Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pretties

This series has its hook in me, that's for sure! This is the second installment in Scott Westerfeld's insanely popular series that began with Uglies. This one started off a little slower for me, but by the end the action and suspense were just as good as in the first novel.

Pretties continues to follow Tally Youngblood, a rebellious Ugly that was turned Pretty in the last novel. She is enjoying her new life as a Pretty, taking in all the party action and making friends with the very exclusive club, the Crims, when an old friend from her past life as an Ugly shows up. Tally is reminded of her trip to The Smoke and what she was actually doing in Pretty Town. Tally and Zane, a Crim, take the pills left by Croy and hope that they will be cured as the members of the Old Smoke had promised. When Zane has a bad reaction to the pill, Tally must find a way to get him to the New Smoke and the doctor that created the Cure.

In this novel, Tally wrestles with a lot of emotions including guilt, anger, and sadness. She feels horribly for betraying Shay, David, and the rest of The Smoke and wishes only to redeem herself. The only part of this book that I didn't care for was all the "pretty talk." It can get confusing and somewhat annoying when every other word is "bubbly." That alone is not a reason to avoid these books, as the plots are fantastic and very much original. I can't wait to read the last in the trilogy, Specials.

HP Spoiler Week, Question 2

Spoiler Alert!!!!!!
Spoiler Alert!!!
Spoiler Alert!!!








So, how did it hit you? Did you weep, sob, get angry?? Did your favorites survive, or did they become casualties of JK's mighty pen??

I expected Snape to die and was pretty sure I would prove myself right as I read through the 7th book. I felt that it was an honorable and justified death and Professor Snape couldn't have ended the Potter books on a better note. I was sobbing at that point in the novel (among many others). I also had bets going that Neville would die avenging his parents and I was obviously wrong on that one. I figured he would be the one to kill off Bellatrix, but Mrs. Weasley did an awesome job of that!

I was quite upset at the death of Hedwig and knew that if something like that happen so early on, we were in for a crazy ride. When Mad-Eye perished I was surprised, but not quite as emotionally attached so it was alright. I absolutely lost it when Fred died. I really thought the Weasley's would be "safe" after George's ear was lobbed off!

The only deaths that I wasn't really ok with were those of Tonks and Lupin, as I explained yesterday. If Rowling isn't going to be writing anymore books in the series, I didn't think it was fair to leave another child parent-less. Someone had made a comment on my posting yesterday, saying that maybe things were coming full circle...which is an excellent point, but it still made me depressed for poor Teddy!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Book Giveaway

A couple of weeks ago I won a book from one of my friendly blogger's giveaways and am now offering that same book up for grabs to all of you. It's simple...you have until Sunday night at 11:00pm (Mountain time) to leave a comment on this post to enter for the book. I'll send it off to the winner as soon as I get his or her snail mail account. The book is:

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This was a fantastic and compelling read and a book I was so glad I won, otherwise I may never have gotten to it. Go on and enter!

HP Meme, Week 2 Question 1

Spoiler Alert!!! If you haven't finished Book 7, don't read any further!!!

We've had a lot of fun playing along with Deena last week, but without all the fun stuff from Book 7. Well this week is dedicated just to that, so make sure you stop reading this post if you haven't finished reading The Deathly Hallows. On to the question of the day...


So, on to Book 7, "The Deathly Hallows"...first and foremost, are you satisfied with the entire series as a whole? And second, what one thing surprised you the most about book 7?



I have been satisfied completely with the series as a whole and am so glad I found it all those years ago. There were parts where I was super critical (the epilogue of Book 7), but I think any true reader that devours books as I do, has a tendency to be critical. I loved reading each book over and over again and discovering new things each time I read it. I was very satisfied and though sad it has come to an end, I realize that all good things must end or we won't appreciate them nearly as much.


The part of book 7 that surprised me the most and probably the plot point that I am most critical of was the deaths of Tonks and Lupin. I felt that unnecessary and almost mean to do, simply for the fact that Harry had to grow up without parents and now, yet another young boy will be forced into never knowing his parents either. I didn't like that, but hey, I'm not the writer! It did surprise me that she took that route, but I'm sure she had her reasons.


Until tomorrow!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Down

I'm falling in love with these books, I just can't help it! The first book, I wasn't quite sure about simply because it included so many different plot aspects and so many characters. I liked it enough to try the second book and as Deena from A Peek At My Bookshelf told me I would be, I'm hooked!

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Down is the second in a much loved series by Neta Jackson. In this installment, the main plot is based on a crazed heroin addict robbing the prayer group at knife point while they are meeting at Jodi's home. The rest of the book is about different forms of understanding and ultimate forgiveness. Jodi is also still getting over the trauma of her car accident, played out in book 1 of the series, and racial prejudice takes a strong hold over the plot as well.

As in the first book, real situations dominate the writing by Jackson. All of the tragic happenings, as well as the joyful ones, could really happen to women in this world and the reader is shown how an extremely diverse group of Christian women handle and ultimately overcome the situations. A lot of arguing, guilt, and genuine love is in these women and it is lovely to read a story about them when the story could very well be happening in our own lives. I also love the Scripture choices and always run to my Bible when I read one, wanting to look it up on my own. I know, via Deena again, that the last book in the series is about to be published, so I'm going to take my time with the books. Maybe one a month, we'll see. I love them and want them to last!

HP Question 6

This was definitely a hard one for me!

You knew this one was coming--favorite characters....one good, one not so good. Who is in your Harry Potter hall of fame, and hall of shame??

-My favorite character, if I have to name just one, was probably Luna Lovegood. She was so misunderstood, but such a wonderful and strong character. Once she was introduced, she stuck by Harry, no matter the consequences and always kept me entertained. My favorite part about the newest movie was the casting of Luna... she was just fantastic! Books and movie alike, Luna is flighty, flaky, spacey, and completely lovable.

-I think my favorite "despised" character, was Dolores Umbridge. That woman was just plain evil. I got goosebumps as I read about the horrible task Harry had to perform during his detentions and all the crazy ways she tried to prevent the kids from creating Dumbledore's Army. That woman was the best "bad guy" to ever grace the HP pages!

Play along with us! It all got started over at Deena's...it's not too late to play!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Picture Book Saturday!

I've been reading away this week and have some great picture book reviews for you this afternoon!

Faucet Fish by Fay Robinson was very cute. Elizabeth, a very curious young girl, loves fish. She spends days at the aquarium and all of her free time reading books about fish. Her parents, boring as they are, will only let her have a boring guppy, even after she begs and pleads. One morning, Elizabeth turns on the faucet in the bathroom and out pops a trout! Elizabeth is so excited! She gets more and more flabbergasted, as every time she turns on the faucet, out comes another fish. She certainly gets her wish of owning more fish! Unfortunately, Elizabeth begins running out of room to keep all the new fish and her parents are too busy to even notice what is going on. When a baby whale crashes into the kitchen, Elizabeth knows she's in trouble!

The story is funny and lighthearted and the illustrations, done by Wayne Anderson are a perfect fit with the plot. I think little kids will get a big kick out of this book!

My next book of the week is another fish based book. I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean written and illustrated by Kevin Sherry was one of most adorable books I've read this year. The giant squid believes he is the biggest thing in the ocean. Page after page he lists exactly what he is bigger than and he is indeed quite big! When the giant squid encounters a giant whale, he's not so sure he's the biggest anymore.

Oh this was cute! The illustrations are fantastic. Nice and bold, plenty of bright colors to keep the eye moving. This was a laugh out loud book! A definite recommendation!

Finally, we have Watermelon Wishes by Lisa Moser, illustrated by Stacey Schuett. Charlie and his Grandpap decide to spend their summer together growing watermelons. They know all the rules to growing the delicious fruit and are all set to start their season. Grandpap is confused though. What exactly is this wishing watermelon Charlie keeps speaking about? Charlie keeps Grandpap guessing his wish all summer and doesn't fill him in until they are both taking nice bites of their fresh, homegrown watermelon!

This book is great to read with toddlers and grade school kids. They will definitely be shouting out what they think Charlie's wish is and will be excited to find the answer at the end of the story.

Until next week!

HP Question 5

Deena's questions are still going strong! Here's #5:

What is it about Harry that has such a hold on us? What is it about the series that appeals like no other? There are more detailed, more intricately woven, more authentic series out there...but none like Harry Potter...why?

I think the big "thing" about Mr. Harry Potter is that he is not only an intricate character in an incredibly original plotline, but he is also so much fun! His friends are all relatable characters, even though they have been given magical abilities. The courses Harry takes at Hogwarts are nothing like we've ever heard of, making them devourable within the book. The creatures mentioned are extremely cool and make us want a whole new realm of animals for pets. Yes, there are other books out there that have characters with magical powers, dragons, cool potions, and evil villians, but none quite like Harry. The Tolkien books are incredibly intense and Harry just isn't. Not in that way at least. A reader can go through these books with a smile on their face, but tears in their eyes and that is what is so magical about Harry Potter.


Second of all, favorite scenes from the books?? Come on, I know you have some! But please, no spoilers just yet!! Some are still reading, poor souls:-) LOL!!

I love the scenes in the first book that introduce Harry, and us as readers, to Hogwarts and the wizard world in general. We get to learn, through Harry's eyes, what courses are required, what animals are common, what spells are a must, and what an amazing place the Great Hall is. I also loved the different games and races in The Goblet of Fire, and the trips into the Pensieve in The Half-Blood Prince.

Another question later!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blogging Tips Meme

I've been tagged for this meme by 3 fellow bloggers and I figured I better get it up here before I get tagged by more!

-Start Copy-

It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think - if 10 people start this and the 10 people pass it on to another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. **** http://www.neonscent.com/

2. Be EXCELLENT to each other. *** http://www.bushmackel.com/

3. Don’t let money change ya! * http://www.therandomforest.info/

4. Always reply to your comments. ******* http://chattiekat.com/

5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. ** http://chipsquips.com/

6. Don’t give up - persistence is fertile. ** http://www.velcro-city.co.uk/

7. Give link credit where credit is due. **** http://www.sfsignal.com/

8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post. *** http://scifichick.com/

9. Visit all the bloggers that leave comments for you - it’s nice to know who is reading! *** http://stephaniesbooks.blogspot.com/

10. Thrown in something humorous occasionally, to keep things fun. ** http://bonniesbooks.blogspot.com/

11. Do at least a few of the blogging quizzes available. It lets people know a little more about you.* http://3m3am.wordpress.com

12. Even when you disagree with a blogger's post, don't leave rude comments. Always be kind. http://apatchworkofbooks.blogspot.com

-End Copy-

If you’re reading this and want to participate, consider yourself tagged!

I'm catching up!

I promised some catch-up reviews, so that's what you're all getting! Today is two more from the S.A.S.S. series, a group of books I'm enjoying very much.

Getting the Boot, by Peggy Guthart Strauss, was the second book I've read in the S.A.S.S. YA series. The first, Westminster Abby, was very enjoyable, as was this one. I really did think these books would be very "fluffy," but I've been pleasantly surprised thus far.

17 year old Kelly is super excited when she arrives in Rome for her summer abroad. Her excitement is quickly squelched when she gets put in a room with incredibly boring girls that just cramp her style. Kelly wants to shop, these girls want to study. Kelly wants to hang out (and make out) with her new boy, Joe, the girls just think he's bad news and shun Kelly even more because of him. When Kelly starts missing classes and curfew because of Joe, she starts to wonder if maybe the girls are right. Maybe Joe is bad news. And when Kelly is faced with the chance of being sent home, she needs to make a decision. Joe or Rome?

Though this book was more "romance based" than the first in the series, it was not overpowered with it and was still a good book. The plot in this book was something that many girls face while in high school and I feel the message given was a great one for teens.


The next book I read in the S.A.S.S. series was Spain or Shine, by Michelle Jellen. This was another enjoyable book, the most enjoyable for me so far, being that I've been to Spain. I went for 10 days my senior year in high school and it was a lot of fun to read about the main character going to all of the places I had the opportunity to see.

16 year old Elena often feels left out in her big family and believes that going to Spain will finally allow her to stand out for something. Longing to be a playwright, Elena works hard while in Spain, but still has time for fun with her new friend Jenna and her new love interest, Miguel. Though still feeling as if she is below her true ability, Elena attempts to shine at her love of writing.

With beautiful descriptions of the Spain seaside, Jellen writes an excellent coming-of-age story. Elena grows emotionally and learns how to strive for what she believes in and what she loves. This book seems the most mature of the series with more time spent on the emotions of the main character and less time on romance, though there is a little thrown in here and there. I would highly recommend these books to teens, as the positive message is strong.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finally....A Review...

I know, I know, due to all this Harry Potter madness, we've all been a bit behind in reviews, me included. I have gotten some reading done and have 4 books to review for you all, one of which is included today. I'll try and get another up tonight and then 2 more tomorrow. I will also have my thoughts on Mr. HP, but I'm still waiting a bit on that, due to the spoilers I will probably be including. Sorry for the drought, but I'm back now!

Listening for Lions by Gloria Whelan was an iffy read for me. I was a little weirded out by the beginning, but once the middle of the book hit I really started to enjoy reading it. It was just a strange plot twist that I wasn't sure would work with readers, but at the end, I think it worked for me.

Rachel Sheridan is a lovely young girl, brought up my missionary parents in Africa. She has never left the continent and deems it her love and her home. She is fascinated by the animals, the people, and the land and knows that she truly belongs right where she is.

When an influenza outbreak begins killing the people of her village and surrounding areas, Rachel begins to get worried. Her parents both work in the village hospital and are exposed to influenza all day long. Rachel's worst fears are confirmed shortly after the book opens, with the deaths of both her parents, leaving Rachel an orphan.

Her incredibly rich, English next door neighbors, take her in, almost by force (this is where it starts to get weird), after having just lost a daughter of their own to influenza. In order to gain an inheritance for the Pritchard's from Grandfather Pritchard, Rachel must impersonate the deceased Violet Pritchard and go to visit Grandfather in England.

Once in England, living a rich life, Rachel vows to tell Grandfather the truth, never wanting to live a lie, especially to such a kind man. She must decide whether to keep her secret in order to avoid worsening Grandfather's health with such a shock, or tell her secret and rid herself of the guilt that is lying upon her shoulders.

Overall, I really did enjoy this book, I just think the whole part about the Pritchards making Rachel impersonate a dead girl was a little strange. I guess it needed to be part of the story to get it all out though, so I got over it and ended up liking the book. This would be a good choice for anyone probably 10+.

HP Question 4

The latest Harry Potter question from Deena is:

So, which teacher would you most like to have, and which classes would you like to have on your course schedule? I'm bending the rules on this one...teacher and class don't have to match from the stories...we can play mix and match!!

Oh, I want to take it all! Well maybe not all I suppose...but here's my wishlist! I would definitely want Herbology with Professor Grubblyplank (if my spelling is off, my apologies, spell check isn't helping me here!), Transfiguration with McGonagall, definitely a Defense Against the Dark Arts, preferably with someone new, I haven't enjoyed any of the previous professors. Charms would be very cool, as would Potions, and best of all, Care of Magical Creatures. I would definitely be in that class and if you saw my house with all my weird pets, you would know why! The newest addition is an albino corn snake named Ginger!

This is so much fun! Thanks Deena!

HP Question 3

Question 3 from Miss Deena, regarding our favorite boy wizard:

So, let's chat about our favorite magical creatures, shall we?? Feel free to name more than one. And while we're at it, which animal would YOU have brought to Hogwarts??

Well I have 2 favorite creatures. Anything to do with herbology and I'm there, simply because everything the kids would have to work with was incredibly cool. I don't even like to garden in my real world, but in HP world, Herbology creatures would be all me!

My second favorite creature would have been Norbert, Hagrid's dragon baby. That was one of the first things to intrigue me about this whole HP thing and Aaron and I ended up naming our first bearded dragon lizard Norbert after him. Now we all know our pet's name wasn't exactly appropriate...HP 7 revealed a little more about the long-since-mentioned Norbert!

I would have brought an owl like most students, mainly because I think it is a very cool concept to have an owl as a messenger. I think I would have enjoyed a black spotted owl with bright yellow eyes, graced with a very strong and heroic name, of which I can't really think of right now hehe.

More questions to come!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Question 2

Today's Harry Potter question, courtesy of Deena, is as follows:

Jo Rowling has created a most magical place for us to journey through. Of all the places she describes in the Harry Potter novels, which is the one you'd most like to visit?

And the Hogwarts Castle itself holds a lot inside its walls...what do you love most about the castle??


1. I would also, as so many others have said, love to visit Hogsmeade. I would especially have loved to visit it with Harry the first time he made the trip from Hogwarts. Visiting all of the very cool shops and sampling butterbeer and pumpkin juice just sounds like a blast.

2. I love everything about Hogwarts Castle! I think the neatest thing would be walking around seeing all of the paintings and portraits that move and jump from one another. The switching staircases would be very cool, as would trying to get into the Room of Requirement. I also agree with Deena's answer: the Enchanted ceiling the Great Hall would be amazing to watch.

Thanks again Deena!

Harry Potter Meme

As usual, Deena over at A Peek At My Bookshelf has come up with a fabulous idea, this one centering around the recent Harry Potter mania. For the next few days she'll post a question a day about our journeys with Harry and his friends. Today's question is as follows (the link above also sends you over to this original post):

Today's question is a two parter, and it's easy: How did you discover Harry Potter, and where were you when Book 7 was released??

I was not fortunate enough to discover Harry right as the first book was published, being a rather reluctant reader of children's lit at that point. I didn't hear much about the first book or the second book, but by the third published novel, I was hearing a lot of buzz about this boy named Harry. Though not very interested in wizards or magic of any kind, I decided that if I was going to be any reader at all, I had to at least check out the first book. From that first page, I was completely hooked on all things Harry Potter. I quickly sped through books one and two, moved on to the newest, and then anxiously awaited books 4, 5, 6, and 7 with everyone else, often having to defend my love of Harry to others. I may be an adult, but I'm still allowed to love him!

On Friday night, when the most anticipated Potter novel hit the shelves, I was in line with the masses at Barnes and Noble in West El Paso. We made a whole date night of it, spending hours in the store before hand and when the first copy was sold we were already in the very long line. It was so much fun to spend the momentous occasion with so many other lovers of the Rowling books, paying homage to our almost 10 year obsession. We wore our "Trust Snape" shirts and were incredibly excited once that book was in our hot little hands! Now we are just having trouble sharing it, though I only have about 70 pages to go and Aaron is on about 260. :-P

Another question from Deena tomorrow!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's here!

In the car with our "Trust Snape" shirts, on the way to El Paso.



Aaron and I had so much fun at the Harry Potter release party last night, I wanted to fill you all in. We drove the hour and a half to El Paso and were able to fit in PF Chang's before the big party, which was fantastically delicious, as always. Once we got to Barnes and Noble, it was complete madhouse, but it was so much fun! People of every age were dressed to the nines in their Harry Potter character costumes, tv stations were everywhere and all sorts of fun activities were taking place. There was a very cool magic potion demonstration, fortune telling in Knockturn Alley, a costume contest under the magic broomsticks, read alouds from the book, picture taking, a scavenger hunt and a whole bunch of other stuff. While we waited the 3 hours until midnight, Aaron and I were able to wander around, then plopped ourselves down on the floor and read through books we had been wanting to check out (I got about a 1/4 of the way through Pretties by Scott Westerfeld. YAY!). When it came time for the big release, it was a very exciting moment! We were all lined up at the registers and ready! It was great to get that book in hand and escape out the front doors with it in our possession!!

Typically, we are not the type to attend a party like that. We both love Harry Potter, but A. we go to bed at about 10:30 every night, so staying at B&N until almost 1:00 and then driving almost 2 hours home wasn't a normal move for us and B. we are not crowd people. We would normally just have the book sent to our house on the release date, but being that this is the last book, we figured we would make a night of it and are so glad we did. We made our own t-shirts for the occasion with our own "opinion" of what readers should do (Aaron actually made the shirts, I just found the slogan hehe) and took a bunch of pictures, some of which I've included.
Aaron, very excited about the upcoming party!


I really hope that everyone who is participating in the book reading is enjoying it so far. I'm through chapter 10 and keep having to give it up for Aaron to read. We really should have bought two copies to prevent this from happening! I can't wait to read what other people are thinking, but for now, I must go back to reading my own copy!



Free picture, courtesy of B&N



At the end of the night, Aaron in his HP glasses and me holding the newest Fancy Nancy book.

Picture Book Saturday!

Even with all of my Harry Potter reading, I'm still making some time for Picture Book Saturday!! I read a bunch of great books this week, but I'll keep the reviews to three this weekend. We'll start with a book that is probably already well loved amongst some readers, but I just discovered it this week and got a big kick out of it. My hubby enjoyed it too and that definitely means it's a keeper!

Porcupining: A Love Story, by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Janie Bynum, was so cute. Really, really cute. A porcupine in a petting zoo just isn't a good idea in the first place and the main character in this story happens to be just that. Due to his prickly nature, he is not visited by zoo guests very often and is therefore very lonely. When he decides he would very much like a wife, he sets off to find another member at the zoo to fill that role. He tries out a lot of different animals, without much luck, but in the end, finds his one true love.

The story in itself was adorable, but the best part of the entire book was the lonesome song the porcupine would sing. His "pining" song if you will. It was very cute and definitely made this book a must read-out-loud. Aaron "sung" the song parts with me, which made it a lot of fun.

Next we have a new book to our library shelves, Delilah D at the Library, by Jeanne Wilson, illustrated by Rosie Reeve. This fun book is very reminiscent of the Fancy Nancy books, which was rather surprising. Little Miss Delilah very much enjoys the library and going there with her French nanny, but enjoys it in her own way. She is living with almost a princess mentality and sometimes goes overboard with her expectations of the librarian and her bending of library rules. For example, Delilah wants to be served cupcakes while in the library and be allowed to eat them as she pleases, not realizing that cupcakes may not exactly belong in a library. As I said, very much like Fancy Nancy, where Nancy goes a little overboard trying to make normal life "fancy."

This was a cute story that also included lessons that focused on library etiquette...good for any child. Kids will have fun learning about what mischief Delilah is getting into as each page turns.

Finally, for this week our last selection is the newest Lauren Child book, But Excuse Me, That is MY Book. Charlie and Lola are at it again in this latest adventure which surrounds favorite book choices of Lola. Little Lola has a very favorite book at the library and insists on going to check it out. When they get to the library, Lola is heartbroken (and a little mad) that her book has already been taken by another little girl. Lola wants nothing to do with any of the other book suggestions Charlie makes and only is focused on the book she wants.

This book was typical Lauren Child and typical Lola and Charlie, which is of course, a charming combination. The illustrations were vibrant, as usual, and I enjoyed this latest installment very much. If you have yet to pick up a Lauren Child book, run out and do that immediately!

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's Harry Potter time!

As soon as work lets out today, it's off to El Paso for our evening of Harry Potter! I already held a Harry Potter movie marathon in the children's room today and I'm now ready and greatly anticipating having that book in my little hands. Aaron and I are planning to stop at B&N around 6:30 and pick up our wristbands that get us into the "pre-order" line, then head over to PF Chang's for some of our favorite food. Gotta love that place! Lettuce wraps and Mongolian Beef, YUM! Then it's Harry Potter madness back at B&N. We're very excited and acting like 10 year olds today. Nothing wrong with that I don't think! I hope everyone else that is planning on participating in some form of festivities has a great time. And let's pray that someone doesn't ruin it for us all by looking at the back of the book and yelling out the ending. That just wouldn't be good. Happy Reading this weekend folks!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Westminster Abby

Lately I seem to get most of my YA and JF suggestions from Becky's blog and this is another series she reviewed and I've now picked up. A big thanks going to her for increasing my TBR list EVERY DAY and always having fantastic reviews up. If I didn't read her blog I would be lost in YA land! Her review of Girl Overboard, another book in the series, is here. I started at the beginning of the series with Westminster Abby by Michol Ostow.

This first book in the S.A.S.S. (Students Across the Seven Seas) series was unexpectedly good. As I said, I read Becky's review of Girl Overboard, and became intrigued, but wasn't expecting much more than teenage romance with some travelogue stuff thrown in. I really was pleasantly surprised. Westminster Abby had quite a bit of substance, with just a little romance thrown in to mix it up a bit.

Abby Capshaw is a responsible, smart, and pretty 16 year old that is living with incredibly overprotective parents. They watch every move she makes, insists on straight A's, will not allow her to date until she is 17, and only will let her hang out at her friend Dani's house, no other extracurricular activities (outside of school of course). It is to Abby's amazement that her parents sign her up to participate in the S.A.S.S. program, shipping her to London for 10 entire weeks. Abby, who has proclaimed herself as "a little vanilla" is not a risk taker in any sense. She is terrified to travel to a strange country, alone, with only guidebooks as companions.

Soon after arriving in London, Abby surprises herself by making friends with an eccentric girl named Zoe, picking up a boyfriend named Ian, and letting her grades slip just a teensy bit. She learns more about herself than ever before and is determined to let the new Abby shine through. No more vanilla Abby! The London Abby has plenty of hot fudge and sprinkles, allowing her true personality to stand out and allow her to stand up for herself.

I really did enjoy this book, much more than I anticipated, and look forward to reading the rest in the series. There are 6 or 7 I think, not really sure on the exact number, but a bunch to keep me busy in coming weeks. Although, they will have to be put aside come tomorrow night, as everyone's favorite boy wizard will be my only reading for a few days. Thanks again to Becky for her review!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gossamer

I love connecting with books and having their stories stay with me for days at a time. That's what happened with this latest Lois Lowry book, one that is new to my shelves, but has instantly become a favorite. I finished it two days ago, but needed to process before I wrote my review. Lowry does this to me every time, I'm not too sure why I was surprised, but now, Gossamer, is in my head and my heart. Where she comes up with these stories I'll never know, but I certainly hopes she keeps them coming!

Littlest One is in training as a Dream-Giver. She, working with an elder partner, flutter around their assigned home, touching objects which help them gather memories of the homeowner or children living in the house (even pets on occasion). The Dream-Givers then bestow the gathered memories as happy dreams to the person who owned the original memories. It is very hard work, but incredibly rewarding for the Dream-Givers, especially when their assigned person is asleep with a smile on their face from the wonderful dream bestowed upon them.

Unfortunately, the Dream-Givers have evil counterparts, the Sinisteeds. The Sinisteeds bestow nightmares, rather than dreams and often do so in packs, know as a Horde. When the vulnerable foster child living in Littlest One's assigned house becomes the repeated target of the Sinisteeds, Littlest One must devise a plan to help the boy, without harming or giving away, herself.

This was such a touching story. Lowry always creates stories that intrigue the reader to a point where the pages are turning incredibly quickly, though in this story, the kindness definitely stood out against the evil, more so than in her other books. I loved the character of Littlest One, her amazing curiosity that often got her into trouble, her courage, and her strong mind. This was a very unique concept and was very successful in effecting my emotions! I just felt good after reading this small novel and of course, that is the reaction we all are looking for! Gossamer was fantastic and I would recommend it for all. :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Chasing Fireflies

Everyone has favorite authors. In fact, most of us have multiple authors we would list as favorites, me included. I have lots of authors that I really enjoy, that I absolutely have to buy their next book, that I have to reread at least once a year, that I rave about to everyone I meet. However, I have two authors that I name as absolute favorites. One is Jodi Picoult. The other, Charles Martin. I truly believe that they are the same writer in mind, one being from a female perspective, one from a male. I love their books in a different way than I love most other books and Martin's latest, Chasing Fireflies, did not disappoint in the least.

A second before a train collides with her car, a woman kicks a boy out of the door, then proceeds to perish in the train crash. A strange move on her part seeing as though she had no problem beating him for the time he was in her care. Apparently she did have some feelings in her in order to allow the boy to live. The boy is an orphan. An orphan that doesn't know his name and can't speak. One that is destined to be in foster care for the rest of his life if it isn't for Chase Walker and Chase's former foster father, Uncle Willee. Both men have extremely tragic and difficult pasts that come bubbling to the surface once this boy is under their wings, but they somehow manage to keep hold of their dignity when facing those inner demons. The men must find the truth in their lives while helping the boy to find truth in his.

Martin intertwines so many different stories, one would think a reader would become confused. In this book alone there is Uncle Willee's story, Chase's story, the orphaned boy's story, Tommye's story, and Jake's story all thrown into one emotional roller coaster. Martin writes in such a beautiful and artistic manner that there is no confusion, only tenderness and flow. In all of Martin's books there is also a small element of mystery that keeps those pages turning quickly. This was a lovely story, rich in Southern detail and prose. I enjoyed it immensely and again am very much looking forward to Martin's next book.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Picture Book Saturday

It's been a slow week in children's picture book land, but I do have 3 reviews for you. 2 new books and 1 that has been a favorite of mine for the past few years.

Brothers, by Yin, was a very moving read. It tells the story of Ming, a young boy that arrives in San Francisco from China ready to work in his brother's store in Chinatown. Ming soon learns that the store is not doing well and vows to help his brother start to prosper before they are forced to close up shop. Ming soon meets an young Irish boy that begins teaching him English. The two boys, though very different in culture, form a friendship and together devise a way in which Ming can help his brother get customers into his shop.

This book is a great lesson on immigration experiences as well as friendships even across barriers. The illustrations, by Chris Soenpiet are very tastefully done and contribute well to a somewhat sad story, beginning quite dark, but lightening up as the story progresses.

Next, is another story about friendship across barriers. Another very sentimental story, Across the Alley, by Richard Michelson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis showcases a bond created by another set of boys, this time one being Jewish, the other being black.

Jewish Abe's grandfather has great dreams of Abe becoming a famous violinist, having him practice in his room many hours a day. Across the street, African-American Willie's father has dreams of Willie becoming a top-notch baseball pitcher. The boys meet in their windows, across the alley from each other and begin teaching each other their respective "hobbies." They are worried that their friendship will not be accepted outside of their windows, but are surprised at the result, just as their grandfather and father are surprised at what happens when the boys switch hobbies.

This was a very sweet story that put a big smile on my face. It was a lesson in tolerance, not only in regards to race, but also in different talents.

David Kirk, of Miss Spider book fame, has been a favorite author of mine for awhile, surprising due to my pure hatred of all things arachnid. His books however are sweet, flow nicely, and have absolutely beautiful illustrations. Little Bird, Biddle Bird is no exception. This book is very small in size, with only a few words on each page, but with those fantastic illustrations I love so much.

When Mommy is too busy to get him food, the little bird must figure out what to eat on his own, and how to get it into the nest! Trying to decide what is yummy, while staying away from yucky options is difficult, but in the end, the little bird finds the best food for him, making the Mommy bird very proud.

Short, sweet, and to the point this book is. All with Kirk's famous pictures to accompany the cute, rhyming words. This is great for the younger crowd!

Well I saw it...

And I'm not quite sure how I feel about! On Thursday night, Aaron and I made our ritual trip to the movie theater to see the newest Harry Potter flick. As you all know, us book readers understand the whole story of what is happening to Harry and his friends and the movies leave so much out that it's very difficult to judge whether or not we liked it. This latest movie was based on the longest book, yet it was only 2 hours long. It seemed very rushed, especially in the beginning. Within the first fifteen minutes Harry was already in the Ministry of Magic for his trial, which just seemed a bit quick. As did the scene with the children in the ministry towards the end. It lasted all of 5 minutes!

I wasn't very happy with the character of Tonks, I somehow pictured her older, more Sirius's age rather than in her early 20's, but maybe I'll grow to like her as the movies progress. She had almost no face time in the movie anyways. Another new character for this movie, Luna Lovegood, was cast perfectly. I took one glimpse at her and burst out laughing (the people next to me thought I was crazy), but she was just PERFECT. Her spacy look, her weird way of skipping wherever she goes, and her voice. It was all perfect. Dolores Umbridge was also cast pretty well I thought. She did great with her little evil giggle!

Overall, I was satisfied, but just a teensy bit disappointed. I had high hopes, but as with all of the other movies, the filmmakers are forced to leave so much essential stuff out, they always seem to fall a bit flat. It was good though and I had a good time. I'm sure I'll be seeing lots more on the movie once I get to reading other's blogs later today!

Uglies

I've recently, through all the challenges I'm involved in, trying to catch up on the books that have seemed most popular within the YA, Child, and Adult lit world. Books I feel I'm the last to read. The sci-fi series by Chris Westerfeld, beginning with Uglies, is definitely one of those last to get to reads. I started on Thursday evening with Uglies and was done with this chunk of a book by Friday afternoon. I loved it and can absolutely see why everyone else does as well. It was unique, incredibly thrilling, and emotional in a way that teens and adults can definitely connect to.

Tally is Ugly. She will be Ugly until she turns 16, when the government of the futuristic world she lives in will turn her Pretty. And Tally is completely alright with that. She feels like she is the last of her friends that has not yet turned 16 and is thrilled to be Pretty in just a few short weeks. It is the only life she has ever known until she meets Shay. Shay is also 15 and sharing the same birthday as Tally, will be made Pretty at the same time, unless she runs away. Shay does not want to be made Pretty, as she believes that life as an Ugly would be more pure and free than to be made into a person that is exactly the same as everyone else. She tries to convince Tally to run away with her, to a village called the Smoke, where other Uglies live their lives in peace, without surgeries. When Tally refuses and is then asked to betray Shay and inform the leaders of the city as to where she has gone or never be made into a Pretty, Tally needs to decide what is more important: friendship or becoming what she has always dreamed of.


This book was fantastic and of a completely different level than anything I've read in a very long time. The underlying metaphors about being unique or becoming like everyone else are very strong, but in a way that is not blatant or in-your-face. Westerfeld created characters that are just like teens today, with strong feelings, interest in the opposite sex, and the yearning to be popular, but allowed the plot to take these characters into realms previously unknown, just as teenagers often face the unknown in their daily lives, often choosing to take the path that everyone else takes. I can certainly see how everyone seems to love this series and I cannot wait to get to the 2nd in the trilogy, Pretties. Thanks to all of the bloggers that reviewed this book and drew me to it. I knew I would enjoy it, but didn't know how much!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince


In usual anticipation of new Harry Potter books, I'll reread the entire series, however, this time I decided to only read the 6th book, since I have yet to reread that book. I'm glad I did that, if only because I have a whole lot of other books to read! This also counted for my first book choice in the Book Award Challenge, having won the British Book Award.

I'm not going to do a plot synopsis on this book, you all know how it goes, but I will say that I loved this book, as I love all of the other Harry Potter books. This one is touching in more ways than the others, and just as exciting as books 4 and 5. Harry Potter and Dumbledore gain even more strength in their untouchable bond and Harry continues to learn more about his past, as well as his future. I will admit, tears were shed at the end of the story and it took me a bit of time to recover. I'm recovering all over again now!

I'm very much looking forward to next week and the release of book 7, though in an extremely bittersweet way. This books have meant a lot to me over the years and now they're ending, however I know Rowling will do it in a tasteful and sentimental manner. I can't wait to read it!

Another thriller from Haddix


Oooh how I love this author! Having only discovered Margaret Peterson Haddix a few months ago, I've been slowly making my way through her books one at a time, this only being the 4th or so. I hold myself back from devouring the books simply because if I do that, I'll run out. Then I'll have to wait for the next new one. Amanda does not like waiting for new books from her favorite authors. Not one bit! So, I've been trying to read slowly. This one however, it was a one sitting book. I couldn't help myself. So much suspense...such a page turner. What was I supposed to do?!

Running Out of Time follows Jessie, a young girl growing up in Clifton, Indiana in the 1840's, living a normal teenage life in that time period. When children around her begin to get sick with what her parent's are saying is diphtheria, Jessie's mom fills her in on a horrifying secret. It's not 1840, it's 1996. Clifton is part of a social experiment in which tourists can watch the citizens every move with the help of cameras and windows placed strategically around the town. The owner's of Clifton will no longer allow medicine that could easily clear the diphtheria epidemic. Jessie must now embark on a mission to help save her friends and siblings, escaping Clifton and finding help in the huge city of Indianapolis. The journey itself is scary enough, but along the way she encounters cars, money exchange, and telephones, all while be costumed in blue jeans and a t-shirt, none of which she even knew existed. And she must do all of this before she runs out of time.

This plot captivated me from the very beginning. It was such a fresh and unique concept, one that kept me turning pages very quickly in order to get to the next part of the story. All of Haddix's books are like this, I can't wait to get to the next one!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For some reason, blogger is not letting me post a title, however it's all about getting great free books! Yay for a great giveaway! Over at Overwhelmed by Joy, she is hosting a great book giveaway that she has titled the Pay It Forward giveaway. Once a month she will choose a book to giveaway to one of us, asking that it we are the winner, we in turn "pay it forward" and give a book away to a friend. Easy enough right? Just head on over to her site for the rest of the details!

Monday, July 9, 2007

One of Each

My most recent adult read, also for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge, was From Baghdad With Love by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman. This was a book I was very much looking forward to, as it combines two of my favorite things, rescued dogs and military men. :-) Unfortunately, I was more than a little disappointed in the content of the book and felt pretty depressed when I was finished reading it.

Jay Kopelman was a Marine serving in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 when he and his team enter an abandoned house. They hear clicking noises coming from the upstairs and believe they are the sound of grenade pins being pulled. Instead of a terrorist ready to kill them, they find a tiny puppy that soon becomes the groups mascot, being named Lava after their group name Lava Dogs.

Kopelman goes on to tell more on the war in Iraq, much more than about little Lava. I'm sure that was the point of the book, but for me, I was looking for more about the dog and how the dog affected every day life for these Marines. Instead, this book was more about death, shootings, raids, and all the stuff I really don't need to hear about when my husband may be leaving for his second tour in Iraq in just over two months. It was my own fault for picking up the book at this particular time, but I really don't feel I would have liked it any better having read it at a different point in my life. Oh well!

The second book I finished over the weekend was a juvenile fiction suggestion I got from someone's blog recently, though I can't remember who exactly. What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson is the story of Cal Lavender (you must read the book to find out her full name, it's quite amusing) and her introduction to the foster care system. Cal's mother, Betty, has one of her "episodes" in the local public library and after the police are called, Cal is sent to live in a girl's group home run by The Knitting Lady. There she meets four young girls and an old lady that change her life completely, though Cal fights it tooth and nail.

I really enjoyed this book, especially the Knitting Lady's stories that were told to the girls at different points in the plot line. As annoying as she was, I think my favorite character was Whitney simply do to her boisterous nature and her trueness in character. This novel was very similar to the Nikki Grimes book I read last week, The Road to Paris, but with a funnier and edgier tone. Both are great books and I would certainly recommend both. I had never read anything by this author before, but will look for more in the future.

I've done it again...

I missed Picture Book Saturday. Sadness all around, I know. My sincerest apologies, but I promise to make it up to you next Saturday. You see, the thing is, I just forget. I work every other Saturday and on the days I am at work, it is very easy to remember to post. Saturday mornings tend to be rather slow, not to mention I'm already at a computer desk, surrounded by children's books, therefore it is very easy to remember to make a post. This past weekend however, was my off weekend, meaning no work, no reminder. I barely entered the computer room all weekend, having guests over for a game night on Saturday evening (furious cleaning and garage saleing that morning) and Sunday was our weekly mountain trip and yardwork day. I know, all excuses, but really, I am sorry!

That all being said, I have been getting some reading done, mainly in the form of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I read the HP books slowly and though this one is a reread, it's only my second reread, so it's still slow going. I'm about halfway through at this point. I have also picked up a couple of books in the past few days and just decided that I didn't feel like reading them at this point. Letters for Emily was one, The Recital another. Just wasn't in the mood. I did finish one for the Non-Fiction Five challenge and will have a review of that one up shortly. More reviews to come this week, promise!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

2 Reviews

I have been doing lots of reading lately, just not a whole lot of blogging. For today, we have both an adult selection and a JF selection....one excellent, one not very exciting. Can't win every time!

My first review of the day is James Patterson's The 6th Target. This one will be short and sweet, seeing as though it's part of a series and I don't want to give too much away, plus, I didn't like it. Hehe, nothing like being blunt! Nope, didn't like it at all. Boring, slowly and completely non-exciting, very unlike the other books in this series. Anyways...

This, like all other of the Womens' Murder Club series, follows Lindsay Boxer, a Lt. on the San Francisco police force. In this 6th installment, Boxer is following not only a madman that randomly starts shooting on on a ferry boat ride, killing several and wounding others, including another member of the club, Claire Washburn, but also a serial kidnapper. This all occurs while Cindy, a third member of the club, is focusing on solving the mystery of several murdered animals in her apartment complex. Yuki, a fourth member, is trying her first case as a prosecutor, after always being on the defendant's side. The plot also includes relationship aspects between Lindsay and Joe, as well as Lindsay and her girlfriends. Again, none being very interesting.

I don't want to give away much more, especially because the book is of mystery nature, but overall, I think it was definitely not up to par with the other books in this series. I loved books 1-5. I thought they were very clever, always fast-paced, and never boring. This one hardly had any interactions with all of the girls together, the actually mysteries throughout the book were somewhat boring, not exciting as usual. Hopefully, if Patterson does a 7th, he'll get back up on his game. Maybe if he slowed down with the publishing he could focus more on the actual writing.

Well next we have a wonderful selection from the always wonderful Nikki Grimes. Grimes always writes heart-wrenching fiction, but the books and the stories in them are always real and true to society today. The Road to Paris was no exception. In the beginning, middle, and end I found myself with tears in my eyes, loving every minute. Typical Nikki Grimes!

Paris and her brother Malcolm have not had an easy life. Their dad isn't around and their mother is no good, which leads them to bounce around foster care homes, never settling long because they always end up in bad situations, but always managing to remain together. When their mother truly believes she can take care of them, the two go back to live with her, only to wind up living alone and having to fend for themselves. They decide to runaway to live with their grandmother, only to have her call social services. The two are separated for the first time in their lives, with Paris going to live with the Lincoln family.

The Lincoln's are very different, but very nice. Paris slowly learns to trust them and to trust that God is always right there with her, even when Malcolm can't be. She gets comfortable in her new home, with her new family, and gains a love for life. But what will happen when Paris's real mother phones, promising she's changed and wanting both Paris and Malcolm to come home. Should Paris give up all she has gained just to be back with Malcolm?

This book was great! Another fantastic book from Nikki Grimes and another great book read this summer. I'm sure I'll have more reviews up soon. Enjoy the rest of the week!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July!!!

I wish everyone the happiest 4th of July! The hubby and I will spend the morning at our downtown parade, then have a mini-bbq with just the two of us later on tonight. Then, if the weather holds up, fireworks over the mountains. Another reason to thank God for placing me in such a beautiful part of this country. We live in a valley between two huge mountain ranges, so the fireworks will be seen in any and every direction. Just beautiful! I'll have two reviews up tomorrow, so look out for those. Again a happy and healthy 4th to all of you! We are so lucky to be able to celebrate Independence Day. Thank you Lord!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

CeeCee made me smile!

I had a fabulous day yesterday. Absolutely fabulous. And it's all thanks to my lovely blogging friend CeeCee from over at Book Splurge. A couple of weeks ago, my name was drawn out of her "hat" for a book giveaway contest, winning me a copy of Gone With the Groom. It was very appropriate, since I had just gotten married a couple of weeks before, so of course, I was already smiling, knowing I won such a perfect book title. Well, the package from Miss CeeCee arrived yesterday and not only did she include the book and a lovely note, but a beautiful bookmark with the Serenity prayer on it and a giftcard to Borders, "just because I'm a bride." I love you CeeCee! Made my week! Not that she ever could have known, but the Serenity prayer holds a lot of meaning to my husband, myself, and my husband's family, and we have it in different locations all over our house, as does many of his family members. It was the perfect little gift...more than I could ever have imagined in that package!!! Now, what to do with the giftcard?? Probably the newest Luanne Rice....maybe my own copy of The Mysterious Benedict Society? Who knows!! Thanks again CeeCee, you're awesome!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

1/2 Way Mark!

Already this year is half over, can you all believe that? It just seems crazy to me that 2007 is now on it's way to being over. In honor of reaching that mark, besides giving the list of the books I've read this month, I've tallied the books I've completed for the year, as well as the pages. Lots read, but lots more to be read. I would love to see some of your own lists, if you make them. Just leave me a comment and I'll come visit!

Books Read in June
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty Birney
The Lost Flower Children by Janet Taylor Lisle
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Chiodenko
Among the Betrayed by Margaret Peterson Haddix
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Treasures of Weatherby by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Tristan's Gap by Nancy Rue

12 Books read isn't so bad, though a lot of them would be classified as children's books. Still, I read them, they count! Now for the year thus far:

January-June 2007

Total Books Read: 71
Total Pages Read: 23,199
Favorite Adult Book So Far: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Favorite YA Book So Far: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Favorite Juvenile Fiction So Far: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

It's been a very eventful year, bookwise, so far and I can only hope to continue reading awesome books for the remainder of 2007. Again, if you make a list like this one, leave me a comment or link to your page and I'll read up. Always on the lookout for more books to read!