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