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.