Monday, August 17, 2009

I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith

I read this book a couple months ago. I tend to write reviews within a few days of reading the book because I lose so many details with time. However, life was just stressful and no fun after I finished this one, so I didn't get around to it. But, I enjoyed I Capture the Castle so much that I would like to write at least a couple thoughts on it.

The writing is fabulous. Cassandra's voice is so fun - I wish I knew a girl like her. I returned the book to the library ages ago, so I don't have any quotes, but the oft-quoted first line is "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." I was pretty sure I would like this one from there, and I did.

The only thing I didn't really love about this one was the ending. I was happy with the ending, but I can't decide if it was realistic to Cassandra's character.

It's not really a romance, but the story kind of has that feel throughout.

Definitively an enjoyable read.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

by Katherine Howe

I think I've mentioned my sister-in-law on here before - she's my book buddy. However, while I use the library almost exclusively, she buys all of the books she reads. I love going to her house. While we were there this last time, she handed me The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane mentioning that it was one of her most recent favorite reads. I can see why.

This book has a great cast of characters:

Connie - Graduate student; looking for the primary source to help her get the prestige she wants in her field

Grace - Connie's eccentric mother, that asks Connie to move into the tiny house where the adventure happens

Manning Chilton - Connie's adviser who plants the suggestion that the Salem witches were possibly in fact witches

And of course Deliverance Dane - a woman from the 1600's that we spend the book learning about

I found the plot a bit predictable (I would recommend knowing less about this book than more), but it was fun. I loved the idea. I loved the way Howe was able to weave the present and the past together so successfully. The story gave me a strong desire to visit Salem. And, I sincerely loved Deliverance Dane. I wish there was a book devoted exclusively to her (though I don't think it would actually work to have her as the main character).

A fabulous summer read.

4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

lost in a good book has an interesting article explaining why people get lost in good books. You can read the full article here.

"Part of the reason we get lost in these imaginary worlds might be because our brains effectively simulate the events of the book in the same way they process events in the real world..."

Apparently, people were hooked on to a brain scan and were told to read a short (1500 word) story. Later the researchers looked to see if changes in the story caused brain activity to change. It did.

The article ends with a little blurb about differences in readers - some people see pictures when they read while others don't - and how those differences may make people more or less of a reader.

Do you see pictures when you read? Reading has always been like watching a movie for me - pictures, voices, the works. For a long time it was hard for me to listen to audio books of books I had previously read because the voices so rarely matched what I thought they should sound like. On the other hand, my husband (who does enjoy reading, though not to the extent I do) doesn't see or hear anything. Reading is simply interesting words on paper to him. The characters are "real" but there are no pictures, etc to go along with them.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July Books

Middle Grade
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban (re-read) *
  • Fantastically wonderful
The Houdini Box, by Brian Selznic
  • meh.
Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes, by Wendelin Van Draanen (audio book)
  • my least favorite Sammy to date - she was just so reckless it made me crazy.
Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception, by Wendelin Van Draanen (audio book) *
  • This is more like the Sammy I know and love :)

Young Adult
Story of a Girl, by Sara Zarr
  • I found it difficult to relate to Deanna, but it was an alright read

The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale
The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfiel
  • it was ok, a bit long though

The Color Code, by Taylor Hartman
  • too long and one-size-fits all, but somewhat amusing none-the-less

So, this month pretty much sucked for reading/reviewing. But! We've finished moving, have the internet back up, and I stole lots books from my sister-in-law, so things are definitely looking up for August.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Actor and the Housewife

by Shannon Hale

from Shannon Hale's website:
Mormon housewife Becky Jack is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets celebrity heartthrob Felix Callahan. A few hours, one elevator ride, and one alcohol-free dinner later, something has happened, though nothing has isn't sexual. It isn't even quite love. But soon Felix shows up in Salt Lake City to visit and before they know what's hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends--talk-on-the-phone, drop-everything-in-an-emergency, laugh-out-loud-at-stupid-jokes best friends. Becky's loving and devoted husband, Mike, is mostly unconcerned. Her children roll their eyes. Her large extended family and neighbors gossip endlessly. But Felix and Becky have something special... something unusual, something that seems from the outside--and sometimes from the inside too--completely impossible to sustain.

I'm not quite sure how I felt about this book. I read it very quickly - something that is odd at the moment. So, on the one hand the book at least sucked me in. And, I will admit, I was curious how it would all come together in the end. On the other hand, it left me feeling a bit strange. I tried to explain it all to my husband and couldn't, so I would guess I won't be very successful here either.

In order to enjoy this story at all, you must remember that it's made up and as impractical as the whole thing is (because it is on many many levels) it kind of works if you let it.

Becky is great in her own little way. She's not preachy (most of the time), and I loved her never-ending love for her husband. I love the idea of their relationship. It just made me smile.

Felix didn't do as much for me, though he is quite funny.

I thought the ending worked, though I'm not sure if it's what I wanted or not.

A mostly enjoyable read. Nothing like I expected.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Alcatraz vs the Scivener's Bones

by Brandon Sanderson
my review of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians is here.

Alcatraz is preparing to escape the hushlands for the free kingdoms when his grandfather fails to show up at the airport to pick him up. Instead Alcatraz catches a ride in a giant glass dragon with his cousin Australia, uncle Kaz, Bastille, and Bastille's (grouchy) mother. Together they must infiltrate the Library at Alexandria and save Grandpa Smedry.

This book is very clever. Annoyingly so at times (the three chapters in a row where he talks about erasing the beginning of the last chapter and inserting the following bit wasn't too funny by the end), but mostly the cleverness is funny. I do admit that I was in a silly mood when I read it though - if you're looking for anything remotely serious, this book is not for you.

Alcatraz is still trying to figure everything out, especially how to use his talent wisely. But, he's gaining control and is able to once again save the day.

I enjoyed Australia very much. She cracked me up, and her talent of waking up ugly was too funny.

I look forward to the next book in this series.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June Books

This month was not a super successful reading (or reviewing) month for me. Life's been kind of busy and stressful (and it looks like we're moving across the country in a couple weeks, so the stress isn't really lightening up...). And, I've found that I just can't force myself to sit and read. No promises that July will be super productive, but hopefully by August life will be back to normal and reading/reviewing can start up again.

Middle Readers

Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Mustache Mary, by Wendelin Van Draanen (audio book) *

  • I love Sammy - this one was my favorite in the series so far
Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy, by Wendelin Van Draanen (audio book) *
  • Yep, still love her
Alcatraz vs. the Scrivener's Bones, by Brandon Sanderson
  • This series is a crack up.
Young Adult Books
Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud
  • Sadly, not nearly as fun (or fast-paced or funny) as his Bartimaeus series
Fiction Books
All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows *
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
  • Very enjoyable. I sincerely hope a review is coming soon
Non-Fiction Books
The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dear Mr. Henshaw

by Beverly Cleary

Dear Ms. Cleary,

I read your book Dear Mr. Henshaw recently and enjoyed it. The first letter that Leigh wrote about "licking" Mr. Henshaw's book made me laugh. Leigh was an interesting boy, and I felt pretty sorry for him. Divorce is such a hard thing. Plus, it would be really hard always having your dad back out of things.

I did think that Leigh was a bit annoying at times. I hated how he didn't want to respond to Mr. Henshaw's questions so he was so rude about it. But, I guess if writing to my favorite author became more like a chore, I wouldn't want to do it either. However, Leigh is also pretty clever. The burglar alarm he made for his lunch box was really cool. I would have loved something like that when I was younger. My sisters were always getting in my stuff!

I just wanted to say that while it wasn't my favorite Newbery winner, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to friends.


3 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

summary from
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

I enjoyed this book very much. It reminded me quite a bit of 84 Charing Cross Road, which is also told through a series of letters (though that one is non fiction) and is the story of book lovers. I loved that even with only letters you get to know this funny little community well. The book just made me smile. I feel like everyone has read, reviewed, and praised this book so much that don't really need to do that. There were a few things that I didn't like as much so I will mention those.

Whenever there is a telegram the author used periods instead of STOP. I realize that is totally minute and doesn't really matter, but for some reason it really bothered me!

I also thought the ending was a bit cheesy. It came together so perfectly that it was just too much. I like happy endings, but I guess this one was a bit contrived for me.

That said, I really did enjoy the book. It is so fun to read about people of who love books and love to share books. Definitely recommended.

4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

All The King's Men

by Robert Penn Warren

summary taken (in part) from
All the King's Men tells the story of Willie Stark, a southern-fried politician who builds support by appealing to the common man and playing dirty politics with the best of the back-room deal-makers. Though Stark quickly sheds his idealism, his right-hand man, Jack Burden -- who narrates the story -- retains it and proves to be a thorn in the new governor's side. Stark becomes a successful leader, but at a very high price.

This is one of those classics that I've tried and failed at several times. This time, I was determined to finish it, so when I got bogged down by the first chapter (which is nearly 50 pages long!) I just made a deal with myself to only read 20 pages a day. Once I actually got to the story of Willie Stark and his rise to political power, I had a hard time putting the story down, but it sure takes some work to get to the exciting part.

I really enjoyed this story. I love Jack, and I appreciate Willie. I really enjoyed watching Willie shift from politician who really wants to do what's best for his state (which is never mentioned by name, but is likely Louisiana) to the wheeling, dealing, dirty politician he becomes. The slide is there and obvious, but it does take some time for him to fall.

The story is loosely based in Huey Long (from Louisiana), who I know a bit about. It was enjoyable to see the comparisons.

The only real downfall to this book are the long drawn out sidetracks that Jack takes us on. Occasionally I wondered if Warren was getting paid by the word like Dickens did. There were some stories that I'm still not sure how they fit in. However, these are easily recognizable, so I suppose one could skim these sections if necessary.

On the whole, an enjoyable read. But, it would probably be less enjoyable for people who aren't super excited by politics (though I could be wrong there).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Tao of Pooh

by Benjamin Hoff

From the back cover:
The Tao of Pooh in which it is revealed that one of the world's great Taoist masters isn't Chinese...or a venerable philosopher...but is in fact none other than the simple bear created by A.A. Milne - Winnie the Pooh! While Eeyore frets... and Piglet hesitates...and Rabbit calculates... and Owl pontificates... Pooh just is. And that's his clue to the secret wisdom of the Taoists.

I read this book in conjunction with an online book club I participate in and found it to be an enjoyable little read. I have no knowledge of Taoism, so I can't tell you if it is even remotely accurate, but I felt like there were lots of interesting thoughts presented:

"It means that we need to recognize What's There. If you face the fact that you have weak muscles, say, then you can do the right things and eventually become strong. But if you ignore What's There and try to lift someone's car out of a ditch, what sort of condition will you be after a while?" (p43)

"The surest way to become Tense, Awkward, and Confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard -- one that thinks too much." (p77)

"Do you want to be really happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you've got. Do you want to be really miserable? You can begin by being discontented." (p137)

Following said thoughts were examples from the Pooh books of how Pooh represented the positive principles (and the other animals didn't).

While I didn't necessarily agree with everything that was said (I thought he was particularly hard on Rabbit), and none of the ideas are super thorough in there presentations, I thought it was worth the time. Apparently there is also a sequel: The Te of Piglet.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Twilight in Forks

Except it was more like 10:00 in the morning.

On a recent camping trip my husband and I drove through Forks, WA. Home of Twilight.

Every gas station beginning about 20 miles outside of Forks (granted, there were only like 3) had a sign saying something along the lines of: "Entering the Twilight Zone"

Eventually we made it to Forks.

All of the hotels/motels and several of the stores on the main street (also known as the only street we drove on) had signs referring to the Twilight series:

"Bella Shops Here!"
"Edward didn't sleep here"
"Vampires Welcome!"

We made a quick bathroom stop at the Chamber of Commerce.

Sitting outside of the Chamber of Commerce is Bella's truck.

If you look closely through the front windshield (I think you can click to enlarge) you'll notice that there's a bullet hole through the back windshield. Did that happen in the first book? I don't remember her being shot at, but it's been awhile since I read it.

While we were inside the building, a school bus full of Asian tourists pulled up for pictures. Then quickly drove off.

The lady doing inside the Chamber of Commerce asked if we were "Twihards" Even if I was a big Twilight fan, I would not call myself a "Twihard." What a terrible term!

We weren't really there for the Twilight tour - it was more a matter of getting to our destination. But, we did take a minute to drive by the high school:

We also picked up a brochure that marks all of the significant Twilight locations in Forks (the high school, the hospital, the store where Bella works, etc.). The best part of the brochure was most definitely the advertisements though:
  • Eat at Pacific Pizza where they serve: Bellasagna which comes with Edbread and Swan Salad (love at first bite!!!!). Bella & Edward's Wedding Soup also served weekly!!
    Note: I used the same number of exclamations used in the add
  • Shop at Odyssey Bookshop: Preferred by 73% of Vampires and 68% of Shape-Shifters (from an in-house poll)
We laughed for quite a while over Edbread. That sounds so wrong.

In all, it was a fairly enjoyable stop. I can't really believe people go to Forks simply for the Twilight tour, but it was a nice 20 minute rest stop on our way to the rain forest.

On a side note. We spent some time in Port Angeles too, and while it wasn't nearly as Twilight crazed, we saw several stores mentioning Twilight. One was even called "Dazzled by Twilight"

Friday, June 5, 2009


by Laurie Halse Anderson

Isabel was supposed to be freed when her mistress died, but through a series of events she and her sister and sold to a fairly nasty loyalist couple and shipped to New York. It's early 1776 and a war with England is brewing. Isabel is told by a fellow slave that if she spies on her loyalist owners and reports the information to the Colonists she will have a chance at freedom. Things start falling apart and something terrible happens to Isabel's sister. Isabel finds herself having to solve her problems alone.

This book covers a subject I knew little about - slavery before the Revolutionary War. I knew it existed, but I tend to think of slavery in context with the Civil War. The amount of history that Anderson is able to weave into the story is pretty amazing. It was easy to fall into the story and feel like I was in New York with Isabel.

Chains is also somewhat horrifying to read. Isabel's loyalty bounces between the colonies and England hoping that one will grant her freedom. At some point she says something along the lines (I don't have the book in front of me) "Why should I care which side wins the revolution when I have to fight for my own freedom?" And, knowing the whole time that she (or at least slaves in general) won't be granted freedom when the Colonies win the war eats at you after a while.

While the story itself isn't necessarily a fun read, Chains is fascinating and the writing is incredible.

4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


by Tracy Lynn

summary from
The Duchess Jessica's childhood began with a tragedy: her mother's death. Her father, heartbroken at the loss of his beloved wife, could not bear to raise the child. Largely ignored, Jessica spent the first eleven years of her life running free on the family estate, cared for only by the servants. Then her father decides to remarry, bringing an end to Jessica's independence. At first her new stepmother just seems overly strict. But as Jessica grows into a beautiful young woman, it becomes clear that her stepmother is also wildly -- and murderously -- jealous of her. Jessica escapes to London. Going by the name Snow to hide from her family, she falls in love with an odd band of outcasts who accept her into their makeshift family. But when her stepmother appears in the city, repentant and seeking her forgiveness, Jessica will have to decide whom to trust...with her life.

I read this book for the first time about 3 years ago and I remember liking it; however, since then, I have read fairy tale re-tellings by several other authors (Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George) and now I think I'm a bit more demanding. The writing isn't fantastic and didn't draw me in like others have. And, while I realize it's completely unfair to this book in comparison to others I've read that's what I found myself doing the entire time I read it.

The story itself isn't bad. It's a fairly strange re-telling, and while it's apparent which story it is based in (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) it takes some liberties (there are only 5 lonely ones instead of 7 dwarfs, etc). However, I enjoyed the characters (mostly the lonely ones - I found Snow a bit annoying) and the strangeness wasn't a total put off. It was just well. . . strange.

If you enjoy fairy tale re-tellings, it is worth checking Snow out. But, it's definitely not the best example of one that I have read.

3 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 1, 2009

May Books

Picture Books
Ladybug Girl, by
David Somar and Jackie Davis
Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, by David Somar and Jackie Davis

Juvenile Books

The Unnameables, by Ellen Booraem
  • I'm still somewhat undecided about this book
Treasure of Blackbird Rock, by Julian Press

Piper Reed: The Great Gypsy, by Kimberly Willis Holt
  • meh
Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary
  • nice enough story, but I can't really figure out why it won a Newbery
The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas * (audio book) (re-read)
  • Fun
The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan

Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf, by
Wendelin Van Draanen *
  • still love Sammy
Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson *
  • Fascinating. Hopefully a real review will be posted soon...
I So Don't Do Mysteries, by Barrie Summy
  • I wanted to like this one so much more than I actually did

Young Adult Books
The Dragonfly Pool, by Eva I
  • enjoyable
Snow, by Tracy Lynn (re-read)
  • it's ok. I'm working on a review for this one too.
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson *

Flipped, by
Wendelin Van Draanen *

What I Saw and How I Lied, by
Judy Blundell
  • I have no idea why this beat Frankie for the National Book Award
The Smile, by Donna Jo Napoli
  • interesting take on the Mona Lisa
Adult Books
The Language of Bees, by Laurie R. King *

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Last Olympian

by Rick Riordan

Summary from
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos's army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan's power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time. In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.

This book is the conclusion to the Percy Jackson series. From start to finish, the entire series is strong and so fun to read. Definitely recommended for those looking for an adventure and anyone who enjoys a bit of Greek mythology.

That was the nice, spoiler free version of my review. Short and to the point. There will be major SPOILERS in the rest of this post.

I've been looking forward to the final Percy since I read the fourth book last June. The Last Olympian was a great conclusion, but I admit I was a bit disappointed.

While reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows did you ever just wish they would get to the action? One certainly never has that wish with this book. The action starts in the first chapter and continues throughout. On the one hand, it was great, on the other hand it was battle after battle and I did find myself longing for them to get to the battle so we could wrap it all up! And, I actually found the final battle to be a bit of a let down.

I also didn't really like how everyone kept warning Percy about the risks involved with his dip in the Styx, yet we never saw any real consequence of the action. I wish whatever demon Achilles was warning Percy about had made a stronger appearance and had a bigger affect on the outcome. It seemed like Percy took the dip and became invincible, but that was it. No consequences whatsoever.

And the deal with Rachel Elizabeth Dare was simply bizarre.

On the whole these really are minor complaints. I think The Last Olympian just didn't quite live up to the expectations I had built up in my mind. The story wraps up nicely and it is a continually thrilling ride. I loved the tidbits that we learned about Luke and Nico (though it felt very Harry Potter 6-ish - it's strange to me how often I thought of Harry Potter while reading this one. I don't remember thinking about that series at all while reading the first 4 Percy books).

Have you read Percy? What were some of your thoughts on the conclusion?

Monday, May 25, 2009


by Laurie Halse Anderson

I've been sitting on this review for a few weeks now, trying to put into words what I think about this book. It appealed to me in a very real way - I think because it is kind of the story of every teen. Trying to discover who you are with all the conflicting people around you telling you who you should be. To me, it wasn't a story about a girl with anorexia (though that is a major part of the story), Wintergirls is a story of someone trying to find herself.

I found Lia likeable, and while the sub-plot of Cassie's ghost was a bit strange, I felt like it worked for the story.

I also liked how Anderson used text size, etc to convey emotion. I've read a couple of reviews that felt this was gimmacky and it is, but I felt like it worked.

In some ways (mostly the heavy topics) this is not an easy read, but I found myself flying through it. Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


by Wendelin Van Draanen

Told in alternating view points, Flipped is the story of Bryce and Juli. Bryce is just a normal boy who wants his crazy across-the-street neighbor, Juli, to leave him alone. Juli has known since day one that Bryce would be her first kiss and has sought diligently for it ever since. Not that Juli doesn't have other interests as well - trees, chickens, family. Bryce just kind of takes the cake.

I thought this book was very sweet. I wasn't sure how I would like the same story told twice (from two different perspectives), but it worked well. Bryce and Juli's voices were very distinct and it didn't really feel like the same story.

I picked Flipped up because of a glowing review (but I can't remember by who!). Otherwise, I never would have picked it up. The cover just did nothing for me. It's a bit ironic because one of the overriding themes of the story seemed to be not judging based on the outside appearance.

I loved Juli to death, and while Bryce didn't do much for me in the beginning, he grew on me.

I read most of flipped sitting at the beach, and it made a perfect beach read: light and fluffy, though it certainly had enough oomph to keep me turning the pages.

Definitely recommended for those looking for a not quite conventional YA romance.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy

by David Somar and Jackie Davis

It's not often that I review picture books because I don't really know how to review them. But, I won a copy of Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy, so I felt like I should try to write something up.

Ladybug Girl (also known as Lulu) is excited to finally go to her favorite playground. When she arrives, she sees her friend Sam and asks him to play. Unfortunately, Lulu and Sam can't seem to find anything they want to play together. Eventually Lulu invites Sam to play
Ladybug Girl with her. Because Sam is wearing a yellow and black striped shirt, they decide Sam can be Bumblebee Boy. Together Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy fight a scary monster, a mean robot, and a giant snake in an effort to rid the playground of bad guys.

I thought the story itself was fun. Simple, but believable enough. Who doesn't want to be a superhero? I didn't love the illustrations, but I suspect most people will like them more than me. I tend to prefer bright bold illustrations, and while Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy are bright and bold the backgrounds are not.

4 out of 5 stars

This book is the companion to Ladybug Girl that came out a few years ago. While I didn't like that one quite as much, if you have a little girl it would probably be worth checking out too.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Language of Bees

by Laurie R. King

This is the ninth book in King's Mary Russell series.

Outside of the Russell series, I have only read one of King's books and I didn't like it nearly as well. There was lots of swearing and sex, and the story didn't do a lot for me. So, I was a bit afraid going in that King's style had changed so much in the past three years that I wouldn't like this newest Russell. It only took a couple of chapters to realize this was the same Russell I had love. In fact, at some point in the story Russell comments to Holmes that she is a 24 year old prude. Quite frankly, I thought this book was fabulous.

The initial mystery of "where is Yolanda Adler?" is solved rather quickly, but Russell and Holmes are quickly drawn in to a deeper mystery including dealing with a mad religious man and trying to find a young child.

There are many things to love about Russell and her world: King's writing, the detail, but my favorite is simply the characters. Russell's whit and her interactions with brilliant men (Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes) are so enjoyable that I wish we could be friends.

I highly recommend this series (you definitely need to start at the beginning with The Beekeepers Apprentice and work your way through) to mystery lovers. Though, I think it would make a great read for most people.

Oh, and one more thing that may or may not be taken as a SPOILER. This book doesn't really end. There is enough of a conclusion that I can't call it a cliffhanger, but there is still plenty of action ahead. Fortunately, the next book is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2010, so at least we shouldn't have to wait another 3 years for the conclusion.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ethan Frome

by Edith Wharton

I've been trying to read/review a classic a month since the start of the year. I've had some success with my choices and one total failure (Wuthering Heights anyone?). Ethan Frome falls somewhere in the middle. I don't really feel anything towards it.

I spent most of the book feeling sorry for Ethan. Marrying young and (at least it sounded like) impulsively then almost instantly regretting it. But, the more I've thought about it, the more I felt sorry for Zeena too. We never hear her side of the story - just Ethan's she holds me back and is so awful side of the story. I think the fact that Zeena stuck around after the accident suggests that maybe she wasn't quite as evil as we are lead to believe.

On the whole, I thought this was ok, though I am pretty sure I'm missing whatever makes this book a classic.

PS Circumstances have changed, so I don't have nearly unlimited computer time like I used too. I'll try to keep up with posting, but it may slow down for a while too. Please be patient.

Friday, May 1, 2009

April Books

Picture Books
I'd Really like to Eat a Child, by
Sylviane Donnio and Dorothee De Monfreid
Dinosaur v. Bedtime, by Bob Shea
Mister Seahorse, by Eric Carle
Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems *
Click, Clack, Moo Cows that Type, by
Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She was Extinct, by Mo Willems
Free Fall, by
David Wiesner
Curios George, by H.A. Rey
Punk Farm, by
Jarrett J. Krosoczka *
The Book that Jack Wrote, by
by Jon Scieszka
Baloney (Henry P.), by by Jon Scieszka
Max for President, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Punk Farm on Tour, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Juvenile Books

Moxy Maxwell does not Love Writing Thank You Notes, by Peggy Gifford
not nearly as cute as the first

My One Hundred Adventures, by Polly Horvath

Miracles at Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen (audio book)
nice enough story, but Marley was a bit much for me

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look

Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy, by Wendelin Van Draanen * (audio book)
I love Sammy!

Young Adult Books
Long May She Reign, by Ellen Emerson White

The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot

The Gypsy Crown
, by Kate Forsyth
felt a bit long, but enjoyable

A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly *

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary E. Pearson * (re-read)
was pleasantly surprised by how readable it was the second time

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George *

Adult Books
Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
didn't like

Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
I'm not really sure what to think with this one

Graphic Novels
Rapunzel's Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale, and Nathan Hale
cute, but I'm not sure I'm meant to read graphic novels

* = a favorite
I tried something new this month. Since I don't review every book I read, I thought I would copy Janssen over at Every Day Reading and write a brief summary of my feelings towards books I didn't review (this doesn't include picture books).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My One Hundred Adventures

by Polly Horvath

summary from
Jane, 12, longs for adventures, maybe a hundred of them. Not too much happens at the beach where she lives with her younger siblings and her mother, a poet with a fondness for putting up jam. As the summer slips by, adventures do find Jane—but they come with people attached. Her newfound relationship with preacher Nellie leads to a trip in a hot-air balloon and a foray into the world of healings and psychic revelations. Mrs. Parks’ thrombosis (or is it bursitis?) and a desire to get to California result in an all-night automobile ride that ends because Mrs. Parks’ bottom gets sore. And throughout the summer there’s a procession of possible fathers: the free spirit, the poet, the Santa look-alike, the man in a suit who gets tossed in the ocean by a whale. With writing as foamy as waves, as gritty as sand, or as deep as the sea, this book may startle readers with the freedom given the heroine—independence that allows her to experience, think about, and come to some hard-won conclusions about life. Sometimes Jane’s duped, sometimes she’s played; but if hope fades, it returns, and adventure still beckons. Unconventionality is Horvath’s stock in trade, but here the high quirkiness quotient rests easily against Jane’s inner story with its honest, childlike core.

This book was a bit too whimsical (or something) for me. A family of five living on the beach and just kind of making it through life. Twelve year old Jane has never before thought about who her father may or may not be, but as men start appearing she realizes they could be him. Jane's voice didn't sound anywhere near 12 (much older), so it was hard to remember she was young as she made some pretty stupid mistakes.

I thought the language of the story worked well and several times caused me to stop and think. A (brief) example:
"No one ever really understands a family but the people in it and even they each understand it differently." p68
Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into the story.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Princess of the Midnight Ball

by Jessica Day George

Summary from Jessica's site:
Returning home from the war, young Galen finds work with his mother’s family in the royal gardens. There he learns that the king’s twelve daughters have a secret: every night they dance their shoes to tatters, but no one knows how or why. When prince after prince tries and fails to find the answer, and the family is haunted by accusations of witchcraft, Galen decides to help. Armed with a pair of silver knitting needles and an invisibility cloak given to him by a strange old woman, he follows the princesses and unlocks the secret of their curse.

I'm not sure I've ever read the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, and the two fairy tale books we have at home don't contain it, so I have no idea how closely this story follows the original. But, there are 12 sisters. While they all have their own personalities, it was hard to keep track of them. In fact, other than knowing Rose, Lily, and Jonquil were the oldest three and Petunia was the baby I can't actually tell you where anyone else in line fell. However, I don't think that aspect actually took much from the story. The sisters we really need to know about I had no trouble keeping track of.

I never fully realized what it was about the bad guy that made him so bad in the first place. He is definitely evil by the time we see him but more of his back story would have been appreciated.

I thought it was kind of strange that the main character of this book was a boy. It worked, but it's not what I would have guessed based on the cover, title, etc. That being said, I found this to be a delightfully fun, light read.

4 out of 5 stars

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Book Blogs Search Engine

Probably everyone knows about this, but I thought I would do a quick post about it anyway...

Fyrefly created a google search engine that specifically searches book blogs. It's a great way to find what other people are saying about a book.

You can find the engine here.

You can make sure your book blog is included in the search by checking Fyrefly's list here. If it's not, be sure to let her know so she can add you.

And finally, you really ought to stop by Fyrefly's blog and thank her for her hard work!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Northern Light

by Jennifer Donnelly

It is 1906 and Mattie Gokey is trying to learn how to stand up like a man -- even though she’s a sixteen-year-old girl. At her summer job at a resort on Big Moose Lake in the Adirondack mountains, she will earn enough money to make something of her life. But Mattie’s worries and plans are cast into a cold light when the drowned body of Grace Brown turns up – a young woman who gave Mattie a packet of love letters, letters that convince Mattie that the drowning was no accident.
summary from Jennifer Donnelly's site

I saw this book at Half-Priced books and thought it looked interesting, so I put it on hold at the library.

I found this book enjoyable. Mattie is a gifted writer, and her teacher encourages her to go to school in New York City. Unfortunately, her mother has passed away, her brother has taken off, and Mattie feels like she needs to stick around and take care of her 3 sisters and their father. Plus, there's handsome (but dull) Royal Loomis who would like to marry Mattie.

Weaver, Mattie's best friend and the only black kid in the area, is also a fascinating character. I wish he hadn't been so bull headed - he was a bright kid. It didn't necessary ring true that he would cause some of the problems he did, yet his desire for fairness and rightness is incredibly endearing. I hope he does go to law school and succeeds at his dreams (even if he is a fictional character...)

I enjoyed the passages about reading (I copied several quotes down, returned the book to the library, and succeeded at deleting said quotes. Sigh.). There is a great conversation between Mattie and her teacher about how Jane Austin is a liar :)

I have never read An American Tragedy, which is kind of a background story, but I generally know what happens. I found the letters that Grace leaves in Mattie's control.

My biggest beef with this book was the back and forth between Mattie's past and the present. This format seems to be real popular at the moment, but it just doesn't work for me. We get to an interesting part and suddenly we switch time periods. It's frustrating for me. I've never attempted it, but I would imagine the story would be just as good if we had started at the beginning and ended at the end instead of jumping back and forth.

I'm glad I picked this one up. It's historical fiction, and it's a great coming of age story.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Girl Who Could Fly

by Victoria Forester

Mr. and Mrs. McCloud lead very simple, normal lives. Though, later in life they do have a baby. Piper is not nearly as normal. In fact, Piper can fly. And once word gets out she's taken to a special institute for kids just like her.

I really liked this one. Piper is a lovable character (though her speech patterns were a bit overdone and got old). She is spunky and bright, and she really just wants to make a friend. The other kids in the institute are also a lot of fun. Evil genius, Conrad was interesting - I figured pieces of him out immediately, but he was able to pull off a few surprises.

Dr. Hellion, the director of the institute, is fabulous. I love the immediate friendship that is developed between Piper and Dr. Hellion. I wish we had learned a bit more about her (though some of that need was satisfied right near the end).

The writing of this one is somewhere in between. There are areas where I thought the writing was beautiful and flowing. And, there were other areas where it read like an action scene in a movie.

The ending for this one is fairly open. I felt like the ending works, yet there are still quite a few unanswered questions (most especially who is J??) so a sequel may or may not be coming.

Anyway. This one is aimed at a slightly younger set (maybe 9 and 10 year olds?), but I found it quite enjoyable and would recommend it.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Punk Farm

Recently, I had some time (like 2.5 hours) to kill at the library. I was downtown waiting for my husband to get off work. So, after looking around at all the books I want to read, I headed up to the picture book section and picked books randomly to read.

One can read a lot of picture books in about an hour.

My most favorite from Friday's adventure was Punk Farm, by Jarrett Krosoczka.

It's basically about a group of farm animals that, at night when the farmer has gone to bed, perform punk concerts. Their song? Old MacDonald had a Farm. So fabulous. I was cracking up.

This isn't a book I probably would have picked up on my own, but after seeing a video by Krosoczka on the Children's Literature Book Club blog, I've wanted to read something by him.

Definitely worth checking out.

I've posted the video mentioned above below. Be warned, it's a bit long, but if you make it to the end, be sure to read the credits to see who all the various people are. Many are popular YA authors/picture book writers/illustrators.

BOOK BY BOOK: the making of a monkey man from Jarrett Krosoczka on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Princess Diaries

by Meg Cabot
read by Anne Hathaway

I'm kind of embarrassed to type this review. The Princess Diaries isn't really my kind of book. At all. If for no other reason than the cover is pink, and I'm not really into princesses. At least not the kind found outside of fairy tales.

However, I thought it was hilarious. Mia cracked me up. Sure, she's fairly self-centered, and a lot of her problems would have gone away if she would have just been honest (usually a huge peeve of mine!), but she made me laugh.

There are some major problems with the book - most especially that the story is so far out of left field that it's not even remotely believable. Plus, listening to Mia whine can be a little much (and do teenage girls really obsess about breasts that much? Seriously) But, I listened to it for enjoyment, and I did enjoy it.

I listened to the book on CD, which I think was the right choice - it's easier (for me) to understand stream of consciousness type stories when I hear them as opposed to try to read them. I thought Anne Hathaway did a good job, and I really enjoyed the voices she used for several of the characters.

I'm not sure if I will read/listen to the others in the series (I think there are like 10), but I'm not necessarily opposed after what I've read listened to so far.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The President's Daughter

image from Ellen Emerson White's website

A new, old series by Ellen Emerson White

The first three books in this series were published in the 1980's (hence the old). When the fourth (and final?) book was published in October 2008, White updated the first three and republished them (hence the new).

The premise is that Meg Powers' mom is the first woman president of the United States. That means that 17 year old Meg and her younger brothers move to the White House, get a security detail, deal with the press, and deal with threats to their mother and themselves. I'll do a quick summary of each book. I don't think I've listed any real spoilers (especially not something you wouldn't get from a book cover), but you can skip the summaries if you're worried.

The first book: The President's Daughter features the campaign and the first few months at the White House. We get to know Meg's snarky personality. She's pretty funny and it was fun getting to know her.

The second book: White House Autumn is the rest of the first year in the White House. Meg's mom survives and assassination attempt, and Meg (and family) have to deal with it: The fear, the increased security (and lack of privacy), etc.

The third book: Long Live the Queen starts with Meg preparing to graduate and head off to college. Unfortunately, she is kidnapped by terrorists and ends up in the fight for her life.

The fourth book: Long May She Reign begins about 3 months after the kidnapping. Meg is damaged, both physically and emotionally and she's trying to gain back some semblance of a life.

I really liked the first three books a lot. They aren't fantastic, but it's a story I totally fell in to. I am positive that I would have devoured this series as a teen. Lots of drama (the violent (but not graphic), suspenseful kind) mixed with a little politics. Love it. I read each in a little more than a day. I just couldn't get enough.

The characters, especially Meg and her family are well developed. I loved their imperfect and realistic relationships. The balance the president tries to find of being the leader of the free world and also a mother. I also enjoyed watching them grow and change as each new crisis was thrown at them.

I didn't love the fourth book as much. It's long. Like 700 pages long (twice that of the other three books), and I just don't think it needed to be. There is a lot of talk about the pain Meg is in, how tired she is, how difficult it is for her to continue functioning. While I realize that this is completely realistic to the situation, it just got boring to read after a while. She never let us forget. The book is a bit more political, there is no doubt which party the Powers family supports. While I don't really care, it just felt unnecessary to the plot. More like a statement that we should know and believe.

There is also a dramatic increase in the amount of swearing (there's lots!) and she and her boyfriend seems to have a relationship based solely on physical properties with lots of innuendo and dirty talk. I will admit that I'm a prude, but it made me uncomfortable, and I thought detracted from the story. Meg is strong and smart. I can't really picture her with such a shallow jerk, though I will admit that he did at least try. Sometimes.

There are some real interesting new characters, and I did enjoy getting to spend a little more time with Meg, the Powers family, Preston, et al, but I am not 100% sure that one must read this book in order to complete the series. It was originally written as a trilogy.

So, for my two cents: if you enjoy some politics and a little suspense (the third book is quite suspenseful, and gritty) the first three are definitely worth checking out. The last one was enjoyable but the language, etc was a bit much for me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March Books

Juvenile Books
Ibby's Magic Weekend, by Heather Dyer
The Wrath of the Bloodeye, by Joseph DeLaney *
The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White (audio book)
Al Capone Does my Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko (audio book)
Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer
Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forrest, by Nancy Springer (audio book)

Young Adult Books
The Siege of Mackindaw, by John Flannagan *
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
White House Autumn, by Ellen Emerson White
Storyteller, by Edward Myers
Long live the Queen, by Ellen Emerson White

Adult Books
The Private Patient, by PD James
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins

Well, I was doing pretty well this month reviewing most of what I read. But, then I kind of stopped. Or something. I have pending reviews (in my mind - not in blogger) of several of the books above, so hopefully the posting will resume shortly...

Until then, happy April fools!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Wrath of the Bloodeye

by Joseph DeLaney

book 5 in the Last Apprentice series

you can see my reviews of books 1-3 here and book 4 here

Thomas Ward has spent two years as the Spook's apprentice. He's faced unimaginable peril, and survived. But a new danger has emerged: an ancient water witch, Bloodeye, is roaming the County intent on destroying everything in her path. To strengthen his skills, Tom is sent to the far north to train with the demanding Bill Arkwright. Arkwright lives in a haunted mill on the edge of a treacherous marsh, and his training methods prove to be harsh and sometimes cruel. Will Tom's new bag of tricks be enough to overcome a critical mistake that leaves him confronting Bloodeye on his own?

I've been sitting on this review for a while. I want to review it, especially since I've reviewed the first 4, but at the same time I can't really say much without spoilers. If I haven't convinced you to read it yet, this review won't convince you either.

So, I will say that I liked this book a lot. It might be my favorite in the series. Other than book 3, each successive book gets better - I love when that happens!

My favorite part of this book is that it gives you a lot to discuss. In a sense, it would make a great book club book (but not in the sense that you really need to read the first 4 first). Lots of questions that don't really have answers are brought up. Can you use something only slightly bad/forbidden if it will help you fight the overall bad/forbidden thing? Or should you avoid all appearance of evil so you yourself don't become corrupted?

I am excited to see what the author goes next.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Moonstone

by Wilkie Collins

Legend has it that the moonstone was stolen from the statue of a Hindu god, and that three guards have dedicated their lives to recovering the moonstone. When, through a series of events, the moonstone ends up as Rachel Verinder's birthday present, she is ecstatic. Unfortunately, within 12 hours of her receiving the gift the moonstone disappears, seemingly without a trace.

This novel was first published in 1868, but it feels very readable. Dickens published not too much earlier than Collins, but his works take a lot more effort for me to read. I loved that aspect of this book.

I can't quite decide if I liked the fact that the narrator changed for each piece of the story. I really prefer to stick with one character for the majority of a book, but I for the most part I enjoyed the different narrators, so I think I will lean towards liking it.

The first narrator, Gabriel Betteredge, is a grouchy old man who I found rather hilarious. I've read other reviews that hate how sexist he is (and he definitely is!), but I mostly just laughed and read the really bad passages to my husband. The second narrator, Miss Clack, reminded me so much of someone I knew in high school that it was both hilarious and disturbing. She was constantly trying to convert her heathen relatives, and her "humility" truly added to her character. A lot of her passages were also read aloud to my husband. The rest of the narrators didn't have the same dramatic flair that the first two had, but I enjoyed reading their sections more.

I don't really feel like this was a great detective novel. There is a detective (Sergeant Cuff), but he is only present for the first part of the story, and while he makes some correct predictions and presumptions that's as far as it goes. He doesn't really solve the mystery because he isn't around to solve it. The book however is a pretty good mystery. While I figured out the who fairly early on, I really had no idea the how until it was pretty much spelled out for me.

An enjoyable read. 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Al Capone Does My Shirts

by Gennifer Choldenko
read by Johnny Heller

It's 1935 when Moose Flanagan and his family move to Alcatraz Island. His father is an electrician/guard on the island, and the family is hoping to save money to send his older sister, Natalie, to a special school. Moose spends his time wishing he were back "home", but eventually befriends the kids on the island and tries to stay out of the trouble the Warden's daughter is always dragging them into.

I think the title of this book would have drawn me in as a kid - I had a thing for reading about criminals - but I think I might have been disappointed. The book really isn't about Capone at all. He's mentioned, and the kids all want to see/meet him, but he's not a central character.

However, I really did like Moose. He was a good kid. I loved that he took such good care of his sister. Despite how difficult it must have been for him. Mrs. Flanagan drove me crazy. I hated that she put so much responsibility on Moose and was unwilling to allow him to do normal things by himself (like stay after school to play baseball), though I realize it is a totally realistic approach that many parents would have enforced.

My favorite part of the book though was just learning about the island and its little colony. I think I knew that guards lived there, but I never realized that families lived there. It was fun to watch Moose go from fascinated by everything on the island to seeing convicts on the docks and just keep moving. It was day to day life. I also didn't realize that there was a ferry that ran throughout the day to and from San Fransisco. I think I always assumed that supplies were shipped in once a week or something. I pictured Alcatraz to be a sad isolated place, and while it most definitely was for the convicts, it doesn't sound like it was for the rest of the island's inhabitants.

There's a lengthy authors note at the end explaining that the story is totally made up (with a few true events - like the rule that if an inmate hit a ball out of the park it was an automatic out), but that the guards and their children did live on the island. Did you know that Capone opened the first soup kitchen? According to the author's note he did. It is a fairly fascinating little bit of history.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie

Junior was born with water on the brain and survived a dangerous surgery at 6 months. Even overcoming these obstacles, he's awkward, stutters, and suffers from seizures. He pretty much is constantly beat up by everyone on the rez, and life really isn't all that great for him. After a book throwing incident, Junior decides to attend high school off the reservation where he will be the only Indian (as they are referred to in the book) other than the mascot.

Not a very good description...

I really enjoyed this book. I read it in nearly one setting, though some of that was due to illness which confined me to one space. I just simply enjoyed it and wanted to see what was going to happen to Junior.

I found Junior an interesting character. Some of the things that he did seemed unbelievable to me, but most of the story seemed like a fairly realistic coming of age story. My favorite scene in the book is near the end when Junior's basketball team is facing the team from the reservation and Junior realizes that the kids on his team all have a distinct future: college, jobs, etc. Whereas, the kids on the reservation team don't. They will all continue to live on the reservation and (likely) be poor and drunk like their parents before them. And then there's Junior trying to figure out where he belongs in those two worlds.

This book is supposed to be based loosely on Alexie's own life, which helps add to the story. You can read his biography on his website.

Finally, while I enjoyed the story a lot, it is crude in parts. I skipped several pages where he talked about things that I didn't want to read about. There is some language, though not as much as I was honestly expecting. So, if that kind of thing bothers you, you might want to skip this one.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Trumpet of the Swan

by E.B. White

Although he lacks a voice in the traditional "Ko-hoh!" sense, trumpeter swan Louis learns to speak to the world with a trumpet stolen from a music store by his father. With the support of an unusual boy named Sam, who helps Louis learn how to read and write, the swan has some rather unswanlike adventures and ultimately wins the love--and the freedom--of a beautiful swan named Serena.

I had never heard of this book before looking for Charlotte's Web at the library and noticing it. I think this is probably the most overlooked of the three classic children's books that White wrote, but I have to admit it was my favorite of the three.

The story starts with Sam Beaver discovering a lake near where he and his father camp/hunt during the summer. Sam is an inquisitive boy and soon notices two trumpet swans who have built their nest on this lake. Eventually Sam meets the swan's babies (called signets) and the story of Louis the signet without a voice takes over.

Louis takes what life has given him and does the best he can with it. I love that he has a disability (which is referred to as a defect in this book - possibly the reason it's not as popular?) and uses it to his advantage. By learning to play an actual trumpet to communicate he is able to earn money to pay back his father's debts etc. He is also the only swan he knows that can read or write.

I wish that Louis had found someone other than Serena to marry. She had flatly rejected him when he didn't have a voice, but fell madly in love with him once he did. However, Serena is who Louis wanted, so I guess it's for the best?

There are lots of hard to believe things about this story (how did Sam recognize that Louis wanted to learn to read? can a swan bill really make the mouth formation required to play a trumpet? etc) but it was easy for me to suspend reality and just enjoy the story.

3.5 out of 5 stars

PS A warning for those that may listen to this book: once Louis gets his trumpet any "trumpeted" parts are played by an actual trumpet and it is LOUD! I enjoyed the use of the trumpet, but was about blown out of my chair the first time it happened :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

a couple middle readers

Near the end of last month, when I was moaning over Wuthering Heights, I picked up a few early/middle reader books from the library. I love these types of books. They are usually creative and they never take long to read. Exactly what I needed.

I find that they are hard to review. So, I am cheating and doing a couple of short reviews stacked in one.

The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great, by Gerald Morris

Many years ago, the storytellers say, the great King Arthur brought justice to England with the help of his gallant Knights of the Round Table.
Of these worthy knights, there was never one so fearless, so chivalrous, so honorable, so . . . shiny, as the dashing Sir Lancelot, who was quite good at defending the helpless and protecting the weak, just as long as he'd had his afternoon nap.

Did you know that Sir Lancelot was a French prince before joining the Round Table? I didn't.

This book is basically a collection of short stories. Each chapter stands fairly well on its own, making it a nice read aloud. My favorite story had to do with Lancelot being tricked into taking his armor off and hanging out in a tree for the afternoon. Silly stuff.

This would be a great addition to any knight-lovers library.

Ibby's Magic Weekend, by Heather Dyer

When straight-arrow Ibby visits her two troublemaking cousins in their chaotic country house, she learns of an old box of magic tricks they found hidden in the attic. Ibby thinks magic is nothing but sleight of hand...until her cousin Francis shrinks to the size of her thumb!

I didn't know anything about this book when I picked it up. I grabbed it because the title was written in silver shiny writing.

The story is fairly straightforward and very predictable, but I enjoyed it. Watching the kids figure out each trick (and watching Ibby lighten up!) was fun. I love the contrast between the adults who all say that magic is just slight of hand, etc and the kids who figure out that magic is really, real.

I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as Lancelot, but it was still an enjoyable quick read.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February's Books

Picture Books
Castle, by David Macauley
The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes

Juvenile Fiction
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
The Spiderwick Chronicles, book 1: The Field Guide, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (audio book)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, book 2: The Seer Stone, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (audio book)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, book 3: Lucinda's Secret, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (audio book)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, book 4: The Irondwood Tree, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (audio book)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, book 5: The Wrath of Mulgarath, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (audio book)
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, by Wendelin Van Draanen (audio book) *
Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man, by Wendelin Van Draanen (audio book) *
Uh Oh, Cleo, by Jessica Harper
The Maze of Bones, by Rick Riordan
Sir Lancelot the Great, by Gerald Morris *

Young Adult
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, by Louise Rennison (audio book)
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, by JK Rowling (audio book) (re-read) *

Adult Books
Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sammy Keyes

by Wendelin Van Draanen

Sammy Keyes is 13. She has to sneak into her house because her mother dumped her on her grandmother and they live in a old-person home where no children are allowed. She gets to deal with Heather Accosta, the 7th grade bully. Sammy is also kind of a detective. Not that she goes looking for trouble, she just always happens to be there when it happens.

The first in the series, Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief starts off with a bang. Well, more like a wave. Sammy, through a pair of binoculars, watches a man stealing money out of a purse in a hotel room across the street. The thief looks up, sees her, and she panics and waves at him.

I listened to this book as I cleaned, and I found I enjoyed it so much I actually found extra little things to clean, so I could listen longer. Sammy is delightful. She gets in lots of trouble, and she's a fairly thoughtless teenager a lot of the time (I hate the way she treats her Gram, though she does usually feel bad about it), but she's clever and funny. If I had read her as a kid I am sure that I would have wanted to be Sammy. I always wanted to be Nancy Drew, and Sammy really is a lot more realistic (though I will always love Nancy).

I also love Sammy's Gram. What a fun adult to have raise you. Too bad it's not under better circumstances.

The second book, Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man begins a bit scarier. It's halloween and Sammy along with her friends Dot and Marissa go to the spooky Bush House to knock and run. But when they get there they are nearly run over by a man dressed in a skeleton costume. Sammy and her friends end up finding the "Bush man" tied up and unconscious. On top of trying to help the Bush man, Sammy is also dealing with drama at school. Heather Accosta has convinced one of the most popular boys in school that Sammy is in love with him, and Sammy is after revenge.

This one was just as fun as the first. There's a real strong anti-smoking theme throughout, but it's done in a way that doesn't really feel overwhelming.

Sammy's method of revenge against Heather is pretty awesome. I can't imagine having the courage to do it, but I would like to wish I would have.

Sammy is a fun listen. I hope my library has all of the books on CD (I think there are 10 out) because the reader is fabulous. If not, I will definitely be picking up the books!

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wuthering Heights

by Emily Bronte

I don't really have anything nice to say about this book. I've spent the last two weeks forcing my way through, and I just can't find anything redeeming about it, especially the characters. There isn't a single character that I even sort of like. But, it's been a week since I've reviewed a book, and I feel like I should say something.

So, here's my attempt at a 5-word review:

Selfish brats end up dead.

Has anyone read Wuthering Heights and enjoyed it? Obviously I was missing something, please feel free to enlighten me. I am at a complete loss.