Monday, August 31, 2009

The Route - Gale Sears

Summary: Zipping along life's highway . . . Fifty makes you think. Thirty makes you morose, and forty makes you panic, but fifty makes you think. Half a century, and what is my life? Does it resemble anything I dreamed at sixteen, or expected at twenty, or hoped at twenty-five? What am I doing here? . . . I thought of climbing to the top of a high mountain in Tibet to consult a wise man, but I like vacations where there is indoor plumbing and vegetation. Since I already attended church, I thought perhaps I could pay closer attention. Maybe I'd been missing a great fundamental truth. Well, come to find out, I had been missing something. . . . Carol, a middle-aged wife and mother, is pondering the meaning of life. On a trip to the grocery store to find some energizing dark chocolate, she sees a sign asking for volunteers to deliver meals to the elderly. When Carol decides to take a chance and help out, she¹s in for a life-changing and route-altering‹ experience. (summary from galesears.com - image from walnutsprings press)

Here at Reading For Sanity, we are of several minds (and ratings) on this book. Here’s three opinions from three reviewers who are at different places in their lives.
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Chris’s Review: I loved this book! It drew me in on the very first page and didn’t let go of me until the last. I found myself riding along with Carol as she delivered meals, getting to know and love the people she delivered the meals to, and feeling the emotions she felt as she got to know each person. The names on Carol’s delivery list became more than just names to her (and me), they became real people with amazing lives.

The author did what a good author is supposed to—she made me feel like I was part of the story that was unfolding. I laughed at what “old age” sometimes makes people say, I cried because of all the sadness and loneliness in their lives, I felt anger at the way some of their children treated them and I even felt guilt (mostly because I have and 86 year old mother and a sister who lives in an assisted living center). The characters ranged from kind, gracious and loving people living in nice, but humble homes, to ornery people living in trailers or run down apartments. Their stories were all different but in the end they all needed what Carol could and did give them---LOVE.

My Rating: 5+ Stars

Sum It Up: I was telling people about this book before I’d even finished it. I would recommend it to anyone. It was a wonderful read!
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Emily's Review: I was intrigued by the summary of this book. It looked to be a nice read with the possibility of introspection and occasional bits of wisdom. And gratefully, that is what I got.

I appreciated that this was a book about a fifty-year-old woman, written by someone…ahem, who I would guess is about that age as well. The introduction of the book explains that this is a novel based on the author’s similar experience. Because of its basis in reality it has a perfectly plausible “plot” (really more of a collection of moments and events), and the authors thoughts and reasons for starting this volunteer experience are those I could imagine myself having. Okay, so actually I have thought these things (minus the being fifty part) and even looked up the meals-on-wheels in our area.

The narrator of the story serves a group of people that I found as fascinating as she did. As I read of her interactions with them I felt like I got to know them just as she did. Introducing the reader to these people is the point of the story and the part I most enjoyed.

This book fits in the category of “what I’ve learned in my life” memoirs (I’m assuming its mostly true, even though billed as a novel) and functioned best under that role when simply telling the story. It was less successful when the author pointed out “what had been learned,” generally by using (over-using) the phrase “I made a mental note to…” I could have done without nearly every “aside” of this type; they watered down the message by taking away my own incentive to try and seen the meaning in the stories she told.

My Rating:
3.5 stars – Worth reading, not life changing.

Sum it Up:
A nice read with the possibility of introspection and occasional bits of wisdom.
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Heather’s Review: Gale Sears begins her novel, The Route, in a uniquely captivating manner. It almost seems like the narrator of the story, Carol, is writing a letter to the reader about what it feels like to turn fifty after spending life as a SAHM when all the children have left home. Carol speaks in a witty manner about filling the void in her life, quickly drawing the reader in. Unfortunately the book quickly loses momentum in the next chapter as the story turns from an amusing narrative of one lively lady’s life to a chronicle of her volunteer experiences with brief glances into the lives of the seniors she delivers meal to. Carol loses her substance and charm, becoming a character that merely exists on Thursdays (her volunteer day).

I longed for more detail into Carol’s life and felt that this lack of information left Carol a one-dimensional character.I would not consider this novel especially thought provoking, however it did contain quite a few enjoyable antedates and quotes worth a minute or two of pondering. The story overall, while leaving much to be desired, did a good job of showing the benefits of volunteering from both the receiving side and the giving side. It left me longing to be of more service to others.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars, I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t find it as enjoyable as many of the books I have given 3 stars to.

Sum it up: A quick and mildly entertaining glance into the power of volunteering and the beauty of age.
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AVERAGE RATING : 3.67 Stars

Available at Amazon or Deseret Book.

Don't forget to check out Gale's blog or Walnut Springs Press blog for more great book suggestions.

Would you like to win a free autographed copy of this book?!?! Just comment on this review and you'll be entered to win.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pretties - Scott Westerfeld

Read Kari's review for the first book in this series, Uglies. And for the love of Pete, do not read this review if you don't want to know what happens in the first book.

Summary: Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect. Perfectly wrong.

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted. But beneath all the fun — the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom — is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life — because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive. (Summary and image from Powells.com)

My Review: Despite all her hard work, Tally still ends up with the cosmetic and mind altering surgery the rest of her hometown community undergoes. It was part of the plan, but the principle of the matter was to not get the surgery. Tally is doing what she can to make up for giving away the location of the Smokies, compromising the safety of everyone who had worked so long and hard to stay hidden.

It seems Tally's most consistent vice is betraying those she cares about most. In this book she resolves to make up for it. After receiving the surgery, a message is delivered to her that sparks her distant memory. This leads her on a new mission: to reveal the truth about the pretty-making surgery. She is also the guinea pig for a reversal pill counteracting the mind-altering surgery.

As usual, Westerfeld masterfully throws in many twists, turns, angst, mistakes and miscommunication that makes the book more than a trite novel. Tally has faults, but she's also endearing because underneath all her actions is a desire to do what is right. Perceptions of betrayal are also realistically portrayed, because in the teen years this tends to occur in female relationships at some point, and over some boy.

The power-hungry Specials are out for Tally. The depth of the Specials isn't fully explored in this book, which is what drives the reader to pick up the third in the series. I have to admit the description of the Specials is enough to give anyone the creeps--extra strength, speed, almost indestructability and the creepy sharp features and nails. It makes you wonder what kind of people would purposefully give almost an entire nation a labotomy while at the same time painting a vivid picture of what that person would really be like. A little author help in the reasoning processes there.

This book doesn't end the series, so again it is left open for The Specials. I can't say Pretties was better than Uglies because the Uglies really hooks the reader and sets the stage for the rest of the series. Pretties is probably my least favorite, but overall is still a good book. It would just be my least favorite of the four books.

Again, the vernacular is there again in this book: Tally-wa, dizzy-making, bubbly, etc. I'll say it again. Despite creating a realistic world of teen language, it is VERY annoying after a while.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Sum it up in a phrase: More thought-provoking material about control, betrayal, friendship, beauty, the complexities of love, and power.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

Read Kari's review of the sequel, Pretties.

Summary: Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world — and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever. (Summary and image from Powells.com)

My Review: I had a hard time putting this book down once I was vested in the characters. Right from the start it transports you back to your teen years when all that seems to matter is how you look, that you belong, and are having a fabulous time. Tally wants badly to join her childhood friend with all the other Pretties. This strange world in the future gives every 16 year old--boy and girl--massive cosmetic surgery making them intensely, captivatingly beautiful. While this gets rid of the advantage naturally beautiful people have, it also takes away all individuality.

What is left out, when the kids are informed of the surgery beforehand, is that something else, something sinister is being done--I'm not telling you what that is here: you have to read the book. Tally finds this out rather by accident. And then she is thrown into a world she didn't know existed and a quest she didn't know she believed in.

There are many themes to this book that are great to discuss with kids and I think with adults as well. I'd recommend this series for a book club. There are themes of what true beauty is or is not, power and how power corrupts, control and how we are controlled, society and what makes a society good, media and how it shapes thinking, etc.

One part of the book that makes it both unique and annoying is Westerfeld's creative dialect made realistically of Teen vernacular. Tally is eventually called Tally-wa. Everything is pretty-making, or bubbly, or many other adjective-driven, valley-girl sounding slang. While this makes the book seem very teen realistic, it's VERY annoying by the end of the series.

My warning to parents: I'd probably say this book is for an older Young Adult, or one that can handle older themes. The book throws kids into the world of partying and drinking quickly as this is a norm of life once the surgery is performed. The message is a good one despite this: drinking and partying is a mindless way of life. I'm still not comfortable with many middle school age kids reading this book unless drinking and partying is already a normal part of his or her life--and yes, there are many that this is the case. For high school students, I feel, this is a very applicable read. In addition, the subsequent books after Uglies go into darker themes. Therefore, if you're not wanting your teen to delve into those subsequent books, it may be best not to get them started on this one until they're older.

As I just mentioned, there are 3 books following this one so the ending is purposefully left open. As an aside, Uglies was probably my favorite.

Rating: 4.5 Stars Almost a 5 stars, but lacked just a little of that 'I adore you' aspect to make it so.

Sum it up in a phrase: Definitely a social commentary book aimed at teens about what really matters: beauty or what's beneath your skin.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fablehaven - Brandon Mull

Summary: For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite...

Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most. (Summary and image from Powells.com)

My Review: Considering I'm not much of a fantasy/mythical enthusiast, this book was pretty good. It again (seems like a lot lately) took me a while to get into: at least the first 100 pages. Once into the novel, I did want to finish and know just how the magic worked and how the myths played out being true for this world.

Kendra was a likable protagonist and her brother added the conflict necessary for a good story.
Like a typical horror flick, Seth made stupid or rash decisions that brought about calamities that required magic to be fixed. I truly enjoyed the ending; how the author wrapped up the dire circumstances.

There are only a couple aspects to the book I, as a mother and tend to be more conservative in this area, felt uncomfortable with. One of those is the idea of bringing magic and evil beings into your life. Not that the book promotes this exactly, but even the grandfather choosing to share this secret with kids makes me a little uncomfortable. Take that as you will; I felt I should mention my gut feelings.

Overall, it was a good read. I enjoyed the fairies and other new creatures that were for the most part kind. I'm definitely going to read the second in the series.

Rating: 4 Stars

Sum it up in a phrase: A fun book full of mythical creatures and magical ideas.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Number The Stars - Lois Lowry

Summary: It’s 1943 Copenhagen and the Jews of Denmark are being “relocated,” so Annemarie Johansen’s best friend, Ellen, moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family. When Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission, she must find the courage to save her friend’s life. (summary and image from Powells.com)

My Review: I read this book first when I was in middle school. It was my introduction to World War II and the holocaust. Being a book meant for a younger audience, this story is tame in its depiction of the Nazi's and the war in general. The message is still very clear. The Nazi's took over and threatened many countries' people and way of life. The protagonist is a young girl, who bravely helps a Jewish family smuggle out of Denmark to neutral Sweden. I liked the message that there is something you can do, despite scary and trying times. Another message I liked was that we, as a people, shouldn't just sit by and watch others be persecuted or hurt. We should take action against what we know to be wrong, evil, or violent.

I used this book in my seventh grade English Language Learner class with great success as the reading level and the interest matched. The reading level is probably a bit low for most middle school students overall, although some sixth graders might enjoy the short length and high intensity.

Rating: 4 stars

Sum it up in a phrase: A short--but very succinct--depiction of the sacrifices good people made to help their Jewish friends, from a young girl's the point of view .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The City of Ember - Jeanne DuPrau

Summary: Lights shine in the city of Ember—but at the city limits the light ends, and darkness takes over. Out there in the Unknown Regions, the darkness goes on forever in all directions. Ember—so its people believe—is the only light in the dark world. And now the lights of the city are beginning to fail. Is there a way to save the people of Ember? No one knows. But Lina Mayfleet has found a puzzling document, and Doon Harrow has made discoveries down in the Pipeworks. With these clues, they start their search. (Image and summary from here)

My review: When Doon and Lina were both assigned jobs in Ember that neither of them wanted, they switched. Simple as that. Now, each is trying to master their new jobs while struggling with the ever-increasing blackouts that plague Ember. When the lights die, there is no other light. Their entire world is dark. Doon feels he must do something and is trying to desperately find a way out of the city and beyond the darkness. Lina becomes his ally, and is increasingly worried for her family and by the strange messages that are being passed around the city. When Lina and Doon receive an vital piece of information that seems to hint at a way out of Ember, they embark on an adventure to save the city, and themselves before the lights go out forever.

When I first read this book, several years ago, I was immediately (and pleasantly) reminded of The Giver. I think it was the concept of a mysterious "community" and job assignments. Anyway, I was afraid that it was going to turn into a knock-off, but was pleasantly surprised by how the author worked it all out. I loved how this book held mysteries but allowed the reader to try to figure out clues before Lina and Doon are able to. When the characters encountered objects they had never seen before and described them with new eyes, it was fun to be able to guess what they were and then wait in anticipation until Lina and Doon figured it out.

I truly enjoyed this book and feel that it is appropriate for all ages. I think that kids will be attracted to the adventure and mystery of it all and will feel as if they are part of the adventure.
The ending allows for closure, but really hooks you into reading the next book, The People of Sparks. I have recommended this book to many adults who have really liked it and even asked to borrow the rest of the books in the series (to be read, no matter what anyone else says, in this order): The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, The Diamond of Darkhold.

My rating: 4.5 Stars.

Sum it up: A fun, clever, and adventurous read for boys and girls alike.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Giver - Lois Lowry

Summary: Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.
When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.
My review: Jonas has always been like everyone else--well, almost. He dresses the same, lives in a family unit just like everyone else, and always strives for precision of language. Sameness is, after all, very important to the Community. But Jonas has almost unheard of eyes and an inquisitive spirit that cannot be repressed. When he is assigned a special job in the Community with its own special rules, Jonas light-colored eyes begin to notice things. Something is wrong—very wrong. The more Jonas knows, the more he understands, and the less he likes what he is seeing.
Marketed as a young adult book, The Giver can be read on many different levels. It is at a 4th grade reading level but I first read this book my junior year in high school and it has been one of my favorite books ever since.
I can’t explain the many ways that I simply love this book. It is enchanting and eery at its' very center and there are moments of revelation that stun me each time I read its' pages. Lowry’s writing is masterful but simplistic—a single turn of phrase is so full of meaning and not a word is wasted. I buy used copies every time I see them so that I can give it away to the surprising number of people who’ve never read it before. If you haven't read this book - you must. Now.
My rating: 5 Stars - all exactly the same proportions. Some darker themes that might not be understood by younger children.
Sum it up: A fantastic read! One of my all-time favorite books for young or old.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Route - Blog Tour

From Monday, August 24th until Monday,
September 14th, we'll be participating in a blog tour for "The Route" by Gale Sears. You can read daily reviews and interviews at the following blogs and you can enter to win a free autographed copy of the book by leaving a comment on a review. The great thing is that you can enter multiple times by commenting on multiple reviews!

COMMENT ON OUR REVIEW or any of the others and be entered to win this book!

August 24
The Book Nest

August 25
Mormon Hermit Mom's
Book Habit


August 26
Boojoos and Aprilcots

August 27
Of Good Report

August 28
Blog the Day Away

August 31
Reading for Sanity

September 1
Lu Ann's Book Review

September 2
*Tristi Pinkston, LDS
Author


September 3
Amesbury Reads

September 4
Tangled Words and Dreams

September 7
Labor Day

September 8
Not Entirely British

September 9
Jewel's World

September 10
Rebecca Talley

September 11
Of Writerly Things

September 14
Walnut Springs Press

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Highest Tide - Jim Lynch

Summary: Miles O'Malley is a speed-reading, insomniac, Rachel Carson-obsessed thirteen-year-old in love with the girl next door. When he stumbles across a rare sea creature on the tidal flats one moonlit night, he becomes a national phenomenon, haled by the press and even a local cult as a kind of prophet. Through the summer, while the sea continues to offer him discoveries from its mysterious depths, Miles navigates the equally mysterious process of growing up. As the close of the summer approaches, and with it the highest tide of the year, this luminous tale of obsession and natural wonder surges toward an unforgettable ending. (Excerpt from book cover - picture from here.)

My review: I have loved the ocean since my first real experience with it, exploring the tidal pools of Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon with my not-yet-fiance Curt. I have feared it since we went body-boarding and I realized that pretty much anything could be swimming under my feet. As a result, I am somewhat captivated by anything oceanic and what first drew me to this book was it's cover. To start off, this book is beautiful, literally. I don't know about it's other covers, but the one I have (pictured above) is what initially drew me to the book. I found it at Goodwill and it caught my eye instantly. The summary (and the fact that it was a Book Sense/Indiebound Pick) sealed the deal and into the shopping cart it went.

While I adored Miles' almost worshipful descriptions of the ocean and thrilled at his rare finds, there was altogether too much "guy talk" in this book for my taste. I kept getting thrown bodily into the mind of a 13-year old boy--a place, I assure you, no 29-year-old woman EVER wants to be. Miles and his friends exposed me to quite a bit more sexual conversation, male fantasies, and, ahem, creative and adult language than I felt was necessary for the storyline.

If you can get past those sections (and that, I believe, is a personal choice) then this book is chock full of interesting discoveries and fascinating descriptions of marine life in Puget sound. Having never really seen the ocean (that I can remember) before the age of 20, I felt inexplicably drawn to this mysterious tidal world and the animals hiding in its' depths. (Teensy Spoiler Here) The ending felt a little bit anticlimactic for me, as I was expecting another mind-blowing discovery and didn't really get it. (Spoiler Over)

All in all, I enjoyed the main part of the story, but wished that it hadn't been so full of what I'm certain was a thoroughly realistic interpretation of the mental wanderings of the average 13-year-old male. Alas, I can't have everything. This was, however, a Book Sense (now Indiebound) Best Pick, which means that independent booksellers everywhere thought it was worth a read and you might too.

My rating: 3 Stars. Contained adult language and frequent sexual comments.

To sum it up: A 50/50 split -- Part fascinating marine exploration/part hormonal teenage ramblings.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Running Out of Time - Margaret Peterson Haddix

Summary: Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana, in 1840 — or so she believes. When diphtheria strikes the village and the children of Clifton start dying, Jessie's mother reveals a shocking secret — it's actually 1996, and they are living in a reconstructed village that serves as a tourist site. In the world outside, medicine exists that can cure the dread disease, and Jessie's mother is sending her on a dangerous mission to bring back help.

But beyond the walls of Clifton, Jessie discovers a world even more alien and threatening than she could have imagined, and soon she finds her own life in jeopardy. Can she get help before the children of Clifton, and Jessie herself, run out of time? (Summary and image from Powells.com)

My Review: I loved the concept of this book. I love that the protagonist is female. Her mother entrusts her with the dark secret that their life is just a facade for a museum attracting tourists and money. They really do have medicine to heal their people, but the owners of the land and museum are preventing their acquisition of it to make the environment more authentic. I felt the author did a good job portraying Jessie's confusion and reactions to the outside world as she tries to get help.

It's a super fast read, and from my vantage point I felt it could have been longer. But, for a middle school adolescent reader it's probably perfect: high interest, easy reading, not very long, therefore not intimidating. It's the type of book that helps build confidence and a love for reading. I'd definitely recommend this to my students as a 5 star read. For adults it's more of a 4 star read.

Rating: 4 stars

Sum it up in a phrase: If you've seen the movie The Village, same premise. A small community set up to live like it is the 1840's without the inhabitants knowing.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - J.K. Rowling

Summary: There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror?

Here are just a few things on Harry's mind:
--A Defense Against the Dark Arts teach with a personality like poisoned honey
--A venomous, disgruntled house-elf
--Ron as keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team
--The looming terror of the end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams

...and of course, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In the richest installment yet of J.K. Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the importance of the authorities at Hogwarts.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice.

Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back. (Summary from book jacket - Image from amazon.com)

My review: I started this book with a slightly heavy heart. Having read it before, I wasn’t too terribly excited to delve back into a book that I remembered as being a bit heavy on the whine and lighter on the humor than I have come to expect from Rowling’s work. However, I discovered on reading it again that it all made a bit more sense to me, and what bugged me before about the book was part of what made it truly amazing. Throughout this book I was completely at the mercy of J.K. Rowlings writing ability as she took me on a roller coaster of human emotions. I laughed out loud and was tied into wicked little knots. I was surprised and unnerved, and I loved every minute of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I wanted to rip pages out of this book (gasp). There are parts of this book that are extremely frustrating but (and you’ll just have to trust me on this because I’m not going to spoil it) they are vital to the plot and while they grated at me so completely, the book would not have been half of what it was without them.

Harry is your typical whiny, volatile teenager. I mean, I understand that he just saw a boy killed and the Dark Lord restored to power, but you’d think he could still manage a little civility towards his friends and family. He’s moody, irritable, and sometimes just plain annoying, though it turns out he has a very good reason that you don't fully understand till the end.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the book is one of J.K. Rowlings best characters ever – Dolores Jane Umbridge. She is a loathsome, horrific, undeniably misled, and unbelievably aggravating character who is exceptionally well written--so well written in fact that I wanted to crawl into the story and claw her eyes out. I. HATED. HER. I mean, quite possibly more than I was supposed to, as she was near to edging out Voldemort on my “List of HP Characters Who I Want Killed Off.” Incidentally, also on that list is Lucius Malfoy, Peter Pettigrew, Bellatrix Lestrange, and for some reason Pansy Parkinson. What can I say? I knew girls like her in high school. Having to read about Umbridge and her insanity throughout the book was enough to make me want to throw the book across the room. The only thing that kept me reading (other than, well, faith in J.K. Rowling) was a strong desire to see her get her comeuppance.

While Goblet of Fire was darker from a magical standpoint, this book was darker from an emotional standpoint. There is a mysterious connection between Harry and Voldemort that is creating all sorts of turmoil inside Harry, only compounded by outside factors like Dumbledore’s lack of communication, and Umbridge’s reign of terror. These intensely written portions of the book are part of what make it so powerful. The result is that this book is incredibly full of conflict. It definitely has it’s humorous moments, that I adored, but on the whole this book was much more angst-filled than its’ predecessors.

Rowling's plot development is amazingly intricate, with clues and foreshadowing dropped chapters, if not books, in advance that help weave the story together seamlessly. On a second time through, I was more able to pick these things up, and occasionally ended up just staring at the page in slack-jawed amazement at her ability to plan ahead.

Order of the Phoenix allowed me to see more of the intentional flaws in all the characters – Mrs. Weasley’s fears, Hermione’s torrential temper during O.W.L.S., Ron’s inability to overcome his Quidditch insecurities, and Harry’s emerging darkness and deepest fears. It made them more real as characters and ultimately even more likeable. My husband pointed out, and I agree, that one of the best things about this book was that it was the first time where so many characters worked together in the end, actually applying what they had learned at Hogwarts. It was no longer Harry alone. He had people by his side, fighting with him, and it was marvelous!

SIDENOTE : For me, this book (and to be honest, most of it’s predecessors) set to rest the recently argued “Twilight vs. Harry Potter” dispute. Other than a wide fan base, they don’t have much in common. While Meyer is great at pulling at the heartstrings of innumerable women of any age all over the world (I myself have fallen victim to some literary swooning) and transporting us back to that moment in freshman year where we were just going to DIE of love, it is simply no match for the evocative writing, humor, cleverness, foresight, and insane character development of J.K. Rowling. Hands down. Rowling wins. No contest. I’m a fan of both, truly, but I have to be clear on this. Hate me if you will. I can take it.

My rating: 5 Stars. I know I keep saying that each is my favorite. But seriously. Best yet. There was much LESS swearing this time (yippee) and, while still dark in spots focused more on character relationships than dark magic.

Sum it up: An outstanding, entertaining, and frustratingly marvelous work of young adult fiction that emphasized the importance of teamwork, loyalty, friendship, and love.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Once Upon A Time, The End (Asleep In 60 Seconds) - Geoffrey Kloske

Summary: These hilarious, super-short fairy tales and nursery rhymes are guaranteed to make any child fall fast asleep--fast. (Summary from Powells.com - Image from amazon.com)

My Review: I was introduced to this book at a Reading Council presentation during a teacher inservice. I fell in love after reading just one of the short Fairytales. The premise of this story is a father trying to get his child to sleep quickly. We've all read story after story to our kids at bedtime (or remember your parents trying to accomplish this impossible task). This book allows you to get through many stories and quickly! The best part of the book is the under current of humor for adults. Kids don't usually get all the slight jokes, but adults do. It makes it fun for both kids and parents. Really, you should give this book a try, at least for a man's perspective on familiar and beloved stories.

My Rating: 5 stars

Sum it up: Fairytales and nusery rhymes with a short, new twist.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tunnels - Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

Summary: Fourteen-year-old Will Burrows has little in common with his family. But he does share one bond with his odd father: an obsession with archaeological digs. When the two discover an abandoned tunnel buried beneath modern-day London, they think they're on the brink of a major find.

Then Dad vanishes.

With the help of his friend Chester, Will decides to investigate the truth behind his father's disappearance. Soon, they're lost in a dark underworld--and the deeper they descend, the deadlier the threat to their lives! (Summary from back of book. Image from Powells.com)

My Review: I'm going to admit right now that this book took forever to finish. I couldn't get into it the way I do most books. It was probably on the 300th page that I finally started to build momentum. That's incredibly too late in the book in my mind.

I'd had this book recommended to me by another middle school teacher. She'd said it was a great read; one she couldn't put down. I, on the other hand, could put it down easily enough. It was too dark, too sinister, too claustrophobic for me to enjoy. And maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it--I'm very claustrophobic. It deals with a labyrinth of tunnels under London with horrible, evil people carrying out punishments on innocent kids. Made my stomach sick to think of the torture the boys endure.

It's an interesting concept: a dark underworld, full of mystery. There is so much in beneath us and London does have amazing, long tubes for their subways that to make a book out of this concept is interesting to contemplate. I just didn't like the evil feel it oozed. There seemed to be a weird 'religion is actually evil' message at points. It was just strange and didn't set well with me. Also, the descriptions of all the tunnels, caverns, etc., were hard to picture after a while--or at least, I didn't want to even try and picture them after a while. It gets a bit old.

Warning! Spoiler!
I eventually liked the characters, and felt intense pity for Will's (the main character) friend Chester. I also felt sadness for Will as he learns his entire life was a farce--his mother, father, and sister aren't really his. I can't help but think how weird it is that he didn't realize this until so late. Where were the pictures or stories in the family about their births, etc. Again, weird! And since this book leaves open-ended the final outcome, readers have to pick up Deeper (out now) to find out the resolution for this story. And truthfully, that kind of bothers me. I really wanted to be done with this story, this book.

Rating: 3 Stars. Worth reading once, but was painful in parts.

Sum it up in a phrase: A long-winded, sometimes hard to imagine, adventure in tunnels under London with sinister inhabitants.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

Summary: A lost child...
On the eve of the first world war, a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia. A mysterious woman called the Authoress had promised to look after her - but the Authoress has disappeared without a trace.

A terrible secret...
On the night of her twenty-first birthday, Nell O'Connor learns a secret that will change her life forever. Decades later, she embarks upon a search for the truth that leads her to the windswept Cornish coast and the strange and beautiful Blackhurst Manor, once owned by the aristocratic Mountrachet family.

A mysterious inheritance...
On Nell's death, her grand-daughter, Cassandra, comes into an unexpected inheritance. Cliff Cottage and its forgotten garden are notorious amongst the Cornish locals for the secrets they hold - secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family and their ward Eliza Makepeace, a writer of dark Victorian fairytales. It is here that Cassandra will finally uncover the truth about the family, and solve the century-old mystery of a little girl lost.
Summary for katemorton.com, cover photo from barnesandnoble.com

My Review: The Forgotten Garden is another stunning work from Kate Morton that leaves one longing for more of her skilled writing. This is Nell's story. The story of a strong, quiet lady in her sixties who sets out on a quest to solve the mystery of her past. A past that was lost when she was found abandoned on a ship at the tender age of four. However it it not a quest that she is able to complete in her lifetime. After her death Nell's granddaughter, Cassandra, picks up where her grandmother has left off, embarking on her own adventure to solve the mystery surrounding her grandmother's identity.

Vividly detailed scenes instantly draw the reader into this puzzle. The past is effortlessly weaved into the present, taking the reader on a journey which begins in the early 1900's, jumping to Nell's story in the 1970's and leaping forward to present day 2005 to travel with Cassandra, only to leap back and forward again and again. Each story becomes intertwined with the next, yet with visible distinctions. The impact of each generations choices is obviously seen in the next generation. All the while the magic of fairy tales is weaved throughout.

While this mystery can be solved by the reader within the first two-thirds of the book the suspense continues as the characters begin to unravel the past. It is only within the last few pages that one is able to catch a breathe again. This is an absolutely mesmerizing tale filled with twists and turns and plenty of knots along the way. It is heartbreaking to see the story come to an end as the time spent within these pages is so utterly delightful. I'm unsure that any review could do this book justice. You will just have to read it for yourself to discover the magic within.

My Rating: 5 Stars, this book is now right up at the top of my favorites list

If I had to sum this book up in one sentence it would be: A magical mystery that one almost does not wish to see solved, as that would mean having to close the cover on this remarkable book.

Monday, August 17, 2009

All the Stars in Heaven - Michele Paige Holmes

Reviewed by Chris

Summary: Ever since the woman he once adored told Jay Kendrich he was a chivalrous hero, he has tried to live up to the praise. But when things don't work out with Jane, moving on and dating other girls proves to be a chore. That is until he meets fellow Harvard student Sarah Morgan. Although Sarah is a freshman studying music and Jay is in his third year of law school, he discovers they have much in common. He has also discovered that getting to know the shy pianist is painful. The last thing Jay expected from his friendly advances was to be assaulted by a brawny stranger. It is abundantly clear that someone wants him to stay away from Sarah. If only he could. As long as she can remember, Sarah has lived under a watchful eye. While her father insists it's for her own protection, Sarah feels imprisoned. As she begins to believe that those she has trusted most don't have her best interest at heart, she is driven further from her respected father and closer to Jay. But their love will come at a high price as the pair edges closer toward to a truth that is darker than either of them could have imagined. (Summary and image from seagullbook.com)

My review: All the Stars in Heaven was written as a companion, but not necessarily a sequel, to Counting the Stars. Jay Kendrich has had a very rough life—part of which included a drug addict mother who died of an overdose. He turns his life around and enters law school at Harvard. While at Harvard he meets Sarah Morgan, a 24/25 year old freshman music major whose life is totally controlled by her overbearing police chief father who, I might add, is controlled by J.D. Rossi, a mob boss. Sarah has never had her hair cut, never ridden a bike, never gone out on a date, never used a blower dryer for her hair or worn makeup. Jay opens us a whole new world to Sarah who in turn gives meaning to his life.

The mob connection in this book provided an element of suspense that kept me engaged and wanting more, until the end of the book. There were many twists and turns in the plot leaving me wondering who the “bad guys” were and who the “good guys” were—who I could trust. Once or twice I had to stop reading just to give myself time to de-stress from what I was reading about.

There was also just enough romance to keep the romance junkie in me happy. I particularly liked how Jay treated Sarah—like she was a beautiful flower just starting to bloom. He helped to nourish and promote the blooming.

The book was a typical LDS fiction, nothing objectionable in the content, but only 2 or 3 references to the LDS (Mormon) Church. I’ve read plenty of Christian fiction and some of it tends to get a little to preachy for my tastes. This was not the case with All the Stars in Heaven. Any religious references were subtle—Mormons and food storage. Anyone could read it and enjoy it.

My rating: 4 stars

Sum it up: Although I didn’t absolutely adore this book, I did find it a very enjoyable read. It left me with a good feeling.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Rapture of Canaan - Sheri Reynolds

Summary:At the Church of Fire and Brimstone and Gods Almighty Baptizing Wind, Grandpa Herman makes the rules for everyone, and everyone obeys, or else. Try as she might, Ninah can't resist her prayer partner, James, and finds herself pregnant. She fears the wrath of Grandpa Herman, the congregation and God Himself. But the events that follow show Ninah that God's ways are more mysterious than even Grandpa Herman understands.
Photo and summary from barnesandnoble.com

My Review: I must agree with Kim's review in that this novel is indeed very thought provoking. While reading this novel one can not help but think about ins and outs of religion, especially extreme manic religion. The book also induces pondering on the choices one must make in their own lives to battle for an identity we can call our own while others have an alternative plan for us.

I read this book in only two days, much of this time with a knot in my stomach. Having read the back summary, I spent the first hundred pages with this sense of dread. I knew this 14 year-old girl was going to end up pregnant, yet kept hoping it was some sick joke. I knew I could not prevent the inevitable yet could not put this novel down. I will warn you that a few situations within this novel (one towards the end in particular) were extremely uncomfortable. Thankful the author spares us much of the detail.

Though the book held me utterly captivated I can not say that I enjoyed my time within the novel. It is an extremely well-written book on a topic that lends itself to exploration. I just would have preferred to explore from an alternative side. I was especially disappointed with the ending as it felt incomplete and it left me unsatisfied.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be: A story of a young girl's agonizing struggle to survive the extreme religious beliefs of her family and find her true identity.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Like Myself! - Karen Beaumont

Summary: I like myself--inside and out! Why? Just because I'm ME! At once silly and serious, this exuberant ode to self-esteem is sassy, soulful--and straight from the heart. (summary from inside flap - photo from librarythings.com)

My review: I picked this book up at a book fair a few years ago and fell in love with it instantly. Most women will acknowledge how difficult it is to instill a healthy sense of self-esteem into girls of any age, but this book is a great way to start the conversation. It's about a little girl who likes herself for who she is! No matter what anyone else says--she knows her worth. David Catrow's oh-so-unique illustrating abilities, and Karen Beamont's meaningful, yet fun, message combine to make must-read must-buy book for your own young ones.

I'm going to type the words out so that you can get the full effect of this rhythmically, rhyming book that holds the distinction of being one of a small number of their books that I actually NEVER tire of reading. Again, I want to credit these words to the lovely and talented Karen Beaumont (who hopefully won't freak out to have her content copied in such a manner)

I like myself! I'm glad I'm me.
There's no one else I'd rather be.
I like my eyes, my ears, my nose.
I like my fingers and my toes.
I like me wild. I like me tame.
I like me different and the same.
I like me fast. I like me slow.
I like me everywhere I go.
I like me on the inside, too,
for all I think and say and do.
Inside, outside, upside down,
from head to toe and all around,
I like it all! It all is me!
And me is all I want to be.
And I don't care in any way
what someone else my think or say.
I may be called a silly nut
or crazy cuckoo bird-so what?
I'm having too much fun, you see,
for anything to bother me!
Even when I look a mess,
I still don't like me any less,
'cause nothing in this world, you know,
can change what's deep inside, and so....
No matter if they stop and stare,
no person
ever
anywhere
can make me feel that what they see
is all there really is to me.
I'd still like me with fleas or warts,
or with a silly snout that snorts,
or knobby knees or hippos hips
or purple polka-dotted lips,
or beaver breath or stinky toes
or horns protruding from my nose,
or--yikes--with spikes all down my spine,
or hair that's like a porcupine.
I still would be the same, you see...
I like myself because I'm ME!

Seriously. I love this book. I have actually had to buy several copies so that when one bites the dust another can take it's place. And, the only reason I had to refer to the book to write the above text was to correctly place the punctuation. I've actually quoted it to myself a time or two when I start looking a little to closely in the mirror.

My rating: 5 Stars

Sum it up: If you have little girls, BUY THIS BOOK, and read it to them often!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

This review comes to us from the lovely Anne Bennion, a stay at home mother of 4 wild boys who finds that reading is the easiest way to escape from all of the sports, guns, and super heroes that run rampant in her home. On a rainy day, you can most likely find her curled up with a historical fiction novel, a cup of hot cocoa, and a blanket. You can read another of her reviews here.

This book is also reviewed Mindy and Kari.

Summary: “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’d never met, a native of Guernsey, the British island once occupied by the Nazis. He’d come across her name on the flyleaf of a secondhand volume by Charles Lamb. Perhaps she could tell him where he might find more books by this author.

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, all members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed in a unique, spur-of-the-moment way; as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the Society’s charming, deeply human members, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. Through their letters she learns about their island, their taste in books, and the powerful, transformative impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds there will change her forever. (Taken from the book flap)

My review: Who hasn’t felt anticipation while corresponding with someone via postal mail, a real handwritten letter, containing mistakes, touched by hands of someone who felt you special enough to take a moment to write to you? The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will make you want to forever put aside emails and texts and develop the lost long art of writing letters. Juliet, the main character in this book, is an author made famous by writing a weekly column about the war. She is desperately seeking something new to spark the writer’s block she is experiencing. Guernsey is that spark. Through letters from the most random people imaginable (and yet the most human and realistic), Juliet finds the need to set sail and discover something new. The thing that draws her: love of books. The letters they write are charming, full of truth, questions, flirtations, and the resilience of those who survived the occupation. I want to meet these people. Yes, I know these are fictional characters but who wouldn’t want to know the charming, determined Elizabeth who had the rare capacity to love, even a German soldier, or the quirky Isola who makes potions in her backyard and studies the bumps on someone’s head to determine their character.

I feel the need to add that the last 10 pages are not in letter format. They are things that the character Isola writes as she attempts to be a detective. There is a different feel to these pages, not a bad feel, just a little different. I was a bit sad that the big finale of the book wasn’t in letter format. I really wanted to hear direct from the characters mouths what was happening, not have it relayed to me by Isola. In the end, it does wrap everything up nicely so I can’t complain too much.

With that being said, I continually find myself drawn to this book, to sit down and read it in one day, to let myself believe that these fabulous people truly did exist. The Guernsey Islands are high on my list of foreign places to visit because I am quite sure that I will find traces of these characters somewhere on the island.

My rating: 5 Stars

To sum it up: A delightful book that will make you want to check your mailbox in hopes of finding a letter!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Still Alice - Lisa Genova

Summary: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease changes her life.

As the inevitable descent into dementia strips away her sense of self, fiercely independent Alice struggles to live in the moment. While she once places her worth and identity in her celebrated and respected academic life, now she must reevaluate her relationship with her husband, a respected scientist; her expectations of her children; and her ideas about herself and her place in the world.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer's disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People. Summary from book, cover photo from barnesandnoble.com

My Review: This is the story of Alice, a bright Harvard linguistics professor who at the age of 50 is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. This novel takes you through the mesmerizing downward spiral of a smart, articulate woman's life to a woman whose brain can no longer form the word cream cheese, yet alone remember the names of her children. This is her personal struggle to remain true to herself even when she can no longer remember her true identity.

Alice has always led a very healthy lifestyle, fitting a run into each and everyday is vital to her existence. She watches her diet and seems to have an abundance of energy. Yet when the disease unexpectedly hits her she is powerless. It is unrelenting, taking away all of the power strong Alice has and leaving her a completely dependent woman.

Alice is not the only victim of this disease. It also takes it's tole on her family and friends. Sorrow consumes all. Co-workers can no longer look her in the eye, many altogether avoid her. Her husband fights as hard as he can against the Alzheimer's that is robbing him of his wife, only to be overpowered and turn inward. The children cope in their own ways, one becoming more harden, one becoming more defensive of his mother while yet another becomes closer to her mother in ways that had previously seemed impossible.

This is an incredibly well-written book. The turmoil within Alice's life and her daily struggles are so heartbreaking and real. I could not help but cry right along with her. There were points within the novel where I truly felt that I was losing my own mind, yet was unable to put the book down. I have no doubt that this book will haunt me for weeks to come. A round of applause goes out to Lisa Genova for putting such a difficult and often overlooked disease into the public light and giving readers a chance to experience Alzheimer's first hand.

My Rating: 4.5 stars (just because the subject matter is too heartbreaking to say I adored the book) I would highly recommend this book, yet be cautious of who you recommend it to as it is definitely an emotional read.

If I had to sum this book up in one sentence it would be: An unforgettable tale about a courageous woman whose own memory is stolen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling

Summary: Harry Potter is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursley's and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasley's. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event that's supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for hundreds of years. He wants to be a normal fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal--even by wizarding standards.

And in this case, different can be deadly.

My Review: Nearly double the size of the first or second book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a daunting 734 pages. Rowling needed every last one of those pages to cram this massively, delightfully detailed story into one book. Had it been any shorter (like the movie) I wouldn’t have been able to discover more about the home life of the Weasley family (always amusing) or get the full experience of the Quidditch World Cup. All the extra pages gave Rowling the freedom to stretch her wings a bit and expound on all sorts of unknown facts, important back story, and interesting tidbits of the wizarding world.

The introduction of a number of new and fascinating characters, like Mad Eye Moody, Rita Skeeter, Victor Krum, Fleur DelaCour, Winky and others, allowed for further growth in the series while still keeping things fresh and interesting. Finally, awkward teenage romance between the characters gradually came into play and it was HYSTERICAL.

The only thing that bugged me about this book was the chapter wherein ________ spilled their guts to Harry about just why exactly they were evil and what they’d done to prove it. It was a big monologue and it got a little old. I’m sure the first time I read it my head was just reeling with all the revelation, but on the third time through, all I noticed was just how LONG it was. I wanted to get back to the action.

Goblet of Fire is considerably darker than the three previous books. It’s no secret that this is the first book where an important character dies. We are also given a deeper look at just what the “Dark Arts” entail as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher shows students the Unforgivable Curses (one of which is the Killing Curse that took the lives of Harry’s parents). There is also a dramatic increase in the mild profanity used by major characters. I think it’s important to know this if you’re planning on letting your 8-11 year old read the series, that while 1,2,and 3 might be okay to read unsupervised, this one probably is not.

Dumbledore’s speech at the end was epic. Magnificent. I even got a little teary while reading. I think what I loved most about this book, and many of her others, is J.K. Rowling’s attention to detail. It was the little things that made this book for me. She even goes so far as to give Harry’s owl an attitude/inferiority complex. A pointed look from Hermione, an off the wall comment from Ron, a nosy bathroom ghost, all these details and many more combine to make this story an excellent continuation of the Harry Potter Series.

SIDENOTE: This was a HORRIBBLE read aloud book because, since I’m not capable of affecting a French or a Russian-ish accent, it was hard to vocalize some of the lines. Many of the new characters have accents that are written with a partial lilt “ze horses zat we brought…” so that while you know how to say “ze,” “horses” remains a mystery. I usually just end up sounding really bad.

My rating: 4.5 Stars. Great book, but much more adult than the last three and definitely starting to mature with it’s original audience. This is the first book of the series I probably would suggest parents read BEFORE letting their children under 11 read it as it contains much more “biblical” profanity than the last three and considerably darker themes.

To sum it up: A sometimes hilarious, sometimes emotional, and always fascinating year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

These Is My Words - Nancy Turner

This guest review comes to us from Melissa Mc (aka Daisy Mom) a mother of 3; wife of 1; daughter, sister, friend, aunt; lover of football, politics, food, travel, walking, theatre and all things literary. Click here to see her book club's reading list or visit her blog .

Summary: This rip-roaring yarn, the diary as page-turner, is based on Turner's great-grandmother's diary and covers 20 years in the life of a woman in the Arizona Territories at the end of the last century. Through these pages, we watch the spirited Sarah, unpolished but spunky at 17, improve both her grammar and her grace; come to terms with death and tragedy including Indian attacks, train robbers, and childhood disease; marry twice and love one man fiercely; birth and bury children; and keep a large cast of extended family in her heart and in her kitchen. Along the way, she examines her own feelings toward Indians, Mexicans, and folks from back east; learns to manage money by making and selling her own scented soap; and attracts the love of her life by besting a bully in a shooting match. The language is rich and fine, sounding true to its time without being precious. (Summary from Booklist - Image from barnesandnoble.com)

My Review: Some books just grab you by the heart and won’t let go. These Is My Words is one of them.

Sarah Prine is a tough as nails, young women growing up in the Arizona Territories. She can shoot a rifle, defend her family and friends, and fight Indians and outlaws too – heck, I’m not sure there isn’t anything she can’t do. Her family decides to migrate to Texas for a better ranching life, but they find nothing but tragedy along the way. On their return home to Arizona, Sarah meets Captain Jack Elliott, and thus begins the heart of this novel, based on the diaries of the author’s original family memoirs.

These Is My Words is a love story, an American western, a survivors tale, all wrapped up into one incredible saga. In fact, Sarah and Jack’s love affair rivals that of Scarlet and Rhett – and the great thing about Sarah and Jack was they made it work. It wasn’t without trials – Jack, as a Captain in the Army, was absent from home most of the time. Sarah, who could survive anything on her own, was desperate to have her husband (and the father of her children) home.

Not a far cry from most modern day husbands and wives.

It is not without some graphic scenes – rape, mutilation, amputation – but they are written with restraint and left to the reader’s imagination. The romantic scenes are dealt with just as modestly. I would let my eight year old read them without her being any the wiser.

I fell in love with this book. Who can’t fall in love with two people so madly in love with each other? I almost felt guilty reading about their romance – it was a guilty pleasure – and one I would be happy to read over, and over again.

My rating: 5 Stars

Sum it up: A great historical, western romance, that will leave you breathless (or it did me!).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Illuminations of the Heart - Blog Tour

Starting today through September
18th, we'll be participating in the blog tour for Joyce DiPastena's new book,
Illuminations of the Heart.

During that time you can visit the blogs listed below to read daily reviews, the occasional author interview, and
enter to win an autographed copy of the book.

Joyce has also graciously donated three $10 dollar online gift certificates for DeseretBook.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com to go towards the purchase of her book giving you FOUR chances to win!

To enter, just visit one of the sites below and leave a comment on their review of the book. Here is our review. You can comment on as many reviews as you like and be entered multiple times.

BLOG TOUR DATES
(weekends and Labor Day excluded)

August 10
Mormon Hermit Mom's
Book Habit

August 11
Amesbury Reads
August 12
Heather Justesen
August 13
Rachelle's Writing Spot
August 14
Cami's Books and Fit Mommas
August 17
Jewel's World
August 18
Of Writerly Things
August 19
Frespa Fan
August 20
Of Good Report
August 21
Rachel Rager
August 24
Boojoos and Aprilcots
August 25
Musings from an LDS Writing Mom
August 26
Queen of the Clan
August 27
Write Bravely
August 28
Dreams of Quill and Ink
August 31
*Tristi Pinkston
September 1
Vicissitudes
September 2
Tangled Words and Dreams
September 3
Random-ish by Nichole
and
LDSwritersBlogck
September 4
SeriouslyŠ
and
latterdayauthors
September 7
Lu Ann's Book Review
September 9
Reading for Sanity
September 10
Taffy's Candy
September 11
The Write
Blocks

September 14
Why Not? Because I Said
So!

and
LDSWomensBookReview
September 15
Ink Splasher
September 16
Romance Old School
September 17
Blog the Day Away
September 18
Walnut Springs Press

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Under a Lakota Moon - Deborah L. Weikel

Summary: As a divorcee in 1870 St. Louis, Rosalynn McAllister is a branded woman. When she is presented with the opportunity for a new life with her sister's family in Peaceful, Minnesota, Rosalynn believes it is what God wants for her. But Rosalynn arrives in Peaceful only to find that her sister Susan has run off, her brother-in-law Mike is dead, and her niece and nephew are in the custody of the town's minister. Furthermore, Mike's handsome half-brother, Lone Wolf Larson, who now owns the family farm, stirs feelings in Rosalynn that both excite and confuse her.

When Rosalynn and Lone Wolf must marry to obtain custody of the children, Rosalynn assumes it will be a loveless marriage. After all, she believes that no man could love a divorced woman, and experience has taught her her that men are not to be trusted. Lone Wolf, persecuted for his Lakota Sioux heritage, also has trust issues, yet he secretly feels that Rosalynn is his destiny. Will Rosalynn and Lone Wolf put aside their fears and learn to embrace love, hope and forgiveness? And will their faith see them through seemingly insurmountable trials? (Summary from back of book - Image from amazon.com)

Chris’s Review : Normally I don’t like to read the first books of new authors. We usually learn from experience, so 2 or 3 books makes a big difference in how well a book is written. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised with this book, Under a Lakota Moon. The author told a sweet story of patience, courage and love; and how they can help heal a person who has suffered from abuse or bigotry. The story line was pretty typical—boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love but doubt each others’ love, something or someone from the past resurfaces to cause problems and finally, love conquers all.

One thing I did have a problem with was all the times Rosalynn referred to Lone Wolf as “ my darling”. Come on, do people really talk like that? Did people talk like that in the 1800’s? I’m not sure, but it did sound a bit corny to me. Basically, though, it was a good story told in a very uncomplicated way.

Her Rating: 3.5 Stars

Sum It Up: A sweet, simple, clean love story with a happy ending.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mindy’s Review: First, I must echo the sentiments of Chris’s review. Ditto. Under a Lakota Moon definitely follows the standard romance format. There were few surprises. Regardless, I was entertained. I still found myself interested in the storyline, wanting to know exactly how events would unfold, despite the occasional syrupy endearment or preachy moment. I’ve always been intrigued with old-fashioned farming life and this was a great book to live vicariously through. There was lots of talk of putting up jams and harvesting crops to feed my insane desire to live back then. I will most reluctantly confess that my heart did indeed beat faster at some of the more, erm, descriptive parts. If I were a proper lady I would have fanned my face and perhaps swooned. But I’m not—so I just sat back and enjoyed the escape. This was a fun, clean, one-time, romantic read.

Her rating: 3.5 Stars.

Sum it up: If you’re in the mood for an clean, easy-to-read, fairly predictable, but all-out romantic novel then you’re in luck.
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Kari’s Review: I really liked this book. There were parts that seemed typical LDS lit. If you've read LDS lit, you know what I mean. A couple parts seemed a little inaccurate or missed editing, but truly it was rare. I really liked the characters and the message. Also, for LDS lit, it doesn't mention the church at all. It could be sold in any Christian literature store and no one would know the author is LDS. My only gripe with the characters and the story line was that it seemed, once in a while, that the author back tracked or contradicted herself with the emotions the characters portrayed from scene to scene. Otherwise, it was a great little (and fast!) read.

Her rating: 4 stars

Sum it up: A typical clean romance with a sweet message and endearing characters.
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AVERAGE RATING: 3.67 Stars

Visit Walnut Spring Press's blog here.
You can purchase this book at Amazon or at Deseret Book

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