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Showing posts from May, 2011

Month in Review: May 2011

Well, we're in the heat of summer here in North Carolina now. The last day of May hit 98 degrees! Yikes! I think I'll be hiding inside for the next few months, reading. The highlight of May was my participation in Armchair BEA. It was my first time joining in this event, and it was a lot of fun. I included a post on my favorite books of 2011 so far, and offered some blogging tips. I also interviewed author Jeanmarie Anaya. Here's what I did in terms of reading and challenges in May:

Books Read in May: 7
I read a total of seven books in May. Three were adult fiction: The Pharos Objective by David Sakmyster
The Raising by Laura Kasischke
Blood Trust by Eric Van Lustbader

Two were nonfiction:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
A Game of Character by Craig Robinson

Two were children's books:
A Call for a New Alphabet by Jef Czekaj
The Genius Files by Dan Gutman

Reviews Written: 9
This month, I wrote nine reviews. First, I wrote reviews for four books I read in…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday and I'm late! Happy Memorial Day, by the way. We spent the morning at the pool and I'm just now getting some time to do a little blogging.

I spent last week busy with Armchair BEA. It was a blast. I put up posts all week long, so go ahead and check them out! I included a post on my favorite books of 2011 so far, and offered some blogging tips on Friday. I also interviewed author Jeanmarie Anaya.

I put up reviews of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn. And I reviewed a couple children's books.

Earlier today, I put up my review of Blood Trust by Eric Van Lustbader. I'm offering a giveaway of that book and the two previous books in the series, so be sure to ENTER TODAY!

Currently Reading
I'm currently reading A Game of Character by Craig Robinson. I'll have my review up on June 1st for the book tour, and I'll be offering a giveaway as well!

Up Next
I'm going to finish up A New Prospect by Wayne Zu…

Book Review: Blood Trust by Eric Van Lustbader

Jack McClure and Alli Carson are back in the most recent installment of Eric Van Lustbader's McClure-Carson series. This time, Alli is charged with murder, and Jack is put on a mission to assassinate an Albanian crime lord who is becoming too powerful. Soon they come together and find themselves in the middle of an international slave trade and a plot in which Alli's billionaire uncle and the President of the United States himself are somehow involved.

Blood Trust is the third book in the McClure-Carson series. I read and reviewed the first two, First Daughter and Last Snow, last year (click on the titles to see my reviews) and was very excited to read this next book in the series. Blood Trust continues the saga of Jack McClure, National Security Adviser who uses his dyslexia to solve crimes in a unique way, and Alli Carson, the daughter of the former US President who is still trying to move past her kidnapping back in First Daughter.

There's plenty of action as Jack and A…

What My Children Are Reading

This week, I'm going to share with you two picture books featuring bunnies that we've been reading. They were both included in the package I won from HarperCollins Childrens Books in April.

The first book is Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes. This is an adorable new picture book about a little white rabbit, of course, who hops along through different scenes. As he hops into each new scene, he wonders what it would be like to be a different color, or a different size, or able to fly. When you turn the page, you find a two-page spread showing him as he imagines himself, as tall as the trees or as green as the grass. The story encourages imagination, and the illustrations are simple yet beautiful. We all really enjoyed this one.

The second book is an oldie that we hadn't really read before. It's The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. This is about a another little bunny who says he's going to run away. His mother tells him she will run after him. Then as he says h…

Armchair BEA: Blogging Tips

Today's topic for Armchair BEA is Blogging about Blogging. We're supposed to share some tips about blogging and balancing blogging with family life, and how we use social networking and blogging events throughout the year.

Balancing blogging with family life
I'll tackle the question of balancing blogging with family life first. My family life (and my day job) comes before reading and blogging. This is why I didn't end up writing a post for Armchair BEA yesterday. I had some ideas for talking about Nurturing Relationships but never got a chance to put them down in a post. I figure it's a good prompt for a blog post next week or the week after. I may use some of the prompts for this post as fodder for future posts as well.

I generally just take time to read in the evenings when the kids are in bed. This means I read about one book each week. That's it. I'm always amazed at the number of books some book bloggers are able to read in a week, but then I assume the…

Book Tour: The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn by Donna Peterson

Phillip Isaac Penn has been known as Pip since he was born, all thanks to his sister K.D. who has a thing for initials. Unfortunately, Pip has a knack for getting into trouble. Every day of his life. If he's not being yelled at by his parents or his sister, it's his teachers that are pointing out his errors.

The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn by Donna Peterson is all about Pip's troubles throughout one particular week. There are seven chapters: one for each day of the week. Each chapter has a clear beginning, middle and end that follows the same pattern as all of the other chapters. At the beginning of each, Pip talks about being awoken in the morning by someone yelling his name. He is then berated by family for all sorts of mishaps from getting glue and peanut butter stuck on his sister's headphones, to putting the hair dryer in the filled bathtub (don't worry, it's unplugged).

Pip makes his way to school where he encounters more mishaps and accusations …

Armchair BEA: Interview with Jeanmarie Anaya

Today's Armchair BEA topic is Interviews! I had the pleasure of interviewing author and blogger Jeanmarie Anaya, and she has interviewed me on her blog. As Jeanmarie says on her blog:
I'm a writer of paranormal YA pursuing the elusive dream of publication, a mother of two little girls, a wife to a surfing addict, and an attorney (hey, it pays the bills). I'm one of those crazy book lovers who won't turn down the corners of pages in my books. I also don't crease paperback covers. (Gasp!) Heaven forbid!I have to admit I don't turn down corners of pages either. I can't fathom why anyone would do such a thing! That's what bookmarks and little scraps of paper are for!

In any event, welcome to My Book Retreat, Jeanmarie. Tell me about your life outside of books and blogging. How do you balance reading and writing with family life?

Balancing reading/writing is HARD with a capital H. I'm not going to lie. I have two daughters, ages 6 and 2, so they'r…

Armchair BEA: Best Books of 2011 ... So Far

Today's topic for the Armchair BEA is "Best of 2011," which means I get to share with you some of my favorite books of the year (so far). So here are the books that have been at the top of my list this year. I originally gave some of these a rating of 4/5 instead of 5/5, but after reflecting on it over time, I think these all place high on my list this year. You can click on the titles to read my reviews.


Best Nonfiction:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (biography)
Moonwalking with Einstein by Josh Foer (memoir)

Best Fiction:
In the Lap of the Gods by Li Miao Lovett (contemporary/China)
Blue by Lou Aronica (contemporary/fantasy)

Best Thrillers:

Zero Day by Mark Russinovich (technothriller)
The Shepherd by Ethan Cross (psychological thriller)
The Pharos Objective by David Sakmyster (action/adventure)

Most interesting from a writing perspective:
Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices

What are your favorites of 2011 so far?

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

HeLa cells were the first immortal cells grown in culture ~ the most commonly used human cell line in research. HeLa cells have been used to develop the polio vaccine, and they have been used in research across just about every area from cancer to cosmetics to radiation. The original cells came from the tumor of a woman named Henrietta Lacks, who died shortly after being diagnosed with cervical cancer. Prior to her death, her doctor gave a researcher named George Gey a sample of her cells. The cells divided over and over again, unlike most normal cells that die out after a certain number of divisions. They are still dividing today, 60 years after Henrietta's death.

Rebecca Skloot heard about Henrietta during a science class when she was in high school. She became fascinated by this woman whose cells had become immortal, and decided to tell her story. That's what she does in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

She tells the history of HeLa cells, from the time they were take…

Armchair BEA: Introducing ... ME!

This week in New York is Book Expo America, better known as BEA. Unfortunately, I live nowhere near New York, so I won't be attending BEA. But, I am very excited to take part in the Armchair BEA. Yes, I get to talk about books all week with everyone else who isn't able to attend, from the comfort of my home.

I'll be participating in daily posts this week, including a listing of my favorite reads of 2011 (so far) and my favorite book blogs. But today is all about introducing ourselves, so without further adieu ...

I'm Julie and this is My Book Retreat. Welcome! Some of you may have been here before, but hopefully you'll learn a bit more about me and my blog.

About me
I'm married and mom to two kids: a 7 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. I work full time as a marketing writer/editor for a big corporation. I've always enjoyed reading. I can remember sitting in class in high school reading romance novels, which is funny because I don't read that genre…

What My Children Are Reading

This week's books came from the library and the Scholastic BOGO sale at M's school. We ended up getting four books from the book fair, but I've already reviewed one: Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk. We had gotten it from the library in the past and decided to buy it at the book fair. We haven't had a chance to read the fourth book, so I'll tell you about two of the Scholastic books and two from the library.

First up is Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. C really likes the Bad Kitty books so he picked this one out and read it the same day we bought it. It's 160 pages, but there isn't much writing on each page. There are lots of silly illustrations throughout. The book is all about Bad Kitty's birthday. There are preparations to be made and lots of friends who are introduced. It's a very silly book, but there are also some real facts about cats that are interspersed with the fun story. It teaches why cats sleep so much, why they like to scratch thi…

Book Review: The Raising by Laura Kasischke

College student Nicole Werner died in car accident. Her boyfriend, Craig, was driving but he wasn't charged with a crime. It was deemed an accident. Now a year later, Craig is back at the same college despite the objections of Nicole's sorority sisters. Shelly, the first witness at the accident scene, is also still living in the area. She has been trying for a year to get the newspapers to correct their inaccurate accounts of the accident, but has been unsuccessful. And Craig's roommate Perry, who has enrolled in a course about death, tells his professor he sees Nicole walking around on campus long after her death.

In The Raising, Laura Kasischke fluctuates between the past and present, revealing bits and pieces of the characters' lives before the accident, while also showing how each of them is dealing with Nicole's death. There is a shroud of mystery about what really happened at the accident site. Why do the newspapers report about Nicole's bloody body when…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Good morning ~ at least it's morning here for a few more minutes! I got a late start this morning because I had a dentist appointment. Unfortunately I have a cavity. Ugh!

Last week, I got quite a bit of blogging done. I put up a review of The Pharos Objective by David Sakmyster. It was a great adventure story and I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.

I also reviewed In the Lap of the Gods by Li Miao Lovett. This was another excellent book. It was set in modern-day China and was quite interesting both in terms of the storyline as well as the glimpse into the culture there.

Finally, I reviewed a children's picture book called Pink Me Up by Charise Mericle Harper, which is an adorable story about a little girl who gets her father to take her to the Pink Girls Pink-nic when her mom gets sick. Very cute!

In other news, I wanted to remind everyone about the Scholastic Online Charity Auction that is taking place through June 5, 2011. It's a great opportunity…

Book Review: Pink Me Up by Cherise Mericle Harper

Violet wakes up and declares that it’s going to be the best day ever, as she and her mother are attending the Pink Girls Pink-nic today. But when she wakes her mom and she’s covered in pink spots, it turns out this is the worst day ever because her mom is sick and they’re going to miss the pink-nic. Then her dad offers to take her, but she reminds him that he’s a boy, and “Boys are NOT pink.” But her dad doesn’t give up. He tells her to “Pink me up,” and with lots of creativity, she does indeed make her dad pink enough to attend the Pink Girls Pink-nic with her.

I have to say that I love Pink Me Up by Charise Mericle Harper, and so does M, who is four and would love to go to a pink-nic with her daddy. There are a few things in this book that I especially like. First is the message that if something happens to ruin your plans, you shouldn’t just cry about it ~ do something to make it work. Second is the strong father figure in the story. He’s willing to cover himself in pink and head…

Book Review: In the Lap of the Gods by Li Miao Lovett

Liu is a widower living in an area of China that is slowly flooding as a result of the Three Gorges Dam being constructed on the Yangtze River. He has taken advantage of the flooding by becoming a scavenger. As people abandon their homes that are about to flood, he goes in to find anything of value that they may have left behind. One day, he finds a baby girl. He takes her to his broker, Fang Shuping, who says he’ll help Liu sell the baby. But when their trip is interrupted, Liu has a change of heart and decides to keep her. He names her Rose.

As Liu learns to care for Rose, he also continues to mourn the loss of his wife and the baby she was carrying when she died. Eventually, he finds love again with Mei Ling, a waitress who works at his friend’s noodle shop, and they try to build a family life together ~ but it’s a struggle in many ways. At the same time, Fang Shuping is on his own journey, becoming reunited with a former lover, and helping her and her family fight against the for…

Scholastic Online Charity Auction

Twelve top children’s book illustrators created original artwork for Scholastic’s month-long online charity auction, which opened to bids last week, to benefit Reading Is Fundamental and Reach Out and Read, two amazing literacy organizations that have lost all federal funding, making it even more difficult for them to help the kids who need it the most.

To view the spectacular original artwork by all 12 artists, simply go to www.scholastic.com/readeveryday. From there, you can pick a favorite, place a bid, and put books into the hands of the neediest kids ~ and you’ll have a piece of original art by a beloved children’s artist that illustrates the important role of books in all our lives.

Here is a sampling of some of the artwork up for auction:

 Best-selling author-artist Mark Teague
Mary GrandPré, illustrator of the Harry Potter series
Best-selling author-artist David Shannon
Illustrator Sean Qualls
After the auction closes June 5, 2011, poster-sized reproductions will be available fo…