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.


National Book Festival 2010

Rebecca Stead signs my friend's poster.

Close-up on Rebecca.

PBS Kids had their own stars on display.

I posed with Superwhy for my boys.

Mem Fox speaking.
I know you're probably wondering, Where is Suzanne Collins?  Here's the story: we arrived late, so we missed her presentation!  So we hurried over to the book signing line where we were told that the line had been forming since 8:30 am and we shouldn't bother jumping in at this point.  Bummer!  Oh well, we still had a great time!

Here are authors we heard speak: Rebecca Stead, Jane Smiley, Margarita Engle, M.T. Anderson, and Mem Fox.   Katherine Paterson spoke at 4, but we didn't wait around to hear her.  Did I mention it was nearly 90 degrees, and everything was outside?  Instead, we cooled down at the fountain in the middle of the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (we sat on the edge and stuck our feet in!) and then enjoyed the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The fabulous fountain in the middle of the Sculpture Garden.

Martha Washington's dress at Smithsonian.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Here's my List for Fall Into Reading 2010

Hosted by callapidder days
The time frame for this challenge is from today until December 22nd. So here are books I'd like to read in that time.  I'm aiming high!!! 

For Aussie Author Challenge

  • Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
  • The Book Thief or I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak 
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  • Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson (finish)
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  • Personality Plus for Parents by Florence Littauer
 Newbery Winners
  • Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt
  • Lincoln, a Photobiography
  • Richard III by Shakespeare
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona by Shakespeare
  • Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Pollyanna (re-read) 

YA/middle readers
  • Mexico by Melody Carlson
  • Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
  • Anna and the French Kiss
  • a Rebecca Stead novel (I re-read When You Reach Me)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
  • Park's Quest by Katherine Paterson
  • Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell (re-read)

  • Sisterchicks go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn
  • Finding Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn (re-read)
  • another Christmas book--any suggestions?
  • Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn (finish)
    Read-Aloud with preschool son
    • Tumtum and Nutmeg, Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn
    • any other suggestions?
      Reading-Related Goals
      • Read all the book selections for the Midday Connection Book Club for this time period.
      • Read all the book selections for my YA Book Club for this time period.
      • Read to the boys a half an hour each weekday.
      • Post a review for each book I read.
      Woo-hoo! Just composing this list was fabulous!


      Monday, September 20, 2010


      We interrupt the regular book posts to bring you a funny video!

       I just discovered comedian Tim Hawkins and had to share him with you! Here he sings about his love for Chik-Fil-A, a love that I share with him!  It made me laugh out loud, and I hope you enjoy it as well!!  You can enjoy other shorts at his website.

      Sunday, September 19, 2010

      It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

      Brought to you by Sheila at book journey.  Join the fun!
      What I Finished Last Week:
      Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy.  Well-written free verse novel that I recommend!  My review is here.

      What I'm Reading:
      How to Organize just about Everything by Peter Walsh.  Peter is the organizing guru from TLC's "Clean Sweep"--I love that show!

      I Plan to Read:
      First Light by Rebecca Stead
      Park's Quest by Katherine Paterson
      Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

      I Plan to Attend:
      The National Book Festival in Washington DC!  Are you planning on going?  Maybe we'll run into each other in the book signing line for Suzanne Collins or Rebecca Stead.  Read more details about the festival and see a picture of Meg Cabot signing my book in 2005 here.


      Thursday, September 16, 2010

      Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy

      This is the true story of a Holocaust survivor.

      From the inside jacket:
      In 1939, the Germans invaded the town of Lodz, Poland, and moved the Jewish population into a small part of the city called a ghetto.  As the war progressed, 270,000 people were forced to settle in the ghetto under impossible conditions.  At the end of the war, there were about 800 survivors.  Of those who survived, only twelve were children.  This is the story of one of the twelve.

      This story was amazing.  I knew it was a true story, so I knew Syvia survived, but I was amazed again and again at how she survived.  Her father played a huge part in her survival.  He impressed me with his quick thinking, firm loyalty to his family, levelheadedness, and ability to outsmart the Nazis.  He is a beautiful (real!) character, and he is reason enough to read this book. 

      I won't give away who lives and who'll have to read it to find out!  Jennifer Roy's Author's Note at the end of the novel gives a detailed account of what happened to the story's main characters.  The story is especially sweet because Jennifer Roy is the niece of Syvia, so she knows many of the people she wrote about.  Jennifer Roy also includes a helpful WWII timeline at the end of the novel.

      Jennifer Roy did a great job on this novel.  I am very impressed, and I am glad that she captured so well the history of her aunt and the survivors of the Lodz ghetto.  You will be amazed.

      Obvious but fair warning: you will also be sad.  Middle schoolers can handle it, but they should debrief with a loving caring adult after reading it.  The Holocaust is a dark, evil spot in history, and younger readers should have someone help them understand it.  I guess it comes down to when you think your child is ready for an introduction to the Holocaust. 

      P.S. As for the religious aspect, the book is obviously about Jews, but for the most part, religion is not included in Syvia's story.  The Jews pray aloud when the Germans are bombing the ghetto, and the Author's Note says that every night Syvia prays the Jewish prayer for the dead.  There are no other references to religious Jewish practices.

      Syvia asks questions from a child's perspective like, "Why do they hate us because we're Jews?" and "Is my doll a Jew too?"  Her older sister tells Syvia that the Germans hate them because "they think we killed their God."  Syvia gets concerned that God is dead, and her sister calms her down by saying, "not our God, their God.  God is still alive."  That is the extent of any kind of theology in the book. Sorry, those are not direct quotes; I can't find the page in the book!


      Monday, September 13, 2010

      It's Monday! What are You Reading?

      Join the fun at book journey with Sheila.

      What I Finished Last Week

      The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti.  My review is here.  It is a middle grade novel based on the true story of a young man who dared to defy Hitler during WWII.

      What I'm Reading
      Not much!  I've been sick as a dog and sleeping for hours on end.  I just picked up books from the library today, so I should start something new any day.


      Saturday, September 11, 2010

      The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

      This is based on the true story of Helmuth Hubener, a Morman youth who lived in Hitler's Germany.  Individual freedoms have been stripped away including the option of listening to or reading anything that is not approved by the Nazis. In this way, Hitler is able to feed Germany his propaganda and squash outside ideas that would betray him.  By illegally listening to a shortwave radio, Helmuth discovers there is more going on in Europe than Hitler wants Germans to know.  He can't stay silent and decides to share the truth with others.  But it may cost him his life. 

      I liked this book.  Personally, I learned more about Nazi Germany by reading this book than though my textbook in high school.  One reason I liked this book is because it showed me average Germans.  The other books I've read about World War II Germany have been about the Nazi soldiers terrorizing other countries.  (Number the Stars, Stones in Water, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) It's so easy to categorize Germans as evil.  However this book showed me that the Nazis were terrorizing their own countrymen, and that the average German cannot be grouped with the Nazi Regime.  The Germans lived under hard conditions, heard Hitler promise jobs for all and prosperity, and believed that he was going to help their country.  Hitler got the people on his side and fed them a heavy diet of propaganda.  The Germans did not know his true motives.  For example they understood that he hated Jews, but they didn't know that he planned to exterminate them.  Also, the book showed that even when Germans discovered truth, the Gestapo would arrest and torture them to shut them up.  I already knew that Jews rejoiced when Allied forces freed them from their concentration camps, but now I understand that when Hitler fell, Germany was released from it's own prison.

      This book is a great starting place for a discussion on Nazi Germany and a good companion read for your student studying WWII.  It also goes well with Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli.  My review of it is here.  Both of these books have deepened my knowledge of World War II.


      Wednesday, September 1, 2010

      The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

      Check out the creepy cover!  It's perfect for the book, but it's so disturbing that I tried to hide it from my kids, and I avoided looking at it myself!

      Summary from the front of the book:
      In 1888, twelve-year-old Will Henry chronicles his apprenticeship with Dr. Warthrop, a scientist who hunts and studies real-life monsters, as they discover and attempt to destroy a pod of Anthropophagi.

      First of all, I hate horror movies.  I don't watch them, period.  As you may have guessed, I'd never read a horror book either.  Until this one.  And it took me for a ride!  Whoa.  The reason I read it is because it was on the IWU Adolescent Literature syllabus that I read through.  This was the last one; I finished on time!

      Many elements of the Gothic novel were present such as both psychological and physical terror, mystery, death, decay, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses. (click here for source.)  It was tough to get through because I generally dislike psychological terror, and I was unsure how the author would represent God in the context of the story. (more on that later) Not to mention that the physical terror is explained extremely graphically.  Yancey's imagery and details are so good that I can close my eyes and picture the scenes of horror after closing the pages yesterday.  He doesn't leave you wondering how much damage the monsters can do.  He shows you.

      As for the religious aspect, Yancey has different types of characters.  There are the Christian townspeople, the scientist who does not bother himself with religion because it is hard to marry morals with science, and the evil hunter.  I think Yancey did a fair job at presenting the three types and letting the reader make his/her own judgments.  (I'm so tired of authors writing with an anti-Christian or anti-Christianity slant.)  Plus, readers of the novel have the advantage of knowing the work is fiction, as are the monsters know as Anthropophagi, so they don't have to wrestle with the characters' questions such as, "Are these monsters soulless beasts from hell or an animal God ordained to create?"

      Overall, I liked the book!

      P.S. This is the first in a monstrumology trilogy.  Book 2 sends Dr. Warthrop and Will Henry on a monster hunt in Canada.  It's release date is October 2010.


      Saturday, August 28, 2010

      How I Read Mockingjay and Why You Shouldn't Follow My Example

      Let me tell you a story.  The story of how I read Mockingjay.  
      There are no spoilers!

      I pre-ordered from amazon in February with free 2-day shipping.  The book was released on Tuesday, so I expected it to arrive on Wednesday.  Once I discovered it was coming via UPS, I kept a vigilant eye on the street.  I thought, It will arrive around 1 pm; I'll put the boys in bed and read it the entire nap time!  I even spent the entire afternoon in my front yard waiting and watching.  Nothing.  I filled the time reading another book and then visiting (on the front yard) with unexpected visitors.  Still no UPS truck.

      Our friends had invited us over for dinner that night at 5 pm.  We were buckled into the car and backing down the driveway at 4:50 when what do I hear?  Yes, my book arriving--when I can't read it!!!  Aah!  So, I was forced to leave my precious cargo in the car while we spent the evening at our friends' house.  We had a great time there eating, talking, and watching the kids play.  Later that evening after my kids were in bed, I got about 50 pages in.  I was falling asleep at 9:30--I know, pathetic.

      Day 2.  And Day 2 was a day when I babysat my friends' twin babies while they work.  That meant I was responsible for providing care for 4 preschoolers while trying to read a book.  I snuck in 5 pages in the morning.  And then it was nap time.  I got to read for 2 hours without interruptions!  Bliss.  Fast forward to that evening.  I was up late reading in bed.  It's late.  I was on page 289, and the content on that page caused a physical reaction in me.  I put the book aside, ready to face sleep because I didn't want to face the next page.  There was an ache inside me, and I started to whimper.  My husband came in bed and let me talk things through with him while he held me comfortingly.  We ended the conversation with a decision to read a few more pages because that was a bad place to stop for the night.

      Day 3.  I had roughly 100 pages left to read before my husband's relative arrived from 2 states over to spend the weekend with us.  No problem, I thought.  He's supposed to arrive around dinner, and I'll have all of nap time to finish the book.  I enjoyed a morning at the zoo with the kiddos, arrived home to fix lunch, and answered a phone call from my husband to hear these words: "My uncle is ahead of schedule.  He could be there in an hour."  Aahh!!!  Mayhem.  I abruptly told him, "I need to get off the phone.  I have things to do!"  He may have taken that to mean make the guest bed, pick up toys, vacuum, unload the dishwasher, clean the kitchen, etc.  But of course, you savvy readers know what I meant: I needed to READ and read NOW!  I got the kids in bed ASAP and started to read.

      I'm about 5 pages from the end--5 pages!!!--when my relative pulls into my driveway, and I am forced to stop reading!!!!!!!!!  Gasp.

      I was courteous enough to greet him and play hostess.  But as soon as my son woke up to entertain him, I excused myself to the restroom and finished the book!  After which I pulled my hostess hat back on, and was busy touring, eating, and watching a high school football game.  Any spare second of alone time I got (read using the restroom), I was thinking about Mockingjay.  It was so frustrating that I didn't have time to process the book!  Give yourself time to process this book!!!  You will not be able to read the last page and go on with your life.  You will need to analyze it.  Talk it over with a friend.  Question Collins' motives in writing it.

      May your reading and post-reading experiences go smoother than mine! 


      Sunday, August 22, 2010

      It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

      It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at bookjourney
      Come join the fun!

      Geez, the only book I finished last week is The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry.  My review on it is here.

      I am currently reading:

      Unfortunately, this book has not "hooked" me yet and I'm halfway through.  The big bummer for me is that the setting is a section of Maui that I did not visit.  After an incredible vacation to the west side of the island last summer with my husband (Thank You Jesus!), I was ready to read this book and be transported back there --for free this time!  So I've had to adjust to the fact that this book's setting is southern Maui.  

      I am reading this for the 3rd time.  Last time I skimmed and scanned up until the arena.  This time I'm reading every detail... and analyzing them too!  (For example, why does Peeta's -along with the other boys in the arena- facial hair stop growing in the arena?  Is this a detail that will resurface in Book #3?)  All in preparation of the release of Mockingjay tomorrow!  I pre-ordered from with 2 day shipping.  When will it arrive???  How are you getting your copy of Mockingjay?


      Friday, August 20, 2010

      The Birthday Ball

      I picked up this book for two reasons.  1) It's by Lois Lowry, winner of the Newbery medal for The Giver and Number the Stars (one of my favorite books).  2) It looked cute!

      This is a very fun read for elementary school girls, especially ones who enjoy all things princess!  The whole time I read it, I thought, "This is a great read-aloud book."  You could easily read a chapter a night before bed to your kids.  Plus Lois Lowry includes many fun word plays that would make reading it aloud very fun to hear!  For example, the princess's cat's name is Delicious.  The princess says things to her like, "Don't be suspicious, Delicious!" or "It's nutritious, Delicious."

      The only thing that really bothered me from the book involves one (or two) of the suitors.  (You see they are conjoined at the hip.)  They love "bathroom humor" which is fine because really, what kids don't?  The only joke I didn't care for was when they laughed about going to the "balls."  And then they laugh at the word balls.  In my opinion, that is past bathroom humor and onto male anatomy.

      Beside that, it's a great, fun book!  I recommend it.


      Saturday, August 14, 2010

      Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley

      Beauty is the first novel by Robin McKinley, and the only one of hers that I've read.  I praise her ability to write, and I would read another novel of hers.  However, this one let me down.  The beginning was slow.  Not until around page 100 did it catch my attention.  However, once Beauty met the Beast, I couldn't put it down!  McKinley did a great job building up the rising action; however, the climax and falling action left me disappointed.  McKinley floods her story with intricate details: a page's worth description of paintings hanging in the hall, the color of each gown Beauty wears for dinner, the type of food Beauty's horse eats in his stable.  Her attention to detail transported me into the world of Beauty and her Beast.  She obviously has talent, and I have hope that it is better honed in her newer novels.


      Sunday, August 8, 2010

      It's Monday! What are You Reading?

      Hosted by Sheila at BookJourney
      Last week I finished:

      A behind-the-scenes look at Nazi Germany.
      Great Book! Review is here.

      Another on IWU course syllabus.
      Review is here.

      I'm currently reading:

      Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn

      P.S.  Adele is doing a fabulous job at presenting the Top 100 YA Novels.  Check it out!


      Bringing up Boys by Dr. James Dobson

      Let me start here: I recommend it.  To moms, dads, grandparents, school teachers, social workers, etc.
      • The beginning is a bit slow.  Don't give up on it; get to chapter 4.
      • Sometimes his writing is more conversational than textbook.  It is a matter of taste whether you prefer this or dislike it.  Either way, he presents a lot of great material.

      Get ready to learn about the:
      • Scientific differences between boys and girls
      • Breakdown of the family affecting boys
      • Immense importance of the father
      • Importance of parents' presence in their kids' lives
      • Origins of homosexuality
      • Masculine confusion
      • How to counter the culture
      • Parenting and discipline tips
      • Importance of pointing our children to Jesus Christ
      In my opinion, the best way to read this book is with a like-minded friend.  Read one chapter a week, and then get together to discuss it.  That's what my sister and I did.  We not only learned information, but applied it to our parenting.  
      My sister and her husband were struck by the realization that he was working a ton and neglecting all of his vacation time.  He stepped back from work and scheduled a vacation day to visit relatives with his wife and son.  
      The book showed me the importance of boys learning masculinity and doing "man" things.  I switched our morning routine from watching "Curious George" to "Handy Manny," and I started letting my boys use real screwdrivers to unscrew screws out of the window handles and screw them back in again.  

      I hope you pick up a copy.


      Saturday, August 7, 2010

      Monster by Walter Dean Myers

      On the IWU course syllabus = required reading.  I would NOT have read this book otherwise. 

      Reason #1) Court room novel
      Reason #2) Premise: Did black teenager assist armed robbery of Harlem convenient store?  This topic is so far removed from my day-to-day life that I don't connect with it. 

      The novel did manage to hold my attention, and I was on the edge of my seat awaiting the jury's decision at the end.  This could be a very useful teaching tool for freshman and sophomore students.  It brings up questions of morality, truthfulness, integrity, and friendships.  Expect ambiguity about the main character's role in the armed robbery.  It's a perfect ending for an essay topic, but a frustrating one for a lady who just wants to read a story.


      Wednesday, August 4, 2010

      Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli

      This is a great book! 

      Italian boys including Roberto and Samuele are captured on their home soil by the Germans and forced to work for Nazi Germany by the sweat of their brow under inhumane conditions.  Donna Jo Napoli said she "wanted American readers to learn of the little-known story of boys in Italy, Hungary, Romania, and other Axis countries who--because they were considered dispensable--were indentured by the Nazis to work for the war effort under inhumane conditions."

      The first half of the novel is about Roberto and his Jewish friend Samuele working for the Nazis.  The reader indeed learns the "little-known story of the boys."  Napoli's writing is emotional, powerful, and fast-paced.  The second half of the novel follows one of the boys on his escape from the Nazis.  His ultimate goal is to return to his beloved hometown of Venice, a long journey from his work station in Ukraine.  I did not enjoy the second half of the book as much as the first.  One reason is that it wasn't as interesting to me as the war stories. 

      I recommend this book to young adults and adults.  I personally think it's important to be reminded of the evil that was the Holocaust.  This novel does just that.  It unveils the Holocaust enough that we recognize the face of evil, but it keeps parts covered that would give younger readers nightmares.

      Plus, the characters retain their faith in God and never doubt his goodness, love, or relationship with them.


      Tuesday, August 3, 2010

      American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

      American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is another required reading book on the IWU Adolescent Literature syllabus.  For the full list click here.  I'm trying to read them all by the end of the summer.  Only 3 more to go!

      American Born Chinese is the first graphic novel I have read.  I labeled it middle readers and YA.  I'm not familiar enough with graphic novels to know who reads them or which audience they are written for.  Please comment if you know.

      From the front cover:
      "...three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant, and action-packed.  American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax--and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent."

      One of the tales is an adaptation of the famous Chinese tale about the Monkey King.  Yang explains the history of the tale and his reasoning for making some changes to the classic here.
      Here are the highlights: 
      At its heart, The Journey to the West is a Buddhist morality tale. In the original, the Monkey King raises havoc among the gods of all other traditional Chinese religions, and it is only the Buddha that is finally able to put him in his place. In American Born Chinese, I've replaced the story's Buddhist underpinnings with Christian ones, drawing from my own faith.
      Christianity, you see, lies at the very center of my identity as an Asian-American.
       Hooray!  Finding out this information straight from the horse's mouth made my day!  As I was reading the book I really struggled, wondering, "Is Yang making fun of the One True God?"  I was so glad to find out he is not using the character Tze-Yo-Tzuh as a mockery of God!

      I mentioned in another post that I'm not fond of immigration literature.  However, this book breaks the mold of the traditional immigration story.  Boys and girls will enjoy it due to the comic book style, humor, and fast pace of the story.  I recommend it for those who "don't like to read."

      Monday, August 2, 2010

      The Aussie Author Challenge

      Aussie Author Challenge
      I'm joining The Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Book Turners.  

      The goal:
      To read books by Australian authors.

      Time frame:
      Whenever you chose to join the challenge until 31 December 2010.

      The levels:
      Ankle biter: 4 books
      Grouse: 8 books
      Bloody Oath!: 12 books

      The rules:
      The books must be by an Australian author;
      The books must be fiction;
      They can be classics or modern fiction;
      Have fun!
      My goal is the ankle biter level.  My book choices are...
      1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
      2. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
      3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
      4. TBD

      It's Monday! What are you Reading?

      Monday, Monday, Monday.  I actually love Mondays because of this!  Monday is the time for It's Monday! What are you Reading? hosted by Sheila at bookjourney. 

      Last week I finished...
      Review to come.  I definitely recommend it.

      You can read my review here.

      This week I plan on finishing...
      Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli

      P.S. If you read YA lit, you must visit Adele's blog. at  There you can find her list of the Top 100 YA Novels that she compiled after gathering data from over 800 people across the globe, male and female.  Five titles are released each day.  Currently titles #100-#31 are available for our viewing pleasure.  Adele has done an amazing job, and I want to share it with you.  Please share it with others too.