Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

Voices of Dragons
by Carrie Vaughn
Fantasy, YA
309 pages
published: 2010
3 of 5 stars


On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity's deepest fears: dragons.

Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she's breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she'd rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, the rules are abruptly shattered, and a secret friendship grows between them.

But suspicion and terror are the legacy of human and dragon inter­actions, and the fragile truce that has maintained peace between the species is unraveling. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war?
- from Goodreads


I love dragons. Really I do. Even the bad ones. How could I resist this book? I couldn't. And I enjoyed it just fine. There were dragons, a dragon culture, a dragon history, flying with the dragon...enough to make me want more (as in wish they were more present in the book and to be happy to read further in the series) of Vaughn's dragons. The main human character was likable enough too. I liked her physical prowess at outdoor sports, her guts, and her loyalty to her friend. I also liked that she had two involved parents. I was even intrigued by the 'history' of the world (which is our current world, sorta) and the explanations of how everything got to the point of the story.

I did have some difficulties though. At first I felt the writing and tone suggested a book for a younger audience. It felt simple. I was all prepared to adjust my expectations to a that level, when a preoccupation with sex started to get too much 'screen' time. (Or more accurately, the lack of sex.) So no, there wasn't any 'mature' scenes, but there was discussions and the implication that the main character was weird because she didn't want to join the crowd. There did end up being a slight point to it all, but it was distracting and made the book unfit for youngers. Then I was just confused. What was the book trying to be? 

Thankfully, it hit it's stride about half way through when the conflict and action caught up to the other subject matters. Much better. It redeemed itself and I'm interested in reading the second, which seems like it might not have such a rocky beginning - considering it will have a kick start from the cliff hanger at the end of book one. 

Bottom line: This book is good for older teens who like fantasy, and particularly dragons. I don't think it is enough in itself to start a love of dragons, but that probably isn't anyone's goal. Except maybe mine.

Listful Mondays: Reasons to Step Out of Your Bookish Comfort Zone

Listful Mondays!! Hopefully everything will be back to the regularly scheduled program.

Saturday was the Utah Book Bloggers Summer Social. It is the fourth one, but the first that I have been to. My husband stayed home with the kids and I caught a ride with Suey (It's All About Books). Nervous to meet a park full of strangers? Yes.

Reasons to Step Out of Your Bookish Comfort Zone...
  1.  Book Bloggers are really nice and rather sedate.
  2. Cool new and not-so-new local authors to see.
  3. Getting to put my name in the new author's ARC so I can be on the blog tour.
  4. Bringing home 2 new books from the book swap, one from a different new local author.
  5. Getting out of the house without children. (A phenomenon so exciting is eclipsed the nerves. Mostly.)
  6. Putting faces with names and sites.
  7. Actually talking to some of the bloggers, and not just the ones I already knew.
  8. Having one blogger pause while passing me and my name tag (which we write out blog names on) and exclaim, "Ooh, I love your blog!"
  9. Not having anyone spoil Mockingjay.
  10. Listening to the conversations. Yes, listening. For a while I had an author conversation going on one side, and a book conversation going on the other. My attention swiveled from one side to the other.
  11. Comfy camp chairs and fresh air. (Ha! There was so much wind we almost blew away. I had to shower all the grit off when we got home. But it was fresh!)
  12. Knowing that the next time I will feel more comfortable and might even speak up a bit. (At least among book people, they don't look at you too strangely for your shyness/anti-social tendencies. They either empathize or are used to it.)
I have sat on this posts for weeks because I couldn't find the time or organization skills to put up all the links to all the bloggers who attended. I can't sit anymore, so I'm cheating. Please click over to It's All About Books (Linked you twice - ha Ha!) and see more (better) pictures and links to the awesome attendees. Phew. Now I can move on.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: The Fairy's Return and other Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine

The Fairy's Return and other Princess Tales
by Gail Carson Levine
MG, Fairy Tale
400 pages
published: 2002
2 of 5 stars / 4 of 5 stars


What would you do if diamonds and rubies tumbled out of your mouth every time you spoke? Well, that's what happens to Rosella after a run-in with a misguided fairy in The Fairy's Mistake. If you were turned into a toad, would you pine after your prince as much as Parsley does in For Biddle's Sake?
The road to happily-ever-after is never easy, but the masterful touch of Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine will keep readers laughing their way through these fresh retellings of popular fairy tales. - from Goodreads

Just to be clear, this is a book of short stories. I recall being disappointed when that realization hit me after I had grabbed this book at the school book fair.


After the initial shock of having a volume of short stories subsided, I began to enjoy this little book. The stories where cute retellings with a sense of humor. I happily skipped my way through the first few, delighted and thinking about how pleasant these will be for Jadyn. They weren't very deep or earth-shattering, but sweet and moral and clever.

Around the half way point, I changed my mind. What had been charming and amusing, became repetitive and ridiculous. My momentum diminished and then died. I doubt I would have finished if I hadn't stuck it in a place where I could pick it up when boredom overcame my annoyance with the book. The stories became so repetitive, in fact, that now I can't separate them in my head. Help!

Yet, there is a silver lining. I gave this to Jadyn, the target audience, and she loved it. She devoured it in a matter of days. I don't think she noticed that every male character had two older (and awful) brothers. I'll even suggest this to be a great introduction type book for any princess or fairy loving little girl.

So, 2 stars from me for the sake of the early pleasure, and 4 stars for the middle grade club.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

The God of Animals
by Aryn Kyle
320 pages
published: 2007
3 of 5 stars


Twelve-year-old Alice Winston is growing up fast on her father's run-down horse ranch--coping with the death of a classmate and the absence of her older sister (who ran off with a rodeo cowboy), trying to understand her depressed and bedridden mother, and attempting to earn the love and admiration of her reticent, weary father. - from Goodreads


Let me first say that this book is about many things that either I don't find all that interesting or would just not generally seek out. Like horses. Training, riding, breeding horses. (I missed that girly boat apparently.) Mean fathers. Teacher infatuation. Preoccupation with death. Yet, and it's an important yet, I kept reading. Kyle somehow rendered all this that I don't much care for very  interesting. Especially the horses. 

That goodness in the book was the family dynamics. The sad, sick, oh-so-painfully-honest dysfunctional family dynamics. It was fascinating and heartbreaking to watch Alice try and survive the hand she was dealt. She pined for love. I ached for her. I cringed so many times at the characters decisions. I screamed what the characters should have said inside my head to no avail. This book had plenty of emotional pull. I'm still upset at one of my favorite characters for her ridiculousness at the end.

Another amazing thing was that I finished this book and realized there weren't any good guys. There were awful people who had bright (or bright - er moments) and okay people who turned out not so great. There were misunderstandings, forgiveness, and moments of dull beauty...but it was all sad and painful to me.

Though it is about a teenager, and many of the issues would be familiar to teens, I wouldn't classify it as YA because it had the feel of an adult looking back on childhood. 

If it was all so interesting and powerful, why didn't I rate it higher? Mostly because it left me feeling unhappy, and I doubt I'll ever read it again. (Though I don't regret reading it.) Will you feel this way? I have no idea. It is a moving, realistic, memorable, contemporary read, filled with flawed, oh-so-flawed, people and lots of horses. You could give it a try. Want my copy?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Review: Ondine: the Summer of Shambles by Ebony McKenna

Ondine: The Summer of Shambles
by Ebony McKenna
YA, Fantasy
336 pages
published: 2010
4.5 of 5 stars


A teenage girl, in a small eastern European country, runs away home from physic camp with her new pet ferret. She tries to go back to her life helping in her family's restaurant, but has trouble after trouble with the fact that her ferret isn't really a ferret at all.


I was so excited about this book I just went ahead and ordered it off amazon. But then there was had a bad moment. You see, I had some expectations. Expectations that weren't the fault of this book at all. I had my mind set that this was a high fantasy novel, taking place in another world, would not be a contemporary time period, and that it involved quests and journeys. And that there would be no footnotes. We got off on the wrong foot and I set this book aside with much disappointment. My bad. With a little time to adjust my arbitrary expectations, I picked Ondine up again and loved it.

So note: This takes place in our world and time, though this obscure country does remove it from daily experience. There are no real quests. The characters stay fairly close to home. And there are footnotes.

About those footnotes. When I wasn't ready for them, I was annoyed. When I came back, loosened up and in a good humor, I found them right funny. I grinned my way through much of this book. Through the footnotes, the author was my buddy. A facetious, flighty buddy. Very enjoyable. And the translations of Scottish brogue were helpful.

The characters and their bizarre situation drive this novel. Shambles the ferret is saucy and witty. I liked him equally as a ferret and a man. Ondine is sweet and hard working, and has a brilliant breakdown. Ondine's family is large and interesting and soaked into the pages, even proving to be the cause of her current troubles.

I read it one sitting and had a great time.

There was one not so favorite thing. Ondine seemed a little hot-blooded even for a teen. Raging hormones much? Because of that, this book isn't really for younger teens. It doesn't get descriptive, but the feelings and situations might not be understandable to youngsters. There are occasional racy comments (amusing ones) and lots of blushing.

A very fun read.

Other Reviews:
In the Hammock  (I so should have been prepared for the footnotes! You mentioned them clearly. Bad memory of mine.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Reading Anniversary

I didn't know to be grateful for a husband who reads when I was first married. I was naive enough to think that everyone loved reading as much as I. I know better now and I am grateful. We celebrated 12 years on June 20th.

When I asked Scott what was something he would like to do to celebrate, he said he wanted me to read to him. For our date I grabbed a simple and short romantic novel that I have enjoyed several times and we headed up into the mountains. We walked some lovely paths through the Sundance resort before finding the most perfect place to read. There was no one else around, there was a comfortable bench, there was a cool breeze coming off the water fall, and the scenery could not have been more beautiful. A perfect date. (Later we rode the moonlit chair lift ride. Highly recommend. Very romantic.)

I'm going to tell you now that book moment about The Apprentice by Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore mentioned in Book Moments and probably before. Pointless Story Warning.

I found The Apprentice at a used book store and it's cover struck my fancy. It is a short romance/fantasy that appealed to my teenage sense of isolation and drama. (I'll have to review it later. I really do love it. Though as an adult re-reader, I know some of my love is nostalgia. It is a bit of a self-indulgent book.) I loaned it to my friends and they loved it too. Then I loaned it to a less responsible friend and I never saw it again. I dutifully searched all my used book store haunts and could not find another copy. I even went to new book stores. Nothing. This was before the internet, the wonderful amazon, or even before I was aware I could ask a book store to order it for me. Such naivety! Sigh. Regardless. To me, this favorite book was lost forever....

Flash forward to my first semester at college. I had become friends with an apartment of guys and I hung there a lot. (I think I appreciated the quiet, stress-free environment over the girly craziness of my own. I tended to nap there.) One of the guy friends took me to visit a neighbor he had computer questions for. While I zoned out during the computer discussion, I noticed a book shelf and began scanning the titles. I recognized some and registered him as a fantasy reader. Then I saw The Apprentice. Cosmic Moment. So shocked was I that I burst out, interrupted their riveting conversation, "You Have The Apprentice!" I don't normally talk, let alone interrupt, strangers. In embarrassment I babbled about loving that book and losing it. This nice guy then just up and offered his copy to me. (I don't remember how, but he happened to know it was quite near my birthday.) I was stuck. I also don't just accept gifts. Especially from strange boys. But it was The Apprentice.

I took it. Oh the shame. What weakness! I clutched my ill-gotten book and retreated.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that later, when I encountered him again, I was more than willing to talk and play...till 3:00 in the morning. (I'm a sucker for rubber band wars, and this guy taught me how to flick pennies. The joy!) And then with even less surprise, that I married him.

Happy Anniversary Scott! I love you and I love that you love books and I love that you just gave me that book I wanted so badly. I'll never forget.

Review: Illusion by Paula Volsky

by Paula Volsky
674 pages
published: 1991
6 of 5 stars


For two hundred years the Exalted classes have used their dazzling magical abilities to rule Vonahr. Now, their powers grown slack from disuse and their attention turned to decadent pleasures, they ignore the misery of the lower classes until the red tide of revolution sweeps across the land. Thrust into the center of the conflict is the beautiful Eliste vo Derrivalle, spirited daughter of a provincial landowner, who must now scramble for bread in the teeming streets of the capital. With the key to her magical abilities an elusive secret, she must suddenly find a way to survive in a world gone mad ... with liberty.

Illusion is a work of fantasy on the grandest scale - a seamless web of passion, danger, heroism, and romance that will hold you spellbound from the first page to the last. -
from Goodreads


I'm breaking back into the review groove with one of my all-time-favorite books. I read this one in High School after picking it out cold from a used book store. I just liked the cover. Thought is would involve hardship.

This was one I mentioned in my Book Moments post, about hiding in my room in the garage, on my little couch, next to my huge pile of clean clothes (because I never put them away), and hoping Mom didn't find me with some necessary housework. All day. I couldn't stop. I had never read anything like it.

It wasn't high fantasy in the sense that there was a whole world to save from some powerful evil. It didn't have other races of creatures or a big world to traverse. In some ways it was even myopic, with Eliste trying to save her own life and preserve her world view that was being threatened on every side.

Yet Eliste was not the only point of view written. You get to observe the "bad guys" and the "good guys" and wonder which exactly are the bad and the good. Or is everyone just misguided? Focused? Lost? Wrong?? Wrong in that way that everyone is a least a little wrong...too egocentric to see beyond our own noses.

If I had to describe this book in 4 words it would be: French Revolution with Magic. But that makes it sound too simple. It sometimes read like a history book, sometimes like a romance, sometimes like a fantasy. It jerks your sympathies. It surprises you with hidden identities, stubborn determination, and just how low the characters sink. It is filled with lovable characters. Lovable because they are absolute stinkers - ignorant, immature, arrogant, impetuous, self-centered, proud, silly, vain - with flashes of brilliance and self-sacrifice and tenacity and forgiveness.

It has been a while since I've read it last (though I've read it probably 3 times) and I keep remembering another part that I loved, and another. I can hardly pick. Ooh ooh I want you to read it!

Back to salient points. Engulfing read. Haunting. Unforgettable. Amazing characters - the good and the not so good. Satisfying and plausible ending without too much "happily ever after." And in a small way, I feel like a have a better handle on the psychology of revolution, elitism, mob control, and survival.

My only complaint? Those stinking French names that I can't pronounce. Grrr. 

Give it a try. I'll be shocked if you regret it.

A Letter

 (Hiking in Logan Canyon)

Dear Bloggies,

As is obvious, Summer and blogging didn't mix for me. With all 5 critters home all day there were no peaceful nap times with the computer on my lap. At first, I was horrified and stressed. I begged and bribed and wheedled. I ranted and fussed and complained. I tried writing late at night. I tried writing midst the chaos. I threw a fit. I pouted and sulked and whined.

And then I accepted it and gave up.

Things were better after that. Though I much missed your blogs and comments.

But I was able to read. Some I read out loud to everyone. Some I read in my swing while the critters played outside. Some I read with one hand while holding the baby so he would sleep with the house spinning around him. I have much to review and discuss.

School started today, and while things aren't "back to normal" yet since my husband is upstairs nursing a back this moment Baby boy is asleep and the computer is unmolested on my lap. :) So much to do!

And anyone attending the Utah Book Blogger's Social this Saturday, I hope to see you there. It will be my first social. I am excited and nervous. Big smiles!

Bookingly Yours,
A Small Accomplishment

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Dunce

A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth C. Dunce
YA, Fairy Tale
396 pages
published: 2009
3 of 5 stars


Upon the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Charlotte struggles to keep the family's woolen mill running in the face of an overwhelming mortgage and what the local villagers believe is a curse, but when a man capable of spinning straw into gold appears on the scene she must decide if his help is worth the price.  - from Goodreads


I liked this book. It was a creative retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with a curse and a mystery, a history and the additional characters of the mill and the village. I enjoyed the perspective of the "Miller's Daughter" rather than Rumpelstiltskin. I believed in the characters. I reveled in hating one of them and loving others. I loved learning about the technical aspects of making and selling cloth. The writing was good, with emotional situations making me feel all the appropriate emotions.

Yet overall, this was no love affair for me for two main reasons - both of which are matters of personal taste/preference and do not prevent me from recommending this or understanding why others love it. First, I must be used to characters starting off at rock bottom, or quickly hitting rock bottom, and spending the rest of the time climbing out. It was difficult to read about a character whose situation got better, than worse, than really great, than worse-er... At one point when things were happy, I put the book down and didn't read for a while. I didn't want to ride the roller coaster down again! I am glad that I did finish. The ride was rough but the ending rewarding.

The second reason this wasn't my favorite story had to do with Charlotte. I admired her tenacity and hard work and independence and practicality. But she eventually carried it to the ridiculous and I stopped admiring her. She began doing things and making decisions that I hated. I have been thinking about this. More often than not characters do things I wouldn't do, think things I wouldn't think, and make decisions I wouldn't make, but that doesn't stop me from liking them or their story. My problem with Charlotte must have to do with the area of her disagreeable decisions. She poked a nerve of mine. At one point she was faced with a decision and she hesitated - honestly hesitated - and from that point on she lost me. My interest in finishing the story became more about solving the mystery than out of concern for her, and the loss of that personal dimension in a story is detrimental to me.

Overall? It is a worthwhile book that I would recommend to fairy tale lovers. It is not a personal favorite of mine.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BBAW Registration


I am trying to carefully follow all the directions to participate in BBAW which is coming up after school starts, which I think is a good thing. I don't really know what it is all about, but it sounds exciting and fun. So I'm declaring my blog as an eclectic blog after much hemming and hawing. Here is the snippet of description: this blog doesn’t specialize in any one book genre. It is known for consistently excellent reviews, recommendations, analysis, and other content in a variety of genres.

I tried hard to fit somewhere else, but I review everything from picture books to classics. (Is this a problem for anyone??)

I've pulled out my 5 posts and now I'm jumping into the water!


Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
PPB: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson - Illus. by Jane Chapman
Review: Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Listful Mondays: Reading Hazards

If you'd like to look into registering, check it out HERE.

PPB: Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley - Illus. G. Brain Garas


I don't want people to think that, in my opinion, only rhyming picture books can be perfect, so I'm throwing in some southern prose.
Saving Sweetness
by Diane Stanley
Illus. by G Brain Karas
Picture Book
published: 1996


Mrs. Sump is so mean to the ophans that little Sweetness runs away. The sheriff is duty-bound to find that little 'thang' and save her from the hot hot desert and that nasty outlaw Coyote Pete. But who really saves whom?


I was first introduced to this book at a writing conference where I was privileged to hear Diane read it out loud to us. We were in stitches. It was glorious. I had to immediately acquire my own copy and have loved reading it to my kids since. It is a tad longer than your average picture book, but you won't even notice. You'll love the resourceful, polite, clever Little Sweetness and that good-intentioned but hapless Sheriff. And the book is a wallow of fanciful and funny southern sayings. I challenge anyone to read it out loud and not fall into a southern accent, fake or otherwise. And the ending is funny, sweet, and laced with my all-time-favorite, poetic irony.

Please check it out! You won't regret it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Black Hole Reviews

Welcome to another edition of Black Hole Reviews! As I slog through my backed up reader, I am finding so much I want to read. I am noticing that I'm drawn to this Eva Ibbotson's books, even though I haven't read a single one yet.  Perhaps I'm just in a romantical mood? Anyway, check out these appealing book and these awesome/sucky reviews.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study
by Maria V. Snyder
Fantasy, YA
416 pages
published: 2004
5 of 5 stars


About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace-- and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.
And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear....  - from Goodreads


I was longing for a book I could sink into and love, and I was fortunate to read this one. I was persuaded by several bloggers to put this on hold at the library and it came up just when I needed it. I quickly devoured this never-boring fantasy.

The Good Stuff:
  • Intriguing. I was fascinated by mystery, the horrible past, and the simple fact that this seemingly good character was perfectly fine with the murder she committed. I had to know the back story.
  • Different. I have never encountered the premise of being a compelled food taster before and enjoyed it. The post-rebellion world was also cool to explore. For all the problems with it, and all the reasons to dislike the government, it became apparent that it was a great improvement over before.
  • Pacing/Plotting. It was never dull. It felt like as soon as I got a handle on what was going on and started predicting where things would go next,  new layers of plot were spread on top.  
  • Characters. I loved that the characters where all (or nearly all) multi-faceted. The good guys did some questionable things, the bad guys had their reasons. Enemy and Friend where titles that were constantly changing. And yet the characters were consistent within themselves, you just couldn't always see the big picture at first.
  • World Building. I mentioned the post-rebellion government, but there was more to the world, including other countries and a magic system. This wasn't a hugely detailed or political book, but there was enough to completely immerse you in otherness.
  • The ending. There was a fully satisfying ending that wasn't perfect. Not a stressful cliffhanger. Not a pretty bow. Just goodness.
I highly recommend this to older teens and fantasy lovers.

Cautions: Some sex, fair amount of violence, and mature themes including torture and murder.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Listful Mondays: Book Moments I'll Never Forget

So it ended up being a three week break instead of one. My apologies. I had two rounds of family visitors, one right after the other, and then apparently a week to recover. It was all wonderful and busy and now summer will really start for my family. I'm excited to be blogging again, though I feel like it's has been years instead of three weeks, and my google reader agrees. Now we shall just have to see how (let's hope it is a 'how' and not a 'if') blogging will fit into this whole no school thing.

I am trying to list memories of books that are associated with specific times or moments in my life, not just awesome things I remember out of books. No attempt to write them in chronological order will be made - that would be entirely too much work.

Book Moments I Will Never Forget:
  1. Finishing the Anne of Green Gables series (with that glorious "yeth") and experiencing my first full blown case of P.A.B.D. (Post Amazing Book Depression). I just didn't know how to go on with my boring boring life.
  2. Going book shopping with my aunt, who doesn't like small children and who had only recently graduated me to the realm of worthwhile humans due to my double digit age and the fact that we both liked fantasy books. I confessed to liking Anne McCaffrey but that I hadn't read too many because of the lacking local and school libraries. She shocked me by buying Dragonsinger, the next book in the series, for me. At home I immediately curled up in the armchair and read the whole thing.
  3. Finishing Return of the King while nursing my second child. It was so heavy and dark that I had to repeatedly put it down for breathers, but since I had nowhere to go...I'd pick it back up.
  4. My senior English class when my teacher suggested I might like Pride and Prejudice. I held the plain little book I knew nothing about, shrugged, and opened to that famous line. Thank you Mrs. Cornelius.
  5. Attending the release party at Borders for the third Harry Potter with my baby girl (number one) dressed like Crookshanks. Then ever after having to buy the book on CD because neither my husband or I would relent and let the other read the new book first. We would drive aimlessly around town so we could listen to the book and the children would sleep.
  6. Whilst trapped at my grandma's house with nothing but reruns on cable, I scoured her meager bookshelf for something to pass the time. All her books were pastel and vapidly titled. No fantasy. I finally settled on a pink monstrosity mostly because it mentioned the ocean, and I embarked on my first romance novel. I was shocked by the amount sex (or near sex, frankly) and was deliciously scandalized by what my grandmother read.
  7. After trying unsuccessfully to read The Two Towers for what felt like months (and I suppose it could have been since I was probably 11ish) I gave up. How strange it felt. How like a failure. But at that moment I was honest and admitted it just wasn't making sense.
  8. Meeting Tasslehoff Burrfoot and the gang in Dragons of Autumn Twilight. I remember the scene so clearly I could have read it yesterday instead of in grade school. I was euphoric because it was adult fantasy and I could read it. It meant no more boring kid books.
  9. Trying to read The Book of Three on my brother's bed. (I've mentioned this one countless times.) I just wasn't ready for that one. I needed one more year.
  10. Stuck in a KOA while my parents did laundry, I grabbed a sci-fi book off the "here you can read this" shelf because it was by Anne McCaffrey and I was desperate. Enter The Rowan. I took that copy home with me. It became one of my friends.
  11. That moment in The Secret Garden when Collin walked and I knew I loved this book. It was also the moment when I acknowledged that my mother could pick out good books for me even though they weren't fantasy. I stopped fighting her suggestions. Mostly.
  12. The day, the whole entire day, I spent curled on the couch in my garage bedroom reading Illusion by Paula Volsky. I was so drawn in and desperate to finish it that I never strayed from my room for fear of being "assigned" something to do.
  13. Several things involving The Clan of the Cave Bear - remembering the title from what my 4th grade teacher was reading during our read-a-thon; being furious with my father for telling me I couldn't read it until I was 18, but telling my brother he could read it at 16, double standards suck; a friend in grade school scanning through the pages in the library because she hear there was "bad stuff" in it, and finally reading it, and loving it, on my own as an adult.
  14. Loving The Westing Game because the girl was named Turtle.
  15. Reading Out of the Dust by Karren Hesse is one breathless sitting, then reading it all over again out loud to my husband when he got home. Haunting. Glorious.
  16. Holes inspired a twice-read-in-a-day episode too. Amazing plotting and pacing. I had to share it immediately.
  17. Trying to read These is My Words on the treadmill and failing. I sat down, sweaty and exhausted, on the floor next to the treadmill and continued reading it...hoping to forget that breakfast and school and work would find me there.
  18. Needing a "break from it all" and hiding in my library with no idea what to read. I grabbed My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison for a re-read because I knew it would deliver what I wanted at that moment. And it did.
  19. Picking up my older sister's abandoned, water damaged copy of Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey and daring to open it. You see, my older brother had said her books weren't good, so I was rebelling. Within a few chapters I had decided to *gasp* disagree. A defining moment of independent decision making.
  20. The Apprentice by Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore. This will be discussed in another post soon to come.
This has been much fun. I'm sure that I am forgetting many, but I have to let go at some point... I would be in raptures to read about any of your unforgettable moments!

{Next week: Books I ReRead}

Thursday, June 3, 2010


As you have probably noticed, I haven't been posting. The situation has been so bad that I haven't even posted about not posting! Crisis.

You see, my house will very soon be the site of a family get together. I have a big family. While not everyone is coming, enough are for me to stress. We have had to recover the pool from a bad winter, fix broken pipes inside the outdoor drinking fountain, fix the the air conditioner, assemble the playset and the trampoline net, and clean clean clean. And run errands and shopping and getting vehicles registered and...and...and....there was school ending and graduations and outgrown shoes and reservations and a recital.

Well. They are all arriving Saturday and leaving approximately one week later. At that point I will have much blogging to do. I have a list. Literally. It's in my green notebook - reviews, lists, thoughts, ramblings, ideas, opinions. I'm dying not able to write anything. I am exhausted. I haven't even been reading. I haven't been sitting down. :(

But I shall be back as soon as I can be. I miss you Bloggies, and I miss reading reviews. I miss my books. Tomorrow I continue to scale Mt. Washmore.

See you on the other side!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Listful Mondays: Pumpkin Books

A Collection. Perhaps the titles in your crockpot cooking corner, or all the Newberry's you own, or the rhyming picture books. I'll be going with my pride and joy - my Pumpkin Book Collection. Especially since you all have heard enough about my fairy tales.

Alright Bloggies. A weekend has finally come when I was not on the computer at all. Not even to do my List. I'm embarrassed. But it was a holiday weekend, and though my husband wasn't off work, I had helpers willing to work with me on cleaning the house, putting together the new swing set and the trampoline surround net, cleaning the pool, doing the dishes, and even painting. I'm afraid I'll take some embarrassment for that. 

So though it's Tuesday, I'm going to pretend for a minute that it is still Monday and put up my list. My Pumpkin Book List. I've mentioned that I decorated my family room in pumpkins year round...well this collection sits on one of the shelves in that room. Many our taken out for Pumpkin Day in the Fall.

  1. Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd. (Picture Book.  A old woman who can't stand pumpkins because she had to eat too many as a kid finds herself with a whole crop of pumpkins in her yard. What will she do?)
  2. Pumpkins by Ken Robbins. (Picture Book. A journey with photographs through the life cycle of the pumpkin.)
  3. Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy, Illustrated by Pablo Bernasconi. (Picture Book. When the wind grabbed the unneeded pumpkin seeds and rained them down on the nearby village, that seemed to be the end of it...)
  4. Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper. (Picture Book. Three friends knew just how to do their own job and make the perfect pumpkin soup...until one of them decided they wanted someone else's job.)
  5. The Pumpkin Blanket by Deborah Turney Zagwyn. (Picture Book. A little girl learns to give up her favorite blanket for something else she loves.)
  6. Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin Pie by Jill Esbaum. (Picture Book. Another life cycle story told in photographs.)
  7. Halloween Pie by Michael O. Tunnell, Illustrated by Kevin O'Malley. (Picture Book. Witch makes a delicious pumpkin pie and curses it in case someone else tries to eat it.)
  8. Mrs. McMurphy's Pumpkin by Rick Walton, Illustrated by Delana Bettoli. (Picture Book. What if what of the pumpkins was...evil?)
  9. Pumpkin Time by Kathleen Wiedner Zoehfeld, Illustrated by Christopher Santoro. (Board Book. A Little's trip to the pumpkin patch.)
  10. Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin by Marcy Serfozo, Illustrated by Valeria Petrone. (Board Book. Another Little picks the perfect pumpkin. What for?)
  11. Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel. (Cookbook.)
  12. Pumpkins & Squashes. (Cookbook. With pretty pictures.)

You might think this overkill, but as with many addictions, this is NOT enough. I have my eye on several more pumpkin books and will probably grab another handful just before Pumpkin Day this year. Crazy? Perhaps. Awesome? Totally.

Do you have any collections??

{Next week - which will be the week after next week - explanation soon: Book Moments I'll Never Forget. (I'm real excited about this one.}

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

Keturah and Lord Death
by Martine Leavitt
Fantasy, Fairy Tale
216 pages
published: 2006
For: Book Club
Source: Purchased
6 of 5 stars


Keturah is the young and beautiful story teller of a medieval village who gets lost in the woods and dies...or nearly dies. When Lord Death comes to collect her, she finds out he is a handsome and interesting man. Keturah bargains for her life. She tells death a story about how she longs for true love, and she does not finish the end. Death grants her another day to live and a chance to find love. If she can, he will let her go indefinitely. Keturah has a lot to do in one day... 


I told you a while ago that I wanted a book to gush about...and I got my wish! Are you ready for gushing?

It looks like opinions on this are all over the board. I've read several negative reviews, and while I can concede their points, this book spoke to me. In fact, I will be rereading it soon because I was in such a hurry to get to the end that I know I didn't absorb as much as I wanted to. 

Why I loved this book? 

I loved it because it put me right into the story. There was very little set up, only a short prologue, and then I was right in the action. It caught me slightly off guard, ripped the ground I thought I would have out from under me, and I was sucked in.

I loved Keturah. I loved her effortless love and selflessness concerning her village and people. There was no wavering in her mind concerning Lord Death's offers. Even when faced with dire consequences, she worried much about her friends and their happiness. She was intelligent and resourceful. And she was not without flaws. She stubbornly stuck to an idea, a hoped-for outcome, which she knew was not correct. She very nearly managed, through stubbornness alone, to love someone she didn't love. In all other ways perceptive, in this one area she was painfully obtuse. I loved her self-realization and her courage to follow through. She tirelessly fought for those she loved, even when it demanded that she beg and use her one leverage against someone, though I believe it was anathema to her. I even loved how Keturah got caught up in everyday things when she should have been worried about her tasks. I can so easily see myself doing that. In our defense, big things are made up of those little things, and sometimes a problem feels too much to handle without breaking it down to the mundane like baking a pie or caring for a friend.. I exulted in Keturah's joy in the world she was allowed to see another day.

I loved the setting, the village, and the secondary characters. I loved her Grandmother who modeled real romantic love with her husband. I loved Keturah's friends, who were distinct people with loving hearts. I loved Soor Lilly with her knowledge and weakness for her sons.

I loved that it felt and read like a fairy tale. I thought for sure it was to be a retelling of Arabian Nights, but other than the beginning, it was not so. I felt like it was another tale that I should have known.

I loved Death. Can you believe that? He was strong and seemingly unyielding. He was not without compassion, but had it so schooled it was a tool. Yet he was not without weakness - curiosity being one of them. At one point he lost his control. I sympathized most with Lord Death. I ached for him.

I loved the ending. I knew how I wanted it to end, though the wanting wasn't without pain. But I worried that neither Keturah, nor the author, would have the courage to follow through. I worried that it would all tie up too nicely and that I would, in spite of myself, like it anyway. I worried in vain! Courage characterized the ending for me. Bittersweet and perfect, a sigh of satisfaction and a ache of sadness.

This book made me laugh and cry at the same time. It contained beautiful thoughts and little seeds of truth. I will be reading it again for those.

Keturah and Lord Death is one of my new Book Crushes and I'm thrilled that I had to buy a hardcover edition. (Apparently, paperbacks are out of print??) While I realize my love affair might be a very personal thing, I highly recommend this one.

I forgot to add one thing! I forgot probably because I dismissed it. The prologue should have been removed entirely. It is unnecessary, but worse, doesn't make logical sense. Goodbye prologue! No one shall miss you.

There was no significant violence, language, or sex, though the themes and scenes (including death, plague, and childbirth) are for a slightly more mature audience.

Monday, May 24, 2010

PPB: Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson - Illus. by Jane Chapman

I told you I was going to make it a feature. And now I have. Ta da! And I'm really excited about my button. That is my baby girl and I took that picture and I actually helped my husband make the button. (Okay, for the record, I always tell him what I have in mind, so I basically design them, but he does all the magic with the clicking and outlining and whatnot. He gets lots of input. I want to be like him when I grow up.) Anyway, it makes me happy. I love her toes.

Bear Snores On
by Karma Wilson
Illus. by Jane Chapman
Picture Book
published: 2002


In the middle of a fierce winter storm, a gang of little creatures gather for a party in the den of huge hibernating bear. Everything is going great until that proverbial pepper fleck...


This really is a perfect picture book. The story is adorable, with a fearsome surprise and a sweet ending. It is told in perfectly rhymed and metered poetry. It flows off your tongue in jumps and tickles. And the author manages, in the short stanzas, to give each character a voice and a personality. A joy to read out loud. And the illustrations are so cute I want to keep all those creatures and use Bear as a pillow.The expressions on their faces are priceless.

I own this one in it's original picture book size and in a board book form so the littler Littles can have fun with it too. And this author/illustrator team have paired up for several more books about Bear and his friends that are all lovely as well. Perhaps I'll feature a sequel some time in the future.

How about a tiny taste? I thought so!
An itty-bitty mouse,
pitter-pat, tip-toe,
creep-crawls in the cave
from the fluff-cold snow.

Listful Mondays: Reading Hazards

 Reading Hazards

We all know how dangerous our favorite hobby/time waster can be. (I am talking about reading, of course, Bloggies.) Let's put together a list of those hazards that have befallen us because of it.

  1. Cold Hands. For some reason my hands turn to ice as I read and I soon require blankets.
  2. Hand Cramps. Especially if I'm reading a hardback or tightly bound book that requires effort to hold it up or hold it open.
  3. Time Warp. It's 2:00 am? How did that happen? I've only been reading for a few minutes...
  4. Hearing Incapacitation. "Mom! I've asked you 5 times if we can have lunch yet!" "...Huh? I'm sorry. I didn't hear you!"
  5. Kitchen Disasters. Including, but not limited to, water overflowing the sink (my mom was furious) and burnt food.
  6. Big Purse Syndrome. (Though for the record, I hate the word purse and refer to mine as My Life. And it's a little backpack.) It has to be big enough to carry at least one novel.
  7. Literary Crying/Laughing. Yes, we will suddenly burst into tears or fits of laughter while reading. No, we are too involved to be embarrassed.
  8. P.A.B.D. Post Amazing Book Depression. Check out this by 25 Hour Books for more information. This requires a whole post unto itself, since I missed weekly geeks last week.
  9. T.B.R. Pile Stress. My brother was recently baffled by this phenomenon. He strove to clarify that none of the reading stress was from school or anything else that could conceivably require me to read anything. I don't think I defended myself well.
  10. Loss of Sleep. Refer back to Time Warp. Also when you can't fall asleep after such an exciting part of the story, or when you dream all blinkin' night about the book.
  11. Sequel Anticipation. Ya know, when you're just gonna die waiting.
  12. Loss of Money. It's a problem. That innocent stack of books at Borders totals really fast. And Amazon....ah suck me in with your free shipping and I forget I just spent $86 on books.
  13. Fictional Character Confusion. That's the confusion that exists when a pretend person becomes so important to you that you forget they are pretend.
  14. Eye Strain. Particularly evident when trying to read when it is really too dark.
  15. Dialect Transference. When you put down that period book or that regional story and find yourself talking that way for at least an hour afterward.
  16. Mispronunciations. Those big words you only encountered while reading and said wrong in your head for years, then got laughed at when you used it out loud. (reverberated, chasm, rapport...) Or the confusion engendered when you discuss the book with someone and you can't figure out which character they are talking about because you've been saying it wrong the whole time.
  17. Dirty House. Who has time to clean?
What hazards have you encountered??

{Next week: A Collection. Perhaps the titles in your crockpot cooking corner, or all the Newberry's you own, or the rhyming picture books. I'll be going with my pride and joy - my Pumpkin Book Collection. Especially since you all have heard enough about my fairy tales.}

Friday, May 21, 2010

Black Hole Reviews 5/21

Here is this weeks edition of Black Hole Reviews. Some are from new to me blogs! I'm itching something fierce to read all of them - and they are all very different. *Rubbing hands together in mad excitment* If you have tastes anything like mine, I encourage you to check our these "sucky" reviews.


Hop, Skip, and Comment - and Welcome!

It has been a few weeks, so I thought I would do a little hopping today. Check out Crazy-for-Books to get in on the fun. Welcome new visitors! I am off to actually get the comments in my head onto the blogs that I am visiting today. Cross your fingers that the baby sleeps for a few more minutes! :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review; Mythological Creatures: A Classical Bestiary by Lynn Curlee

Mythological Creatures: A Classical Bestiary
by Lynn Curlee
Picture Book, Mythology
published: 2008
For: Once Upon a Time Challenge
3 of 5 stars


A guide or encyclopedia for the mythological creatures from ancient Greek mythology. Each spread has one page of illustration and one fairy length block of text. There are descriptions of the creatures and a story (or the story) in which that creature is involved.


I was struggling to fulfill the mythology category in my Once Upon a Time Challenge, having already checked 2 different books out of the library and not reading them. I discovered that while I was interested in Norse myths, that interest wasn't enough to keep me awake in the evenings while I tried to understand the cosmos according to Vikings. So while back in the myth section at the library I seized upon this picture book. Surely I could handle a picture book!

It also gave me the opportunity to show pictures of these creatures to my kids. Why? Well, they have been exposed to many of them through Fablehaven, Disney's Hercules, The Lightning Thief, and even the Narnia movie. I thought they would appreciate a better visual and little a history.

They did. At least the older ones did. The younger ones would start to squirm as we read through each wordy page. I had not realized it would contain some of the myths. I thought it would be more, "Here's this creature, ain't it ugly!" But the book actually contained quite of few details. It was fun interesting to read it out loud.

Here's my warning - it contains some of the mythology. Yes. I've said that uber times already. I'll now remind you that those myths are full of murder, man-eating things, adultery, jealousy, and married siblings. I don't normally blink at an eye at this, Greek mythology is what is it. But I saw it all from a different perspective while reading it cold out loud. Gack.

Thank heavens I can read quickly. We got through most of it with very few questions. The three-headed and half-man creatures detracted from the husband protecting his lover and the wife contracting out murder. Definitely for those older kids.

The pictures were simplistic and functional. They gave a clear depiction of each creature in all its weirdness. Not perhaps my favorite style, but "educational" nonetheless.

Review: Fablenhaven: The Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull

Fablehaven: The Rise of the Evening Star
by Brandon Mull
YA Fantasy
456 pages
published: 2007
#2 in the Fablehaven series
For: Fun! (And I also get to post this in my Support Your Local Authors Challenge  by Suey and finally feel qualified to grab the button. :)
5 of 5 stars


At the end of the school year, Kendra and her brother, Seth, find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures. Grandpa Sorenson, the caretaker, invites three specialists- a potion master, a magical relics collector, and a mystical creature trapper- to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient organization determined to infiltrate the preserve and steal a hidden artifact of great power. Time is running out. The Evening Star is storming the gates. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world. Will Kendra learn to use her fairy gifts in time? Will Seth stay out of trouble? Can they overcome paralyzing fear? - from Goodreads


I loved these books. This is my second time reading this, and this time it was out loud to my two oldest kids who begged each night for more of the story. They would literally hang on the edge of the their seats or hover around the book as if they could hear it faster by getting closer. There was also much jumping in excitement, pleasure, and terror.

Let me tell you some of things I love about this series, speaking in generalities as best I can:
  • Other than the first book, which started out a bit slow for me (setting up an' all), these books are nearly non-stop action. When there a short lull in the adventure, intrigue and mystery and stuff fill up that space. No slow parts, no skipping, no dragging. Awesome right up to the next awesome. They are perfect read-alouds because nothing is ever boring.
  • Fabulous fleshed out secondary characters, and fabulous "creatures" fully equipped with their own ideas and personalities and history and culture.
  • Great dialogue, witty and fun. Especially between Kendra and Seth.
  • Great sibling relationship portrayal. They are polar opposites and often can't stand each other, and yet love each other too deeply to articulate. They understand each other and barb each other like nobody's business. (See back to dialogue comment.)
  • The logical world the inhabit. Yes, you might snicker at my referring to this made up world as logical, terms of internal logic and well-that-makes-sense-ness, these book rock. The explanations of magic and rules and such are short and well...logical. 
  • There are consequences to your action in this world! Real consequences. Not just "you're grounded" or "now I need to be rescued," but consequences related to the magical logic mentioned, and trust, and all that good stuff.
  • Weaknesses and faults in characters are weaknesses and faults, and sometimes also strengths.
  • Great opportunities to discus things with your kids. (Like that consequence thing, and that weakness thing, and that logic thing, and lots more.) We have frequent in depth discussions about what we are reading.
  • Character development. These characters experience a lot. They grow and change and learn. But. They don't learn too fast. The don't get "fixed" right away. They take steps just like real people do.
In The Rise of the Evening Star specifically,  some of the things I loved and just couldn't wait to read to the kids where: Hugo and his new self, sneaking into a funeral home that may or may not have zombies, potions, brownies, the dungeon, the cursed grove, Warren, the traitor, the leader, the temple and that dang demon cat, the pod, the glutton...

Oh. my. so. much. that's. awesome.

I highly recommend this book to, well, everyone, but especially those boy readers who want lots of adventure. Sure there is a main character that is a girl, but push them past that. They will like her. And there is also Seth. Just wait till you meet Seth. When you're not fantasizing about slapping him, you're loving on him.

source: home library

Monday, May 17, 2010

Listful Mondays: Books I Have Lost

Books I Have Lost

I doubt I remember every book I no longer have in my possession, but I remember some that I have loaned, lost, or destroyed. I think about them with longing...
  1. Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (This was the 1965 edition that went with the set that my older brother gave. One of my little brothers borrowed it and LOST it. I have recently acquired a replacement copy.)
  2. Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (This was a copy I bought for myself, and you all know my history with that book... The same little brother borrowed it and ruined it. He was officially on my list now. I was able to replace this one soon after.)
  3. The Apprentice by Deborah Talmadge-Bickmore (This I loaned to a friend. I could not find another copy until I met my future husband. But that is another story.)
  4. House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (I loaned this one too, and have yet to replace it!)
  5. Whirligig by Paul Fleischman (I might have loaned this one to the same person I loaned the last one to, but I'm not sure so I haven't found my pitchfork. I haven't replaced this one yet either. But, incidentally, it is fabulous. I'll have to review it.)
  6. My Pilates flip-chart stand-up exercise book (Where is that?? I didn't loan it out. It's just gone.)
  7. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (For the record, this was in BAD shape. It was nearly broken in half. So when Baby went to knock water onto it and I grabbed and pulled in desperation...well it split fully into pieces. I was in the middle of reading it.)
  8. Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey (This one is just worn out. I was my older sister's and water damaged when I acquired it. I have since read it so many times that it is a sad, crumpled thing. We bought a new for the bookshelf, but I can't seem to throw that old copy away. So I guess it isn't technically lost...)
Are there any lost books that rankle your soul??

{Next week: Reading Hazards}