Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

The first bit doesn't have spoilers, but I don't know how to talk about this book without spoilers, so if you haven't read it, be warned.

I read the final Harry Potter within 24 hours of it's release. We were traveling, so I just spent the entire time at the airport and on the airplane completely ignoring my husband and reading the book. Then I spent a week begging my husband to finish it so we could talk about it. Then we talked about it for a few weeks. I wanted to re-read it, but I needed to give myself time to process the things we learned (particularly about Dumbledore) before I re-read it. Then, the furor wore off and I got distracted with other things. A few weeks ago, I saw that our library had it on tape and decided to give it a listen.

If you haven't listened to Jim Dale's audio versions of Harry Potter, you really are missing out. Previously I had listened to 1-5 on tape, and thoroughly enjoyed them. He's amazing and he even won a Grammy for book 7.

So, I know all of this Harry Potter stuff is old news, but I thought I would post some of my thoughts from the last book, which I enjoyed a lot more the second time. I would love to hear other's thoughts...

There are some SPOILERS from here on out. So, stop now if you don't want to know!

First of all, I am still not convinced that Snape was a good guy. Before it came out my in-laws and I pow-wowed (we were at a family reunion when it came out) and made a bunch of predictions. I said that I thought Snape was mostly out for himself. He wasn't good or bad per say, he was simply doing what was best for Snape. Even after the dramatic chapter near the end (which is one of my favorite chapters in the series), I still am not convinced that Snape helped Harry and the Order out of the goodness of his heart. I think he did it to relieve his guilt and in an effort to prove his love. Harry forgave him and blah blah blah, but it all still seemed really self-serving to me.

I thought that Hedwig's death was the saddest of all. I more or less guessed everyone else who would die (not Dobby because I didn't even think of him, but it made sense), but Hedwig was a complete surprise. I know Hedwig was "just" an owl, but she really did represent the wizarding world, and the beginning of Harry's new life, and lots of good. I didn't see it coming at all and it broke my heart. I also thought Tonks, Lupin and Fred's deaths were unnecessary. I figured if Tonks or Lupin died the other would too, but it seemed cruel to leave a baby behind.

I was afraid that Arthur Weasely was the spy in the Order. Right after the death eaters surprise the Order by appearing at the relocation, the members begin questioning each other to make sure they aren't impostors. Arthur wouldn't let Kingsley ask him because he wanted to check on George (understandably), but no one ever did check on him later (at least that we saw). I was SO relieved when he wasn't the impostor.

Did Kreacher's transformation bother anyone else? I can see him being nicer and happier after getting his secret off his chest and Harry being nicer to him. But to go from barely functioning to a shiny house and cooking large meals every day seemed a bit extreme. However, I was glad that he was redeemed. I always kind of felt bad for him - he seemed to have a particularly hard life.

Maybe because I was listening to it (I can usually ignore it when I read), but it seamed like there was more swearing in this book. I especially didn't appreciated Ron's use of "effin." Not technically a bad word, but still. I also hated that Mrs. Weasely swore at the end. I know it Bella had it coming, and I know that in real life people curse, but I don't like swearing, and I had really appreciated that throughout the books people didn't swear.

Finally, to end on a lighter note, this is how my brother-in-law found out that Harry lived. His nanny came down to breakfast and relayed a phone conversation she had with a friend. "So and so asked, is it bad that I thank Heavenly Father every night that Harry Potter lived?"

4 out of 5 stars (but a necessary read for fans of the series!)

blog maintenance

I decided I wanted some way of rating the books I read. So, I will start adding how many stars out of 5 I think the book deserves. The stars mean:

1 star = horrible. don't bother. I might not have even finished it.
2 stars = I didn't like it. It wasn't horrible, but I probably wouldn't recommend it, and would never read again.
3 stars = it was ok. Not the best, not the worst. I might recommend it to people.
3.5 stars = better than ok, but still not great.
4 stars = I liked it. It is one that I would recommend.
4.5 stars = I really liked it. There might have been one or two flaws, but overall it was fabulous.
5 stars = loved it. I probably own it (or want to badly) and would always recommend.

The system isn't great, but I feel like it will help organize my thought processes a bit more. I tend to use the same descriptions for all books and maybe the stars will help? I don't's still a work in progress.

In other news,

I mentioned on a previous post that I will be moving in May. In the last week or so everything is starting to come to a head. For example, I am training someone at work, so I don't have the long hours of computer time that I used to have. Then, I come home and proof-read my husband's thesis, which requires his use of the computer. Both very much limit my computer time. Currently, I am home sick with a migraine (I'm feeling much better now), and that is the only reason I even have time for blogging today.

On top of the lack of computer time, I am also trying to find a new apartment, pack, and generally organize my house. Oh how I loathe moving!

So, basically, the point of this post is to apologize for the lack of posting, and assure anyone who reads this that I will be back, and that I have been reading (when I can), so there will be more reviews in the future. Maybe even another one tonight...

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

by Laura Amy Schlitz

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! doesn't really have a story. It's a series of monologues (and two dialogues) featuring characters from an English village in 1255. Each person in the play is between 12 and 15 (per the author, no one is actually identified by age), and facts about medieval England are scattered throughout, both in footnotes and individual sections. It was the Newbery winner this year, and it is a very quick read.

I actually liked this book more than I thought I would when I started it. For some reason, the fact that the language was more like the language Shakespeare used, surprised me at first. however, as time went on I really did enjoy what was being said.

My favorite characters were probably Jack, the half-wit, or Giles, the beggar. Their monologues were pretty funny. Here's a snippet from Giles:

"Good masters, sweet ladies!
I am Giles the beggar,
the best of my trade!
Behold my crushed foot!
The sight of the wound
would sicken your stomach, and soften your heart.
I grovel for mercy -
sometimes I manage real tears.
(It's an art.)"

Doesn't he kind of make you smile? I know that it shouldn't because he really would have lead an awful life, but when he talks of his con it just made me want to smile.

I really liked the story of Nelly, the sniggler. She says that her father tried to drown her the day she was born because they couldn't afford another mouth to feed, especially the female kind. Instead of drowning, she grabbed on to the bucket and held herself up. Her father took pity and saved her. Their lives improved after that. According to the footnotes, the story of an infant saving itself from drowning was based on a true story.

There are other interesting facts throughout - the fact that a runaway serf was considered free if he didn't get caught for one year and one day; how poorly Jews were treated even then; the fact that doctors thought that alignment of the stars had an affect on their patients; etc. The book was full of them, and I think a lot of them would have appealed to teenagers.

That being said, I can't imagine a typical teenager picking this book up on his/her own. Ever. The cover screams old fashioned or boring, and who cares about the "voices from a medieval village?" However, I think the book would work great in a classroom setting. We learned about the middle ages in 6th grade, and I think this book would have added to our discussion. The text would have been a little difficult, but understandable and it could have helped bring to life the things we were learning.

4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Wednesday Wars

by Gary D. Schmidt

Mrs. Baker hates Holling Hoodhood, at least as he sees it. Because of him, she has to stay and teach on Wednesday afternoons, so she punishes him by forcing him to read Shakespeare, and as we all know "Teachers bring up Shakespeare only to bore students to death." (p40) Things aren't all that great at home for Holling either. His dad, the owner/creator of Hoodhood and Associates lives his whole life focusing on how to further the business, and his wanna-be hippy/flower-child older sister doesn't exactly fit into her father's views. Holling knows one thing for sure, life as a seventh grader in 1967/1968 is not all it's cracked up to be.

I really enjoyed this story. At the end of every chapter, I would comment to my husband just how much I liked it. I thought Holling's views of the world were rather delightful (if a bit unbelievable), and I really enjoyed the writing. Here's one of my favorite passages:

"Mr. Guareschi's long ambition had been to become dictator of a small country. Danny Hupfer said that he had been waiting for the CIA to get rid of Fidel Castro and then send him down to Cuba, which Mr. Guareschi would then rename Guareschiland. Meryl Lee said that he was probably holding out for something in Eastern Europe. Maybe he was. But while he waited for his promotion, he kept the job of principal at Camillo Junior High and tested out his dictator-of-a-small-country on us." (p19)

Isn't that a great description? Schmidt uses descriptions like that throughout the story.

As Holling reads Shakespeare's The Tempest, he finds it pretty amusing. Especially the curse words that Caliban uses through out. In fact, he spends most of the book memorizing and throwing out the curse words at others. My favorite was probably "Toads, beetles, bats!" which popped up quite often.

As the year progresses, Mrs. Baker is there for Holling (and his classmates) in a way that Holling's parents seem unable to be. When his dad forgets to pick up Holling for the opening game at Yankee Stadium, Mrs. Baker comes to the rescue. She also teaches him how to run properly, which gives him the chance to join 8th graders on the varsity cross county team. But, Mrs. Baker has problems of her own. Mr. Baker is missing in action over at Vietnam and two rats are living in her classroom ceiling. Every kid should have a teacher like Mrs. Baker, who is able to put all else aside and help you reach your true potential. She was pretty amazing.

The story ends when the school year ends with the major crisis' cleaned up.

While I really liked the story, I did have a couple of complaints. The first is that Holling tells the story in first person as though it's happening at the time. He does not sound anything like 7th graders I know. He was wise well beyond his years, and while I appreciated the insight that added, it seemed to take away from the story in a way. The other thing was that I am not sure how many 7-9th graders would actually enjoy this book. It would work well in a study of the 60s, but most kids don't seem to know that much about that era (I don't actually know much about that era either), so a lot of the significance of what Holling is saying might be lost. It seems like the real audience of this book might be adults who grew up in the 60s, or people who enjoy history.

Those complaints aside, I really did enjoy this book a lot, and I would recommend it.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Heart of a Child Challenge update II

I have now completed three of the six books I originally listed when I took on this challenge. This time's report is a bit more happy than the last one.

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen

I originally read this in 5th grade with my dad. I think I had to re-read it for 6th grade reading class and maybe one other time in middle school. Apparently it was a book of choice. Anyway. I loved it - so much so that my dad actually bought me a hatchet for Christmas one year.

After the most recent reading, I am pleased to say that I like it still. What a relief after The Amusement Park Mystery. My husband thinks Hatchet is the most boring book ever. Looking back I don't remember it being boring at all, but after reading it this last time I can see how some people might think it's boring. The beginning is a bit slow. It doesn't really pick up until he gets over the fact that they aren't looking for him (there's a lot of tears until that point), but after that it really is a full-on adventure story. Brian is resourceful and is really able to make the best of his situation. The ending was a bit abrupt, but it made sense in its own way.

The back cover of the addition that the library had said that in real life the author had experienced a lot of the same things that Brian did. There were two things that he hadn't: eating a raw turtle egg and starting a fire with a hatchet. So, before he finished writing the book he did both of those things. I guess he spent an entire afternoon in his backyard hacking away at rocks attempting to get the fire going, but he eventually got it going. Pretty cool.

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is another book I read with my dad. Actually, he read the entire thing out loud to me before bed during second grade. I remember thinking that Mary was so lucky to not have parents (I had issues) and she got to explore a big manor house basically unsupervised. Plus, she found a huge amazing garden and "cured" her cousin.

While I enjoyed the book overall, I was surprised by how unreadable it was. As an adult reading it, I got a little frustrating reading all of the Yorkshire dialect (especially the "tha" instead of you - I always read "the"); I think if I had read this to myself in elementary or even middle school, I would have given up because I couldn't figure out what they were saying. As the book progressed and I got used to it, the reading became easier, but I am pretty sure I wouldn't have had the drive when I was younger. I'm impressed my dad ploughed through it and read the whole thing. He was (and still is) a good dad.

That said, I still really enjoyed the story. Mistress Mary's transformation from a spoiled neglected child to a healthy happy child is pretty dramatic, and I can see why I liked the story so much as a child.

Friday, April 11, 2008

100 Cupboards

by N.D. Wilson

After Henry's parents disappear somewhere in Colombia, he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Henry Kansas. Henry has led a rather sheltered life - at 12 he was worried that his aunt and uncle would get arrested for leaving him home alone; he's never had soda; his parents wanted him to wear a helmet in PE, etc - and rather enjoys the freedoms he has found. One night, he wakes up when plaster from his wall falls on his head and discovers that the wall in his room is covered in cupboards. 99 to be exact. As Henry and his cousin Henrietta explore the cupboards (by looking in, they are to small to fit through) they begin to learn their secrets. Eventually a larger cupboard is found and they visit another world, while an unfriendly character makes an appearance in ours.

Henry is an enjoyable character. Due to his apparently overprotective parents, he's pretty odd, but he's got a good head on his shoulders and seems pretty reasonable. He was furious that Henrietta would try to go into the cupboards herself because of the danger that might be there, which seemed like an appropriate response. It was actually kind of refreshing to have a cautious hero, instead of someone who just runs into things without thinking.

I also really liked Uncle Frank. While he is pretty well developed, I feel like we hardly got to know him. There are some pretty major revelations at the end of the story, and it just makes me want to know so much more about him.

This book starts off slow. I didn't mind the pacing, but I think if I were younger, I would have found it boring and quit before the good stuff. It also is the first in a series (I want to say trilogy, but I can't seem to find anything to back that up...), so while the ending doesn't leave you hanging it's fairly muddled and feels a bit rushed. There is definitely a lot more that will happen, and I am pretty interested in seeing where it will go. I currently have lots of questions and very few answers.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


How do you choose a new book at the bookstore?

My sister-in-law has a large book budget and buys anything that looks interesting. She's found that green and purple covers tend to draw her in. How's that for kind of random? If you want her to buy a book, just make the main cover color green or purple, chances are she will at least read the cover. That's not to say that she won't buy a blue or red book, but she finds that she is more drawn to green and purple - and I've noticed a lot of the books she recommends/gives me have green or purple covers!

Currently we are poor students, so I don't buy many books. If I am going to spend the money, it's on something that I know I will like (anything by Cornelia Funke, the newest book in a series, etc).

A couple of months ago, my husband went on a book buying binge for me. He was out of town for Valentine's day and felt like he needed to make it up to me (or something). Anyway. He got several books that were on my list of must owns. Then, he picked out two that weren't. One was based on a recommendation from a bookseller (it was The Time Travelers, which was a success). The other book he bought simply because the word "thieves" was in the title.

You see, I seem to have a thing for "thief" books. Here are a few that I enjoyed and can think of off the top of my head:

Peter and the Shadow Thieves, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke

and the list continues. The book my husband bought that day was The Shadow Thieves, by Anne Ursu, which I thoroughly enjoyed (see my review here). Currently, there are a few books on my must read list with thief in the title.

Are there any themes to your book buying traits? Do you look for key words/phrases? pretty covers? a particular color perhaps?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

This is a pretty amazing story.

Three Cups of Tea is the true story of Greg Mortenson, who upon failing to summit K2 stumbles quite ill and emaciated into Korphe, a remote village in Pakistan. The people of this village nurse him back to health, and he falls in love with them. During his stay, he asks to visit the school, and is brought to a large field where 84 children were writing in the dirt with sticks. No teacher, no books, just the children studying as best they could. The village leader, Haji Ali, explained that they couldn't afford to pay a teacher, so a teacher comes to the village occasionally, and the children study on their own the rest of the time. Greg promises to come back to Korphe and build the village a school. And he does.

There is so much to say about the work that Mortenson does. He is the director of the Central Asia Institute (CAI), which (as of 2007) has established more than 61 schools in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. After he learns that providing girls with at least a 5th grade education will help prevent infant mortality, population explosion, and overall health and sanitation of a village, he began focusing more towards (though not exclusively) girl's education. He also helps fund projects for clean water and women's halls (where all the local women can get together to sew, etc). He figures that with the unhealthy water that they have now, one in three children don't even make it to their first birthday in these villages. You can't educate someone that isn't there.

I had the opportunity to hear Mortenson speak at a local event this past week. He seems like an honest, humble man doing what he can to help people he loves. He really isn't in this for the "glory." He showed a picture of a school, and said that he was proud of this school because it had taken almost 8 years to convince the local leaders to allow it to be built. He is in it for the long term and he is willing to learn the customs and mores of the area he is in order to build a school that they will be proud of and use.

Mortenson also had a lot of interesting facts about the importance of education in these areas. He said that people that decide to be suicide bombers are without hope. They see no other way of succeeding in life. By providing an education to people in rural areas, they are given some hope. He also talked about former members of the Taliban that he works with (four are teachers in his school), and all of them joined the Taliban for the money. They were given a signing bonus and after six months of service something like $200. They didn't feel they had any other choice.

It's truly a fascinating read. This one man has had such a positive effect on thousands of lives.

The one thing that I didn't like about this book is the writing. First of all, it's written in third person, which is not what I was expecting, considering the main character is listed as the first author. But, even without that little complaint, the writing really isn't that great. It sometimes takes a long time to say simple things and that can get really frustrating. There are also a lot of non-English words used throughout, and not all of them are fully explained. Possibly they are terms that everyone should know, but I didn't, and it got a little frustrating trying to figure some of them out.

However, even with this small(ish) complaint, I highly recommend the book. It gives you lots of food for thought and would make a great discussion book for a book club.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mary Poppins

By P.L. Travers

Mary Poppins is a nanny who arrives on Cherry Tree Lane to care for the Banks children, Jane, Michael, John and Barbara (twin infants). While with Mary the children go on all sorts of adventures, including meeting her uncle, who happens to be full of laughing gas that causes the children to float up into the air. They see and hear about a red cow (that formerly danced) and help a star shop for her six sisters. Eventually, the wind changes and as promised at the beginning of the book, Mary Poppins must leave on her next adventure.

So, I figured after my pouting session last week, I should go ahead and review Mary Poppins.

First the good. Mary Poppins is a very clever story. Actually, it's almost a collection of stories with each chapter bringing a new adventure. I particularly enjoyed the chapter shared by the baby twins where they both emphatically declare that they won't grow up. Or at least, if they do grow up that they will still be able to speak with animals, the wind, and other parts of nature. My favorite part of that chapter is when the twins are crying and their mother is trying to comfort them for something unrelated. Eventually John takes pity on her explaining that it's not really her fault that she never says the right thing and stops crying. Don't you ever wonder if that's what really happens? I don't have kids, but some days watching other parents calm their kids it seems like that might be happening. Screaming, screaming, screaming. Mom and dad trying to calm them down and then suddenly, even though nothing has changed baby is fine again.

I also really enjoyed the trip to the zoo at night. Everything was reversed, so people were in cages and the animals walked around. Fortunately, no one tried to eat Jane or Michael as they wandered with the animals.

Now, the not so good. I hated Mary Poppins. She was vein, rude, and always yelling at the kids. She lied and actually stole from them too. There didn't really seem to be any reason for this. She just simply didn't seem to like kids. Which, is kind of ironic since she practically volunteered to be their nanny. When she was with Bert (the match man, not chimney sweep), she was quite delightful and fun. It was only when the children were around that she was nasty.

I don't necessarily mind people that are rude, mean, etc in books if there is a reason for it. Snape was a good foil for Harry throughout the books. But, meanness for the sake of meanness, just got annoying.

On the whole, the book was ok. I would probably give it 3.5 stars out of five - slightly better than ok, but not great. As much as I hate to say it, I would probably recommend watching the movie over reading this one. At least the movie leaves you with a good taste in your mouth (except for Chainreader :) ). Plus, I am cheesy and like Julie Andrews musicals.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Heart of the Child Challenge Update

So, I realized the other day that I am moving in May and that I may or may not have access to the internet or a library for a month (or more) after that. So, instead of spreading out the books over the next few months, I decided I ought to try to finish them all before I move.

As a result of this decision, I have a bunch of books on hold at the library. We've got a rather small library (it drives me crazy!), and they only have one copy of pretty much every book, so I often have a long line of books on hold there.

And without further ado, here is a brief review about the only book that I have finished to date.

The Amusement Park Mystery, by Gertrude Chandler Warner

I kind of have mixed feelings about this book. It was my favorite book for several years, and it really was the book that cemented my love for reading to myself (and for mysteries). It's the first book that I remember checking out from the library on my own accord and completely reading by myself on my own accord. I have a lot of fond memories of the book.

However, upon re-reading it, I can't believe how dumb it was. It made me really sad. The writing was poor and very very repetitive. Also, the kids don't really solve the mystery. It just kind of unravels at the end. Mostly, I am going to remember from the third graders perspective and pretend that I didn't re-read it.

Hatchet is the next book on my list. Hopefully it will go better than the first!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

Will Burrows loves to dig. He helps his father with archaeological digs, and he also digs his own tunnels for fun. Through a series of seemingly random events, Dr. Burrows (Will's father) discovers some passageways below London and goes exploring without telling anyone where he's going. After several days, Will and his sister Rebecca become concerned and call the cops. Will decides to take matters into his own hands and discovers a new tunnel that his father had dug. With his friend Chester, they head underground in an attempt to rescue his father. They end up finding a colony of people controlled by an evil upper class known as the Styx, and the real adventure begins.

I kind of feel sorry for this book. It's been hailed as the next Harry Potter (via a press conference), and really is there any better way to get people's hopes up so high that it can't help but fail? I have no idea how well it's doing, but other than the press conference I haven't read anything else about it.

I liked Tunnels. I think it could have used a good editor; there was a lot of unnecessary information which caused it to get a little long. But, on the whole, I liked it. Will is an interesting character that for the most part I cheered on. His home life lacks something to be desired, and as the story progresses, opens lots of questions.

Tam is my favorite character. He lives in the underworld and really welcomes Will, and helps Will do the things that he wants and needs to do. He comes to the rescue more than once, and he is able to add humor in a place that really lacks it.

I am also really interested in learning more about every member of Will's family. I can't think of what else to say without giving too much away, so I'll stop there. But there are a couple of twists (one I saw coming a mile away and one that really surprised me) that really add to the story.

As to the Harry Potter question. I don't really know if it's the next Harry Potter, but in complete honesty, did you know Harry Potter was going to be Harry Potter after reading The Sorcerer's Stone? Tunnels is a fun story that appears like it will add depth as we learn the background of the Colony and specific characters. It's also very different in that there's no magic, Will is loved by his parents (at least his dad), and so far there isn't an older person watching over and directing his actions. Will is pretty much on his own. So, maybe. If not, it's still a fun read.

I should also mention that the book doesn't really end. None of the characters are in immediate danger, but the story will definitely be continued. If that bothers you, you may want to wait until the next book (Deeper) is released sometime in January 2009. Just fair warning to those of you who are already anxiously waiting for too many sequels as it is.

March 2008 Booklist

Picture Books

Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann *
Rupunzel, by Paul O. Zelinsky
The Funny Little Woman, by Arlene Mosel
Paperboy, by Dav Pilkey
Hey Al, by Arthur Yorinks *
May I Bring a Friend?, by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers and Beni Montresor
Arrow to the Sun, by Gerald McDermott
The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka *
Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin, by Lloyd Moss and Marjorie Priceman *
Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
Mirette on the High Wire, by Emily Arnold McCully
Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine, by Evaline Ness *
The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
Grandfather's Journey, by Allen Say
One Fine Day, by Nonny Hogrogian

Early Readers
Moxy Maxwell does not Love Stewart Little, by Peggy Gifford *
Piper Reed, Navy Brat, by Kimberly Willis Holt

Middle Readers
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban *
Leepike Ridge, by N.D. Wilson *
The Amusement Park Mystery, Created by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes * (audio book)
The Lacemaker and the Princess, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Mary Poppins, by PL Travers (audio book)

Young Adult
Tithe, by Holly Black
The Shadow Thieves, by Anne Ursu *
The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron
The Siren Song, by Anne Ursu *
The Time Travellers, by Linda Buckley-Archer *
Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer * (re-read)
Tunnels, by by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams *

A Darkness at Sethanon, by Raymond E. Feist
Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift (audio book)
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde (attempted, but quit about 1/2 way through)
The Promise, by Chaim Potok

* = a favorite