Archive for the ‘My Journal’ Category

Under the Dome – Review (My Journal, August 10th, 2010)

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
Read: Under the Dome, by Stephen King
Journal Entry for: August 10th, 2010
Remember and Recommend: My on-again, off-again love affair with Stephen King’s thrillers started a long time ago. I was but a wee teenager when I first started down the path of being scared senseless, riveted to books that would haunt my dreams (and my family’s nights) and start me on the path to being an addicted reader. Yes, it was King who brought out the bibliophile in me. And although I think King is a truly amazing writer, for someone who prides themselves in reading the best of the best in literature, the classics and award winners, this is a hard thing to admit.
When my twin sister and I were young teenagers, too young to drive, my sweet mom was worried that we would be bored during our summers at home. Both of my parents worked full-time, so we were a captive audience in our house. With amazing foresight, my mom took us to a bookstore and said she would buy us anything we would read. We spent the next days on our cool patio, reading, reading, reading. The next week, my mom did the same thing – and every week throughout the summer. That was the summer I discovered Stephen King. I started with Carrie and then moved on to my all-time favorite, Salem’s Lot and from there it was a fast ride to clear the bookstore shelves of all things scary. I tackled It and become the subject of family lore when I woke my entire vacationing family in our hotel room screaming about a clown in the room….”Can’t you see him?”. I spent the next Christmas vacation pouring through some of King’s short stories – Skeleton Crew and Night Shift contain some of the scariest stories I have ever read – and I can still recount some of them over twenty years later.

Stephen and I parted ways a few years later over The Talisman and Tommyknockers. His writing took a different turn, one that seemed more science fiction than horror. But, a love of books, reading and the joy of exciting escapes was embedded in me – something I have retained to this day. I have returned to King a few times over the years and will be forever grateful to him and my mom for culturing my love of reading – even if it was with *blush* horror.

When Under the Dome was released last year, I anxiously waited for reviews. I saw several good ones from known publications, but the best came from a trusted reading friend on Goodreads. I have been keeping my eye out for a paperback copy ever since and was excited to find a huge, whopping version at Costco a few weeks ago. In this summer of fun, light reads, I put Sookie down for a while and picked up my old friend for a fun reunion and trip down writing’s memory lane.

While Under the Dome does have a slight twinge of science fiction, it was more classic King than I have read in a long time. The familiar expanse of amazingly developed characters and setting (Maine, of course) was like slipping into an old pair of tennies. The story was a social scientist’s dream – Lord of the Flies meets Armageddon. It was an interesting study on what stress, power and loss can do to an isolated community – with a smattering of the supernatural thrown in.

I enjoyed reading Under the Dome and completed the 1,100 page tome in just a few days, but I discovered something about my now much older reading self; I’ve become a bit of boob when it comes to horror. What enthralled me and kept me glued to every page as a teenager stressed me out as an adult with a family, pets and a house. I had a hard time falling asleep after reading this and found myself recalling some of the more horrific scenes during the day. I would recommend this to anyone who loves good old classic King novels and am glad I read it, but I think I will return to Sookie for a while.

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The Good Thief – Review (My Journal, July 31, 2010)

Saturday, July 31st, 2010
Read:The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Journal entry for 07/31/2010

Remember, Recommend: I picked this up on a whim at Costco a few weeks ago because it looked vaguely familiar. I read so many reviews online and in magazines that they get a little jumbled, but I had seen some praise for this debut novel a few times. As with most books I journal about here, I wasn’t disappointed.

Looking back, I can’t believe this is the first novel by Tinti. It was an amazing debut – and one we will be hearing more about as awards are announced. The story of an orphaned boy with only one hand, The Good Thief has been compared to both Oliver Twist and Harry Potter – with good reason.

While there are moments of sadness, there is also a bit of magic threaded throughout the story. And the characters are a diverse mix of good and bad – a giant hitman, con-artists, a dwarf, a colorfully dressed villain and a hard-of-hearing heroine make this story truly memorable. Set in the industrial revolution of New England, hardships abound and the simple acts of finding food, clothing and shelter are at times overwhelming. There are times for growing up, learning about love, family and friendship – even when those family and friends aren’t ideal. This would make a poignant movie for adults and teens alike.

Accolades for The Good Thief:
New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize
American Library Association’s Alex Award.

Have you read The Good Thief? What did you think?

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My Summer with Sookie

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Things have been crazy for me and my little family this summer. And, I am just getting over a week long cold (who gets sick in the summer?!) after some busy travel weeks.

I have found that during stressful times in my life, I revert to easier reading; deeper, more intricate stories become too much for my anxiety filled mind and I can’t cope! During both of my pregnancies I couldn’t read anything with any real meaning whatsoever – only light happy novels until my boys were born – then both times I was off with Tolstoy the minute we got home from the hospital; Anna Karenina with my first and War and Peace with my second. How crazy is that?

So, with my busy, stressful life (just stress, no little peanut on board), Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels have been just what the doctor ordered. These novels are a dang hoot (Sookie style). They are fun, adult, and have some of the hunkiest characters since Stephanie Meyers teased us with Jacob and Edward. But, since Sookie is an adult, things move along a little faster.

I have to admit that series novels have not been my thing in the past. Of course I read the Twilight saga (who hasn’t?) and I tore through Stieg Larrson’s Millennium trilogy – oh, and I am eagerly awaiting the final book in the Hunger Games story, but as far as detective series novels, I haven’t been interested – till recently.

Now I understand the draw with the thriller/mystery series books. So many times after finishing a beloved book, I have pondered over favorite characters for days – missing them and their goings-on. With series books, you get to keep up with loved characters and their fun, crazy lives. Picking up one of the Sookie books is like going home to comfort – the characters are all as familiar as family, whose stories I know in detail. I now look forward to her funny ways, her cute ponytail and all the gorgeous vampires who are so interested in her and her blood.

I have finished the first four novels in the Sookie story and am eagerly awaiting #5 from Paperbackswap. Till then I have found another new series escape – the girls of the Woman’s Murder Club. I just started 1st to Die by James Patterson last night and can see that these girls are going to be fast friends. Thanks James! (Although, what’s up with the mini chapters?).

I know when the Fall hits (always early in Salt Lake), I will revert back to my old ways and dive in to more meaningful stuff, but what a fun Summer this has been!

Do you like series books? Leave a comment with their titles!

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Sookie Stackhouse – I’ve Been Bitten!

Saturday, June 26th, 2010
Journal Entry for: June 27, 2010
Read: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Remember and Recommend:
Dead Until Dark has been on my nightstand for a few weeks – softly calling to me while I’ve been reading more serious books. Do you crave reading some lighter, crazier things in summer? This summer I just want to read FUN! Normally my tastes are very different from vampire novels (although I did enjoy the Twilight series). Things have been crazy at my house for the last couple of months – and it is forcing my reading habits towards the light side. I have to thank Ms. Sookie Stackhouse for giving me a few nights of pure, unadulterated fun!

Sookie is one of the cutest series characters to be created in a long time. She is blonde and sexy (of course), but not shallow (thank you Charlaine). She has a ‘disability’ that gives the story a nonvampire little twist and she has had enough hardships in her life to give her depth. She is small town, but bright. When she meets Bill, a vampire who has ‘come out of the coffin’, her rural life takes turns that will alter her forever – and maybe change your reading habits.

There are now 10 books in the Sookie Stackhouse series – and I might not get anything more done till I read them all! I hope they stay true to this first story and are all mini vacations for my crazy life.

Even though I would much rather read a book than watch its story on t.v., I am excited to try the HBO series True Blood, created from the Sookie Stackhouse novels. In my mind Sookie was not Anna Paquin (she will always be Rogue in my mind – even with blond hair!) who plays her in the series, but it will be interesting to see how she creates the character.

Comments:
I don’t want to give too much of this book away. If you haven’t read it, and are looking for a little mini vacation, go for it!
Have you been bitten? What did you think?

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Wildthorn Review – My Journal June 24, 2010

Thursday, June 24th, 2010
Journal Entry for June 24th, 2010
Read: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Remember, Recommend:
It’s fun to read and review a book before its release date. I feel like I get to share a secret with everyone – and this is a good one!

Wildthorn, by Jane Eagland takes place in Victorian England – a time of few liberties for women. Louisa, a smart and strong-willed seventeen year old girl wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor. But, as everyone knows, too much reading can lead to insanity in women (this must be my problem!). Louisa’s mother would like nothing more than for Louisa to make social calls (instead of house calls) with her, find a nice husband and start out on the only fulfilling role a woman can take on – becoming a wife and mother. She despises Louisa’s love of learning and tomboy ways.

On the other hand, Louisa’s father, a doctor, openly encourages Louisa in her studies and even takes her on his medical rounds. Other family members (and their opinions) are also important in the story – especially her beloved cousin Grace, her Aunt Phyllis and her wayward brother Tom.

The crux of the story comes when Louisa finds herself locked in an insane asylum for women. How did this happen? Why is no one looking for her? With a new name, how is she ever going to explain that she isn’t Lucy Childs, but Louisa Cosgrove? Although terrible and frightening, this incarceration gives Louisa the confidence to take on her life for herself. She learns that she is strong enough to follow her dreams – be it in her career or love.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is being published as a YA novel, but I think it could hold its own in mainstream fiction. The writing is excellent and the story engrossing. I found I couldn’t put it down!

Comments:
If you have young girls, I would definitely read this first before sharing it with them as there are themes in the story that might be better for an older teenager.
I received Wildthorn from Houghton Mifflin Books for review from Netgalley. It will be released September 6, 2010.

Have you read Wildthorn? Leave your comments and a link to your review.

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Reading Map and Review – My Journal June 4th, 2010

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Journal entry for 6/4/2010
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley
Started 5/21/2010 finished 5/27/2010
Website for Alan Bradley
Read and Remember:
Mysteries are hard to review -I don’t want to give too much away! Flavia de Luce, the heroine of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is one of the smartest young detectives in any fiction. She is funny, cute and not afraid of anything. She takes on the task of solving a murder after she stumbles upon a body in her backyard. What follows is a fun, fast paced adventure through her quiet English village of Bishop’s Lacey, her laboratory and the amazing house of Buchshaw.
Definitions (from dictionary.com):
  • sobriquet – a nickname
  • cogitate – to think hard; ponder
  • curare – a blackish, resinlike substance derived from tropical plants of the genus Strychnos, esp. S. toxifera, and from the root of pareira, used by certain South American Indians for poisoning arrows and employed in physiological experiments, medicine, etc., for arresting the action of motor nerves
  • arum – Any of several Old World plants, such as the cuckoopint, of the genus Arum, having basal, arrowhead-shaped leaves
Accolades:
2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel
2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel
2010 Spotted Owl Award
2009 Dilys Award
2010 Amelia Bloomer Project
Comments:
I really enjoyed this fun mystery. In the past, I haven’t dabbled much in this genre, but am now hooked. What a fun escape. I found myself wishing I was Flavia in a former life!

Explanation of my The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Reading Map (for more on Reading Maps, see this post):
Stamps - I learned more than I ever knew (not much) about stamp collecting and some very famous stamps. It was fascinating!
Table of Elements and poison – Flavia is a genius – and her knowledge of science (including poisons) is staggering.
Jack Snipe – A species of bird, the jack snipe, played an important role in the book. Although it is pictured on the cover as a black bird, and described in the story as black, this is what a jack snipe looks like (according to Google).
Further reading – One of the main purposes of a reading map is to find ‘roads’ to other books through the process of reading one book. I definitely want to read the next installment of the Flavia de Luce books (there are six planned for the series), The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s main guy was mentioned quite a few times in connection with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I already have The Complete Sherlock Holmes on my Kindle – I just need to get moving!

Maisie Dobbs is another amazing and sweet English sleuth. I have read the first in Jacqueline Winspear’s series (there are currently 7), Maisie Dobbs, but now want to continue with Birds of a Feather. Let my reading map encourage you to try Maisie Dobbs!

Suitcase – Hmmmm. Have to read the book for this one!

The fourth book in the Great Summer Fiction Reads from Bibliobabe!
With all of the thousands of reading suggestions in Read, Remember, Recommend, there are sure to be tons of books you will want to read this summer. Bibliobabe will highlight some great choices over the next few weeks – books that are sure to appeal to anyone looking for something fun to read on a trip or in your backyard. Keep checking back for more Bibliobabe picks worthy of some sunny weather, summer reading.


Have you read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie? Send me your review link and I’ll post it.

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Half a Yellow Sun Reading Map and Review – My Journal May 25th, 2010

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Journal entry for 5/22/2010
Half a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Started 5/17/2010 finished 5/20/2010
Read and Remember:
Half a Yellow Sun is an epic story about the plight of a sect of Nigerian people during the 1960′s. The strife between the different tribes in the country comes to a head and forces the Igbo people to secede. The nation of Biafra was created. The novel follows several interesting characters – the lowliest houseboy, a native Igbo university professor, a Englishman and the twin daughters of an important and wealthy Igbo businessman. Each character is profoundly affected by the events of this turbulent and horrific decade, including: their relationships to each other, both their old and new countries and the world are explored with a terrible and invasive background.

Definitions:
  • harmattan – (on the west coast of Africa) a dry, parching land breeze, charged with dust
  • kwashiorkor – a malnutrition disease, chiefly of children, caused by severe protein and vitamin deficiency and characterized by retarded growth, changes in pigmentation, potbelly, and anemia
Accolades:
Half a Yellow Sun was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in 2006, the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction winner and a 2007 Tournament of Books finalist.
Comments:
This would make a wonderful book club discussion book. Make sure to take lots of notes in your reading journal of discussion points – and create a reading map (see below)!

Reading Maps:
Years ago, while researching my journals, I stumbled across an article about Reading Maps. It was similar in idea to something I had tried to do with a few book club meetings, so the term stuck with me. Basically the concept is to create a visual representation about where a particular book takes the reader, in an attempt (for libraries) to connect readers to other books and interests. This representation can be made up of any type of subject – a personal experience, a setting or character in the story, food, customs, etc. – through the use of pictures, video clips, quotes, sound files, recipes, and book jackets.

From LibraryJournal.com, here is a wonderful definition of a reading map by the article’s author Neal Wyatt:

“Reading maps are web-based visual journeys through books that chart the myriad associations and themes of a title via other books, pictures, music, links to web sites, and additional material. Reading maps open up the world of the book for the reader by diagramming the internal life of the book, allowing readers to inhabit the text and its outward connections, and enabling readers to follow threads of interest that stem from any particular part of the work.”

I have been fascinated with this idea since I first read about the concept and have been toying with the idea of creating one. Half a Yellow Sun was so full of history, people, places, food, art and customs that it just begged for me to attempt my first Reading Map. While it is not linked to other sites (not sure how to make this work in Photoshop), it is still a diagram of my personal exploration through the book. I tracked all of the elements throughout my experience in my reading journal and referred back to all of my notations while creating the map.

Explanation of my Half a Yellow Sun Reading Map:
Food – Cassava, kola nut and jollof rice. Because of the extreme conditions the Biafrans were forced to endure during the war, food played a major role in the story. Garri was mentioned extensively and was a sustaining food during the worst times. I hadn’t heard of garri previously and after research found that it is made of grated cassava tubers that have been pressed to remove water and fermented for a few days. Throughout the story, in more social situations, the kola nut was served as an appetizer. The description amazed me – it was only one nut that was broken apart and each person took a node. Jollof rice was a staple throughout the book and made during better times, when the myriad ingredients were plentiful. I have found several recipes and am going to try making this for my family.
Igbo Art – One of the central characters in Half a Yellow Sun was from England and came to Nigeria to write about the bronze art of Igbo people, thought to have been created in the ninth century. The work he mentions the most is a ‘roped pot’ (shown above), an image that comes almost to be his salvation.
Map and flag – I made note continually of the towns mentioned in the story – the movement of the characters as well as the position of each city or town was vital in understanding where the characters stood in terms of the war.
The flag shown his the the Biafran flag. The red is to symbolize the blood shed of the Igbo people while trying to gain their independence, the black is to represent the mourning of those left behind and that fact the victims will never be forgotten, while the green was for the prosperity Biafra would have. The half rising yellow sun in the middle is to symbolize hope and a country just beginning – a glorious future.
Further readingThings Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is perhaps the most recognized book ever written about the plight of the Igbo people and the nation of Biafra. This book has been on TBR pile for quite a while – and is now at the top. I want to read it while the story of Half a Yellow a Sun is still fresh in my mind.
Images of the children of Biafra – Even though the war between Nigeria and the newly seceded nation of Biafra was a little before I was born, the horrible plight of the people who suffered in the war was mentioned throughout my childhood. The famous picture on the cover of Life magazine and other images taken during that time of the starving children will haunt humanity like so many other atrocities in human history.
Have you read Half a Yellow Sun? Send me your review link and I post it.

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The Girl Who Chased the Moon Review – My Journal May 23, 2010

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
Journal Entry for 5/23/2010
The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen
Read: Started 5/11/2010 Finished 5/13/2010

Remember and Recommend:
This was another of Allen’s fun little Southern tales of love and magic – oh and good food! I have been eagerly awaiting this new novel – and it didn’t disappoint. In her third novel Allen weaves together the stories of 2 women – one a middle-aged restaurant owner and the other a sweet seventeen year old who has recently lost her mother. What follows is a fun summer story of love and its power to heal. There is a magic twist and the wonderful aroma of baking that is a hooky thread through all of Allen’s books.

Don’t miss this sweet treat of a fun read!

Comments:
As with all of Allen’s novels, food plays an important role in the relationships of the characters. I am always fascinated by the recipes mentioned in her books. In The Girl Who Chased the Moon, a Hummingbird Cake is used at the beginning of a relationship. The Hummingbird Cake was an invention of Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, N.C. and the recipe was first published in 1978. Legend has it that the cake will inspire sweetness.
Mrs. Wiggins’ recipe [1978]

“Hummingbird cake

* 3 cups all-pupose flour
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon soda
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 3 eggs, beaten
* 1 1/2 cups salad oil
* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
* 2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, divided
* 2 cups chopped bananas

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; add eggs and salad oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not beat. Stir in vanilla, pineapple, 1 cup chopped pecans, and bananas. Spoon batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch cakepans. Bake at 350 degrees F. For 25 to 30 minutes; remove from pans, and cool immediately. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with 1 cup chopped pecans. Yield: one 9-inch layer cake.

Cream Cheese Frosting

* 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
* 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
* 2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese and butter; cream until smooth.Add powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla. Yield: enough for a 3 layer cake.–Mrs. L.H. Wiggins, Greesnboro, North Carolina” —”Making the most of bananas,” Southern Living, February 1978 (p. 206)

The first 3 books in the Great Summer Fiction Reads from Bibliobabe!
With all of the thousands of reading suggestions in Read, Remember, Recommend, there are sure to be tons of books you will want to read this summer. Bibliobabe will highlight some great choices over the next few weeks – books that are sure to appeal to everyone, most in a series for continued reading enjoyment. Keep checking back for more Bibliobabe picks worthy of some sunny weather, summer reading.

Garden Spells, Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon – by Sarah Addison Allen

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Tinkers Review – My Journal May 21th, 2010

Friday, May 21st, 2010
Journal entry for: 5/21/2010
Tinkers, by Paul Harding
Read: Started 5/8/2010, finished 5/10/2010
Remember and Recommend:
I look forward to April every year for the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize. As one of the oldest and most prestigious literary prizes in the United States, the finalists and Pulitzer winners are the ‘cream of the crop’ for the previous year’s writing. In exploring hundreds of awards and notable lists, I believe that each list has a ‘flavor’ – a style, feel or quality. The 2010 Pulitzer winner, Tinkers, definitely has a ‘Pulitzer’ feel. If you’re read many of the Pulitzer winners, you might also see a certain quality to the writing, tone and feeling. These are usually creatively narrated, with deep themes that have the potential to make the book a classic.
For the most part, I have been in awe of the Pulitzer winners I have read. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2007) is one of my favorite novels of all time. March by Geraldine Brooks (2006) brought an old classic to mind while broadening the story. And I was amazed at the writing and subject matter and writing of The Known World (2004) by Edward P. Jones.

While Tinkers by Paul Harding will probably not be one of my favorites, I did think it was an interesting read. The story about a man on his death bed (no worries, it was not heart wrenching) and his father, their missed relationship and both of their careers was told in an interesting back-and-forth narration. I didn’t realize the term tinker was an actual profession – it was interesting to read about both of these men and their shared talent for fixing things. I found the history of Howard, George’s father much more interesting than the narration about George himself. Howard felt more developed and real, while it seemed George was there to tell the story. Overall, the novel seemed flat. While I still gush about The Road years after reading it and the images it invoked in my mind are fresh and haunting, I was not profoundly moved by Tinkers.

Definitions:
  • horologist – a person who makes clocks or watches
  • craquelure – a network of fine cracks or crackles on the surface of a painting, caused chiefly by shrinkage of paint film or varnish
  • atavistic – reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type
Comments:
The prose was a bit flowery at times and I did wonder at some points who was actually narrating – all giving it a bit of a contrived literary feel. I had trouble focusing through parts of this book – my mind wandered to all sorts of places! I read at night so at times I wonder if I was just too tired to decipher some of it.
Have you read Tinkers? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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Reality Check – Review – My Journal May 16th, 2010

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Make to enter the Teen Giveaway to win this book!

Journal entry for: 5/18/2010
Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
Read: Started 5/13/2010, finished 5/14/2010

Remember and Recommend:
Do you ever crave a great suspense book? Stephen King must – he has a blurb on the front cover of Reality Check… “My favorite American suspense novelist.” Does Stephen King read other writers? Weird! I can’t picture him reading – just typing, typing, typing away, creating the scariest (and most suspenseful) novels known to man. But, I agree with King – Peter Abrahams might just be my new favorite suspense writer (besides the master himself).

Reality Check was one of the novels that I picked up one day and finished the next – looking around after wondering how swimming lessons went, did I eat?, where is hubby? How long have I been gone? So, if you have a long plan ride, a boring car trip, or a little time to be completely engrossed, dive in!

Cody, a small town Colorado native is a star football quarterback. He has a beautiful, rich girlfriend and even though he hangs on to his grades by a gnat’s eyelash, things are going well. That is until Clea’s father (scary girlfriend’s dad) decides Clea needs to be away from Cody and sends her to a prestigious boarding school in Vermont. When her picture is on the front page of their hometown paper and the caption states “Local Girl Missing”, Cody starts out on a life-changing adventure to find her.

No more details! You need to read it!

I would recommend this to anyone who loves a great suspense story…and who doesn’t need too much sleep!

Comments:
For a teen suspense novel, the writing was good – and the story was real enough to keep me hooked. There were threads of romance, coming-of-age issues, class division, bad guys and of course the powerful element of suspense.
Accolades:
Reality Check is the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Best Young Adult Book award winner
Have you read Reality Check? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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Graceling by Kristen Cashore – Review – My Journal May 4th, 2010

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
The fourth in the Great Summer YA Reads from Bibliobabe is Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
With all of the thousands of reading suggestions in Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens, there are sure to be tons of books every teen will want to read this summer. Bibliobabe will highlight some great choices over the next few weeks – books that are sure to appeal to everyone, most in a series for continued reading enjoyment.
Keep checking back for more Bibliobabe young adult picks worthy of some sunny weather, summer reading.
Journal entry for: 5/04/2010
Read: Started 4/22/2010. Finished 4/27/2010.
Remember and Recommend:
If you are looking for an adventure with a fascinating leading lady and enough pages to last through a family trip in the car, a long plane ride, or some fun days at the beach, Graceling by Kristin Cashore is an outstanding pick.

To be ‘Graced’ means to have special powers. These are not Super Hero powers per se, more extra-human powers. A Graceling might be able to see as well as an owl at night, sense storms, swim like a fish, or in the case of Katsa, the amazing heroine of the story, fight an entire army and not get hurt. She has incredible endurance, doesn’t need to sleep, eat or rest like a normal human and is insensitive to pain. Her compassion for others contradicts her Grace and guides the appreciation of her truly human nature, even if she accepts her King’s bidding to kill on demand.

A Graceling is known not only by their extra abilities, but by their eyes; they are two different colors. Katsa has one green and one blue. These eyes are disconcerting to most she comes into contact with, alerting them to her abilities and bringing forth a prejudice that leaves Katsa with few friends.

Katsas’ future is reshaped when a prince of another country comes to the Muddlin court (Katas’ home). Po, the seventh prince of Leneid is also Graced with fighting abilities similar to Katsa. His gold and silver eyes mesmerize and befuddle Katsa to the point that she is comfortable with Po only when trying to beat him in the arena. What follows is a slowly developing, realistic romance between friends – albeit friends that attack and fight each other with enough force to leave an army dead. Po is also deeply compassionate and his influence on Katsa serves as a sculpting tool, softening her more deadly and angry edges, while allowing her skeptical heart time to learn about love.

Graceling is the 2009 winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and the 2009 winner of the SIBA Book Award in the YA category.

If you dive into Graceling and are left with a craving for more adventure, the tale continues with the 2009 Cybil Award winning novel Fire.

Graceling is mentioned on the following lists in the Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens reading journal:

* YALSA Teen Top Teen Award, page 33
* Amelia Bloomer Project, page 66
* Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, page 83
* Love Stories for 13-15 Year-Olds, page 91

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Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen – Review – My Journal April 20th, 2010

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
The first in the Great Summer YA Reads from Bibliobabe is Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
With all of the thousands of reading suggestions in Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens, there are sure to be tons of books every teen will want to read this summer. Bibliobabe will highlight some great choices over the next few weeks – books that are sure to appeal to everyone, most in a series for continued reading enjoyment.
Keep checking back for more Bibliobabe young adult picks worthy of some sunny weather, summer reading.
Journal entry for: 4/20/2010
Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
Read: Started on 4/6/10, finished on 4/7/10
Remember and Recommend:
My first “Great Summer Reads” recommendation is Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen. Now, before you make even a single, itty-bitsy, tiny groan, let me say that I read Hatchet in two sittings and thought of it continually in between. It was awesome! I have mentioned it to everyone I have met since and was so happy to find that my sister (who is a teacher) has read this to her classes thirteen times over her years of teaching.

I don’t want to give too much away about this fun little treasure, but I will give just enough of a ‘teaser’ to entice you into reading it. Brian, a thirteen child of a recent divorce, is flying over the Canadian wilderness in a bush plane. There are no other passengers – only Brian and the pilot. Skipping ahead, Brian is alone in the seemingly endless wilderness with nothing – nothing but his thoughts and a hatchet his mom gave to him before he got on the plane. What ensues is one of the best survival stories ever written – for kids, teens or adults.

As an added bonus, Brian’s story continues in four more books. The series will help you survive the summer vacation doldrums by surviving in the Canadian wilderness with Brian. The four other books in the series are: The River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return and Brian’s Hunt.
Hatchet is mentioned on the following lists in the Read, Remember, Recommend for Teens reading journal:
Action and adventure, page 55
Iowa Teen Book Award, page 154
Minnesota Book Award, page 160
Maud Hart Lovelace Award, page 161
Sequoyah Award – Oklahoma, page 172
Virginia Reader’s Choice Award, page 182
Soaring Eagle Book Award – Wyoming, page186
Have you read Hatchet? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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The Lacuna Review (My Journal – April 6th, 2010)

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Journal entry for: 4/6/2010
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
Read: Started on 3/21/10, finished on 4/5/10.

Remember and Recommend:
Um. Wow. That is my first reaction to the newest novel by Barbara Kingsolver. What an amazing feat she accomplished with this newest book (and such a beautiful cover!). From reading her other books, as well as becoming familiar with her Bellwether Prize (watch for a spotlight of this award), I know she is very concerned with social justice issues. The Lacuna drives this home with its tale of American and Mexican history, tackling some tough issues in the political, social, family and personal arenas.

The lovable protagonist, Harrison Shepherd, is a boy lost between two countries and his parents. His mother, an attention-starved socialite, neglects him and discourages his passions for reading and writing. Harrison’s life is a series of ups and downs – mostly downs during his formative years, with a successful career, but not love-life, eventually in his future. His homosexuality plays an important but quiet role during his life, causing him mostly fear and humiliation. His passion for writing is inspiring to read as was the premise for his books. Reading of the local customs and food in the Mexican villages peppered throughout the novel made me feel like I had been on vacation – a tourist through the vast Mayan and Aztec ruins.

I really enjoyed learning more of the characters of Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo (although I couldn’t get Selma Hayek out of my mind for Frieda). The tumultuous time when Trotsky was harbored by the two artists was also very interesting and gave some history I didn’t know about. The Communist scare of the late 1940′s and early 1950′s was not new to me – although it’s intensity was. I kept getting that ‘did this really happen in the U.S.?’ feeling – which is exactly what it seemed was Kingsolver’s aim.

I would definitely recommend this book. I am such a fan of Kingsolver, that I would probably recommend anything she writes, but this truly is a great novel. In a book club? This would be a discussion launcher!

Accolades for The Lacuna:

  • 2nd Place – Tournament of Books
  • PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Nominee
Definitions:
lacuna – a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus
pelmic – a controversial argument, as one against some opinion, doctrine
Memorable Quotes:
“A novel! Why do you say this won’t liberate anyone? Where does any man go to be free, whether he is poor or rich or even in prison? To Dostoyevsky! To Gogol!”
Comments:
I did find myself skimming quite a bit at the end. There are endless newspaper clippings both about Harrison’s books and his trials with the U.S. government that seemed overdone and at times boring. This is my one criticism.

It was nice to read The Lacuna during the Tournament of Books, where it placed second, to Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel. I followed the dialogue of the judges throughout the tournament and was rooting for Barbara, who always seems to miss the big win by a small margin (National Book Award, etc.).

Have you read The Lacuna? What did you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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A Beautiful Blue Death Review (My Journal – March 26th, 2010)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Journal entry for: 3/26/2010
A Beautiful Blue Death, by Charles Finch
Read: Started on 3/14/10, finished on 3/20/10.

Remember and Recommend:
Do you ever crave a good mystery? I think I know why some of them are called cozies…because they make you want to sit with a nice cup of tea by a fire, with a kitty or two on your lap…and get lost in the intriguing ‘who dunnit’. A Beautiful Blue Death, the first in the Charles Lenox series, is just such a book. The story is told from the perspective of wealthy Charles Lenox, a Victorian gentleman, who happens to dabble in solving crimes. The plot centers around a tad confusing murder mystery, in which Lenox’s neighbor, the beautiful lady Jane, his brother, and his best friend become involved in solving. But, the mystery is the least of the story – I found the society events, teas and dinners that Lenox attends to equal the details of solving the case. I don’t want to spoil this fun little book with too many details…but I will say that I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good mystery.

Accolades for A Beautiful Blue Death:

Definitions:
sycophant – a self-seeking, servile flatterer
wastrel – a wasteful person
animus – strong dislike or enmity; hostile attitude
Memorable Quotes:
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” My mom has a saying similar to this….”If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a fry” – so I loved seeing another version.

Comments: There are two more books in the Charles Lenox series:
The September Society and The Fleet Street Murders

I don’t normally follow books in a series, but these will go on my TBR pile.

Have you read A Beautiful Blue Death? What did you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.
agatha_cristie_challengeDo you like mysteries? Check out the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge and the Historical Mysteries Challenge for more great suggestions.

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The God of Animals Review (My Journal – March 16th, 2010)

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

*** Don’t forget to enter the fiction free book giveaway for The God of Animals, by Aryn Kyle from Bibliobabe!

Journal entry for: 3/16/2010
The God of Animals, by Aryn Kyle
Read:
Started on 3/10/10, finished on 3/13/10.

Remember and Recommend: Don’t you just love to read a great debut novel? It gives me such hope – and gets me so excited to have another author to add to may favs. This is how I feel about Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals. Picture me doing the cabbage patch dance….”Go Aryn, it’s your book day, go Aryn.” And such a beautiful spelling for her name!

I can’t gush enough about this novel. I’m a sucker for a good coming-of-age book – and this one didn’t disappoint. I read it in three days and am now kicking my own fanny for going too fast…I miss the Winston family and all of their goings-on. This is one of those “good old-fashioned reads” that is sure to be a classic.

Kyle’s writing is crisp – the characters are so real, they could be anyone’s neighbor. I could feel the hot summers, especially when the air conditioning went out. I rode an untamed, slightly crazy horse and watched as foals were born. And, I remembered back to being eleven and unsure about everything. I learned about showing horses, keeping horses and the toll owning a stable takes on a family. And I wish I could do it all over again.

Accolades for The God of Animals:
Pennie’s Pick March, 2010 – The Costco Connection
2008 Mountains and Plains Independent Bookseller Association Regional Book Award for Fiction Winner

Make sure to add this to your TBR pile! You won’t regret reading and sharing this book.

Reading this for a book club selection? Check out LitLovers discussion questions and review.

Memorable Quotes:
I posted the opening sentence last week on the Book Beginnings on Fridays post – but I want to share it again – it does such a wonderful job introducing the main themes of the story:

“Six months before Polly Cain drowned in the canal, my sister, Nona ran off and married a cowboy.”

Comments:
Even though I’m not a big fan of short stories, I just joined Robs’ 100 Shots of Short – so I can add Aryn’s new book, Boys and Girls Like You and Me to the list. I’m hooked!

Have you read The God of Animals? What did you think?

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