly recommended books published in 2013:  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahri.  Mysteries and historical fiction, which are still my favorite genres, which are waiting for me to open are Truth Be Told by Hank Philippi Ryan, the entire “Rei Shimura” series by Sujata Massey I want to read in order (while I await her newest Indian epic), and the newest historical fiction title by Erika Robuck, The House of Hawthorne.

Share the best books and reviews you read this past year so we will all have Happy Reading in 2015!

http://online.wsj.com/public/page/news-books-best-sellers.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/features/books/bookreviews/index.html

http://www.indiebound.org/indie-next-list

http://bookpage.com/

PS:  Don’t forget to savor the advertisements in these magazines and supplements as well as the Best Seller Lists.  They will all provide ideas for choosing your next best read. 

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Filed under First Novels, Historial Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery

Welcome to my Blog!

There is nothing more I love to do than talk about books, except to read them! You will find lots of reviews and discussions about the latest, greatest and most interesting books for book lovers. Whether you like mysteries (my favorite), historical fiction, or children’s books, you’ll find what you’re seeking on this blog, Best Books By Beth. I welcome new authors to send me their books and I will be happy to review them!

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Filed under Children, Historical Fiction, Mystery