Thursday, January 31, 2008

Captivating

Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul was written by both John and Stasi Eldredge and contains intense themes in learning to love one's self and be true to who we are as woman. It is both simplistic and very deep at the same time, allowing the reader to take common concepts such as beauty, heartache, and womanly roles, and examine them with a Godly depth. The restoration of a woman's heart is key in this book and the authors slowly reveal how easy it is to reach one's desires, as well as look to Godly women as role models in this process, rather than public figures.

Though at times a bit repetitive, I learned was educated about both God's will for myself and personal character traits, and came to understand why so many people love books by John Eldredge. The writing style is pleasant and the concepts easy to understand, as well most importantly encourages an excellent connection and relationship to the Lord. Most of the ideas in the book did not seem to be incredibly unique, focusing on what God wants from us as women, which has been the topic of many books, but were delivered in an appropriate manner which will please readers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell is one of the many titles I had not yet been made aware of until I read someone's blog. Lots of people ended up talking about this one, commenting on how good it was, so I made sure to order it for our YA shelves at the library. Once it was in, it was in my hands and I'm quite happy I read it!

Vassar Spore is a dream child for many parents, including her own. She is incredibly ambitious, wanting nothing more than to be valedictorian, be accepted to Vassar (for obvious name-related reasons), and eventually win the Pulitzer for something extremely important. She has her summer all planned out, filled with AP classes and other academia when her crazy, bohemian grandmother blackmails her parents into sending Vassar on a backpacking trip across Southeast Asia. Vassar doesn't want to go. Vassar's parents don't want her to go. Unfortunately, Grandma Gert has something on Vassar's parents and the teenager ends up on a plane, filled mainly with her luggage alone, flying to Asia for an incredibly eventful summer. She hopes, at least, she will be able to find out what was such good blackmail material that her parents forgot her dreams of being valedictorian and sent her across the world.

Throughout the summer, Vassar experiences many first for her short life. She becomes interested in a boy, who she of course hates at first. She learns that less luggage means more freedom, just like less rationalizations mean more fun. She has a myriad of crises, getting close to being arrested more than once and often finding herself being forced to rely only on herself to get out of scrapes. Despite her initial dislike, she also grows closer to her grandmother and learns how to be a bit more free.

This was a hilarious book, with a main character that reminded me a lot of myself when I was in high school. Now, I wasn't striving to win a Pulitzer, nor get into an Ivy League school, but I was over-doing it on the "all work, no play" mantra. It was great to see Vassar loosen up as the summer progressed and though the "big secret" that allowed Grandma to blackmail her parents becomes a little predictable, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Agony of Alice

I just finished reading my first book for Caribou's Mom's Themed Reading Challenge, a reread for me. I read most of the Alice books when I was between 10 and 12, though never completing the series. I think I just grew out of the books, though now that my career is in children's literature, I have the perfect excuse to reread all of my favorites!

The Agony of Alice, written by the infamous Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, is the first book in a long line of novels featuring the clumsy, insecure, normal heroine. In this first installment, Alice moves to a new town with her father and older brother, her mother having passed away years before. Becoming a teenager in a house of only men is no easy task and Alice experiences many embarrassing moments, simply from lack of knowledge about being a woman. While trying to find out how to make friends in a new school, Alice is also trying to figure out just how to buy her first bra. She believes that if only she had Miss Cole, the beautiful, young teacher to be her adopted mother, she could learn everything their is to being a woman very easily. Unfortunately, Alice is paired with Mrs. Plotkin, definitely not the glamorous mother type. As the school year progresses, Alice slowly learns different aspects about being a teenager and becoming a woman, and though she embarrasses herself plenty of times along the way, also becomes quite close with Mrs. Plotkin.

When I was rereading this book I was reminded of another little girl in a more recent story, who also just happens to constantly be embarrassing herself. Yes, Alice reminds me of an older Clementine. The books have the same humorous flair and real-to-life characters. Since I love Clementine so much I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the Alice books. :-) Unfortunately I couldn't find a picture of the old Alice covers, but the new ones are kinda cute too.

We Have a Winner!

The winner of Cindy Woodsmall's newest book is Amy! I'll be contacting you Amy! Congrats!

Friday, January 25, 2008

I like Memes!!

I've been tagged!!

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? I can honestly say that as much as I enjoy the man's personality in interviews and in his monthly Entertainment Weekly column, I cannot enjoy a Stephen King novel. I've tried several times, but aliens and overt supernatural things are just not my cup of tea. The first book I read was in high school. It happened to be The Tommyknockers and after reading the part about the alien possessed Coke machine, I just couldn't look at a Stephen King book the same way again. I don't watch the movies either.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? Such a fun, yet difficult question! I would love to have a book club meeting with Hermione from the Harry Potter novels and Liesel from The Book Thief, as well as Klaus from A Series of Unfortunate Events.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): You are told you can't die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realize it's past time to die. What book would you expect to get you a nice grave?
At this point in my reading life, I skip the boring books. For this question I can only draw from books I was "forced" to read in high school/college that I truly did not enjoy. Though if I went back to read them now I just may love them. The two that come to mind are Sophie's Choice and The Heart of Darkness.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book you really thought you had read only to realize when you read a review about it/go to "reread" it that you haven't? Which book? Well after reading Perfect Match about 4 years ago, I became slightly "Jodi Picoult" obsessed and bought everything she had ever written. I thought I had read them all as soon as I got them, but after starting to reread Mercy last summer I realized I had never opened it.

You're interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who's not a big reader). What's the first book you'd recommend and why? (If you feel like you have to know the person, go ahead and personalize the VIP) I would recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Though not exactly a "cheerful" story, it is one I feel passionate about and therefore could recommend to a "non-reader" very well.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?
I would love to be able to read in Spanish or Italian. Such beautiful languages.

A mischievous fairy comes and says you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? I would reread Clementine. That book made me laugh harder than just about any other book I have ever read. Everyone needs a good laugh on a regular basis.

What's one "bookish" thing you discovered from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art - anything)?
I have completely expanded the genres that I read, as well as the amount of books I read each year. Other bloggers motivate me to pick up books I would normally pass over, as well as to read faster to get to more good ones!

The good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she's granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favorite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead - let your imagination run free. I would SO love to really be able to design this. Like most people have answered, I want floor to ceiling book cases....with those fun wheeled ladders to get to the top shelves. I want a fire place (eco-friendly) and a big sectional couch with a chaise at one end (micro-suede please). I also would like a little stove in order to make hot cocoa, popcorn, and anything chocolate related. I want hardwood floors with area rugs, big shuttered windows, and plants. Lots of plants!

Sweethearts

Oh cookies. How I love cookies...and book covers with cookies on them. And when the ARC came in the mail, it came with candy. Yes, CANDY! Yum!

Sweethearts begins with the story of Jennifer and Cameron, two social outcasts just trying to get through elementary school alive. Though boys and girls didn't usually pair up as best friends in the lower grades, Cameron was Jennifer's only friend and therefore her best by default. Jennifer is heartbroken when Cameron suddenly disappears. He stops coming to school and is nowhere to be found in the neighborhood, leaving Jennifer to fend for herself against her classmates.

As the years pass, Jennifer slowly reinvents herself, morphing into Jenna, a pretty, popular girl with the hottest boyfriend. She is no longer chubby, has tons of friends, and loves life, though always remembers the dark secret tying her to Cameron and her childhood. When Cameron suddenly reappears in her life, Jenna is forced to confront her past and her new found present.

Sara Zarr is the author of the fabulous Story of a Girl, a book that tugged at my heartstrings the entire way through. She definitely did not disappoint with this second novel and left me excited for a third! Oh and did I mention the cover art? There is a single picture of a pink frosted heart cookie. A delicious heart cookie. And how do I know it's delicious?? Oh...I just do. I want that pink frosting! And another Sara Zarr book!

New Challenges

I was planning to keep my challenges to a minimum this year, being that I have so much going on in "real life," but I've already got 4 on my plate. I'm just not going to stress about them. If I don't finish, I don't finish!

I had signed up for several of these months ago, but have since made revisions to the original lists I had made. All the challenges and the books I plan to read for them are in the sidebar.

Happy Reading to me!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Review and a Giveaway!!

FINALLY I'm going to get caught up on reviews of books I've read these past couple of months. I wasn't kidding when I said I haven't felt like doing anything...reading and blogging included unfortunately, but hopefully now I'm back in the game!

With this review I'll also be doing a giveaway of the book, so check the bottom of the post for more info on that.


When the Morning Comes is the second book in the "Sisters of the Quilt" series by Cindy Woodsmall. This is a fabulous series for any fans of Beverly Lewis or other writers that focus on Amish communities. This particular book and its predecessor When the Heart Cries actually came off as a bit more realistic that some of the other Amish-related books I've read and I enjoyed them fully.

In this installment, Hannah Lapp has fled her Old Order Amish community to live with her shunned Aunt in Ohio and hopefully find some peace in her own mind. Her relationship with her fiance Paul feels ruined and she doesn't know quite what to make of her life anymore. Unfortunately, moving to a world filled with culture she isn't aware of and customs she's never been introduced to is making transition extremely difficult for Hannah and ends up confusing her more than ever.

While Paul is searching for her, convinced they can mend their broken relationship, Hannah begins to find her beloved peace in her Aunt's world. She becomes friends with Martin, an Englischer, and starts to feel as if her true place may be among he and other Englischers like him, however strong the call to home is.

Though the plot is somewhat similar to other books I've read regarding the Amish and their beliefs, it was still refreshing and unique. The characters had depth and resonated with truth fullness. I could feel a connection with Hannah, as well as with Paul whom wanted nothing more than to have his true love back. I'm definitely looking forward to the third book in the series!

I'm giving away a copy of this book on Sunday night. Leave a comment here by about 12am and I'll include you in the drawing. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover

It's my first review in almost a month! YAY!! For those of you who want baby updates, everything is going well, besides still being very tired. We've had our first doctor's appointment and a whole bunch of blood work, which we're assuming will come back fine. Our due date was moved up to August 10th (wahoo, a whole day!!) and other than that we're on schedule! More on Baby Snowflake as it comes!

Today I'm talking about Mitali Perkin's latest book, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover. Now, I love Mitali Perkins and all of her work. Unfortunately, this one wasn't my favorite, though I definitely think it will be very appealing to younger girls. We meet Sameera, the 16 year old daughter of a United States Presidential candidate and basically follow her through the trials of being in the public eye constantly. Sameera, or Sparrow as her family and friends affectionately call her, is a very independent girl and though she loves the makeover she is given, she is so sure about changing her name to "Sammy," giggling at reporters, and pretending she doesn't understand the politics her father stands for. Not to mention the racist comments she gets a lot. Geez, just because she is Pakistani and the adopted daughter of her parents shouldn't mean anything! Well tell that to the paparazzi!

This novel was cute and Sameera is definitely an awesome role model for young girls. However, if there was one thing that "annoyed" me about the book, it was the amount of times the name "Sparrow" was used. Seriously, I know it's a nickname and all, but if I'm in a room with my friends and family, they don't put my nickname in every single sentence they say to me! On one page I counted the name Sparrow 8 times. I think by that time she would know that the person talking to her was indeed talking to her! I know, I know, over critical again. I can't help it! Other than that, the book was a nice, refreshing look at a young girl thrust into the spotlight and I'll be sure to read the sequel which is being published soon.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Favorites of 2007

I read a lot of books this year, with a wide variety of genres and age levels. Out of all of those books I am so glad to say I found some new favoritesthat will stay with me forever, books that I just couldn't stop raving about and had to buy or lend to everyone I knew. Books that I still think about on a daily basis. Not all were necessarily written this year, but this is when I was able to get my hands on them. My new favorites that I just cannot live without are:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Sold by Patricia Machlachlan
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Let Them Eat Cake by Sandra Byrd
Rules by Cynthia Lord
The High Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I can only hope that 2008 is filled with just as many great reads as 2007!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

2007 Wrap-up

Looking back, I read a lot this year! It doesn't seem like a lot of books until you actually add the numbers up, but I can only imagine how many hours of my day I spent with my face in a book. I'm sure with the arrival of our baby that reading time is going to go waaay down! For now, here's my 2007 stats:

Books Read: 210
Female Authors: 168
Male Authors: 40
Non-Fiction Reads: 9 (bad Amanda)
New-to-me Authors: 97
Audio Books: 6
Adult Books: 66
Young Adult Books: 45
Juvenile Fiction Books: 99

A pretty impressive, not to mention busy, year! For next year, my only real goal is to try and read a bit more non-fiction. I know I won't have a whole lot of time on my hands this year, so if I can just mix up the variety a little, I'll be happy.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I'm back...with some news!!!!

So...I've kinda been fibbing to you ya'll for the last month or so, but I think you'll forgive me. You see, I haven't felt like blogging. Or reading. Or typing. Or reading blogs. Or anything for that matter. I've felt like laying in bed and sleeping for as long as humanly possible. However, there is a reason behind this insane sense of exhaustion I've been feeling and a great one at that! The hubby and I are expecting our first baby! YAY!!! Now I've known for over a month, but of course couldn't post on here until the necessary family members and friends were first notified and yes, that took over almost the entire month! We are due in mid-August, around the 10th, so I get to be good and huge over the course of a summer in southern New Mexico. Yippee! Besides that little downer, Aaron and I are extremely excited and can't wait for our little Snowflake to get here (with a last name of Snow, you're bound to get crazy nicknames...we just figured we'd start the trend).

So my blogging friends, please bear with me over the next 7 months or so, where I'll probably be blogging in starts and fits. This post alone will eat up any energy I thought I had today, while tomorrow I'll be back with a 2007 wrapup post. Then hopefully we'll get back into books and reviews. I'm told the exhaustion ends after the first trimester, so I'm crossing my fingers, but also thanking God for the little miracle he has already given us. Who cares if I'm tired, I got a baby coming!!! :-)