Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is one of my definite favorites this year. It is an intense page-turner that will keep you glued to your seat. I would have read it in one sitting, but I was on a road trip and it was my turn to drive! 

The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel set in Panem, what used to be North America. The Panem government demonstrates its absolute power and authority every year when two young adults, aged 12 to 18, are chosen from each of the 12 districts to compete to the death on national television.

I'm only setting the stage because I don't want to give anything away. But, the Panem society has enormous parallels to our own reality-television image-fixated culture. I know I'll be mulling this book over in my head for a long time. Its themes of survival while overcoming obstacles and oppression and learning to love and trust under the most trying circumstances are perfectly blended.

This book is at times uncomfortably raw, but for me that's what makes it so great. This is the first book in a projected trilogy and I will be in line to get the next one as soon as it hits the shelves. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I thought this book was great. The story was clever, funny, and surprisingly real. Frankie attends an exclusive prep school, hobnobbing with elite New England society. But, she stands slightly outside the central circle--she has not quite enough money and a different religious background than the rest of her peers. As a freshman, Frankie was in love with Matthew Livingston and he acted like he didn't know her. But, this year he notices her right away. Quickly she realizes that Matthew and his amazing friends belong to a secret all-male society, the same society her dad spoke so highly of when he attended the school. But, Frankie is not a rule follower, and she doesn't understand why she can't be fully included in all of Matthew's life, including his secret club.

Having attended a boarding school myself, I could totally relate with Frankie. When I was in high school, I found very similar social dynamics existed to Frankie--where you can sit at meals, what misdeeds you can get away with, and who calls the shots based on parental prestige and power are all part of boarding school life (and to a large extent probably high school as well). Frankie doesn't see why it has to be that way, and she sets out to buck the system.

This book is not only great fun, but the writing is sharp and witty, with some great play on words. My only gripes are that I didn't totally love the third person narrative and I was left a little concerned about Frankie's mental health at the end of it all. But, the book was refreshingly clean for YA, which I really appreciated. Recommended!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Finished!

Just in the nick of time, I finished my 9 books by 9 different authors from 9 different countries.  
Here's my list:

  1. The Book Thief - Australia
  2. The Miracle at Speedy Motors - Scotland/Zimbabwe
  3. The Other Boleyn Girl - England/Kenya
  4. Unaccustomed Earth - United States/England
  5. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Germany/Ukraine/England
  6. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - China/France
  7. Persepolis 2 - Iran/France
  8. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents - Dominican Republic/United States
  9. P.S., I Love You - Ireland
Thank you Bethany for hosting.  I look forward to next year (and starting a little earlier this time!).

1.) What did you like about the challenge?  I liked that it forced me to live a little outside my bubble.  It also got me to read books I've had on my list for a long time.
2.) What would you like to see change for next year? Something has to change?
3.) About the rules, or the non-existent rules...did you like that? Loved the non-existent rules.  Makes them so much easier to follow.  :)
4.) Are you going to join us next year? Yep!
5.) Pretty please give me any suggestions for changes, the betterment of the challenge, or just anything that you would like to see changed for next year.  Really bethany, it was great!
6.) Would you like the challenge to be more involved? What if we read books together sometimes? Would that interest you?  I would be interested in a group read.  Maybe not every book, but if people wanted to join in a group read from time to time, it might be fun.  
7.) would you be interested in helping somehow next year? How would you like to help?  I would be happy to help.  Maybe with prizes?

P.S. I Love You

PS, I Love You PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I saw this movie, and cried my eyes all the way through it. I don't know what possessed me to want to read the novel, but my curiosity got the better of me. (That, and it was a really good copy on the cheap at Goodwill.)

Anyway, I really liked the movie, and I thought the book was just OK. The book was really different from the movie, so perhaps that is part of my discontent. But, I also felt that the writing was at times long-winded and amateur (Ahern was only 21 when she wrote the novel).

P.S. I Love You is the story of Holly Kennedy, whose husband dies from a brain tumor right around her 30th birthday. He leaves her a series of 10 notes that become her guide through life for the months following his death. Holly relies on family and friends to encourage her as she goes through her grieving process, but she also becomes more sensitive to the sufferings of others. In the end, it is a story about learning to work through life's tough times and remembering to cherish the time we have here.

I would certainly be interested to see what someone who read the book first thought, versus the other way around like me. Overall, I found there were some very touching and poignant moments in the book, but I was left feeling vaguely unsatisfied with Holly's journey.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Rules (Newbery Honor Book) Rules by Cynthia Lord

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twelve-year old Catherine is like most girls her age. She wants to make friends and she cares about what others think of her. Mostly, she wants to be "normal".

But Catherine feels like she has it harder than others because her younger brother has autism and it embarrasses her. So, she has a sketchbook where she writes down all the rules that she thinks he should know. For instance, "It's okay to hug Mom but not the clerk at the video store" and "No toys in the fish tank" (hence, the cover). In the course of the book, Catherine makes friends with a paraplegic which sets her on a road to discovering what "normal" really means.

I found this Newbery Honor book to be incredibly refreshing and a joy to read. It is a great book for anyone who wants to understand more about living with and befriending those with disabilities. I think it would be a great book to read aloud (it's funny and heartbreaking) and discuss with kids. Appropriate from about 4th grade on up.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings (Penguin Classics) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I'm a little ashamed to say that I haven't read before. But, my online book group is reading it this month and now I am SO GLAD I can say that I have read it.

I know I don't really need to give any kind of a plot synopsis. But, I can see where I would have been turned off by reading it in my younger years. Dickens does occasionally go off on wordy tangents, which for a book that is only 100 pages seems somewhat unnecessary. But, it was a lovely enjoyable read which put me right into the Christmas spirit.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is when Marley is lamenting the mistakes that he made in life. He says:
Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh, such was I!
I should mention that the Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite Christmas movie and I watch it at least once a year. I was surprised at how true the movie stayed to the book. You know that Jim Henson must have been so grateful he could turn Fezziwig into Fozziwig. I mean, how perfect is that?

Economist Best Books of 2008

Check out the list here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Fairest Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went into this book knowing very little about it, and for that I was glad, because I had no preconceptions about how the story SHOULD go. I just thoroughly enjoyed it for what it is. (So you hopefully won't find any spoilers in my review!)

Fairest is the story of Maid Aza, the adopted daughter of innkeepers. Circumstances force her to attend the royal wedding, to her extreme mortification because she is widely regarded as ogre-ishly ugly and she feels extremely self-conscious. But with her good heart and a beautiful singing voice, she attracts the attention of the court.

The romance was simple and sweet. But the message about the true nature of beauty carries the day. This is my in person book club's choice for this month, and I also think it would make a great mother-daughter read. I would recommend this award-winning book for girls of all ages starting at about 4th grade on up.

Also reviewed by:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Charity Girl

Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer
Originally published:  1970
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca:  September 1, 2008

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Viscount Desford is an unmarried gentleman who finds Charity Steane running away from her aunt's household on the way to London. Rescuing her puts Desford in a social pickle and he turns to his best friend, Lady Hetta Silverdale, for help. Bound by honor, Desford goes on a search to find Charity's missing grandfather.

I liked Charity Girl, but it was missing something I found more readily in Regency Buck. Perhaps it was that little element of intrigue that kept me turning pages in Regency Buck. Interestingly, Charity Girl was written about 35 years after Regency Buck, and I definitely noticed a difference in her writing style.  I found Charity Girl a tad heavy on the Regency period slang and wished I had a dictionary nearby on a few occasions!

Overall, Charity Girl was a nice easy romance. I will continue searching out Georgette Heyer books for my future romance literature fix. She is one of my favorite authors that I discovered in 2008!

Thanks again to Danielle at Sourcebooks for the chance to review this book.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guest Post: The Mysterious Receding Seas

When I saw this book come up for review, I knew it was the kind of thing my mom would be interested in. So, here's her take on the book:

Tricia knows that I am interested in various non-fiction theories about the earth. I was excited to read it because it addressed a topic that I had never thought about before.

Guy puts forth his ideas about the seas receding. Basically, ever since Noah and his Ark, the seas have been going down. The explanation for cities like Machu Picchu in the tops of the mountains makes much more sense if you believe that most of the earth was anciently covered with water.

I did not think that this book was very well-written. For me, it lacked the data that I felt essential for this kind of project. I found it quite repetitive from chapter to chapter retelling some of the same observations numerous times. Guy's theory still intrigues me, and I even think that it is plausible. This book needs editing and more scientific evidence to entice me to recommend it to someone else however.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ender in Exile

Published by:  TOR
Release date: November 11, 2008

rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

Enjoy the trailer:

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!

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

rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Winner and 2 Children's Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Engaging Father Christmas

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

Publisher:  Faith Words
Publication Date:  October 30, 2008

rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

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

rating: 2 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

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

rating:  3 of 5 stars

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

Numerous times.

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

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

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Regency Buck

Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer

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

rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

Thank you to Danielle at Sourcebooks for this book!

Also reviewed by:

Thursday, November 13, 2008


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

rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

Want to know answers to questions like:

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


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

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

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Finding Father Christmas

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

Publisher:  Faith Words 
Release date: October 11, 2007

rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

Also reviewed by:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Book of Mormon

As a book blogger, who is also a Latter-day Saint (Mormon), there is one book that is more important to me than all the rest.
If you would like to request a free copy, click here. To read it online or download the complete audio file, click here.

Early Birds Blog Tour - Life After Genius

Life After Genius Life After Genius by M. Ann Jacoby
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Release date: October 29, 2008 (TODAY!)

rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is very different from other things I've read lately. Part academic thriller and part coming-of-age story, this novel explores the world of an 18-year old math genius at the cusp of graduating from college when he shows up at home 6 days before graduation and he won't say why.

Mead Fegley has grown up in a small midwestern town, the son of a furniture store owner/undertaker. His whole life he has been picked on, singled out, and alone. His thinks his luck will change when he enrolls at the university at age 15, but through the course of the novel he realizes he still has some growing up to do.

I thought the author did a nice job with character development. The bad guys were really evil, the oppressive mother really exasperating, and Mead was as complicated as I imagine an adolescent trying to scale a very adult world would be. I was at times frustrated with Mead because I felt he brought a lot of misery on himself. But at the same time, I could totally understand how he got himself into the mess he was in.

The book switches between the past and the present, giving the reader a revelation of tidbits and details. The ending did leave me feeling vaguely unsatisfied and the sexual themes and language were too coarse for my taste.

I do have one copy to give away, so if you are interested leave me a comment and I'll pick a winner on Monday, November 3rd. Thank you to Miriam at Hachette Books!

To view other reviews on the tour, check these out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

American Wife

American Wife: A Novel American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really respect Laura Bush, so I was excited to read this novel. American Wife is loosely based on the life of our current First Lady, but her name is Alice Lindgren and she's from Wisconsin.

The novel is divided into 4 parts based on 4 addresses Alice has had, beginning with where she grew up and ending with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In the first part, Alice is in high school when a very traumatic event happens (which also happened to Laura for real) that shapes her whole life. In Part II, Alice is in her late-20s and she meets Charlie Blackwell at a BBQ. In Part III, Charlie buys the Milwaukee Brewers. And you can deduce what happens in Part IV.

I really liked how Sittenfeld provides an in depth look at what it might be like to be famous, particularly when fame was not what Alice/Laura sought in life. She's portrayed as a normal person, with normal hopes, dreams, aspirations, failings, and quirks. I also appreciated how the author tackled Part IV without portraying any kind of political agenda. Rather, you get a glimpse of how difficult and complicated life is in a position of power, and how moral and ethical quagmires are easy to get into and difficult to get out of.

Even though the book is 555 pages, I think I would have liked less details during some parts and more during others. I wished there was more coverage on Alice's college years and her time as the Governor's wife and less on Charlie/George's "wild years."

The sex and language was definitely over-the-top for me, and I found myself skipping pages here and there. But overall, it was a satisfying read. A few years ago my mom gave me George and Laura by Christopher Andersen to read and it's likely that I'll pick that up to get a little more of the real story.

Also reviewed by:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ender's Game

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, Book 1) Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my in person book club's book this month, and I'm so glad that I finally made time to read this book. It is one of my husband's favorites and I knew it was one of those books that I "should read." I really didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did though.

Ender is a third child in a time when couples are only allowed two children. But Ender's family is different--all of the children are geniuses. Seventy years before, the world won a war against the buggers who threaten to destroy the human race. And now the world feels threatened again. So, six-year old Ender is sent to Battle School in preparation for the fight.

While this Hugo and Nebula award winning book is not really my favorite genre to read, a good story is a good story no matter what. I agree wholeheartedly with the review:
This futuristic tale involves aliens, political discourse on the Internet, sophisticated computer games, and an orbiting battle station. Yet the reason it rings true for so many is that it is first and foremost a tale of humanity; a tale of a boy struggling to grow up into someone he can respect while living in an environment stripped of choices. Ender's Game is a must-read book for science fiction lovers, and a key conversion read for their friends who "don't read science fiction."
Also reviewed by:
Let me know if I missed yours!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ramona and Her Mother

Ramona and Her Mother (Ramona Quimby (Paperback)) Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary

rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Before there was Junie B., there was Ramona.

My daughter and I listened to this in the car on a recent road trip. It was read by Stockard Channing, who I thought did a fairly good job. Each of her characters had an identifiable "voice", but Ramona's always sounded like she had a cold.

It was interesting to me that as we were listening, I had a vague feeling of having read this before, long ago...which of course is true. Some of the material is a little dated for today's audience of little girls.

R-O-L-A-I-D-S spells "relief"


"using the ditto machine"

were among a few items I found amusingly quaint.

Ramona wants to be her mother's girl. But, she has a tendency to do crazy things like squeeze out an entire tube of toothpaste, give Kleenex for a present, and wear her PJs to school underneath her clothes. Of course at the end of it all, she realizes her mother's love is true no matter what.

Also reviewed by:
Let me know if you did too!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deep in the Heart of Trouble

Deep in the Heart of Trouble Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist

rating: 4 of 5 stars

My second foray into the world of Christian historical fiction romance was as enjoyable as the first. I read this book in a day and was thoroughly entertained.

Set in Texas during the oil boom, when bicycles are new and exciting and women who wear bloomers are still considered slightly scandalous, this book follows Essie Sprecklemeyer, the daughter of an wealthy oil baron who believes she is destined to become an old maid. In comes Tony Morgan, who has been disinherited after his competing oil baron father dies, to fall madly in love with her.

I didn't realize until I finished this book that is was actually a sequel. And, I didn't really care. Overall, the book was somewhat predictable, but very fun.


Also reviewed by:
Let me know if you did too!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We Have a Winner!

I used a custom random number generator to pick the winner of the Elizabeth McCracken giveaway.

Congrats to couplabz!

Thanks again to Miriam at Hachette for sponsoring this book tour and giveaway!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chasing Diana

Chasing Diana Chasing Diana by Jack & Robin Firestone

Release date: June 27, 2008
Published by: BookSurge Publishing

I received this book very generously from the authors with a very appropriate inscription:

To Patricia: History is stranger than fiction.

I wanted to read this book because I do have a love for all things Diana. The story is based on the real-life accounts of the authors, who were the only American witnesses to the car crash that took Diana's life. They wrote this historic fiction account as a "screenplay-novel" which I thought worked very well for the subject.

The story revolves around the Goodrich family vacation in Paris which goes awry from the moment they arrive. They are being followed by a family of hit men hired to kill Dodi because of some pictures they inadvertently took. I found their fictionalized characters, James & Rhonda Goodrich, to be lacking in like-ability and the language and substance abuse was also too intense for my taste. However, I came away from the book more intrigued than ever about their non-fiction account!

If you want a different spin on the Diana and Dodi story, you should look into this. You can find out more from their website.

Also reviewed by:

Booking Mama Giveaway

Go and check out Booking Mama's giveaway for The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet. I had it on my list to read for The Novella Challenge, but ended up reading other books instead. I still really, REALLY want to read this one though.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Water Street

Water Street Water Street by Patricia Reilly Giff

rating: 4 of 5 stars

5 reasons to love this book:

1. The cover.
2. The main character is a 13-year old named Bird. (short for Bridget)
3. It is set in 19th Century Brooklyn during the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
4. It includes the struggles of two Irish immigrant families.
5. It's about family, and healing, and hope.

I can't wait until my daughter gets old enough to read it. I think I'll read it with her then too.

Also reviewed by: Corinne @ The Book Nest

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Early Birds Blog Tour - An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination: A Memoir by Elizabeth McCracken

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Published by: Little, Brown & Co.
Release date: September 10, 2008

From the description:
"This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel, and waiting for the birth of her first child.

This book is about what happened next. In her ninth month of pregnancy, she learned that her baby boy had died."
McCracken wrote the memoir with her healthy newborn from her second pregnancy sitting on her lap as she typed. I really felt like I was with her on her emotional roller coaster as she wrote. So many conflicting emotions: grief, joy, pain, love, solitude and comfort--all poured into each page.

The book is not written exactly chronologically, so from that perspective it was a little fragmented at times. But overall, I found this to be an incredibly moving journey.

Read an excerpt HERE.
Listen to an audio excerpt HERE.

Next stop on the blog tour: Corinne at The Book Nest!

Other stops:
Would you like to win a copy, courtesy of Hachette? I'll enter you once for leaving a comment here, and twice if you post about it on your blog, linking back to this post. I'll pick the winner October 7th. Good luck!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Persepolis 2

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Persepolis last year for my YA Lit class. I didn't have a huge desire to run right out and get Persepolis 2, but the other day I decided to pick it up at the library.

Persepolis and Persepolis 2 are graphic novels detailing the life of the author. Marjane Satrapi was born in Iran and was sent as a teenager to live in Austria to escape the Iranian regime and the Iran-Iraq War. Much of Persepolis 2 details this time in Austria where she struggles to fit into Western society and ideals. Eventually, she returns to Iran where she feels that she doesn't fit in either because of her time in the West. She eventually gets her life on track by focusing on her education.

This book is usually found in the YA section, but I think this book has a lot very mature themes including drug use, violence, sexual content, and explicit language.

Melissa hit the nail on the head when she said this is not an easy book to read, but it does give some important insight on what it is like to live in a country where the people are repressed by the governing regime.

Also reviewed by:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rapunzel's Revenge

Rapunzel's Revenge Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shannon Hale has teamed up with her husband Dean Hale and illustrator Nathan Hale (no relation) to create a really unique graphic novel based on the fairy tale, Rapunzel. In this book, Rapunzel's hair helps her escape her prison, fight villains, and battle beasts. Rapunzel sets out on a swashbuckling quest to right the wrongs of Mother Gothel and to reunite with her real mother. And, there just might be a little love story along the way. :)

Definitely recommended for all ages. It is in the YA section of my library, but my eight year old read it and loved it too. The Hales are hard at work on a sequel so stay tuned!

Also reviewed by:
Maw Books went to her release party!
Here's Shannon and Dean on the Today Show (via Nathan Hale's blog)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Someone Like You

Someone Like You (reissue) Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dessen takes this coming-of-age book in a somewhat different direction than The Truth About Forever...although we still have the basic good-girl-with-overbearing-mother-and-likes-bad-boy plot. Protagonist Halley finds herself grappling with setting her own moral boundaries, which are at odds with her mom and her best friend, Scarlett (who ironically happens to be pregnant) and are much more fluid than I would like to see them portrayed. I was definitely disappointed with some of the choices that Halley makes including sneaking around and lying to her parents and some drug and alcohol use all in the name of "finding herself".

I really wanted to like Halley, but she definitely aggravated me. I think that sometimes people have to make mistakes to learn a lesson, but a lot of times I just don't think that's the case at all.

I also found the ending a little too movie-esque (although this book along with That Summer was the basis for How to Deal).

Overall, I think Sarah Dessen is a great storyteller and I will definitely read more. But this one was like and not love for me.

Also reviewed by:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

Can't Wait to Get to Heaven: A Novel Can't Wait to Get to Heaven: A Novel by Fannie Flagg

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I often get asked when I find the time to read. I read a lot late at night, and if the book is good, I'll stay up and keep reading. This book was a snooze-inducer every time I picked it up. So, I've had more sleep in the last three days than I usually get.

There was nothing about this book that really captured me. I thought on more than one occasion, "What is the point of this book?" It was just a nice, easy, gentle look at a southern Missouri town and all the cliched old ladies who live in it.

The storyline is centered around Elner Shimfissle (the names alone in this book were enough to drive me batty), a 90-something woman who falls off a ladder picking figs. She dies in the hospital, takes a quick trip to heaven, and comes back to life a few hours later. The town goes into a frenzy when they learn she dies, and goes into an equal uproar when she comes back to life.

Maybe I just don't get Fannie Flagg's sense of humor, because I never laughed once. Maybe my background and life experiences didn't give me a very good frame of reference. Maybe I would enjoy this more if I were 30 years older.

I don't know. It was just kind of OK for me.

They also reviewed it (and felt very differently I should add):

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Off Season

The Off Season The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

rating: 5 of 5 stars

I couldn't leave this sitting on my nightstand any longer. I read it today in almost one sitting. (I did have to collect my kids from school at one point!)

I've never seen an author pull off a second book in a trilogy quite like this. The Off Season is the sequel to The Dairy Queen and picks up mere days after The Dairy Queen leaves off. DJ Schwenk starts the school year off well. She's playing on the football team and getting decent grades. She's repaired the relationship she has with her best friend (who has just come out of the closet), she's getting along better with her family, and she has a cute quarterback sort-of-boyfriend...and then it all falls apart.

I laughed out loud and I cried (also out loud). I don't know if I can wait a whole year until the conclusion of this series, but alas I must.

You don't have to take just my word for it. The Off Season was one of YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults in 2008. They also reviewed it:
If you did also, please let me know!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
Release Date: October 21, 2008

I skipped the first 10 pages, read the next 50, and finally decided this book just isn't for me. I should say up front that I am not a big Anita Shreve fan. I've only read one other book of hers, A Wedding in December, which I thought was OK.

Shreve wrote this book after watching the events unfold related to the Duke rape case. The book is set at a New England boarding school and details the fallout from students involved in a shocking sex scandal caught on videotape. The scandal has a huge impact on the town, the administrators, the parents, and of course the students themselves.

They reviewed it:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Orbis Terrarum Challenge

I'm totally late to join this party, but I figure better late than never.

Here's the challenge:

- The Orbis Terrarum Challenge begins April 1st 2008 (you are welcome to join later) through December 20th 2008.
- For the challenge each reader is to choose 9 books (for the 9 months).
-Each book must be by an author from a different nation in our world.

I've read some that qualify for the challenge since April 1st, and those are going to have to count, otherwise I'd never finish in time!

What I've read so far:
  • The Book Thief - Australia
  • Dreamers of the Day - USA
  • Miracle at Speedy Motors - UK
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress - France/China
Possibilities to finish up the challenge:
  • Half of a Yellow Sun - Nigeria
  • Out Stealing Horses or The Redbreast - Norway
  • Sister of my Heart or The Twentieth Wife - India/USA
  • The Power of One - South Africa
  • Random Passage or The View from Castle Rock- Canada
  • Silence - Japan
  • Suite Francaise - Ukraine/France
  • Persepolis 2 - Iran/France
  • P.S. I Love You - Ireland

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit. When I originally read the description of this book, it didn't sound all that enthralling. But, then I read so many great reviews (plus I'm such a sucker for an epistolary novel) that I was anxious to get my hands on it.

TGLAPPPS (I'm not typing that whole thing out) is a story set after the close of WWII. Juliet is a 30-something single British writer who is desperately trying to come up with suitable material for the post-war society. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a man on the island of Guernsey who found her name in a copy of a book he grew to love during the war. Juliet decides to investigate the history of Guernsey, its people, and the events that occurred on their island during their German occupation. In so doing, she meets an eclectic and lovable group of characters (made up from TGLAPPPS) that will have you laughing with them and sharing their sorrows.

A fun, yet at times appropriately serious novel that I definitely recommend.

They also reviewed it:
Did you as well? Leave me a link and I will add your review!

I ♥ Your Blog

My talented friend Sarah (who recommended The Weaver Takes a Wife--she's so awesome!) gave me this award.

Thank you Sarah!

I would love to pass this award along to:

1. Bethany of B&b ex libris
2. Corinne of The Book Nest
3. Melissa of The Book Nut
4. Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin?
5. Becky from Becky's Book Reviews
6. Anna from Diary of an Eccentric
7. Mrs. B from The Insatiable Reader

Here are the rules for the nominees: 1) Add the logo of the award to your blog 2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you 3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs 4) Add links to those blogs on your blog 5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Under Construction and Another Giveaway

Please forgive me while I switch over to a 3-column format. It will look better soon...I promise.

In the meantime, go and check out Bethany's blog. She's giving away a copy of The 19th Wife!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's In!

Can I just tell you how giddy I am that I get to go and pick this up today at the library?