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1. Top Ten Tuesday: Winners I Haven't Read

Being the second day in the month, that means it's time for another question from Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

Today's question is: Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't/Want To Read From X Genre

Well, seeing as my "to be read" pile is thousands of books long, and I will probably never ever finish them all before I die, I wasn't sure how I wanted to spin this one at first.  But then I remembered the ALA awards for children's an YA lit came out this week (the Printz, Morris, Newbery, Caldecott, etc.).  So in honor of that, I decided to look up past winners/honorable mentions from the past few years and list the top ten books I can't believe I haven't read yet from those awards.  These are books that I have intended to read before knowing they won awards, not because they were winners. 

So here they are in no particular order:

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (Newbery Honor, 2006) - With as much as I absolutely love Shannon Hale, I have no idea why I haven't picked this one up yet.  I know pretty much I would love it, and I even own Book 2 as well, but I have never read either of them yet.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (Printz Honor, 2004) - I've read one other book by Jennifer Donnelly and didn't really like it at all, which is why it's slightly surprising that the premise of this one has always appealed to me so much.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Morris Finalist, 2010) - Lots of hype about these books.  Still have never picked them up, even though they do sound interesting to me.

A Curse Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Morris Winner, 2009) - This one is a fairy tale retelling I've had on my to-read list for ages.  I blame my ever expanding bookshelves for hiding it away from me in the back as the reason I've never read it.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Morris Finalist, 2012) - This book interested me from the very moment that I heard about it.  I think I haven't picked it up yet because I haven't gotten my hands on the third one yet, and I have this weird thing about not starting a series until I have several of the books in case there are cliffhangers.

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson (Newbery Honor, 2007) - I've gone back and forth on this book for many years now.  I keep checking it out from the library and never actually getting around to reading it before I have to return it.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Morris Winner, 2013) - Another book I've wanted to read since before it came out and I read what it was about.  Usually the books I like never get shortlisted for awards, so I was surprised that it won both this and the Cybils award in 2013 for its category. 

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross (Morris Finalist, 2014) - One of the only books from this year's awards that I feel a need to read right away. 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Newbery Winner, 2009) - This is the one book I'm a bit torn about on this list, because I have actually read a bit of it for when I was on the Fantasy/Sc-Fi committee for the Cybils in 2009.  I actually didn't like it that much, but it's gotten so much hype I figured maybe I need to give it a second chance.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Morris Finalist, 2009) - This one I'm not entirely sure if it belongs on this list either.  Mostly because I have read about 1/3 of it right before Christmas, and I LOVED it, I just haven't had the time to finish it yet (and I have temporarily lost my copy...).  But since I haven't read it in its entirety yet, I figured it deserved a place on the list. 

With the list being done, I think there is one interesting trend that popped up while I was going through these books.  I really haven't read most of the winners, and I'm not planning on reading a lot of them.  That's because I find that most of the time the bestseller, popular, and "literary" books that win awards don't really appeal to me.  Some exceptions come to mind (I found Harry Potter worth the hype, for instance) but these are the titles that really stood out to me because I was interested in many of these books before knowing they were on the lists. 

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2. Waiting on Wednesday: Beastkeeper

So in my renewed determination to keep up with my blogging, I am back today with a Waiting on Wednesday post.  Yay!

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
About the Book (copy from Goodreads.com): "Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.
When Sarah's mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.
Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast...unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever."
So unless you couldn't tell from the description, I'm pretty sure this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  And you know I love fairy tale retellings.  But I like the way this one has scrambled it around a bit with the girl turning into the beast.  Sounds like it will be good.  :)

You don't have to wait too long to read Beastkeeper, since it will be released on February 3, 2015.

Currently available for pre-order at Amazon.com in Hardcover and Kindle
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3. Top Ten Tuesday: Book Clubs

Hello blog readers!

I know I’ve been a bit absent lately. Still struggling to find internet access. But my goal is to work myself towards more active participation over here. Thanks to all of you who’ve stuck through these ups and downs with me over the last few months. And welcome to any new readers too. :)

Anyway, moving on to today’s post. In addition to getting back to regular posts, I just discovered this way cool weekly event called Top Ten Tuesdays hosted over at The Broke and Bookish. They post a book related question each Tuesday, and participants have the chance to come up with a list of 10 books that answer that question.

Sounds like fun. So although I don’t know how often I’ll participate, I thought it would be fun to do so today anyway. Today’s question is: Ten Books I'd Love to Read With My Book Club/If I Had A Book Club.

Interesting question for me, since for the first time ever in my life, I actually am a member of a book club. I found out in November that a group of ladies from my church do participate in a monthly book club and they invited me to join. Of course, that being said, most of the books we’ve read so far totally aren’t my thing. But since we take turns choosing books, this is actually something that I’ve thought about (for when my turn comes around).

When choosing a book for book club, I think it’s better to choose something that you’ve already read, since that way there’s no surprises content-wise that you can’t warn people about before they start the book. As a result, I’ve approached this question narrowing it down to books I’ve already read.

So here’s 10 books I’d like to read with my book club (in no particular order):

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale - Normally I don’t like adult contemporary romance, but I picked this one up because it’s Shannon Hale and Jane Austen mixed together, what could go wrong? And I loved it. This is a book that everyone who I’ve ever passed it onto has liked. And the movie isn’t bad either, even though it doesn’t follow the book exactly.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer - Okay, I know full well I’m going to catch flack for this one because Stephenie Meyer has kind of become a cliché name due to the Twilight books. And yes, I enjoyed the Twilight books. Never a big fan of them, but they were fun to read the one time. However, I really liked her book The Host (her adult book) a lot more. But most of the people I talk to won’t give it a try because of how they feel about Twilight etc. So I wish more people would try this one so I could discuss it with them.

We Bought a Zoo - Also a cute movie. Although the movie is pretty much nothing like the book. The actual book is a non-fiction memoir about the opening of Dartmouth Zoological Park in England. It’s a little slow to start because there is a lot of background information to slog through before you get to the specific anecdotes about owning/refurbishing a zoo, which is why those I’ve shared it with have had a hard time with it in the past. But I love re-reading this one, because the stories are quite funny if you can get through the background information, and it’s wonderful to think that they all actually happened to someone somewhere. Definitely an escape book for me.

Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio - This one is a little weird, because I actually read the graphic novel version of it first. But knowing it might be hard to entice people to read graphic novels if they’re not used to it, there’s also a book version which pretty much follows the comic word for word. If you like steampunk, this is a great series for you. And a good introduction to the idea of steampunk if you’re not familiar with it already. I love the characters and the mystery of the whole plot of this series.

So here’s where I get into trouble. My book club is made up of adults, and although we have read one YA book since I’ve joined (Graceling by Kristin Cashore, which was excellent, by the way, and I don’t know why it took me so long to read it) but most of the books I read are YA ones. So the above four are my “adult” choices. But if I could, I would share these YA/Kid titles with my book club too.

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede - This one lands firmly in the “kid” category, but it has been one of my favorite books since childhood. Who wouldn’t want to share one of their favorites with others? No brainier for this list.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde - Fforde normal writes adult novels, so although this book is marketed as YA (probably because the main character is 16) I think it’s very translatable to adult readers. I love the inventiveness of the world created in this one, as well as the spunky main character, and I enjoyed the sequel a lot too. Hopefully I will be able to get my hands on the third one soon.

A World Without Heroes (Beyonders) by Brandon Mull - I love pretty much everything Brandon Mull does, but I think the Beyonders series grapples with more larger and complex issues than his Candy Shop War and Fablehaven series do. I’ve always been disappointed that this one is billed as middle grade level, as I really think it would appeal more to YA readers because of its complexity, and I think most teens won’t give it a chance because it’s usually shelved in the kids section. I think this one could spark lots of great discussion with a book club.

Heist Society by Ally Carter - Again, I love pretty much everything Ally Carter does, but Heist Society has a special place in my heart among her books. I don’t know why this particular one resonated with me so much, but it is another one of those books that everyone I recommend it to loves. I even got my brother to read it (and its two sequels) and he doesn’t read “girl books”. So that’s a success story right there.

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck - I think this one is considered a “modern children’s classic”. I picked it up because it was required reading for my YA lit class in college. Even though it’s a relatively short children’s book, the merit of this one is definitely high. It’s a great collection of connected short stories about growing up during the years of the Great Depression. Seriously, if you haven’t read this one yet, you should.

Holes by Louis Sachar - If you haven’t read Holes yet, you need to. End of story. Yes, it’s a kid’s book, but it’s great anyway. Like Harry Potter. I’m serious, go read if you haven’t. Now.

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4. Happy 2015

Hello everyone!  Hope you had a great Christmas, New Year, and you're getting back into the swing of things. 

I got a cold for Christmas (yay) so I've been trying to get over that, which has slowed me down a bit.  Add in the complete lack of internet access at our new house out at the farm, and I am behind in blogging a bit.  But hopefully things will settle down with me by the end of the month. 

In the meantime, I am totally late in announcing it, but if you haven't already, check out the Cybils finalists for 2014.  I'm always relieved when Cybils Round 1 is over, since now it's the judges problem to hash out which of the awesome books gets the ultimate spot.  I don't want that kind of power.  :)

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5. Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of those who celebrate.  I've been super busy leading up to the holidays, but now that Cybils season is over, things should be quieting down soon.  Look for new reviews to come soon!

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6. Reverting back to Blogger Profile

Just wanted to give any readers who are following me using Google+ a heads up, that I'm reverting back to my old Blogger profile.  This is mainly because I don't have many followers on Google+ and my stats seemed to have dropped significantly since enabling it this summer.  Also, it bugs me that I cannot receive replies to my comments with the Google+ platform. 

Perhaps some day in the future I will enable it again, but for now, it's gone.  You can still +1 my pages/posts using the buttons at the bottom of each post if you would like to share my posts that way. 

Thanks for the continued support everyone!

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7. Your funny for the day...

I'm busy sorting through Cybils books this week (and getting ready to move, again, although only across town this time) so I haven't had time to finish up the multiple reviews I've started lately, but I did come across this and it made me smile, so I had to share.

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8. Cybils 2014 Nominations Open

Yesterday was October 1st, which for me means the beginning of another long Cybils season (not that I'm complaining :)  The Cybils are one of my favorite things to participate in each year, and I always love serving on the judging panel. 

However, we need your help in the meantime.  Now is the time to go and nominate all those wonderful kids and YA books you read this past year so that we can know the best of the best books to evaluate. 

All the details are over at the Cybils site.  Nominate away!  Nominations last until October 15th. 

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9. Time for Cybils 2014

Well, I've known about this for about a week now, but since it's been officially announced, I'm happy to share that I've once again been chosen to participate in the Cybils Awards.

If you're new to the blog, then you may have never heard of the Cybils before.  It's the Children's and Young Adult Literary Blogger Awards.  It's a grassroots award that started back in 2006, in an attempt to balance book awards for kids and teens book between the literary merit of the Newberry and Printz awards to a popularity contest award.  Thus, this is the first award that considers winners based on both literary accomplishment and "kid appeal".

I'll be back to joining the graphic novel committee this year, and I'm glad to see some new and familiar faces.  I wasn't sure I would be able to participate this year due to an anticipated fuzzy schedule around the holidays this year, but I'm glad that things have settled down enough that I can participate.

The fun for the Cybils starts October 1st, and you can find out more about them by visiting their website.

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10. Never Forget

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11. Introducing a New Rating System

In light of my 8th anniversary earlier this week, I've decided to implement a new feature I've been kicking around for awhile: a new rating system.

At the time I set up my blog, my out of 10 rating system was one that made the most sense to me, since I really don't like giving half stars on the 5 star scale that is common on Amazon and Goodreads reviews.  I was mostly trying to give an objective view of the book's merit overall, not necessarily how I felt about it.

Now I find my perspective about how I focus on the books I read is changing, and I really look first at how much I enjoyed the book, and then on how much merit it has.

Therefore, I am introducing a new system to how I rate reviews: the Leaf System.  Details about the ratings will be shown below and added to the About Ratings page of the blog.  Reviews completed before this date will still be show in the old style, so I don't expect to convert old reviews to the new system.

So here's the details on the new system.  Books will be given a rating from 1 to 5 leaves:

5 leaves: I Really Enjoyed It

These books are books that I would easily recommend to others and/or think about often.

4 leaves: I Liked It

These are books that are good, recommended, and worth reading, but have something missing that make them not worthy of 5 leaves.  These books are good, but probably not re-reads.

3 leaves: It Was Okay

These are books that are just okay, and have both good and bad qualities to them.  I don't regret reading these books, but am not necessarily excited about them.

2 leaves: I Didn't Like It, But You Might

These are books that that I did not enjoy, but you as a reader might like them more than I did.  This is the rating that I reserve for books where I can see the merit of a book, and how it might be enjoyable to a certain type of reader, but it just wasn't my thing.

1 leaf: Not Recommended

I expect these reviews will not show up here very often, just because if I didn't enjoy the book that much, I usually won't take the time to write a review for it.  But in the case that I do write a review for these books, that's what the 1 leaf rating is reserved for.  These are books that I do not recommend in any way.

In addition to a leaf rating, there are 3 additional "awards" a book can earn based on the following criteria:

The Gold Leaf Award

These are books that are rated 5 leaves and have something else about them that just makes them super spectacular, the best of the best.  A gold leaf award is similar to the old 10/10 rating.  These are books that probably will end up being on my Favorites list for awhile to come.

The Sprinkle Award

Sprinkles remind me of cupcakes, and like many cupcakes, these books are all sugar and fluff.  Not much substance there, but it was fun to consume it anyway.  The sprinkle award is granted to books that are not necessarily literary substantial or great, but more for pure entertainment purposes.

The Up All Night Award

This award is given to books that are what I like to call "compulsively readable"; those books you tear through, edge-of-your-seat suspense, can't put down, etc.  In the end, books with this award may only get a 3 leaf rating, but they definitely kept me going all night while I was in the middle of them.  

So there you have it, a (hopefully) simplified version of the rating system.  Or it seems simplified to me at least, so that's why I'm going to try it out for awhile.

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12. The Shady Glade Turns 8

Amazing how time passes sometimes.

8 years ago, I decided that doing a blog about the books I read might be a fun thing to do.  I had just gotten into the habit of writing reviews on Amazon, and I thought, hey, why not share it in other places too?  And thus this little project of mine was born.

There's been a lot of ups and downs with this over the years, especially the last few years with escalating health problems and things like jobs and moving getting in the way of blogging more than I wanted them to.  But I am trying to believe in looking towards the positive future from now, so I know I'll get through and continue this little hobby of mine.  :)

Here's to another 8 years!  Thanks for sharing it with me.

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13. Waiting on Wednesday: Oh Yeah, Audrey!

This week's pick is something a little bit different for me, but for some reason I find it very intriguing:

Oh Yeah, Audrey! by Tucker Shaw
About the Book (copy from Goodreads.com): "It’s 5:00 a.m. on Fifth Avenue, and 16-year-old Gemma Beasley is standing in front of Tiffany and Co. wearing the perfect black dress with her coffee in hand—just like Holly Golightly. As the cofounder of a successful Tumblr blog—Oh Yeah Audrey!—devoted to all things Audrey Hepburn, Gemma has traveled to New York in order to meet up with her fellow bloggers for the first time. She has meticulously planned out a 24-hour adventure in homage to Breakfast at Tiffany’s; however, her plans are derailed when a glamorous boy sweeps in and offers her the New York experience she’s always dreamed of. Gemma soon learns who her true friends are and that, sometimes, no matter where you go, you just end up finding yourself. 
Filled with hip and sparkling prose, Oh Yeah, Audrey! is as much a story of friendship as it is a love letter to New York, Audrey Hepburn, and the character she made famous: Holly Golightly."

I'll admit it, I've never actually seen Breakfast at Tiffany's, although I've wanted to for a long time.  Hmmm, maybe it's time to get around to doing that finally.  But I love the idea of this book, and it looks like a cute and fun read.  Straight up romance YA usually isn't my thing at all, but for some reason I am drawn to this one.

Oh Yeah, Audrey! will be released on October 14, 2014.

Currently available at Amazon.com in Hardcover 
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Check availability on Paperbackswap.com

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14. Review: Ivy's Ever After

Ivy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that if there’s one book weakness I have, it’s fractured/retold fairy tales. So Ivy's Ever After looked right up my alley.

Ivy is the only child of the king of Ardendale (not to be confused with Arendelle of Frozen fame), and it’s her 14th birthday. While that may be a good thing for some girls, for Ivy it means that she’s about to be locked up in a tower. Ardendale is a kingdom on the edge of the dragon lands, and each area has a fragile peace held together by the so-called Dragon Treaty. And the treaty says that the princess of Ardendale must be imprisoned in the tower on her 14th birthday, guarded by a dragon, until a prince comes to kill the dragon and rescue her.

So despite Ivy's misgivings about the whole thing, she ends up in the tower, waiting for a prince and guarded by her dragon guard Eldridge. And while that sounds like a familiar tale, author Dawn Lairamore has a twist in store for readers. Because Ivy doesn't really want to be rescued, and Eldridge doesn't really want to be slain. In fact, he’s a peace-loving dragon who is quite unhappy about the situation. So when Ivy’s prince, Prince Romil shows up to rescue her, and it becomes clear that he’s really out to take over Ardendale, there’s only one thing a princess can do: escape. Now Ivy and Eldridge must embark on a quest to find Ivy’s fairy godmother and save the kingdom, before Prince Romil can achieve his plans.

As much as I love retold fairy tales, sometimes it’s nice to read a story that takes fairy tale elements and makes its own story, which is one of the thing that’s so nice about Ivy's Ever After. But in the end, it really is mostly a fluff book. Ivy’s characterization isn’t particularly deep, and most of the other characters pretty much are fueled by a single motivation. Although I loved the inventiveness of the quest that dragon and girl embark on, the plot really is definitely the focus on this one. Girls from 8-12 who love princess stories will definitely eat it up, and I enjoyed reading it, but it’s not particularly thought-provoking. This may make a good crossover book for boys as well, since the plot is not focused on romantic love, but more about the friendship that exists between Ivy and Eldridge.

However, despite the fluff aspect, it still is a good read, and a book that I enjoyed in the reading process. If you do like the book, make sure to also check out the sequel Ivy and the Meanstalk, which was also a fun, fluffy read.

Also, this is definitely a "don't judge a book by its cover" moment.  I'm not a fan of the artwork on the cover at all.

Shady Glade Rating: 6/10

Available at Amazon.com in Hardcover or Paperback 
Add to your Goodreads shelf
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15. Waiting on Wednesday: Sisters

Now that I'm trying to get back into the game, I think it's time for a Waiting on Wendesday post.  So today's pick is another one that's not so much "waiting" since the book was released yesterday.  But since I don't have it in my hands yet, I'm still excited about it...

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

About the Book (copy from Goodreads.com): "The companion to Raina Telgemeier's #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling and Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir, SMILE. 
Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all. 
Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado."
I had the great pleasure in reading the companion to this book, Smile, in 2010 when it was nominated for the Cybils awards.  It was one of the group's favorites, so it isn't a surprise that it made it to the finalist stage.  So seriously, if you haven't read Smile yet, you need to.  (And also Drama, which was done by the same author, but is unrelated to both Smile and Sisters).

So one of the best things about Smile is that it isn't fiction, but rather based on the author's memoirs which just goes to prove that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.  And it's one of the things I loved so much about that book.  This book sounds like more of the same, so I'm super excited to read it.

Sisters was released yesterday on August 26, 2014.

Available at Amazon.com in Paperback or Kindle 
Add to your Goodreads shelf
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16. Review: Doll Bones

Doll Bones by Holly Black, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Here's a book that has just the perfect amount of creepy for the upcoming Halloween season.

Zach has two friends he’s known forever, Poppy and Alice. Their favorite thing to do after school is to hang out at Poppy’s house and play with action figures and dolls, creating a fantastical world of adventure and magic with their alter egos. But when Zach's toys get thrown away by Zach's dad (who thinks it’s time for Zach to grow up), Zach is so hurt by the episode that he decides it’s easier to just stop being friends with Poppy and Alice.

Of course, that wouldn't be any fun if that was the end of the book. Despite the rift in their relationship, Alice and Poppy show up at Zach's house late one night with a doll. A creepy old china doll that Poppy's mom normally keeps locked up in the china cupboard. Poppy claims that’s she’s being haunted by the doll, a doll whose china body was supposedly made from the bones of a dead girl. With Poppy's urging, the three friends set out on a nighttime clandestine trip to discover the truth of the doll's creation, and hopefully bring the girl's spirit to its final rest.

From the cover you would think this is pure ghost story, but it’s really not. It's more about Zach's journey from childhood to being a teenager, and trying to navigate how his friendships are changing because of him growing up. There's also a great deal about Zach trying to process the relationship with his father, and especially dealing with the expectations his father has about how grown up he should be.

Of course, there's a ghost story aspect to it too. The history of the doll and the gruesome creation (that may or may not have actually happened) add a dash of creep factor and mystery to the otherwise (relatively) normal adventure of the friend’s journey and relationships. The haunting is more of the "is or isn't it" kind, so throughout the book you're never really quite sure if the doll is haunted or everything is just a strange set of coincidences. It adds the perfect prickling at your neck atmosphere to what would otherwise be a quite serious story line, while being safe enough that it should not scare younger readers.

Part mystery, part coming of age, part quest/adventure, part haunting (or not), Doll Bones is a great story for younger readers who enjoy more complex stories than straight fluff series books. Oh, and the creepy illustrations are a perfect addition to the story too.

Now, if you're in the mood for a story about a really haunted doll/dollhouse, you should also check out my review of Sweet Miss Honeywell’s Revenge.

Available at Amazon.com in Hardcover or Kindle
Add to your Goodreads shelf
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17. Review: Prince Tennyson

Prince Tennyson by Jenni James

The first thing you need to know about Prince Tennyson is that it’s an inspirational book about a 10-year-old’s search for God. So if that kind of thing isn’t your thing, this book isn’t for you. The other thing is that it will make you cry. Really. I totally mean that completely and 100%.

This is the story of a broken family and their search for healing, told through the eyes of ten-year-old Chelsea . Chelsea, her mom, and her brother and sister have just moved in with their grandmother in Phoenix after Chelsea’s mom suffers a mental breakdown. The breakdown is due to the death of Chelsea’s father, nicknamed Prince Tennyson, who died a year ago in military service in the Iraq war. Not only is Chelsea dealing with the issues of adjusting to a new school, new friends, and a new house, she is watching her mother become emotionally weaker and weaker as she struggles to deal with the aftermath of her husband’s death.

The turmoil in her life leads Chelsea on a quest to find the answer to one question: Is God real? And although her grandmother assures her He is, her mother is not. As Chelsea struggles to find her own answers, she seeks out church, the bible, asks her new friends, anything that can show her God is real. Because if heaven is not real, she’s afraid she will never get to see her dad again.

This is one of those books that’s kind of hard to explain for me. It’s not really plot driven much, which is weird for my usual taste, because I tend to like plot over characters in the books I pick up. But there’s something about Chelsea’s innocence and genuineness that kept me reading. I got to the point where I absolutely could not pick this book down.

I have to say first that it has been a long time since I have cried over a book. The last one I remember for sure is Where the Red Fern Grows. There might have been some other ones in there over the years, but I didn't even cry after the bloodbath in the later Harry Potter books. (Movies, on the other hand, will get me every time; I even cry for Hallmark commercials). So when I saw from other reviews that this would make you cry, I was skeptical. And I made it through most of the book without crying, that’s for sure. But the last 20% of the book or so had me sobbing in a way I haven’t cried for a book before (except for reading scriptures). Unfortunately I don’t want to go into too much detail about why, because it will completely spoil the ending. The emotional release I got from that crying, however did cause me to be extremely emotionally satisfied with the conclusion.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that at times Chelsea’s narration seemed a little juvenile for a 10-year-old. On the other hand, I don’t hang around with many 10-year-olds on a day to day basis, so if they were writing in a journal, maybe that is what it would sound like. I just noticed that it was a very different toned voice from the other middle grade books I've read recently.

I’m assuming if you've made it thus far into the review that you must be religious at least to some extent, so I think what really resonated with me as far as Chelsea’s story is that I think everyone who is religious has been through this journey at some point. We've all had to discover if whatever we are placing our faith in is real or not. And although this is a "kid’s book", it was thought-provoking for me as a young adult as well.

Shady Glade Rating: 9/10

Available at Amazon.com in Paperback or Kindle
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18. Review: Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (The Olympians)

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (Olympians) by George O'Connor

When I was growing up, we studied ancient civilizations for our 6th grade social studies class. Well, my 5th grade year, I was in a 5/6 combination class, so I got a “sneak peek” at a lot of the things the 6th graders learned. And I was entranced by their social studies lessons. But most of all, when they got to Ancient Greece, I fell in love with Greek myths. And that’s a love I've continued to this day. 

So when I first heard about George O'Connor Olympians graphic novel series a few years ago, I was really excited. Two of my favorite things, myths and graphic novels, it couldn't possibly go wrong. I've had the pleasure of reading two of previous books in the series, Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess and Hades: Lord of the Dead and enjoyed them both. O'Connor has a way of including both well-known and obscure points of the myths he chooses to highlight for his books, and is excellent at exploring the personalities behind each Greek god or goddess.

So when I saw that the newest version of the series was about Aphrodite, I knew I had to read it. Aphrodite has long been my favorite goddess, but other than the story about what led to the Trojan war, and the famous “born on sea foam” creation story, you don’t seem to hear much about her. I had high expectations for this book, and I certainly wasn't disappointed.

There were three things I really enjoyed about this book. First of all, with a graphic novel, the artwork plays such an important part in the characterization and story line. I was surprised that O'Connor chose to make Aphrodite an exotic beauty with long darker hair, instead of the blond haired/blue eyed character you usually see in illustrations. It’s different, but really effective. It sets Aphrodite off as being different from the other Olympians, which really plays well into her creation story line.

Secondly, I really have to admire the way that O'Connor chooses the stories that he includes in his books. They are well researched, and as I mentioned before, he includes several less well known stories in his plot. And although each vignette is technically its own story, he weaves them together in a way that feels like a fluid continuous plot. He also fleshes out the reasons behind the characters’ actions, giving the gods and goddesses an element of humanity. In that regard, I especially liked the conversation Aphrodite has about her motivations for participating in the To the Fairest competition between her, Athena, and Hera that will lead up to the Trojan War.

The third thing I really like about this series is something that makes this book perfect for all ages. O'Connor includes extensive notes, broken down page by page, at the back of the book. This is great for those who aren't as familiar with Greek myths, since the notes shed lights on other myths that influence the stories in the book, as well as explaining some subtle nuances that aren't always obvious in a graphic novel format.

I have to say that Aphrodite: Goddess of Love has definitely been my favorite volume of the Olympians series that I've read so far, and I definitely look forward to reading more books in this series in the future.

Shady Glade Rating: 8/10

Available at Amazon.com in Hardcover or Paperback 
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19. 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway-a-Day: Day 12 Reese's Trees

Today's prize is also one that's handmade.  And it's got a bit of a story behind it too.  One of the things I love about Christmas is Reese's.  I love them, and I always get some in my stocking at Christmas.  This year for my coworkers, I found instructions on how to make little trees out of Reese's candy.  They turned out pretty cute:

So to the winner of today's prize, you will get a pair of handmade Reese's trees.  What's better than chocolate a Christmas, right?  :)

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below (sometimes it takes a bit to load!). Open to US only (sorry, since it's food!)  

Good luck to all who enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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20. 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway-a-Day: Day 11 Christmas Bookmarks

Today's prize is a little bit different.  One of my favorite things to do during Christmas is to hand make some of my presents.  Not everything of course (DVDs are kind of hard to manufacture at home :)   But a small gift every once in awhile packs a big punch and always comes from the heart.

So today's prize is a handmade gift to you.  It's a handmade green cloth bookmark with the word "NOEL" stitched on it.  You can choose from either Gold or Silver stitching.  Unfortunately, my camera decided to act up when I was trying to take pictures to post, so you'll have to imagine how it looks.  Although, I posted pictures of a similar "work in progress" a couple years back, which you can see on this post.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below (sometimes it takes a bit to load!). Open to US and Canada only.

Good luck to all who enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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21. 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway-a-Day: Day 10 Holly Claus

With today's prize we've come to the end of our "santa streak".  I'm very excited about this one.  It's a gently used copy of one of my favorite Christmas picture books, Holly Claus: The Christmas Princess by Brittany Ryan.  I love my copy of this book, so I wasn't about to give it away, which is why I was so excited to find another copy so I can share it with a reader who will love it.

I reviewed this book a few years ago, so if you'd like to see my review of it, click here.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below (sometimes it takes a bit to load!). Open to US and Canada only.

Good luck to all who enter!

About the Book:
"When young Christopher writes a letter to Santa Claus, he poses a question no one has ever thought to ask before: "Dear Santa Claus, What do you wish for Christmas?"

Miraculously, Santa's longtime wish comes true, and a baby girl is born--Princess Holly Claus. But just as the Land of Forever joyously celebrates her arrival, far away an evil is unleashed. A curse is placed on Holly, freezing her heart in ice so her future will be bound by a world of darkness. And with the Gates of Forever now locked, Santa can no longer spread the magic of Christmas to children everywhere. As soon as Holly finds a way to make a daring escape, she begins an astounding journey to the Empire City, determined to free herself and, once and for all, bring back Christmas.

This extraordinary and beautifully illustrated adventure is an everlasting gift of Christmas enchantment."

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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22. 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway-a-Day: Day 9 Love Santa

Today's contest continues along with the santa theme for prizes.  We all know Christmas is more about giving presents than getting presents.  There's been several years where our family has participated in a "giving tree" where you can go and buy presents for a less fortunate family or a girl or boy who isn't expecting to get anything for Christmas.  It's a wonderful experience.  Today's prize, an ARC copy of Love, Santa: A Different Kind of Christmas Story by Sharon Glassman is about that kind of experience.  This is a really cute Christmas book that is sure to make you go "aww...."  And it's short too!

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below (sometimes it takes a bit to load!). Open to US and Canada only.

Good luck to all who enter!

About the Book:
"In this lighthearted book filled with hip illustrations and children's actual letters to Santa, Glassman shows readers how to become an "undercover Santa" by becoming involved with the U.S. Post Office's Operation Santa Claus."

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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23. Where I Have Been (again)

So I really don't like doing lots of "where am I" posts, but due to my long absence this time, I think I owe all of you an explanation.

As longtime readers have noticed, I haven't posted anything since December.  Well, at the beginning of January, we had some changes that happened at work that really bummed me out and made me really upset, so that was kind of the beginning of things.

Then as January went on, I noticed that I was starting to feel more and more tired and just feeling generally sick all the time.  Went to the doctor, she said everything was fine, but lets run some blood work.  Which was followed up with more blood work in February, and then a referral to a specialist in March.

So long story short, I have been diagnosed with Graves' Disease.  It's an autoimmune disease where my body makes lots of thyroid hormone because it thinks I have an infection, but since I don't have an infection, the excess thyroid hormone attacks my body instead.  Its one of the reasons I have been feeling really tired for the last 6 months or more, since my body spends a lot of my energy attacking itself, and then trying to fight the attack off too.

Emotionally, that was very hard news to hear.  There is no cure for Graves' Disease, only ways to treat it, and all 3 options mean I might be on medication for the rest of my life.  Which when you're only in your mid 20s, it's hard to imagine being on multiple medications for the rest of your life.

So that was the second thing that shook up my world the past few months (1. change at work, 2. body out of whack).  Also, in the end of February, my grandfather died.  It was very unexpected, even though he was old, because he wasn't sick or anything.  So with my grandfather gone, my grandma is getting a little weird, so my Dad has been up at her place a lot trying to sort out the estate (my grandpa didn't believe in having a will, so it's a bit tangled). So that's thing number three.

And just to make another very long story short, there's been some other traumatic things going on in my family right now that I won't get into.  All very stressful, which doesn't help my energy level (especially with the thyroid problem).

Which brings me to the last reason for my absence...

In a few weeks I'm moving from California to Mississippi. Why?  The easiest way to answer that question is to say it was an answer to prayer and leave it at that.  I have an aunt who lives out there that will help us get back on our feet.  But we're leaving our California home of 20+ years, so it involves a LOT of packing, sorting, trashing, cleaning etc. and until Monday, I'm still working full-time during all of this.

So hopefully I will be back sometime in May, when we get out there and I get back on my feet.  In the meantime, I wish everyone happy reading, and you can still reach me at my normal email if you want to get in touch for any reason:  shadyglade AT mail DOT com

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24. Kindle Deals: Janette Rallison

I'm still busy moving, but this is a feature I've been wanting to start for awhile, and there's an opportunity to share some of my favorite books today, so here goes.

I'm really in love with my Kindle lately.  And one of the great things is that you can get books for a lot cheaper than you can print books.  And although I still love print books, sometimes my pocketbook wins the battle.

I know there's lots of sites out there that you can go to for Kindle Deals.  But as I come across them, I'm going to post some of my own here.  Today there are two titles from one of my favorite authors, Janette Rallison on sale for $1.99 each:

These books are especially great if you like fairy tales.  Don't know how long this deal will last (normally they're $6.99 each) so check them out while you can!

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25. Updates on things

Well, things are finally settling down here, so I suppose it's time to give everyone an update.

I am slowly adjusting to life in Mississippi.  We finally made the move okay, although it was SUPER crazy to get everything done.  I never want to move 2200 miles across country again.  Ugh.

Once we got here, it was a little while to settle down a bit, and then it was of course time to find a job.  Which, I've decided that I HATE job hunting!  But, I have finally been successful, and hope to hear more on that front soon.

So in the meantime, I haven't been doing too much reading since I'm getting adjusted to the much, much smaller library they have out here, and the fact that 95% of my book collection is still in storage in California.  Wah.  Thank goodness for Kindle books!

The other thing keeping me from reading has been the return of my other hobby:

Yes, cross stitch has been warring with my reading time again.  Or maybe just blogging time.  I get around the reading rule a bit by listening to audiobooks while I'm stitching, haha.  I am thinking about starting a stitching exclusive blog too, since I have all this free time, you know?  (yeah right).  But we'll see what happens with that later.

In other news, health issues are still around (stupid thyroid) and getting used to being hot all the time in addition to Mississippi humidity is interesting.  But I'm starting to learn to manage the symptoms better, and find I'm not as tired all the time as much as I used to be, so we're making progress.

So I hope to be getting back into the reviewing thing soon and getting things back to normal.  I don't know with my (hopefully) new work schedule how often I'll be able to post, but I at least want it to look like I'm not entirely missing!

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