Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ender in Exile

Published by:  TOR
Release date: November 11, 2008

rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read Ender's Game in October, I really liked it. I'm not a big sci-fi fan though, so I didn't think I would be picking up anymore books about Ender right away (although we own them all thanks to my hubby!). But, when I got a chance to review Orson Scott Card's latest release, which just happens to be the direct sequel to Ender's Game from 24 years ago, I jumped at the chance. I couldn't wait to read what the author had in store for Ender during the "lost years" after Battle School. And, now I have the advantage of reading the whole series in chronological order!

Ender in Exile picks up right after Chapter 14 of Ender's Game. There is some debate over whether or not Ender will be allowed to return to his family on Earth based on political maneuvering and legal implications. But Ender knows he has much more to do with his life, influenced by his obsession to learn more about the formics (formerly known as buggers).

At the close of Ender’s Game, Andrew Wiggin -- called Ender by everyone -- knows that he cannot live on Earth. He has become far more than just a boy who won a game: He is the Savior of Earth, a hero, a military genius whose allegiance is sought by every nation of the newly shattered Earth Hegemony.
He is offered the choice of living under the Hegemon's control, a pawn in his brother Peter's political games. Or he can join the colony ships and go out to settle one of the new worlds won in the war.
The story of those years on the colony worlds has never been told... until now.
As much as I did enjoy Ender's Game, reading Ender in Exile has only encouraged my interest in continuing this series even more. Ender is more grown up and more thoughtful. He's not just reacting to his circumstances, he's taking charge.  I love the personal interactions Ender has as he tries to navigate his new life while approaching adulthood.  Although not a lot actually happens in this book, Card's exploration of the motives behind human behavior was something that I found fascinating.  This book will make a great holiday gift for the sci-fi lover in your life, or anyone who wants who hasn't yet experienced the world of Ender. 

Enjoy the trailer:

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Thank you to Julie from FSB Associates for the chance to read and review this book!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This 2008 Newbery Medal winner was a delight to read. The author, Laura Amy Schlitz, is a school librarian who wrote the pieces in the book for her fifth grade students to perform. Since she couldn't write 17 equal parts of importance, most of the book is made up of poetic monologues where each student represents a different person in a Medieval village. (I have to say though, my favorite parts were the dialogues performed by two characters.) The characters range in social class from the nobility right down to the beggars.

I think this book is so fabulous because it shows students how history can really come alive. This is a librarian who went the ultimate mile in allowing students to truly experience what they were learning in a way that is meaningful and unforgettable. In addition, Schlitz includes footnotes and background explanations which are both interesting and sometimes very humorous.

Do I think it will go flying off the shelves in your local library? Probably not. But if I were a teacher studying the Middle Ages, I would use it in my lesson plans for sure. If there is a student who had an interest in Medieval times or wanted to read something a little different, I would certainly recommend it. I'll definitely be handing it to my daughter in the next year or so.  I think it's appropriate from about fourth grade on up.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Winner and 2 Children's Book Reviews

Johnny Big Ears, the Feel-Good Friend is the story, not surprisingly, of a young boy with large ears.  As he enters kindergarten, he gets teased a little bit, but Johnny is self-aware and self-confident.  With his family support, he remains optimistic and happy.

I found the reading level of this book to be quite a bit advanced for the target age group.  I also don't think there are enough illustrations to keep little ones totally engaged.  But, I do think it has a great message of being comfortable in your own skin and not allowing others to dictate how you feel about yourself.

The Tutu Ballet is another gorgeous Sally O. Lee children's book about accepting individuality and working together as a group.  My kids and I love her beautiful watercolors.  

Each of the animals in the story excels in one aspect of the ballet.  So, the teacher puts their skills to use and they put on a great show.  My only worry about this book is that I do think kids should also feel comfortable trying new things, even if they aren't the best at it.  There are a lot of things in life that we are just mediocre at, and learning to accept that as well is a useful life skill.  But overall, I've been enchanted by Sally O. Lee and her woodland creatures.

The winner, according to, of Life After Genius is Emilia!  I'll be in touch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Engaging Father Christmas

Engaging Father Christmas (Father Christmas Series #2) Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn

Publisher:  Faith Words
Publication Date:  October 30, 2008

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the sequel to Finding Father Christmas, and I sure hope there are more to come in this series.

Engaging Father Christmas picks up one year after the last book ended. Miranda is once again in England for Christmas, hoping to get engaged to her Scottish boyfriend, Ian. There are some hiccups along the way, but things turn out exactly as they should in the end.

The themes of faith, grace, and patience with a little romance thrown in, can't help but produce some Christmas cheer. (I even got a little Christmas lump in my throat, because I'm a sap like that.) This is a great holiday read, with a reading guide in the back for group discussions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Garcia girls are four sisters who are forced to immigrate with their parents to the United States following political unrest in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. The book is told in reverse chronological order with a different character narrating different vignettes. Some of the stories were interesting, but some were a little too abstract for me.

There wasn't really a major plot thread that kept me hooked through the book, so the second half slowed way down for me. The characters were interesting in a troubled sort of way, but I found I was sometimes confused about which sister was which.

I enjoyed the first half, but overall I was left disappointed.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson

rating:  3 of 5 stars

OK, so I probably would have given this book two stars except I did laugh out loud.

Numerous times.

Bill Bryson isn't kidding when he says from the get-go, "So this is a book about not very much." Basically, it is a book about growing up in Des Moines in the 1950s. Some of it was funny and interesting, and some of it just went on too long for me. Some parts seemed vaguely familiar from the other three books of his that I have read. But let's face it, I couldn't write one, let alone many books that would keep people remotely entertained about my own life.

This is my in-person book club's pick this month, and I'm sure it will be a good time re-living some of the classic moments from the book. I would definitely be interested to see what a contemporary of Bryson thinks of it.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Regency Buck

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

Originally published:  1935
Published in trade paperback by Sourcebooks, Inc.:  August 1, 2008

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first Georgette Heyer book, and I really enjoyed it. This Regency romance novel will delight Jane Austen fans as well as those who find Austen's stories a little too slow.

Judith Travener and her brother Peregrine are wealthy orphans who travel to London to meet their guardian. They expect to find their ward, Lord Worth, to be much older and are shocked to discover he is practically their own age. Life in London gets interesting with the new heiress and her brother in town whilst Lord Worth puts a crimp in everyone's plans.

This is a perfect read for a cold and rainy day--a romance with a little mystery thrown in. My only complaint was that it was a little predictable for me. But I thoroughly enjoyed this and can't wait to read more of Heyer's works.

Thank you to Danielle at Sourcebooks for this book!

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Thursday, November 13, 2008


Outliers Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Published by: Little, Brown
Release date: November 11, 2008

rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, comes a fascinating look into why some people succeed and some do not. Malcolm Gladwell convincingly argues that there is so much more to success than the "rags-to-riches through sheer determination" cliche we often buy into. Instead, he looks at how our culture, language, ancestors, birth date, and sheer luck play into the equation.

Want to know answers to questions like:

Why are Asians good at math?
Are geniuses more successful?
What's wrong with our school system?
What do plane crashes have to do with ethnicity?
How does where we live affect who we are?
How hard do you have to work to be good at something?


I thought this was completely engrossing from start to finish and it is definitely one of my favorites this year. Highly recommended.

Thank you Kelly from Hachette for this awesome book!
Listen to an excerpt here.
Watch this video with Malcolm Gladwell to find out more about this book.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Finding Father Christmas

Finding Father Christmas: A Novella Finding Father Christmas: A Novella by Robin Jones Gunn

Publisher:  Faith Words 
Release date: October 11, 2007

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cute faith-based novella about a 20-something woman who travels to England at Christmas in search of finding her biological father. It's a cozy read, just right for this time of year. There isn't really anything earth-shattering about it, but it's enjoyable all the same. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel, Engaging Father Christmas, which I think has more of a romantic slant to it.

The book also includes a reading group guide which might make it an ideal choice for a December book club.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Colin is a child prodigy who has just graduated from high school and been dumped by his 19th girlfriend named Katherine. He and his best friend Hassan decide to go on a road trip for the summer and they end up in Gutshot, Tennessee...which is where the fun begins.

This is the first book I've read by John Green, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was smart (math geeks will LOVE it), laugh-out-loud funny (the footnotes just slayed me), and concise yet meaningful. My only caveat is that I would recommend it for the older high school crowd on up because of language and thematic content. As a winner of numerous awards (Printz, Kirkus, Booklist, etc.) I can say that I think it is definitely deserving of its accolades. You can pick it up for $3.99 at B&N!

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