Sunday, September 30, 2007
My first book, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett was fantastic, as so many bloggers said that it was. Petra and Calder, two classmates that have barely spoken before, get thrown together into a mystery of dramatic proportions when a famous Vermeer painting is stolen en route to Chicago. After the theft, several people in town receive letters related to the painting and act very suspiciously, causing Petra and Calder to wonder just how many people they know may be involved in the theft of a priceless painting. The FBI may not be able to solve the mystery, but Petra and Calder are determined to!
The book was filled with great mystery and nice aspects of friendship despite differences. I loved Petra's quirky look (oh, did I mention the few illustrations are done by Brett Helquist of Lemony Snicket book fame?) and Calder just may be a very handsome man when he grows up. :-) I know my library just got the second book by this author in, also featuring Petra and Calder, and I can't wait to get my hands on it!
Unfortunately, the second book I started ended up being a disaster. Many could argue that I didn't give it enough time to grow on me, but I was pretty much fed up from page 2, so 65 pages was more than enough!
The Queen of Cool, written by Cecil Castallucci, follows Libby, quite literally the Queen of Cool. She has all of the best clothes, the most popular friends, and is fantastic at making fun of the not-so-cool kids in her school. She is also completely bored with all of this and decides to do something drastic and sign up for a winter session internship with the local zoo. She starts hanging out with the less-than popular kids and finds she may be more like them than she thinks.
The Queen of Cool could have been a very good book, if the language wasn't so horrible. It seemed every other word was four letters and SO not in a good sense. Not to mention, Libby's "amazing transformation" was just a tad bit miraculous and more than a bit fake. Oh well, I can't love them all I guess!
Friday, September 28, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Set during the time of World War 1, Private Peaceful, written by Michael Morpurgo follows the Peaceful family, namely Thomas, a 15 year old still mourning the death of his father, which he believes he caused years ago. His family is struggling during the poverty stricken times and must rely on the kindness, or rather, the money, of an extremely spiteful man. Through flashbacks, Thomas lets the reader in on secrets of his childhood and also on the horror of present times during the war. Thomas and his older brother, Charlie, enlist and feel they are doing their family justice by this act.
The characters are well described, but I just didn't enjoy the story. I didn't feel a connection and I didn't really care to read the end..though I did. You may enjoy this book, I just personally did not.
YAY!! I've been chosen as a panelist for this year's Cybil Awards! I will be a nominating panelist in the Middle Grade Fiction category and I look forward to reading all the wonderful books you all nominate. Head over to the Cybils blog to find out more about this great award and how you can nominate your favorite books of 2007!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Crossroads by Nancy Moser is a story of self-redemption. Madeline Weaver is rich, old and tired. She is also heartbroken that her town is failing and vows to do something about that. She drastically buys up all the property in town and places ads in newspapers and on television all over the United States, offering up free houses and businesses, searching for the perfect residents to revitalize her town.
Among the people that apply and are chosen as residents, there are a Jewish couple from Arizona, a stuck up banker and her family from Manhattan, and a family trying to get over the death of their daughter and sister. With each family and within the town there are buried secrets which slowly make themselves known, putting every character in Moser's book at the ultimate crossroads.
I really didn't find the concept of this story realistic, but it was quite enjoyable. I have always enjoyed the writing of Nancy Moser and this book was no exception. The characters were very real and well described, as was the beautiful, quaint setting of Weaver, Kansas.
Monday, September 24, 2007
11 year old Marty Preston wants nothing more than to take home the dirty, abused beagle he found in the woods, but his parents tell him that since the dog actually belongs to a mean old man down the road, Marty is heartbroken and unsure of what to do. When the dog runs away again and heads straight for Marty, the young boy is faced with all sorts of moral and ethical dilemmas.
This is a classic book and I'm sure most of you have read it several times over, as I have. If not, run out and get it!!
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Written entirely in journal format, with a few cartoons thrown in here and there, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney is great for those not looking for the typical novel. Middle-schooler, Greg, writes in this journal throughout one year of school, recounting different events that happen to him on a daily basis. Geeky Greg and his even geekier sidekick Rowley get themselves into lots of mischief and are almost beaten up more than once. Always, Greg keeps a rather chipper attitude, always oblivious to why people don't see the hero inside of him.
This book was laugh-out-loud funny and a very quick read. I would love to read more of Kinney's work, mainly because I know I'll have a smile on my face the whole time! I believe there is another book coming out following Greg again and I can't wait to see what adventures and troubles that one holds!
Peaches is the story of three girls, placed at a failing peach orchard in Georgia to work for the summer. Birdie is the slightly overweight daughter of the orchard owner, very insecure and very lonely in her Georgia peach world. Since her mother ran off, a lot of the orchard responsibility has been placed on Birdie and she takes her job very seriously. Leeda is Birdie's rich and spoiled cousin and she opts to spend the summer at the orchard instead of planning her sister's wedding. Leeda is incredibly jealous of her sister and wants nothing to do with making plans and knows she isn't exactly wanted around the house either. Murphy is the resident bad girl. She is sentenced by the town judge to work at the orchard as community service for petty crimes she continuously commits.
Though putting distance between themselves at first, the girls grow closer as the summer moves on and find they actually have quite a bit in common. They work together through boyfriend problems, family dramas, and the doubt that the peach orchard will survive. This was a lovely and refreshing book, which I'm looking forward to reading the sequel too. I guarantee that after reading this book, you'll want to go shopping for fresh peaches!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Lost & Found by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Dogs Who Found Me: What I Learned From Pets Who Were Left Behind by Ken Foster
Miracle Dog: How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row by Randy Grim
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin
As participants we have also been asked to talk about our own beloved four legged friends. As many of you know, I am an animal lover to the extreme. My husband and I own our own mini-zoo and are always looking to get more. Unfortunately, living on base, we are limited to the amount of bigger animals we can have, so for now we have more in tanks than on the floor.... that being said, some day, we will be owners of a whole bunch of unwanted dogs. That's a promise! For now, here's the list and some pictures!
Shae is our one year old pit mix dog. She is adorable, filled with energy, and sooo sweet. She would never hurt a soul but is always ready to make people laugh.
Dexter is our six month old bearded dragon. He is a little more than feisty at this point, but he'll grow out of that and up to about 3 feet long.Our last 4 legged friends are Lola and Lucien, our pair of sugar gliders. They have a little joey in the pouch now, but we haven't been lucky enough to see it yet!
We also have about 12 fish, and 3 snakes. Since they don't have legs, I'll spare you pictures of those guys! :-) Can't wait to start the challenge!
Monday, September 17, 2007
January: Poe/Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
February: Jerry Spinelli/Jan Yolen
March: Patricia MacLachlan/Lois Lowry
April: Beverly Cleary
May: Gary Paulsen/Leo Lionni
June: Cynthia Rylant/Robert Munsch
July: Patricia Polacco
August: Patricia McKissack/Karen Hesse
September: Roald Dahl/Jack Prelutsky
October: Steven Kellogg
November: Marc Brown/William Steig
December: Jan Brett/Mercer Mayer
YAY for challenges!
The Agony of Alice
Alice in Rapture, Sort of
All But Alice
Alice in April
Alice in Between
Alice the Brave
Alice in Lace
The Grooming of Alice
Alice on Her Way
Alice in the Know
That's quite a few, but I'm pretty sure I can pull it off in the time period. I think this is a series that I need to read and this challenge gives me the opportunity. Can't wait to start!
Saturday, September 15, 2007
The Giver is written by the amazing, wonderful, incredible Lois Lowry and tells the unique story of Jonas, a young boy living in a Utopian society. Everyone is the same in this society, they all have the same color skin, though none of them can see color anyways, so that doesn't matter. There is no such thing as love in this society, as it is an emotion that complicates things. In fact, emotions in general are non-existent in this society. When Jonas is selected to be the next Receiver of Memory, the most prestigious assignment in the entire society, he is shocked and somewhat angry to have been singled out in a world of sameness, though intrigued to learn that through The Giver, he can experience feelings, emotions, and the concept of colors in a manner never before experienced by a resident of the society. What Jonas must decide is whether or not he wants to participate in what the society is making its citizens go through or if he wants to remain within his new found perspective of life's opportunities.
I must admit that I have not read Gathering Blue or The Messenger, both books that follow The Giver, but you can bet I'll get them read before the year is done!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Before I Wake, written by Robert Wiersema is the story of a family whose three year old daughter is hit by a truck while crossing the street. The little girl goes into a coma and the driver doesn't turn himself in. After a long stay in the hospital, the little girl is sent home, believed by doctors to be in a permanent coma, never to gain consciousness again. Her home nurse cares for her as best as she can and soon realizes that the girl may have an ability to heal people of sickness. Quickly, young Sherilyn becomes famous and people flock to her doorstep to be healed by this remarkable little girl. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with the outcome of the horrible accident and is determined to put a stop to whatever "healing" may be taking place.
The plot is told by differing points of view including each of Sherilyn's parents, her home nurse Ruth, and the driver of the truck that hit her, Henry. The writer made it possible to connect and sympathize with each character personally, all while getting wrapped up in a seemingly unbelievable story. I very much enjoyed this book and will be looking for works by this author in the future.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Summer Promise introduces the reader to 14 year old Christy Miller. She heads to Newport Beach, California from Wisconsin to spend the summer with her wealthy aunt and uncle. Her Aunt Marti is incredibly generous in buying Christy all the coolest clothes and helping her get a brand new hair-do. Christy meets some new friends on the beach, including cute surfer Todd, who is also a Christian and starts to have a fabulous summer. Throughout the summer, Christy begins to realize who she really is and who she wants to be.
A Whisper and a Wish begins with the news that Christy's family has had to sell their farm in Wisconsin and have decided to move to California. Christy is totally excited with the idea that she may be able to see her beach friends on a regular basis, until she learns that they are actually going to be living over an hour away and she has to start all over again with making friends. Christy actually makes a couple of good, Christian friends right away, but sneaking out at night leaves them with a trip to the police station. Christy is left with the idea that she doesn't know who her real friends are and begins questioning her new-found faith in God.
Finally, in Yours Forever, Christy is back spending time at her Aunt Marti and Uncle Bob's at the beach for Christmas. Todd is spending time at the beach as well and Christy hopes that this is their chance to get closer. A strange turn of events leave Christy and Aunt Marti no longer speaking and Todd giving her the cold shoulder. Why would God let her life get so messed up? Christy tries to slowly work things out, while also trying to stay true to her faith.
These books were fantastic and I'm looking forward to reading the next books in the series. Robin Jones Gunn did a great job with the Christy books and I recommend parents and teens alike to read them. They were excellent for talking about a new Christian with regular teen problems and how she deals with them, while remaining close with the Lord.
Monday, September 10, 2007
This was my original list:
A Dad Shaped Hole in My Heart by H. Norman Wright
From Baghdad With Love by Jay Kopelman
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace by Greg Mortensen
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Alternate:The Bookseller of Kabul by Seierstad
This is what I actually read:
A Dad Shaped Hole in My Heart by Wright
From Baghdad with Love by Jay Kopelman
Marley & Me by John Grogan
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance by Beth Moore.
I'm now finalizing my list for my next challenge! For now, here's my review of Beth Moore's book.
Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk About God's Deliverance is very straight forward, as the title states. Moore is very self revealing in her book, obviously wanting to help the reader out of their own pit by using examples of how she got out of hers. Each chapter holds different steps for the reader, taking them from the dark depths of the pit, into the light of day. It was a very enlightening book and one that I can learn from and take information from for a very long time.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Defect by Will Weaver
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart
Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O'Connor
I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
This was a fantastic story and one that all high school students should read. David is an incredibly character and while reading his story I often felt as if I knew him. I was very impressed at the maturity of the story and the way it was written for even younger kids, 12 or 13, to understand and enjoy. Will Weaver is an excellent writer and one that should quickly write another book for me to read!
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Bats At the Beach was written and illustrated by Brian Lies. This was probably one of my favorite picture books I've read this year. The plot is simple: the bats want to go to the beach, just like people do, however the bats go at night rather than during the day. They pack bug snacks, moon-screen (instead of sunscreen) and take turns being kites rather than flying kites. The whole book is told in rhymes and is very cute. I loved the illustrations and was impressed at how great they looked being that the entire story takes place during the dark night. This is an excellent "end-of-summer" book and will also make a great bedtime story.
Our second selection for the weekend is The Feathered Crown written by Marsha Hayles and illustrated by Bernadette Pons. This beautiful story follows a group of birds making a very special migration to see the new baby Jesus. As the flock flies over oceans and trees, they grow in number and are very determined to reach their goal of helping to make a nest for the new baby Jesus. This book also rhymes and is a great bedtime story. The illustrations are very soft, with muted colors and are perfect for making babies and toddlers sleepy enough to get ready for their own bedtime.
I loved both of these and will probably be purchasing them for my own shelves pretty soon. If you have young children I definitely encourage you to pick these up from the library or a bookstore.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Meggie, Mo, Resa, Elinor, and all the others are all getting used to life again after their discovery of the power of Inkheart and the reading aloud ability that both Meggie and Mo possess. Their encounters and subsequent imprisonment by Capricorn are nothing but bad memories and Meggie is learning to love having her mother around just as much as does Mo. Unfortunately, when Farid, a friend of the family from the previous book, arrives at Elinor's house with news that Dustfinger had a man read him back into the InkWorld, Meggie and Farid devise a plan to go after him. Using the paper that had been read to send Dustfinger back, Meggie reads herself and Farid into the story.
The dangers that Farid and Meggie face are enormous and incredibly exciting for the reader. Meggie is entranced with the Ink World, not quite believing she is finally there after hearing so many wonderful stories from her mother. When she finally realizes that her parents have come after her and the the danger that is being faced Mo and Resa, Meggie has to figure out a way to save Dustfinger, Farid, and her family and the cliff hanger at the end will have you itching for more.
The sequel to Inkheart was not quite as exciting to me as the first book, but I did still have a good time reading it and look forward to more from Cornelia Funke. The description of the Ink World and everyone/thing in it is beautiful and makes a reader like myself want to be there too! I can certainly see the appeal to Meggie and Farid! If you've read Inkheart, you'll enjoy Inkspell as well.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
A first novel by English author Angie Sage, Magyk is also the first book in the Septimus Heap trilogy. The book opens with the seventh son of a Silas Heap, also a seventh son and head of a wizard family, being born to his wife Sarah while Silas is on his way back home from outside the village walls. As he hurries on home, Silas sees a bundle in the snow and hears baby cries coming from the blankets. He finds an abandoned newborn baby girl with brilliant violet eyes and decides he has no choice but to bring her home and raise her as their own daughter. When he arrives home with the baby girl, soon to be known as Jenna, he sees the midwife running out with a baby bundle, screaming that the baby is dead. Silas and Sarah lose their 7th son before they even get to know him.
Fast forward about 10 years and Jenna is still the only girl in the Heap household besides her mother. She loves her life in their small, cluttered house and is completely taken by surprise when the esteemed and rarely seen ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand shows up at the Heap home and states that Jenna is the long-lost Princess, daughter of the deceased Queen, and the Supreme Custodian, head of the castle, wants Jenna dead. Jenna and Marcia, along with her father, one of her brothers and a boy known as Boy 412, flee to Aunt Zelda's enchanted cottage, attempting to hide from the Hunter, sent by the Supreme Custodian.
The kids in this book band together and help the adults to fight off the recurring evil that is sent their way, in hopes of killing Jenna. The story is chock full action, great subplots, and a fabulous adventure. It definitely leaves room for the following book, making me glad I waited so long to read the series. Now I don't have to wait until book 2! I loved Magyk and think all of you will too. Those of you who haven't read it yet at least!
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Whistling in the Dark is written as both a coming of age book and somewhat of a mystery/thriller. Sally and Troo O'Malley are sisters in the late 1950's. Their father is dead, though his place has been taken by Hall, the girl's alcoholic, mean stepfather. Their mother becomes very ill and has to spend most of the summer in the hospital, leaving the girl's in the care of their boy obsessed older sister Nell and Hall. Also during this hot summer, other girl's around the neighborhood are continually disappearing and ending up dead. Sally is convinced she knows who the murderer is and is also convinced she is his next victim.
Sally spends her summer trying to protect herself and her incredibly precocious younger sister. The girl's both believe their mother is dying in the hospital, yet they seem somewhat alright with that concept. They know loss and they know it keeps happening to them and they learn to accept that life will never be easy for either of them. Their innocence allows them to keep up with typical summer activities, such as day camp at the playground and enjoying long games of Red Light Green Light with the neighborhood kids. The girls are even content, amidst the tragedies of the summer.
I really enjoyed this novel, though at some parts I was incredulous at how nonchalant the girls were concerning their mother's illness and possibly impending death. However, as I continued through the story, I learned that they had no choice but to detach themselves from the awful situation in order to continue functioning as young girls. This was a captivating read and one that will sweep you up until the very last page. I very much recommend it!
Monday, September 3, 2007
My author is going to be Jan Karon, author of the infamous Mitford novels. I started the first book in the series a couple of years ago, but with classes and working three jobs, I just couldn't get into them at the time. Now I'm reading. I'll be reading all nine books in the series:
At Home in Mitford
Light From Heaven
These High, Green Hills
Out to Canaan
A New Song
A Common Life
In This Mountain
Light from Heaven
Can't wait to get started!
The Book of Story Beginnings by Kristin Kladstrup
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Sunrise by Karen Kingsbury
Marley & Me by John Grogan
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
Welcome to Camden Falls by Ann M. Martin
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
High Stacks by Kathy Herman
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The Sound of Munich by Suzanne Nelson
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares
Pardon My French by Cathy Hapka
Leaving Fishers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Schlitz
Let Them Eat Cake by Sandra Byrd
The Noah Confessions by Barbara Hall
Because of Anya by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Looking for Alaska by John Green
A Fine Line by Kathy Herman
Takeoffs and Landings by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Yada Yada Prayer Groups Gets Real by Neta Jackson
I also finished the audio book version of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight this month as well and am working on another audio book.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
For those of you that have not had the pleasure of beginning this series as of yet, my review does contain some spoilers about the first and second novels. Just be aware of that as you read on!
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Real is the third installment in the popular series by Neta Jackson. The characters, especially Jodi Baxter, are continuing to grow within their group and with their faith as individuals. Jodi is still struggling with nightmares concerning the death of a boy she hit while driving and also with having the brother of that boy in her classroom fighting problems. Avis has a new man in her life, making all of the Yada Yada girls happy, but isn't sure she's ready to move on with a relationship, believing she made the promise to her deceased husband to stay true for a lifetime. Florida finally has her daughter, Carla, living with her again, but Carla is definitely showing signs of rebellion and Florida's lazy husband doesn't seem to be much of a help anymore. All of these issues are taking place, but the women are still making time to visit Becky Wallace, the woman who held up one of the prayer meetings and robbed the woman, in jail. They band together and pray about whether or not they are strong enough to write a letter asking for Becky's early parole.
A lot goes on in the Yada Yada books, but not so much that you can't keep track. Each of the characters are so distinct in their differences that telling them apart has never been a problem for me, even if there are 12 women in the prayer group! I love reading about these women's problems, as well as their happy times, because they are so very real. Each of the situations the women encounter throughout the books could really happen and probably have happened to many people. Jackson takes this strange menagerie of women and gives them the bond of faith in Jesus, the best bond of all. That allows them to help each other through struggles and good times. This was a great addition to the series and look forward to reading book 4!
I also wanted to say that I am so lucky to have my own version of the Yada Yada Prayer group. I'm blessed to be part of an online prayer group, started by my sister-in-law and some friends in Illinois. The group has also expanded to included women in Pennsylvania, Utah, and myself in New Mexico. We have about 12 members in all and it's a fantastic bible study group. I love having my own Yada Yada sister group! Love you girls!
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Bad Dog, Marley! is written by John Grogan and illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. Grogan is also the author of Marley & Me, the non-fiction memoir for adults that I loved so very much. This is the same story about the lovable, yet disastrous yellow lab that bounded into the Grogan's life and took out everything in it's path. Children will love reading about Marley being a "bad dog" in all his screen ripping, cake eating, cushion chewing, underwear stealing glory. The illustrations that accompany the pictures do Marley justice and are beautifully drawn.
The only thing I didn't like about this book was that it didn't quite stay true to the actual Marley & Me book. It's an entirely different book, so that is completely understandable, I guess I was just looking for a pint sized book for kids that included the same characters. Kids and adults alike will still love this book, even if they haven't read the adult version.
Does God Know How to Tie Shows? is written by Nancy White Carlstrom and illustrated by Lori McElrath-Eslic and is my favorite of the reviews this week. Katrina spends the day in the country with her mom and dad asking curious questions about God and his work. Some of her questions include "Mama, what does God wear?" and "Does God ever cry, Papa?" The answers are both sweet and honest and can help answer questions that all sorts of children have about our Creator. I also loved the beautiful painted illustrations, all of which have very strong colors, yet soft undertones.
In the back of this book there is also an index of Scripture references from the Psalms that adults can look at or use to further expand on the book with their children. I really liked that aspect of the book, as well as the innocent questions that little Katrina asked her parents. It was written in a very realistic manner and can be used as a book of entertainment or a book of teaching.
Until next weekend!