Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Hole in our Gospel

The Hole in Our Gospel

by Richard Stearns

(the first 140 pages - blogs are due today!)

A physician who works at the Columbia Orthopedic Group found that this book changed his life and decided to give a copy of it to everyone who works there. That's how a friend of mine got this book and how I, in turn, came to know about it. I don't usually read religious/Christian books, but I feel that this is an incredibly powerful book that I'm anxious for others to read so that I can discuss it with someone! I haven't finished it, but because this is the last day to blog, I will write about the first 140 pages of this 334 page book.

Richard Stearns left his job as CEO of the Lenox Corporation to become the director of World Vision. The first few chapters are about Richard's life - how he became a Christian and how he struggled to follow the teachings of The Bible.

The title of the book comes from a story he tells of how some college students took a Bible and cut out all of the passages that instruct us to help the poor. When the students were finished, what they had left was just a skeleton of a Bible - truly a HOLEY Bible. Yet we get so caught up in issues that the Bible spends so little time discussing - homosexuality, promiscuity, abortion, etc. The hole in our gospel (should we say "whole") is to care for other people. That's what Jesus came to tell us.

It was important for me to be reminded that on judgement day, "the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'" and later "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

I am slowly reading this book, really digesting portions before proceeding, and I have about 15 bright pink PostIts sticking out of the pages already marking important points I want to be sure to consider. I want everyone to read this book so we can get our priorities straightened out in our churches. The hole/whole of our gospel is service to others.

There is a companion journal for this book that lets the reader keep track of his thoughts and challenges the reader with tasks such as "Take a walk in a neighborhood you would not normally walk in." or "Carry three gallons of water for two miles." These tasks help us to understand the world in which others live.

This book won the 2010 Christian Book of the Year, but I think it's a terrific book for non-Christians, too. It's very thought-provoking.

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home

by Jennifer Weiner

384 pages

Fly Away Home is the story of what happens to the family of a senator who has an affair when the affair becomes public. Silvey, the senator's wife, has dedicated her life to the advancement of her husband's career and has ignored her daughters while they have grown up to be an unloving doctor who is also having an affair and a recovering addict who finds out she is pregnant.

This is a story of a family coming back together when they discover how much they need and care for each other.

This book is more than a 'beach read', and I found I really cared for the characters and was anxious to find out what happened to them. I would not characterize it as 'literature', but it had more depth than I expected.

Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Mile

by Dennis Lehane

336 pages

I loved Dennis Lehane's The Given Day, but his latest book,

MoonlightMile, is not of the same quality. It's a good read for those who like private eye stories, however. The characters were not as well-developed as I like, and it is very "plot-driven".

The PI Patrick Kenzie gets involved in the Russian mob while trying to find and return a teenager who he 'rescued' when she went missing twelve years earlier. I found the Russians to be ridiculous, Amanda, the missing teenager, to be way too savvy, and the PI to be way too lucky. In spite of this, the book was a guilty pleasure, and I will try another Lehane book hoping for one more like The Given Day and less like The Moonlight Mile.


314 PAGES................4 3/4 HOURS

This is the first in the Daughers of Blessing Series which continues with the lives of the families who immigrated from Norway. Ellie has moved away from Blessing but has faithfully corresponded with Andrew and they plan to marry after graduation in June. When Ellie returns for graduation, things seem different between them and she is wondering if she truly loves him as a wife or just as a good friend which they have been since childhood. Andrew wonders if Ellie loves him and then his father, Haaken Bjorklund, suggests that they postpone their wedding until the Fall.

I am looking forward to the next three in the Daughters of Blessing Series, it seems that I have begun to know these families pretty well in the reading of these books and will be sad then I have finished all of Snelling's books about these brave hard working immigrants.

The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen

4 1/2 hours ..................................................................342 pages

A young novice is murdered and an older nun brutally beaten to greet Detective Rizzoli and her group on their latest case on a bitter cold Boston morning. When Medical Examiner, Maura Isles performs the autopsy on the novice, more shocking news is discovered. This is another suspense filled novel by Tess Gerritsen.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses by Josipa Roksa.

Do students actually learn anything at college once they get there?  This book discusses how parents, CEOs, and the students themselves question the preparation of high school students for higher education, and the academic rigor, or lack thereof, of 4 or more years of college. 
This book takes a hard look at how we run our institutions of higher learning and what has become the norm for 45% of graduates.  All faculty everywhere should read this!

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

The first in a planned trilogy, Fall of Giants (and one of the giants is the size of this tome!)  follows five families from the mines in Wales, to Lenin's iron grip in Russia.  I thought at first that there were too many characters to remember, but that isn't the case.  As the stories unfold, each character manages to imprint him/herself on one's memory, so even if you can't get back to the book for several days, there won't be a problem getting back into the story.
World War I strains each of the five families, and their lives overlap, though some are working class and some are upper crust, even royal.  One of the most fascinating things about this book is the contrast in living conditions and expectations of the different classes.  Recommended!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

THE APPRENTICE by Tess Gerritsen

5 1/4 hours.......................................................................344 pages

Adding to Boston Detective Jane Rizzoli's problems, is a serial killer who appears to be a copy cat from THE SURGEON that she put behind bars last year and who still haunts her days and nights. This gruesome killer, nicknamed The Apprentice, makes wealthy men watch while he molests their wives, then he slits his throat and abducts the wife. A short time into the investigation, the man who was known as The Surgeon escapes from prison.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Efrain's Secret by Sofia Quintero

Efrain's Secret by Sofia Quintero
263 pages

Efrain is a high school senior with dreams of going to an Ivy League school, preferably Harvard. But, like most kids in the Bronx, money is always an issue. How is he supposed to pay $30,000 a year tuition, if he is scraping by getting the money together for tutoring and prep classes to retake his SAT? All around him is either poverty, or riches beyond belief from drug sales. He takes up with his old friends and starts selling drugs to cover expenses...and that goes about as well as you would imagine. The neighborhood is explained in such a way that truly draws you feel like you are propped up on a crumbling street corner, watching the neighborhood gangs battle for territory, but I felt the side characters really lacked the strength that could have made this a more rounded story. But I did like it...I actually thought about Efrain long after I finished the book, wondering where he might be if he were a real character.

(from back of book)
Being brown and broke has been a seventeen-year test in just how badly I want an average life.  life where doing the right thing is punished with the luxury of having to choose between the things I need and those I want. Why does the valedictorian have to choose between the class ring and an SAT prep class? Why does a clean-cut teenager have to decide between showing up to a minimum-wage job and going to the movies with the most popular girl in school? Why do I have to fight so hard just for the mere chance to have it all?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maggie's Door by Patricia Reilly Giff

Maggie's Door by Patricia Reilly Giff
156 pages

I truly love reading survival stories, fiction and non-fiction both. I have not read a lot on the potato famine in Ireland, and when I came across this book while doing some cataloging, I was very interested.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8-Fans of Nory Ryan's Song (Delacorte, 2000) will not want to miss this sequel. It begins as Nory leaves her home in Ireland a few days behind her friend Sean Red Mallon, his mother, and Nory's four-year-old brother, Patch, to embark on their journey to America. In alternating stories, Nory and Sean relate their distressing experiences as they make their way toward Nory's sister's house in Brooklyn. Both characters face trickery, cruelty, starvation, filthy conditions, and storms at sea, but they are determined to reach their destination. The theme is one of courage and hope for the future. The characters are developed fully, revealing their determination and courage, as well as their fears. Both Nory and Sean grow as individuals as they face each obstacle to their final goal. The mood of anticipation and apprehension is sustained as readers travel with them toward Maggie's door. Giff's descriptive language and detailed descriptions enable children to visualize the countryside and events along the way. Factual information on the potato blight and the resulting emigration is explained in an afterword. A welcome addition to any historical-fiction collection.

I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson

I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson
216 pages

Amazing memoir of a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl going into the concentration camps. Her amazing ability to hold herself together, along with her mother, is truly inspiring.

(from jacket cover)
Imagine being a thirteen-year-old girl in love with boys, school, family-life itself. Then suddenly, in a matter of hours, your life is shattered by the arrival of a foreign army. You can no longer attend school, have possessions, talk to your neighbors. One day your family has to leave your house behind and move into a crowded ghetto, where you lose all privacy and there isn't enough food to eat. Still you manage, somehow, to adjust. But there is much, much worse to come...
This is the memoir of Elli Friedmann, who was thirteen years old  in March 1944, when the Nazis invaded Hungary. It describes her descent into the hell of Auschwitz, a concentration camp where, because of her golden braids, she was selected for work instead of extermination. In intimate, excruciating details she recounts what it was like to be one of the few teenage camp inmates, and the tiny but miraculous twists of fate that helped her survive against all odds.

The Republic of East L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez

The Republic of East L.A. by Luis J. Rodriguez
239 pages

Not a good book. But, in all fairness, the reviews said as much, and I got it anyway. Review

Luis J. Rodriguez's The Republic of East L.A. showcases the lives of drifters, gangbangers, the homeless, and other hard-luck residents. The characters in these stories often commit crimes or suffer hardships without taking responsibility for their actions, or the author leaves the consequences unexplored (after a murder at the end of one story, the characters simply drive off). What we are left with are people to whom at the outset we sense bad things will happen, and they usually do. There are touching stories in here, however, where people endure the blight of urban poverty, making the most of it and/or escaping through fantasies of a better life. Rodriguez sums up East L.A. in "Boom, Bot, Boom":
There are hundreds of midnight images: black-uniformed officers with taped nightsticks, scrawled bus stops, spasms of gunfire, crowded jail cells, whirling helicopter blades, sidewalk Romeos and red-toed Juliets.... But for Raul and Stick, there was only this--a sad, silly, and sometimes deadening symmetry called suburbia. And they thrived on it.
Rodriguez covers fertile ground, but does so in a rather bland and predictable manner. Perhaps the author is right that the people of East L.A. simply endure what comes their way, but without giving us more engagement between the subjects and their action, The Republic of East L.A. seems inhabited less by people than by characters. --Michael Ferch --

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Tapestry Series: The Fiend and the Forge by Henry Neff

 540 pages
9 hours

This is the third in a series.  I enjoy reading about Max, who represented (to me) the best and the worst in all of us.  He's not perfect but he is striving for a better world.  Neff has created an intriguing main character and the story does pull you along.

The next book comes out in 2012.  With the tantalizing ending of the third one, I'm looking forward the fourth book.

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Prachett

Re-read this for pleasure.

340 pages
5 hours, 25 min.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Long Way Home

288 pages
5 hours

Third and last in the Secret Refuge series by Lauraine Snelling. Jesse and her ragtag group made it to Fort Laramie, she fell in love with the wagon master who just happened to be part Indian. Sister Louise has continued to care for the wounded until the end of the war. She and her brother have returned to Kentucky to Twin Oaks, the family plantation and thoroughbred horse farm in Kentucky.

Sisters of the Confederacy

303 pages
5 1/2 hours

The second book of the Lauraine Snelling Secret Refuge series. As one sister continues to help the wounded in Virginia, Jesse continues leading her group West. After finding her uncle in Missouri a casualty of the war and his place burned to the ground, her aunt has now joined the group heading West intent on saving the legacy of Twin Oaks, the thoroughbred horses.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel

Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel
213 pages

This is a devastating journey with a woman who survived the terrors of the concentration and extermination camps of the Holocaust.

(from Amazon)
Having lost her husband, her parents, and her two young sons to the Nazi exterminators, Olga Lengyel had little to live for during her seven-month internment in Auschwitz. Only Lengyel's work in the prisoners' underground resistance and the need to tell this story kept her fighting for survival. She survived by her wit and incredible strength. Despite her horrifying closeness to the subject, Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor's True Story of Auschwitz does not retreat into self-pit or sensationalism. When Five Chimneys was first published (two years after World War II ended), Albert Einstein was so moved by her story that he wrote a personal letter to Lengyel, thanking her for her "very frank, very well written book". Today, with "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia, and neo-Nazis on the rise in western Europe, we cannot afford to forget the grisly lessons of the Holocaust. Five Chimneys is a stark reminder that the unspeakable can happen wherever and whenever ethnic hatreds, religious bigotries, and racial discriminations are permitted to exist. -- Midwest Book Review

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan
346 pages
Truman Nominee

Amazing book! I loved that the main character was a very strong Christian, to the point where when his friend denounced God, he stepped up quick to try to remind him that Christ was with him, and had not abandoned him. Several times through his journey, he stops in prayer. It is good to see such an action packed thriller like this. Cannot wait for the second book in the Homelander series!

From Booklist

Charlie is a squeaky-clean high-schooler who gets good grades, dreams about joining the Air Force, and loves practicing his karate—and it’s this last skill that comes in especially handy when he wakes up tied to a chair next to a tableau of torture instruments. In an attempt to understand how he landed in such dire straits, he flashes back to the last thing he remembers: a seemingly typical day at school. So begins the fantastic first half of this post-9/11 thriller in which each bit of recovered memory directly informs how Charlie deals with his mysterious captors. The excitement plateaus once Charlie escapes and realizes that he’s wanted by more than just a band of terrorists, but the chase scenes, gunfire, and fistfights never let up. The rah-rah patriotism may put off some readers, particularly given Charlie’s apparent unwillingness to moderate his black-and-white views. On the other hand, this is just the first book in the Homelanders series, so there is still plenty of time for Charlie to develop shades of gray.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Daughter of Twin Oaks by Lauraine Snellig

282 pages
6 1/4 hours

This is the beginning of a series on the Civil War. Daughter of Twin Oaks, Jesslyn Highwood is bound by a promise to her father on his deathbed which leads her to masquerade as a young man to lead the thoroughbred horses that are the lifeblood of Twin Oaks to her uncle's horse farm in southern Missouri. She has already lost her Mother to childbirth, her father and a brother to the war and has sent her two sisters to live in Richmond with an Aunt. This leaves her with the responsibility for the plantation with the slaves, her younger brother who is nearly a baby and the promise that she is bound to keep.

More than a Dream by Lauraine Snelling

316 pages
6 and 1/2 hours

More than a dream continues the story of the Norwegian immigrants in the Red River Valley in the Dakota territory. Thorloff was a baby when they came to American and is now attending college at St. Olaf's in Minnesota. He is working at the local newspaper as he continues to study and write every chance he gets. He and the boss's daughter are both fighting the attraction that they feel for each other, she feels that her dream of becoming a doctor can not possibly include marriage and he misses Blessing, North Dakota fiercely and does not feel that that will be the place for her to fulfill her dreams.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Summer of Kings by Han Nolan

A Summer of Kings by Han Nolan
334 pages

Wonderful historical fiction novel set in 1963 during the Civil Rights movement. Upper-class Esther and suspected murderer King-Roy are paired in this novel.

(from jacket cover)
Last summer a murderer came to live with us. Well, that's what I had called him. Out neighbor Pip and my Auntie Pie called him the cold-blooded killer; but my mother and father said he was just a victim of prejudice and circumstance.
It's 1963 and fourteen-year-old Ester Young is looking for excitement. Overshadowed by a family of accomplished performers, Esther craves attention and vows to get it by initiating a romance with King-Roy Johnson, a black teen accused of murdering a white man in Alabama.
King-Roy arrives on Esther's doorstep an angry young man who feels betrayed by the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. His anger and frustration are fueled by a follower of Malcolm X, who advocated black revolution. Both fascinated and frightened by King-Roy's hatred, Esther is empathetic even as she question his beliefs. As their friendship deepens, Esther and King-Roy each find the strength and courage to stand up for what is truly important.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
336 pages

This is an amazing story about finding your strength and courage to go on with life after all seems lost. Jessica is a runner, was truly born to it, until the day her track team bus was hit and her leg is amputated. She is promised a good recovery time, and a prosthetic leg, but Jessica is not interested, in fact feels that she wishes she had died herself in the accident. An unlikely friendship blooms with Rosa, a girl in a wheelchair herself due to cerebral palsy. This book had me tearing up at almost every chapter, and I found myself cheering for both Jessica and Rosa.

(from jacket cover)
What would you do if you lost the one thing that mattered most?
Sixteen-year-old Jessica is a runner. It's not just what she does, it's who she is. So when a tragic accident causes her to lose one of her legs, she is shattered-inside and out.
Though the doctors say she'll be able to walk with a prosthetic limb, recovery is slow and full of pitfalls. Jessica wonders if the girl who died in the accident didn't get the better end of the deal. But as she struggles to reclaim her life, Jessica gets to know Rosa-a girl with cerebral palsy whom she and her friends had always overlooked. Not only does Rosa come to Jessica's rescue in math, she also helps her reach for a future that is full of unexpected opportunities. And Jessica starts to wonder: Is it possible not only to walk again, but to run?

Butterfly by Sonia Hartnett

Butterfly by Sonia Hartnett
232 pages

I hate to say this, and I generally try to avoid saying negative things about a book, because I honestly believe there is a book for everyone, and some one for every book. But...I did not like this book at all. Plum's story is told around her 14th birthday, but she is so childish and mean and pouty, I keep thinking her age should be 10-12 years old. I felt there were gaps, or leaps, or something that kept this book from being complete, and was so totally glad to be rid of this book. My biggest complaint on this is the declaration of Plum very early on that she is not going to church again, she doesn't believe in God, he doesn't exist. And then it is dropped. No revelation, no more pondering...she's just done. Pretty hefty subject that was just dropped as if it were nothing.

(from jacket cover)
Here is Plum Coyle, on the threshold of adolescence, striving to be new. Her fourteenth birthday is approaching: her old life and her old body will fall away, and she will become graceful, powerful, at ease. The strength in the objects she stores in a briefcase under her bed-a crystal lamb, a yoyo, an antique watch, a penny-will make sure of it.

Over the next couple of weeks, Plum's life will change. Her beautiful neighbor, Maureen, will begin to show her how she might fly. The older brothers she adores-the charismatic Justin, the enigmatic Cydar-will court catastrophe in worlds that she barely knows exist. and her friends-her worst enemies-will tease and test, smelling weakness. They will try to lead her on and take her down.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No Distance Too Far

No Distance Too Far by Lauraine Snelling 
351 pages 6 1/2hours.

The saga of the Norwegian immigrants and their family and extended families continues. The two orginal women are still in the picture and are looked up too and are the mentors of many of the younger people. The town of Blessing continues to grow and grow and grow. Snelling is a very good Christian story teller.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling

367 pages 5 hours 

It is now 1903 in Blessing , North Dakota.. Astria has grown up and is studying to become a doctor under the tutelage of her sister in law, Dr. Elizabeth. The town of Blessing continues to grow and thrive and the people continue to work together and attack the many obstacles that come their way. Snelling weaves a good story.

The Beautiful Miscellaneous by Dominic Smith

327 pages
5 hours 23 minutes

This book is labelled YA in our library but after reading it, I believe I will move it to the Adult Fiction shelves.  My primary motivation in doing this is that although the main character narrates in the present tense, it is obvious that he is NOT a teenager.  In fact, I would argue that no teenager would act like this character.  It's more like watching one of those TV shows that has dialogue no real teenager would say.  This novel does not go on my top ten list -- or even my top 100.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli
260 pages

So far, I have loved every Napoli book I have read so far, so I was anxious to pick up another after The Wager. But, to be completely honest, I did not much care for this one. I felt at times the story moved so slowly, it was barely creeping. And the politics drove me insane. I am not a political person by any means, so I am sure this is only a valid opinion if you are the same. Was actually glad to see this one done.

(from jacket cover)
Hers is the most famous portrait in the world.
Who was she?
Who was the person behind the smile?
She is called Lisa, short for Elisabetta. When Elisabetta is fifteen, she will be betrothed to one of the nobles of Florence. Hopefully he will not be too old, or too mean, or too ugly. She longs for romance, to marry for love, but she knows that this is not the fate of most girls like her.
Even though she does not think she is beautiful, Elisabetta catches the eye of her father's famous friend, the great Leonardo da Vinci, who insists he will one day paint her portrait. It is Leonardo who introduces Monna Elisabetta to Giuliano de' Medici. He is the heir to the most powerful and wealthy family in Florence. He is young and fair and swears his love to the girl he calls Monna Lisa. But Florence is changing, and as Elisabetta soon finds, it is a dangerous time to love a Medici. Again, her fate is not within her control.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

BAd Apple by Laura Ruby

247 pages
3 hours 8 minutes

Interesting take on cyber-bullying.  Fast read.

Devious by Lisa Jackson

7 1/2 hours 439 pages This is the newest Jackson legal thriller and is a Bentz and Montoya Novel. Set in New Orleans mostly at St. Marguerite's cathedral and convent. A novice nun is found dead in the chapel, dressed in an old yellowed wedding gown. !!!!!!!! Suspects include "Father John" a serial killer who was presumed dead until this invesigation began; Father Frank O'Toole the handsome associate at St. Marguerites; and even the Reverend Mother Charity who is the head honcho at the convent. Lots of suspense and a surprise ending that I never even expected.

The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen

4 1/2 hours 349 pages Ancient Egypt, mummification, etcetera in this fast moving thriller. After a mummy is found forgotten in the basement of an unknown museum, studies determine that it is not as old as was originally thought. This novel has all kinds of twists and turns and is hard to put down.

Rough Justice by Lisa Scottoline

342 pages 5 hours Although this is one of Scottoline's earlier books, it is packed with suspense, as usual. From USA today: Scottoline gives fans of legal thrillers a good, twisty plot, lively characters, and an all-around fun read.

Bystander by James Preller (and links to help talk with your child about bullying)

Bystander by James Preller
226 pages

Wonderful realistic book about standing up to bullies, finding your voice for the victim, not just being a bystander.

Here are some great links on talking with your child about bullying:

(from jacket cover)
Eric is the new kid in seventh grade. Griffin wants to be his friend. When you're new in town, its hard to know who to hang out with-and who to avoid. Griffin seems cool, confident, and popular.
But something isnt' right about Griffin. He always seems to be in the middle of bad things. And if Griffin doesn't like you, you'd better watch your back. There might be a target on it.
As Eric gets drawn deeper into Griffin's dark world, he begins to see the truth about Griffin: He's a liar, a bully, a thief. Eric wants to break away, do the right thing. But in one shocking moment, he goes from being a the bully's next victim.
I think the silver lining on the bullying that

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
323 pages

This was a very heartbreaking read. Vera tries so hard to do the right thing at times, and dives right into the wrong mix at others. Her best friend since childhood, dies under questionable circumstances, and only Vera and the girl who drug him down know how. But she has spent most of her life ignoring and not interfering in his abusive home life, following in her parents footsteps, she has no idea how to not ignore it. Very realistic novel in the characters dialog and reactions.

Starred review from booklist:
High-school senior Vera never expects her ex-best friend, Charlie, to haunt her after he dies and beg her to clear his name of a horrible accusation surrounding his death. But does Vera want to help him after what he did to her? Charlie’s risky, compulsive behavior and brand-new bad-news pals proved to be his undoing, while Vera’s mantra was always Please Ignore Vera Dietz, as she strives, with Charlie’s help, to maintain a low profile and keep her family life private. But after Charlie betrayed her, it became impossible to fend off her classmates’ cruel attacks or isolate herself any longer. Vera’s struggle to put Charlie and his besmirched name behind her are at the crux of this witty, thought-provoking novel, but most memorable is the gorgeous unfurling of Vera’s relationship with her father. Chapters titled A Brief Word from Ken Dietz (Vera’s Dad) are surprising, heartfelt, and tragic; it’s through Ken that readers see how quickly alcohol and compromised decision making are destroying Vera’s carefully constructed existence. Father and daughter wade gingerly through long-concealed emotions about Vera’s mother’s leaving the family, creating the most powerful redemption story of the many found in King’s arresting tale. Although King’s characters turn into the people they’ve long fought to avoid becoming, they ultimately rise above their challenges, reflect, and move on. A worthy, well-crafted addition to any YA collection.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

754 pages
10 hours 34 minutes

I reread this in preparation for the upcoming release of the movie this year.  I know -- a little early since the release date is November.

Monday, April 11, 2011


Swimsuit by James Patterson 416 pages I don't normally read this type of book, but so many people enjoy James Patterson that I thought I'd give it a try. Why did I waste my time on this when there are so many great books waiting for me?! A serial killer documents his "work" and sells it online to a group of international millionaire "peepers". A crime reporter/former cop gets involved and ends up writing the killer's biography. 'Nuff said - that's about it for the plot - don't bother.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

367 pages - 4 hours nonfiction Henrietta Lacks is immortal because her cells are known as HeLa cells and have been used in cultures since her death in 1953. They are responsible for the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping, and much more. Neither she nor her family had any idea her cells were being used for research without their consent. Companies made billions from their research while Henrietta's family lived in poverty. An interesting story of not only Henrietta and her family, but of how black people in the south were living during the 1950s.

Hothouse by Chris Lynch

Hothouse by Chris Lynch
198 pages

A firefighter dies is the line of duty, leaving his wife and son behind, who are proud enough of him that they do not mind so much the community honoring 'one of their own'. But, as it turns out, he is not seen by everyone as the hero Russ knows his father is.

(from jacket cover)
In the beginning it was strange, ya know, because of all that we had lost. But there was something about it that felt so good and so right, too: "I'm so proud of you, Russ," "We'll always be here for you, man," "Heroes don't pay for nothin' in this town." it was nonstop. The mayor shook my hand. Ladies sent food. I've never eaten so much baked ham in my life.
And now? now the phone won't stop ringing from the crazies ready to blame me. My mom has to cry herself to sleep. They take a firefighter, a man, and they pump him up so big...But once they start taking it away from you, they don't stop until they leave nothing on the bones.
First they needed heroes, then they needed blood.

The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli

The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli
259 pages

I love all of Napoli's work, her rewritten fairy tales are amazing. I first discovered her when I read Bound, a rewriting of the Cinderella story. This is by far my favorite so far.

(from jacket cover)
"Come here, beggar."
Don Giovanni is no beggar. A few months ago he was the wealthiest and handsomest young man in Messina, until a tidal wave washed away everything he owned. Though he's now homeless and poor, he still has his pride-and his good looks. Yet winter is coming, and Don Giovanni has nowhere to go, nothing to eat.
When a well-dressed stranger offers him unlimited wealth in exchange for a simple-sounding wager, Don Giovanni knows he shouldn't take it. Only the devil would offer a deal like this, and only a fool would accept. but don Giovanni is desperate. Against his better judgment he enters into a deal with the devil' he will not change his clothes or bathe for three years, three months, and three days.
Beauty is a small price to pay for worldly wealth, isn't it? Unless Don Giovanni loses the wager-and with it, his soul.

The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender

The Cage by Ruth Minsky Sender
245 pages

This book was truly amazing! I have read a lot of Holocaust survival memoirs before, but this book starts out in the ghetto of Lodz. I didn't know much about Jewish life at this point. I was moved by tears at their way of life, and the sacrifices they made for those around them. The one new thing I learned...many Jewish men in the beginning actually volunteered to go into the labor camps. They were manipulated into believing that their family back in the ghetto would receive better treatment and more food rations for the men volunteering.

(from back of book)
Motele is standing near the wagon, calling, "Mama, jump!" She is trying to jump into Motele's arms, but the two steel hands of a ghetto policeman hold her back. Motele tries to pull her away from the policeman, pull her off the wagon. The policeman kicks him to the ground and speeds up the wagon. I hear Mama's agonizing scream, and the wagon disappears from sight.
It is September 1942. For two years the Minsky family, along with 180,000 other Jews, have suffered hunger, fear, and degradation inside the barbed-wire cage that is the Lodz ghetto. But at least they have been a family. Now Riva and her brothers are alone.
At sixteen Riva becomes her brothers' guardian. She nurses the sick Laibele, recites the stories of Sholom Aleichem, sings to him. Together with Motele and Moishele, she hides him from the Nazis. And when he dies she thinks, "Now we are only three." She can hardly imagine that before long the Minskys will be deported to Auschwitz-and there will be only one.

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli

257 pages
3 hours 28 minutes

Bobbie suggested I read some of Napoli's books and I have found that I enjoy them greatly.

This is (obviously) a speculative tale about the Mona Lisa.  Good read.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

184 pages
1 hour 34 minutes

Wonderful take on the Cinderella story and great empowerment story!

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
165 pages

This is one of those very slow about-to-happen train wreck type of books. Keir spends most of the book stressing what a great guy he is, to the point that you feel something very, very bad is going to happen. He doth protest too much. Would love to talk to a teen that had read this to see if they saw the same thing coming, or if it just made more sense being somewhat of an adult. I cannot wait until my kids are old enough to start reading junior and young adult fiction to have lively book talks.

(from jacket cover)
I am a good guy.
Keir Sarafina may not know much, but he knows himself. And the one thing he knows about himself is that he is a good guy. A guy who's a devoted son and brother, a loyal friend, and a reliable teammate. And maybe most important of all, a guy who understands that when a girl says no, she means it. But that is not what Gigi Boudakian, childhood friend and Keir's lifelong love, says he is. What Gigi says he is seems impossible to Keir...It is something inexcusable-the worst thing he can imagine, the very opposite of everything he wants to be.
As Keir recalls the events leading up to his fateful night with Gigi, he realizes that the way things look are definitely not the way they really are-and that it may be all too easy for a good guy to do something terribly wrong.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

March drawing

Congrats to Bobbie, who won a water bottle!  Remember that each month, the names of everyone who posts gets put in a drawing for a faabuulous prize!

In the Eye of War by Margaret and Raymond Chang

In the Eye of War by Margaret and Raymond Chang
197 pages

Fascinating book.
(from jacket cover)
To ten-year-old Shao-shao, the increasingly frequent air raids by American bombers striking at targets near Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the last year of World War II were both frightening and exciting. Shanghai was in the eye of war and the battle storm could hit at any time. The youngest in a large family, Shao-shao went to school every day, played with his fr4iends, and studies.
No matter how hard Shao-shao studies, his stern father was never satisfied. Shao-shao's resentment came to a head when his father forbade him to keep a brilliantly colored bird he had bought. But slowly, through odd happenings at home, Shao-shao came to understand that his father was active int he underground movement against the Japanese invaders. Overshadowing the routines of daily life, the war drew ever closer-until the extraordinary day when the Emperor of Japan surrendered and advance units of American soldiers rolled in to the city.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fire by Kristin Cashore

461 pages
3 hours 20 minutes

Can't wait for the next one!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

480 pages
4 hours


The Oath by John Lescroart

408 pages
9 1/2 hours 

Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky are together again in this novel by Lescroart. Although they have been friends for years, they do not see eye to eye on this particular case. The head of San Francisco's largest HMO dies after being hit by a car, is it really an accident? Will Abe and Dismas resolve their differences?

LEGAL TENDER by Lisa Scottoline

288 pages 
5 1/4 hours 

Scottoline is an Edgar Award Winner (from book cover). She brings humour to the mystery genre. This is a Bennie Rosato story, Bennie is charged with a double homicide and is running from the law while trying to find the real killer.

WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS by Jonathan Kellerman

432 pages 
7 hours 

This is the novel that introduced Alex Delaware, psychologist and consultant to the LA Police Dept. As usual, I am reading these out of order but it really does not have much effect on the story. Alex is consulted to work with a child who may have witnessed a gruesome murder, the child is so over medicated that it is very difficult to work with her. When he speaks to her pediatrician requesting that she be taken off of her medicine for a few days, he opens a whole new can of worms.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
301 pages
Newbery Honor

Heart of a Samurai is quite an amazing story, based on the life of Manjiro, who is but a lowly fisherman who dreams of becoming a samurai. This book is full of historical facts, both in geography and superstitious beliefs. It is followed by notes on who Manjiro grew up to be, as well as glossaries and bibliographies for samurais, whaling, the gold rush, and Japan. On an interesting note, it is believed that Manjiro is possibly the first Japanese person to set foot on American soil. Loved this book!

I got curious and went to look up more on the life of Manjiro, who became a teacher, translated American navigation books into Japanese, and wrote the first English book for Japanese, about how to learn the English language. Sadly, until the day he died, some still saw him as some kind of spy, and even had to hire his own bodyguards to protect him from assassination attempts. I found this amazing website with loads of info on both Manjiro and Captain Whitfield, the captain who saved Manjiro and his friends after being shipwrecked. They have even set up an Earthquake Relief fund to benefit the survivors of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

(from jacket cover)
In 1841, fourteen-year-old Manjiro and his four friends find themselves stranded on a deserted island after a storm at sea. Beyond the island is the unknown, filled with monsters, demons, and barbarians. Or so they have been told. They know they cannot return to their homes in Japan-the country's borders are closed both to foreigners and to citizens who have strayed. No one may enter, under penalty of imprisonment and even death!
One day an American ship passes near the island and takes the castaways aboard. Manjiro's curiosity overcomes his fear of the "barbarians." He joins in the work of the whaling vessel, eager to learn everything he can about this new culture. Over the next ten years, Manjiro travels the high seas, visiting places he never dreamed existed, including America. It is a time filled with new experiences and adventure, as well as friendship and treachery. Manjiro sustains himself on a dream of returning home and somehow-though he knows it is impossible for a simple fisherman-becoming a samurai.
Will he ever be able to go back to his native land? And if he does, will he be welcomed, or condemned?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Garden of Eve by K.L. Going

The Garden of Eve by K.L. Going
232 pages

I didnt' particularly care for this book. I loved the fantasy nature of it, but they refer to the Garden of Eden quite a bit, and I found it hard to swallow a fantasy novel with aspects from my religious upbringing. But, that is just me. K.L. Going, however, is the author of two books I really did like, King of the Screwups (Gateway Nominee this year) and Saint Iggy, which I think all teens would love.

(from jacket cover)
Without Mom, there are no more bedtime stories, no more answers carried on the wind, and no more magic gardens. Evie doesn't believe in magic now. After all,m if magic were real, her mom would still be alive.
but when Evie moves to Beaumont, New York, where her father has bought a withered apple orchard that the townspeople whisper is cursed, she learns about a lost girl, receives a mysterious seed, and meets a boy who claims to be dead.
Before long, Evie finds herself in the middle of a fairy tale. And this one is real.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Book of Tormod: A Templar's Gifts by Kat Black

262 pages
3 hours 13 minutes

A bit more predictible than the first one (not surprisingly) but also a bit more rambling and repetitive.  I think the author needs a better editor.  The story is made disjointed by Tormod's visions.  Could be better.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (best book i have read all year!)

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
351 pages
Newbery Winner

This is quite literally the best book I have read in a year! The adventures of Jinx and Ned made me laugh out loud, the yearning of Abilene for her train hopping father and truth behind his many secrets made me worry she would never find her piece, and watching the town unravel and put itself back together made me cry out loud. (My husband must have thought I was losing my mind!) I would recommend this book to young and old.

(from back of book)
The air in Miss Sadie's parlor was hot and thick. I thought that sitting on one of those red velvety couches chock-full of fringy pillows was probably akin to suffocating. I took a deep breath and ventured around the room.
The double door of the parlor whooshed open. A large fleshy woman stood before me in full regalia. Her eyes were all made up; her earring and bracelets jangled. The sign in the window said Miss Sadie was a medium. From the look of her, I'd have said that was a bit wishful.
Thinking she hadn't seen me, I turned to make a clean getaway. "Sit down," she said, her av oice thick and savory, like goulash. She put her hands flat on the table. "Let us see if today the spirits are willing to peak." Suddenly, it became clear: A diviner. A medium. This woman was a fortune-teller and a spirit conjurer. If you believed in that sort of thing.

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
166 pages

This past Newbery Honor book gives a good story, wrapped up in a beautiful ending. Loved it.

(from jacket cover)
Hollis Woods
is the place where a baby was abandoned
is the baby's name
is now a twelve-year-old girl
who's been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all. Hollis Woods is a mountain of trouble. She runs away even from the Regans, the one family who offers her a home.
When Hollis is sent to Josie, an elderly artist who is quirky and affectionate, she wants to stay. But Josie is growing more forgetful every day. If Social Services finds out, they'll take Hollis away and move Josie into a home. Well, Hollis Woods won't let anyone separate them. She's escaped the system before; this time, she's taking Josie with her.
Still, even as she plans her future with Josie, Hollis dreams of the past summer with the Regans, fixing each special moment of her days with them in pictures she'll never forget.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Book of Tormod: A Templar's Apprentice

Book One of this series
279 page
3 hours 47 minutes

A neat twist on the Templar stories.  I'm looking forward to reading the second book, which just came out.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

by Geraldine Brooks

308 pages

Wow! This book really makes you appreciate the times we live in and marvel at the gutsy resolve people have in order to survive hardships. The setting is a small village in England in the 17th century. The plague strikes and begins killing the villagers one by one. At the urging of their pastor, the town decides to quarantine itself in order to protect surrounding villages. Everyone stays to endure the trials except the Lord and his family who abandon the village. Surrounding villages leave food and supplies at a safe place for those quarantined, but there is no other contact with the world outside. Coccooned from the outside world, Anna Frith, a young widow, strives to help the sick by going from house to house, even as she loses those most precious to her. Her friend, the pastor's wife, helps her, and they become fast friends, but Anna cannot guess the secret of her friend's past. Each story seems more tragic than the last. A twist at the end really surprised me, and I love it when an author can do that!!

While this is fiction, there was a town in England that did isolate itself during the plague in order to control the spread of the disease. Author Geraldine Brooks (March, People of the Book) thoroughly researched the details that helped transport this reader to the era, locale, and conditions that helped me understand the dilemma, the struggle, and the tragedies the villagers endured. It really made me question (again!) whether I/we have the fortitude to endure the hardships our ancestors faced and to survive with our humanity intact.

Total Constant Order by Crissa-Jean Chappell

Total Constant Order by Crissa-Jean Chappell
278 pages

Is OCD becoming a big thing with teens lately? This is the second book I have read in 2 weeks about this with teens.

(from jacket cover)
Fin can't stop counting. She's always heard a voice inside her head, ordering her to listen, but ever since she;s moved to the Sunshine State and her parents split up, numbers thump like a metronome, rhythmically keeping things in control. When a new doctor introduced terms such as 'clinical depression' and 'OCD' and offers a prescription for medication, the chemical effects make Fin feel even more messed up. Until she meets Thayer, a doodling, rule-bending skater who buzzes to his own beat-and who might just understand Fin's hunger to belong, and her struggle for total constant order.