Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Greetings!

Hello, all you book lovers out there!

I hope the holidays are treating you well. This year my husband and I are going solo and staying home for various reasons. We shall miss our family, but it has been nice to have so much time together. We have opposite work schedules and don't spend as much time with each other as we would like to.

So, it is nice to be a teacher and have a long winter break in which to recoup and relax. Of course I don't do relaxing very well. I'm always up to one project or another. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) this blog hasn't really been the focus of my attention this season. I'm still posting fairly regularly, but I know a few weeks have slipped by with out a word from me.

I am now six months pregnant. How the time has flown! So, most of my attention is focused on the tyke now. I think I have entered a full on nesting mode. All I want to do is sew, and sew, and sew. I sewed Christmas themed totes instead of using wrapping paper for presents this year. For the book appreciators in my family we slipped books into these totes and shipped them off. For the non-book appreciators we slipped in yummy snacks. Then I made hand-made cards with the Cricut to go along with them.

We haven't really bought the baby anything yet. We are horrible, I know. Shopping currently sounds so exhausting and I worry about running out of food and getting sick, then having to drive through massive amounts of traffic to get home in that condition. So, I've made the mistake of visiting crafty blogs and now a lot of my time is spent in dreaming up what to make next.

Yesterday, I went to the fabric store to buy loads of fabric and some patterns. I am in the planning stages of making the baby a homecoming outfit, a nursing pillow, fabric play blocks, decorated clothed pins, and a quilt. Then I also want to sew pillow cases for a gift for a family in our ward. I finished sewing a "super secret project" for the husby yesterday. So, a lot of my time recently has not been devoted to reading.

I still have a few reviews to post and I need to write reviews for several books I read last month. So, that is how things are going round here. I'll keep you updated on my crafting and reading adventures as best I can, but posting might get spotty from here on out.

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter

I’d Tell You I’d Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, if every school teaches advanced martial arts in PE, chemistry always consists of the latest in chemical warfare, and everyone breaks CIA codes for extra credit in computer class. So in truth, while the Gallagher Academy might say it's a school for geniuses what they really mean is spies. But what happens when a Gallagher Girl falls for a boy who doesn't have a code name?

Cammie Morgan may be fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti), but the Gallagher Academy hasn't prepared her for what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without him ever being the wiser, but can she have a regular relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her? Cammie may be an elite spy in training, but in her sophomore year, she's doing something riskier than ever—she's falling in love."

(summary from author’s website)

I guess this series has been out for several years, and I just barely read the first book in the series this summer. I really enjoyed the prep school to become a spy idea because it allowed for so many unique scenarios that gives the book its charm. It is very fun to watch Cammie try to navigate her way through having a boyfriend when she knows very little about the real world, and she thinks of everything from a spy’s perspective. My favorite scene is when she and her girlfriends are looking through her love interest’s trash to find out more clues about him. So funny!

This is a really fun and light read. Though, I think Cammie got off the hook too easily at the end when her mom found out about her sneaking out all school year long. That part kind of bugged me. Still this is a fun, clean read and I plan on reading the sequel sometime.

Ally Carter's Website

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Princess and the Snowbird by Mette Ivie Harrison

The Princess and the Snowbird by Mette Ivie Harrison
"She is the headstrong daughter of the hound and the bear, heir to all her royal parents' magic and able to transform at will into any animal she wishes.

He is an outcast, a boy without magic, determined to make his way in the forest beholden to no one.

Though Liva and Jens are as different as night and day, from the time their paths first cross they are irresistibly drawn to one another. Each wrestles with demons: Liva with the responsibility that comes with the vast magic she's inherited, Jens with the haunting memories he's left behind. Separately, they keep a lookout for each other and for the immense snowbird whose appearances signify a dark event on the horizon.

When a terrible threat surfaces, Liva and Jens set out in an attempt to protect all they hold dear. Much is at stake—for while their failure could spell an end to all magic, their success could bring them together at last." (summary from publisher's website)

I have to admit that The Princess and the Snowbird was my least favorite of Harrison’s princess trilogy. As always I loved the author’s distinct, crisp prose, and how the story feels so much like a fairy tale. I also really like how her magic system is so connected to nature and animals. I still think this is a great little set of books that I would recommend to all those, who love fairy tales. I think my problem with the book was that it felt too much like the other two. One of the fun things about this trilogy is that the love stories are all unique, and have unexpected twists. But I felt like Liva and Jens’s love story wasn’t as exciting or original as the other two love stories.

Then there was the fact that I felt like the ending was a deus ex machina, and some of my questions weren’t answered. There is a stone in the book that leeches magic away from people, and it became clear that it would have to be destroyed in order for magic to survive. The book never shows us where this rock came from, how much of it there was, and how it could be destroyed. There are a couple of vague hints as to what happened, but they never really answered the above three questions.

I just sort of have to assume what I think happened really occurred, but I’m not really sure that I’m right about my assumptions. So, the lack of clarity on this plot point kind of annoyed me. The villain is really powerful and evil in this book, and I think part of the reason I didn’t like the story was because he was defeated too easily, and I wasn’t really convinced that the main characters could take him out. As a result of the villains wickedness this book is a bit more dark and sad than the first two also. I have to admit the negative view of human nature in this book sort of made me squirm a few times. I didn’t really like it.

The Princess and the Snowbird was still a pretty good read like the first two in the series with a magical fairy tale feel, and a gentle romance story, but the ending left me feeling a little bit let down. Perhaps, I built up my expectations too high, but plot line of The Princess and the Snowbird seemed weak in comparison to the other two books.

Mette Ivie Harrison's website

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

“When Cassie was a little girl, her grandmother told her a fairy tale about her mother, who made a deal with the Polar Bear King and was swept away to the ends of the earth. Now that Cassie is older, she knows the story was a nice way of saying her mother had died. Cassie lives with her father at an Arctic research station, is determined to become a scientist, and has no time for make-believe.

Then, on her eighteenth birthday, Cassie comes face-to-face with a polar bear who speaks to her. He tells her that her mother is alive, imprisoned at the ends of the earth. And he can bring her back -- if Cassie will agree to be his bride.
That is the beginning of Cassie's own real-life fairy tale, one that sends her on an unbelievable journey across the brutal Arctic, through the Canadian boreal forest, and on the back of the North Wind to the land east of the sun and west of the moon. Before it is over, the world she knows will be swept away, and everything she holds dear will be taken from her -- until she discovers the true meaning of love and family in the magical realm of Ice.”

The novel Ice is another fairytale retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon. I’ve already read two other retellings of this tale, and wrote a post comparing the two different novels. What I really liked about Ice was that it the point of view character Cassie felt like an ordinary teenage girl. She felt distinctly modern, and not placed in some random unidentified historical period. Yet, despite the modern feeling of the characters and the setting the author still managed to make the story have that magical fairytale quality. I also really liked that Cassie was a very strong female character, and her incredible stubbornness gets her into a lot of trouble, but also gets her through some really hard situations. I also loved how the author created her own magical world around the fairy tale. Cassie’s polar bear is a magical creature called a munaqsri, who watches over the souls of all polar bears as they enter into and leave life. The author weaves the details about these creatures into the plot and they become an important part of the story.

I have to say that I this story had me hooked, flipping pages as fast as I could to get to the end, and the ending was one of the most satisfactory I’ve read in a long time. It was just so good plot writing wise; I thought the author did well tying all of the story threads together. Though, I can understand if the ending was unbelievable to some readers. Perhaps, storming an evil troll castle while in labor is a bit hard to swallow.

One last thing, the plot had very strong adventure elements, but also has moderate romantic elements that may make really conservative readers wary. The author only describes kissing, but Bear and Cassie are married, so some of the plot centers around them building enough love and trust to have a mature romantic relationship, and all that entails. Personally, I thought the author did this tastefully, and I really enjoyed how Cassie and Bear create a loving, balanced, and partner based relationship.

Visit the Author's website for more about Sarah Beth Durst and her books.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne Duprau

Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

“It's been several months since Lina and Doon escaped the dying city of Ember and, along with the rest of their people, joined the town of Sparks. Life above ground is hard. The winter storms have been fierce. Supplies are running low. Accidents and disease have taken a toll.

It's during this dark time that Doon finds an unusual book. Torn up and missing most of its pages, it alludes to a mysterious device, a piece of technology from before the Disaster. Doon is sure that the Builders of Ember meant for the citizens to find this device when they left the city. Together, he and Lina must go back to their old home and retrieve what was lost.”

So, I really loved The Diamond of Darkhold, not as much as I loved The City of Ember, or the People of Sparks, but it was really nice to revisit Doon and Lina, and go on another adventure with them. For me it was more similar to The City of Ember than the second book The People of Sparks. Once again Doon and Lina have to go on an adventure to discover another secret that the founders of Ember hid near the city.

That’s right you get to go back to the City of Ember, and I love how the story has that magical mixture of adventure and mystery. Of course a few things go wrong, but Doon and Lina use their resourcefulness and cleverness to survive their challenges, and that is why I love these two characters! They are so brave and smart. Oh, yeah, I remember the one thing that bugged me. The ending is so weird and random, like really random. It totally came out of nowhere. The ending doesn’t ruin the book for me because it seemed to be tacked on so randomly and strangely that I didn’t really consider it part story in the book. I think the author was just trying to put a hopeful end on the series or something. I don’t know. It was weird, though.

So, if you really enjoyed reading the City of Ember, and wish you could revisit The Diamond of Darkhold is an awesome read.

Visit Author Jeanne DuPrau's Website

Friday, October 29, 2010

Julie Berry: An Interview

Secondhand Charm is your second book to be published by Bloomsbury. I find that each published book seems to have a behind-the-scenes scenes saga behind it. Are there any interesting or memorable stories about the creation of Secondhand Charm?

I’m afraid the process was sadly pedestrian. It looked like me gazing bleary-eyed at my laptop, scribbling in a single-subject notebook, and foraging for snacks. As for the initial inspiration, that was just lots of me driving back and forth to work in my minivan, musing. How about this? How about that? Charms. Good luck charms. Love charms. They’re kinda neat. Wonder if I could create a story that involved charms …

I often find that fantasy authors like to base the worlds in their novels off of time periods and countries that correspond to history. Were the details of your fantasy world based off of any particular time-period or country? The story seemed very 1800’s to me.

I used the 1780s as my target time period. I made sure that all the details of my world, and all the words used, existed in that decade. That window of time just appealed to me – the dress customs, travel, weaponry, cultural norms. They feel right at home. Perhaps I was a teenager there in a past life. (I’d better make it clear that I’m joking …)

In the book Evie discovers that she has a magical connection to a sea serpent, and that she really likes the ocean. Was Evie’s story inspired by particular love of the sea on your part or were there other sources for inspiration for the project?

I didn’t grow up near the ocean, and I’m not someone who spends loads of time at the sea. I sunburn just by thinking about sitting outside, I worry about my kids drowning, and I’m terrified of things in the water that can eat me. I think I’m more in love with the idea of the sea, with the creative landscape of it. Imaginatively, the sea is a place I love to be, from my childhood dreams of swimming with dolphins, to a later fascination with marine biology. I’d happily watch Discovery Channel programming about oceanic life for days on end if I had the time. Such power, such vastness, such a different world where things can navigate in three dimensions instead of two. The ocean with all her moods captivates me.

I must ask. Will there a sequel in the works for Secondhand Charm? If not, what project do you plan to work on next?

I confess, I never envisioned a sequel to Evie’s story. Other advance readers have asked me that question too, so it has me wondering. After finishing the story, I’ll ask you -- do you think there’s room for one?

Well without trying to be too spoilery I thought that where the villains ended up at the end of the book could lead to Evie having to face them again, and hence my curiosity about the sequel.

What is your favorite and least favorite part in the creation of a book?
Least favorite part: lack of sleep, and how my house disintegrates around me. It’s bad. Favorite part: the writing. And the revising. Right now I’m savoring the responses bloggers and reviewers have shared.

I wonder how many writers are a bit crazy like I am. As I write, I’m torn between loving what’s appearing on the page, and feeling certain it’s worthless drivel. Finally I throw up my hands in despair, proofread, and hand it over to my editor to let her deal with it. So every time I hear that someone has read Secondhand Charm and loved it, I’m thrilled, of course, but also a little bit astonished.

I noticed that you have started a series called The Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys. Can you tell us a little bit about this series? Are they middle grade novels or graphic novels?

Yes, and yes! Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys is a collaboration with my sister, Sally Faye Gardner, the illustrator. It’s the story of Cody Mack, fifth grader and expert troublemaker, whose parents and principal send him to a boarding school of last resort to try to fix his bad behavior: Splurch Academy, where eminent behaviorist Dr. Archibald Farley promises to reform Cody for good. Dr. Farley turns out to be a mad scientist vampire, and the faculty, a pack of shape-shifting kid-eating fiends. No one ever escapes alive. (This feels a lot like junior high to me.) Cody and his friends have to stay alert and crafty to save their skins from Farley’s sinister schemes, the first of which involves plungering boy brains out through ear canals and swapping them with the brains of trained rats. Good wholesome entertainment for reluctant readers everywhere. ;)

The series, which currently has four titles in the works, is a mix of early middle grade chapter book and graphic novel. It feels very “comic book,” but there’s lots of novel for kids to read as well. I know that many current series have played with different ways of integrating text, illustrations, and comic panels, but I think the recipe we’ve concocted with Splurch Academy is unique, and lots of fun. It’s a love note to my four disruptive sons, whom I holler at more than I should. I hope it’ll raise my stock value in their eyes. Series titles so far: THE RAT BRAIN FIASCO, CURSE OF THE BIZARRO BEETLE, THE COLOSSAL FOSSIL FREAKOUT, and THE TROUBLE WITH SQUIDS.

We’ll, end with one last random question. What is your favorite thing about fall?
Sweaters! And apple crisp. I make a mean apple crisp, and an even meaner apple pie, when I can find the time. But now that I’ve hit my metabolism-squelching mid-thirties, sweaters may be the only innocent fall pleasure left to me.

Thanks for the inverview. It was fun! Secondhand Charm has been out in the stores for several weeks now. I hope some of you readers will take a chance to pick it up this fall season.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Airman by Eoin Colfer

Airman by Eoin Colfer

So, ever since reading Leviathan I’ve been really interested in the Steampunk genre. Aided by this booklist on Gail Carriger’s website, I’ve been exploring this genre more. Airman by Eoin Colfer takes place during the later half of the 1800’s and focuses a lot on man’s quest for flight. This books is told in a narrative style that draws you into the story, and makes you wonder exactly how much of this story is true or false. I found the style charming because it made the setting and world of the characters feel more real. The plot centers around a young boy Connor, who lives on the Saltee Islands, barren wastes of rock off the coast of Ireland, whose only source of income are its numerous diamond mines.

The Islands have recently crowned a new king, a man of science and progress, who is determined to make the lives of his subjects improved through the discoveries of science. Connor’s father is the king’s friend and the commander of his defensive wall. So, Connor spends much of his youth roaming the castle with Princess Isabella, and his teenage years being tutored in the arts of science and self-defense by the eccentric French airman Victor Vigny. Connor and his tutor are obsessed with creating a machine that will allow men to fly, but in the midst of their planning and preparations Connor discovers a plot against the king.

As the only witness to an assassination he is thrown into infamous Saltee prison, and left to believe that even his family thinks that he committed the crime himself. As Connor adjusts to the harsh realities in prison he must use the skills that Victor taught him to both say alive, and to escape. Covering his prison walls with sketches and diagrams of flying machines Connor is determined to fly away from his prison cell.

I think one of the strengths of this book is the setting. It seems so real and the Saltee Islands and its inhabitants have a character all their own. I really enjoyed reading about this little Island and one comes away from reading the book feeling like it was a real place. I also admired Connor’s character. He was really brilliant, but he still was likable because he had to struggle so hard to survive. His time in prison is dark, and a little bit violent, but the author manages to make prison bearable for him in a realistic way, and show how his character grows. Connor manages to use his wits to not only survive prison, but do so with some of his morals intact. I like the fact that though he was threatened with violence that he found a way to win over his enemies without killing them and even making them into friends. This makes his character all the more likable and admirable. This will really appeal to boy audiences, as it has clever flying machines, sword fights, and the thrill of a great adventure story. Overall, this book was a satisfying and enjoyable read.

Eoin Colfer's Website

Friday, October 8, 2010

Boneshaker by Cheri Priest

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

Briar Wilkes has left her past behind the huge walls that were constructed to protect the old city of Seattle. When people ask her about her husband and how he caused the blight she keeps her mouth shut. She hasn’t even told her fifteen-year-old son the truth of everything that happened all those years ago when her husband’s huge drill opened a vein of poisonous gas deep under the earth. There is nothing left behind those huge walls that were built in order to keep the gas, and the creatures it created contained.

There is one problem with this plan. Her son wants to prove his father’s innocence, and so he sneaks under the walls and into the city. Only then does Briar discover that some of the old settlers are still living inside the city walls, underground, hiding from the rotters— gas eaten corpses that hardly resemble humans any more. So Briar makes a decision to go in after her son, and get him out before they both end up dead or worse.

So, I picked up this book because I read about it on Scott Westerfeld’s blog, and because I’m becoming more and more interested in the steampunk genre. It really is so much fun, and my husband is right when half of the fun is the alternate history aspect of the genre. This story takes place way out west when Washington is still a territory and the Civil War is going on. This story feels like a cozy old western with wicked villain and super cool guns, only it’s infested with zombies. So, I really enjoyed this story, although it was a little violent and the author seemed to like to describe people dying in detail. I skipped paragraphs that described how people died so I can’t tell you how bad it was.

The setting is also unique as the people who live inside the walls have to pump clean air into sealed off buildings, and underground so they can live. The author plays with historical timeline a bit so that Seattle has its old landmarks, and feels like an extra creepy ghost town. I also thought it was interesting that the author put a whole group of Asians in the underground city, and showed how they kept the city supplied with air, and some of the story dealt with the prejudice against them during that historical period. It was really refreshing to read a book that had so many different types of people and characters. It really made the world feel more authentic, and almost every single character was unique and memorable in some way.

There is a moderate amount of swearing; it wasn’t overwhelming, but there are curse words scattered throughout the novel. I really didn’t like one of the main characters as much after the ending, and so that sort of ruined some of the novel’s appeal for me. Still it was an enjoyable read.

Visit Cheri Priest's websitefor more information on the book and its sequels.

Steampunk Challenge

Several weeks ago I put a challenge icon up in my sidebar. I slighly late in posting about it, but it is still October right? So, it is all good in my book! The steampunk reading challenge is hosted by the Bookeeper.

The main purpose of the challenge is to spend October 2010-October 2011 discovering more about the steampunk novels that exist out there. I find this quite funny as I had already decided to make the month of October an unoffical steampunk month for myself. Earlier in the year I read Airman by Eoin Colfer and Boneshaker by Cheri Priest. Both of those reviews will be posted this month and tomorrow I will be running to my nearest bookstore to purchase Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld. I am SO EXCITED to read this book. I can't wait until it is in my hot little hands. So happy it is a three day weekend.

Other novels/authors I'm interested in trying out:

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
Airborn series by Kenneth Opal

It also may be interesting to read the classics:
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Twenty thousand leagues under the sea by Jules Verne.

So, we will see where the year takes me. Steampunk here I come!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry

The Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry

The end of school looms before Evie and her friend Priscilla, who have both fought for the highest grades and honors in school. They both feel too young to start families, and Evie has long held the dream of attending the university to become physician like her parents. The villagers consider Evie lucky because of her unusually good health and skill in helping others during childbirth and illness.
Then shortly before the traditional feast of St. Bronwyn a herald appears to announce that the king himself will be visiting their celebration. Soon the town is abuzz with repairs and preparations. One town member even manages to invite a troop of gypsies from which Evie buys a few good luck charms. Perhaps that is why her skill is called upon when one of the king’s men falls ill with a fever. Evie is able to heal him, and either as a result of her new gypsy charms or the good deed, the king offers her and Priscilla chance to study at the university in Chalcedon.
As Evie sets out for the capital with her friend Priscilla and her old neighbor Aiden, who is returning to finish his apprenticeship to a stonemason, she discovers that not even a lucky charm can protect her from unsafe travelling conditions. After several mishaps she ends up sailing to Chalcedon on a ship, and finds that she has an almost magical attraction to the sea. She soon discovers that this feeling is more than newfound awe, and discovers that she has an ancestry that she never knew about before, an ancestry, which includes her having a powerful sea serpent as her companion.
Last year Julie Berry’s debut novel Amaranth Enchantment came out, and this year she publishes her next novel Secondhand Charm, a story about a girl who stumbles upon her magical powers unexpectedly. The discovery of her powers helps her to make friends in high places, and soon she discovers that someone is plotting against the king. Evie must come up with a plan to stop the plotters from succeeding, and save the king.
I really enjoyed this little fantasy novel. It was a quick read with a strong action plot, though the author sneaks in Aiden, who was very crush worthy, as a romantic lead. I really liked the sea serpent twist in the story, and thought it was interesting to see Evie getting used to her new serpent friend. One of my biggest complaints was that I wished the story had lasted longer! I would have loved more details about her sea serpent. The only other thing was that I found it odd that Evie took the big reveal about her ancestry at the end pretty easily. I would have thought that she would be more upset about finding out the truth about her mother.
Overall, this story drew me in from the first page with the line, “And what were fish eyes between friends?” and kept me interested until the very last page. The ending is satisfying and yet leaves the possibility open for a sequel. Since I wanted to read more about the world and Evie’s sea serpent powers I would very much love to see one.

Visit Julie Berry's website

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
"Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled
the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings
embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has
existed since the time of the pharaohs."

So I was really excited to read this book! It is like Percy Jackson but Egyptian style. I enjoyed reading it, but didn’t like it as much as I did the original Percy Jackson series. Part of the reason is that I didn’t know much about Egyptian Mythology and so I didn’t have as much fun recognizing the Egyptian gods as I did Greek and Roman myths and gods. The other part is that I think the author had to do a lot of work to set up the background of the Egyptian Mythology and that sort of slowed down the action a bit, notice it is longer than The Lightening Thief. I felt like I was always having something new introduced and explained to me. The author did do a good job with incorporating the info into the story it was just that there was a LOT of it. The characters were interesting, though, sometimes I felt like Sadie was a bit off. In the end I thought it was a good book with a solid plot. I was totally hooked into what was going to happen at the end. The reader just has to have some patience to deal a lot of introduced background info. I’m wondering if the next book will be a lot more fun to read now that the world and a bunch of the characters have been set up in the first book.

I am really happy that I have a fun fiction book about Egyptian Mythology to recommend to my Latin students though.

Rick Riordan's Website

Friday, September 10, 2010

Just One Wish by Jannette Rallison

Just One Wish by Jannette Rallison

Annika’s main goal in life is to keep her little brother’s spirits up because he has cancer, and cancer patients need to stay positive. The problem is that he wants to meet Teen Robin Hood, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince a Hollywood actor to come help a boy with cancer, right? Especially, if her little brother only has a week until he goes into surgery.

Turns out that contacting Hollywood actors is a little more complicated then she thought, but that doesn’t stop her. She would travel to the ends of the earth to fulfill her little brother’s wish. Driving four hours to a movie set in California isn’t going to stop her. It is the sneaking onto the movie set that is the hard part, but Annika has got that handled until Mr. Teen Robin himself decides to throw her in jail. Can she convince this arrogant teenage star to help her brother, and let her go free before it is too late?

I finally got this book at the library. Finally! This one has been on my to-read list since it came out. I think I actually put it on hold at the library last summer, but then I started my first year of teaching and it went off of the read list until life returned to sanity. So, I’m really happy to say I loved this book. I was hooked from the very first chapter, and couldn’t put the book down after that. I really sympathized with Annika’s determination to bring hope into her little brother’s life. I also loved her hilarious capers across a Hollywood set. I couldn’t put this book down and finished it in one day. That hasn’t happened to me for a long time. I was so immersed in the story I didn’t put the book down for hours. I highly recommend Jannette Rallison to anyone who loves a clean romantic comedy.

Jannette Rallison's website

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Signed books: LDS Storymakers Conference

These three got signed at LDS Storymakers Conference that I went to in 2009. I love Janette Rallison. She is such a sweet lady when you meet her in person and she writes funny, clean books! Lisa Mangum gave a ton of ARC of her new series out at the conference and we all got them signed. The second book is out now. Recovering Charles was a freebee in our conference bag. I don't think Jason Wright attended that conference, but I appreciated the signed book anyway.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

"Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances—and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale—until a hapless servant named Ellen is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way." (summary from Author's website)

Princess of Glass is a sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball, which was a retelling of the twelve dancing Princesses. I was interested when I first picked it up if it would be a sequel that would merely take place in the same world created in the book Princess of the Midnight Ball or if it would be another fairy tale retelling. At first it seems that the book doesn’t really relate to any fairy tale, until we meet Elanora, and then slowly the plot weaves into a Cinderella retelling, in which the Godmother really is a nasty witch with a hidden agenda.

George manages to make the fairy-tale fresh by telling the story from a different point of view, and adding a few of her own clever plot twists. I enjoyed reading this engaging tale, but I felt like the witch was defeated a bit too easily. There really wasn’t much detail on how exactly everything ended up fairy tale perfect at the end, but still it was really fun to read. If you love retold fairy tales or just a fun princess story you should totally give this one a shot.

Visit Jessica Day George's Website

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Signed Books: Jessica Day George

Another book signed at the Provo Children's Book Festival. Dragon Slipper's had won the Whitney Award the year before, which I had checked out from the library and enjoyed reading. So, at the Festival I bought Dragon Flight and got it signed by Jessica Day George. I included a picture I took after she signed my book. Ah, I miss Provo sometimes, because they have so many cool author's that do lots of signings in the area.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


So, I have news. Good news.

I'm pregnant.


I am very excited. I am about ten weeks along, and we had our first ultrasound today. It was very cool. The little tyke was wiggling around and we got to see its heart beat. Everything was normal and the baby looked healthy.

We are thrilled.

I'm due April 1st and I have been feeling great.
I really can't ask for more.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Signed Books: Brandon Sanderson

I have to admit, that having the entire Mistborn Trilogy signed by Sanderson in my possession makes me feel pretty cool. Of all collection of signed books this little set it the one I prize the most. These all got signed during my Provo days when Sanderson was just getting his start in the writing world. Well, by the time Mistborn three came out he was a pretty big name. The first one I gave to a friend to get signed, as they took his writing class, and I just handed them the book and asked them to get them signed for me. The third one I stood in line for a couple hours to get signed after a 10 hour work day. Yeah, I'm nerd or a geek or a psycho fan. Noticed that it is numbered. I got Alcatraz signed at the Provo Children's Book Festival. I think it is funny that it is upside down.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


So, there has been a hoopla about Ellen Hopkin's being disinvited from coming to the Teen Lit Fest hosted by Humble School District. As I actually teach in this district and have worked with librarians in this district. I'm getting kind of annoyed about some of the things that people are saying about us.

First off, we have excellent librarians! Excellent! On my campus my librarian is brillant and helpful to students. I have mentioned her in passing on this blog. She is the one that lets my borrow all the awesome ARCs, and gets books into the hands of our teenagers. She reads and reccomends challenging literature to the students. As in I've seen her encourage students to read books that deal with the topic of gay teens, poloygamy, and even specifically Ellen Hopkin's books.

I am totally all about clean reads on this blog. I believe strongly that our kids need to read clean books as well as nasty ones. They should be able to choose and my blog is about making it easier to find and to read clean books. I really do think that some topics are totally inappropriate to read about because I think they are spiritually and emotionally damaging. This opinion is strongly tied to my religious beliefs.

I think too often that people get so gung ho about non-censorship that the idea gets across that anything and everything is appropriate for everyone. I strongly believe that this is not true. Children, espeically elementry children, should be protected by the adults in their lives from inappropriate information. Studies have show that exposure to information that is not developmentally appropriate for kids can leave permanant detremental effects on how they develop heathly relationships later in life.

I also strongly believe that pornography in all of it's forms is never ever appropriate in any setting for anyone of any age. It sickens me that is form of filth has become so prevasive in our society, and access to it is so easy. It is an addictive behavior that destorys marriages, and as a result the use of pornography directly impacts the lives of innocent children who have to suffer through the pain of divorce.

It angers me that we will expend our efforts, time, and money to perserve the environment, but that the evil institution of slavery still exists. And it's largest form is that of sexual slavery and prostitution. Yet, we support these forms of entertainment that objectify and denigrate the human mind, body and spirit. When are we going to stand up for these victims and say enough is enough? It is time to stop this plague of fiflth and banish it from our society.

That being said. I do believe very strongly in the freedom of choice, especially for teens. I often do not approve of the things my students choose to read, but there must be a choice. There has to be a choice or the students would no longer have the power to choose what type of people they want to become, and if they do not get to make those choices then our existence is worthless. Our society of formless. We are no better than tools, or keyboards, or shovels moving dirt around.

So, I accept that there will be books I disagree with. That there needs to be books that I disagree with. I admit I've read some, and by doing so I've formed an opinion of what I think is right and wrong. Each person has to make the journey on their own. But all form of entertainment, experience, and substances that cause addiction take away our freedom to make these choices and they are harmful and dangerous: to family, to friends, to teachers, to students, to schools, to government, to nations, to humanity as a whole.

Some censored and challenged books could fall into this catagory. I think most YA books do not.

Somtimes I just feel like someone needs to stand up and say that some forms of entertainment and recreation are just as bad as censorship or worse. They take away our freedom, our humanity, our compassion, and turn the user into a slave. I'm going to be that person today. That is my stance on censorship. We have to be so careful, sometimes we are so weak as humans and we choose exactly that which is most harmful to us.

From what I've heard of Hopkins writing (and I won't read her books. Think....clean reads.) I think that she tries to show the dangers of addiction and how they can destroy lives, the dangers of viewing ourselves and others as objects. I am saddened that the teenagers will not have the chance to meet her at the festival this year, as her experiences are relavant to their lives and choices they have to make at this time. She could be a great asset to them at this time.

But I am more saddened that the festival was cancelled this year. I am saddened that students had to be the ones that lost out in this battle. I am most especially worried that this controversy will stop festivals from happening in the future, because that would lead to more voices being silenced. The Humble Teen Lit Fest has hosted challenged and banned authors before, and I would be disappointed if this situation took out the Festival in one fell swoop, and no authors were heard from in the future.

I have to say that dislike the idea of a boycott in this instance because it takes opprotunities away from the students. I would have liked much more to see something done along the lines of Aprilynne Pike's suggestions.

Friday, August 20, 2010

this world we live in by Susan Beth Pfeffer

this world we live in by Susan Beth Pfeffer

It has been a year since the world ended. It has been a year since a catastrophic asteroid hit the moon and knocked it out of its natural orbit. The seas heaved, volcanoes erupted, and the world went mad. Miranda and her family have survived a long, cold winter in Pennsylvania. The spring and summer come slowly, and Miranda’s father returns with her step-mother Lisa, and their child, Gabriel. With them comes several other people, including Alex and Julie Morales. Miranda and Alex develop feelings for each other, but Alex’s plans for the future are pulling them apart. Can their love survive in this world that is so torn apart?

I could not put down the two previous books in this series and this book was no exception. This post -apocalyptic novel will hold your attention to the very end. This World We Live In reverts back to the journal style that makes Life as We Knew It so compelling. I am amazed at how perfectly the author keeps Miranda’s voice consistent and real. In fact it was drawn so completely back into this world that it was hard for me to stay there, because the situation they are in is so dark. Yet, once again there is comfort in how Miranda’s family draws together and supports one another. The ending of this book was really dark, and I disliked it. I was mad at Miranda for days afterward. She finally gives into despair and does something so horrible that I don’t know how she could stand to live with herself. It really was painful to read. This one really makes you think about deep moral issues such as, our responsibility to help others in need, under what circumstances it is better to live or die, and what we will do for those we love.

I’m getting all sad again just writing this review. I don’t know if I can really recommend this one. All I can say is that it will not leave you untouched.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The 13th Reality:The Blade of Shattered Hope by James Dashner

The 13th Reality: The Blade of Shattered Hope by James Dashner

"Things have changed for Atticus Higginbottom. After the near catastrophe in the Fourth Reality, Tick’s being homeschooled in the fields of science, trying to master the mysterious Chi’karda. But just as he begins to make progress, Mistress Jane reappears, now hideously scarred and much more powerful. She has tapped into the universe’s darkest secret to create the Blade of Shattered Hope, and in her quest to attaia Utopian Reality for the future of mankind, she’s ready to risk billions of lives—including those of Tick’s parents and sisters—to set her plan in motion. Her vengeance knows no bounds. When rumors begin to circulate about the secret scientific experiments taking place at the Factory, Tick and his friends Sato, Sofia, and Paul are faced with their most dangerous task yet. And they must not fail; the entire universe could cease to exist." (summary from publisher's website)

This is the third book in James Dashner’s 13th Reality series, and his troop of characters have to save the world from Mistress Jane again. One thing that I didn’t really like about this book was that it was kind of a downer. It doesn’t seem like Tick has fun being a Realitant anymore. He is always scared, or stressed out, or being exposed to bad things. It seems the experience of being a Realitant is really negative and so I don’t know why the characters continue being them. I mean they get to help people and stuff, but there isn’t much to balance out the horrible parts. At least in the Pendragon series you get to see some really cool settings and places, and meet some really awesome new friends. The Blade of Shattered Hope didn’t seem to have much of that balancing magic, and so I didn’t find it as fun to read.

I think this book did much better at having an interesting beginning, as the action starts out right away. There were some parts during the book that I got bored, and put the book down for a while, but I wanted to finish reading the series, and so I continued to read. I got to say that Sato has turned into a really cool character. I think he is one of my favorites. He turns into a real hero in this book, I think. Dashner also managed to slip in another riddle, keeping up with the tradition of the previous books. I was totally surprised, but then was surprised that there was only one riddle. I thought it would have been cool if there were more. It was also interesting to see that Tick’s family got more involved in this book, and it looks like they will be more involved in the next book too.

So, for me this was an okay read. It hasn’t been my favorite read of the summer, but it still had some pretty cool scenes, and some cool character moments.
The series Website
James Dashner's Blog

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Signed Book: James Dashner

Shadow Mountain gave out a huge number of copies of the 13th Reality to kick off the series, and I got a copy from Dasher when I ran into him at the LDS Storymakers conference. I wasn't attending, but by odd happenstance my family was staying the weekend at the same hotel the conference was taking place at. It was pretty funny.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pocket of Guilt by Dora Lee Thompson

Pocket of Guilt by Dora Lee Thompson

"The Schulz family, all members of the Mormon church, is trying to survive in Germany, during and after WWII. When Hitler invades Poland and the war officially begins, the family is quickly feeling its strain, as they have less and less food to eat. Anna Schulz often stands in line for hours, only to find the market shelves empty. This becomes the least of her worries though, when, one by one, the men of the Schulz family head off to defend their country. The story follows Dieter, the middle son, just 10 years old when the war begins, as he learns to cope with the war around him. Read about his stubborn streak and spontaneity, and how it gets him into trouble, how he defies Hitler's law by giving aid to a Jew and subsequently finds himself in the biggest trouble of his life, and what happens when he has to decide between loyalty and love. Will Dieter ever be able to forgive himself for all of the things he has had to do to survive the war, or will he have to live with his guilt forever?"

I enjoyed reading Pocket of Guilt for the most part, but there were more than one instance in the book where the author made it pretty obvious that this was her first book. I think she tried to tell too much story in one book, and the story would have been more enjoyable as a series. There are many story lines in the book, and many of them aren’t fleshed out very well. I would have loved to see a trilogy here. One book could have dealt with the beginning of Nazi persecution against the Jewish population and how Dieter and his father tried to help them. An entire other book could have been written on Dieter’s new addiction to stealing food and other items to avoid starvation and his path to redemption. Another volume could have dealt with how Dieter got Leo, an orphaned Jewish boy to safety in the middle of a huge war, and without catching the notice of a nasty Hitler Youth bully.

As the book stands it has all three of the above plot lines plus three romance stories, and other little side trips. The most developed character is Dieter, but we also get points of view from his family. I felt like some of these points of view were inserted randomly just so the author could get more historical information put into the book, which made a lot of scenes feel forced. There is also a scene where the author inserts a biography of Adolf Hitler that sounds like it comes from a 21st century textbook rather than a teenaged Hitler youth giving a report to his classmates.

The book is only 300 pages long, but felt much longer, because of how many story lines the book contains. With that being said I really felt like I came to know Dieter and his family, and I cared about what happened to them. It was interesting to read a book from the point of view of and LDS family in Mannheim, Germany during WWII. The advantage of the book all being one novel is that we get to find out what happens to Deiter and his family. We get to see the family at their highest and lowest points, and we get to see them slowly recovering after the war also. The timeline of the book covers from the beginning of the war to the end of the war, and a little bit after during the American recovery.

So, I felt like too much happened in this book, but that the characters were interesting, the story told from a unique angle, and most of the writing was enjoyable. So, this is not a perfect debut, but still an okay read.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Spells by Aprilynne Pike

Spells by Aprilynne Pike

"Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall ...more Six months have passed since Laurel saved the gateway to the faerie realm of Avalon. Now she must spend her summer there, honing her skills as a Fall faerie. But her human family and friends are still in mortal danger--and the gateway to Avalon is more compromised than ever.

When it comes time to protect those she loves, will she depend on David, her human boyfriend, for help? Or will she turn to Tamani, the electrifying faerie with whom her connection is undeniable?" (summary from Author's Website)

So, surprisingly I really liked Tamani in this book. I remember not really liking him in the first book, but he is growing on me. Alas, David still hasn’t won me over much. I thought that Laurel’s summer in Avalon was fun to read about because we got to learn more about the mythology and culture of fairies in her world. I had wished there was more of this in the first book, and hope for more of it in the sequels. The details of the Avalon world made the this book have just a bit more of that magical feel that I was wanting from the first book. I thought it was interesting to see how Laurel’s mom reacted to her being a fairy in this book, and thought it was cool that Pike would include Laurel’s parents as pretty major minor characters in the book. I ‘m glad they are not completely forgotten like the majority of fantasy fiction.

I’ve noticed that a common complaint about the first book was that the fairy’s enemies—trolls— aren’t very well developed and kind of show up randomly. I’m afraid this book is pretty much the same. There are still a bunch of evil trolls wandering around trying to get into Avalon, and randomly attacking Laurel and her friends. There are some more interesting developments in the conflict with the trolls in that we get the feeling that they have an larger evil plan going on, and that there are professional troll hunters out there, but other than that they show up, make life hard for Laurel, get beat up and disappear. Hopefully, we get to learn exactly what these troll villains are up to in future books. Also, Tamani gets a super- secret mission for the next book. I have to admit I’m curious to find out what he is planning to do.

Something that bugged me about this book was the amount of making out done by David and Laurel. Laurel’s mom is always reminding them to stop. It was really annoying and I wish the author hadn’t included so much of that in the book. It got old really fast. So, really this book is not squeaky clean in that regard.

So, when it comes down to it I guess my feelings regarding this book are kind of mixed. There were a few things that I didn’t like about the narrative, but I still had an enjoyable time reading it for the most part. I had a hard time putting the book down once I started.

Aprilynne Pike's website

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Signed Books: Online Contests

Below are three books that I won in random online contests over the few years that I have been blogging. One was a Valentine's Day giveaway. The other two I don't remember how or exactly where I got them, but all the authors sent the books signed. Julie Bellon sent hers with a nice handwritten note. It was a very nice touch. My Reviews for All's Fair and Don't you Marry the Mormon Boys. I still haven't finished reading Dawn's Early Light. I did like the characters in Dawn Early Light, even if they were a bit stereotypical, especially in the beginning. Later on in the book the characters take unique and surprising paths that I wasn't expecting, but the plot didn't grab me a whole lot. I really can't put a finger on why I haven't finished the book yet. Maybe I'll try to pick it up again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Find Clean Books: Book Reviews

How to find clean books: Book Reviews
Another method of finding clean books is to read book reviews. There are a number of blogs and websites dedicated to finding clean reads. I’ll guess this post will be an annotated link list.

Clean Read Blogs/websites
The most recent website I’ve found that helps readers find clean books is Squeaky Clean Reads.

I really like the lay out, it is clean, simple and easy to navigate. It has books lists in a format similar to good reads, and looks like the site will host giveaways, which is always nice. My favorite feature is that it has a list of clean reads for book clubs. I’ve found some of the most offensive books I’ve read have been book club books. Why do book clubs always read such nasty and depressing books most of the time? So, I think it is really helpful for that at the very least. I guess the only weakness to this site is that the ratings are based on reader’s votes. So unless a lot of people go over and participate in rating books some books won’t have any information on them. So, this site is only good as its participants. So go and explore the site and rate away.

The Literate Mother

Focuses on children’s and Young Adult Literature. Started by a mom, who was concerned with what her kids were reading, and so she started a website. Has a lot a recent releases.

Good Clean Reads
Book Review blog. Hasn’t updated for a while, but it has lots of archives.

Library of Clean reads
Book Review blog. Still very active. I never really followed this one because I never found book reviews on books I was interested in.

Rated Reads
This site was started by an experienced newspaper book reviewer. Has a lot of variety and also contains reviews of recent releases.

Homespun Light
Originally, “Deliciously Clean Reads”, the author moved the blog over to a new blog “Homespun Light.” The site doesn’t focus exclusively on book reviews anymore and focuses a lot of homeschooling, creative kid projects, and occasionally has a book review of a new clean read. I read His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik because of a review on this blog, and now I have read the entire series. Yea! For the discovery of new series. Links to the archive are on the upper left corner.

Blogs with rating guides:

Also, many more blogs than those listed above will have content ratings on the bottom, so many that they are too numerous to list, but they are nice to have around. Some of them have random numbers right in a row at the bottom of the post. (example: 2.1.3.) I don’t tend to like these very well because usually the numbers mean different things on different blogs and so I get confused and have to read a million ‘guide to ratings’ posts and it annoys me. I much prefer for content to be rated in words lists (example: violence:1 Swearing:2 sexual content: 2 etc.). Susan at Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books gives her books movie ratings, which is nice and understandable.

So, I don’t do ratings. Why don’t I do ratings you ask? Mostly, because I’m lazy. I try to warn people about content that could be offensive in the post itself, but really I don’t want to label books. I like it when other people label books, but I don’t like to do it myself. Also, part of me feels weird putting a content label on a book. I feel like I’m judging it, and while I have the right to judge books for myself. I feel uncomfortable putting such obvious labels on books for others. There is some content that I feel is wrong to put in a book, but in some cases it comes down to style and taste. So, I always feel that my ratings wouldn’t really add anything really useful to my reviews. I worry in fact that they would be harmful. This is why I avoid labels, and take other peoples labels with a grain of salt. Sometimes they can be too conservative and other times too liberal for my tastes. So while ratings are a good guide stick they aren’t 100% reliable.

What do you guys think? Do you like ratings or no? How much do you rely on them when you are thinking about reading a book?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt

Desi Bascomb knows that she had the lamest job ever—standing in front of a pet store dressed as a groundhog—but at least she has her anonymity. That is until her ex-best friend reveals her identity in front of Hayden, the boy she likes, in the most humiliating way possible. It has been a bad day, but her boss assures her that the fish is in the backroom is magical and if she makes a wish everything will get better. Yeah right.

Several days later Desi is contacted by Meredith, a princess agent, and discovers the sweet life. Apparently, Desi has enough MP (magical power) that when she applies special Egyptian Makeup “royal rouge” she takes on the appearance of any princess who needs her services. Desi thinks that living life as a princess substitute (hey even princesses need vacations!) will be great, but the job is full of unexpected difficulties. She hadn’t expected rude older sisters, preforming African tribal rituals, and trying to deal with old love interests. Doing all this without betraying that she really isn’t the princess is one hard deal, but Desi knows she can be good at this business and make a difference to the girls that she is helping. That is if the agency will give her a chance to prove that the choices she has made are right.

I don’t think I would have picked this book up if I hadn’t read Susan’s review at Bloggin' 'bout Books. She said she really enjoyed it, but I was thinking that cover is really pink and girly. So when I saw this book at the library I decided to pick it up and give it a try. I was really surprised because I was immediately drawn in by Desi’s charming and funny voice. Perhaps, the magic is a little bit unbelievable, a critical reader will probably have to suspend their belief a bit, but the idea is fun, magical, and enjoyable to read about. My favorite scene is when Desi takes her first practice assignment and substitutes for an actress who is a princess on a sci-fi show in which the main characters are bugs. So Desi is signing photos dressed as an inelegant caterpillar and gets proposed to by a crazy guy dressed as a wood louse. It was so hilarious! Each substitute job has its own fiasco to deal with as Desi learns the ropes. I think this really does have the potential to be a charming and popular series among young teen girls. So, if you are looking for a bit of magic and a laugh this would be a good one to pick up.

Also, Check out this awesome post at Cynsations. There is video of Lindsey Leavitt reading from Princess for Hire and an author interview.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Full Sail by Beverly Pierce Strobel

Full Sail: A 21st Century Spiritual Cruise on Board the Mayflower by Bev erly Pierce Stroebel

So, I must admit that I didn’t really like Full Sail, though I did find some parts of it interesting. My first impression was that it was a social history of Puritan religion and how it affected U.S. institutions, law, and traditions today. In short I was expecting a more academic approach to the topic. Full Sail truly is more of a daily spiritual devotional guide than history.

The author has spilt up the chapters into logbook entries that correspond to major historical landmarks made by the Puritans, who sailed over on the Mayflower. Each chapter starts with a scripture, a wake-up call and briefing. The “wake-up call” usually involved famous, interesting, and on-topic quotes by historical leaders, writers, and figures. The “briefing” would introduce the topic the author wanted address through the lens of the puritan experiences and then turned into a social commentary on how the nation incorporated these values or ideas, and how the issues apply to the present day. Some of these briefing topics included: education, law enforcement and court systems, liberty, land, language, and literacy.

Many of the topics were treated rather superficially without much detail. The author quoted other people more often than I would have liked. I would have liked to hear more of her thoughts and opinions expressed.

I found a few of her "briefing" essays really interesting. I enjoyed reading the author’s essay on marriage. The essay focused a lot on how Christ has a marriage like relationship with those who are believers. It was an interesting comparison and fascinating to read.

After opening this way the author would list “Free Time” options where she encouraged readers to do service, ponder a certain theme, or some other activity that would incorporate the topic into devotional participants lives.

After free time was a “last briefing” in which the author includes hymn that applied to the topic and prayers. I’m really not a fan of written prayers, and so didn’t really like this section. I most especially didn’t like this section when it included a “cruise bonus” which 90% of the time was a scene from a screenplay, which was obviously the author’s pet project. These things were occasionally really difficult to read through. The dialogue was so fake, and writing often hit the reader over the head with an obvious theme. Really, it just wasn't something I was excited to be reading. A few scenes weren’t that bad, but most of them were pretty hard to get through, and there were a few that I gave up reading at all in order to move on to the next topic. There is a decent short story about teddy bears that was a nice break from screen plays, though.

Other points along the daily devotional could include a “cruise library visit,” which was a list of recommended books on the topic the author was addressing. Each chapter also included the introduction of each generation of the author’s ancestors. So, the book has a very strong Family History bent to it, and includes basic information on doing genealogical research. The author also repeats about four different times that her ancestor Mary Chilton was the first woman to set foot on Plymouth Rock, according to family oral traditions. I think she does a very good job at introducing the history and background of her ancestors and I found this to be rather interesting. Perhaps, because it was personal to the author and it becomes obvious how much research she had done to recreate the history and lives of these people in her mind. In fact, the main character in her screenplay excerpts is none other than Mary Chilton.

Each devotional ends with “covenant and dedications” which includes positive affirmations about the topic discussed, and a “night watch,” which included a list of scriptures to read.

I don’t think I would really recommend Full Sail to anyone I know, but it is a book that contains a lot of information. There is a large bibliography on Mayflower topics, including a reading list of books for children and young adults on the topic. A section on Genealogy resources, marriage resources, a list of information and organizations devoted to messianic Jews, a list of ministries, volunteer organizations, and humanitarian aid services are also included in the appendix.

The book has a lot of resources and talking points for those that are interested in presenting American themed spiritual discussions/lectures/sermons. It could also be a useful resource for those that are specifically interested Mayflower Pilgrims’ Family History. I don’t think I quite fit in the author’s target audience, but I hope I gave enough information about the style and format of the book so that those interested can make better decisions on purchasing it.

Bring it on communications send this book for me to review.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding Clean Books: Authors Part 3

Part 3: A special note about column three authors, and assigning groups.

The other thing about discernment is that those icky, yucky, column three authors that are proud of writing things distasteful (to me! Remember it’s all about me here! ) can sometimes write good stuff. Not all of Orson Scott Card’s books are bad. I really like his Women of Genesis Trilogy, nay love. So, sometimes you can take a chance even on those blokes, but only rarely and for me only after careful consideration of the genre, reviews, and recommendations.

One last topic to mention is that I do read authors that are not in any of these three groups. Some of them don’t fit in the columns. For example, I recently read Spells by Aprilynne Pike. I’ve only read two of her books. I don’t know which of the groups she fits into yet. She is a strong column two contender, but I’m not sure yet. She may be column three, not necessarily because of horrible content, but she just likes to explore morals in a way that I dislike. Her fairy mythology is very um, favorable toward casual romantic encounters, we’ll say. Then there were the numerous make out scenes in Spells. Every little detail that I can gather is used to form an impression of that author.

For example, I know that Pike used to be a Doula/Midwife. So, I can look at that and say she is probably comfortable addressing those types of topics. This may come out in her fiction in different ways. Is not Wings essentially a maturation story? Much of the focus behind fairy mythology and culture in book one and two is centered around the reproduction and upbringing practices among fairies. What would make me squirm might not phase this author in the least because of her experiences in that regard, and because of this I started out with the impression that she would be more liberal in addressing these topics. This actually made me judge her stories less harshly rather than more harshly I might add. (I must point out that I am not prudish enough to think that including these themes in her books makes the author evil or wicked. Repeat I am not saying Pike is evil or writes evil books!!!). Yet, from now on I will view her other books with a skeptical eye, because I will be familiar with how her authorial style fits with my reading tastes, and sometimes they don't always match.

So, with Pike’s work I am still trying to figure out where I put her on my author list, and whether I will keep reading her work. It might take me a while to figure that out. Maybe the Wings series will just be so-so for me and I might love work she produces later, or I may just decide that her style doesn’t jive with my reading tastes. That is okay. Remember I can choose my own tastes and so can you. You can praise her to high heaven, and I can decide to pass by on her next best thing, and we can both still be right.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


So, the hubby and I are on a self-imposed book buying budget. So, on the budget for this month was to buy The Last Olympian in Paperback, and Naomi Novik’ s newest novel Tongue of Serpents. So, we went to our lovely Barnes and Noble, and searched around.

First, off the store was quite confusing as the staff was reorganizing book shelves for back to school displays. So, I finally found where I wanted to be, and there were no Last Olympians in paperback. There should be a huge stack of them, but no, they were not there.
I meet up with the hubby. No luck finding Tongue of Serpents. So I ask the customer service desk if they had these two books. The results of the interrogation were not very heartening.

The Last Olympian is not slated to come out in paperback until Jan 2011. Seriously?! This book was published in May 2009. That is like two years people, two years that I’ve been waiting to buy and read this book in paperback. I swear it was another Barnes and Noble worker THIS MAY that told me this book was going to come out MID JULY. What happened? Was the printing delayed for some reason?

So yeah, I should just get over myself and buy the hardback, but that would ruin our collection! I have to buy a series all in hardback or all in paperback or else it looks stupid on your book shelf. This is a nerdy obsession I realize and not entirely rational, but the hubby agrees and so we will persist in waiting for it to come out in paperback before we shell out the cash. I can wait 6 more months! Arggg!

So, this experience leads up to Tongue of Serpents. The customer service guy was really nice and a good sport, and showed us that is was on a special display table of new releases. (note: I was very nice and polite to him. I did not rant at him as I am ranting in this post.) Guess what? To our horror it was in HARDBACK! WHAT?!

Every single other book in the series (five books, people, five books!) came out in paperback, and now on the sixth book the publisher decides to publish in hardback? What? NOOOO! We are thwarted again. We can’t just buy a hardback when all the other books in the series we own are in paperback. That just won’t do. So, I basically just laughed about our bad luck and told the customer service guy thanks. He went his merry way, and we searched for some other books to buy, but we are a picky lot and get pickier as each year goes by, and so we did not buy any books.

Hear that? We went to Barnes and Noble to buy books and didn’t buy anything! It was a very sad day for us book nerds. Alas, we will wait a year to read and buy Novik’s book. We are still loyal fans, but we must have our lovely Temeraire books in paperback.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale

Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale

Calamity Jack is the sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge, a retelling of the Rapunzel story with a western twist. Calamity Jack takes place in the big city, and recounts how Jack ended up out west, and what happens when he come back home with Rapunzel. This retelling of Jack and the beanstalk opens with a humorous narration of Jack’s wayward youth, and how he plotted to steal from the one of the town’s most influential businessman, Blunderbore the Giant. Having angered one of the most powerful individuals in the city Jack made a break for the west.

Now that he has returned with Rapunzel he finds large portions of the city in ruins, and that everyone is afraid. Apparently, a large ant army has been terrorizing the citizens and destroying the city. Jack discovers that his mother’s house is destroyed and that his mother is forced to work for Blunderbore himself. Jack is angry and determined to get his mother out of the clutches of the evil giant, but Jack must also contend with the mysterious ant creatures, which are still terrorizing the town. Jack and Rapunzel do some sleuth work and determine that the ant army and Blunderbore are somehow connected. Jack and Rapunzel have to put together a rag-tag team clever enough to rescue Jack’s mom and save the town from the terrorizing ant army.

From the very first page this book had me laughing. I read this little book in one afternoon, and felt like I had just watched a very clever and satisfying movie after I finished. Usually, I have a hard time getting into graphic novels, but I was sucked right in from the beginning with this one. I don’t know if that had anything to do with the fact that I had read Rapunzel’s Revenge and so was already familiar with the characters, but I really enjoyed the story-line. The new characters— a fairy with a hat fetish, and a newspaper man obsessed with inventions— were funny and interesting. I had so much fun reading about their adventures as they plotted to take down Blunderbore together. I also really loved the city setting and the fun steam-punky inventions that showed up every once in a while. Rapunzel is a strong, spunky, female character that defies all conventions to come to the rescue of those in need. Jack is a lovable renegade with a soft heart. To all those in need of a quick, entertaining, and hilarious adventure story I’d recommend this book.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Signed Books: Shannon Hale

I think I got both of these signed at the Provo Children's books Festival. It is a bit hard to read them. Book of a Thousand Days says " May you Find your own way out of the tower."

I love Shannon Hale because she seemes like such a fun and cool lady. I have enjoyed all her Bayern Books, and Goose Girl is one of my all time favorites.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Finding Clean Books: Authors Part 2

Authors Part 2: Don’t take things for granted:

One of the reasons I think it is so hard for people to find good books is that they are lazy. They don’t want to do the work. They want to pick up any book off the shelf and have it meet their standards perfectly. This is a bit unrealistic. Am I guilty of this? Probably have been in the past.

But the number one thing is that you need to be discerning and use your own judgment. Only you can decide what you like to read. Only you can decide how much detail is too much detail. I know what is good for me (and this post is all about me, remember?) and not for you. Your tastes are your job, not mine. Got that? Good.

This discernment part is where it gets tricky. The thing is that the authors in group one are pretty much a safe bet, but they are really rare. I read so much that I would run out of things to read if I only read in column one. Plus, reading only certain authors all the time would be really boring. Column one writers are good writers, but sometimes you need to read something written in a different style. Not to mention the fact that the column one authors can be hard to find (read: not at the library). I can’t buy all the books I read or I would be broke. So, I have to rely a lot on column two.

Authors in group two are a pretty safe bet, but they are unpredictable. They have never advertised themselves as “clean only” authors. They have no contract with me saying that they will always follow my preferences. In fact, they may write a completely clean trilogy or series of books that I love and cherish and recommend to everyone. Then they may write a really dark, depressing book that I will hate. So, really you have to be smart, but taking a few steps can reduce your chance of getting a stinker.

*analyze the book cover (there are often important clues there!)

*Read the back liner

* Read what the author has written about writing the book

* Read reviews written by the author’s fans

*Read reviews of those who are not fans

*Talk to someone in your neighborhood/library/school, etc.

Do your research then take an educated risk. Occasionally you will get burned, but usually you will run into a red flag if you do at least three of these things.
Do I do all of these things? All of the time? If I do all these things how do I even have time to read? Am I insane? Lately, I’ve been following recommendations of book bloggers, and even of column one and two authors. Sometimes these experiments work and sometimes they don’t. I think I get lucky a lot. Some genres are easier to navigate than others.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Everyone thinks that the Incarceron created Finn, but he has memories of before. Memories of some place outside the prison. The only one who really believes him is an old sapient wise-man named Gildas, who believes in the lore about Sapphique, the only prisoner to ever escape. Gildas believes that between his knowledge of Sapphique lore and Finn’s visions of the outside that following Finn is the way to escape. Finn thinks that they both must be crazy until he finds a woman that recognizes the tattoo on his arm. The tattoo looks exactly like a key that she found, and once Finn gets his hands on the key he finds out that there really is an outside, because he can talk to a girl named Claudia through it.

When Claudia’s father, the warden of Incarceron, comes home and announces that her wedding date to Prince Casper has been moved up, Claudia panics. She hasn’t wanted to marry him since she learned of the engagement, and now she can no longer ignore the fact that the day of reckoning has come. As the maids flurry around the house making preparations she knows that her time at the house is short, and so is her time to find out exactly what her father is planning. So she and her tutor Jared make bold plans to break into his study, but she doesn’t find what she expected. All she finds is a key—a key to Incarceron. This key brings her into communication with Finn, a prisoner who is trying to find the way out. As the two communicate they discover a web of secrets that will change both of their worlds forever.

So I took a risk when I bought Incarceron because I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not. I had read several reviews of it online. Some people loved it and others didn’t. One of the kids in the High School library raved that it was ranked among one of the best books he had ever read. I knew enough about the book to know that it was sort of fit into the steampunk sub-genre. So, I decided to risk it and ordered it off of Barnes and Noble the weekend that they sent a 15% off coupon to me. Incarceron doesn’t rank among one of the best books I have ever read, but I can recommend it as a good book. I was intrigued by the premise of the story from the very beginning, and became interested in both Claudia and Finn. It wasn’t until the last half of the book that I got hooked into plot and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I really liked all the Sapphique lore and thought that it gave the book a nice mythical feel to it.

The book is set in a future in which the king has declared that the kingdom must go back to old values in order to avoid war and social collapse. So the government has mandated that everything must be in era, specifically the Victorian Era. I had a debate with my husband about whether or not it was really steampunk because it was set in the future, and the technology wasn’t based off of the industrial revolution, but was far more advanced. I think my husband had a point when he said that most of the charm of steampunk is the alternate history aspect of it, but I feel that those who love steampunk stories will find enough Victorian era inspiration in the book to enjoy it as a steampunkish novel. I think the biggest complaint I had about this novel was that some of the descriptions were hard to follow on multiple occasions, but I don’t think this ruins the overall enjoyment of the characters and plot line. I am intrigued enough to want to check out the sequel Sapphique in December.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Finding Clean Reads: Authors Part 1

How to find clean books: Author’s Part 1
Sometimes it is hard to find clean books, and so I thought I would give few clues on how I find clean books.

1. Look by author:
Anyone, who is really up to snuff on LDS authors will probably recognize that I read a lot books written by LDS authors. A lot of them are publishing really good stuff in the national market right now. Part of the reason why I read this way is because if the author has the same belief system as I do I have a higher chance of getting a book that will meet my standards. This is not 100% reliable, because there is a wide variety, even among people of the same religion, of opinions on what is appropriate to include in fiction and what is not. Some Mormons think it is perfectly fine to go see rated R movies. I don’t happen to agree with them, even if it is a patriotic historical war movie. This is a history major talking! Alas! I guess I get to miss out. I’m good with that. It is really easy to judge and say people are going to go to @#!*% for such things, but really this post isn’t about what they do. It is all about me and what I like! :)

Author Group 1:

Some author’s like to cultivate the “clean romance/ya/ insert genre” image, and it becomes a part of their brand. It becomes a part of their mission and their goal as an author. I like this brand. It is a good brand. I follow it. Some examples of author’s who do this are Jannette Rallison, Rachel Ann Nunes, Chris Heimerdinger, Jason Wright.

Author Group 2:
Then there are some authors who for whatever reasons be they moral, or stylistic just aren’t interested in including certain types of details in their books. Some are respectful of their audience, some get bored by such content, some just don’t like to write those types stories. Whatever the reason these are also nice people to flock around. People like Shannon Hale, Mette Ivie Harrison, Scott Westerfeld, Jessica Day George, etc.

Author Group 3:
Then there are some authors who like to flaunt the fact that they are brave enough to include lurid details in their books. The content doesn’t matter as long as it is realistic and true to the story. The content doesn’t matter as long as they sale millions of books. The content doesn’t matter because they are an “artist.” The content doesn’t matter because they have an important message. From these types, I like to run like the plague. We just don’t get along. If I read something they write it is most likely that I’m going to get burned. So, I rarely try to pick up one of their books. Orson Scott Card often has this effect on me.

I would love if readers left comments of authors they recommend from groups 1 and 2!

This essay ended up being too long to publish in one post. Part 2: "Don't take things for granted" will be posted on Monday July 12.