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.