Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On Tour With Rene Gutteridge and a DOUBLE Giveaway

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!! In honor of this lovely holiday, I have a great giveaway for you....of a Christmas themed book. I know, I know, waaay too early to be thinking about Christmas, but it's never too early to read Rene Gutteridge.

Boo Humbug is the fourth book in Gutteridge's Boo series. In this installment we meet Lois Stepaphanolopolis, who is convinced that putting on a unique product of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is just what she needs to prove herself as a true writer and just what her town needs to get into the spirit of Christmas.

Lois enlists the help of Wolfe Boone, a man who simply wants a good night's sleep after helping his wife take care of their brand new baby. He believes that helping out with the play will give him some time to himself instead of constantly being at his wife's and his baby's beck and call. Unfortunately, Wolfe and Lois experience some creative differences about the play and he isn't quite sure he can stick it out through the whole production.

Also roped into helping out with the play is Alfred Tennison, a true hater of all things Christmas related. He isn't quite sure how he got involved with a Christmas play, but he knows he shouldn't be there. He doesn't have the guts to back out at the last minute, though he certainly wants to.

These three people have a huge task of getting the production of A Christmas Carol ready in time to open and manage to learn something about themselves in the process. With the humorous banter and quick wit the Boo series is known for, I had an awesome time reading this book. Best of all, the Christian aspects of the book are certainly noticeable, but are written in such a subtle way, rather than being preachy and awkward. Gutteridge is great at blending the spirituality of the characters with great plot lines.
If you are interested in purchasing the book, follow this link:

Leave a comment before Sunday night to win one of TWO copies of Boo Humbug. YAY!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Among the Enemy

In this continuation of the infamous Margaret Peterson Haddix series, Among the Enemy is another excellent thriller. In this sixth "episode" we follow Matthias as he tries to protect his friends Alia and Percy, as well as himself, from the Population Police. During a raid of their cabin by the officers, Alia and Percy are gravely injured, while Matthias accidentally saves the life of one of the members of the Population Police, earning him an honored status with the government and a free ride to join up. Matthias doesn't see himself having any other choice besides dying or going to train with his enemy.

When he arrives at the training facility, Matthias meets up with some of his friends from the Hendrick's school and begins to plan an escape. With the usual thrills, Haddix creates quite the page-turner and had me cheering and crying for Matthias and his friends throughout the whole book.

It has been said many times that these books are awesome for reluctant readers of both genders, and that is so true. I have recommended this series to so many kids and adults alike and I have never heard a bad report back. If you've never given this series a try, you won't regret doing so!

New Challenge

This is just the challenge I need! Over at Overdue Books they are hosting their 2nd In the Stacks Challenge, where we simply choose 5 books to read between November 1 and January 30. The only rule is they have to have already been purchased by you and have been sitting on your shelves waiting to be read. For me...that's simple! Here's my list!

1. Castles in the Sand by Sally John

2. The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

3. Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

4. Chicks with Sticks by Elizabeth Lenhard

5. Best Friends/Worst Enemies by Annie Bryant

If I'm feeling ambitious I may also get to:

The Problem Child by Michael Buckley

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Life, Libby, and the Pursuit of Happiness by Hope Lyda

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Before, After, and Somebody In Between

Fourteen year-old Martha has certainly not had the easiest life. Her dad isn't in the picture and her mom forces her to continuously move in with different boyfriends, while she maintains a strict alcoholic lifestyle. After getting out of yet another rehab, Martha's mom drags her to live with the newest man, Wayne, who unfortunately lives in a neighborhood where white girl Martha is the minority.

In her new school, Martha is immediately threatened by big, black girl and is pretty much terrified to even show up at the place. Nevertheless, Martha manages to make one or two friends and finds out she has a gift for playing the cello. Life turns out to be not so bad, until a horrible act of violence once again turns Martha's life completely upside-down.

This amazing book by Jeannine Garsee is not for the light-hearted and not for anyone yet to hit teenage status. It is filled with the reality of life on the so-called "wrong side of the tracks" and includes plenty of information about teenage sex, drug use, and gang violence. I really hope that doesn't scare readers away, because the book is simply amazing. I have to go see whether or not it has been nominated in the Young Adult Cybils category yet....if not, someone needs to do so!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely

This is the first entry into Christian author, Melody Carlson's TrueColors series. A very simple story at first glance, but filled with the emotion of teenager, Kara. She has been best friends with Jordan practically forever, but this year Jordan has made new friends with the cool kids, leaving Kara behind in the dust. Kara is very depressed and heartbroken over Jordan's betrayal and finds it hard to do anything besides mope. When she begins to make friends with some of the notably "less cool" kids in school, Jordan's new mean behavior gets even worse. Kara continues to doubt her self worth and whether or not making new friends had been a good idea in the first place.

Throughout Kara's story, she gets acquainted with God and what He can do for her in terms of friendship and love. She begins to trust in Him and even is saved by asking Him into her heart. Though she still struggles with that self-doubt, as we all do at times, she knows now that God will always be her best friend and He will never let her down, as Jordan so cruelly did.

I thought this was a great book for older middle readers and younger teens. The storyline is simple, yet emotional and it is very easy to connect with Kara. I love Melody Carlson as a writer and this first series book is spot on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Loud Silence of Francine Green

Eighth grader Francine Green is growing up in a time still reeling from war and where Communists are greatly feared. The story follows Francine from the summer of 1949 through to the summer of 1950, as she becomes friends with Sophie Bowman, a girl not afraid to speak her mind. The girls attend All Saints Girls School, a Catholic school run by the strictest nuns. Nuns that refuse freedom of speech at every turn. Sophie does not follow the rules, always asking questions and wondering out loud about why things are the way they are and that fact is what gets her ruled as a troublemaker. Francine sometimes wishes Sophie would just shut up, but other times wishes she, herself could be more outspoken.

As the school year goes on and the threat of Communists grows, as does Sophie's outbursts, Francine grows frightened for her friend, yet also admires her. The reader gets to see what a true friendship in scary times can really be like, with very realistic dialogue, perfect for the setting of the story.

I found the characters compelling and I loved Sophie, though found myself more like Francine. There were always times when I wanted to speak up and ask questions about why things were happening, but just sat back and hoped someone else would do so. Francine Cushman did a great job with this coming of age story.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Here's Lily!

Here's Lily, the first book in the huge Young Women of Faith series by Nancy Rue introduces us to sixth-grader, Lily. She has always thought herself to be very ordinary and is amazed to find out that a model talent agent wants her to attend modeling classes. Her understandably wary parents insist she may join the classes only if Lily can determine where God stands with her and her interest in modeling. Lily works very hard to prove that God is in her through everything, in order to stay in the classes.

Through the modeling classes and her relationship with her mentor and teacher, Lily is not only given a drastic boost in self-confidence, but also what Rue refers to as "God-Confidence." She comes to understand that it doesn't matter what other kids think about her, it's what God thinks about her that is important. This is a great form of entertainment and Christian learning for young girls and quite the enjoyable story for adults. I'm a sucker for anything in a series, so this was a great read for me. And another Fall Into Reading Challenge book done!

Miracle Dog, Challenge Book

I sped through this one at the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and just loved it. It's a book every animal lover should read, simply to raise awareness as to how certain shelters operate in this country.
In Miracle Dog: How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row author Randy Grim describes how he came to foster, and then own, Quentin. The dog was on the "death row" in a St. Louis animal shelter and was gassed along with several other dogs. Instead of dying as he was supposed to, the gas chamber operator opened the door to dispose of the deceased dogs and found Quentin standing on top of the pile of animals. She then knew that this dog was special. Quentin goes on to help raise awareness for the horrible ways animals are euthanized and why laws need to be changed. He succeeded in getting the St. Louis shelter to discontinue using gas as its method, switching instead to the more human, lethal injection. Quentin also helps to bring awareness to the importance of spaying and neutering animals, as well as keeping good track of pets in order to prevent unnecessary shelter visits.

This was a very heartbreaking and eye-opening book. I had no idea that there were such things as animal gas chambers and I love that this dog survived, living to help other dogs in situations just like his. This was a short book, one that I was able to read very quickly, helping to knock another off my Four Legged Friends challenge list.

Being able to build a dog house for your dog is nice since a dog house is something that your dog will utilize. Other things like dog supplies needed and other dog items can be found over the internet.

Sarah, Plain and Tall

Of all the classic children's books to have never read, I can't believe I've skipped over this one for years and years. In fact, I just found out several weeks ago that it is actually part of a series! Who know?! Not me, but I'm sure all of you!

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a Newbery Award Winner book by Patricia MacLachlan. In its short 64 page self, this lovely book tells the huge story of a widower in 19th century Midwest, that advertises for a wife and mother for his two young children, Anna and Caleb. Sarah answers the advertisement and soon arrives from Maine, winning the hearts of the children and their father very quickly. Young Caleb however, having never met his mother due to her death during his birth, is frightened that Sarah is so homesick for Maine that she will not want to stay with their family forever. Sarah soon makes it known that though she loves Maine and misses it very much, she loves the children and their father more.

This was really such a sweet and lovely story. Though it was very short for a chapter book, it conveyed all of its meaning in the pages it did have and left me wanting more of this family. Now that I know I can have more in the sequels, I'm happy! Mark one off my Book Award Challenge list!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Looking Glass Wars

When young Alyss Heart, the Princess of Wonderland, witnesses the deaths of her parents, the King and Queen at the hands of her Aunt Redd, she escapes by jumping into the enchanted Pool of Tears and entering London in the mid-18th century. After being placed in an orphanage she is adopted by an older couple that look down upon any talk of Wonderland and change the spelling of Alyss's name to "Alice."
When Alice decides she can trust in a local Reverend, she bares her soul and tells him all about her life in Wonderland, which the Reverend quickly produces a book about, what we know as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Unfortunately, the Reverend filled the book with untruths about Alice's life, leaving her heartbroken and outraged. She simply wants someone to believe her and believe in Wonderland.

After over eighteen years of searching, Hatter Maddigan locates Alice in London, about to marry a Prince. He explains to her that she must come back to Wonderland and take her rightful place as Queen, saving her followers, called the Alyssians, from the continued wrath of her Aunt Redd. Alice is plunged back into her world of Wonderland, though it has been slowly destroyed by her Aunt and is in complete ruin, now run by the followers of Redd and her loyal companion The Cat.

Though this is nothing like Lewis Carroll's original story, it put a whole new twist on magical books. Beddor took a story that has been written, filmed, and loved by many children and adults and spun it into gold. I loved the battle scenes, I loved the fact that Alyss insists her name was never spelled "Alice" and I loved finding characters in different roles than they have ever been described before. This was an excellent book, one that I will be purchasing for my own shelves.

Post-Reading Survey

I had so much fun with the Read-a-Thon and Dewey has kindly asked us to participate in a post-reading survey. Much obliged Dewey!

Post Read-a-thon Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Probably the last hour that I read. I only made it until about 1:30, which is quite late for me to be staying up. With only the dog to keep me company I fell asleep much too easily. I would have loved to have made the full 24 hours!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Any short enough to be finished in an hour or two. That's how I kept going. If you're looking for action, check out The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix or the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, though that one is a bit long.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

The only suggestion I have is that possibly with the challenges, either make them all one hour long only, or all for the entirety of the Read-a-thon. Dewey did a good job of keeping track of which were one hours and which were whole challenge ones, but I often forgot to check back each hour and missed out on the shorter challenges.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I loved the cheerleaders! They were such great motivators and it was awesome to go back to check my blog and see so many comments.

5. How many books did you read?

8 Total, though I started 2 additional.

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Quilts From Heaven by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Violet Bing and the Grand House by Jennifer Paros

The Quail Club by Carolyn Marsden

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Miracle Dog by Randy Grim

Dear Baby Girl by Jane Orcutt

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Here's Lily by Nancy Rue

I also started Finding Alice by Melody Carlson and These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

The Looking Glass Wars. It was fantastic!

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Violet Bing and the Grand House. I've heard lots of positive reviews about this book, but I really didn't like it.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

Not applicable

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will definitely participate again! Most likely I would be a reader again, though if something were to get in the way of that I would be a cheerleader.

Final Update and Giveaways

I knew that once I lay down in bed to read, it was all over. I can't read in bed for more than 15 minutes without falling asleep and that's exactly what happened. I did, however, get about 15 pages into another book, These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon. So, here are my totals:

Total Books Read: 8
Total Pages Read: 1040
Total Time Spent Reading: About 12.5 hours

This was so much fun, I really had a blast doing it. Thanks again to the organizers and everyone who commented on my posts. You were great motivators! I can't wait to read everyone's reviews! Mine will start being posted today. And don't forget I'm giving away two books. One tonight (Kathy Herman) and one tomorrow night (Amy Grant). Leave me comments here and here to enter! Thanks again everyone!

Update #5

I have been a reading machine the last 4 hours! I haven't really checked in, but I've been reading some other's blogs and trying to leave comments where I could. I've now finished Here's Lily by Nancy Rue, Quilts From Heaven by Lucinda Secrest McDowell, Violet Bing and the Grand House by Jennifer Paros, and The Quail Club by Carolyn Marsden. I'm also partially through Finding Alice by Melody Carlson, though only about 20 pages. That's not too bad! Plus I made dinner, ran out to buy a birthday card, and did a load of laundry. Yay me!! I hope everyone else is having fun too, though I'm sure a lot of you have gone to bed. I'm making my way there soon!

Total Books Read: 7
Total Pages Read: 1019
Total Time Read: about 12 hours

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Update #4

Well it's now 6:45 Mountain Time and I have finished The Looking Glass Wars. Look for a review probably tomorrow, but for those of you that were interested in how I would like it, I actually loved it! It was great! If you were thinking about picking it up, but haven't yet, do so! In the last few hours I've also taken another walk with the dog, ran out to get something for dinner, made soup, and cleaned up the backyard in order to run the sprinkler. Overall that took probably an hour out of my reading time.

Total Books Read: 4
Total Time Read: About 6 Hours
Total Pages Read: 625

Update #3

This is seriously SO MUCH FUN!!! We need to do this like once a month! Hehe, if only! Anyways, I've finished Miracle Dog by Randy Grim and am about 100 pages into The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. I'm going to put that one down for a bit and start another shorter book. I'm determined to finish it by the time the challenge is over, it's great so far! I also just took a break to browse some blogs and have lunch. I'll be starting my reading again shortly. Great job so far everyone!

Total Books Read: 3

Total Pages Read: 270

Time Spent Reading: about 4 hours


Over at While My Guitar Gently Weeps is the first mini-challenge I'm participating in. The rules are simple: just open the book you are currently reading to the first page and right a 4 (or so) line song based on what you read. The book I'm reading is a non-fiction selection by Randy Grim titled: Miracle Dog. Here's my "song:"

"They are beaten, they are battered, they are bruised.
They are caged, they are killed, they always seem to lose.
These precious dogs have often done no harm.
They can't help themselves, they look to us to keep them safe and warm.
How can we stand by letting sweet dogs die.
Their biggest challenge is simply to stay alive.
Adopt one, hug one, love one, do....
The biggest reward is that they will love you too..."

I never said I was a writer! There is a reason I like to read and not write! :-)

Update #2

In the last 2 hours I read another book (and a challenge book at that), made breakfast, fed the animals, and walked the dog. The book, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan wasn't very long, but I love the fact that I am completing so many TBRs already! And thanks for all the great cheerleading comments. You guys are awesome motivators! I'll definitely be doing some challenges soon as well.

Books Read: 2

Time Spent Reading: 1.5 hours

Total Pages: 165

Update #1

It's about an hour into the read-a-thon and I've completed my first book The Field Guide by Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black. As I said, I'm going to try and stick to shorter books in order to keep my attention span. I'll do all my reviews at the end of the challenge, probably over the next two days or so. I'll update every couple of hours. I hope everyone is enjoying themselves so far! A great excuse to sit around and read all day!

Books Completed: 1
Total time read: 1 hour
Total pages read: 107

I'm a Reader!!

I'll be starting my reading tomorrow around 8am and trying to go until 8am Sunday morning. I know I will be needing sleeping somewhere in there, as I am no longer a stay-up-all-night person. I plan to stick mainly to young adult and middle grade fiction, as my TBR pile is humongous at this point. Good luck to everyone else participating!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Tour with Amy Grant

Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, written by bestselling Christian music artist Amy Grant, is an excellent compilation of poems, song lyrics, and narrative. Grant takes different, memorable scenes from her life as a daughter, wife, mother, Christian, and singer and places them all in to this book in a manner that reflects her loving, kind, and down-to-earth personality. The reader gets to see the inner soul of Grant, as she digs deep into her life and presents a unique memoir full of honesty.

Many quotes in this book stood out to me, though one remains strongest in my mind and it was written in the introduction. Amy was describing a visit to Minnie Pearl, her daughter's namesake, where Minnie stated that the most important color in an artist's palette is black. Black adds depth to things, without black we would all be flat. Amy responds to this by saying "In our lives the darkest times, the days that are bleak and black, add depth to every other experience. Like the dark bits of color in a mosaic, they add the contrast and shadows that give beauty to the whole, but they are just a small part of the big picture." This quote had an immediate effect on me, simply because it is so very true. Parts of our lives are black and dreary. We are unhappy, the world seems to be falling down around us, but in the whole of our lives, that black just adds depth to the light. The good things in life wouldn't seem so good without the bad.

I also loved the inclusion of the song lyrics, especially some of those from the late eighties and early nineties. "Ask Me" has always been one of my favorite songs, but I haven't heard it in so long. Reading the lyrics reminded me just how powerful the song has always felt to me and how much soul is really in the words Amy Grant sings.

I am so glad I was chosen to review this book, as I loved it so much. Amy Grant can not only sing and bring me closer to the Lord with her voice, she can also write. I am going to cherish this book and read it again and again...not to mention give it to all of my friends for Christmas! Speaking of giving...I have one copy to giveaway, so leave a comment before Monday night and I'll pick a winner to get a copy!

New Moon

Oh Stephanie Meyer you have me addicted to vampires now. I thought my listening to the books, rather than reading them, would help keep my enjoyment of the stories around for longer, but it's just as bad as reading. I WANT ECLIPSE NOWWWW!!! :-) But I'll wait like a good girl, until it's my turn.

In New Moon, Bella celebrates her recovery from the vampire attack, as well as her birthday, with Edward and the rest of the Cullen family. When she accidentally cuts herself, sparking an awful reaction by the family, Bella feels horrible. She hates being human while everyone she loves is a vampire. Matters are made even worse when Edward decides he and his family are going to leave Forks, and Bella. He tries to explain that it's better for her to be around humans, not vampires, but Bella doesn't understand. She falls into a deep depression, ignoring her father, her friends, and everything around her.

After almost 6 months of despair, Bella's life finally begins to look up when she finds a good friend in Jacob Black. She spends all of her time with Jacob and finally learns to smile again, and then becomes privy to an awful secret Jacob and his friends share. Bella needs to decide what to do with the information she has learned, while keeping Jacob as her friend and most importantly- herself alive. When Edward is suddenly thrust back into her life unexpectedly, Bella is even more overwhelmed and ultimately in a struggle to save everyone.

This novel wasn't quite as exciting as Twilight, but I think that's only due to the major lack of Edward throughout the story. He's probably my favorite character from the first book and since he didn't spend a lot of time on the pages of this one, I was a little disappointed, but not enough to keep me from loving this one. Even if you aren't a vampire book fan, I definitely suggest you picking this one up....I already converted several bloggers to be Stephanie Meyer could be next!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just Listen

Now I know why everyone raves about Sarah Dessen books. This book was fabulous and completely captures the way broken way in which some teenagers go about their daily lives, yet never telling anyone.

Annabel appears to have the perfect life. She's a successful model, gets pretty good grades in school, and has a lot of friends. That all comes crashing down around her after one night at a party. The reader doesn't get to find out what significance the party holds until the end of the book, but from the beginning we know that whatever it was completely altered Annabel's perfect life. Her friends stop talking to her, except to call her horrible names, she is losing her sister to an eating disorder, and since she continues to keep everything bottled inside, she slowly breaks down.

Until she meets Owen. Owen is another social misfit at school, one known for fighting and anger problems. When he and Annabel slowly become friends, they both seem to change both internally and externally. They help each other to grow as people and their friendship begins to be a bit more. Unfortunately, life once again rears up to bite them and the Annabel must figure out what parts of her life are truly important.

Just Listen was a great young adult novel and one teen girls can not only enjoy, but also learn from. It deals with very serious issues, but Sarah Dessen approaches them in a way that teens will relate to. It was a quick read, but one that I enjoyed immensely.

Gilda Joyce and Enola Holmes

I love girls who solve mysteries! I was a big fan of Nancy Drew when I was younger, I loved reading about Theodora's adventures in Theodora and the Serpents of Chaos, and now I love Gilda Joyce and Enola Holmes, both lead characters in two great series for middle readers.

The first book, Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator is written by Jennifer Allison follows 14-year old Gilda, a girl convinced she has psychic abilities and loves to people watch. She somewhat rudely invites herself to San Francisco to spend the summer at her mother's cousin Lester's home. Once there, she finds herself befriending Lester's daughter Juliet, also 14, and the two of them pair up to solve the mystery of Juliet's Aunt's death years ago. The girls spend their time in a house they believe is full of ghosts, try to figure out a way to get into the house's tower, and learn about each other as they go. Though they originally believed they were incredibly different, by the end they aren't so sure.

Gilda Joyce was a great character, though some of the language was a bit "advanced" for some middle readers. Nothing horrible or disturbing, just mature. I would put this one at 10/12 and up. She has two additional books she is starring in, those being Gilda Joyce and the Ladies of the Lake and Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata.

The second strong female book series I have enjoyed lately has been that starring Enola Holmes, much younger sister of the famous Sherlock Holmes. In her first installment, The Case of the Missing Marquess, Enola is stunned when her mother disappears without warning on Enola's birthday, leaving behind only a few gifts and no note. Her older brothers arrive to assist Enola is finding her mother and when they realize that may be more difficult than anticipated, her eldest brother arranges for Enola to be sent away to a boarding school. Extremely upset with the news, Enola decides to take the mystery of her mother's disappearance into her own hands, before she gets shipped off to school.

Though not as quirky as Gilda, Enola definitely is a strong character, with very quick wit.... nice for the time period this book takes place in. This is another great selection for middle readers that love mystery!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Tour with Kathy Herman (and a Giveaway!)

In the second installment of the Phantom Hollow series, Kathy Herman brings back Ivy Griffin as her main character. Ivy has just gotten out of jail after serving time for covering up the murder of a high school classmate and is eager to get her life back together. Ivy and her son, Montana, move into a house, Ivy gets a great job, and she continues to reestablish relationships with her family.

When Rue Kessler comes to town and takes a romantic interest in Ivy, she is happy to finally have found a male role model for Montana. Unfortunately, just when life is beginning to be good again, it is discovered that Rue is keeping a secret from Ivy, a secret that ultimately involves Montana. Ivy isn't sure who or what to believe anymore and simply wants to know the truth. She begins to think that maybe her faith in God has all been for nothing and that He is abandoning her once and for all. In order to get her faith back in check, Ivy must search for more answers about Rue, God, and herself.

This was another great novel by Kathy Herman and one that fans of her work will certainly enjoy. It's a nice mix of suspense, romance, and small town likability. I have 3 copies of the book to give away, so leave me a comment by Sunday night (10/21) to enter.!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Finding Grace

Quirky is the main word that comes to mind when I try to describe this book. It is very much a quirky story about a very quirky girl that is employed by quirky people. Rachel has just graduated from high school and is about to start courses at the university when she is hired by a local attorney to care for a brain damaged woman named Grace. She begins the job believing it will be a piece of cake and without a whole lot of compassion for Grace, though once she starts finding out a little more about who Grace was before the accident, that mentality slowly begins to change. Rachel becomes determined to make Grace have the best life she can, even if Grace herself doesn't understand that.

This story, written by Alyssa Brugman, was both heart-wrenching and humorous (did I mention it was quirky?). All of the characters were incredibly honest within themselves, though the reader doesn't discover those bits until the end of the novel. I loved how Rachel grew into herself and helped Grace to continue to grow, even in her brain damaged state. The descriptions of situations, surroundings, and people are excellent....and quirky!!

Rickshaw Girl

Mitali Perkins has created yet another wonderful novel about strong, cultural girls. In Rickshaw Girl, we meant Naima, a ten-year old girl living in Bangladesh. Her father owns a rickshaw business, finally gaining more business as he gets a brand new rickshaw, but still not enough business to pay the family bills. Naima is upset because she knows if she had been born a boy she could help earn money for the family, but being that she is a girl she has no choice but to stay home and work on her painting.

When Naima decides to disguise herself as a boy and teach herself how to drive the rickshaw, she manages to crash the rickshaw, damaging the beauty of the cart and ruining all chances of her father continuing to gain new clients. Devastated, she again disguises herself as a boy and steals away to a new repair shop the next town over, hoping she can somehow earn money to help repair the damaged rickshaw. What she finds in the repair shop is surprising, heartwarming, and inspirational.

This short novel was fantastic and typical Mitali Perkins writing. Young girls can read this and feel empowered to do anything they want to do, no matter what that may be. The story is also accompanied by a few illustrations that not only add to the plot, but also allow the reader to view the work Naima can do. The book was really quite amazing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Another Challenge!

Perfect for me! Joy over at Thoughts of Joy is hosting the Young Adult Book Challenge. Simply read 12 books in 2008 in the Young adult genre. It's all at your own pace, so it's not a one a month thing. I'll hopefully have these all done pretty soon into 2008...I want to get them all done! Easy enough! Here's my list:

1. Homecoming by Cynthia Voight
2. Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
3. Tyrell by Coe Booth
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
5. The Finnish Line by Linda Gerber
6. Girl Overboard by Aimee Ferris
7. The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson
8. Harsh Pink by Melody Carlson
9. Moon White by Melody Carlson
10. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
11. I Am David by Anne Holm
12. Zach's Lie by Roland Smith

Among the Brave

I haven't picked up a Margaret Peterson Haddix book in over a month and figured it's high time to get back to them! I really want to finish the Shadow Children series, so Among the Brave was my next obvious choice by the author.

This installment in the series picks right up where the last book left off. After watching the Grants be killed, Trey, Lee, and Nina, as well as the chauffeur, high-tail it to Mr. Talbot's house to get help. Unfortunately, right as they arrive and Trey rings the doorbell, they all see Mr. Talbot being taken away by the Population handcuffs. The kids' driver quickly speeds away, leaving Trey alone on the porch of the Talbot's house. Once the Population Police leave, Trey spends the next few days waiting for his friends to come back to him, becoming more and more panicked as the days goes by and they do not arrive.

After waiting for days, Trey decides to hook up with Lee's older brother Mark to try and save his friends. This leads to high speed chases, lack of food, imprisonment, and eventual joining of the Population Police. This book was another excellent adventure by Haddix, leaving the reader (me) wanting more, more, more! I love the suspense in these novels and completely agree with critics when they state that reluctant readers should try this series. The books would get anyone reading!

Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen chronicles several months in the life of Jacob Jankowski, a former employee of the circus. The story begins with ninety year old Jacob reminiscing about his time in the circus from the bedroom of an assisted living facility. Though immediately we can tell that Jacob's life has not always been easy and currently is incredibly lonely, it is quite obvious that he is smiling when thinking about his time with the big show.

Jacob tells the reader about how he came to join the circus after walking out on his final exams in veterinary school. He was inches away from becoming a certified vet, just like his father, and taking over the family practice, but when his father dies suddenly and Jacob learns there is no longer a practice to run, he walks away from the only life he ever knew and proceeds to join a failing their vet. It is the time of the Great Depression and also a time where the Ringling Brothers Circus is starting its upward climb to stardom and Jacob's circus is constantly trying to catch up.

We learn firsthand the horrific situation that Jacob has gotten himself into, caring for many abused and starving animals, as well as abused and starving circus employees. The animal manager of the show, August, is a crazy man that leaves no animal unharmed, but focuses his rage mainly on Rosie, the show's sole elephant. While Jacob vows to protect the animals, a task none-too easy, he also manages to fall in love with Marlena, August's wife. A move of the heart certainly, but also an almost guaranteed death sentence. The couple are afraid to leave the show, with the animals being in August's hands, but they cannot continue loving each other and working under the big top of this circus. A huge number of dilemmas are handed to Jacob, each one seeming more complicated than the last.

I was enthralled by this delicious novel and am sorry I waited so long to read it. I should really get over my decision to wait until all the hype over books is done before reading it....when a book is grabbed up by millions of readers, that says something! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale of the circus, which is also filled with an awesome love story, as well as tragic circumstances the characters are determined to overcome. This is a definite must read!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Light

First Light by Rebecca Stead is told by two narrators. The first, Peter, is the son of a glaciologist and a genetic scientist. He is thrilled when his parents decide to take him on an expedition to Greenland, where they will be studying different aspects of glacier ice caps and the effects of global warming. Thea, the other narrator, lives in a city underneath the ice in Greenland, called Gracehope. Thea and Peter meet accidentally and without warning, the two worlds collide in what could be disaster.

The novel was a bit slow in the beginning, but picked up in pace and excitement towards the middle. The was very reminiscent of Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember books, though I almost liked the setting in First Light better. It has been said that people can really survive surrounded by who knows if there really is a Gracehope out there! :-)

I was a little disappointed in this title, though I very much enjoyed just wasn't quite as fabulous as everyone has said. I think that's why I would much rather read a book before so many other people get their hands on it, that way my view isn't skewed and I don't get my expectations too high! At any rate, I still enjoyed the book, it was well written and I look forward to seeing other works from this author. Another Fall Into Reading Challenge book completed!

The Secrets of Peaches

The sequel to Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson, this title picks up almost immediately where the previous book left off. Summer at the orchard is winding down and Murphy, Birdie, and Leeda are starting their senior years in school. Having been home schooled on the orchard for all of her life, Birdie knows exactly what she'll be doing once school is over and instead of trying to decide what college to go to like the other girls, spends her time missing Enrique, her boyfriend that has returned to Mexico. Leeda, much to her own dismay, agrees to be the county's annual Pecan Queen, simply to appease her mother, who appears to be ill. Murphy insists she is going to NYU after school and spends her time trying to convince her boyfriend, Rex, to move to the city with her.

The girls focus a lot of their time on typical teenage worries such as boyfriends, college, and money. When each girl is faced with difficult decisions, they lean on each other to make the right choices for themselves, rather than what the world seems to want from them. Each of the characters are very comparable to real girls and readers will be able to identify with at least one, if not all of the girls. I found myself in Birdie...always wanting to do what is right for my family, forgetting that my life was also about me. Other girls may find themselves in Leeda, where her mother controls her life and appearances are extremely important, or in Murphy who is just lost and trying to find her way.

After completing Peaches, a couple of weeks ago, I had to go out and get the sequel almost immediately. The first book was, in my opinion, the perfect "teen girl" novel and I had very high hopes for the second. These books are very reminiscent of Ann Brashares Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and I think that is one reason I love them as much as I do. If you have a teen girl, know one, or just love young adults novels (like me!), then give these two novels a try. They won't disappoint!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Library Thing Meme

I can't resist these memes...I'm not quite sure why. Anyways, this one is making it's way around the blogosphere, so I figured I would chime in my two cents.

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users (as of today). As usual, bold what you have read, italicise that you started but couldn’t finish, and strike through what you couldn’t stand. Add an asterisk* to those you’ve read more than once. Underline those on your to-read list.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and punishment
One hundred years of solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel
The name of the rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales
The historian : a novel
A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of cholera
Brave new world
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A clockwork orange
Anansi boys
The once and future king
The grapes of wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & demons
The inferno
The satanic verses
Sense and sensibility
The picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest
To the lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s travels
Les misérables
The corrections
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
The prince
The sound and the fury
Angela’s ashes : a memoir
The god of small things
A people’s history of the United States : 1492-present
A confederacy of dunces
A short history of nearly everything
The unbearable lightness of being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an Inquiry into Values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The three musketeers

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Golden Compass

The first in a trilogy by Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass was one of the biggest surprise books I've read this year. In my library, it is shelved in the adult science fiction section, an area I usually keep away from, therefore leading me to believe I probably wouldn't enjoy the book. Then when I saw the preview for the upcoming movie, I knew I had to read it and I was not disappointed!

The Golden Compass introduces the reader to Lyra, an orphan growing up at Oxford under the care of her uncle. She is rather like a tomboy, spending her time playing with her best friend Roger and getting herself into all sorts of mischief with her daemon (oh yeah, every person has their own daemon...and if you don't know what that is until you read the book, don't feel bad, neither did I). When a lovely, intelligent woman, Mrs. Coulter, arrives at Oxford and offers to take Lyra away with her for hands-on schooling, Lyra is incredibly excited and rather enjoys herself at first. When she realizes that the schooling Mrs. Coulter plans for her is of the sinister and evil nature, she knows that she has to take matters into her own hands to save the children of the world.

Filled with armored bears, witches, and a special golden compass that will explain everything, Pullman's book was a pleasure to read. I truly enjoyed this book and definitely feel it will appeal to adults AND children. It should not have been shelved in the adult science fiction section in my own opinion, possibly young adult would have been better, though I really don't see why it's not in the juvenile section! Before watching the movie, which happens to star Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, please read this is definitely worth your time!

A Light in the Window

Jan Karon's A Light in the Window is the second installment in her much loved Mitford series and the second book on my list for the Read the Author challenge. Life picks up pretty much where it left off in the last book, with Father Tim deciding if he loves his neighbor Cynthia, as well as dealing with the advances of another lady parishioner. All of the characters from the first novel make appearances in this book, as well as the addition of several new ones, including Buck Leeper, the construction worker leading the job of building the new rest home, and Father Tim's cousin Meg who has followed him back from Ireland and begins to quickly wear out her welcome. A fierce snowstorm causes the Father and Dooley to be snowed in at home and constant misunderstandings between he and Cynthia keep the reader laughing.

This was another lovely mix of humor, sentimentality, and coziness and though not quite as exciting as the first novel, certainly held my attention and has me looking forward to book three. Mitford certainly is written as a wonderful place to live and makes me want to search out my own town like that!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

If my boss hadn't recommended this book, I never would have read it and therefore would never have had the amazing reading experience that I did last night. I know that I will rave about this book for years and years to come and will forever be recommending it to children and adults.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie was written by Jordan Sonnenblick and follows Steven Alper, a young man that loves playing the drums, loves looking at pretty girls (especially Renee), and really dislikes having a younger brother. 7 year old Jeffrey is almost half Steven's age, yet gets into twice as much trouble and is definitely twice as annoying. When Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia and proceeds to get very sick, Steven's entire life is turned upside down. His days are no longer filled with simple drum practices, homework, or girl chasing. They are filled with a sick little brother that loves him more than anything and expects him to be the brave one.

As the reader learns more about Jeffrey and Steven, we learn what a brotherly bond is truly about. We learn what true friendships are and what really matters in life. If this book had been written this year, it would be my number one choice for middle grade fiction. Unfortunately it was originally published in 2004, making it a few years too late! However long ago it was written, this was an amazing story, one that I would recommend over and over again to adults and children alike. It was funny, sad, and so real. If you're like me and are just being introduced to this book, RUN out and get it from a bookstore or a library. If you've read it before, go back and enjoy it again. You won't regret it.

Ever Present Danger

Kathy Herman is an excellent author of Christian suspense and Ever Present Danger, the first installment in the new Phantom Hollow series, is no exception. It is a story of family, love, and the difficult path to escaping one's past.

Ivy Griffith made some horrible decisions in her life. When she was a teenager, she and her friends chose to do something that would have her living in fear and guilt for most of her life. Ivy ultimately runs away from her home and her parents, turning to drugs to ease her pain. When she returns to Phantom Hollow, many years later with her seven year old son, Montana, and a clean lifestyle, she is determined to set things straight with the people she has hurt over the years. Unfortunately, before she can bravely clear herself of her guilt, a tragedy strikes at her high school reunion, setting in motion the ultimate mystery.

Kathy Herman has this way about her, in which she can create characters that her reader can connect to, but spinning those characters into thrills and mysteries like no other. She also weaves great Christian values and Scripture into the stories, without being "preachy." I really love that most of her books are parts of series, that way I can keep up with the characters and still gets the thrills I love! If you've never tried Kathy Herman, I definitely recommend you giving it a try!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

On Tour with Nicole Baart

In one of the best debuts by a new author that I have ever read, After the Leaves Fall introduces us to Julia, a young woman living with her grandmother on her farm after her father has passed away and her mother has left. She is a very smart 17 year old, though much too old for her time, having suffered loss after loss, most recently when her childhood love went off to college and came home the boyfriend of another girl. She makes the decision to take her life's path into her own hands and stop leaving it up to the Lord she no longer connects with.

Julia attempts to reinvent herself and travels off to college to study engineering. While trying to learn who the true Julia is, as well as escape her difficult past, Julia only becomes more confused and ultimately makes a choice that alters her life forever. She escapes back to her grandmother's farm, Julia must grow into herself and reconnect with God, or risk losing herself for good.

Personally, it is very hard for me to connect with first time authors and their novels the way in which I've connected with After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart. The characters are so very real and I related to the plot and Julia's different situations very closely. I also grew up without a father after he passed away suddenly and was thrust into a life where I no longer knew myself. I absolutely loved this book and cherish it's story. There is so much more to this novel than a coming-of-age story or a healing story. This is a book filled with heart, soul, and love.

If you haven't takin a tour to Grand Canyon yet, then you might want to go with the grand canyon helicopter tours. You can have your family an unforgettable vacation while in the grand canyon lodging. Take a tour to the Grand Canyon if you ever have the chance!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Christopher Killer

Oooh, a forensic mystery for teens! What more could one ask for! This book was perfectly written, with great elements of surprise, as well as plenty of facts...all on a teenagers level. I loved this book and am on the way to the library to get the second one! Another Fall Into Reading Challenge book to cross off!

The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson, features Cameryn, a 17 year old wanna-be forensic detective that gets hired as an assistant to her father, the small town coroner. Cameryn is incredibly smart and reads all kinds of books about forensics, giving her a good leg up in the science world. However, she isn't quite prepared for actually seeing death firsthand, pretty much losing it at her first scene. Cameryn is determined to prove to her father and all the other skeptics in town, that she really can do her job and do it well. She has the true chance to prove herself when one of her close friends is murdered and it is though to be the job of the famed serial murderer, "The Christopher Killer." Cameryn must allow her self to separate from the emotional aspect of the case in order to solve the murder of her friend.

Again, a great mystery book for teens that love CSI or shows like that. This one doesn't have a whole lot of gore, though the scenes are described with pretty great detail, tastefully. I enjoyed it!

Triple 8 Challenge

AHHHHHHH I've joined another!! I think by now I've already reached my quota of challenges for next year and it's only October! What can I say, I love participation! 3M is hosting the Triple 8 Challenge it was just too good to pass up. It runs from January 2008-December of 2008 and participants can change their lists whenever they want, making it a very flexible challenge. A lot of my books will be rereads that I've been wanting to get to....basically to see if I still love the books and want to keep them (I'm getting desperate for shelf space) and the others are ones I feel I should have read by now or have been wanting to read for a very long time. Here's my tentative list:

8 Jodi Picoult Books:
-Perfect Match
-Salem Falls
-Songs of the Humpback Whale
-Harvesting the Heart
-Second Glance
-Keeping Faith
-Second Glance
-Changing Heart

8 Luanne Rice Books
-Cloud Nine
-Firefly Beach
-Home Fires
-Summer Light
-Safe Harbor
-Summer's Child
-The Secret Hour
-The Perfect Summer

8 Re-Reads from My Shelves
-The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
-A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks
-The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks
-Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
-The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
-Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
-The Observatory by Emily Grayson
-The Gazebo by Emily Grayson

8 Christian Young Adult Books
-Deep Green by Melody Carlson
-Torch Red by Melody Carlson
-Becoming Me by Melody Carlson
-It's My Life by Melody Carlson
-Who I Am by Melody Carlson
-Only You, Sierra by Robin Jones Gunn
-In Your Dreams by Robin Jones Gunn
-Don't You Wish by Robin Jones Gunn

8 Children's Classic Books
-The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
-A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
-Heidi by Johanna Spyri
-A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
-The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting
-The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum
-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
-Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O'Brien

8 Historical Fiction Books
-The Bread Winner by Arvella Whitmore
-Bridge to America by Linda Glaser
-Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
-Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
-The Staircase by Ann Rinaldi
-The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher
-Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
-Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

8 Newbery Honor Books
-Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
-Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm
-Home Was Here by Joan Bauer
-Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath
-The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
-The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis
-Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
-A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

8 Fantasy Books
-The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
-The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
-The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
-The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
-The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
-The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson
-Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle by R.K. Mortenson
-A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

Books Read in September

How I managed this, I'm not really sure, but I LOVE being able to finish 30 books in a month!!! Here's the list:

Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagan
Bones to Ashes by Kathy Reiches
Magyk by Angie Sage
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke (audiobook)
Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson
Defect by Will Weaver
Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn
A Whisper and a Wish by Robin Jones Gunn
Yours Forever by Robin Jones Gunn
Before I Wake by Robert Wiersema
The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis
The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Tough by Neta Jackson
In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Once Upon a Quinceneara by Julia Alverez
Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
The Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carmen
Wait for Me by An Na
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Crossroads by Nancy Moser
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
After the Leaves Fall by Nicole Baart
Born to Rule by Kathryn Lasky
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson