Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Reads

Well, I read 136 books this year, which is definitely an all-time record for me. I've starred the ones below that I gave a 5-star rating. I wholly recommend all my 4-star rated books too.

Happy New Year!

Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Book 10 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Nigeria)
Awards: Margaret Wong Memorial Prize; Newsweek Top 100 Books: The Meta-List; TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was first exposed to this book in library school and I was intrigued by the title. Then every time I walked into B&N I noticed that it is on the high school reading lists for this area. So when I saw it on my sister's shelf, I asked to borrow it. It has only taken me a year to read it, but I'm glad I did!

This classic, written in 1958, is about the Igbo tribe in Nigeria during the period of British colonization and the arrival of Christian missionaries. Okonkwo is a local leader who has been successful through his hard work and ingenuity. He has three wives, which shows his status and wealth, and he rules his household with a firm hand, showing very little emotion lest he been seen as weak.

But things do fall apart. Okonkwo's oldest son is not the man he wants him to be.  His favorite daughter is sickly. He makes a horrifying decision at the behest of his tribe. And he spends years in exile over an accident. On top of all that, the white man comes and threatens Okonkwo's way of life and the culture and religious traditions that define him.

This book is incredibly well written. I wish I could study it in a literature class because I know I'm not taking away all the literary gems that are in there. The plot structure is a little loose as the story is more made up of a series of events that have a huge impact on Okonkwo's life. I really was transported away to a different time and place and I think that what I read will stick with me for a long time. But, the book is a tragedy so don't pick it up if you are in the mood for something light. However, I definitely recommend it if you are up for a unique reading experience.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Borrowed

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Little Brother

Little Brother Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Book 19 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2008)
Book 50 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 4 of 4 for the YA Dystopian Reading Challenge

Awards: Kirkus Editors Choice; Golden Duck Award; Booklist Editors' Choice; White Pine; SLJ Best Book; Publishers Weekly Best Book; YALSA Best Books for YA; Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (2009); John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2009); Emperor Norton Award (2008)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a YA dystopian novel set in the near future after a terrorist attack on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Seventeen year old Marcus and his friends were skipping school when the attack happened and they were caught by the Department of Homeland Security and sent to a prison where they effectively disappeared. They were inhumanely interrogated and their parents were never notified of their whereabouts. Two weeks later, Marcus is allowed to go home, but he holds onto his secret after being threatened by the DHS. Instead, Marcus designs a series of hacks to get back at the DHS for his treatment and for infringing on the privacy of citizens after anti-terrorism measures go too far.

I heard a lot of great things about this book and I have to agree that it has a very interesting premise. Some readers have criticized the explanations and techie discussions, but those were the parts I really loved. I feel a little bit smarter about national and private security issues and hacking for having read this book.

However, the book is too long and is badly edited. The author repeats himself there were spelling errors and inconsistencies. I felt like Marcus made some odd choices and the sex scenes made me squirm with the immature way they were handled. The other problem I had with this book is that it was very preachy. It's clear that the author has strong feelings regarding surveillance, personal liberties, Fox News, and the state of our government in general. While I think it is good to question our beliefs, having a characters that encourages open rebellion through illegal means with only minor consequences really didn't sit well with me.

I think the author brings up some great points to ponder. I just didn't enjoy the execution of the story as much as I was hoping to.

Download the entire book (legally) for free here.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: BookMooch

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let It Snow

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Stories Let It Snow: Three Holiday Stories

Book 18 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2008)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is just what the doctor ordered. Let It Snow is three fun interconnected Christmas teen romances by three great authors.

Maureen Johnson starts the ball rolling with a tale about Jubilee. It's Christmas Eve and her parents have been thrown in jail for being a part of a Christmas village collector's riot. So instead of attending her boyfriend's annual Christmas Smorgasbord, she hops on a train to see her grandparents in Florida. But her train only gets to western North Carolina before a snow storm blocks her in for the night.

John Green's story comes up next and it's set in the same town where Jubilee is stranded. Tobin's parents get stranded in Boston from the same storm, so he and his friends risk their very lives heading out to the local Waffle House because they know 14 stranded cheerleaders are in there.

Lauren Myracle (got to love that last name for Christmas spirit) wraps all the stories together with a tale of redemption and forgiveness. Addie had just recently split from her boyfriend and she feels just awful about it. To make things worse, her friends come over on Christmas Day and tell her that she's been selfish and self-absorbed. But, Addie has an angel at the Starbucks where she works, and everything comes together perfectly.

I read the whole book in one day. Although I loved them all, I think John Green's was my favorite. All the stories were somewhat implausible, but definitely sweet and charmingly funny.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Library

The Christmas Sweater

The Christmas Sweater The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck

Book 17 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2008)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is one of those feel-good Christmasy books. I was in the mood for one, and this is a quick read that fit the bill.

Eddie is a 12-year old boy who really wanted a bike for Christmas. But, his dad had recently passed away from cancer and his mom was working multiple jobs to help make ends meet. When Eddie received a homemade red sweater for Christmas instead of a bike, he left the sweater in a lump on the floor in disappointment. Thus began a sad chain of events that left Eddie feeling unloved, ignored by God, and incredibly selfish.

This book is a work of fiction, based on actual events that happened to Glenn Beck. I felt that the last 20 pages where Beck explains what really happened is the best part. The rest is not very well-written and is full of typos. I think if Beck had just written the real story, I wouldn't have minded the loose style editing issues so much. Also, the character of Eddie was just a bratty teenager for far too much of the book and it is all wrapped up too quickly at the end for my taste.

There is no doubt that this is a nice book for a quiet evening by the tree. But, it really wasn't anything to rave about in my opinion.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Gift

Monday, December 14, 2009

Between Me and the River

Between Me and the River Between Me and the River by Carrie Host

Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: August 1, 2009
ISBN: 9780373892143
Pages: 304
Price: $22.95
Author website

Book 49 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 16 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2009)


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. This is the first time cancer has really hit me in a personal way. I was excited to get the chance to review this memoir about a woman who is living with cancer, so I could attempt to step inside my grandmother's shoes for a little while to try to understand where she is coming from.

Carrie Host was not quite 40 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called carcinoid tumors in 2003. She had two teenagers and a 10-month old when she was finally diagnosed after a yearlong search of trying to find the culprit of her symptoms. She and her husband were able to have the best doctors money could buy from the Mayo Clinic to help with her treatment, and while there is no cure, Carrie has battled the odds and continues her fight today.

As a poet, Carrie's writing style is lyrical and she uses a lot of metaphor. I found the river metaphor to be a little overdone, but some of the passages were really striking.
Sometimes, while all is still but the rustle of leaves, I'll hear that angel's wings brushing the ice, and feel that strong pull, lifting my heart from the cold, dark water, and I'll weep.
The author clearly has a very comfortable life financially and she never really addresses that, other than to say she feels guilty that she has good health insurance. I couldn't help but think that most people could not afford to fly from Colorado to Minnesota on an hour's notice to get emergency treatment from the experts, to fly to New York to talk to a specialist, to get expensive jewelry, go on exotic vacations, or to get a housekeeper or a full-time nanny as she did. While I certainly don't begrudge her those things, in fact I think they have truly saved her life, I think an acknowledgment of her financial security might have helped to build a bridge between her and a reader who has no choice but to be treated from local doctors at a local hospital.

Sometimes at the end of chapters, Carrie has a paragraph that begins, "Cancer is like that." Truth be told, I think there are a lot of trials that are "like that" and I think there is a universal application in Carrie's words for whatever struggle you may be going through.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Publicist Lisa Roe - Thank you!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beneath a Marble Sky

Beneath a Marble Sky Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

Book 48 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 15 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2004)
Award: Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My husband has just spent the last two weeks in India. (He gets home tonight! Yay!) It just so happened that my in-person book club chose to read a historical fiction book set in India this month, so it was great for me to immerse myself for a little while into the culture where my husband has been working.

Beneath a Marble Sky details the lives of the royal family during the building of the Taj Mahal in the 17th century. While John Shors does admittedly take liberties with the historical accuracy of the characters, he does bring this part of history to life in a compelling way.

The novel is told from Jahanara's perspective, the eldest daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, as she recounts her life's story to her (fictional) granddaughters. Even at a young age, there is obvious tension between Jahanara's two brothers, Dara and Aurangzeb. Dara is the heir apparent, but Aurangzeb has a ruthless spirit who will stop at nothing to become the next emperor. Jahanara has an obvious affection for Dara which puts her at risk should Aurangzeb succeed.

When Jahanara is a young woman, her mother dies giving birth to her 14th child. Shah Jahan commissions the building of the Taj Mahal to honor Mumtaz Mahal and Jahanara falls in love with the architect. However, theirs is a forbidden love because she is already married from an arranged marriage to a despicable noble. Political intrigue surrrounding Jahanara's brothers affect the course of Jahanara's life and love to a satisfying conclusion for her, but not necessarily for all the characters involved.

I found this to be a good love story and I even shed a few tears at the end. There is quite a bit of violence in the book which is commensurate with the actual history, but some of it was hard for me to get through. I did learn a lot about what life might have been like in the harem and about relations between Hindus and Muslims during this time period. I found this book to be very enjoyable and should make for a good discussion next week!

Read the first chapter at John Shors website here.

Source: Library

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

This year is my first year participating in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap and I have loved being a part of it. My Secret Santa sent me a copy of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. I haven't read anything by this author yet, but this book was on my wishlist and I'm super excited to read it. A big shout-out goes to Julie from My Book Retreat. She's from my home state of North Carolina! Thank you!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Letters to a Young Poet

Letters to a Young Poet Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Book 47 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 9 of 10 for the Orbis Terrarum Challenge (Austria)


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last year when I finished the Orbis Terrarum Challenge, I was sent this book as a prize. I wish I knew which lovely blogger sent it to me, but THANK YOU to whomever it was. I really enjoyed it.

This book contains 10 letters written by Rilke to an aspiring poet. While Rilke doesn't really give the poetry much criticism, he encourages the young poet to extract more of the meaning of his existence, to dig deep, and to make his own destiny. This book is a slim volume, but it has some excellent points to ponder.

Some favorite quotes:
If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.

Live awhile in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times...

...be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
I'm a little humbled by the fact that Rilke was younger than I am when he wrote most of the letters. I'm not an artist or a poet and some of his prose was a little overly intellectual for me. But, I will definitely pick this one up again. It's a good little book to browse. Rilke's insights are stunning.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Gift

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1) The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Book 46 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 14 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2008)
Book 3 for the YA Dystopian Reading Challenge
Awards: Guardian Children's Fiction Prize; Booklist Editors' Choice; Carnegie Medal/Honors; IBBY Honor List; James Tiptree Jr. Award


My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Well, there probably isn't much more I could say about this book than has already been said. Most people absolutely rave about this book and I get why. This book is like an action movie. It's intense and fast-paced with a bad guy that just doesn't seem to die no matter what.

The book has a unique premise. Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown which is located in the New World. The males in town make Noise, which means they can hear not only each others thoughts and dreams, but also the thoughts of animals. The women are all gone. Todd was told that they died from a virus because the new planet, inhabited by alien lifeforms called Spackle, was not compatible with females. But so many things Todd has been told turn out not to be true, starting when he hears something that doesn't seem right--silence.

I was definitely sucked in by the plot. But, I was dissatisfied with the character development (I didn't really connect with anyone but the dog), the weird spelling issues (I never got used to it even after 480 pages), the violence and gore (ick) and the cliffhanger ending (the book was just too long to not give me a smidgen of resolution).

Will I read The Ask and the Answer? Most likely. Ness has created an interesting world with moral issues that make you think. It is depressing, but it does have some sweet moments where the good in humanity shines through. It actually reminded me of Ender's Game quite a few times.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a must-read if you really like dystopian sci-fi, but it just wasn't as good as The Hunger Games for me.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Library

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Predictably Irrational

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Book 45 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 13 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2008)


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first learned about Predictably Irrational from reading a post on My Friend Amy's blog. This book is listed by Newsweek as one of 50 books for our time. So, Amy decided to host a collaborative project where book bloggers could choose one book on the list to read before the end of the year and give our $0.02 about whether or not we agree with Newsweek's assessment (see the reviews for the other books here). This was the book I signed up for, and for me, the short answer is YES.

Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist at MIT. His research focuses on studies that really impact each of us in our day-to-day interactions and prove that we really aren't as rational as we think we are. The book explains why we love things that are free, how marketers use decoys to get us to do exactly what they want, and why expensive medicines seem to work better than cheaper ones. Lots of pertinent societal issues are discussed with moral, ethical, and economic consequences including self-control, honesty, passion, and procrastination.

I found myself talking about this book to anyone who would listen to me this week and even read sections out loud to my husband (who agrees he must now read it!). While it might bother some, I appreciated Ariely's thoughtful commentary and extrapolations on how his data could be interpreted in other aspects of society including the home, workplace, and in Washington. I was truly enlightened as the author exposes some of the forces that influence the decisions I make everyday and I hope I will be more thoughtful in using my purchasing power, in making career decisions, and in choosing how I spend my time.

The book has conversational tone and uses sarcasm which doesn't always translate well on the printed page, in my opinion. I could have lived without the squirm-inducing chapter that discussed sexual arousal. But other than that, I think this book is really readable, thought-provoking, and would be really fun to discuss with others. I definitely recommend it, especially for those who have enjoyed Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell's books.

Click here to listen to some excerpts from the book.

Also reviewed by:
Source: Library

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fifth Business

Fifth Business (Penguin Classics) Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

Book 44 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Awards: Fifth Business was selected 40th on the American Modern Library's "reader's list" of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book in a trilogy about the Canadian town of Deptford. The novel is written as a letter to the headmaster of a school where the narrator, Dunstan Ramsay, was a schoolmaster. Ramsay essentially tells the story of his life, beginning with a snowball thrown by Percy "Boy" Staunton that was meant for him. Instead, Dunny ducked and the snowball hit the pregnant wife of a local pastor that caused her to have her baby prematurely.

As time goes on, Dunstan serves in WW1, develops an obsession with saints, is drawn to the circus, and maintains his friendship with Boy, who is now wealthy and politically influential.

There is a reason this book, written in 1970, deserves to be a classic. I thought I would breeze through its 250 pages, but this is a book to savor. There were entire pages that I read multiple times and I would like to read them again with a highlighter in hand. I think the conversations Dunstan shared with a Jesuit priest were my favorite parts. The book was multi-layered and had wonderful character explorations and depth. It explored themes of spirituality, religion, morality, honesty, hard work, duty, chance, guilt, and the position we occupy in the grand role of life.

The book is a kind of mystery, but I had to follow the plot twists and turns to the very end to realize what the mystery was all about. The ending was wonderful and I will definitely be looking into the next books in this series in the future. Highly recommended for those looking for a masterfully-written adult novel with intriguing psychological and philosophical bents.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: BookMooch

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Arabella

Arabella Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Originally published: 1949
Republished: August 1, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1402219466
Price: $13.99
Pages: 312

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arabella is one of nine children, the daughter of a country vicar in rural Yorkshire. While she is certainly well-bred, she has virtually no money to her name. Her mother sends her to London to live with her godmother in the hopes that her beautiful face will capture the fancy of a wealthy bachelor who can help set Arabella and her sisters up for the rest of their lives. But Arabella's impulsive and impetuous nature, coupled with her naivete, put her in a predicament that makes her wonder whether she will ever find the right man to marry.

This Regency romance novel had humor in spades. Arabella's antics cracked me up. I also got really excited about the romance in this book. Not because I didn't know who Arabella was going to end up with. But the WAY that she ended up with him was really clever. This book has some unexpected plot twists that kept me enchanted with the story. And while the beginning of the novel went on for far too long for my taste, this is probably my favorite Heyer yet.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Publisher (Thank you Danielle at Sourcebooks!)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Girl on Legare Street

The Girl On Legare Street (Tradd Street) The Girl On Legare Street by Karen White

Publication date: November 3, 2009
Publisher: NAL Trade
ISBN: 0451227999
Price:$15.00
Pages: 336
Series: Book 2 of 4 (Tradd Street)


Book 12 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2009)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was excited to receive an advanced copy of this book since I read the first in the series, The House on Tradd Street, earlier this year with my book club. This book continues the story of Melanie Middleton, a Charleston realtor who has a gift that allows her to see and speak with ghosts. Melanie's mother Ginette, who abandoned Melanie when she was just 7 years old, has the same gift. After nearly 33 years, Melanie's mother returns to Charleston to buy her ancestral home at 33 Legare Street. But with Ginnette's return comes a ghostly presence who has a score to settle. Melanie and Ginnette are forced to work together against this evil presence to banish it forever.

Meanwhile, handsome Jack Trenholm still wants to be a part of Melanie's life, but she has her reservations. And annoying reporter Rebecca Edgerton keeps showing up at the house trying to get information about Melanie's ancestors for a piece about famous Charlestonians. Jack and Rebecca share a past and Melanie is surprised at her reaction to their relationship.

This was a really good mystery set in one of my favorite cities. I don't usually get freaked out reading books, but this one has just the right amount of spookiness and I couldn't read it too late at night. The great romantic tension kept me turning pages just as much as the mystery. As with the first book, I did find certain parts to be a little repetitive and I couldn't really figure out why everyone kept being so accommodating to Rebecca. But I enjoyed this book even more than the first one and look forward to the next book due out in 2011. This is a fun series that I definitely recommend.

Read an excerpt here.

Source: Publicist (Thank you Joy Strazza!)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Railway Children

The Railway Children (Everyman's Library Children's Classics) The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Book 43 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 8 of 25 for the MG Reading Challenge
Book 6 for the Classics Challenge


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had three hours in the car by myself and decided to download a library audiobook to my ipod for the drive. I didn't realize how limiting my selection was going to be since I was working on my Mac that night instead of a PC. But, I ended up somewhat reluctantly downloading this book. And then I promptly fell in love with it.

The Railway Children (no relation to The Boxcar Children) is a classic children's story that was written in 1906. The tale focuses on three children named Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis who move to the English countryside after their father is taken away. Their proximity to the railway provides them with all kinds of adventures that they never had when they lived in the city. They learn how to make do, make friends, and enjoy the outside world while interacting with the station master, the signalman, the porter, the town doctor, and even a bargeman.

This book would make a fantastic read-aloud. It kind of reminded me of Thomas the Tank Engine, but for older kids (and without talking locomotives and helicopters). It is definitely one of those great "old-fashioned" stories. Even though there were some colloquialisms used that clearly refer to the time the book was written, this is a story that will never go out of style.

I should mention that I wasn't a big fan of the reader of the audiobook. She had fabulous distinct voices for each character, but her English accent left something to be desired. I ended up reading the last half of the book in hardcover and was much less distracted.

Also reviewed by:
Have you read this one? Did you read it as a child?

Source: Library

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Midwife's Apprentice

The Midwife's Apprentice The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman

Book 42 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 7 of 25 for the MG Reading Challenge

Awards: SLJ Best Book; Young Reader's Choice Award/Nominee; American Bookseller Pick of the List; ALA Notable/Best Books; Booklist Editors' Choice; NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts; Horn Book Fanfare; Newbery Medal; Parent's Choice Award/Honor Book


My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book won the Newbery in 1996 and while it has been around for awhile, it has never really made it onto my radar until recently. I picked it up at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale a few months ago and thought it would make a nice quick read for the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. But I started it late into the evening and I had a hard time getting into it. I thought it was because I was tired, but I finished it up later and still came away with mixed feelings.

This is a short story of homeless girl in medieval England who becomes a midwife's apprentice (obviously). She is found in a town sleeping in a dung heap, and so everyone calls her Beetle, short for Dung Beetle. She is taunted and teased by locals, and pretty much generally abused by the midwife who takes her in. Eventually, she leaves the town thinking that she will be better off elsewhere. But ultimately she learns to face her fears and become the person that she wants to be.

I have to say that I did like the author's use of language and beautiful word choice. But I just wanted more from the story. More depth, more plot, more answers. It was a just a little too simple for the type of tale being told, in my opinion. I think the coarseness of Beetle's treatment and the descriptions used at the birth scenes make this a book for children at least 12 and up. But, the style of the book seemed like it would work better for younger kids. It almost came off as trite. There was just a disconnect for me between the subject, content, and style. I honestly felt that if the book was twice as long, I would have liked it twice as much. And maybe that's just because I'm not the intended audience after all.

After reading some other reviews, I get the sense that this is either a book you love or a book that you don't. So please, check out some of these reviews:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Purchased

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life As We Knew It

Life As We Knew It (Moon, #1) Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Book 41 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 11 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2005)
Book 2 for the YA Dystopian Reading Challenge

Book 6 of 25 for the MG Reading Challenge
Awards: Nebula Award/Finalist; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Andre Norton Award; Booklist Editors' Choice; Quill Book Awards


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've had this one on my to-read list for awhile and even managed to snag a copy through BookMooch. I figured nothing could get me to stay awake during the week hours of the read-a-thon like a book that would scare the living daylights out of me, and this one definitely did its job!

When a meteor hits the moon and knocks it slightly off orbit, the effect on the earth is catastrophic. Miranda, a sophomore in high school, goes from worrying about whether or not she'll go to the prom to worrying about whether or not she and her family will have enough food and fuel to survive the winter. The book is written as Miranda's journal entries. It's a style that I love and I think works especially well with this plot.

I felt like Pfeffer did an excellent job grasping that feeling of helplessness, anxiety, and panic that happens when disaster strikes. I was reminded a lot of how I felt during September 11th, and could imagine how that might be on an even bigger scale. But the author also does a great job portraying how the survival instinct kicks in (or not) and how different people react in a given situation. You can't read this book without considering your own emergency preparedness.

I think this book would be appropriate starting at junior high age. There is a companion book, The Dead and Gone, which looks at the same event from a different set of eyes. At the moment I don't plan on reading it since I was kind of hoping for a continuation of Miranda's story instead. But this is a book that will definitely get you thinking!

Also reviewed by:
As always, please let me know if I have missed yours! (Blogger is being sketchy tonight, so I know I'm missing lots!)

Source: BookMooch

Read-a-thon End of Event Meme

Well, I fell asleep between 2am and 3am, woke up at 6am, read for a little bit, and went back to sleep. I ended up reading 1,000 pages.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? That 2am hour was a killer.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Shooting the Moon, How I Live Now, and Life As We Knew It were all good to read.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I liked the wide diversity of mini-challenges.
5. How many books did you read? 4
6. What were the names of the books you read? I finished North and South, Shooting the Moon, How I Live Now, Life as We Knew It, and started The Midwife's Apprentice
7. Which book did you enjoy most? Shooting the Moon
8. Which did you enjoy least? Probably The Midwife's Apprentice, but only because I was SO tired.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'm hoping to participate again. This was my second time as a reader.

Many thanks to the organizers and cheerleaders. I had a blast!

Read-a-thon Update #4

Well, six hours to go and I still haven't slept yet. This last hour has been tough and I might need a little cat nap here in a little bit.

I just finished reading Life As We Knew It. I have read 937 pages so far and have finished 4 books. I think The Midwife's Apprentice is the next book on my pile.

Thanks for the comments and cheerleading!

Give Me Five Meme

This meme asks us to list five favorite children's books. These aren't necessarily my all-time favorites, but here are five I love:
  1. Love You Forever
  2. Knuffle Bunny
  3. I Love You, Stinky Face
  4. Goodnight Moon
  5. Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How I Live Now

How I Live Now How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Book 40 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 10 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2004)
Book 1 for the YA Dystopian Challenge
Awards: ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Michael Printz Award; Guardian Children's Fiction Prize; Horn Book Fanfare


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How I Live Now is a dystopian YA fiction novel about a girl named Daisy from New York. Daisy has an eating disorder and she can't stand her stepmom-to-be, so she is sent to live in England with her cousins. There is a great fear of war, and her aunt leaves the five children alone to travel to Oslo for political reasons right before England is invaded. As the unthinkable happens, the children are left alone to fend for themselves until they are split up, relocated, and eventually forced to find their way back home.

I mostly enjoyed the innovative writing style which is real stream of consciousness with lots of Capital Letters. But it really captured Daisy's 15-year old voice beautifully. Conceptually I found this book interesting and scarily plausible. There is an, ahem, inappropriate cousin relationship between Daisy and her cousin Edmond which made me a little squeemish. But I absolutely fell in love with 9-year old Piper.

I found this tale of survival and familial relationships to be unique and could provide some interesting discussion. But, it is only a book I would recommend for the upper grade crowd because of its thematic elements.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: BookMooch

Read-a-thon Update #3

I decided to participate in the meme for this hour since we are halfway through.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now? Just going to start Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

2. How many books have you read so far? 3

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Hmm. Probably this one.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? My husband took care of the kids and then in the afternoon a friend and I checked into a hotel so we could read in peace this evening.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? My kids were in and out today. But really, they just needed a few snuggles and kisses and they were off again!

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How quickly it goes by!

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

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? I'll definitely be participating again. Right now I can't think of anything I would do differently.

9. Are you getting tired yet? Not yet. Talk to me in a couple of hours though.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Read short books that you are really excited about!

I've read 600 pages so far, so I'm a little behind what I accomplished in April. Look for my review of How I Live Now coming up in the next few hours!

Shooting the Moon

Shooting the Moon Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Book 39 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 9 of 55 for the Countdown Challenge (2008)
Book 5 of 25 for the MG Book Challenge
Awards: Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors; Christopher Award; Kirkus Editors Choice


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jamie Dexter is a 12 year old army brat who lives in North Carolina. As soon as her brother turns 18, he enlists as a medic in Vietnam. Jamie's father, the Colonel, is not at all happy about TJ's decision which shocks both brother and sister since they had been taught loyalty to country and the military their entire lives.

Instead of letters, Jamie's brother TJ only sends her home rolls of film to develop. With the help of one of the men on the base, Jamie learns how to develop the film. In the process, she realizes that her brother is communicating with her, just not through words.

This book is simple yet deep. It is incredibly well-written and surprisingly moving. Highly recommended for grade 5 and up. (And it is in your Scholastic book orders and book fair.)

Also reviewed by:
Did I miss yours?

Source: Purchased

Read-a-thon Update #2

Just checking in for a bit. I finished reading Shooting the Moon and I'm halfway through How I Live Now. I've read 512 pages so far today. I'm surprised at how quickly the day has gone by! Look for a review of Shooting the Moon a little later.

I hope everyone is having a great time!

North and South

North and South (Penguin Classics) North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Book 38 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 5 for the Classics Challenge


My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I told myself I had to read this before I watched it. And, although it wasn't the quickest or easiest read on the planet, it was well worth it.

North and South is the story of Margaret Hale, the daughter of a country parson who has a crisis of conscience and decides to give up his profession. Because the scandal of leaving the Church of England is so great, the family moves north to Milton (presumed Manchester) where life in an industrial town contrasts so greatly with their idyllic rural life.

Before leaving the South, Margaret is proposed to by her cousin's brother-in-law, whom she turns down because she only considers him a friend. But on arrival to the smoky North, Margaret meets John Thornton, a wealthy cotton manufacturer, whom she despises because of his supposed inferior station.

In the North, Margaret befriends a poor family with a consumptive daughter. She learns much about the struggle between master and worker and even finds herself involved in a strike. These parts, which were written using the local worker's accent, were a little dry and difficult to read. But the social struggle is real and could even be compared and contrasted to those involving unions today.

There is a nice love triangle in this book and I definitely have a new Victorian male to swoon about in Mr. Thornton. But there is a lot of heartache too, much of it revolving around the social and political commentary of the time. This is a classic I am glad to have read and I look forward to reading more of Gaskell's works.

Also reviewed by:
Have I missed yours?

Source: Purchased

Read-a-thon Update #1

Well, I finally finished North and South. Woo hoo! Not exactly a fast-paced read, but very good. I'll post a review in the next few hours.

I think I'm going to choose a quick, small book to read now. Probably Shooting the Moon.

I've read for a little over 3 hours and blogged for about 1/2 hour so far. Thanks for the encouragement everyone!

Read-a-thon Begins!

Good morning all! I was hoping to have North and South finished before this morning, but I didn't quite make it. So, my first order of business is to finish off the last 150 pages or so.

My husband and kids are going out to the bakery to pick up some breakfast for me, and then they are all going to out for awhile. So, it should be nice and quiet around here.

Good luck to everyone! I'll be checking in every few hours today and can't wait to hear about what everyone is reading.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Read-a-thon Stack

I read five pretty good sized books last read-a-thon, so we'll see what I can actually accomplish this time. Here is the stack:


In the afternoon I'll be checking into a hotel with my friend, and new book blogger, Shanda. We decided it would be fun to make it a girls weekend and enjoy a little peace, without the guilt that comes while reading with kids underfoot.

I've also got a couple of books in transit at the library that I hope come in for tomorrow too. If they do, I'll add to my stack:
  1. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
  2. The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
  3. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Yay for the Read-a-thon! I can't wait!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Challenges Update

Wow, this update is overdue. Back at the beginning of September, I finished J. Kaye's 100+ Reading Challenge. Here were the books I read:
  1. Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
  2. Tears of Pearl
  3. Vampire Academy
  4. Jellicoe Road
  5. Team Moon
  6. Babymouse: The Musical
  7. Best Intentions
  8. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy
  9. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
  10. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
  11. The Education of Little Tree
  12. When You Reach Me *
  13. Crown Duel
  14. The Lincolns *
  15. The Four Graces *
  16. Eyes Like Stars
  17. These Is My Words *
  18. I Am a Mother
  19. Along for the Ride
  20. Glenn Beck's Common Sense
  21. The Chosen One
  22. Still Alice *
  23. A Bride in the Bargain
  24. The Sugar Queen
  25. Southern Ladies and Gentlemen
  26. The Two Mrs. Abbotts
  27. The Great Divorce *
  28. This Lullaby
  29. A Single Shard
  30. Seek
  31. Forever Rose
  32. Here is New York *
  33. The Actor and the Housewife
  34. Miss Buncle Married
  35. Into Thin Air
  36. Obama's Blackberry
  37. Simple Wishes
  38. Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones
  39. Caddy Ever After
  40. Graceling
  41. The Arrival
  42. Suite Scarlett
  43. Permanent Rose
  44. Gregor the Overlander
  45. The Woman in White
  46. Tales From Outer Suburbia *
  47. Redeeming Love
  48. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
  49. The Hiding Place *
  50. The Four Corners of the Sky
  51. Indigo's Star
  52. The Midwife
  53. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw
  54. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
  55. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  56. The Blue Castle *
  57. Fire Study
  58. Miss Buncle's Book
  59. Magic Study
  60. The Uncommon Reader
  61. Perfect You
  62. The Loser's Guide to Life and Love
  63. 11 Birthdays
  64. The Season
  65. Unwind
  66. Poison Study *
  67. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  68. Wake
  69. The Adoration of Jenna Fox
  70. Just Listen
  71. Saffy's Angel
  72. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane *
  73. Banker to the Poor
  74. The Scapegoat
  75. Among the Mad
  76. Galway Bay
  77. The Help
  78. The Kingmaking
  79. The House on Tradd Street
  80. A Northern Light
  81. The Geography of Bliss
  82. Uglies
  83. Hattie Big Sky
  84. Hush
  85. Last Days of Summer
  86. A Fatal Waltz *
  87. Very Valentine
  88. A Poisoned Season
  89. Dear Exile
  90. Garden Spells
  91. And Only to Deceive
  92. A Bride Most Begrudging
  93. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  94. Wife in the North
  95. Belong to Me
  96. Because of Winn-Dixie
  97. 84, Charing Cross Road *
  98. Love Walked In
  99. Lydia Bennet's Story
  100. Every Soul a Star
I also finished Carl's RIP VI Challenge reading:
  1. Catching Fire *
  2. Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
  3. Tears of Pearl
  4. Vampire Academy
I've recently joined Bart's YA Dystopian Challenge and 3m's Countdown Challenge.

I've also got to finish up the Classics Challenge, Orbis Terrarum, and the New Author Challenge before the end of the year. Many thanks to all the excellent challenge hosts!

I'm excited to be part of the Read-a-thon this weekend and hopefully get closer to finishing some more challenges. Right now I'm reading North and South, which I like, but it is taking awhile. :) Tomorrow I'm hoping to post my stack for the Read-a-thon!