Friday, July 6, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

A great way to visit Paris for free!
An interesting plot line and creative writing
Scenes from Anna's classes that teach the reader as well

A secular worldview
Anna's dependency on Etienne when he is unavailable
Anna is "the other woman"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

I was excited to read this book after it pulled #10 on Persnickety Snark's Top 100 YA Novels earlier this year. 

It was our YA Book Club selection last month, so I dutifully read it.  However, if it was not required reading, there's a good chance I would not have read past page 100.  Remy is our main character, and the girl likes to cuss, drink (illegally), have premarital sex, and use the Lord's Name in vain.  I knew that Remy changed in the novel, and we're supposed to see an improved version of her by the end, so I kept reading.

She did have some positive changes; I'll give her that.  In fact, my problem is less with Remy and more with Sarah Dessen.

Another blogger wrote that she "regularly recommends Dessen's novels to her middle school students."  Here is the response I left her:

"My hesitation for recommending Dessen to middle schoolers is her inclusion of under-age drinking/partying (in many of her books) and drug-use (in 'Lock and Key'). At least the drug-use is cast in a negative light, but the underage drinking is written about in a way that shows it to be a normal activity for teens. I personally feel that Dessen is condoning the behavior, and may even be encouraging or promoting it as well."

Now that I've read 'This Lullaby' I stand behind that comment even more. 


Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

Hosted by Sheila at book journey; join the fun!

Books I Finished Last Week: 
The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett (review is posted)

Books I'm Reading:
Tempering Your Child's Tantrum by Dr. James Dobson.  A very short manual on discipline that a friend recommended after I confessed my frustration over my child's tantrums.
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen.  Our YA Book Club selection.  So far, I like it!
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I'm halfway through.  At least now I've met Max, so there is more of a plot.  I haven't given up on it!
Personality Plus for Parents by Florence Littauer.  I've barely cracked it open, but I think I'll like it.

Goals for This Week:
Finish reading Tempering Your Child's Tantrum and This Lullaby and post reviews of each.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett

From the back of the book: What if the person you needed to apologize to the most was the one that deserved it the least?  In a world with diminishing civility, increasing rancor and moral relativism, The Christmas Gift is a simple story about our relationships and the values that make them precious.  Told through the experiences of Scott and Ben, two sixth grade boys, The Christmas Gift gently illustrates the power of apology, forgiveness and understanding, and the lasting impact we can have when we reach through the mists of hurt and mistrust to offer a hand of kindness to another.

Short Review: It's great! I loved it! I recommend it!

Longer Story: I was sitting around, wondering what Christmas book I should read this year.  (Each year I try to read two Christmas novels.)  I had one picked out: Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn-- a re-read that I loved.  Then lo and behold, I got an email asking if I'd like a copy of The Christmas Gift to review.  What?  Of course I did!  Woo-hoo!

It's a short novel.  Fourteen short chapters with lots of white space in between them.  I could have read it in a day--which is saying a lot for me because as I've said before, I'm a slow reader.

It is an engaging novel.  I see its appeal for elementary school students (as a read-aloud) up to adults.  I could easily read this aloud to my boys in the near future. I predict reading a chapter each night for a couple weeks in early December.  I appreciate that it re-enforces character traits that I'm teaching at home: forgiveness and kindness.  Other things I liked about the book: a loving dad who listened to his son and offered sound advice, and a son who did the right thing even when it was hard.

P.S. You may cry.  It's touching like that.  : )


Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila at book journey; join the fun!

Books I Finished:

Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn.  Review here.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Review here.

Books on Deck:

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak...I'm listening to it, and it's a bit slow.  Let me clarify: it is interesting, but there is no definite plot yet besides her learning to read.... Any encouragement to keep reading??


Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn

Premise: Empty-nester Carissa is suddenly let go from her long-time employment, and her marital problems are so bad she's contemplating divorce.  Her former employer gifts her some time in his Maui vacation home to ease the pain of her job loss.  She runs off to Hawaii solo, with hardly a good-bye wave out the door to her hubby.  Will Hawaii help her move on?  Or will she accept that she shouldn't move on; she should stay?

Review: First of all, please do not read the back of the book!  It gives away a significant part of the plot.  Secondly, I had such high expectations for this book, and I was disappointed.  : ( 

Let me explain. 
  • Robin Jones Gunn is my favorite author! 
  • She has written other books about Hawaii that I've enjoyed (specifically Whispers)--which played a big part in why we visited Maui.
  • By the grace of God, my husband and I had a Hawaiian holiday on Maui and Oahu last summer, and I expected this book to take me back again--for free! 
  • So of course, I thought I would love this book!...but I didn't...(insert sad face)
Here are the reasons I was disappointed (which very well may be reasons you would enjoy it!)
  • The main Maui setting was the Kihei/Wailea-Makena area, and guess who didn't even see that part of the island?  Yup, me.
  • The main character has been married for 24 years, and her only child is out of the house.  I couldn't relate.  I'm in the temper tantrums, pooping-in-underwear accidents, and fixing peanut butter sandwiches for lunch stage of life.  Ha, ha, I just re-read that sentence, and it makes it sound like I'm the one throwing temper tantrums and pooping in my underwear-ha!  It's too funny to re-word!!
  • So in conclusion, I did not connect well with the setting or the characters.  But you might!
If you are looking for a great Christian book about Hawaii that features a younger crowd, read Whispers by Robin Jones Gunn!  


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ooh, what a great book!  Why did I read it, you ask?  We had a six hour road trip on the horizon, and I needed an audio book that was safe for little listening ears.  Voila! 

I am familiar with Laura's autobiographical stories from my childhood, but that was twenty years ago, so in many respects, it was like I read this book for the first time.  I enjoyed it, it made the time pass quickly, and I learned so much history!  Plus, overall my 2 and 4 year-old boys did not complain while it was playing!  : )

Laura has such a beautiful and detailed way of describing life in her neck of the woods (pun intended-ha!).  How on earth did she remember all those details such as the colors and patterns of her aunts' dresses at the dance?  I'm surely impressed!

I also enjoyed learning the how-tos of churning butter, making bullets, smoking meat, etc.  I will borrow a phrase from's review: it's a painless history lesson! 

This is a staple for childhood, but it is a great read for every age! 


Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila at Book Journey; join the fun!

Books I Finished: None

Reviews I Posted: Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

Books I'm Reading Now:  
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (audio) 
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (audio)
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Did you guys have a great holiday weekend?  My family attended a family reunion in Indiana.  Sleeping in a hotel with little kids...aye yigh yigh!  However, I managed to fit some reading into the weekend through audio books in the car and on my ipod.


Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

Synopsis: Julia Lefkowski's social life is defined by her enthusiastic (hence the title) best friend Ashleigh.  Ashleigh changes hobbies like she changes her underwear, and each hobby receives a full dose of her enthusiasm.  Best friend Julie is dragged along for each ride.  Next up: Jane Austen.  Ashleigh and Julie are learning to dance, dress, and speak (well at least Ashleigh!) like characters from an Austen novel.  While all dressed up, why not crash the dance at the all boys prep school?  Theatrics, drama, and love flow as consequences of their Austen-y night out.

Review:  It was...somewhere between fine and good.  It wasn't bad, and it wasn't great.  I'm always looking for good clean reads, so from that perspective, I'm happy.  However, from a literary perspective, I was disappointed.  Some moments were perfect!  For example, on Julie's birthday, she's sweet sixteen and never been kissed.  Her hot college freshman neighbor helps her out by letting her practice on him.  More conservative folks may balk at this scene, but I loved it!  Other parts of the book seemed like Shulman got lazy. 

I also have a big problem with the plot.  But first, some background for those who haven't read it.  Julie falls head-over-heels in love at first sight with a guy at the dance.  However, she's not sure if he feels the same way?  He seems interested in someone, but is it her, or Ashleigh?  And if it is Ashleigh, Julie surely shouldn't butt in.  Throughout the school year (yes, I said "year") Julie has these internal struggles all the while receiving love tokens from mystery men, man??? 

Problem #1: Really?  You "love" a guy who may or may not "love" your best friend, and you let all this continue over the course of an entire school year without anyone confronting said guy and asking for some clarification on his feelings?????  This would drive me crazy in real life.  It was grating on my nerves just reading about Julie. 

Maybe I should mention that I'm not a Jane Austen fan.  (Perhaps this kind of plot is par for the Austen novel course?)  I've tried.  Multiple times.  I've never even finished one of her novels.  I used to feel like such a failure... but no longer! Some people love Austen; I, alas, do not.  However, I do quite enjoy Shakespeare, and for that I feel qualified enough to proudly proclaim that I am an English major!  : )

Thursday, September 30, 2010

B is for Bulldozer by June Sobel

I happened upon this book at our local library in the ABC section.  It was quite on accident; I didn't even know the library had an ABC section.  Eek.  My four-year-old boy and I love this book!  It tells the story of a construction crew building an amusement park.  The large colorful illustrations show construction machines in action.  The project takes a while, so the seasons change too.  The letter on each page stands out from the rest of the text, so it's easy to follow the alphabet through the story.  I love this book! 

P.S. I love this from the author's bio on the book's back flap: "June Sobel's construction education began eight years ago, when her eighteen-month-old son mysteriously yelled 'big trucks' from the backseat of the car, and then began talking about bulldozers in his sleep.  She was inspired to write her first childen's book for construction lovers just like him."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 Newbery Winner
Summary: Miranda is an only child growing up in New York City during the 1970s.  She starts receiving mysterious messages from an unsigned author.  The messages reveal the future and tell that he or she is coming to save her friend's life.  The messages also warn Miranda to keep the information to herself.  It's a lot for a young girl to handle by herself.  Will the mysterious person save her friend's life?  Miranda discovers this and other mysteries in this science fiction novel that explores time travel.

This is a good novel.  It makes you think and entertains at the same time.  It is confusing at times, and Stead expects her readers to be able to handle a certain level of confusion while they read it.  It is a mystery after all.  Answers will be revealed, but you'll have to wait until the last quarter of the book to get them.  It reminded me of a mix between A Wrinkle in Time and The Westing Game.

My only beef with the book is that the Lord's name is taken in vain a handful of times. I don't like that anytime, but I think it is unnecessary and easily replaceable in a book aimed at a young audience.

For those of you who've read it, Rebecca Stead grew up in NYC as an only child, had a laughing man near her home, and her own mother was a contestant on $10,000 Pyramid.  : ) 


Park's Quest by Katherine Paterson

Summary: Growing up in D.C. with his mother, all Park knows about his father is that he died in the Vietnam War.  His mother refuses to disclose any information on his father.  Finally, Park takes matters into his own hands: he visits the Vietnam Memorial and convinces his mother to let him visit his father's family in southern Virginia.  He spends the rest of the book learning about his father, uncle, and grandfather at the farm in VA.

The summary sounds kind of interesting, right?  Well, this is the worst book I've read in years.  The worst book I've read since high school or junior high--and I'm 31!  While the summary says he learns about his father, uncle, and grandfather, that means he learns about 2 things about each character.  Two.  Things.  Note to author: more details, please.

Reasons: confusing, boring, lack of character development, no theme

This book is aimed for middle schoolers!  I remember substitute teaching in middle school, and this book was required reading.  Aye, yigh yigh!  This book should NOT be required reading...for anyone.  I mean if you want middle schoolers to hate reading, then assign this book.  Otherwise, find a book that has action, developed characters, and a purpose/theme.

I know it's a harsh review.  If you enjoyed the book, feel free to comment and give a more well-rounded review of the book.


Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Join the fun at book journey by Sheila!

What I Finished Last Week:
Park's Quest by Katherine coming
When You Reach Me (re-read) by Rebecca coming

What I'm Reading Now:
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

National Book Festival Report
A separate post on the National Book Festival is here.