Sunday, September 30, 2007

2 Challenge Reviews

I have two to cross off my Fall Reading Challenge list...one because it was great and I read it very quickly, the other because I gave up about halfway through. I guess that's why we include alternates!

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

Some suggestions needed

I need a new Bible and I would love, love, LOVE some suggestions! I would like one that includes devotionals if possible, but any suggestions would be great! I know a lot of my readers are Christians, so anything you could suggest would help me out! Thanks to all!

Born to Rule

Born to Rule by the infamous Kathryn Lasky, is the first book in the Camp Princess series. It is Alicis, Princess of All the Belgravias first year at camp and she is both excited and a tidbit nervous. She knows it is custom for all Princesses to attend camp to assist in learning skills necessary for running a country, but she is a little scared of the other, older Princesses. When she arrives, she is placed in the dreaded South Turret, the tower deemed "haunted" by the rest of camp, with 2 roommates she grows to love.

Throughout her time at at camp, where seasons change by the minute and tiaras must always be worn, even during swimming, Alicia learns that there is more to being a Princess than simply being born into the position. It involves solving mysteries, teaching birds to sing, and participating in arts and crafts, complete with real jewels. Alicia is introduced to what her true destiny may be and must learn to face fears and challenges head on.

Like most of Lasky's books, Born to Rule helps promote positive self image among girls, as well as confidence and the idea of being brave in new situations. This book, however, seemed a little forced in the whole "Princess" concept. I loved the idea, but it seemed that every other sentence was almost poking fun at the Princess world, rather than simply having it be a back story to the true plot. The book was also quite short, making the end seem a bit rushed, but that may make it a good story for reluctant readers.

Overall, this was a quick read and one that tweens and other young girls will probably enjoy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Private Peaceful

Ah...such a buildup with all of the starred reviews and such....and such a letdown. I really didn't enjoy this book very much, though some of you may, hence the review anyways!

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.

The Cybils


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

This book has been on my TBR list forever and I'm so glad I finally got to it. Though a little unrealistic, it was very satisfying!

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

Shiloh

What's a Book Awards Challenge or Four Legged Friends Challenge without the classic Newbery Winner, Shiloh by the infamous Phyllis Reynolds Naylor? I've read it several times before, but just couldn't resist another go.

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

Fall Into Reading Challenge


YAY for the first day of fall!! Though the temps here in Southern New Mexico are still in the high 80's and 90's, I'm very excited about this fall challenge....and am in the mood to curl up on the swing in the backyard with a blanket, some hot apple cider, and these books! Now, I've pick A LOT of books for this challenge, but being that my husband is deployed and we have the 24 Hour Readathon coming up next month AND I have a trip to Florida in November, I really don't think I'll have a problem getting them done. It will be a lot of fun to see what others are reading and get your take on my selections! Thanks again to Callapidder Days for hosting the challenge! Here's the list!
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau
Among the Enemy by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Among the Free by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan
The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
So B. It by Sarah Weeks
Ever Present Danger by Kathy Herman
The Good Nearby by Nancy Moser
Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Snyder Keatley
Here's Lily by Nancy Rue
Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
The Wednesday Letters by Jason Wright
The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Sisterchicks on the Loose by Robin Jones Gunn
First Light by Rebecca Stead
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Life's Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard
A Fall Together by Jennifer O'Neill
The Messenger by Lois Lowry
Violet Bing and the Grand House by Jennifer Paros
The Field Guide by Tony DiTerlizzi
Bad Kitty by Michele Jafe
Queen of Cool by Michele Castalucci
The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson
The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckner
Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach
Alternates
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
The Anybodies by N.E. Bodie
The Bad, Bad Darlings by Sam Llewellyn
Safe at Home by Sharon Robinson

At Home in Mitford, Read the Author #1

I have wanted to read Jan Karon's much loved Mitford series for some time now, but just never got around to it. The Read the Author Challenge was the perfect opportunity to finally pick up these books that everyone seems to love and rave about. I know that this particular series of Karon's has come to a close, but someone mentioned a new series which debuts next month. Hopefully I'll like all the books in the series as much as this one and will want to read the newest series too! One down, a whole bunch to go!

At Home in Mitford introduces the reader to the quirky cast of characters that Jan Karon created. At the focus of the novel is Father Tim, priest at The Lord's Chapel and a perennial bachelor. Father Tim is joined by lovable secretary Emma, a huge dog that behaves only when quoted Scriptures, an 11 year old boy with a horrible mouth, his new housekeeper Puny, and a myriad of other lively and very interesting people (to say the least).


In this first book, Father Tim must deal with several issues that have made their way into his life. A very attractive single woman moves next door, with a cat no less, stolen jewels are found in the church, and he is diagnosed with diabetes resulting in his giving up of every food he has ever enjoyed. All through this, Father Tim keeps a positive attitude, always thanking the Lord for what he has been given, and trying to find viable solutions for every problem.


I loved this book and often found myself chuckling at the silly dog, Father Tim's reactions to his new experiences, and Dooley's antics. The town and it's people are lovable and smile inducing. I think I picked a great author for this challenge!

Wait for Me

Wait for Me by the fabulous An Na, is another look into the world of culturally strict parents and the effects these behaviors have on their Americanized youth. Mina works long hours at her parents dry cleaning shop, while trying very hard to figure out how to tell her mother she won't be getting into Harvard. She has dug herself into a hole, constantly lying to her mom, telling her she is the President of the Honor Society and has perfect grades, when none of that is actually true. She simply wants to please her mother, while keeping her off her back at the same time.

When Ysrael, a young man from Mexico, begins working at the dry cleaning shop, Mina falls head over heels for him. She knows her mother would never approve of the boy, so the pair has secret meetings at the time when Mina is supposed to be in SAT prep courses. Mina needs to decide whether or not to follow her dreams-and Ysrael-or remain in the society in which her mother has built for her. A world in which she is destined to fail.

Though not my favorite work of An Na's, I still enjoyed this book and felt it gave a great glimpse into the world with overbearing parents and eager to please teens. This is a very good young adult selection.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Picture Book Saturday

The return of Picture Book Saturday!! Lately it's been really difficult for me to get in a lot of picture book reading, because of all the reviews I have to do for adult and YA books. This week however, I made sure I read some new picture books in order to have 3 reviews for you all today. Hopefully you'll find something you'll enjoy!

My favorite of the week was Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The author did an amazing job of creating a book based on the true story of slave Henry Brown who mailed himself to freedom. Henry was enslaved in a tobacco factory where he met his wife whom he has three children with. One afternoon, out of nowhere, his wife and three children are sold to another slave owner and Henry knows he'll never see them again. With the help of an abolitionist doctor, Henry builds a sturdy box and mails himself to Pennsylvania, a free state. Little tidbits at the end of the story fill in facts that were not incorporated into the story, such as how long the trip in the box took.

Unfortunately, we do not learn anything about Henry's life as a free man, but you can bet I'll be googling it! This was a great story and one that could be very educational, as well as entertaining for older children.

On a lighter subject, I also really enjoyed Fred Stays With Me! by Nancy Coffelt, illustrated by Tricia Tusa. This was a very simple story of a young girl and her experiences of the custody arrangement of her divorced parents. She loves living at her mom's and she loves living at her dad's and she especially loves being able to take her dog Fred back and forth to each place. When each of her parents separately decide they no longer want Fred to stay with them, due to his variety of nuisances, the girl puts her foot down and makes a very important decision. If she is forced to live in two different places, no matter how much she loves each house, the dog stays with her.

This was a delightful book that allows kids to see that even if they have divorced parents, they have choices and input as well. In this case, the girl wasn't going to give up her dog when she already had to give up living under just one roof. The message is delivered subtly, with humor, as to not overwhelm the young reader.

Finally, my third selection of the week is The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. In it, the reader meets a variety of different characters, all described as being a different shade of brown. Lena and her mother take a walk, meeting the different girls and boys along the way and the artist mother describes each individual skin tone with beautiful comparisons, such as ginger, peanut butter, and caramel.

This is an excellent choice for teaching about race and how we are all really the same....with subtle differences. I thought the book was written extremely well and would be happy to use it with children for positive reinforcement.

Hope you enjoyed this week's books!

The Dark Hills Divide

I love starting a new series and having the first book really, really make me want to read the second book! I really enjoyed this book and believe, though similar to many other fantasy type stories, the author has a real winner of a series on his hands.

The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carmen, is the first book in the Land of Elyon series. It begins with Alexa and her father, the mayor of Lathbury, heading to Bridewell for their annual summer trip. Alexa loves spending time in Bridewell, exploring the old prison where all of the important town business now takes place. She has never seen the other side of the great walls that surround the Land of Elyon and longs to explore the unknown over the bricks and mortar. When the founder of Elyon and very close friend of Alexa's dies unexpectedly, Alexa finds herself holding a key that could unlock a way to get on the other side of the wall and into the dangers of the hills. When she learns that she has the ability to help save Bridewell, using her new ability to talk to animals, as well as her key to get through the wall, Alexa knows that she must face the dangers of unknown in order to save all she knows.

As I said before, this book is somewhat similar to a lot of other fantasy/adventure novels that I've read. However, it had many of it's own quirks and original aspects that made it enjoyable to read and allow me to get involved enough to want to know what happens in the next book!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I only picked this book up because it had been recommended to me so many times by different bloggers and I know that they usually know what they're talking about! I actually really enjoyed ready this and found myself laughing out loud quite often!! It was quick, fun, and a book that I would really recommend to reluctant readers and die hard book fans alike.

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

I needed a little dose of some good old friendship yesterday and decided to try out a new (to me) series by Jodi Lynn Anderson. I was pretty pleased with the first book and hope the next is as enjoyable, if not more.

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

Four Legged Friends Challenge

Challenges are so fantastic and this one is SO up my alley! Over at Kailana's Written World is hosting this challenge which runs from tomorrow 9/20/07-2/26/08. I've chosen to read six books, one for each month the challenge runs, which I can't wait to start tomorrow! My list includes the following books:

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!

Bummer News

Sometimes the United States Air Force really frustrates me. All winter and spring we were sure that my hubby, Aaron, was being deployed back to Iraq this month. We were upset, but dealing with it...then we were blessed with a reprieve about a month ago. Aaron didn't have to go to Iraq or anywhere...he was staying home. YAY! Well no more Yays. Yesterday, after his lunch, Aaron walked back into work and was told he was deploying. On Friday. As in this Friday. Luckily, God was watching over us and Aaron doesn't have to go to Iraq, just to Virgina. But still! We had three days notice! I'm still a newlywed and my husband is going to leave for months. Anyways, just wanted to fill everyone in. He keeps telling me "just think of all the reading you can get done!" What a sweet husband! Keep him in your thoughts and prayers please...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Specials

I was very happy with the way this series ended up. I think this was supposed to be the conclusion of a trilogy, but if I'm thinking correctly I believe Extras is coming out next month, which would make it a series. I would be very happy to read that one as well! Scott Westerfeld is a great author and I've enjoyed these books very much. Always page turners and always exciting.

Specials, like other books, follows Tally Youngblood, now a member of Special Circumstance's prized group of Cutters. Though Tally's mind has been altered enough to agree with all of the things she does for Special Circumstances she still has lingering memories of her time with The Smoke and throughout the plot, begins again to think like a rebel. When her and Shay break into the Armory in order to help out a friend, the world begins to literally crash down around Tally. A war between cities breaks out and Tally is the only one who can save anything...or anyone.


This book was probably the most exciting for me. Uglies was a great introduction to the series and though Pretties moved a little slowly for my liking it was still pretty good, but Specials was the most action packed. I really liked this one and any fan of Scott Westerfeld's will enjoy it as well.

Celebrate the Author Challenge

This awesome challenge is being hosted by Becky over at Becky's Book Reviews. It's going to run January 1st, 2008 thru December 31, 2008. The concept is simple. Read a book by an author whose birthday takes place each month of the year. I picked two author's each month to give myself an alternate choice. My list is......

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!

Themed Reading Challenge

This challenge is being hosted by Caribou's Mom and I'm super excited about it, even though it doesn't start until January! It took me awhile to find a theme that I wanted to go with, I bounced back and forth for quite awhile. I finally settled on a popular series of books that I didn't read when I was younger, for one reason or another. I am going to read the Alice books. You know, those much-loved ALICE books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I'm sure everybody knows what I'm talking about...but here is my list!

The Agony of Alice
Alice in Rapture, Sort of
Reluctantly Alice
All But Alice
Alice in April
Alice in Between
Alice the Brave
Alice in Lace
Outrageously Alice
Achingly Alice
The Grooming of Alice
Alice Alone
Simply Alice
Patiently Alice
Alice on Her Way
Alice in the Know
Dangerously Alice

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

So no Picture Book Saturday this week...haven't had a whole lot of time for picture book reading lately, but I do have a review of a great classic children's book. I didn't read this book for the first time until a couple of years ago, being that I was often put off when it was described as a "science fiction" novel. I hadn't yet broadened my genre taste to include something of everything and passed by this wonderful book for too long. This was my second read of it and it was just as amazing this time around.

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

Home and Other Big, Fat Lies

I loved this book with a capital L!!! A couple of months ago I read Jill Wolfson's first book, What I Call Life, loved that one, and Becky from Becky's Book Reviews suggested I read this one as well. What a great suggestion it was! I enjoyed this book so much more than the first and that was a hard feat to accomplish!

Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies follows Whitney, a supporting character in What I Call Life, as she heads off to her 12th foster home, way up in Northern California. As usual, Whitney begins life with this new family and school, as an outsider, but for once, doesn't remain that way for long. She discovers that she is one of a large number of foster children in the small community, mainly due to the bad economic times the logger families are experiencing. Fosters bring in money and therefore, the kids all think that as soon as the logging picks up again, they'll be shipped off somewhere else. They band together and form incredibly unique friendships based on this sad truth.

The other main focus of this short and often hysterically funny novel is the interest Whitney takes in nature. Her older foster brother teaches her all about the redwood forest and Whitney learns to think of it as home. She is devastated to learn that when the logging does in fact get back underway that their beloved part of the forest is the first part to be cut down. Whitney and her new brother, Striker, together with Whitney's friends, take a stand like no one in Forest Glen has ever done before, risking relationships, money, and family.

Whitney is probably one of the best characters ever created in literature. My opinion only, I know, but I loved her. She is so funny and hyperactive and asks the silliest questions, just making her more lovable. I laughed out loud more times than I can count and would truly recommend you all reading this book. Thanks again Becky!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Before I Wake

This novel completely sucked me in and wouldn't let me go until the very last page. It was such an intriguing and thought provoking look at a situation in which a situation is taken out of one's hands and put into God's. Though somewhat controversial in topic, this was a great fiction story and was written by an author that I will definitely read again.

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

Christy Miller Books 1-3

I love this series! I needed some good Christian, young adult fiction to start my week and this was just the thing! The books were sweet, not preachy, and were short enough for me to read all three in just an afternoon. Robin Jones Gunn is a great author for adults and I was very pleased with this work for younger readers.

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

A Review and a Completed Challenge!!!



I finally finished the Non-Fiction Five Challenge hosted by Joy. YAY!! I ended up reading a very different list of five books than I had originally planned, however I thoroughly enjoyed each book that I did complete. It has also encouraged me to definitely read more non-fiction throughout the year. I plan to read, at the very least, one non-fiction book a month, if not more. Thanks again for hosting a great challenge Joy!!

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

Best of 2007...So Far

Over at MotherReader, us bloggers are being encouraged to put our Best of 2007 books in varying categories for school age kids. This was quite the difficult thing to do for myself, because I've read so many fantastic books this year, though not all were published this year. My library is not the quickest at getting the newest books and my bank account can't always purchase newly published books, so I'm usually a little behind. However, I did come up with my own list and had fun doing so! These books may not all be of the highest in educational value, but I loved each and every one of them. And that's the point of this right??!!

YA/High School
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


Middle Grade
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

Elementary
Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O'Connor
I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry


Defect

Defect by Will Weaver, is an intense story about a high school boy that was born with several different birth defects. His face is misshapen and he just happens to have wings under his arms, allowing him to glide from high places down to the ground. David keeps that part of his body a secret, not wanting anyone to ever know what he can do and how he can do it. He lives with a foster family and is eventually asked to leave his public high school because he is a disturbance to the other kids. Mainly, they pick on him and he stands up for himself. When David starts at an alternative school, he meets Cheetah, the first girl to ever be interested in him and the first person he's ever met that isn't bothered by her own defects. Cheetah helps David slowly become brave enough to let his secret out and helps him when he is suddenly under everyone's microscope.

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

Tanglewreck

This was another book, like several I've read recently, that was awesome in the beginning and got less and less intriguing as the pages passed. I enjoyed the book and feel a lot of young adults will as well, but by the last couple of chapters I was definitely ready to move on.

Tanglewreck was written by Jeanette Winterson and follows Silver, a young girl who is residing with her mean Aunt Rockaby in a big house called Tanglewreck in London, after the deaths of her parents and younger sister. A series of Time Tornadoes have hit the city and have taken people out of thin air, dropping them into another time, as well as leaving strange pieces of history such as woolly mammoths and chariots in their place.

In the midst of all the chaos are two evil villains, Regalia Mason and Abel Darkwater, that believe if they each come into possession of a specific clock, they will hold the power of time in their hands, basically being able to take over the entire universe. They each believe that Silver knows where the clock is, though she very much does not and Silver soon sets off on a journey to try and find where the Timekeeper is actually located before it falls into the wrong hands.

The descriptions of different times and places were great, as were the descriptions of each character in the book. The plot was very exciting and at times had me flipping pages very quickly in order to find out what happened next. At the end, however, the story took a more scientific turn and was so filled with terms about time, space, and science, that I got a little bored. The beginning and first half of the middle were fantastic, but then it went a bit downhill for me personally. I still would recommend reading this, as the excitement in the first half was worth it!

Picture Book Saturday!!

I have two new books this week that I loved. Enjoy!!

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

Inkspell

Spoiler Alert!! This post may spoil secrets from Inkheart, the book before this one. Don't read any further if you have plans to read that one!






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

Magyk

Ok, so I've found yet another series that I am just going to devour! I read this big chunker of a book in just a day, still fitting in school work and my regular job...that will tell you how much I loved this story. Luckily I have 2 more to go!

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

The one word I can use to describe the plot and story line of this book is innocence. The innocence, yet maturity of the two main characters is absolutely amazing and with it, Lesley Kagen created a beautiful, tragic, yet hopeful book.

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

New Challenge!!!

I just learned of a great new challenge hosted by Incurable Logophilia via Becky's Book Reviews and can't wait to get started. It's titled the Reading the Author Challenge and runs through December. You just pick an author and read at least three of their books in the challenge. Easy enough for me!

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
Shepard's Abiding
Light from Heaven

Can't wait to get started!

Books Read in August

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
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.

We have a Winner!

The winner of the Let Them Eat Cake giveaway is Jenny from Life is Not a Cereal!!! YAY JENNY!! Just me sure to email me your snail mail address and I'll get your book in the mail to you. Congrats!! Thanks to everyone for entering!! There will be more giveaways to come in the near future!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Real

The more books I read in this series, the more I love them! The women are becoming so real to me, almost like real people that I know. I think that's the reason I love series books so much... the reader has the chance to connect with the characters and their ongoing stories in more than just one book. I also feel inspired after reading these novels. Inspired to get even closer to God than I already am and explore other ways to strengthen my relationship with him. I completely relate to Jodi and her dilemma of being too selfish in prayer sometimes and it's great to see a character work that out in their lives.

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

Picture Book Saturday!

I have two great reviews for you this week, of new books to our library shelves. I was very happy with both of these purchases and think you'll enjoy them as well!

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!