Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Preacher's Bride

The Preacher's BrideThe Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Costin is a tinker in Puritan England. His wife has died shortly after childbirth, leaving 4 children behind, including his oldest daughter who is blind. John needs help because not only does he have a family to support, he has been called by God to preach His word to surrounding villages.

Elizabeth Whitbread answers the call to help John. She becomes his housekeeper, delaying her marriage to cooper Samuel Muddle. Eventually, John and Elizabeth fall in love and get married, causing all sorts of issues. But Elizabeth finds herself having a tough time ingratiating herself into John's life more fully than just as his housekeeper. In addition, John is in serious trouble with the law for preaching without a license.

Something the author doesn't tell the reader until the end is that this book is based on the life of John Bunyon, the author of Pilgrim's Progress. But I think knowing that makes the novel even more interesting.  Elizabeth Bunyon was a woman who sacrificed so much to support to husband. I found quite a bit in this novel that I could relate to and I really enjoyed the author's overall message. While I didn't love the way the language of the time period was written (including the overuse of the word 'twas), I did love the sweet romance. This is an author I will definitely read more from.

Also reviewed by: My Own Little Corner of the World ~ 2 Kids and Tired Books ~ My Friend Amy ~ Your link here?
Source: Gift

A Season of Gifts

A Season of GiftsA Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

AR Reading Level: 4.6
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Awards: Smithsonian's Notable Book; Publishers Weekly Best Book
Series: Book 3 of 3 (Grandma Dowdel)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is the summer of 1958 and Bob Barnhart has just moved with his family to a rural town in Illinois. Twelve-year old Bob is immediately bullied by the gang in town, resulting in him meeting his eccentric neighbor, Grandma Dowdel, who is an ornery 90-something.

Once school starts, Grandma Dowdel becomes a part of Bob's life, either helping him and his family out of scrapes, or getting them into them. Through her cunning, Bob's dad is able to attract a congregation, she gets Bob's older sister away from the town bad boy, and secure some large beautiful (and free!) Christmas trees.

This book was somewhat reminiscent of the funnier works of Gary Paulsen. I think this book is geared more towards boys than the companion novels, as evidenced by the humor. But I did love how the book wrapped up with the Christmas season, including some heartwarming life lessons.

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ BermudaOnion's Weblog ~ Your link here?
Source: Library Audiobook

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting BoyThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

AR Reading Level: 4.7
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Awards: Kirkus Editors Choice; SLJ Best Book; Book Sense Book of the Year Award/Honorees; ALA Notable/Best Books; State Award; National Book Award; Booklist Editors' Choice
Series: Book 1 of 3 
Recommended for: Ages 8+

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have owned this book for a long time, meaning to read it with my children. But we had a long car trip this winter break, so I decided to check it out from the library and listen to the audiobook instead. I'm so glad I did! This book is a delightful read/listen for the whole family.

The Penderwicks are made up of four sisters--Rosalind, Sky, Jane and Batty--their dad, and their dog named Hound.  For a few weeks in the summer, they decide to rent a little cottage in the mountains of Massachusetts. What they don't realize is that the cottage is part of a larger estate. And this is where the two rabbits and the very interesting boy come in. The girls get up to all kinds of mischief, mostly from their good intentions gone awry.

I was worried that my boys might not like a story about four sisters, but they loved it just as much (if not more!) than the girls. Susan Denaker did a wonderful job as the narrator. I do wonder if I would have loved it just as much if I had read it myself or read it aloud instead of listened, but this was a five-star experience for sure. It's rare to find a book that all four of my kids (ages 5 to 11) and myself love equally. We can't wait to read the next one!

Also reviewed by: Book Nut ~ The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: Library Audiobook


Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and PlaceRefuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a naturalist, Terry Tempest Williams takes a special interest in the birds that live and migrate seasonally in the area of The Great Salt Lake. In 1983, she learns that her mother, already a breast cancer survivor, was dying from colon cancer. It is during this same season that the birds' refuge becomes threatened by rising water levels. Terry beautifully weaves these two events into a memoir that is richly descriptive and quite emotional.

I loved how each chapter focuses on a specific type of bird. Either Terry describes that bird and it's habitat or characteristics, or she relates it to something specific happening in her life. I went to college in Utah, so I enjoyed reading this book set in an area familiar to me. And yet the way this book was written, I also felt I was able to see it through new eyes.

The way Williams chooses to live and express her feelings about the Mormon faith made me a little uncomfortable. But I was so intrigued by this author that I even did some further reading online to get a sense of what she has done since this book was published in 1994. Williams definitely has a great passion for those she loves and for her life's work.

Source: BookMooch

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Cricket on the Hearth

The Cricket on the HearthThe Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My in-person book club chose this short holiday tale for this month. Known as one of the five Dickens Christmas books, I was surprised to find that this book is actually set in January. However, in Dickens' day it was published shortly before Christmas and sold well through the holidays.

John Peerybingle is a middle-aged carrier. His young wife and baby son mean everything to him, and he has a sweet little home life than includes a cricket on their hearth. The cricket acts as kind of a household fairy, either chirping happily as it blesses the family or warning them when something is amiss. In this case, John comes to believe (incorrectly) that his wife is having an affair with their lodger and the cricket helps to steer him right.

There is a Scrooge-y character in this book who is a cranky toymaker in their village. And there is a Tiny Tim character in the form of a blind girl named Bertha that Dot befriends.  My favorite character is probably Tilly Slowboy, the Peerybingle's nanny who is constantly injuring the poor baby accidentally.

It's short. It's sweet. It has some Victorian humor. And everything turns out all right for the characters  in the end.

Source: Kindle

The Queen of Attolia

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

AR Reading Level: 6.7
On the library stacks: Young adult fiction
Awards: Parent's Guide Book Award/ Honor Book; Parent's Choice Award/Honor Book; BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
Series: The Queen's Thief (Book 2 of 4)
Recommended for: Grades 6+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read the first book in this series (gulp!) over three years ago! I liked it, but somehow I let finishing the series slide right by me. So I was happy when Melissa at Book Nut insisted I read the next book in the series for our Blogger Book Swap challenge.

Needless to say, it took me a little bit to wrap my head around where the last book left off. We open this book with Gen quickly being caught by the merciless Queen of Attolia, who promptly chops off his hand. Recuperating back in his home kingdom, Gen is down, but he's definitely not out.

This book has a lot in the way of political intrigue and maneuvering, and for me that made the first part of the book go by somewhat slowly. But in the same style as The Thief, the action really picked up towards the end. There is also a surprising romance element that has me hooked to read the next in the series. Hopefully it won't take another 3 years to get to it!

Also reviewed by: So Many Books, So Little Time ~ Book Nut ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ It's All About Books ~ The Bluestocking Society
Source: Gift

Thursday, December 22, 2011


WonderstruckWonderstruck by Brian Selznick

AR Reading Level: 5.4
On the library stacks: Children's Fiction
Recommended for: Ages 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Selznick takes the same approach he made famous in Hugo Cabret of combining beautiful illustrations and text to tell this tale. In Wonderstruck we are told two stories--one of a lonely girl obsessed with a Broadway starlet, the other of a lonely boy obsessed with finding his father. Both go to New York City as part of their quest. And both will eventually get answers, even if they aren't necessarily the ones they set out to seek.

I adore the illustrations and imagination of Brian Selznick. Even though this was missing some of the spark I found in Hugo, I can't imagine not reading anything this man produces. I liked how the two stories intertwined, and I love the expressions on the faces of his characters. Reading this book is just a lovely experience, one that my daughter and I both enjoyed immensely.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Thoughts of Joy ~ Bart's Bookshelf ~ Book Nut ~ Booking Mama ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ At Home With Books ~ Ms. Yingling Reads ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sweeping novel is the story of twin boys who grow up at an Ethiopian charitable hospital. Marion and Shiva Stone are born to an Indian nurse and an American doctor working at the Missing Hospital in the 1950s. Their birth is shocking because the nurse was a nun and no one knew she was pregnant. She died giving birth and the father, stricken by the death of his love, flees the hospital and never returns.

Marion and Shiva are raised by two other surgeons at the hospital who love them as their own. Under the backdrop of the political crises during Ethopia during the 1970s the brothers are torn apart, both emotionally and physically. Marion goes to the United States where he becomes a surgeon. He eventually finds a bittersweet peace with all of his family members, including the father who abandoned him.

This book is completely different from the non-fiction Verghese book I read earlier this year. But both books show that Verghese is a talented writer, regardless of the genre or subject he takes on. I really enjoyed learning more about Ethiopia and its internal struggles. I thought the pacing was a little slow in parts and some readers may be disturbed by the graphic nature of the medical descriptions. But I found this book fascinating and ultimately satisfying.

Also reviewed by: Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ Lesley's Book Nook ~ The Boston Bibliophile ~ Your link here?
Source: Gift

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Spy in the House

A Spy in the House (The Agency, #1)A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

AR Reading Level: 5.1
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Series: The Agency #1
Recommended for: Grades 7+

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Mary Lang was a young girl in trouble. As an orphan, she kept herself alive by stealing from others--a crime that sent her to the gallows. At the last minute she was saved by the warden and sent to Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls. When she finished school she was asked if she would like to join an agency that uses girls as spies...precisely because during that time period, no one would expect women to be spies.

Mary was excited about the work and transformed herself into Mary Quinn. She became the paid friend of moody Miss Thorold. Once in the home, she was to get information regarding the shipping endeavors of Mr. Thorold. She meets James Easton in a wardrobe and the two work together, not only revealing what exactly is going on in the household, but answering questions for Mary about the fate of her father as well.

I went into this book with really high expectations. I kind of imagined it would be like the Gallagher Girls meeting Jane Austen. While it wasn't exactly that, it was a fun Victorian mystery nonetheless. The writing didn't always seem true to the period and felt a little clunky at times. However, the story was charming and I enjoyed the romantic element.

Also reviewed by: Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Booked on a Feeling ~ There's A Book ~ Thoughts of Joy ~ Your link here?
Source: Kindle Purchase

Friday, November 18, 2011

Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's CrossingCaleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I loved Brooks' People of the Book, so I was excited to read her latest novel. Brooks seems to focus her novels on different places and periods in history, and for this book she takes on Martha's Vineyard in the 1600s. Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk was the first Native American to attend Harvard, and this book is a work of historical fiction built around his existence.

Bethia Mayfield is the daughter of a Puritan minister. Growing up on the untamed landscape of the Massachusetts coast, Bethia secretly befriends Caleb, a Wampanoag Indian. After Bethia's father tries to convert the tribe, Caleb comes to live with Bethia where he is tutored by her father. Eventually, Caleb is accepted into Harvard. Due to tragedies in Bethia's life, she is an indentured servant in Cambridge where she can watch Caleb's intellectual journey.

I think this book is more about Bethia's "crossing" than Caleb's. She has a certain attitude that seems somewhat inconsistent with the time and place, but makes her more relate-able to modern readers. I found this book slow and depressing, but I did like some of the writing. I particularly liked this passage about Bethia's love of her island:
"I would be cradled by the known world of kine and crop, the heaviness of each day's familiar chores lightened by love of the very place in which I did perform them. I knew that life; I knew my place in it. If I threw my thoughts forward I could see myself at every age."
Ultimately, it may have been a matter of bad timing for me, but too many people died in this book for me to be happy.

Also reviewed by: Book NutThe Boston Bibliophile ~ Your link here?
Source: GoodReads BookSwap

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Flying Without Fear

Flying Without Fear: Effective Strategies to Get You Where You Need to GoFlying Without Fear: Effective Strategies to Get You Where You Need to Go by Duane Brown

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think there is a very good chance that I read the first edition of this book about 11 years ago. I spotted this copy, during the Borders closeout, which has been updated for flying in the post-9/11 world.

I consider myself a somewhat nervous flier, although I've never let that stop me from getting where I want to go. But I like to occasionally refresh my memory regarding why flying is so safe, how planes work, what double and triple backups are in place, etc.

This book is a quick and easy read with good information. Brown covers different types of anxious fliers, and while some of his information and coping techniques really didn't apply to me, I found it all interesting and useful.

I probably would give this book 3 stars for the quality of the writing. However, I just recently returned from a trip to Argentina and I successfully applied my new knowledge regarding turbulence on my flights. This trip was much more enjoyable for me and I really did feel more calm for having read this book. So for that, I consider this a valuable resource that will definitely stay on my shelf.

Source: Purchased

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Strangers on Montagu Street

The Strangers on Montagu Street (Tradd Street, #3)The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

Publication date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: NAL Trade

Paperback: 352 pages
Series: Book 3 of 4 (Tradd Street)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been two years since The Girl on Legare Street came out, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. Honestly, this series just keeps getting better and better.

Jack's teenage daughter Nola moves in with Melanie since Nola and Jack can't seem to get along. When Nola gets an antique Victorian dollhouse as a gift, she is thrilled. But everyone soon realizes the dollhouse is possessed and Melanie must use her "gift" to help solve the mystery of the dollhouse so the spirits can rest.

The heat really turns up in the relationship between Jack and Melanie in this third installment. I have to admit, Jack is one of those male literary characters that I have a crush on. (Sometimes I want to smack Melanie for being so dense.) I liked the inclusion of Nola as a character. I was worried her teenage angst would bother me, but I actually found her quite likable. I'm eagerly anticipating the final book in the series after the cliffhanger ending!

Click here to read the first chapter.

Source: Publicist - Thanks Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Davita's Harp

Davita's HarpDavita's Harp by Chaim Potok

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ilana Davita Chandal is a young girl living in New York City in the 1930s. Her mother is Jewish and her father was raised a Christian by a wealthy New England couple. Because of dark experiences in their pasts, Ilana's parents turn to the Communist party as they turn their backs on religion.

Ilana lives a somewhat bewildering life. Her parents don't have much time for her. They hold loud meetings in their homes late at night where groups sing and argue. The family moves frequently. They house political refugees in their home from Europe. Ilana feels neither Jewish nor Christian, despite her aunt's best efforts to teach her about Christianity.

But things begin to change for Ilana when her father, a journalist, dies covering the fighting in Spain. Ilana's mother goes into a deep depression and Ilana begins to find solace in the Jewish faith. She doesn't agree with everything she experiences through her school and synagogue, but she finds she finally has a place where she belongs.

This is an elegantly written novel, interesting both from a religious and political perspective. I've never read a book that covered what it might be like to identify with the Communist movement in the United States during this time period. My heart just ached for sweet Ilana, a child caught in the cross-hairs of so much upheaval. I loved her bright mind and felt her inner hurt. This is a slow and thoughtful book, but well worth the read.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Conference of the Birds - TLC Book Tour

The Conference of the Birds by Peter Sis

Publisher: The Penguin Press
Publication date: October 27, 2011
Hardcover: 160 pages
Price: $27.95
On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Peter Sis' website.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Based on a 12th century poem, this parable is beautiful in its simplicity and gorgeous in its illustrations.

This book takes us on a journey with a group of birds on their epic flight. The birds are trying to find their true king. But some realize that a journey like this will force them to give up some of their comforts and they resist. Some perish when they pass through the seven valleys of quest, love, understanding, detachment, unity, amazement and death. But in the end, those that have chosen to complete the journey and survived learn that the true king is each of them and all of them.

Reading this book is a pleasure. The colors are joyful, the texture of the pages is high quality, and the story resonates profoundly with our human experience. It's an uplifting read that I can easily recommend.

Peter Sis is a Caldecott Honor-winning children's author and illustrator. This is his first book for adults.

Check out these reviews: Bibliophiliac ~ Book Snob ~ Sarah Reads Too Much
Look for these reviews coming soon: Savvy Verse & WitCol Reads ~ Wordsmithonia ~ Hungry Like the Woolf ~ Melody & Words ~ Unabridged Chick ~ Seven Impossible Things ~ Alexandra Boiger ~ Abigail Halpin ~ Layers of Thought
Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Wisdom's Kiss

Wisdom's KissWisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock 

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin 
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Hardcover: 304 pages
Price: $16.99
Series: Companion to Princess Ben
On the library stacks: YA Fiction 

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I should say up front that I loved the Dairy Queen series and I have not read Princess Ben. However, the author makes it clear that this is a stand-alone book, even though Ben is in this book as the grandmother of Wisdom.

This book is told in a unique format. It includes 8 different points-of-view including diary entries, encyclopedia entries, letters, and a play. It's quite a task to keep up with them all, but I had more trouble with the different places for some reason than the characters. The short entries keep the book moving along at a steady pace, but I think it may have halted real character development too.

Princess Wisdom (Dizzy) longs for adventure outside of her kingdom. When the Duke of a faraway land proposes, she accepts. Fortitude (Trudy) is an orphan girl who lives within a day's journey to the Duke's home. When Dizzy's entourage stops at Trudy's inn, Trudy is asked to be a lady-in-waiting since everyone else in Dizzy's party is sick after eating bad oysters. Trudy is excited to travel once she realizes that her childhood love, Tips, is in town and they can reunite after six years apart.

The only character that I really liked in this story is Trudy. She's plucky and courageous, but has real feelings and emotions. Everyone else is pretty one-sided and I'm still kind of mad that things didn't turn out differently for Trudy. At the end, the author talks about the process of writing this book. While it does sound like she had fun, I'm not sure that all the pieces fit together cohesively enough for the target audience. For me, this is a fairy tale that falls flat. 

Source: e-copy provided by netGalley and Houghton Mifflin for review purposes.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

On the library stacks: Adult Biography
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was originally scared that reading this book would upset me. But our book club decided we would read it this month so we would really have something to talk about. I read this book in one sitting. It's fast-paced, surprisingly funny and thought-provoking.

Amy Chua is a professor of law at Yale. She and her husband Jed have two daughters named Sophia and Lulu. Amy and Jed decided early on that Amy would raise the children in the Chinese way, and that the kids would be raised Jewish like Jed.

Amy explains the differences between the Chinese mother and the Western mother. Yes, she forced her kids to do hours of piano and violin practice. They had to be #1 in most of their classes at school. But she has good reasons for this. Amy believes that self-esteem for kids comes by making them do hard things. They will feel good about themselves after their dedication pays off and they accomplish something difficult. And Amy stands by her kids every step of the way--through every practice session and rehearsal, driving them wherever they need to be, and all while holding down a full-time job. I honestly don't know when this woman sleeps.

While I question some of Amy's methods, I think her principles are quite valid. However, the one weakness in this book for me is that it doesn't really have an ending. She began writing the book when Lulu rebels, trying to make sense of it all. And really, how Lulu turns out and the backlash from her mother's strict parenting is still to be determined. Still, there is much to think about here and I can't wait to discuss it.

Check out: Amy's website & Sophia's New York Post article in defense of her mother

Also reviewed by: Planet Books ~ In the Pages... ~ BestBooks ~ Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight

Scrambled Eggs at MidnightScrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler

AR Reading Level: 5.4
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Recommended for: Grades 8+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calliope is a 15-year old who spends much of her life traveling with her mom from one Renaissance Faire to the next. Her mom is a wench (says so on her W-2!) and she also sells funky jewelry at the faires. Cal is used to moving from one town to another, often following men her mom has taken fancy to. Cal puts up with all the uncertainty, often living in tents.

Eliot is the son of an evangelist/fat camp director living in Asheville, North Carolina. He secretly (and illegally) makes fireworks. He spends much of his time disgusted with his dad making money selling God. He and his mother wish they could go back to their simpler life in Carolina Beach.

And, of course, Cal and Eliot meet and their lives change forever. I loved the scene where Cal and Eliot meet in the bookstore. Cal says she hears percussion instruments strike up in her head. As Eliot goes to leave she says:
The band keeps rocking in my head, but as I listen I realize that there is something else there, real soft underneath the crashing. I can't quite identify it, but it's there--a sustained note. It's something quiet and peaceful, and all I can do is smile and lift my hand because my brain is too busy throwing a party in my head to think of anything clever to say.
This is a delightfully quirky teen love story. I love that it is set in my home state, and I could definitely feel the influence of the Carolina Renaissance Festival & Artisan Marketplace that our family attended last year in Huntersville. I actually don't like the title and I don't like the cover art. But I love the format with alternating chapters where we get to hear Cal's and Eliot's voices.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Tiny Little Reading Room ~ Not Enough Bookshelves ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I remember watching this movie years ago and enjoying it. I traveled to Tuscany as a teenager and I felt the cinematography brilliantly captured the essence of the beautiful landscape. The book, however, is very different from the movie--in large part, because there really is no plot to the book.

In 1988, Frances Mayes was a divorced professor, living in the Bay Area. In 1989, she and her partner Ed, decided to purchase a 250-year old farmhouse named Bramasole in Cortona, Italy. The book is really a somewhat random collection of her thoughts as they go through the decision to buy the home, perform the much-needed restoration, transform the land, play tourists, and host dinner parties. Some chapters contain recipes, in some we follow her footsteps as she explores a nearby town, and in others she explains the the difficulties inherent in such a huge undertaking.

For me, the book moved really slowly. It's the sort of book you can put down and pick up at any time. Mayes does a nice job describing the land, the food, the weather and the house. But because the book is a compilation of sorts, some things got repeated and the word "Etruscan" was overused. I really wanted to connect more with Frances, Ed, and her daughter Ashley, but I felt like there was a wall put up between us and she wouldn't let me in. Perhaps travel/home remodeling memoirs are just not for me.

Also reviewed by: Silly Little MischiefBermudaonion's Weblog ~ Book Nut ~ Your link here?
Source: BookMooch

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go to SleepBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

On the library stacks: Adult Fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Christine Lucas is a 47-year old woman who wakes up every day not knowing where she is, who she is with, or why her body has aged. Her husband tells her that when she was 29 years old, she was out walking when a car hit her. Her memory never came back whole and she only remembers snatches of her life into her twenties. She is able to remember what she learns about herself throughout the day, but once she falls asleep, each day starts the same and she must relearn everything again the next day.

Christine has a doctor who calls her each day. He gives her a journal and tells her to write things that she remembers, hopeful that her brain will start to make connections. Over a period of weeks, things start coming back to Christine as she writes and reads her old entries. What she learns seems at odds with the things her husband tells her each morning, and she begins to mistrust everything he tells her.

This book is an unputdownable psychological thriller. I read it in just over 12 hours and I dreamt about it last night. It's like a creepy and intense version of 50 First Dates and the premise is a hook from the very first page. As a warning and disclaimer, there is a fair bit of profanity. But this is a great book to curl up with on a misty fall day. Just be prepared to ignore just about everything else going on around you until it's finished!

Also reviewed by: Lesley's Book Nook ~ Reviews by Lola ~ Linus's Blanket ~ A Work in Progress ~ Lesa's Book Critiques ~ Booking Mama ~ A Bookworm's World ~ Thoughts of Joy... ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank ; Play and Related ReadingsThe Diary of Anne Frank ; Play and Related Readings by Frances Goodrich

AR Reading Level: 3.1
On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I asked Coco's 6th grade literature teacher which books they would be reading this year, he said The Diary of Anne Frank. So I went straight over to my closing Borders and purchased a paperback copy for next to nothing. I was very pleased about it all until Coco came home and mentioned that The Diary of Anne Frank is actually a play. Sure enough, I had a look at what I bought...Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

Perhaps the literature teacher might have mentioned that he meant the play instead of the actual diary?! Surely I can't be the only person who might have made this mistake! Not to mention that finding this book is not that easy. I ended up with a used classroom copy.

Anyhow, this is a short play based on the diary, with related readings. The play itself was pretty good and easy to visualize how it would come off on the stage. The related readings included an excerpt from Anne Frank's diary, an account from a gypsy who survived the concentration camps, a story about the Japanese internment camps in the US, and a basic outline on how Oskar Schindler saved 1,200 Jews.

Part of me wishes I could hide these atrocities from my children forever, but I also feel that they need to be aware of such evil in our past and our present in a way that is age-appropriate. I will be having a chat with my daughter before she reads this, but I know she is ready.

Source: Purchased

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Grand Sophy

The Grand SophyThe Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sophy is a 20-year old girl who has had an eccentric upbringing, being raised by her father on the Continent. When he heads to Brazil for a few months, she is left in the care of her aunt in England, whom she barely knows. She immediately makes waves with her arrival, bringing a dog, a monkey and a parrot with her to entertain her many cousins.

Sophy realizes that the quiet household she has come to needs to be shaken up. Her cousin Cece is in love with a dreamy poet who is NOT the right man for her. She sees her serious cousin Charles headed into a loveless, but respectable and practical marriage. And she senses that Hubert is hiding something from everyone. Using a keen wit and charm, unforgettable Sophy uses her unorthodox methods to set it all to rights.

I would love to see what would happen if Sophy moved in with me! This book was hilarious and contains some of the funniest arguments I have ever read. This was a book I couldn't wait to get back to reading each time I had to put it down. My only complaint is that things ended a little too tidily for someone as unpredictable as Sophy. But I did think the ending would play out much better as a movie than it did in written form. I know I just said Venetia was my favorite, but this has quickly supplanted that one as my new favorite Heyer novel.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ One Literature Nut..
Source: Kindle Purchase

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Henrietta's War

Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 (Bloomsbury Group)Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Series: Book 1 of 2

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was thinking about this book the other day and realized that I had somehow forgotten to post a review when I read it this summer! It's such a wonderful book and I realized I needed to rectify the situation immediately.

Joyce Dennys was a British artist who felt that women artists never got enough opportunities. During World War II, she wrote a series for Sketch magazine, including her wonderful drawings for each weekly installment. Decades later, she compiled her articles (and drawings) into two books, of which this is the first.

Henrietta is the wife of a doctor in a seaside village in Devon. She writes letters to her childhood friend named Robert, who is in France fighting the war. Each letter is a quirky look at life on the home front. Henrietta knows her worries are nothing compared to those who live in London or who are stationed abroad. But her letters portray another side to the war as she gives her reflections about the colorful characters in her town and the way each one deals with the stress of life--the patriotic organizations they join, the methods they use to black out their homes, and their worries about bombs on the beach.

The interrelationships between the characters is what really makes this short novel so humorous. I can't wait to read the second book to see their stories continued. I think I read this entire book with a smile on my face. Reminiscent of the wartime novels of D.E. Stevenson, this book is positively delightful.

Also reviewed by: things mean a lot ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


SocksSocks by Beverly Cleary

AR Reading Level: 5.2
On the library stacks: Children's fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mr. and Mrs. Bricker are a young couple who decide to adopt a cat from some kids in front of a grocery store one day. They christen him Socks and make him a member of the family. Socks is fat and spoiled and thinks life couldn't be better.

But that all changes when Mrs. Bricker's expanding tummy turns out to be a noisy red-faced baby named Charles William. Socks feels ignored, unloved, and is put on a diet. But eventually Charles William gets old enough to play with Socks, and the two become fast friends.

I've been reading this book with my 7-year old. I'm not an animal lover, but he is so I thought this would be a book he would like. This book has the odd distinction of having a high reading level but seems written for a much younger audience. So I would definitely recommend it for a read-aloud. It's a cute book, but definitely feels dated since it was written in 1973.

Source: Gift

Monday, September 5, 2011

Walk Two Moons

Walk Two Moons (Summer Reading Edition)Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

AR Reading Level: 4.9
On the library stacks: YA/Children's Fiction
Awards: Newbery Medal; State Award; Heartland Award for Excellence in YA Literature; BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
Recommended for: Grades 6+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the books my daughter Coco will study in 6th grade this year. (I was happy to see that The View From Saturday is also on the list.)

Salmanca Hiddle (Sal) is our delightful 13-year old narrator. She is driving across the country with her grandparents, retracing the route her mother took when she left Sal and her father on their farm in Kentucky. Sal hopes that her mother will come home with them at the end of their journey.

As they travel, Sal recounts the story of the last few months she has spent in Euclid, Ohio where she moved with her father after her mother left. Sal makes a friend named Phoebe who has a way of making everything out to be a way bigger deal than it really is. One day, Phoebe's respectable mother who has lived what she believes is a "tiny life" up and leaves the family, reminding Sal of her own experience. Phoebe is convinced that she has been kidnapped and murdered, but Sal is a good friend and helps Phoebe discover the truth.

This is a story that has many layers. I liked how Sal and Phoebe's stories overlapped and Sal was able to grow through her friendships. I also liked the central message of this book--that we should not judge others until we have "walked two moons in their moccasins".  Even though it is kind of a sad story at it's core, it was also funny and uplifting. It was a well-written book, full of heart, and I did shed a few tears at the end.

Things to know: There are a few minor swear words, and some references to sex and extra-marital affairs.

Also reviewed by: things mean a lot ~ Your link here?
Source: Goodreads Bookswap

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Am the Messenger

I Am the MessengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

AR Reading Level: 3.9
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Awards: Michael Printz Honor; ALA Best Book for Young Adults; BCCB Blue Ribbon Book

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ed Kennedy is useless. He's a 19-year old underage cab driver from Australia. He has a aged, smelly dog and he lives in a shack. He plays cards with his three friends named Ritchie, Marv, and the ever lovely (but so unattainable) Audrey. But things change when Ed is held up in a bank robbery and he inadvertently saves the day.

After the robber's trial, Ed begins receiving aces anonymously in the mail--first it's the ace of diamonds. He has instructions that he must do something at each of the three addresses listed on the card. Eventually Ed receives aces of all four suits, each with unique tasks to complete. Some tasks are hard and put his personal safety in jeopardy. Other tasks are pleasant and meaningful, like becoming friends with an old lady.Throughout the process, Ed realizes he is becoming a different, better person. But he is determined to figure out who is the messenger behind it all.

Once I got into the book, I was pretty blown away. The way Zusak can turn a phrase so packed full of emotion and depth actually brought me to tears. The writing was so beautiful and Ed's transformation was something lovely to witness.

However, I have two issues with this book. 1. The language is pretty rough, especially at the beginning, and can be crude at times. 2. I really hated the ending. It was just a disappointing let-down for me. I read this for my in-person book club, and we all enjoyed it. Some of us actually liked the ending, so maybe it's just me!

Also reviewed by: It's All About Books ~ Bart's Bookshelf ~ Capricious Reader ~ Your link here?
Source: Library

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


VenetiaVenetia by Georgette Heyer

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This book is an absolutely rollicking Regency romp. I loved it from the first page.

Venetia is a 25-year old woman living in Yorkshire living with her crippled younger brother Aubrey. Her recently deceased father never let her leave the small country village where their estate was located and she felt her loyalty lay with her brother, especially since the elder brother and heir named Conway was serving in the military in France.

Venetia has a quick wit and liberal ideals, but she has never known any excitement outside of what she has read. She has two devoted suitors, but all of her attempts to be rid of them seem to backfire.

But things change when the "Wicked Baron" comes to town. Lord Damerel, known for being a rake of the highest order, stops into his neighboring estate, meets Venetia and decides to prolong his visit. What starts out as mere flirting develops into a deep friendship that neither has ever known. But to pursue the relationship could cost Venetia her reputation.

This is the perfect book for those in the mood for a delightful period romance. The dialogue is sharp and all of the characters are sketched with just the right accouterments. I thought this book was funny, charming, and a delight to read. This is my favorite Heyer yet.

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews ~ The Book Nest
Source: Review copy provided by Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Monsoon Summer

Monsoon SummerMonsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins

AR Reading Level: 4.8
On the library stacks: YA fiction

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Jasmine Gardner is a 15-year old girl from the Berkeley area. She runs a business with her best friend Steve and she throws shot put on the track team. Her mother was adopted as a toddler from an Indian orphanage by Americans. Her father is Caucasian and Jasmine takes after him--bigger-boned with fairer skin.

Jasmine's mom has a heart of gold. She got a grant for the family to spend the summer in India, setting up a clinic for pregnant women who lives in the slums near the same orphanage she had lived in as a baby. Jasmine doesn't have the best attitude about going. Her feelings for Steve have developed into something more than friendship, and she is reluctant to leave him and their business behind.

I really liked the concept behind this book, but found the execution lacking in some areas. Jasmine was a hard character for me to like. She was whiny and distrustful of others. I did like quite a number of the supporting characters including Jasmine's brother and Danita, an orphan who cooks their meals.

I actually wish the book had gone on a little longer because it didn't quite tie up all the loose ends for me. But I did enjoy the time the family spent in India and the observations on the culture. Overall the book just didn't feel quite as polished as Bamboo People did.

Also reviewed by: Puss Reboots ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Academy 7

Academy 7Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

AR Reading Level: 5.7
On the library stacks: YA fiction
Award: VOYA Award/Honor
Recommended for: Grades 9+ 

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Aerin Renning has finally escaped the planet where she lived as a slave. Her father's ship had crashed there years before, killing him in the process. But Aerin survives and is rescued by a pilot who helps her earn a spot at the universe's most elite academy.

Dane Madousin is the son of one of the Alliance's most powerful men. Dane is a celebrity figure and has a reputation as a little bit of a bad boy. When Dane also earns a spot at Academy 7, he and Aerin form a bond that will cause friction in ways neither of them can anticipate.

I didn't know this book is science fiction until I started reading it, but I think it will be a standout for me this year. There is a certain degree of tension written in the story that really hooked me. It struck the right balance of adventure and romantic spark without being too over-the-top sci-fi. I would desperately love a sequel!

Also reviewed by:  The Book Nest ~ Book Nut ~ Your link here?

Source: Purchased

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Keeping the Moon

Keeping the MoonKeeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

AR Reading Level: 4.8
On the library stacks: Young adult fiction
Awards: SLJ Best Book; ALA Notable/Best Books
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Colie was young, she and her mom were always on the move. They were also both overweight. But things changed when they moved to Charlotte and her mom found her ideal job working in a gym. Now Colie is in high school and her mom is a fitness guru, famous for her infomercials. Even though Colie's extra weight is gone, she feels like a social outcast.

Colie's mom is spending the summer on a tour of Europe touting her various products. So Colie is sent to the North Carolina coast to live with her eccentric aunt. When she takes a job at a diner, she falls in with a cast of characters who will help her to understand the true meaning of friendship and help her learn to accept herself.

I can think of no better book to have read on our North Carolina beach vacation. I felt like we were staying right where the book takes place! This is one of Dessen's earlier novels and I usually prefer her later works. But Colie, Norman, Isabel, Morgan and Aunt Mira found a place in my heart. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the beach with them!

Source: BookMooch

Monday, August 22, 2011

Quest for a Maid

Quest for a MaidQuest for a Maid by Frances Mary Hendry

AR Reading Level: 5.3
On the library stacks: Juvenile fiction
Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; British Fantasy Award
Recommended for: Grades 6+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is the late 13th century, and the ruling class of Scotland is engaged in a power struggle.

Meg, the daughter of a shipwright, was raised by her beautiful sister Inge, known throughout the land as a great healer. When Meg is 9-years old, she overhears her sister using witchcraft in order to kill the King of Scotland. 

Young Meg is betrothed to Sir Patrick Spens' son, and she moves to his home to be raised by his mother. Once she becomes a young woman, Meg must embark on a journey to Norway to retrieve the rightful heir to the Scottish throne, fighting against the events that her sister put in motion.

This book is a blend of fantasy and historical fiction and is beautifully written. The author had clearly done her research and the author's note at the beginning and the glossary were helpful. I also did some research on my own because this book really made me curious as to what what was fact and what liberties were taken by the author. It was a little slow-going for me at the beginning, but the adventure in the second half really helped this book to shine.

Source: BookMooch

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Paradise Valley

Paradise Valley (Daughters of Caleb Bender, #1)Paradise Valley by W. Dale Cramer

On the library stacks: Adult fiction - Religious
Series: Daughters of Caleb Bender #1

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1921 a law was passed in Ohio that required Amish children to attend public school. When Caleb Bender discovers that cheap land is for sale in Mexico, he sets out with his family to raise his crops where he can practice his faith without interference. If Caleb is successful in Mexico, especially in the tense aftermath of the Mexican Revolution, others will follow.

Caleb has a lot of children! This book focuses a lot on young Rachel who develops a crush on Jake Weaver, whom she must leave behind. Her older sister and idol, Emma, is concerned about her future with long-time beau, Levi Mullet. And headstrong sister Miriam must set out on the journey with no marriage prospects and wonders what will become of her in a land where no one shares their faith.

I read Christian fiction occasionally, but this is my first time reading a book that focused on the Amish. I really loved learning more about their faith and I loved that this book is based on the lives of the author's grandparents. The characters are not perfect, and they do get themselves into some predicaments. I grew to love the family and I was rooting for them the whole way. I will definitely be on the lookout for the next book in the series in 2012.

Also reviewed by: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews ~ My Friend Amy ~ My Own Little Corner of the World ~ Your link here?

Source: Purchased

Friday, August 19, 2011

Okay for Now

Okay for NowOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

AR Reading Level: 4.9
On the library stacks: Young adult fiction
Recommended for: Grades 6+

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book takes Doug Sweiteck, a character from The Wednesday Wars, and continues his story when Doug's father loses his job and the family moves a couple hours north of New York City. Doug has a very difficult family life and hates his new town. But he finds solace in the library where a friendly male librarian helps him develop his artistic abilities as they study plates of John James Audubon's birds.

Slowly Doug begins to see the town through new eyes. He gets a job delivering groceries on Saturday and meets an eccentric cast of characters as he makes his rounds. His friend Lil Spicer quietly stands by his side through thick and thin and they even end up in a Broadway play together.

While I didn't find this book as funny as The Wednesday Wars, it is heart-breaking, honest and hopeful. I don't think Gary D. Schmidt can write anything except pure brilliance.

Also reviewed by: What She Read... ~ Book Nut ~ In the Pages... ~ Bermudaonion's Weblog ~ Book Clutter ~ Your link here?

Source: Purchased

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, #12)The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

On the library stacks: Adult mystery fiction
Series: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #12

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alexander McCall Smith published the first No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency book in 1998, the year I was married. Now on the 12th book, this is the one series that I look forward to each year and have read without fail.

In this relaxing mystery, Precious Ramotswe is confronted with a case where she doesn't like the person who has hired her for her detective work. She's also not sure she really wants the answers she needs to solve the case. Her assistant, Grace Makutsi, is planning her (Saturday Big Tent) wedding with stresses related to guests, food, and of course her shoes. And Charlie, the slacker mechanic (who is NEVER going to finish his apprenticeship) throws both the garage and the agency for a loop with his personal problems.

While the books in this series are fun light reading and not at all action packed, the prose is spare and to the point. The tone the author strikes about our human experience just really resonates with me. In the end, I just love my yearly pilgrimage to Botswana and I think this latest installment might be my favorite in the series. Read my reviews for book #9, #10 & #11 here, here and here.

Source: Borrowed

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Beowulf: A New Verse TranslationBeowulf: A New Verse Translation by Unknown

AR Reading Level: 10.4
On the library stacks: Adult/YA Poetry

Beowulf is an ancient Anglo-Saxon poem set in Scandinavia. The hero, Beowulf, is a brave and gallant man who fights a monster named Grendel who has been threatening the king of the Danes. Once defeated, Grendel's mother comes back to wreak her revenge, and Beowulf is forced into her lair where he defeats her as well. Beowulf returned to his homeland and eventually becomes a king himself in Geatland. In his old age, he fights his last opponent--a dragon that has been terrorizing his people.

I actually enjoyed this! It was much more fast-paced readable than I was expecting. My incredible sister-in-law has translated this entire work herself and recommended this version for its more modern fluidity. Heaney's version has the original Old English printed on the facing page, which is interesting to see. I think it might be fun to read this with my kids someday, but I'm also looking forward to discussing this with my online book club. I sure there is much that was lost on me, but I'm glad that I can say I have finally read Beowulf.

Also reviewed by: Rebecca Reads ~ Your link here?
Source: Borrowed

Monday, August 1, 2011

What the Dog Saw

What the Dog Saw and Other AdventuresWhat the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of 22 of Gladwell's articles written for The New Yorker. One thing Gladwell does so well is that he takes the mundane and turns it into something interesting. There were articles on ketchup, birth control, Enron, homelessness, and mammography, just to name a few.

Some of the articles were simply fascinating. I have found lots of application from these articles in my every day thinking and I think this book will stay with me for a long time. A few of the articles were just so-so for me, but I still learned something new or looked at things from a different perspective than I might have before.

I listened to this book, as read by the author. It was nice to hear his inflections and tone as he would want the reader to hear it. I also re-read a couple of the articles on his website that I wanted to spend some more time with. An overall great read.

Also reviewed by:  The Avid Reader's Musings ~ Book Addiction ~ BermudaOnion's Weblog ~ Your link here?

Source: Audiobook provided by Hachette Book Group for review purposes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Something, Maybe

Something, MaybeSomething, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

AR Reading Level: 4.4
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After some heavier reading lately, I was ready for something fun. Reminiscent of Sarah Dessen's books, this is a perfect summer read that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Like most teens, Hannah wishes her parents were normal. But unlike most teens, she is the product of a relationship between a Hugh Hefner-esque celebrity and one of his "special girls." Living in a small town with her mom, money is tight as they try and support themselves without support from Hannah's father. Hannah has spent five years ignoring him, even though deep down she's hurt that he is not a part of her life.

Hannah works at a burger drive-thru call center, where she works with two guys from school. She has a major crush on Josh and wonders if he even knows she's alive. Finn, however, annoys her beyond all reason both at work and school. With the help of a friend, Hannah begins to recognize true love and to work out her inner conflicts both with her parents and in her love life.

Also reviewed by: So Many Books, So Little Time ~ Book Nut ~ Not Enough Bookshelves ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Source: BookMooch

Monday, July 25, 2011


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

AR Reading Level: 7.7
On the library bookshelves: Adult Non-fiction
Awards: Publishers Weekly Best Book; Christy Award/Honor; Los Angeles Times Book Prize

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, the son of Italian immigrants, who had a passion for running. At the age of 19, he attended the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, running the 5,000 meters. He looked poised to take the 1940 games by storm as he inched towards breaking the 4-minute mile record when World War II broke out and he enlisted.

Louis became a bombardier in the Pacific fighting theater. In 1943, his plane had mechanical trouble, and he went down into the ocean. He survived a horrific six-week ordeal on the ocean and was eventually captured by Japanese forces. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW in Japan.

This book is absolutely incredible. It's not just the meticulously researched history that makes this book sparkle. There is a raw humanness to Hillenbrand's writing that gives her story life. The things that have happened in this man's life are truly mind-boggling. I learned not only more about WWII reading this book, but I was able to think a lot about the personal attributes of integrity, forgiveness, faith and endurance. This is definitely going to be a standout favorite for the year.

Also reviewed by: Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ The Boston Bibliophile ~ Lesley's Book Nook ~ At Home With Books ~ Bibliophile by the Sea

Source: Kindle Purchase

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Death of Ivan Ilyich

The Death of Ivan IlyichThe Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

AR Reading Level: 8.8
On the library stacks: Adult fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Anna Karenina about six years ago and loved it. This is my second Tolstoy and I was thrilled that Melissa recommended it. I was kind of shocked when I realized that it is actually a small little novella and easily read in a day.

Ivan Ilyich is a high-court judge in Russia. He felt his life was simple, peaceful and respectable. As he aged, anything unpleasant in his life (like a nagging wife) was sidelined as climbed social and professional ladders. But when Ivan receives a promotion he feels he more than deserves, he starts to notice a pain in his side and an odd taste in his mouth. Numerous doctors are called in, but it seems none can make an accurate diagnosis. Everyone knows Ivan is dying, but no one seems to want to acknowledge it, least alone Ivan. Eventually, Ivan must face the truth that his days are numbered. Upon review of his relatively short life, he starts to consider that perhaps his priorities were not what they should have been.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It packs an emotional punch and gets to the core of human nature. Tolstoy could have written this book today and it would be just as applicable. It's not a happy story, but one that is guaranteed to make you think and reflect about living life without regret. Definitely recommended!

Source: BookMooch

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

City of Fallen Angels

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4)City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

AR Reading Level: 5.2
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Series: Mortal Instruments #4
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Now that I have finally finished this book, I am caught up in this series! It has been difficult listening to others chat and avoid spoilers, but now I am also in the know. ;) I will try not to include any major spoilers in this review, however.

This book opens up about six weeks after City of Glass ended. Everyone is back in New York, settling into a routine. Jace seems more distant than he usually is, and everyone is worried about Simon as a fledgling vampire. There was an unresolved issue from the last book that ultimately rears its (very) ugly head, resulting in a major climax and cliffhanger at the end of this book.

I liked this book fine, but I think I'm just a little burned out on this series right now. Although the world creation is really incredible, the plot points seemed a little recycled. There were some new twists in here that I did appreciate, but I think I'm done with warlocks, faeries, vampires, werewolves, demons and Shadowhunters for a little while.

Also reviewed by: Book Thoughts ~ Fuzzy Cricket ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Your link here?

Source: Borrowed

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

City of Glass

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

AR Reading Level: 5.3
On the library stacks: YA Fiction
Series: Mortal Instruments #3
Recommended for: Grades 9+

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This third book (of six) in the Mortal Instruments series picks up right where City of Ashes left off. Clary knows who she needs to find and where she needs to go in order to wake her mother up. She ultimately gets herself to Idris, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters, where the bulk of this book takes place.

Jace doesn't want Clary in Idris at all. Simon is thrown in jail as an intended scapegoat by the Inquisitor. Sebastian, the dark prince of Clary's childhood drawings, expresses an interest in Clary that rankles Jace. And Aline makes a play for Jace that rankles Clary. Luke, as a werewolf, is in town illegally, but he holds the keys to uniting the Shadowhunters and Downworlders together in order to defeat Valentine.

I thought this book was written more fluidly than the first two, and the stylistic elements that bothered me earlier did not seem to surface here. However, this book was much more predictable than I would have liked, but I still enjoyed watching the story unfold. I think this page-turning series is a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to reading what else Cassandra Clare has in store.

Also reviewed by: eclectic/eccentric ~ Books & other thoughts ~ Becky's Book Reviews ~ Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ My Own Little Corner of the World ~ Capricious Reader ~ Your link here?

Source: Borrowed

Monday, June 27, 2011

State of Wonder - TLC Book Tour

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Publisher: Harper
Publication date: June 7, 2011
Hardcover: 368 pages
Price: $26.99
On the library stacks: Adult fiction
Ann Patchett's website.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marina Singh is a pharmacologist at a Minnesota-based pharmaceutical company. She receives word that her officemate, Anders Eckman, has died of a fever in the Amazonian jungle of Brazil when he went to determine the status of a drug in development. Anders' wife, Karen, begs Marina to go down to Brazil to determine that Anders is really and truly dead and to bring home his belongings.

Mr. Fox, the company CEO and Marina's lover, also asks Marina to go to Brazil to try to reign in the rogue researcher, Annick Swenson. Marina was a student of Dr. Swenson's when she was a resident in obstetrics, but switched to pharmacology after an accident. Their shared history makes Marina hesitant to go, but an attractive choice since she knows the woman in question.

Once in Brazil, Marina meets a wonderful cast of characters including the driver, the bohemians who live in Annick's apartment, the Lakashi tribe whom the researchers work among, a deaf boy who comes from a neighboring cannibalistic tribe, and the indomitable Dr. Swenson. Marina is ultimately able to face her fears from the past, grow and develop as a woman and as a doctor, and to find the truth through the intricate web of lies and ethical dilemmas.

I enjoyed Marina's emotional journey as much as her eye-opening physical journey and survival in Brazil.  I thought Marina was a very sympathetic protagonist and someone I would like as a friend.  When I set the book down, I couldn't stop thinking about it and couldn't wait to get back to it. The novel held together so well for me, despite some far-fetched coincidences, until the last 5 pages. At that point, I wish I had just stopped reading because those final pages undid so much of what was woven together for me so beautifully in the story. However, I still highly recommend this novel. This may be my first Ann Patchett novel, but it definitely won't be my last.

Check out these reviews: Life In Review ~ The Lost Entwife ~ nomadreader ~ Regular Rumination ~ Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Look for these reviews coming soon:  Reading on a Rainy Day ~ Bibliophiliac ~ Library of Clean Reads ~ The Road to Here ~ A Bookish Way of Life ~ Book Hooked Blog ~ Diary of a Stay at Home Mom ~ Wordsmithonia ~ Steph and Tony Investigate ~ The Little Reader ~ I’m Booking It ~ MariReads 

Source: I received this book from the publisher as part of the TLC Book Tour.