Sunday, January 31, 2010

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity is Kate Braestrup's second book - this one focusing on marriage and relationships. Braestrup shares personal accounts from her own life as well as those of friends and acquaintances. In 1996 Braestrup's first husband, Drew, was killed in a car accident, leaving her alone with four small children. She is able to recount highs and lows in their relationship and that of her parent's as well. Her role as a chaplain has also given her training in counseling young couples. Using Bible verses that support her points, this book was well written and full of understanding from someone who it is obvious "gets it" in terms of relationships and marriage. Braestrup has remarried and also shares portions of her time dating her husband and how their relationship works.

This is also the second book I have read on the Kindle. I still don't have a clue how to look up various points of interest or how to make notes about what I have read, but this book would definitely be the type of book I would look back on for reflection and thought.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just Like Us

Helen Thorpe, author and journalist is married to John Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver, Colorado, providing her an interesting vantage point from which to see the issue of illegal immigration. However, instead of merely hearing about the issue and witnessing the issue from afar, Thorpe actively researches how immigration status affects those who are a part of the issue.

Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America reflects five years of work and research Thorpe devoted her life to as she befriended four young women in Denver, Colorado. Marisela, Clara, Yadira and Elissa are all growing up in Denver, looking forward to their future and all it may hold. As highschoolers it is becoming more obvious that although the girls are all intelligent and good students, the two friends who are in the United States legally will have many more options open to them. Marisela and Yadira must try and find a way to attend college even though they are not eligible for financial aid or scholarships - they don't have a Social Securty number. Thorpe follows the girls throughout their college years and is privy to the many areas of their lives they tell no one else about. Friendships, boyfriends, part-time jobs, and the struggle to obtain independence and success while still helping their families takes up most of their time beyond school. The girls' lives are much like that of every other college student, yet the extra burden of hiding their illegal status and the worry about what types of job they will be able to secure in the future set them apart.

All four girls find ways to blend in to their colleges and assimilate with the white American culture and still remain true to their heritage.

Thorpe includes information about the various current events that help shape the attitudes of Americans toward immigrants , including the shooting of a Denver policeman at a popular restaurant, Salon Ocampo. The murderer, an illegal immigrant, gives those who oppose assisting immigrants living in the US without papers, ammunition that supports their views.

Thorpe's book was so interesting and well-researched, providing a snapshot of the life of Mexican young adults in America. This one ranks right up there with another sociological portrait, Random Family by Adrian Nicole Leblanc, that I found fascinating.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Abigail Iris

Abigail Iris: The One and Only by Lisa Glatt and Suzanne Greenberg is a cute book about third grader, Abigail Iris, who often wishes she were an only child. As one of four siblings Abigail has to share, and her family must live on a budget, which means she can't get Heelys (the shoes she wants). Her friends are Onlys, used to having more attention and getting things they want. Abigail is very excited when she is asked to go on a trip over spring break with her friend, Genevieve, who is an Only. Abigail Iris can see firsthand what it is like to be an only child. I especially enjoyed Abigail Iris's recounting of her vacation to San Francisco. I have only been there once, but hearing her account of the fun places to visit there was interesting - my oldest daughter often talks about wanting to visit San Francisco, and I know when she read this she liked hearing about places she hopes to see herself one day.

Of course, Abigail discovers for herself that being an Only isn't so great all the time. And she figures out that she misses her family, too, when she is away from them.

This is the first in a series, and already I am planning to purchase the second one for my library. A good choice for girls who are ready for chapter books, but not for more mature content.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Franny Parker

Today I managed to read all of Franny Parker by Hannah Roberts McKinnon. This is a great tween novel and I was sucked in pretty quickly. I do love realistic fiction for girls and am always on the lookout for a book that teaches a few life lessons without coming off as preachy. Franny Parker manages to do this, using some beautiful language along the way.

I've learned that some secrets a person shouldn't be asked to keep. But there are others that are easy to keep, that are downright delicious. Like the swirling circle of old friends in a wooded grove, the dance that calls the rain. Friendship is a powerful thing (148).

Franny is growing up in small town Oklahoma during a drought, enjoying the summer of her thirteenth year. She is especially excited about their new neighbors, Lindy and Lucas Dunn. Lucas is a reader like Franny and loans her his copy of The Yearling, giving Franny more attention than her older sister Sidda. Yet, something isn't right with Lucas and his mother who seem to have a secret to hide. Franny is also busy with her animal hospital where she cares for injured and unwanted animals. McKinnon's book offers a bit of suspense as readers find out what secret Lucas harbors, and wonder if Franny will be able to keep his secret and whether she should keep his secret. This story is not fast paced, unfolding much as real life does. McKinnon's book has a timeless feel to it; as I was reading it took me a while to realize that this book was not historical fiction. It could easily have been set long ago or during recent years. Franny's growing up is a universal experience and the issues she encounters bring about some grown-up realization.

This is McKinnon's first book and I will be looking forward to any of her future work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week's pick isn't any surprise. After fifteen books, I still enjoy Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. The sixteenth book, Sizzling Sixteen, will be released on June 22, 2010. Humor, romance, mystery...what's not to like?

Monday, January 25, 2010

What My Day Was Like

Today has been quite a day! We awoke to snow showers which were expected, so I knew driving to work would be slow going. The highway I take is well traveled, but the blowing snow made visibility poor. There was a wind advisory for our area, but even with that warning I had no idea how poor visibility would be later in the day when I had to drive back home. My 20 minute commute was a little over 40 minutes and I think I prayed and sweated through every single mile of that drive. In fact, this is one of the worst drives home I have had in many years. Even hours later I am still marveling that I made it home in one piece and saying prayers of thanks. Since I was a bit keyed up when I got home, I never really utilized any leisure reading time. I did read for a bit in Lies My Mother Told Me by Kaylie Jones, a memoir I am working on, but that's about it.

The real thrill of the evening came when my oldest daughter looked at her book blog and realized that the author of the latest book she is reading, TV Moms by Ray Richmond, posted a comment on her blog. I am sure he can tell that she is a kid that is reading his book (which is really for adults) but hearing from him totally made her day and she sat right down to write a post about another book. I would have been totally ecstatic if I had ever heard from an author at that age. What incentive to keep writing and reading! How wonderful for her to know that there are people reading her blog and that an author would take the time to write something to her. So, thank you Ray Richmond for making an eight year old's day!

Tomorrow my daughters' already know they will have a late start. I am hoping for one myself. I don't need any more snow days, but a late start would be fine with me. I can still hear the wind howling outside, and even though it is bedtime the girls are downstairs watching Cake Boss, because somewhere in the back of my mind I can't quite believe I will have to get up at the early hour of 4:30 AM like on a regular school day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars is a book I have been meaning to read since before it won a Newbery Honor a few years ago (my copy doesn't even have a medal on it). I think I started it once and then never really got into it. After reading several reviews lately that raved about it, I decided to put it on my list for the Read From Your Shelves challenge. This time once I got into it, I absolutely loved The Wednesday Wars. Holling Hoodhood is a likeable character, even though he is pretty sure his teacher, Mrs. Baker and his father don't like him all that much. And come to think about it, he is often picked on by his friends and sister, too. Set during the Viet Nam war, at first Holling's life seems far removed from the events in Viet Nam, yet even his life in New York is touched by the events in Asia. Each and every chapter was filled with such humor I had a hard time not chuckling out loud. As I was reading I felt as though Schmidt's writing was much like Richard Peck's when it came to humor. And yet, while this book is funny, there are an awful lot of lesson that Holling Hoodhood learns. Most are from his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who it turns out, doesn't dislike Holling at all and is a pretty amazing woman. The character I was most disappointed with was Holling's dad, who perhaps was not atypical of many men in that time period. Yet, his lack of interest in his family or their needs and desires was still disappointing. The references to Shakespeare make me wish I had paid a little more attention to the Shakespeare I have read, and their inclusion in this book is such a great addition to Holling's story.

I can't believe it has taken me so long to pick up this book, so anyone out there who is just sitting on this one should read it sooner rather than later. I will definitely be recommending this book to others.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Knit the Season

I know I have read posts from other people who read different Christmas-themed books around the holidays, and the truth is, I always look at these books and intend to read them around the holidays. I check them out around the holidays, but the actual reading gets done a little bit later than that. I read Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs this weekend. This is the third book featuring Jacobs' Friday Night Knitting Club characters. I enjoyed the first book, and thought the second was not quite as good. The third falls somewhere in between the two. There is some closure for some characters who are able to find happiness, and yet the book leaves things open enough that another book could be published someday.

Dakota, Georgia's daugher is pursuing her dream to become a chef and has the possibility of working at an internship at a high class restaurant over Christmas break. Unbeknownst to her, her father has purchased plane tickets for them to fly over to Scotland to be with her great grandmother for the holidays. Catherine is in love with Marco, the sexy Italian she met while in Italy, who happens to be related to Anita in a roundabout way. Anita has almost settled into married life with Marty, if it weren't for her son, Nathan, who continually thwarts their wedding plans. Peri is still working on her Peri Pocketbooks and looking at different career opportunities. Darwin didn't receive a lot of mention in this book - certainly not a lot of plot for her.

Still the theme of friendship and loyalty rings out in this book, showing that even as years have passed, these women still find time for each other and share a bond that they credit Georgia (Dakota's mother) with. I enjoyed the different memories of Georgia that are included, making her feel like she is still a part of this story even though she is no longer alive.

Despite the fact that I didn't read this in December for the holidays, I enjoyed this book and reconnecting with familiar characters.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anne of Green Gables, Kindle Book #1

Over Christmas I received a Kindle, something I have been wanting for a while now. I happily downloaded Anne of Green Gables (one of Amazon's free downloads) and started reading, fighting my oldest daughter for the use of the Kindle initially. She gave up rather quickly, and later as I was reading I could see why (words like obdurate are not at an eight year old reading level, even a really smart eight year old). I joined the Anne of Green Gables challenge, thinking I had all year to read the series, only to find that really, the challenge is just for the month of January. So here it is, January 21, and I have completed the first book. I probably won't be starting any others in the next week or so, even though I do plan on reading the entire series this year.

What did I think of Anne? I am probably one of the only bloggers not to have read Anne as a child. So, there will be no rehashing of the plot. I enjoyed Anne. She is an amusing character, and the book is a nice book. As a kid I would have really liked these books, maybe even loved them. As an adult, well, it was a nice book. The plot wasn't so riveting I couldn't put it down, and I do think reading it on the Kindle was a totally different experience than if I had read the actual book-in-my-hand version. The entire time I was reading I felt sort of like I was cheating. Surely, this wasn't really reading. It is like reading off a computer screen, and my time at the computer isn't really considered my "leisure reading" time. There are some things I will have to adjust to - like not having page numbers. There is a percentage given at the bottom of the screen showing how much of the book has been read, but I couldn't decide if I had read 50 pages or 200 as I read. I also didn't know how many more pages were coming in each chapter as I read. Was a chapter going to take me five minutes or fifteen? With a book you can look ahead and see how long a chapter may take to read, how much is left.

I did finish Anne a few nights ago. I started another book on the Kindle and for whatever reason, I am enjoying this one a bit more. However, if the Kindle was meant as a way for me to stop putting books in our house, I don't think it is going to happen. There is just no substitute for a real book, and so, someday I may find my actual Anne of Green Gables book and try it again and see how much different my experience is.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This Book Is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson is one I saw on USA Today's Winter Book Calendar.
Amazon says this about it:
Buried in info? Cross-eyed over technology? From the bottom of a pile of paper and discs, books, e-books, and scattered thumb drives comes a cry of hope: Make way for the librarians! They want to help. They're not selling a thing. And librarians know best how to beat a path through the googolplex sources of information available to us, writes Marilyn Johnson, whose previous book, The Dead Beat, breathed merry life into the obituary-writing profession.
This Book Is Overdue! is a romp through the ranks of information professionals and a revelation for readers burned out on the clichÉs and stereotyping of librarians. Blunt and obscenely funny bloggers spill their stories in these pages, as do a tattooed, hard-partying children's librarian; a fresh-scrubbed Catholic couple who teach missionaries to use computers; a blue-haired radical who uses her smartphone to help guide street protestors; a plethora of voluptuous avatars and cybrarians; the quiet, law-abiding librarians gagged by the FBI; and a boxing archivist. These are just a few of the visionaries Johnson captures here, pragmatic idealists who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.
Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us—neither the experts nor the hopelessly baffled—can get along without human help. And not just any help—we need librarians, who won't charge us by the question or roll their eyes, no matter what we ask. Who are they? What do they know? And how quickly can they save us from being buried by the digital age?

As a school librarian, this one is looking fairly interesting to me. What about the rest of you "book people" out there?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

So Not Happening

I started Jenny B. Jones' book, So Not Happening right after I finished Road to Tater Hill by Edith Hemingway. Tater Hill was a wonderful, historical fiction read. So Not Happening was such a different book than Tater Hill. Mostly fluff, maybe characterized as Christian fiction, although the references are none too many, this book was fun, but perhaps preposterous is a better word.

Bella has gone from being an A-lister in New York City to living in Oklahoma. Her mother has remarried and Bella's life changes dramatically with the move. While she doesn't view herself as a snob, she is, turning up her nose at everything and almost everyone in her new home. Jones creates a setting full of stereotypes - Bella spends a lot of time avoiding stepping in cowpies and trying not to hit chickens who are walking along the road. A lot of this just made me laugh. Every time I thought things couldn't get any worse, any more unbelievable, they did. (I am still trying to figure out how Bella's mom went from living her high class life in NYC to marrying again and thinking life as a waitress was all that wonderful. I realize they put the idea of religion behind it all, and that the marriage was something they had prayed about, but still! Really?!) Jones also throws in some suspense when Bella overhears a group of football players talking and realizes they have some shady activities going on, creating some good drama at novel's end.

This book was just fun. There is a little bit of religion and God in it, but I hesitate to think of it as Christian fiction, knowing that labeling it as such will turn off some readers before they even give it a try. While looking at this book on Amazon, I noticed there is another in the series. While it won't be one I just have to read, I would happily try another one of these books again.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"I had a sudden urge to warn him. Life is tough when you are significantly fatter than the national average, kid. You might want to cut back on the Cheez Doodles (95)."

Slob by Ellen Potter

Monday, January 18, 2010

And Now We Know

I had the good fortune to have today off from school, while my children had to get up and go to school. By some strange occurrence, I also decided to get up early and exercise just like a normal workday. This allowed me to actually be ready for the day as soon as two girls were delivered to school and one was delivered to the babysitter. (I sort of feel guilty about this, but after the weekend, she desperately needed a nap, and I had some jobs I needed to get done). For a while I entertained the idea of going shopping or to the library or somewhere. But we have been having incredibly foggy weather and it just didn't seem very fun to think about driving anywhere. Then I thought about sitting around and reading all day. And then I walked into our house and saw all the cleaning that it needed, and I knew that I couldn't sit around and read without feeling incredibly guilty. So I cleaned. All day. I did meet my husband for lunch at his office, and I was able to get supper started early and pick the kids up from school and daycare. I actually feel as though I accomplished a few things, even though the house is far from clean. I read a few pages in a book while I was waiting for my oldest daughter at piano lessons, and I think I can finish that book tonight.

And, just like every other book blogger I took some time to look at the award winners announced at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Boston. YAY - When You Reach Me! I so loved this book. The honor books don't surprise me, but I haven't read any of them yet. And, the Caldecott winner is not a surprise, either. All the Printz books were ones I didn't really know, except Going Bovine which I have checked out right now. I love knowing who the winners are and adding great books to my TBR piles.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oh, The Suspense...

Tomorrow morning the Newbery and Caldecott awards (along with a bunch of others) are going to be announced. I have been busy reading predictions on various blogs and am always anxious to see what is selected. Sometimes I am let down by the choices. I am always excited if the book that wins is one I loved, too. And, sometimes I am happily surprised to hear a title I have never read or heard of. The award gives me a good reason to try a book out with some certainty that is will be wonderfully written.

I won't even attempt to guess what book will win the Caldecott award. I read a lot of different picture books every year, but usually I am not at all able to predict that winner. And, I don't think I have a great track record with Newberys, either. One of the books I loved reading this past year is one I have been hearing a lot about as the awards approach. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is a wonderful book, worthy of the Newbery. Part of me wonders if all the hype surrounding it will cause the judges to try to find a book that is less well known. I haven't yet read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, another title that keeps getting mentioned, but I did read All The Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg. Really, any of the titles I have heard as a prediction are ones I think would be great. I'm not sure if I will watch the announcements live, or if I will just print out the list of winners later. I might opt for that. I don't have school tomorrow but my girls do, which gives me an entirely free day. I wonder what I will do?!

Road To Tater Hill

A few weeks ago I received several boxes of new books at school. I love getting new books, but for some reason I have had a lot to do every single day since Christmas break. I have hardly had time to look at any of the new things. I did bring home a few picture books to read at bedtime, but that's about it.

This weekend I took a chapter book, knowing that I have way too many books started right now, but still hoping I would somehow get it read. Road to Tater Hill by Edith Hemingway was a great read. Set in 1963, Annie and her mother are spending the summer at her grandparents' in North Carolina while her father is in Germany with the army. Everyone had been looking forward to the birth of Annie's baby sister, who is born too prematurely and dies. This leaves everyone extremely sad, especially Annie's mother who just can't carry on after her loss. Annie spends a lot of time by herself and finds herself befriending Eliza McGee, fresh out of prison for killing her husband. She discovers there is a lot more to Eliza's story than most people know and Eliza is able to offer some words of wisdom to her new friend that help Annie understand what is happening at home.

I enjoyed the time period this story is set in - the connection between Jackie Kennedy's premature delivery of her son, Patrick, worked well.

I also enjoyed how much reading meant to Eliza and Annie, who shared books and talked about them from time to time. And, there was also a little suspense thrown in, the way in which the author worked that in was also interesting, and I so appreciated it didn't match what I was predicting was going to happen.

This is one book I will be recommending and book talking to my upper elementary students. I can see several of my girls snatching it right up.

To read other reviews:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Random Friday

Lisa from Books, Lists, Life has started a blog and invited other bloggers to join by sharing what we have for lunch on different days. I doubt my menu is anything too exciting, but I will happily contribute. I'm just excited to be included. I feel as though Lisa and I sort of know each other after reading her blog for quite a while now, and this is one more way to get to know other bloggers.
Check out what people are eating for lunch.

Five Minutes More

I can't believe that today is Friday and I have hardly finished any books I have started this week. I think loving Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman has made it difficult to find something to read - what will top that? So, I have started *several* books and am working on most of them (there was one YA book I started and 50 pages later, decided to stop reading). Right now I am reading 6 different books - usually I have 3-4 going at a time, so I will be happy to get back to my more regular reading groove. The good news is that eventually I will have a lot of reviews to post.

This morning I finished Five Minutes More by Darlene Ryan. There were lots of things I really liked about this one, and a thing or two that I didn't.

D'Arcy's dad has died. He drove his car into the river, and while D'Arcy can't believe he is dead she has an even harder time accepting her dad killed himself. D'Arcy's life has changed, and while her friends realize a part of what she is going through, there is no way they can fully understand what she is feeling. D'Arcy finds herself especially distant from her boyfriend, Brendan. While this is going on Seth, a peer tutor in math starts spending more time with D'Arcy, teaching her to juggle. The two have a friendship of sorts, yet later when D'Arcy finds out that Seth's brother Eric committed suicide she questions why he wants to be her friend.

There is a lot more to this novel, more issues that D'Arcy must deal with that I don't want to give away. The only thing I didn't like was how rushed the ending felt to me. When D'Arcy spends some time away from home toward the end of the novel, I am questioning if that was a necessary part of the story. I feel like the story would be just as good, and perhaps not feel as rushed if it had been left out.

I also appreciate the fact that this book is about the suicide of a parent, something I don't think I have ever read about in a young adult novel.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

I first started reading about this book a few months ago. Everything I read was positive, so I figured it was going to be a book I would enjoy and probably would read. Then I read somewhere that if you liked The Help by Kathryn Stockett, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt would appeal to you. I loved The Help. In fact, I loved it so much that the comparison of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt to The Help seemed like quite a stretch. How could anything measure up?

Well, I was happily surprised by how good this book is. There are so many parts I thought about writing down so I could share different portions of this book. However, I just rarely do that, and also think that there really is no substitute to reading this entire book.

CeeCee Honeycutt is only twelve when her mother dies leaving her to live with her father. Even before her mother's death things in CeeCee's life hadn't been going very well. Her mother suffered from some type of mental illness and CeeCee's dad, unable to cope with his wife, left CeeCee to do that job while he traveled for work and pursued other relationships. While I found it hard to find a lot of redeeming qualities in CeeCee's dad, he does do one wonderful thing for his daughter: send her to live with her great aunt Tootie in Atlanta. CeeCee does not know any of her mother's relations and being sent away from the only home she has ever known and her loving elderly neighbor, Mrs. O'Dell seems almost too cruel, yet this adventure turns out to be a wonderful experience for CeeCee offering her a loving home life with some very interesting, strong females. And, really that is where the best part of the story begins. CeeCee's experiences in Atlanta are at times hilarious, and the characters in this book are entertaining and unique, providing CeeCee with some wonderful, valuable advice as she matures and wonders what her life has in store for her. While no one can erase the experiences she endured with her mother, Tootie and the other women who influence CeeCee provide a way for her to make peace with her childhood.

"Oletta patted the bed, and when I sat down beside her, she took hold of my hand. "Take the gift Miz Tootie is givin' you and hold it tight. Don't go wastin' all them bright tomorrows you ain't even seen by hangin' on to what happened yesterday. Let go, child. Just breathe out and let go."

I knotted up the corners of my mouth and nodded. "You're so wise, Oletta."

"People is wise 'cause they get out in the world and live. Wisdom comes from experience-from knowin' each day is a gift adn accepting it with gladness. You read a whole lot of books, and readin' sure made you smart, but ain't no book in the world gonna make you wise (290)."

2010 is barely a few weeks old and already I have found a book that I would happily read over, recommend to book clubs (and anyone else) and probably won't stop talking about anytime soon.

Click here to visit Beth Hoffman's website.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Coming on April 13, 2010, Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff.

The summary, taken from Amazon:
Every so often that story comes along that reminds us of what it’s like to experience love for the first time—against the odds, when you least expect it, and with such passion that it completely changes you forever.
An unexpected discovery takes eighty-four-year-old Lily Davis Woodward to 1945, and the five days that forever changed her life. Married for only a week before her husband was sent to fight in WWII, Lily is anxious for his return, and the chance to begin their life together. In honor of the soldiers' homecoming, the small Georgia town of Toccoa plans a big celebration. And Jake Russo, a handsome Italian immigrant, also back from war, is responsible for the elaborate fireworks display the town commissioned. But after a chance encounter in a star-lit field, he steals Lily's heart and soul--and fulfills her in ways her socially-minded, upper-class family cannot. Now, torn by duty to society and her husband--and the poor, passionate man who might be her only true love--Lily must choose between a commitment she's already made and a love she’s never known before.
Fireworks Over Toccoa takes us to a moment in time that will resonate with readers long after the book’s unforgettable conclusion. A devastating and poignant story, this debut novel will resonate with anyone who believes in love.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Childrens Classics Mystery Challenge-Nancy Drew

5 Minutes for Books is hosting the Childrens Classics Mystery Challenge that I signed up for a few weeks ago. This all seemed like a great idea, and I do love revisiting the mysteries I read while growing up, but the second Tuesday of the month has come up much too fast, so I am speed reading a Nancy Drew mystery tonight in order to have something to post about. February should go much more smoothly since I will have an entire month between now and then to read two mysteries like I planned, as opposed to the twelve days I have had this time.
When I first started re-reading and collecting childrens books one of the first things I wanted to own was an entire set of Nancy Drew books. Of course there are different editions and so many of them, who would know where to start? I decided that what I most wanted were the yellow spine books #1-56, along with the books that came out in the 1980s when I was interested in Nancy Drew. I bought the yellow spine books over time, and acquired the others off of Ebay, all except for #57 - I couldn't find that one anywhere. A few weeks ago I was at The Book Nook, the public library's used book store, and came across #57. It has been years since I have thought about which book I was missing or even looked for it, and ended up purchasing it for 50 cents, not really sure if it was what I needed or not. I am quite excited that I did complete the whole set and that purchase has also made me a little more anxious to read some Nancy Drew.

However, several years ago I decided to read the entire set in order. I got halfway through and just was not that into it anymore - it also was around the time that I had to read series books for writing my masters' research paper. Last night I dug out #29, Mystery at the Ski Jump to begin.

As with all Nancy Drew books, this one starts out with a mystery almost from page one. Nancy is in hot pursuit of a group of people selling false stock for a fur company. These criminals are also selling furs for a low price and are using false names to carry out their crimes. The woman involved is presenting herself as Nancy Drew. This installment has Nancy travelling to Canada to ski, and her friends Bess, George and Ned are also involved. Her aunt Eloise also plays a bit part (since Eloise was in the very first Nancy Drew book I ever read, I have always been a bit partial to her). Even though I haven't read one of these books in years, they read just as they did long ago. Yes, they are from another time- so obviously a different era. I am wondering how my own daughters will like them someday because of that, yet I am not excited about the new modern Nancy Drews that have been created to keep up with the times. Nancy is a slice of my chidhood I prefer to remain as is.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away!
You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"I burrowed deeper under the blanket, and as the rain beat against the window and thunder rolled over the house, I closed my eyes, let go and fell into the depths of my sadness. As as I fell, I accepted the truth I had fought for so long - I missed my mother (241)."

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
I just finished reading this one this morning but had planned to use it as my Teaser Tuesday selection last night. I can't begin to tell you how much I loved this book. Stop back later to see my review.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tess's Tree

Tess's Tree written by Jess M. Brallier and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is such a cute, sweet and meaningful story. Tess is just nine years, three months and two days old when the tree she had grown to call her own has to be cut down. The tree was over a hundred years old and had experienced many seasons and many children who had called the tree their own. Tess is grief stricken to lose her tree and sets about organizing a funeral for it. At the funeral Tess meets some of the people who were impacted by the tree just as she was, and is able to say goodbye to it.

This summary can hardly capture the feeling behind this story. I can see this story being used in a variety of ways especially to teach a love of nature and mostly the cycle of life. This book isn't at the top of any award list or receiving lots of press, yet it is worthy of any accolade it may receive. Such an enjoyable story, one I plan on using during story time this spring.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

No Time To Wave Goodbye

Things are looking least as far as my reading is going. In the midst of a busy Saturday -working at the library during the morning and hosting a playdate for triplets we are friends with- I did start and finish No Time To Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard. First of all, I wish I hadn't read The Deep End of the Ocean so long ago. It must be almost ten years ago now (I don't think I am exaggerating) and trying to dredge up details of the Cappadora family just wasn't happening. No Time to Wave Goodbye doesn't require reading the first book, but I was certainly trying to recall details that I just couldn't quite come up with. A few months ago Mitchard spoke in a nearby town. I so wish I hadn't had a million things going on that week because I just couldn't justify another night away from home during the week and I missed out. I did hear from others who heard her speak how enjoyable and funny she was. Even though I missed seeing her personally, I still somehow feel connected to her since different stories she shared were relayed to me. The entire time I was reading about Beth Cappadora, Jacquelyn Mitchard's face came to mind.

This plot, as my sister reacted last night while I was telling her about it, is preposterous. Yet, it was so readable and by the end, I was sad it was done.

In The Deep End of the Ocean Beth Cappadora's son Ben (who now goes by Sam) was kidnapped by an acquaintance from the hotel lobby of Beth's fifteen year high school reunion. Beth's older son, Vincent, has always felt a sort of guilt about this for not watching his little brother. What ensued were nine years of hell, as the family never gave up all hope, yet had to continue living without Ben. Eventually Ben is returned to them, having grown up not far at all from the Cappadora's house. No in No Time to Wave Goodbye, more time has elapsed. Ben/Sam is married to Eliza and the two are parents to newborn, Stella. The three Cappadora children: Ben, Vincent and Kerry work on a film project together that is nominated for an Oscar, a documentary that personalizes the tragedy of losing a child to kidnapping without a resolution in their case. The Cappadoras are forced to face this nightmare yet again when Ben and Eliza's daughter Stella is kidnapped. Ben, for the first time, realizes what his parents went through, and the family again tries to cope with the unbelievable happening yet again to them. The resolution is suspenseful and dramatic, and perhaps Beth is able to find some peace with how events in her life played out.

I ended up enjoying this one a lot more than I ever thought I would. Someday I will have to go back and re-read The Deep End of the Ocean just to refresh my memory.

Click here to visit Mitchard's website.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saturday-Making up for lost time

I did such a good job toward the end of 2009 blogging every day, and yet barely a week into the new year and I have missed two consecutive days. Thursday we had a snow day and for whatever reason I just didn't find time to blog. Then, in the middle of Thursday night/Friday morning I started to feel sick and ended up with the stomach flu. I spent yesterday on the couch. I slept and laid around but really didn't feel like reading. I also have too many books going at once. So, while I am reading, I am just not finishing much. At some point I should have a bunch of reviews ready.
Last night I felt a bit better, so I did read for a while. However Tall the Mountains by Awista Ayub was a quick read and so interesting to me. Within the last few years there have been many books set in Afghanistan, speaking to the plight of women there. Women who once had freedom were forced by the Taliban to obey many strict rules. Sports were forbidden to them. Awista Ayub was born in Afghanistan, but fled with her family to the United States when she was a young child. An Afghan at heart, when she witnessed what was happening in her homeland, she sought a way to make a difference. Through much planning and organizing, Ayub welcomes eight girls to the United States to play soccer for six weeks. Within this book are these girls' stories, heartwarming and heartbreaking. It is also an example of the difference an individual can make with determination and desire.
Ayub says she thinks about these eight girls each day, each having left an imprint on her heart. The stories end in 2006, and now almost four years later, I am anxious to know what has become of these young women: Laila, Freshta, Samira, Miriam, Deena, Nadia, Ariana, and Robina. I hope for good things in their lives despite the reality of their situation.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I loved Katherine Center's most recent book, Everyone is Beautiful. Get Lucky is due out in paperback in April.

Below is a synopsis from Amazon:

How do you change your luck? Katherine Center’s marvelously entertaining and poignant new novel is about choosing to look for happiness—and maybe getting lucky enough to find it. Sarah Harper isn’t sure if the stupid decisions she sometimes makes are good choices in disguise—or if they’re really just stupid. But either way, after forwarding an inappropriate email to her entire company, she suddenly finds herself out of a job. So she goes home to Houston—and her sister, Mackie—for Thanksgiving. But before Sarah can share her troubles with her sister, she learns that Mackie has some woes of her own: After years of trying, Mackie’s given up on having a baby—and plans to sell on eBay the entire nursery she’s set up. Which gives Sarah a brilliant idea—an idea that could fix everyone’s problems. An idea that gives Sarah the chance to take care of her big sister for once—instead of the other way around. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy. After a decade away, Sarah is forced to confront one ghost from her past after another: the father she’s lost touch with, the memories of her mother, the sweet guy she dumped horribly in high school. Soon everything that matters is on the line—and Sarah can only hope that by changing her life she has changed her luck, too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January Sparrow

Every book I have ever read of Patricia Polacco's has been a good experience...each book seems to touch my heart in some way. Polacco's latest, January Sparrow, is another wonderful Polacco creation.
This story, set before the Civil War, shares what happens to Sadie and her family as they watch a friend and fellow slave beaten to death after he tried to escape. All Sadie has left to remind her of January is the small sparrow he carved from wood. When Sadie and her family flee in the night to go north via the Underground Railroad, the sparrow is left behind. Eventually Sadie and her family settle in a northern city, intending to continue to Canada, yet content to stay in this welcoming town for the time. Without giving away the actual events in this story, I will just say that the ending is heartwarming - a true example of friendship and loyalty, of looking beyond the color of someone's skin. The narrator is a bit of a surprise, too, in a very good way.

I meant to read this one right away after I received it from The Picnic Basket, and I have carried it around with me for a few weeks. My eight year old read it to herself....I think she understood parts of it, but I wish we could have read it together since the Underground Railroad and slavery are concepts and events that she is not familiar with as a second grader. As with most books, I enjoyed that Polacco wrote about an event in history- the Crosswhite saga- that really happened. And as usual, wonderful illustrations. This is a bit of a longer picture book - definitely for upper elementary or more advanced readers.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"'Hey Mary-Emma," I said, returning her, at least halfway, to her former name. She looked at me, then resumed wailing. But when I went to lift her out of the crib, she was eager, and clung to me and quieted down (133)."

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

Monday, January 4, 2010

First Day Back

Whew! What a busy day! I anticipated being busy, but maybe didn't realize quite how much I needed to get done today. I only briefly got to visit my computer lab that had brand new computers installed over break. I also only briefly looked at the new books I received at school during break. I can't wait til I have more time to pore over them. There are a lot of books I want to read, and just not enough time to get them all done. Tonight I felt like we have all rushed around at home (due mostly to my after school meeting that lasted til 6 PM) and have not really had time to get anything done. I am almost ready to head to bed myself. I can't decide exactly what book I am going to work on....I am leaning toward Anne of Green Gables. After all these years, I have always just assumed I read it while growing up, but after starting it, I don't think I have ever read it. Not a single word is jogging my memory. The exciting thing about Anne is that it is the first book I am reading on my Kindle. That was my big Christmas present from my husband, and I feel like I have hardly had time to appreciate it yet. Usually we don't get each other big gifts, but this year he kept telling me what a great job he had done on my Christmas present. I never thought he would come up with a Kindle on his own. I have to admit I did not do nearly as well for him.
Tomorrow I hope to have a Teaser Tuesday post and perhaps even another since I should have a book or two I am finishing up.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have

Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff is a young adult novel told in Andrew Zansky's perspective. Andrew is fat. (I thought perhaps this book was heading in the whole body image/weight loss direction for the longest time). He is embarassed by how fat he is, yet still continues to eat whatever he likes whenever he wants it. Andrew also has a few other issues - he has met a girl at an event his mom catered that he is interested in. As luck would have it, she is the new girl at Andrew's school. Andrew's parents are also separated, his dad having started a relationship with someone at work. Andrew's weight is a primary focus of this book, yet it is not a typical weight loss book. Instead, Andrew is recruited to play center on the football team, a position that requires girth. Andrew is surprised by his own ability at this position, yet struggles with his identity. As he reflects he begins to realize he has done a lot of things for other people, but nothing for himself. What does Andrew Zansky want? Andrew also begins to look at his friends. Are the football players his real friends, or are the people who befriended him before he joined the team the ones he should continue to be loyal to?

There are a lot of books out there for girls and about girls about body image, but not too many that I have read dealing with a guy's weight issues. While this doesn't resolve itself by making Andrew over, there is some resolution/acceptance that Andrew finds about who he is.
Visit Allen Zadoff's website.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is a book that I had sitting in my TBR pile for several months. My mother finished reading it last week and raved about it. One of my friends mentioned she had a friend who read Sarah's Key and The Help and thought Sarah's Key was better. Considering I have raved and gushed about The Help all year, the idea that Sarah's Key might be better than that was definitely something to consider. I decided to dig out my book and find out for myself what everyone has been talking about.

Sarah's Key was easily devoured by me in less than a day. Set during World War II, de Rosnay shares a fictionalized account of the roundup and deportation of thousands of Jews in Paris at the Velodrome d'Hiver in 1942. (Yet again I am amazed and saddened by Hitler's far reaching arm and his desire to rid an entire population of people). Set in both 1942 -following Sarah, a ten year old Parisian Jew whose family is taken from their homes - and 2002, following Julia Jarmond a mid-forties American in Paris who begins to investigate the Velodrome d'Hiver this story comes together as family secrets are uncovered that have long been buried. The alternating time periods of this story makes for quick reading and allows for suspense to build as a chapter ends leaving more questions to answer.

I am happy to have started 2010 with a winner of a book. I can see why so many book clubs are picking this title and will recommend it to anyone looking for a great book.

Best YA Books of 2009

Yes, it is 2010 and I am still left reminiscing over 2009. I had my list of best YA books I read this past year all ready to go several days ago, but between signing up for challenges and finishing a few more books, I never got around to posting. As I wrote in my post about the best adult books I read in 2009, my list is truly subjective. My "bests" may be no one else's. And, this list only includes what I read this past year- my TBR pile is enormous, so I know I have missed some wonderful books published in the past year. My only hope is that I get to them sooner or later.

1. Thaw by Monica Roe - Dane is dealing with Gullain Barre syndrome that has robbed him of the use of every muscle in his body. This book is told in Dane's perspective, and he's not the most likeable guy, yet this book was wonderful.
2. Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee - Rosemary Goode is fat. Despite the nagging from her mother, Rosemary turns to food to find comfort. Over time she makes some adjustments to her life and sees success in exercise and monitoring her diet. A good body-image book for teens.
3. Child of Dandelions by Shenaaz Nanji- 1972 Uganda - historical fiction need I say more? I can't believe I almost returned this one without reading it.
4. The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy - Joan moves and meets an unusual girl who lives in a house in the woods with her writer father. The two girls become friends and win a writing contest together as well as deal with issues in their own families.
5. The Red Blazer Girls by Michael Beil - these sleuths are so clever it puts Nancy Drew to shame.
6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman- Mia is in a horrific car accident with her family. Narrating this story while in a coma Mia introduces us to the backstory of her life, all the while trying to decide if she should fight for life, or leave this world.
7. Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams- so many things I liked about this one. I liked that this is a good guy novel, that there is some real life, present day connection as Cam and his family struggle with the return of Ben, his brother, from war. Ben has physical injuries from his war experience as well as emotional ones.
8. Here When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead -I am hoping this one gets some Newbery attention- there's a bit of a time travel/ability to see the future element, along with an entertaining plot.
9. Comfort by Joyce Meyer Hostetter - historical fiction - 1945 - Ann Fay's dad has returned from the war and Ann Fay must try to deal with her polio. Both have many adjustments to make.
10. All The Broken Pieces by Ann E Burg - written in verse - Viet Nam era- Matt was born in Viet Nam to a Vietnamese mother and American soldier father. His brother was injured in an accident that Matt still has nightmares about. His adoptive family is wonderfully loving and accepting and tries everything to help Matt deal with his experiences.