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1. Spring Reading Thing wrap-up

Well, I shouldn't be surprised that I didn't finish the challenge, though I certainly did put the effort in. I only had the one book left, but with packing and getting ready to move this past week, the time to read just hasn't been there. It certainly was fun though!

1. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
2. The Problem With the Puddles by Kate Feiffer
3. Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
4. Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
5. Deeper by Roderick Gordan
6. Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian
7. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
8. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
9. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
10. A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick
11. Fade by Lisa McMann
12. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald

3 Comments on Spring Reading Thing wrap-up, last added: 6/24/2009
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2. Along for the Ride review

I really think Sarah Dessen and I could be best friends. If you're reading this Sarah...send me an email...it's just meant to be! :) Such a brilliant author that can truly channel the teen mind and the need for "real" fiction, the latest piece of work from Dessen has probably become my favorite. I've said that as I've read each one, but really, Along for the Ride is just wonderful!

Auden is an incredibly smart girl, a girl with a great head on her shoulders, but also a girl forced to grow up quickly to impress her academic parents, even after they divorced. Always studying, always doing the right thing, Auden never had much of a childhood, not even having learned how to ride a bicycle, and so far, her teen years haven't been much better. Well this summer, Auden is just sick to death of putting up with her overbearing, uncaring mother and all the graduate students that flit in and out of the woman's life, so she decides to go spend the summer at her father's beach house, with his new wife, and her new baby sister, Thisbe.

Taking a job in her stepmother's fancy beach boutique is about the last thing Auden planned to do, as were falling in love with both a guy and her baby sister, or forgetting to study all summer long. But work, fall in love, and become a "real girl" she does, and the experience is both satisfying and terrifying. Her simple, lonely life has become one filled to the brim with people and emotions and Auden isn't quite sure how to live anymore.

In true Sarah Dessen fashion, the reader gets the overall, perfect YA book experience. The characters feel like they could be kids you go to school with (and they all have fabulous names), the situations are ones that teens today really find themselves in, and the connections Dessen makes between plot, character, and reader is truly remarkable. One of the best I've read this year, by far.

Recommended for all libraries, as gifts, home shelves, wherever. Just go buy it.

I read this for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge and the Young Adult Challenge.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen
400 pages
Young Adult
Viking Press
June 2009

3 Comments on Along for the Ride review, last added: 6/14/2009
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3. Deeper review

What a story. Seriously, while reading Deeper, I sometimes had to just take a step back and think about how awesome a story it was. Who THINKS of this stuff???

Deeper is the 2nd book in the series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, which began with Tunnels. It picks up pretty much immediately where Tunnels left off, with Will, his best friend Chester, and his little brother Cal trying to find his archeologist father in the depths of the Earth. Who knew such sinister beings lay below the surface? The threesome have suffered being beaten, almost killed several times, and chased by crazy creatures, and are really just fighting for survival their entire time underground.

In this edition, Will and Cal's biological mother begins to play a pivotal role, as do some new characters that pop up. Will and Chester's relationship grows and gets a more in-depth look and lots of plot points from Tunnels are further explained upon. Though much darker than its predecessor, I enjoyed Deeper a lot more than Tunnels, simply for its character development and true thrills and adventure. I didn't want to stop reading and that's always a good sign.

My one criticism is the length. At almost 700 pages long, some kids really just don't pick up these books because of their sheer size, especially if it's not a hugely popular series like Harry Potter or Twilight. I felt a bit of trimming could have been done in places, bringing the page count down a bit, which might make it more appealing to those reluctant to read in the first place.

Highly recommended for those that enjoyed Tunnels and for those that haven't yet started the series...START!

I read this for the Spring Reading Thing challenge.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
656 pages
Middle Grade fiction
The Chicken House
February 2009

2 Comments on Deeper review, last added: 5/9/2009
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4. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks review

I have read some of Lauren Myracle's previous books including Twelve and Thirteen and enjoyed them, but this latest title from her is just wonderful. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks has all the things a best selling young adult book needs, a bit of romance, some angst, family issues, and a great main character.

Carly has grown up in the world of privilege, though she often feels as if she doesn't really belong to her money crazy parents. She's fifteen and attends one of the most prestigious schools in the country, at which her younger sister, Anna, is starting at this fall. Anna has always been Carly's best friend, the one constant in her life filled with rich parents, snobby classmates, and people that don't like anyone that's different.

When Anna starts turning into the "norm" of kids at her school, becoming gorgeous, hanging out with Carly's friends, dressing the right way, and saying the perfect things, Carly no longer knows where to turn. Anna is gone, she can't get the right guy, her parents have checked out, and Carly is just lost in her eccentric self.

I loved Carly as a main character. Loved her quirks, her tenacity, and her determination to be herself in a world of copycats. The relationship with Anna is pure and comes across as realistic, as do her thoughts and emotions. This is really a book about actual teens that will appeal to REAL teens.

Definitely a great book to have on library shelves or as a gift for a teen girl. A great message of sisterhood through thick and thin comes across.

I read this for the Spring Reading Thing challenge

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover to link to Amazon.

Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks
Lauren Myracle
292 pages
Young Adult
May 2009

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5. The Secret Life of Prince Charming review

Deb Caletti puts out fabulous books. She just does...simple as that. I love that her covers are all kinda consistent, even if the stories have nothing to do with one another and I love that her characters all have this real-to-life aura that they give off, making the reader feel as if a friendship between reader and character has been formed. It's always a nice feeling to pick up one of these books, and The Secret Life of Prince Charming was no exception.

After years of listening to her mother bash men and then being dumped and heartbroken by the one guy she thought she could trust, Quinn has had enough. She knows that her father is pretty much a loser, even though she still stays at his mansion every other weekend with her little sister, completely aware of how many women he has "gone through" over the years and how many hearts HE has broken. When she discovers that his room filled with art and other cool objects her dad claims to have collected in his travels around the world is actually a room of personal items he has stolen from each woman he dated, Quinn is disgusted and furious with her dad.

Being dumped was the last straw and Quinn decides she needs to make amends to the women her father destroyed. She and her little sister Sprout, along with Frances Ann, another of her father's daughters, set out to return each item to it's rightful owner, learning stories about love, life, and loss all along the way.

An incredibly cool plot with really great characters, this was another winner for Caletti. A definite recommendation for any fan of her previous work or fans of Sarah Dessen. Recommended for libraries as well.

I read this one for the Spring Reading Thing challenge.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover to link to Amazon.

The Secret Life of Prince Charming
Deb Caletti
336 pages
Young Adult
Simon Pulse
April 2009

1 Comments on The Secret Life of Prince Charming review, last added: 6/16/2009
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6. Secret Keeper review

Ah...books about India. To me, India is one of the most wonderfully exotic countries to run away to when reading a good book, and really...who better to take you there than Mitali Perkins?

Secret Keeper is the latest from this fabulous author and is filled with all the lush description, pure emotion, and true character connections as her previous novels. We are introduced to Asha, a young girl traveling to Calcutta to live with her grandmother's family with her sister, Rasha, and her mother, while her father is in America looking for work. Living with anyone's family is difficult, but Asha, Reet, and their mother must truly sacrifice themselves to live with Baba's family.

Strict familial rules must be followed at all times, including Asha spending more time doing "girl" things and not playing the sports she so loves. Mother is under a thick cloud of depression almost all the time and poor Reet is in danger of being married off quickly. Without their father there to protect them and stand up for them, the girls are becoming unhappy and their spirits broken.

Asha writes down her thoughts and emotions in her diary and manages to make a friend with the neighbor in the process, helping her to deal with the day to day struggles she has begun to have to endure. When news about her father finally arrives from America, it is anything but what Asha and her family are expecting, resulting in even more severe change and consequences in their lives and a time when Asha's strength must shine through brighter than ever.

A beautifully written novel, I would recommend this to anyone familiar or unfamiliar with Perkins' previous work and for all library shelves. A true cultural experience, filled with amazing characters and rich description, Secret Keeper is just lovely and Asha will become a good friend.

I read this for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Secret Keeper
Mitali Perkins
240 pages
Young Adult
Delacorte Press
January 2009

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7. Spring Reading Thing

Spring Reading Thing 2008 is ready to go!!!!
March 20 - June 19

Here's my list: (in no particular order)

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Twilight by Stephenie Meyers
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
From China With Love by Emily Buchanan
True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

8 Comments on Spring Reading Thing, last added: 4/2/2008
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8. Saving Levi by Lisa Bentley

I love adoption stories, especially true ones. I love being able to read about a child that truly needs a home and about the parents that truly need that child. I’ve always known that someday I would love to be able to adopt a child and when reading stories such as Lisa Bentley’s, it helps me to understand exactly what process is involved. Mind you, this book is a lot more involved than a simple adoption experience, but that makes the happy ending all the more beautiful.

When Lisa and her family are spending time in China, helping to create a new orphanage, she learns of a baby that was left in a field, severely burned and thought to die. Lisa becomes emotionally attached to the baby, whom she calls Levi and goes to incredible lengths to ensure he receives the medical care he needs, though Lisa and her husband are struggling to make ends meet themselves. They realize that he needs care in the United States, though getting Levi out of China and into surgeries when he is not their child is basically impossible, not to mention incredibly expensive.

Throughout the book, Lisa and her family fall more in love with Levi and work very hard to get him the care he deserves. Eventually they are able to adopt Levi, as well as a second child from China, and though their family will never have millions of dollars, they have a love and a bond that is unbreakable. I learned a lot from this memoir, not only about adoption, but about loving and caring for a child that will have special needs his entire life. As an expectant first-time mother, the possibility of my child being born with special needs is always there and though all mothers pray for a 100% healthy baby, that is not always the end result and loving them unconditionally is all that we can do. Lisa does an excellent job at not only chronically her story, but also being an inspiration to mothers everywhere.

I read this book for the 888 Challenge and for the Spring Reading Thing challenge.

0 Comments on Saving Levi by Lisa Bentley as of 4/1/2008 2:02:00 PM
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9. The Titan's Curse

Rick Riordan, you are a genius!Each book that I read in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series is more exciting and addictive than the last. The Titan's Curse was certainly no exception and by far my favorite in the series so far. I've waited almost 6 months in between reading this and The Sea of Monsters, book 2, knowing I would not want to wait very long for book 4, The Battle of the Labyrinth. I was right and now am not-so-patiently anticipating the May release of that title!

The action ensues in the very beginning of The Titan's Curse when Percy is summoned to a boarding school where two new half-bloods have surfaced. Camp Halfblood is in great need of new attendees, so Percy, Annabeth, and Grover are sent to recruit. Before the first night ends, the trio must fight a powerful manticore, Annabeth goes missing, and Artemis, a new goddess the trio meet in the woods, leaves them to hunt a monster. The fast paced book never slows down, as the Percy, Grover, and some new friends must find Annabeth, fight against constant monster attacks, and manage to remain alive in the process.

I really enjoyed how this edition in the series took the kids all over the United States. From Maine to Washington D.C. to the Hoover Dam, they are taken on quite the wild ride. I was exceptionally surprised/pleased when they showed up in Alamogordo and Cloudcroft, New Mexico, right where I happen to reside! Not many people have even heard of these small desert towns, so to see them in a Rick Riordan book was pretty cool!

The action in these books never slow down and result in the reader flipping pages as fast as possible to see what happens next. I hope this series continues on for many more books, allowing us mythology and fiction lovers to get our fill!

I completed this book for the Spring Reading Thing challenge.

1 Comments on The Titan's Curse, last added: 5/14/2008
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10. Spring Reading Thing...just in the nick of time

Since it's only 10:53 mountain time, I think I'm still in for prizes/giveaways during the Spring Reading Thing. Cutting it close, but I was flying home all day and life got in the way of making my post before my NY trip. Katrina is hosting the challenge again this year...head over to Callapidder Days and find out more details.

Here's my list!

1. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
2. The Problem With the Puddles by Kate Feiffer
3. Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
4. Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
5. Deeper by Roderick Gordan
6. Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian
7. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
8. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
9. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
10. A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick
11. Fade by Lisa McMann
12. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald

5 Comments on Spring Reading Thing...just in the nick of time, last added: 3/31/2009
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11. Spring Reading Thing

Spring Reading Thing is hosted by Callapidder Days - this is always such a great challenge - I love to take part. Because I am a youth services librarian - my list this spring is particularly heavy on that end! I am excited to get reading!!!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron
Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
Adopting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck
Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck

2 Comments on Spring Reading Thing, last added: 4/6/2009
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12. Some lazy dogs for your Sunday...

I've had a couple of challenge books sitting around for awhile that have needed some quick reviewing and thought a lazy Sunday was a good time to get them done. Both are loosely based around dogs, though one definitely more than the other.

Lost & Found, written by Jacqueline Sheehan, is the story of Rocky Pelligrino and her search for peace. Having found her husband dead on the bathroom floor after a heart attack, she isn't completely sure where she belongs in the world any longer and thus leaves behind her successful career as a psychologist to move to a remote Maine island and take on the job of Animal Control Warden. It's there that she meets Cooper.

Cooper, a black lab with an arrow lodged in his shoulder, quickly becomes incredibly important to Rocky. He understands her, loves her, and depends on her, like no one else does any longer. Cooper has taken the place of her husband. Unfortunately, when people come around the island and lay claim to Cooper, Rocky has to learn to let go again, with much more difficult and painful results.

A very sad, but light-filled novel of loss and the pure love that animals give off to their humans. I don't know what I would have done without my dog Shae, after this past summer and fall, leaving me very much sympathetic to this story.

Not the best writing (and I found the character of Melissa to be a bit strange and pushy) but an enjoyable plot with a great dog. I read this one for the TBR Challenge.

Lost & Found
Jacqueline Sheehan
304 pages
Adult fiction
April 2007

Ok, so A Three Dog Life, written by Abigail Thomas, is not exactly about what I thought it was going to be about. I had this impression, I don't know if it was from reading another review or what, that it was about rescuing dogs. Not so. Still a beautifully written book and one that I'm glad fell into my hands. I could have stopped reading after quickly learning the subject matter was not what I thought it was to be, but the writing is really wonderful...didn't want to put it down.

A Three Dog Life is an incredibly heart-wrenching memoir, written in a series of essay vignettes, describing the experiences Thomas went through after her husband's brain injury. After being hit by a car and suffering damage to his frontal lobe, he was never the same, having a complete personality change, no longer loving her, and residing in an assisted living facility.

Though her husband no longer needs her, she still needs him and thus sells their New York City apartment, moving farther upstate to be closer to him. She, along with her three faithful dogs, show signs of healing and growth, even in the years of intense pain and hurt. She didn't abandon the man who was her loving husband, even when she felt abandoned by him.

Really a very inspirational, if not painful, read. The writing is truly wonderful and the emotions Thomas went through come through loud and clear, almost too clear at times! Your heart will break for this woman...

This would make a nice gift for someone going through a rough time, needing some encouragement and inspiration.

I read this one for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge.

A Three Dog Life
Abigail Thomas
208 pages
Adult Non-fiction
Harvest Books
September 2007

To learn more about either title, or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

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13. Three quick, after-the-Readathon mini-reviews

I have SO much reviewing to still do for this month it's not even funny. So for the ones I don't have a whole lengthy review to give, I'm just doing a short synopsis and whether or not I enjoyed it and think it's worth your time. For tonight I have two adult reads and a classic.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, is a story we all know from our childhood, mainly from watching the amazing movie. I had never picked this book (or any of the subsequent books in the series) up, but when I did for the read-a-thon I was pretty surprised...and a bit disappointed.

Though cinematic versions of books are often very different from the original plot, this one really through me for a loop. I was really surprised at how the story played out and all the changes that had to be made for the movie, to make it enjoyable to a large audience. The book was kinda boring, very hard to read in places (the text is right on top of illustrated pages), and the characters each very different from what I knew. Dorothy's slippers weren't even red, they were silver!

I was pretty disappointed in this one, as it didn't hold my attention well at all. It's a classic though, one that is much loved all over the world, so this is obviously not the opinion of many!

I read this one for the Project 100 Challenge.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 100th Anniversary Edition
L. Frank Baum
320 pages
Middle Grade
August 2001

My next read, Together: A Novel of Shared Vision was written by Tom Sullivan and Betty White. I was a tad bit disappointed when I received this one and it wasn't a memoir like I had originally thought, but I picked it up anyway, always in for a good dog story.

In it, a young, active man named Brenden takes a terrible fall while hiking down a mountain and injures his brain to the point where he is left permanently blind. He grudgingly begins working with a guide dog, one that hasn't worked out with anyone else, and they eventually become best friends, though not without lots of trials and work.

Unfortunately, this one didn't totally hold my interest either and was a tad boring in parts too. I don't think the part of the dog was written exceptionally well, so he didn't come off as the strong character he was supposed to.

That being said, if you enjoy dog stories, it would be a nice choice. And the reviews on Amazon are ALL five stars, so it very well may have just been me that wasn't totally enjoying it.

I read this one for the TBR Challenge.

Together: A Novel of Shared Vision
Tom Sullivan with Betty White
240 pages
Adult fiction
Thomas Nelson publishing
June 2008

Finally, one that I LOVED was A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick. This is the first in a series about a small quilt shop and the women that frequent it/run it. I seem to be drawn to "crafty fiction," as I've really enjoyed Jennifer Chiaverini's books, as well as Debbie Macomber's "Blossom Street" series. Something about women making things with their hands just appeals to me. Quilting, knitting, cooking, I love it all.

Basically, when Evelyn Dixon's marriage ends in Texas, she packs her bags and moves to New Bern, Connecticut, where she buys a run down old shop and starts her own quilting store. While struggling to run a failing shop and try to make friends in the process, Evelyn learns she has breast cancer, giving her yet another thing to fight for. Her new girlfriends band together to help save both Evelyn and her shop.

Though these types of novels are always predictable, they're a comforting sort of predictable. Bostwick's writing was superb and her characters believable and lovable. The sequel comes out in a couple months, which I'm now eagerly anticipating!

I read this one for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge.

A Single Thread
Marie Bostwick
288 pages
Adult fiction
November 2008

To learn more, or to purchase, click on the book covers above to link to Amazon.

2 Comments on Three quick, after-the-Readathon mini-reviews, last added: 4/20/2009
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14. Sophomore Switch

An adorable YA novel if I ever did see one, Sophomore Switch has all the required elements to make a teen love it as well. A little bit of love, a foreign country, the beach, a fancy university, and two very real-to-life girls that are just trying to get done with school and move on in their lives.

Tasha and Emily really couldn't be more different. Tasha is the epitome of the "California Girl," more interested in boys, looking good, and partying that school, and most recently got caught hooking up with one half of a very famous couple in a hot tub, ruining her reputation and humiliating her to no end.

Emily is from England and attends Oxford, is totally uptight, dresses completely preppy, and ONLY cares about school and being organized. She most recently had her heart broken when a guy just couldn't deal with her controlling personality.

Both girls want a change...so they switch places and lives. The outcome, though somewhat predictable, is at times hilarious, sometimes sweet, and the true showing of a friendship that came from differences.

Abby McDonald has written a book that has a true sense of reality. Emily and Tasha could very well be two girls out in the world right now. Their situations, their emotions, and their personalities are completely real (if not a tad bit stereotypical for their locations). The writing was great, everything believable, the locale descriptions amazing...I can definitely see teens enjoying this one.

Highly recommended for fans of Suite Scarlett or just good-old-fashioned-YA.

I read this for the Spring Reading Thing Challenge.

To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.

Sophomore Switch
Abby McDonald
304 pages
Young Adult
March 2009

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15. Misunderstood Lands, Prairie Lands, and Dairy Lands: South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

So far we’ve gone 10,956 miles in 49 days, with only 6 days to go. As I type we’re whooshing down Route I-94 heading toward Michigan. Not too long ago we went into Indiana, a state we’re passing through for only a few minutes—but it still counts! :-) The grass and shrubs have definitely looked more shaggy since Illinois, but that’s new. For the past few days we’ve been in clean, manicured farm country.

Let’s catch up:

Wall Drug, SD and the Badlands

Wednesday, the day after we saw Mount Rushmore, was a long driving day (about 700 miles!), but Karen is never one to let a cool-sounding place pass by without calling out “Stop!” So that’s what we did in Wall Drug, South Dakota, where the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was in full swing. The entire town, which was originally built around a drug store, was filled with bikers, bikers, and more bikers. How could we pass up a chance to buy a Harley Davidson t-shirt in the biker heartland of America?


The badlands: Truly bad, or just misunderstood? Here’s Evan:

EVAN: The Badlands were covered with white rock and it seemed sort of like the moon. It was very hot and I liked it because in some places the rock was burned so badly that it made colors
(Mark’s note: actually, this was different levels of sediment—and way cool) and suddenly when you leave the Badlands it looks like you’re in the regular world again. There were a lot of motorcycle guys everywhere too.


So then we reached Minnesota. The photo above was the most difficult "entering a new state" photo we've taken. The sign was on the highway, and we had to climb up a hill, through some brambles, and then squeeze into a tiny area of dirt in the middle of some bushes. Note that Evan is parting a shrub with his arm so the state name can be seen.

In Minnesota we stayed Chaska, just outside of Minneapolis, with our friends Patricia Danielson, Vicki Boeddeker, and Mike Weinkauf. Patricia took a couple of days off work to show us around the Twin Cities. We saw first-hand the damaged remains of the collapsed bridge on I-35W—just awful. Five weeks and two days after crossing the Mississippi in the south (into Louisiana), we crossed it in the north. It’s a lot calmer in the north! We also saw the beautiful state capital building. Thanks Patricia, Vicki, and Mike!

A note from KAREN: Mark asked why I’ve only been writing about bad experiences. I don’t see it that way, I see them as different experiences than life in Wayland, MA. For example, my 2nd night in Vicki’s house. Here we are, comfy cozy, away from bears and rattlesnakes, what else could happen at night? My first big lightening storm on the prairies of Minnesota, that’s what!! Holy cow ! I got out of bed and was blinded by the flashing lightning, and then jumped out of my PJ’s when I heard the loud crack and kaboom of the lightning right outside the window! Did a tree fall down? Did we get hit by lightning? Another night of no sleeping because of fear!! The next morning, as usual, everyone including Mark said it was a normal storm, no big deal . WELL, we got an email from a friend in the area who said the storm blew out windows like a tornado and power was out for a few days. She asked if we were in the eye of the storm! See, I’m not crazy!!


Wild Rupus was wild indeed. An amazing independent bookstore in Minneapolis, the whole store was designed to look like it was transforming from an inside space to the outdoors. Helping to create the effect were a whole menagerie of animals, including chickens, ferrets, Australian flying squirrels, fish, tarantulas, rats and many more. The kids were in heaven. Here we are with Manager Kristin Bergsagel bookseller Josh Harrod, Poopsie the ferret, and a Japanese chicken named Elvis. Thanks, Wild Rumpus—you are terrific!


Like a matching bookend to Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, St. Paul is home to another amazing bookstore called The Red Balloon. Susan Hepburn
was a terrific host, serving up lemon drops and lemonade. The Red Balloon is another must-visit bookstore for anyone the St. Paul area!

As a nice surprise, we were lucky enough to meet Shelley Swanson Sateren, fellow SCBWI member and author of the middle-grade novel Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof. Here’s Evan’s review:

EVAN’S REVIEW: Cat on a Hottie’s Tin Roof is a fun book about a girl who is geeky who when her friend moves away from Paris she finds a new friend who is stylish and cool. It was an interesting story because it’s interesting to see how a girl with so much smarts can try and be cool and fit in with everyone else. You should read it.

It was great to meet you, Shelley!


Penelope’s rattling got kind of dubious so we stopped at the Honda dealer in Hopkins, MN. $560 later, (replaced ‘severely cracked’ exhaust manifold and gaskets, oil change, new battery) the minivan sounded a bit better—at least for the first twenty miles or so. After that, we’re pretty much back to the rattling we started out with. Oh well, it’s only money. :-)

Here’s Shane Beals, the Honda guy who washed Penelope—she badly needed it. Thanks, Shane!


Next we drove through Wisconsin, a land of beautiful manicured farms and more red barns than you can shake a cheddar wheel at. So lovely!

In Green Bay we stopped to see a surprisingly large athletic facility where a local team plays a sport that apparently involves feet and leather hats. I hear that the locals are rather enthusiastic about it.


Just south of Green Bay, in DePere, is Butterfly Books, a roomy and cheerful independent bookstore run by Barbara Wilson. Barbara and her friendly team of booksellers were very kind, staying open later than usual on a Saturday afternoon just so that we could visit. Here I am with Barbara and Samantha Parker, bookseller and saxophone player. Great to meet you!


In Milwaukee we stayed with our friends Posh (really Josh, but he’s yet another friend with a mysterious nickname given by Karen) and Boris. They showed us around Milwaukee, and took us for custard at Kopps, a Milwaukee thing-to-do. The custard was a lot like ice cream except a lot denser—it’s made with eggs and who-knows-what-else and it sneaks up on you. Thank god I only had a small cone—by bedtime I felt so full that I rolled around in pain clutching at my stomach. But honestly, it was so tasty it was worth it! :-)


As any fan of Laverne and Shirley can tell you, Milwaukee is home to many breweries, so how could we pass up the opportunity to tour the Miller factory?


In beautiful Cedarburg, WI, about twenty minutes north of Milwaukee, is the terrific Creekside Books. Owner Glen Switalski is a man with an amazing story: After his doctor told him he needed to lose weight, he lost well over 100 lbs by exercise, diet and sheer force of will. Today he can be seen riding his exercise bike in and around his store every day. The guy is an aerobic, bookselling powerhouse! Creekside Books is a great independent bookstore, and Gary is a truly an inspirational guy.

Here I am with Lindsay McLaughlin, a reader and artist who came to see me. She was fun to talk with, and very helpful in suggesting places we could go in the area. Great to meet you, Lindsay! :-)

Illinois: An All-Too-Short Trip Through the Land of Lincoln

Southward from Milwaukee...! Unfortunately, we had only a few hours in Illinois. Still, it counts as state number 31 on our trip! :-)


In Grayslake, Illinois, about forty minutes north of Chicago, is a magical bookstore called Under the Sycamore Tree. A new independent store, owner Jackie Harris opened up shop this past November. It’s a roomy, bright place with a big “sycamore tree” inside. The store has taken inspiration from Wild Rumpus (see Minnesota) and filled its space with wild animals. My kids were in their element. Zoe ran at me with a giant grin and a very big python named ‘Snakey’. Under the Sycamore Tree is yet another example of how independent bookstores tend to be run by smart, thoughtful, nice people. Jackie, it was a pleasure to meet you!

Here I am with Jackie and her daughter, Haley:

Because we’re meeting a friend in Michigan later today, we had only about an hour or so to see Chicago. I know, I know—not even close to scratching the surface. So on top of just driving around a little, we decided that with our limited time we’d stop by Lake Michigan. As far as my eyes could tell, the lake might as well have been an ocean. Way cool. Next time, we’ll plan to spend more time here!

Our Trip Through Indiana: Don’t Blink Or You’ll Miss It

If you thought our stop in Chicago was too short, Indiana is only about a half hour of highway to us. Still, it counts as state #32. :-)

Next stop, Michigan!

LEMONADE MOUTH (Delacorte Press, 2007)
I AM THE WALLPAPER (Delacorte Press, 2005)

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16. Spring Reading Thing 2008

Katrina over at one of my favorite blogs, Callapidder Days, is once again hosting the Spring Reading Thing and I knew I definitely had to join, for no other reason than to get my to-be-read list down a bit. Rules are simple and explained over at the blog post. Just click on the picture to get started! My list, which includes books from my shelves at home, books I've just been meaning to read, as well as additional challenge books, is below....

1. A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

2. Saving Levi by Lisa Bentley

3. Light of the Moon by Luanne Rice

4. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

6. Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

7. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

8. Eldest by Christopher Paolini

9. Peeled by Joan Bauer

10. Extras by Scott Westerfeld

11. Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway

12. Physik by Angie Sage

13. The Report Card by Andrew Clements

14. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

15. Gods of Manhatten by Scott Mebus

2 Comments on Spring Reading Thing 2008, last added: 3/20/2008
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