Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

This book is amazing! Norton Juster must be a genius because this book is fun and can be used as a learning tool at the same time. The book is full of puns and other idioms that are taken too literally. His characters include Tock the watchdog (a dog with a watch for a body), Alec Bings (his family starts at the height they will be and grow downward towards the ground), King Azaz the Unabridged, the Mathemagician, and the princesses Rhyme and Reason (siblings and children of the King of Wisdom). Milo is a bored boy who ends up in this new world and he must try to save Rhyme and Reason in order to bring King Azaz and the Mathemagician to peace again.

I know these are all taken out of context and might be confusing, but here are just a few examples of how great his writing is:

"Oh no," said the little man, "I'm the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it's more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be."

"I am also the judge. Now would you like a long or a short sentence?"
"A short one, if you please," said Milo.
"Good," said the judge, rapping his gavel three times. "I always have trouble remembering the long ones. How about 'I am'? That's the shortest sentence I know."

"Don't be frightened," she laughed. "I'm not a witch- I'm a Which."

"Be very quiet," advised the duke, "for it goes without saying."

I know I am late to see the greatness of this book... but no more. If you haven't read it, please do.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Top Ten Settings In Books

This week The Broke and the Bookish Top Ten meme is to list our personal top ten settings (real or imaginary) in books. This should be easy, as I love settings. To me, they count as a character. Without further ado, my list:

Hogwarts from Harry Potter- Come on, I know it's obvious, but it just HAS to be included. As settings go, it's just about perfect.

Prince Edward Island from Anne of Green Gables- I would love to go here someday. For real. Along those same lines, I would also include the island of Guernsey from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The Lands Beyond in The Phantom Tollbooth- Island of Conclusions. Kingdom of Wisdom. Doldrums. Digitoplois. Now I probably wouldn't want to visit all of this places, but Norton Juster is a genius in my book.

The planets in A Wrinkle in Time- I don't read much sci-fi/fantasy, but I have to admit writers of this genre come up with awesome settings.

Battle School in Ender's Game- Another example of an amazing sci-fi setting.

The Community in The Giver- I had to include a dystopian setting, and this is my favorite dystopian novel.

Republic of Gilead from The Handmaid's Tale- Okay, one more dystopian setting. Both are places I definitely wouldn't want to be, but they are so well written.

Terabithia from Bridge to Terabithia- Lovely, imaginative place.

Salem from all the various books I've read on the Salem witch trials- The Salem witch trials are a subject I find really interesting. I plan on making time to visit the town whenever I make it back East next, even though I'm sure it's mostly a huge tourist trap now.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey by Patricia Harman

"Arms Wide Open is not just for those interested in midwifery or feminism. It's for anyone, of any gender, young or old, who cares about the earth and social justice. We each have our own song. This is mine and I sing it for you." -Author's Note

I know this book won't ever show up on bestselling lists like a lot of the books I review. It's probably not even a familiar title to most of you. This is a beautiful memoir, though, about all of the things mentioned above and more: midwifery, feminism, the state of health care in our country, motherhood and grandmotherhood, social justice and environmentalism. If any of those subjects interest you, I urge you to give it a shot.

I loved reading about her experiences living in communes. I could never give up all my luxuries, especially technology, but I'm so interested in that time during during the 1960s and 1970s when people were earnestly trying this. I know I would live in an intentional community, as long as I could keep my technology.

Because I'm passionate about birth, I enjoyed reading her experiences as a midwife. She starts as a home birth midwife and becomes a certified nurse-midwife, or CNM. Her husband is a P.A. and his experiences told in the story are a sad example of some of the things that are wrong with health care today.

I'll definitely be reading her other memoir, The Blue Cotton Gown, and looking into other memoirs of this sort (I'm talking about you, Ina May Gaskin).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

"You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings. Babies still cry, telephones ring, Saturday morning cartoons screech, but without the men, there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life."

   I can't put into words how much I loved this book, but I shall try. You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon is a collection of short stories about "the army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas." Eight loosely connected short stories dealing with some of the realities of military life: loneliness, PTSD, living on base, and adultery among other things.

   For a few reasons, I don't usually seek out short stories. Usually, there are a few amazing stories in a collection and the rest are just okay. That is not the case with You Know When the Men Are Gone. Every story is strong in its own right. The stories chosen for the first and last stories make a perfect introduction and conclusion for the collection.

   Other problems I have with short stories is that they are not long enough for me to feel a connection to the characters, and I feel they wrap up too tidily for something so short. I felt a connection with almost all of the characters and was immediately interested in their lives and what was happening to them. While Fallon is a talented writer, my interest is probably also due to the fact that this is a life and culture I know little about. As for Fallon's endings, they don't wrap up. And while that leaves me wanting, I appreciate it because life is not always tidy. I will say I am not exaggerating when I say I wanted more. One of the stories, "Leave," is about a soldier that suspects his wife is cheating on him. He comes home on leave without telling and sneaks into the basement, where he waits for proof one or or another. The ending to this story is left up to the imagination.

   Fallon's collection has made me want to give short stories another chance. Anyone have any recommendations? Sadly, the collection also makes me want to check out the show Army Wives, even though I am trying to cut out TV time, not add to it. It was just so interesting and I want more from her, more about these characters, but since I don't have that... Army Wives it is.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Top Ten Books You Lied About

This week's Top Ten meme at The Broke and the Bookish asks us to list the top ten books you've lied about... lied about reading, about not reading, about liking or disliking, etc. This will definitely be a short list, because I'm having a hard time thinking of these.

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar- I liked the show, so I read the first few books. I'm somewhat embarrassed about it, so I usually omit that I have read them. They are quick reads though, and might show up on my beach reads list next week.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien- I was at a work event and they were playing the "stand up, sit down" game. If you had not read the Lord of the Rings, you were supposed to sit down. You all have no idea how badly I wanted to lie and stay standing. I've meant to read these books, and I'm ashamed as an English Literature graduate that I haven't read them I did read The Hobbit, though, so that's a start.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer- I have this on my "read" list on Goodreads, but I've never read all of them. I even rated it four stars, but that's because I loved the tales I did read. Yep, I've only read some of the tales, and it was for school.

The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot- The Waste Land is a 15 page poem. I had to read it multiple times in a 2-3 week period and then write a paper praising it. I was so sick of it by that point, but I wrote the paper as if I wasn't.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday flops

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal- I loved this series growing up, but it was just a bad idea to pick this up. Obviously I knew it wouldn't be amazing or even well-written, but I had a previous connection to the characters, and wanted a beach read for my California vacation. It was just a bad idea all around. This review at the book blog Stacked says it all. I agree with her completely, but would go one step further. I wouldn't even recommend it if you were a Sweet Valley reader in the past.

This Girl Is Different by JJ Johnson- I'm interested in homeschooling, plus I love to read anything that's not mainstream culture. When I saw this book on Netgalley, I requested it and thought I would really enjoy it. The portrayal of homeschoolers was too stereotypical, and the ending was just too perfect.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Something Blue by Emily Giffin

Something Blue is Darcy's side of the story. Everything that happens in Something Borrowed is seen from her point of view, and then the story continues. I didn't think I would like this book. Darcy was so unlikable to me. I'm glad I read it. It's fun and I would still consider it "chick lit," but there's an undeniable message. It's a story of maturing and moving on with your life. And (spoiler alert) by the end of the book I loved Darcy. She grows leaps and bounds in the two years after the initial story.

Warning: don't see the movie Something Borrowed until after you've read this book. It changed a part from the first book that somewhat ruined Darcy's love story for me. Yes, she finds true love too, and it's wonderful.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

I took this book on vacation with me, and it was a perfect beach read. Perfect. I had been avoiding this book, since I'm not the biggest fan of "chick lit," but then I saw a preview for the movie. I like the actors in the movie, especially John Krasinski, and it looked really cute. I decided to read the book before I saw the movie and I'm glad I did.

Back to the book, shall we? This is a really strong debut book about friendship, love and when you can't have both. There is language, and sex, so be warned, but it isn't gratuitous at all.

Something Borrowed, and its companion/sequel Something Blue, tell the story of two lifelong friends, Rachel and Darcy. Rachel is a good girl and the quiet one, while Darcy is the life of the party who always gets her way. At least until Rachel sleeps with her fiance. (I know, I don't usually like adultery in books or movies, but it has its purpose here.) All of the characters are flawed, so your sympathies change. Rachel is pathetic for not going for the guy when she had the chance, but Darcy wasn't really a good friend to begin with. I love where the story goes after the betrayal.

Seriously, this book is the perfect summer read. Watch for my review of Something Blue tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Top Ten Favorite Minor Characters

This week's Top Ten meme from The Broke and the Bookish asks us to name our top ten list for minor characters in literature. This has been hard, because sometimes minor characters have such an important role that in your head they seem like major characters. I finally had to allow myself to select characters like that, characters that really make an impact to the reader but don't always have a huge presence in the book.

Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter- At some points, they play a bigger role, but if you look at the series as a whole I think they are minor characters. Oh, how I love them though. I love how loony Luna is, and I love how much Neville grows throughout the series.

Aunt and Uncle Gardiner from Pride and Prejudice- I"ll be honest here- I couldn't remember their names and had to look them up, but they definitely make my list. I took a condensed British Romantic Literature class in college, and my final essay was about these two. The balance they give the Bennett girls from their parents, especially the aunt, is really important. Plus, they play a pivotal role in Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth finally getting together.

Gabe from The Giver- I think Gabe is the reason Jonas leaves in search of a better place, to give Gabe and other children a different and better future.

Boo Radley, Mr. Cunningham and the mad dog from To Kill a Mockingbird- When I got to thinking about it, Harper Lee is the queen of minor characters (and isn't too shabby about writing major characters, either). It seems like every character has a place in the book and that place really means something. Boo Radley is obvious, of course. Scout, Jem, And Dill are obsessed with him, and then he ends up saving them.

Mr. Cunningham is Scout's classmate's father, and is part of the mob that comes one night to get Tom Robinson. I love how he is able to realize what they are doing is wrong because of Scout talking to him about his son and how Atticus has helped them as well. He's able to get the crowd to leave for the night.

Lastly, the mad dog. He's only in the book for a few pages, but his presence teaches Scout and Jem that there are things they don't know about their father and that you shouldn't brag about your talents. 

Erika Berger from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millenium trilogy)- I know, all of the female focus in this series is on Lisbeth, and rightly so. I think Erika is pretty amazing too. She's strong, smart, and willing to help Lisbeth when she needs it. 

Angus from Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging- I know I've had all serious picks, so I thought I would end on a light-hearted note. Angus the pet of the Nicholson family. He's a half Scottish Wildcat, and is just hilarious as far as cats go.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Since this blog is new and all, I don't think I've professed my love for Tina Fey here. It doesn't seem to have an end, really. She made fun of natural childbirth in a SNL skit this last week, and I still love her. If you are at all a fan of hers, you will enjoy Bossypants. Just don't make the same mistake as me. I saw it at Target and decided to splurge. I paid $17 for it. I started reading it, and then my sister and I started planning a spontaneous road trip. And I heard on NPR how good the audio book was, since she reads it and all. I was so mad at myself for buying the book! I decided I had to have the audio to listen to while I was driving, so I joined Audible so I could get it for $8. People, I haven't paid over $20 for a book in years. It was worth every penny. The only thing I don't like is the cover. It fits, because she has accomplished so much in the "man's world" of comedy and television writing, but it weirds me out all the same. If you like Tina Fey, you should give this book (or audio book, preferably) a try. The audio from her Sarah Palin skits are included, and it was just as funny to listen to now in 2011 as it was in 2008.

Here is one of my favorite parts. You may have seen it before. It made the rounds on some blogs yesterday for Mother's Day. This is her prayer for her daughter.

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her

When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Top Ten Jerks In Literature

This week's Top Ten meme from The Broke and the Bookish asks us to name our top ten list for jerks in literature.

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice- He's definitely in the "just acted like one but could be quite loveable" category.

Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye- I know some people liked him and related to him, but I was not one of those people. He annoyed me to no end and I thought he was a jerk.

Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl- I'm almost ashamed to add him to the list, but yes, I have read a few of the books and I watched the first two seasons of the show. I stopped when him and Blair broke up. If they get back together, let me know. They are both brats and are perfect for each other.

Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter- Of course, he had to be on this list. I'm sure he'll be on most peoples' list.

Nils Bjurman from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo- Horrible, horrible man that abuses any power he gets.

George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice- Boy who can accept no responsibility masquerading as a man.

Benedict Fludd and Herbert Methley from The Children's Book- Not many people have read this book so I won't give their sins away, but these two men are messed up.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I Don't Want To Kill You be Dan Wells

I finally finished this trilogy! As a whole, I would give the trilogy eight stars out of ten. I Don't Want To Kill You was a little too repetitive at times, especially with the morgue scenes. I loved the wrap-up though. The ending was sad and amazing at the same time.

I also felt like John's growth was more evident. Minor spoiler alert if you haven't read the second book: At the end of the second book, he seeks out other demons. It isn't just them finding him anymore. I didn't like that. It seemed like it was more to satisfy his serial killer nature than to rid his town of demons. I was wrong. He spends so much time in this book trying to solve the mystery of who this latest demon is that he isn't obsessed with his rules. He's able to move past them, actually. He's able to make an honest, personal connection to his mother and to a girl.

I still wouldn't recommend this series to everyone, but to people who like mysteries or who like Dexter, I definitely would.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Books I'm So Happy Were Recommended To Me

This week's Top Ten meme from The Broke and the Bookish asks us to feature the books you probably wouldn't have picked up without a good recommendation.

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton- Janssen at Everyday Reading reviewed this on her blog, and I am so glad she did. It's an amazing resource for any parent who loves to read and wants to pass that love onto their child.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart- Another recommendation from Janssen. Love, love, love this book.

White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son by Tim Wise- This book was briefly mention on a post by Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan. The title sounded familiar, so I did some digging and I had read an excerpt from the book in a gender studies class in college. It's a hard, but important read.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak- My county and the library systems in it did a "One Book, One County" program for a little while. This was the book in 2008. This is one of my favorite books and he is one of my favorite authors even though I've only read two of his books.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison- I first heard about these books from a fellow English major, Heather. These books are so funny (at least 1-4 and then the last one).

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry- In 2009, I decided to make a list of 100 books to read that year. When I asked for recommendations on Facebook, Danielle mentioned this one. Out of all my other choices, this is the only I for sure would not have ever read. I hadn't ever heard of it, for one, and then when I went to get it at the library it was huge (over 600 pages). So glad I stuck with it.

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt- I'm in a small book club where we take turns picking the book. One month, one of the women chose this book. It's another big one. I've had another book by that author (Possession) on my to-read list for a long time, so I was intrigued. I liked it. The reading almost was like things I read in my literary history classes. I'm glad she chose it, but I don't know if I would recommend it. Out of four women, I was the only one that finished it and liked it.

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells- Heather also recommended this one. It popped up on her Goodreads profile with this short review: "This could be the best book I've read this year and in a long time." Of course I had to read it.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer- This one has nothing to do with regular book blogging, but it's still a book I am extremely glad was recommended to me. A friend who is a doula told me to read it, and then my midwife did too. Such a good book for pregnant women that want to be informed about birth.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday flops- unfinished edition

I've recently started a new writing job that helps keep me busy. Because of that, I've had to become more selective in the books I keep reading. I'm finally beginning to allow myself to stop reading if I'm not enjoying it. Here are recent books I decided to put down.
Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros - Honestly, I thought I would love this. I'm really getting into Twitter myself so I was excited to read it. It just didn't click.

Save as Draft by Cavanaugh Lee- I was also really excited for this one. It reminded me of Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot, which I loved reading back when it came out in 2004. I just didn't feel a connection with the girl. I didn't even get past the whole online dating thing where her and the guy (I don't even remember their names) first "meet."

Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay- I know, I know, I mentioned the Dexter series on the blog just about a month or so ago and said I was enjoying them. I've changed my mind. I stopped in the middle of the third book. It was already getting redundant, and I was especially getting sick of hearing "darkly dreaming Dexter,"  and "devoted Dexter." I was listening to it while I worked at the library, so it's telling that I stopped listening. It's bad enough I stopped halfway through a shift and just listened to music instead since I didn't have another book ready. I'm hoping the TV series is better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

NurtureShock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

8 out of 10: This book is one of my favorite "parenting" books. I read it when it came out in 2009 because I had read the article the first chapter is based on and because I have really enjoyed Po Bronson's works. Reading his book What Should I Do With My Life? made me change my mind about a nursing career, and Why Do I Love These People? made me realize all families are messed up to an extent and not just my own. Anyways, I read it when Brayden was an infant, and decided to reread it now that he is a toddler. I chose it as April's book for the book club I am in. It's interesting because when I read it the first time, I definitely focused on the chapter about language development and how to increase it in infants and toddlers. This time, the chapter on the importance of sleep was what hit me the most. The other two women in the book club have children a little bit older than Brayden, so they really liked the chapter on a preschool method that has been very successful in teaching self-control.

I reviewed it on my personal blog back in 2009:

This book is about modern parenting and how we might have some things very wrong.

Praise- Parents want to praise their children, of course. And they are likely to praise them for being smart. That, it turns out, can have some negative effects. Kids who are told they are smart so fear losing that label that they are hesitant to tackle subjects they don't feel as comfortable in. On the other hand, kids are who praised for their effort in a test or subject will work that much harder to grasp new subjects.

Sleep- Many current experts blame television for the recent spikes in obesity levels and ADD/ADHD diagnosis. Science is showing that a loss in sleep might be a more determinant factor. Kids now get about an hour less sleep than they used to. The science has shown that kids need that sleep. Obesity levels would go down, grades would go up, etc.

Racism- Most parents are of the opinion that you shouldn't draw attention to racial differences. However, studies show that racial differences are obvious to children as young as 6 months of age. Children categorize everything, it's just what they do. So if you don't talk about race, they are going to categorize anyways. Most parents avoid the topic of race until third grade, but the science is now showing that there is a good window of opportunity around first grade to have your children understand and accept these differences more readily.

The rest of the book is great too. There's a chapter on the absurdity of defining kids as gifted in kindergarten (thereby closing that door to late bloomers, of whom there are many). There's a chapter on siblings and how younger siblings are not necessarily better socialized as we used to think because they learn poor social skills from their elder siblings just as much as good social skills.

The writing makes scientific and technical information easy to grasp. And even if you don't agree with all of it as it regards to parenting, at least it got me thinking about the whys of parenting more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Top Ten Fictional Crushes

This week's Top Ten meme from The Broke and the Bookish is a rewind meme- a chance to do one you missed the first time around. Since I haven't been doing this long, I had a lot of choices. I chose to name my top fictional crushes.

Logan Bruno from The Baby-Sitters Club- He was my very first fictional crush. Since I was so shy, just like Mary Anne, I loved her character in the books AND her boyfriend.

Nick Zsigmond from My Girl 2- I know, I know... this is a movie, not a book. He's still fictional, and this is my list. I watch this movie SO many times.

Dave the Laugh from the Georgia Nicolson series- What can I say? I go for the funny guys.

Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird- He's an amazing parent. Plus Gregory Peck plays him in the movie, and he's really handsome.

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice- Love, love, love. It doesn't hurt that Colin Firth played him in the BBC version. Just think about the lake scene and thank me later.

Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars- Logan is the ultimate bad boy redeemed. His first kiss with Veronica is tied for my favorite on-screen kiss.

Tom Lefroy from Becoming Jane- Tom and Jane's kiss in the woods is my other favorite on-screen kiss. I love the actor James McAvoy. Love. I love him to the extent that while I am not a fan of X-Men, I will be seeing the next X-Men movie just because he is in it.

Captain Jack Elliot from These Is My Words- He's so devoted that he helps Sarah through her labor when it was not the norm for the father to even be present, much less the main support.

Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series- I love his character in the books- he's funny, loyal, and a romantic at heart.

Will Schuester from Glee- I've loved him from the beginning. Honestly, he looks like the high school teacher I had a crush on when I was in high school. The singing and dancing doesn't hurt either.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Life From Scratch by Melissa Ford

7 out of 10: This book was an quick and entertaining read. If you love to cook or blog, you'll like this book. This book tells the story of a recent divorcee who decides she needs to learn how to cook and starts a blog all about her adventures in the kitchen. She always ordered takeout with her ex, but can't afford it anymore and decides to reclaim her life through her kitchen. If this book sounds familiar, it should. It's definitely got a Julie and Julia feel to it.

Melissa Ford, the author is a popular blogger herself. I didn't look up her blog until I finished the book. I probably should have sooner, because I felt like I was reading her story. No sirree, she just writes good fiction.

Thanks to netGalley and Bell Bridge Books for the advance copy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

9 out of 10: This might be my favorite dystopian of 2011, and y'all know I read a ton of them. It is a dystopian in the sense that the outlook for the world is bleak. If things don't change, the world will really end. Here's the summary from Goodreads:

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

I was hooked from the very beginning. The modern science mentioned in the summary is basically vaccines and cures to various diseases, including cancer. I never paid much attention to medicine and vaccines before I had my son, but I've since become aware of much of the controversy surrounding them. That made the premise of the book very interesting to me. It explores the somewhat extreme idea that "cures" are not always a good thing.

And then there's the polygamy. Well, I know a lot about polygamy because of my religious background. Ones of the reasons the early LDS people practiced polygamy was to build up their population, which is exactly what is happening in the world of Wither.

I loved the characters. Rhine is a strong lead. Her relationship with her husband, sister wives and her attendant are all complex. I still can't get over how well written the characters are for her husband and sister wives. They are all a part of this crazy world, so in reality the reader shouldn't like them, but we do. They are victims just as much as Rhine is. Linden's father is very creepy, which makes me wonder what's hiding under the surface to show up in the next books.

Honestly, Wither and Matched are the only dystopias lately I have read where I am left wanting more, happy more is coming. You won't read me complaining about trilogies in this review, thank goodness. On a superficial note, I think Wither and Matched are also my favorite covers I've seen recently, but in different ways. Wither is simply beautiful, and I love the graphics of Matched.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies

Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner- I realize it would have a Western feel to it, and I don't normally like Westerns. However, I would love to see Jack and Sarah's love story on the screen.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart- Fun and feminist. That is all.

Looking for Alaska by John Green- Really, I'd love to see any of his books made into movies.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin- This or Extraordinary- my two favorite Werlin books.

Room by Emma Donoghue- It would be a hard movie to watch, but so worth it. Love this book.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood- One of my favorite dystopian novels on the screen? That would be awesome.

Wither by Lauren DeStefano- Another great dystopian novel, actually similar to The Handmaid's Tale.

And for my last three... book to movie adaptions already in the works that I simply cannot wait to see:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2) by J.K. Rowling- I am so excited to see this, but I will also be sad when it's over.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett- Loved the book, and I love Emma Stone (she'll be playing Skeeter).

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- I know some people have complained about the casting, but I think the actors appear to be more talented than another extremely popular movie (coughcough::twilight::coughcough).

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Rhythm of Family by Amanda Blake Soule

When I saw this book on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. I read and love the author's blog SouleMama. Just like her other two books, it was an enjoyable read. The author lives a very idyllic life in Maine. I wish I could go stay with them for a month. I could get reacquainted with sewing and learn to knit.

Many of the projects and activities explored in the book aren't feasible for me right now, given my knowledge and where I live. That's okay. I will take what I can from the book, and try to make small changes to slow down the rhythm of my family.

On a child's work: "And suddenly this time- thankfully, this time- I look back to her playing and it becomes clear. I see the fact that I nearly forgot in the details of my day, perhaps the most important thing to remember of all on these busy days of family life: Her work is to play. It is the most important work my little ones can be doing."

One project I'm going to try is to write a manifesto for each season. She displayed their winter manifesto and it contained things like make stuff, follow the sun wherever you find it, and "get out of Dodge." I have made a summer checklist before, but I think this would be more meaningful and less stressful.

Her husband says "The spirit of my own children reminds me to keep alive that spark of inquisitive learning and constant probing into the unknown." To go along with this idea, they have an "I Wonder Why" board in their kitchen where the family can tack a question onto a little cork board. I think that's a wonderful idea... especially when the "why" questions seem never-ending.

I also got excited about hikes, picnics, baking everyday oat bread (note: copy the recipe before the galley expires), and trying to be more mindful even if that means some things don't get done. And lest I get down on myself:

"The reality is that none of us are super heroes, and that incorporating creativity, slow and mindful living, and seasonal celebration into our daily lives takes practice."

Thanks to netGalley and Shambhala for the advance copy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

There is no way I could rate this. I'm having a hard time even thinking of what to write in my review. I'll start with a summary. A virus has rendered almost everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, leaving a world where adults who want to be parents have to pay teens to conceive, carry and deliver their child. Yes, conceive. I'll get back to that later on. Melody and Harmony are sixteen-year-old identical twins who were adopted out into very different families and lives. Melody was raised in a town called Otherside by parents who had an idea of what was coming and because of that, have been grooming Melody to be a RePro. That means she has a rep to find her a conception partner and adoptive parents. Harmony, on the other hand, was adopted into a religious Amish-like family in a community called Goodside set apart from the rest. When Harmony finds out about Melody, she sets off to try to convert her and bring her home with her.

I had a hard time getting into it at first, and I'm seeing other reviewers did as well. If you think usage of slang in our world is a bit much, just wait until you read Bumped. RePro, Fertilicious, Pro/Am Pregg Alliance, etc. Once I got used to it, some of it made me chuckle.

This book is being classified by many as a dystopian novel, but I just don't know about that. No wars, no natural disasters, and no violations of civil rights. In my opinion, it's a light dystopia. It does have the disease threatening to eradicate humankind like many other dystopias do, but the book is so light-hearted it's hard to remember that. It's mild because the society has found a way around it, and hardly anyone except the religious folks minds it.

This is a dystopia dealing with reproductive rights, and because of that I liked it. It had ironic political snubs like "it's shocking to think that the government would try to stick its nose in our ladyparts." My absolute favorite was "We shouldn't be using hardworking American taxpayer dollars to pay Americans to pregg because pregging is patriotic and America is the greatest nation under God, so God bless America and Americans," a quote by the Fox and Freedom Party. You've got to love the snub on Fox. Well, you don't have to. But I do. I think I'm drawn to dystopias about reproductive rights because that's it's something I'm passionate about, and I'm also in the having kids of my own phase. It's become so important to me that women have the same choices I've been able to have about when to have a child, how to have that child, etc.

At that same time, I don't know if a teenager would get the same things from it that I did. They're more in the dating and falling in love phase, so I think dystopias like Delirium and Matched are good for them. Teenage pregnancy is obviously glamorized in Bumped. It would have to be in a world where only teens can get pregnant. Because of how teen pregnancy is treated, I would hesitate to recommend this to teens, especially younger ones. Plus, Harmony has a little bit of a Margery Kempe moment, and while awkward for everyone, I know it would be worse for a teen.

I will say the book was just as thought-provoking as other dystopias, even without all the tragedy.

P.S. This book is definitely the first of a trilogy or series. By the way, what is up with that?! Being a trilogy is not a requirement for dystopia!! And yes, I know I mentioned this in my review of Delirium, and I probably will again (I'm reading another first book in another dystopia trilogy).

Thanks to Netgalley and HarperCollins for the advance copy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Love in a Time of Homeschooling by Laura Brodie

8 out of 10: As a parent researching the future educational choices I will have to make for my child(ren), I really enjoyed this book. It feels like it was written for me. Brayden isn't even two yet, but I think about his education on a regular basis.

This book doesn't give definite answers and I think that is why I loved it. The book is the story of "a mother and daughter's uncommon year." This woman has three daughters, and she decides to homeschool her oldest daughter for her fifth grade year. I think that idea of flexibility is good. Her other two daughters were doing fine in school and were happy, but Julia wasn't happy. I like the concept of being open to what is best for your child. In all my talk of homeschooling, Adam is most receptive when I mention a one year period of RVing and homeschool. Likely won't happen, but it is one of our dreams.

I dogeared so many pages of quotes from this book.

-On the drudgery of homework: " Today's public schools seem to have responded to the endless cry for "achievement!" by adding more worksheets to the homework pile. Math worksheets, grammar worksheets, bland spelling exercises. I wouldn't mind the work if it seemed more interesting- if Julia were asked to try a fun science experiment, or to walk outside and compose a poem about the sounds in her yard. What rankles is the monotony of colorless paper, the columns of equations and fill-in-the-blank history."

-On homework and achievement: "In the elementary grades, studies show that the link between homework and academic achievement is minimal at best- its impact grows in middle and high school."

The author quotes her daughter at the beginning of one of the chapters, giving a good example of things being taught in the wrong way or wrong order: "School is all about copying the teacher. I mean, I've been saying the pledge of allegiance for six years, and I only learned what "pledge" meant one year ago."

Brodie tells the story of when she introduced Arabian Nights to her daughters. I didn't know this, but the story's roots are in classical music. She played the music for them, telling them the story, and that led to checking out an illustrated version of the story and to geography lessons about Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. She says: "This is homeschooling at its best- a constant segue from music history, to literature, to geography, to contemporary politics. It can take place anywhere, at almost any time, even with a carload of children driving home from the regular school."

She doesn't claim it went perfectly, though. She explains she still lost her temper sometimes when Julia couldn't focus. And she fell into some of the traps of public schools- like memorization of facts children don't use on a regular basis. She helped Julia memorize state capitols with a game before realizing that Julia had no idea where the most important city of a state is (i.e. Chicago over Springfield).

What hit me the most was this: "In her book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, Judith Warner describes how today's mothers have become a generation of control freaks, frantically prepping children to get their piece of a shrinking American pie, rather than taking political action to ensure that there is enough pie to go around."

Why did this hit me? Because it is me. I am so caught up in making sure Brayden is on track developmentally- comparing him to other children- and I have been since his birth. Even now I feel guilt if I hear that a child his age can do something he can't do. I feel like it's my fault and that I am failing him as his mother. After reading this book, I have more faith in myself to make the right choices for Brayden. I am his first teacher, right now. Whether he goes to public school or not is yet to be seen, but even if he does, Adam and I are his most important teachers.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond

5 out of 10: The Pioneer Woman has gathered a huge following, mostly due to her recipes. I've enjoyed a few of them myself. She's published a cookbook, and now the story of meeting and falling in love with her husband.

Warning: only pick up this book if you are in the mood for some cheese. Any other week, I would have put this book down. However, it ended up being a week I needed some fluff literature. I started writing for my new job, subbed at my other job twice, and dealt with kitchen renovations. I therefore somewhat embarrassingly admit that I enjoyed the book for what it was.

Think of your standard romantic comedy. It was just like one- everything is almost perfect. There are just a few pretend obstacles thrown in the way and they will of course work them out by the end.

And her writing, well, it was sure interesting. I've now heard enough description of her Marlboro Man and his sexiness to last me a lifetime. If you think I'm lying about all the lusty talk, here's a quote from her blog post about the book: "The book contains such themes as lust, upheaval, disappointment, reevaluation, death, passion, divorce, agriculture, manure, despondency, and childbirth…not necessarily in that order."

Plus, she mentioned something to the tune of "my ovaries burst with joy" a few too many times.

If you love romance, you will love this book. It did help me escape from a stressful week, so I shouldn't put it down too much. It was my chick flick for the week.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brayden's books of the month- March edition

I Howl, I Growl by Marcia Vaughan- This has been a favorite of Brayden's since he first got into books. The animal thing, I guess. It's a very simple text. Two page spreads featuring two animals saying "I _____. I _____." Now that he's talking more, he tries to repeat the words after me.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.- This may not be the most exciting book to read out loud because of the repetition, but toddlers love it. I do love Carle's illustrations, though.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss- Oh, how I love Dr. Seuss. It's been awhile since I've read one of his longer ones out loud. I've got to get back into the hang of reading his books. My Seuss tongue is out of shape. :) I've been trying to read more picture books to Brayden. He doesn't usually sit through them all the time, but I'll keep trying. I was on the phone with a friend this morning and told her I've started reading Green Eggs and Ham to him, and less than a minute later he brought the book to me. I guess that means he likes it too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First Quarter Reading List 2011

1- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling- I'm trying to reread the series this year before the last movie comes out.

2- Harry Potter and the Chamber of secrets by J.K. Rowling- Amazing, as always.

3- Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama- Great kids book.

4- A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton- I loved this book. It led to starting a goodreads list of books I want to read to Brayden.

5- Notes From the Cracked Ceiling: Hilary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win by Anne Kornblut- Interesting read.

6- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins- Perfect YF romance

7- Room by Emma Donoghue- reviewed- I still think about this book a lot.

8- I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman- Meh.

9- If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now by Claire LaZebnik- Meh.

10- A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz- reviewed

11- Harry Potter: Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley- reviewed- I still want this for my birthday, which is coming up. Any takers?

12- The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller- reviewed

13- The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan- reviewed

14- Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale- reviewed

15- Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller- reviewed

16- Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale- Decent follow-up

17- Fly on the Wall: How One Girl saw Everything by E. Lockhart- Sucks.

18- I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells- reviewed

19- The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff- Sucks.

20- The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger- reviewed

21- The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo- Meh.

22- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness- reviewed

23- Trapped by Michael Northrop- reviewed

24- Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle's Sweaters to Maine's Microbrews by Christian Lander- Okay.

25- Delirium by Lauren Oliver- reviewed

26- Mr. Monster by Dan Wells- reviewed

27- Bumped by Megan McCafferty- will be reviewed

28- The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels- A Love Story by Ree Drummond- will be reviewed

29- Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay- Okay.

30- Love in a Time of Homeschooling: A Mother and Daughter's Uncommon Year by Laura Brodie- will be reviewed

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells (and a dash of Dexter)

6 out of 10: John Wayne Cleaver thinks his life is settling back down after getting rid of the demon of Clayton County. He's back to following his rules. Except for one- he decides to let himself give in to one of his tendencies, because it's harder to control Mr. Monster (what he calls his inner demon) now that he has been let loose once before. He's even attempting a social life. And then killings start happening again. Another demon is in town, trying to lure him.

Mr. Monster is a solid book. The basic plot is similar to I Am Not A Serial Killer, but it is definitely different enough. The heart of the story is the same- John's ongoing struggle to tame his inner demon in the midst of other demons.

I Am Not A Serial Killer didn't have a big, exciting ending, but Mr. Monster did. I cannot wait to read the last book in this trilogy and see how it ends.

Note: I also just finished listening to Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. Really similar stories. Good guys with serial killer tendencies killing other demons/serial killers. I know I'm going to keep listening to the Dexter series at work, and I'll probably check out the TV series on Netflix.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I've been excited for this book for months. I've been reading the hype for this book for months. Here is my short review of Delirium. It is not the best dystopia out there, people! Dystopia has been around for a long, long time and is currently at an upswing in its popularity. I love dystopia, mostly because of its subversive storylines (Ex. Hunger Games and its anti-war agenda).

Delirium's dystopian world is focused on love, or the disease they call amor deliria nervosa. Love is the root of all evil, and a cure has been found. The major problem with the cure is that it has bad effects on younger people, so it cannot be administered until close to your 18th birthday. Everything is highly regulated.  Boys and girls are kept apart as much as possible to lessen the risk of infection.

Enter Lena, a quiet girl close to her 18th birthday. She is eager to receive the cure. She has seen the effects of delirium on her sister, and her mother committed suicide from the infection. Then she is at an evaluation and witnesses an incident rumored to have been done by Invalids living in the Wilds. People who chose not to have the cure. She also meets a boy, and her world is turned upside down. She attends a party with her friend Hana (great character) and hears real music for the first time. Music that can move you. She realizes how detached everyone with the cure is, even to their own children. The cure never took for her mother, so she has memories of her mother being a very loving mom but having to hide it. As a mother, I can't imagine that. That was my strongest reaction to this book. Thinking about a world where parents are not attached to their children. They care for them because they have to, not because they love them.

I mentioned Hana was a great character. My favorite line in the whole book comes from her, early on, before either of them honestly begin to question things. Right before their evaluations, she asks Lena "You know you can't be happy unless you're unhappy sometimes, right?" I love it, because it is so true. Living in a world of indifference, where you are never unhappy, doesn't mean you are happy.

Delirium is the first in a trilogy. I know, I know. Everything in YA fiction seems to be a trilogy now. I have to admit, it's becoming a bit of a pet peeve. This book is strong enough to stand on its own. Most people will disagree with me, because of the cliffhanger ending. Look at The Giver, though- huge cliffhanger ending and it stands on its own just fine. It's on many people's list of favorite books, including mine. Oliver wrote one of the best cliffhangers I've read in a long time, and it's the ending that makes me think it could be a stand-alone book. Not everything has to be tied up in a pretty little bow, especially in dystopias. Look at 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale.

All in all, though, I did enjoy Delirium. I have another dystopian novel on my reading list (Bumped) so I will have to see how they compare.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Top Ten Bookish Pet Peeves

Oh, do I have some bookish pet peeves to share. I am such a nerd.

-Censorship. This is so much more than a pet peeve. When The Golden Compass movie came out, the community I love in sent e-mails and wrote editorials protesting it. I read them at that point because no one is going to tell me what I shouldn't read. (Side: I do think parents can censor books for their children, but not to the extent of asking a library to ban a book.)

-I don't like it when people act like YA fiction is just "fluff." YA fiction is just like any other genre. It has its fluff, and it has true literature too. No one could tell me novels by John Grisham or James Patterson are better quality than novels by Markus Zusak.

-Along the same note, it's not necessarily bad if all your kid will read is graphic novels. He is reading! Many kids nowadays will be brought into the world of reading by graphic novels. That's okay, in my opinion.

-I get so annoyed with series that last too long. The story usually gets repetitive, and I start to feel like the author is only continuing it because it's a proven formula.

-As mentioned in my review of A Discovery of Witches, I don't like not knowing ahead of time that the book will have a sequel. I guess I have to prepare myself.

-Another bookish pet peeve is that my husband limits me to one bookshelf for my books and one for children's books. It's only because of limited space, though. He says I can have more once we buy a house. I can't wait.

-This was an example given on the meme list, but it hold true for me as well. I hate stickers on my books!

-I hate it when people act as if reading is simply a leisure activity. It is relaxing for me, don't get me wrong. I often feel, however, like mommy brain is taking over and I'm losing IQ points daily, but reading helps me offset that. :)

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

I'm just going to say it outright. This book is an intellectual Twilight. I don't mean that as an insult. That's just what I felt while I was reading it. It's a paranormal romance set in academia. Diana, the main character, is a witch who has spent her whole life trying to hide that part of her world. It catches up to her when she requests an old manuscript as part of her academic research. She can tell the book is magic and sends it back. Suddenly, the world of witches, vampires and daemons fall upon her. This book is an alchemic manuscript that has been searched for by members of all three supernatural species for hundreds of years. Matthew, a vampire who has been searching for the manuscript, believes it will help save the creatures from extinction, though his motives are definitely questionable at first. As if the recalling and subsequent sending back of the manuscript isn't enough, Diana and Matthew fall in love, angering the entire supernatural world by breaking an old treaty barring inter-species relationships.

I did love some of the supporting characters, even more than Matthew and Diana. Diana's aunts are wonderful, as is Marthe, Matthew's housekeeper. My favorite, however, would have to be Diana's family house. Yes, the house is a character in this book. I thought it was a nice and unique touch. The house is a true witch house, hiding things away for years, adding a room when visitors are expected, etc.
This book is long. I think  it could have been at least 100 pages shorter. Also, the alchemy content was hard to understand, but it isn't absolutely necessary to enjoy the book. Another thing I didn't like (to no fauly of the author) is that I had assumed that this was a stand-alone book. When there were 200 pages left for me to read, I started wondering how she was going to wrap it up by the end. At the 100 page mark, I knew there must be an upcoming sequel. I guess I just like to know ahead of time.
After I finished the book, I was skimming through the reviews on Goodreads. It seems as if this book has more extreme votes (1/2 stars or 5 stars) than many other books. People either love it or hate it. As always, there are reviews like mine that "rate" A Discovery of Witches somewhere in the middle. I do that because I can honestly see both sides. I found the book enjoyable as I was reading it. At the same time, however, I don't know if this book was memorable enough to read the sequel. I spent way too much time trying to decide what rating to give this book, especially after reading this post by Janssen on why she stopped ranking. I think from now on I'll only rank if it's an easy choice. If the number keeps changing and going up and down like this did, I'm not going to worry about it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Trapped by Michael Northrop

6 out of 10: This book is a quick read that is geared toward teenage boys. A huge storm hits a semi-rural town in New England, and a group of seven teenagers get stuck at their high school waiting for rides. When I first started the book, I tweeted that it seemed like it would end up being The Breakfast Club meets Lord of the Flies. Luckily, it ended up being more The Breakfast Club than Lord of the Flies.

The main character and narrator is named Scotty, and he's the jock. He's only a sophomore though, so he isn't super popular. He's still friends with his childhood friends more than his teammates. His two best friends are Pete and Jason who are stuck as well. Scotty's crush Krista and Pete's crush Julie are there too, along with Les (the bully) and Elijah (the goth). I think this is a great read for teenage boys, but I'm going to tell you what I liked as a female adult.

-In a way, it seems like it was written years after the incident and because of that has some wisdom only gained in hindsight. For example, Scotty at one point declares "We were fifteen. We considered ourselves invulnerable and had yet to be proven wrong."

- This book contains a that's-what-she-said line. I know they're immature, but I love them thanks to The Office.

-It feels authentic to me. I know I've been out of high school for ten years, though, so I could be wrong. One specific moments I noticed this was when they were discussing the storm and what had caused it. They all remembered bits and pieces from their science class, but had a hard time tying it all together. The teens also have a hard time dealing with the loss of technology, not surprisingly. They check their phones constantly at first. Scotty thinks about the last time he was on the internet, and all the e-mails and games that are waiting for him.

-There's a classic Breakfast Club moment when Scotty looks around at the group and realizes he was wrong in his assumptions, especially about Elijah and Les.

-On a more superficial note, I also liked the cover and the pages at the start of each chapter. Very ominous. The cover shows the school buried in snow, with the windows and the marquee outside of the school barely showing. The starting page of each chapter shows the progression of the snow, with white just grazing the bottom of the the page on Chapter One and completely white by Chapter Thirty.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top Ten Book Characters I'd Want As Family Members

Top Ten Book Characters I'd Want As Family Members

Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird- I'm going to try to have a lot of variation from last week's list, but Atticus absolutely HAS to be included. He is so moral and such a wonderful father.

Molly Weasley from Harry Potter- I know, I know, Harry Potter was featured on last week's list. It just might be on any list I make, so get used to it. Molly is such a loving mom. And her line to Bellatrix in the last book is one of my favorite lines in the whole series. I will probably be my favorite part of the movie.

All of the sisters from Little Women- For some time, all the sisters have is each other.

Katniss from The Hunger Games- She's a courageous and loving big sister.

Anne Shirley, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables- These characters show that a family can be formed without blood. Matthew and Marilla, as siblings, take Anne in basically as help, but they truly become parents to her. And she becomes a daughter for them, caring for them as they age.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Flops

Friday flops- This feature will be my spot to vent about the books I don't enjoy as much as the ones I choose to review. This will not be a weekly feature, thank goodness, because I enjoy most of what I read. These books aren't bad, necessarily, they are just books that didn't do it for me for whatever reason.

Fly On the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart- I was so disappointed with this book. Why? Because I love Lockhart's other books. One of her books is one of my most favorite YA books. I'm definitely not a prude, but there was way too much emphasis on sex. Also, I listened to this on my iPod, and I don't think they picked the right narrator to play a Japanese-American teen who turns into a fly.

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff- The book club I am in chose to read this after two of us went to the Breathless Reads event. We discussed it today, and we all agreed it was so weird.

Whiter Shades of Pale by Christian Lander- I loved his first book, Stuff White People Like. This is more of the same, so I should like it right? Well, I'm only halfway through, but I feel like it's too repetitive. I still feel like the first one is hilarious, but this one is just okay.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

7 out of 10: As winner of the 2010 Cybils Award for middle grade fiction, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda has "the secret sauce that makes a child or teen want to pull it off the shelf (or download it onto their gizmo of choice) and not move/eat/sleep/breathe until the last page is turned."

A boy named Dwight, the weird kid of the class, makes an Origami Yoda and starts giving out advice and answering questions. The other kids in the class are unsure if the Yoda is real or not. Some say yes, because the Yoda "is so wise even though Dwight is a loser." Others say the Yoda is just a "green paperwad."

Tommy starts a case file compiling all of the stories. Why does he go to all of this trouble? Origami Yoda gave him good advice before, but then he receives more advice. And he is terrified because if the advice is bad, he will be completely humiliated.

This book is perfect for its audience. Just read this:

All right, uh, this is Kellan here... Uh, Tommy asked me to, uh, write down what happened
with Origami Yoda, but I, like, hate to write things down. That's too much like homework,
having to write a bunch of stuff down. And make complete sentences and all that. I'm like
no thanks, dude. So I'm just going to record it on this... uh... recording thing and let Tommy
write it down. So... uh... I guess you can edit out where I say... uhhh... and stuff like that.

If that isn't how typical sixth-grade boys talk, the you got me. There's no way I could write that authentically for a twelve-year old boy.

I love the cover. It's one of the best covers I've seen recently. To add to the fun factor, the book includes direction to make your own Origami Yoda. I'll definitely be keeping this book in mind for Brayden when he is older.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Top Ten Dynamic Duos

Top Ten Dynamic Duos
Note: I know there was a separate meme for favorite fictional couples, but I'm including some on my list since I didn't do that meme. Also, two of my choices are more than duos, but I had to include them.

Harry, Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter series- Duh. This group belongs at the top of the list, no ifs ands or buts about it. This is one of the best, if not the best, examples of friendship in YA fiction.

Scout and Jem from To Kill A Mockingbird- Another given, at least for me. They are probably the ultimate brother-sister duo in my eyes.

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist from the Millenium trilogy- A tormented girl and a progressive journalist join forces to fight men who hate women.

Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice- Needs no explanation.

Jack and Ma from Room- For the first 5 years of Jack's life, all they have is each other. I can't even imagine how hard that would be.

Matilda and Miss Honey from Matilda- I just love Matilda. And since Miss Honey is the only person to give her the love and attention she deserves, I love her too.

Jonas and the Giver from The Giver- Another student/teacher relationship, but not a typical one. I love their symbiotic relationship. The Giver gives Jonas the strength to do what he knew needed to be done, but could not do himself.

Sarah and Jack from These Is My Words- Read this book if you haven't already. I love this couple! I know I'm a bit of a birth junkie, but one thing I loved about them is that Jack helped Sarah through her labor in a time when men were NOT ever a part of the birth.

Marley and his family from Marley and Me- I know some people thought this book was cheesy, but I loved it. I won't claim it has amazing writing, but the story is worth it. If you had a family dog growing up, this will take you back to those fun experiences you had (and the sad too).

Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre- This is another one that needs no explanation. I will say I didn't like the pairing the first time I read this book, but I was a teenager. I read it again last year and loved them.

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Weekend Links

2011 book to film adaptations- I'm most excited for Jane Eyre, The Help, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I think the list just shows how much the movie industry relies on books. A big number of releases are adaptations from books. With a built-in story and fan base, they can't lose.

Netgalley- I found out about this site thanks to the Utah Book Bloggers group. I am so excited about it. You can sign up to receive and review e-galleys. A galley is an advance copy released to generate press. You can read them on your computer or e-reader. I found 18 books that looked interesting last night, and I have access to 8 already.

The Book Depository- Also thank to the blogging group, I found this amazing site. It's based out of the UK. All shipping is free and the prices for books are similar to Amazon. Best of all, many books are released over there first, so you can get them sooner. For example, Dan Well's third book in the I Am Not A Serial Killer doesn't come out until next month here, but it's available to purchase there.

Seriously, though, a huge thanks must go out to the book bloggers group that have welcomed me into their fold. I definitely plan on showcasing some of their amazing blogs next week.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien

Transferred from my old blog, originally written on April 25, 2010. I'm beginning to fear the same thing is happening with dystopian literature as the paranormal fad. It still is one of my favorite genres, but so many are getting published that you have to search out the quality titles. I'm looking forward to Birthmarked's sequel, along with Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I have also now read 1984 and I loved it.

7 out of 10: I have to say that I love the current trend in YA fiction for dystopian literature. Hopefully it's replacing the supernatural trend (you know- vampires and werewolves and fairies oh my). I actually think dystopian literature is good for teens. The characters are strong and they fight for what is right. They rebel against oppression, which is always a good lesson. And I know this sounds foreboding of me, but these teens will know what oppressive governments and societies are like. They will hopefully not be apathetic to changes similar to ones in these books.

I just finished Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien. It was so good! It's set about 300 years in the future and begins with a 16 year old midwife "advancing" her first official delivery to the Enclave. She lives in a society outside of the walled Enclave, and each midwife has to advance the first three babies delivered each month. After this, all hell breaks loose. Her parents are arrested and she begins to question the Enclave's rule while she is in search of her parents. And yes, like the best YA fiction, there is romance- the wonderful slow-building kind.

This looks like a fabulous list of YA dystopian novels. Out of his list, I've read The Giver by Lois Lowry (but not its companion novels), The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix and most of the The Uglies series by Scott Westerfield. I would recommend all of them. The rest sound interesting too, especially Genesis by Bernard Beckett, Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Of course, I also want to read Brave New World by Aldolus Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell (I'm actually ashamed of myself for not reading this because I was an English major and my husband who is definitely not a reader has read it). Reading Birthmarked also made me want to reread The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. They're both dystopian novels, and they both have to do with birthing babies so I was think of Atwood's novel as I was reading Birthmarked.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

9 out of 10: This book is creepy and haunting and not my normal read. I only picked it up after a friend with similar reading tastes recommended it, and I am so glad I did.

I read this book on vacation. In case giving it 9 stars wasn't enough of a hint that I liked it, I'll give you another one. I was so engrossed that I read it by the light of my iPod while we were driving from Las Vegas to St. George. And then I had talked it up so much that my mom started reading it on the drive from St. George to Salt Lake City as we were heading home.

The main character of this novel is John Wayne Cleaver, a teenager fighting the demon he fears lurks inside of him. Why does he think he is a demon? Well, he is obsessed with death, and more specifically, death by serial killer. His family runs a mortuary, so he knows the ins and outs of death. He shares a name with a serial killer, his last name is the name of a weapon, and his father's name is Sam, making him the son of Sam. More disturbing to him is that he has all of the three characteristics of serial killers- pyromania, animal cruelty and bed wetting.

You would think a narrator like this would be one the reader would struggle to be sympathetic with, right? Thanks to the author's magic touch, you feel sorry for the kid. He's honestly trying to fight these urges. He has a hard time relating to anyone, especially since he knows that might only lead to trouble. He sets very strict rules for himself... until a serial killer shows up in his town. He begins to try to solve the case by studying the killer's methods and possible motives. In trying to save the town from this demon, will he unleash his own inner demon? You'll have to read it to find out.

Two things I want to note:
-While this book has a teenage protagonist, I would not classify it as YF. Many people on Goodreads have it as YF, but I think it's definitely adult fiction.
-This book is the first of a trilogy, but could easily be read as a stand-alone. The second one is out and high on my to-read list, and the third one comes out in April.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Top Ten Books I Just HAD to Buy...But Are Still Sitting on My Bookshelf

Lies My Teacher Told To Me by James W. Loewen- This was recommended by a blog friend who has similar reading taste (YF and non-fiction). I know high school History classes get it wrong, and I want to be informed.

The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian- I picked this up at the D.I. I really want to make sure I'm the best parent I can be for my boy.

The Wilderness World of John Muir edited by Edwin Way Teale- I picked this up on vacation at the Muir Woods in Northern California. This was in 2006... don't know if I will ever get to it but I still think John Muir is fascinating.

Spook and Bonk by Mary Roach- I loved her first book, Stiff. She's a great non-fiction writer and made cadavers super interesting (weird, I know) but I just haven't gotten to these two yet. They are about the science of the afterlife and the science of sex, respectively.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver- I love her writing and have had good things about this one as well, but I just haven't read it yet. I picked it up at the D.I.

Telegram!: Modern History as Told Through More than 400 Witty, Poignant, and Revealing Telegrams by Linda Rosenkrantz- Another history book. I really enjoy reading about history, though I wouldn't call myself a history buff because I suck at remembering dates and exact details.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi- True story about women fighting against literary censorship? Sounds great, and I still really want to read it. I bought it at a yard sale, which is another great place to find books.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins- This is another one I WILL read someday. I enjoy reading about the history of feminism.

A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf- Loved Mrs. Dalloway, thought Orlando was decent, but wasn't enjoying this one when I first tried to read it. I'm still going to keep it around to try again someday.

Meme from The Broke and the Bookish