31 March 2009

Buy One Book and Read It Wrap Up

Amy from My Friend Amy hosted a challenge in which she asked us to buy a book a month and read it. I have already bought my 12 books and have read and reviewed them.

To read about the challenge and to learn about other options for joining in the fun, visit the challenge blog here. To see what others have bought and read, click on the this link.

Here are the books I bought and read:

Out of Boneville by Jeff Smith (B+)
Artemis Fowl the Graphic Novel by Eion Colfer (A)
French Lessons by Peter Mayle (B+)
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (B+)
The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith (A+)
Mouse Guard by David Peterson (C)
Old Man's Cave by Jeff Smith (B+)
Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith (B+)
Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith (B+)
Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith (B)
Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George (B+)
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (A)

My favorites were the Bone series books by Simth, The Lincoln Lawyer, and Swallows and Amazons.

Thanks to Amy for hosting this challenge and I hope you all continue to buy books and read them!

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Where Are You? / Teaser Tuesdays (March 31)

I live at the base of Crooktop Mountain in the southern Appalachians in what was Cherokee land. My mom is dead, and she never told anyone who my father was. So I live with my religious grandfather and my crazy grandmother. There is nothing to do here; heck, we can't even pick up a good FM radio signal. I'm glad finally to be out of high school. I work at the diner full-time just so I don't have to be at home.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

Nice people were warned that the docks was where a rough crowd hung out. Sometimes that was true, but usually it was just young people doing grown-up things and old people that didn't realize they weren't young anymore. (p. 32)

— both from The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener

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30 March 2009

Review: Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Swallows and Amazons is the first in a series of children's books that take place in England's Lake District during the time between the wars.

The Walker children, their mother, and their nurse are on holiday while their father is onboard a British Navy vessel somewhere in Asia. John, Susan, Titty, and Roger have the parents we all wish we had: They let the kids sail to an island in the lake, set up camp, and live there for the entire vacation. As temporary owners of the small sailboat Swallow, the children make it their task to explore and map the world as they see it from the lake. Mother, the local farmers and storekeepers, and the charcoal burners are all natives, and Captain John and his crew get to know the tolerant local community.

All is not tranquil on Wild Cat Island, however. First there is the mysterious behavior of the retired pirate who lives on a houseboat in a nearby bay. Then there is the surprise attack by Nancy and Peggy Blackett, the owners of the ship Amazon. The captains of the two boats must decide whether to be friends or foes and what to do about Captain Flint, the houseboat man.

The Walker and Blackett children are given an amazing amount of freedom and use that gift to its fullest. They are adventuresome, curious, imaginative, and mischievous. Oh to be able to spend weeks on end sailing and camping and exploring. Even though Ransome was writing in the 1930s, the girls and women he created are strong and capable: good swimmers, good sailors, smart, fearless, and reliable. It's no wonder that this series was among my favorite childhood books.

Here is a quote that has stayed with me since I was in fourth grade:

"Her real name isn't Nancy," said Peggy. "Her name is Ruth, but Uncle Jim said that Amazons were ruthless . . . [so] we had to change her name." (p. 119)

The charm of life in a close-knit community and the joys of childhood lived in the outdoors will still appeal to many modern children and their parents. The books are rated for ages nine to twelve, and the author's simple pen-and-ink drawings and maps enhance the text.

I revisited this book via the unabridged audio edition read by Alison Larkin, who did an excellent job rendering the children's voices and emotions. She brought the books alive.

Published by Godine, 1994
ISBN-13: 9780879235734
Challenges: A-Z Author, Young Adult, 999, Audiobook, 100+, Buy 1 and Read
YTD: 26
Rating: A
Note: If you have reviewed this book, let me know and I'll add a link to your blog.

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28 March 2009

Awards! An Embarrassment of Riches

For a person who grew up with only brothers, I'm blessed to now have lots of sisters! Thanks to Dorte of DJs Krimiblog, Cathy of Kittling Books, Amy of My Friend Amy, and Jenny of Jenny Loves to Read! Wow! With all this talk about whether blogging and Twitter and the Internet create a community, this award offers proof to the idea that we develop true bonds. Thanks again to all of you.

Thanks to Rebecca from Lost in Books for this lovely award. The Premio Dardos Award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day. This award means a lot to me.

Robin of My Two Blessing recently celebrated her blogoversary. She's been blogging, reading, writing, and hosting challenges for two years! In honor of her blogoversary, Robin created this award for all her readers. Click on the link to read Robin's post, and it's not too late to offer her your congratulations.

And finally, Alea from Pop Culture Junkie presented me with the Zombie Chicken award. Here's what's all about:

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all..."

I dare not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens and must bestow this award on five worthy bloggers. Here are my choices, in no particular order:

Deborah From Books, Movies and Chinese Food
Nely from All About {n}
Sandy from You've Gotta Read This
Jackie from Farm Lane Books
Melody from Melody's Reading Corner

I hope I have appeased the Zombie Chickens!!

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27 March 2009

Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Who couldn't relate to seventeen-year-old Aislinn? She's facing all the usual teenage problems of how to act around boys, saying no to alcohol and drugs, doing schoolwork, and getting ready for college. She's got a few girlfriends and one young man who may just turn into a real boyfriend. Sounds like your average girl . . . but Aislinn can see faeries.

And faeries are everywhere, even in a small steel town outside of Pittsburgh. Fey folk are not nice. Ever wonder where those mysterious bruises come from? Why you tripped on that smooth sidewalk? It's faeries; they poke and prod and do mean things to humans. And when they put on their glamor and become visible, they seduce and kidnap unsuspecting lovers.

The ability to see faeries runs in families, and Aislinn, who was raised by her grandmother, has been well taught. She's been told to never, ever let the faeries know she can see them. Aislinn can maintain a blank face even as she watches the fey play their tricks on the unsuspecting. She knows all the rules and has never once slipped up.

The faery world is made up of a number of kingdoms. And Aislinn's town is the current home of the summer king, Keenan, and the winter queen, Beira. For centuries, Keenan has been searching the human realm for his destined summer queen. Not until he finds her will he come into his full power and strength. Meanwhile, Beira is gathering her forces and making progress in her quest to bring the whole world under the influence of winter.

Wicked Lovely is classified as an urban fantasy and has been called a modern fairy tale. There are few surprises in the book, but that is of no significance. What surprises do we find in Cinderella? Yet that story has endured. This tale, however, takes place in our world, our time. As I look out my window, I wonder, What is really happening on that seemingly empty lawn?

The novel is elegant in its simplicity, and we are drawn in as easily as is a child listening to a bedtime story.

I experienced this book via digital download from my library. Wicked Lovely may be the perfect audiobook and is perhaps my all-time top listen (and I've heard hundreds of audios). Alyssa Bresnahan doesn't read the book, doesn't narrate the novel; she tells you a story in the finest of oral traditions. I was spellbound.

Print published by HarperCollins, 2008
ISBN-13: 9780061214677
Audio published by Harper Audio 2008
Challenges: Audiobooks, YA, A-Z Author, New Author, 999, Support Your Library, 100+
YTD: 25
Rating: A+

Author's website
If you have reviewed this book, let me know and I'll add a link.
The Book Zombie
Books and Musings
Books Ahoy!
Movieholic & Bibliophile's Blog
Books & Other Thoughts
Things Mean a Lot

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26 March 2009

Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge: Wrap-Up

Thanks to Melissa at Book Nut for hosting this fun challenge. The theme of the Well-Seasoned Reader challenge was "interesting people, amazing places, and good food." Who could resist!

For the rules of the challenge, visit Melissa's post here. For my original book list, click here. I did have to make one substitution: When I made up my reading list, I had no idea the Cleopatra book was so long! Thus I had to find a short third book so I could finish the challenge on time.

Reading List

Click on the link for my review; my rating is in parentheses.

Criterion 1: There must be a food name in the title
House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar (C+)

Criterion 3: There must be a place name in the title
The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute (B-)

Criterion 5: The book must be about a specific culture
The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Maragret George (B+)

The Cleopatra book was by far my favorite of the three, and The Beans of Egypt, Maine was the oddest. I just noticed that all the books are about cultures or parts of society that are different from my own and two are historical fiction. I always say that I'm interested in books that take me to different places and/or different times, and my reading list for this challenge supports that statement.

Thanks again, Melissa for hosting. To see the other wrap-up posts, visit the Book Nut here.

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Winners: Give My Books a New Home


Beverly Lewis's The Secret will find a home with Deborah
The Scavenger's Manifesto will now live with Kat C


Thanks to everyone who entered and made my very first giveaway a great success.

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25 March 2009

Wordless Wednesday (March 25)

Bremen, Germany: Street Signs

For more Wordless Wednesday entries, click here.

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Scene of the Blog: Featured Guest

Guess who's featured over at Kittling Books? Yes, photos of my home office can be viewed as part of Cathy's Scene of the Blog post for today! Pop on over and take a look. And once you've had your fill of seeing my blogging space, be sure to check out the other posts in her fabulous weekly feature. It's a fun way to get to know more about your fellow bloggers.

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24 March 2009

Review: The Beans of Egypt, Maine, by Caorlyn Chute

On the surface, The Beans of Egypt, Maine, is a story of two poverty-stricken families trying to get by the best they can. Earlene Pomerleau has been brought up by her father and is heavily influenced by her god-fearing grandmother. Earlene, who is essentially motherless, spends much of her childhood alone.

Across the right of way lives Roberta Bean who, although unmarried, is almost always pregnant. She is constantly surrounded by a gaggle of her "babies" as she works in her garden or tends to her chores. The Bean men, who are known to drink too much and to have bad tempers, work as loggers. Rueben is the meanest of the bunch, and Beal may be the kindest.

These families are what are known as the working poor. They have jobs, but many don't have electricity, indoor plumbing, or access to healthcare. Their houses are falling apart, their cars are rusty, their clothes are dirty, and most can barely read.

Chute introduces us to a life we may not want to face. How can there be people who are forced to live like the Beans in the United States of late twentieth century? But in exposing us to this rural and poor world, Chute also shows us the individuals who live within those run-down shacks, and we see that we actually have much in common with the Beans. We try to help our families, we try to feed our children, and we do what we have to find some love and safety.

The Beans of Egypt, Maine, is written almost as if it were a series of interlinked short stories. We advance through time in spurts rather than in a slow progression. The story is told alternately from Earlene's perspective and from an anonymous observer and focuses on Earlene and Beal. The characters and their world become very real, and I would not be surprised to run into a Bean someday in Maine.

The book does suffer from one bothersome flaw, however. As I understand it, Chute reworked the novel after it had already been published. I read the second, or so-called finished, version. At the end of the novel we find an author's note that explains why she rewrote the book. That would be okay, except she then goes on to tell us the proper interpretation of several scenes. I found this to be somewhat annoying. As a reader, I should be left alone to interpret the story in whatever manner I want to. Furthermore, if Chute was unsure that she was getting her point across, she should have reworked those scenes when the book was republished rather than explain them in the backmatter.

The novel is not action driven, and it reminds the reader of the more unsavory parts of life in America. But if you like a character study and want to learn more about people who may be different from you, then I recommend the novel. I have continued to think about the characters and the setting. You will likely be too curious to skip the author's note, but don't say I didn't warn you. I also advise you to avoid reading the publisher summary of the novel, because it contains several major spoilers.

Carolyn Chute does not have a website. For more insight into that choice, see the Wikipedia article about the author. Chute wrote two other novels that are set in Egypt, Maine. If you have reviewed this book, let me know, and I'll add a link to your blog.

Published by Grove Press
ISBN-13: 9780802143594
Challenges: A-Z Title, Well-Seasoned Reader, New to Me Author, 999, 100+
YTD: 24
Rating: B-

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23 March 2009

What Are You Reading This Week?

J. Kaye at J. Kaye's Book Blog started this idea of posting our reading plans for the week. I'm not sure if I'll stick with this meme (I hate setting myself up for failure!), but I'm going to play along and see how it goes.

If you want to join in, pop on over to J. Kaye's blog, grab the button, and link up.

Right now I'm both reading and listening to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The book is written in two voices, which makes for a super audiobook, but I'm also reading along in print because there is a lot to think about.

I have The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener, The Alexander Cipher by Will Adams, Great Dream of Heaven by Sam Shepard, and Dear Julia by Amy Browen Zemser at the top of the TBR.

Book reviews coming up this week are The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute and Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

What do you have coming up this week?

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Musing Mondays: Bookstores

Here's this week's Musing Mondays hosted by Rebecca. To join and to see other answers, visit the meme's blog here.

How many bookstores do you frequent? Do you have a favourite? If so, which one and what makes it so?

Unfortunately, most of the bookstores in my area have closed. Sad because I live near a college town. We have several student bookstores, but their selection of books beyond texts is limited. Our last independent bookstore closed about ten years ago. We do have a midsize Barnes & Nobel, which isn't bad but doesn't have the service and selection of the independent stores. I don't have a favorite store at the moment.

I should take some inspiration from Amy of My Friend Amy and do some searching for bookstores in the surrounding communities. Maybe I'll discover a gem of store not too far away.

How about you? Do you have a nearby good bookstore? How far would you drive to visit a good bookstore?

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22 March 2009

Weekly Link Round-Up (March. 22)

Here's what I read this week.

Giveaway for Women's Health Awareness

Marta from Marta's Meanderings is giving away two (yep, two) freshwater pearl bracelets to help promote women's heart health as part of the Cheerios Circle of Healthy Heart and WomanHeart programs. Find out more about making sure all women get access to adequate health care. (Note: the link is to Marta's home page because I'm having trouble getting a working direct link.)

A Closer Look at Books

Do you know The Very Hungry Caterpillar had an anniversary? Check out how much Eric Carle's books have meant to Jen at Devourer of Books.

Farrah at The Book Faery Reviews spotlighted author/artist R. Scot Johns. Johns's guest post gives us a fascinating glimpse in how digital technology can be used to produce beautiful books.

AMACON Books Blog has a great new feature called Anatomy of a Book Cover. Learn about the design process.

Booksquare blog is all about "Dissecting the publishing industry with love and skepticism." Lots of good information about where the book industry is and where it should be going.

Getting to Know You

Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? is putting out feelers for a book blogger get-together and visit to Powell's. I can't tell you how much I would love to be able to do this.

Remember Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury? Elizabeth at As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves has a super feature based on the book. It's a great way to learn more about each other.

Natasha (aka Maw Books) has a feature called Reader Spotlight in which she interviews fellow book bloggers. It's great fun.

New Features, Conversation, Review

Amy at My Friend Amy has a new feature called So Cal Lit Scene in which she is going to review as many bookstores as she can within driving distance of her home. I bet she does a little shopping too! It's a great idea.

Do you drink tea? Then here's the weekly event for you! Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog has a new Thursday Tea feature "showcasing a tea and the book I’m reading while I’m drinking it." She asks others to share in the fun.

You know how what I think about audiobooks, but what do you think? Carrie at Books and Movies discusses the joys of audiobooks and shares her top twelve listens. Help her decide what to listen to next.

Wendi has a great review of Everyone Is Beautiful by Katherine Center (whom she is interviewing tomorrow) up on Wendi's Book Corner. This sounds like a must read: Wendi says it's "a beautiful book that is full of life, and not just some fantasy life, but a real life, and one that I can relate to."
Some of these links were part of a link-sharing group. To find out more, e-mail Amy of My Friend Amy. If you want to do this on your own, feel free to use my button.

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21 March 2009

Challenge: Spring Reading Thing

It's spring, which means it's time for Katrina's Spring Reading Thing! To join in, read the rules and sign up at Callapidder Days.

Here is my tentative list, but I hope to stick with it. On the other hand, sometimes I learn about new books and I just can't wait to read them. So I'm mostly committing to a specific number of books. Here's what I'm hoping to read.

Spring Reading Thing List (Proposed Reading)

1. On Agate Hill by Lee Smith
2. The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
3. Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
5. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
6. Needle in the Right Hand of God by R. Howard Bloch
7. Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser
8. My Man Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
9. Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement
10. The Third Day: The Frost by John Marsden

It's not too late to join in the fun!

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20 March 2009

Review and Interview: Zig-Zagging by Tom Wilson


Tom Wilson's memoir is not a collection of literary essays or a self-help book. It's the story of one man's journey to finding peace after recovering from a personal injury, coping with his father's failing health, and coming to terms with the early death of his wife from cancer. The frame story of the book is Tom's solo drive from Cleveland to Cincinnati, bisecting the state of Ohio. The interlacing text draws on the types of thoughts we all have when driving alone along the highway. And through these thoughts, we learn the story of Tom, his family, his sorrows, and his joys.

I can relate to much of what Tom writes about because my older brother lost his young wife to cancer 10 years ago. And although I didn't lose my spouse, I have certainly watched the process of mourning and recovery through my brother's life as single parent.

Each situation and individual is unique, but Tom's personal story offers solace to the grieving by showing them that they are not alone and that it is possible to once again enjoy life.

The book is enhanced with photographs and Ziggy drawings as well as a history of the comic.

Three Questions for Tom Wilson

BFR: In your book, you mention synchronicity and give at least two examples of it. One is when you see your single set of footsteps on the beach in Hawaii and later find the card from Susan with the "Footsteps" poem on it. The other is when you pull off the highway and find Susan's Coffee Shop and the bookstore next door. Do you think such occurrences happen more often during times when we need guidance? Or are they there all the time but we don't pay attention to them?

TW: From my point of view, at least, I have a feeling that synchronicity and perhaps even miracles may be related in that our world possibly exists as possibility and our perception of any moment appears to be the commonality. It might be kind of like that belief that good things (or bad) occur in "threes"; our belief will ultimately lead us to see those three specific and related events and select them from within the full spectrum range [of] possibility ever present within any moment . . . Believing is Seeing.

BFR: You spent much of the first year after Susan's death attempting to be everything for everybody in your personal life and business. Once you recognized that it's a strength to ask for help, things started falling into place for you (more synchronicity!). Although everyone must go through grief in his or her own way, would you encourage others to seek support earlier than you did? Or do you think we accept help only when we're ready to?

TW: Really, I wouldn't begin to compare my grieving process to another's . . . I can only honestly, and as accurately as possible, offer them my own as possible contrast for potential help to define their own process for themselves. It seems to me that the character of any grief, as well as the catalyst behind it, is as unique as the person experiencing it. Maybe the answer to your question is something along the lines of a twist of the ancient Buddhist understanding: "When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive." How about: "When the grieving are ready to see, receive, and understand, the support will be recognized, accepted, and understood."

BFR: What do you think Ziggy would think about being on a Book Blog Tour? What kind of trouble would he get into visiting all these different blogs?

(Note: My real first name is Candace.)

Zig-Zagging is on tour during the month of March. Visit TLC Tours (here) to read other reviews and to visit other blogs on the tour. Thanks to TLC Tours for asking me to be a host.

Published by Health Communications, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780757307935
Challenges: New Author, A-Z Title, 999, 100+
YTD: 23
Rating: B-

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19 March 2009

Booking Through Thursday: What's to Love?

Here is this week's BTT hosted by Deb. To join in and read other answers, click on through to the meme's blog (here).

What’s the worst "best" book you’ve ever read—the one everyone says is so great, but you can't figure out why?

Here are two that always seem to appear on people's list of favorites. I disliked them both and never even finished the second one.

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Did you love these two books? What did I miss?

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Review: The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer

My Summary. Annie, Genna, and Zoe have been friends forever. They are the self-proclaimed Teashop Girls who meet each week—no matter what—at Annie's grandmother's shop for tea and scones. As their eighth-grade school year is coming to a close, Annie is worried that her world is falling apart. The teashop is on the brink of bankruptcy, and Genna and Zoe are caught up in their own lives. And if things weren't confusing enough, the cute boy isn't flirting back and the annoying boy won't leave Annie alone. Can the girls save the shop and will their friendship survive their growing pains?

My Thoughts. The Teashop Girls is a delightful story of a thirteen-year-old who is sure she is the only kid in her grade who is not maturing as fast as the others. Her girlfriends seem to be ready for high school, but Annie doesn't want to let her childhood traditions slip away. I think most young teenage girls would be able to relate to Annie's excitement about her first real job and her concern about her awkwardness around boys.

Each of the three girls has an interest or an aspect of her life that takes her away from the others. Through Annie, we explore how relationships change during the transition to young adulthood. Eighth grade is a time when kids begin to see grown-ups as real people who have troubles and faults of their own. As Annie says of her grandmother, "It was so strange to see an adult so sad. I had always figured middle school was the worst, and it pretty much got steadily better from there. Maybe not."*

I thought the main female characters—the three girls and the grandmother—were well developed and fairly realistic. Each one had a distinct personality, none was perfect, and each faced a personal problem.

I'd like to point out two aspects that I particularly liked. Schaefer nicely contrasted a traditional family-owned teashop with a modern chain coffee shop. Through Annie's eyes, we learn about the economic and personal consequences of our actions when we choose where to spend our money. This was done in a subtle way and is an important issue for youngsters to think about. I also was impressed with the way Annie interacted with the very young girls who came into her grandmother's shop. It was very sweet and believable and a good model for young teenagers.

The book is enhanced with recipes, fun fonts to show handwriting and computer messages, vintage advertisements for teas, and a drawing and quote to open each chapter. I highly recommend this book for any young girl aged eleven or older. For me, the book evoked warm memories of my own best friends from junior high, and I'm pleased to know that some things never change.

I read this book to meet several challenges, listed below. To learn more about a challenge and to see what others are reading, click on the title in the sidebar. If you have reviewed this book and are not listed in the links section, let me know and I'll add your link.

*This quotation is from an advance reviewer copy; actual text may be different from the published edition.

Published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2008
ISBN-13: 9781416967934
Challenges: A-Z Author, New Author, What's in a Name, Young Adult, 999, 100+
Rating: B+
YTD: 22

Links to Other Reviews
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
Books Movies and Chinese Food
Pop Culture Junkie
B&b ex libris

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18 March 2009

Wordless Wednesday (March 18)

Roofline in Brugge

For more Wordless Wednesday entries, click here.

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17 March 2009

Where Are You? / Teaser Tuesdays (March 17)

I live in a small town in Maine. We don't have much money, but Gram says Daddy is a genus and could build anything. We live in a ranch house he built hisself. Daddy says it's called a ranch house 'cause that's what cowboys live in. My mom's in some kind of place where they send crazy people; she came to visit one Christmas. Our neighbors are the Beans. The Bean men are rough, and the women always seem to be havin' babies. Sometimes when Daddy isn't home, I cross the road and talk to them Beans.

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog. Note: this teaser was found by using Amazon's "surprise me" feature.

"We're pickin' up. I'm collectin' the kids' bowls. She's feedn' the stove. I'm singin' a hymn, one of Gram's favorites, and Beal comes out of the bedroom and he says, 'Earlene, shut up!' He sets on the stool by the woodstove where Madeline's coaxin' the fire and he puts on his boots. I see them boots are still wet."

— both from The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute

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Winter Reading Wrap Up

I have officially finished the Winter Reader Challenge, hosted by Robin of My Two Blessings. I made changes to my original reading list because I discovered a couple of new books, which took my reading into unforeseen directions.

Here is what I read. Click on the author's name to read my review. My rating is in parentheses.

Completed Winter Reading List

Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith (B)
French Lessons by Peter Mayle (B+)
House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar (C+)
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke (C+)
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (B+)
Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George (B+)
More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin (B)
Nancy Drew: Demon of River Heights by Stefan Petrucha (B-)
Rebel by Bernard Cornwell (B)
Twilight at Monticello by Alan Pell Crawford (B-)

This list includes some terrific books. My favorites were More Home Cooking and Memoirs of Cleopatra, but you wouldn't go wrong picking anything I read for this challenge.

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16 March 2009

Review: Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George

My Summary and Thoughts. The Memoirs of Cleopatra takes us from the time the Egyptian queen was about twelve years old until her death at age thirty-nine. The story is told from Cleopatra's viewpoint, and we watch the young girl as she matures from a naive teenager to a politically savvy and manipulative world leader. It is a captivating story of the fall of the Roman republic and the complex politics of the Mediterranean in the late years before Christ.

Cleopatra comes across as a woman who puts her country before everything, sometimes even before her children. Because of Egypt's wealth and climate, it was a coveted ally and potential prize for Rome. When the young queen meets Julius Caesar, she is still learning about the wider world. Her alliance with Caesar and her trip to Rome taught her much about how to rule her people with a caring yet strong hand. She also learned of the dangers of power when Caesar was stabbed to death in the senate building.

We travel with Cleopatra as she visits her domain, learning through her words about the religions and cultures of Alexandria, greater Egypt, and her other possessions. She had a gift for languages and an ability to win over almost everyone with whom she had a face-to-face audience. She was blessed with capable, loyal, and trustworthy ministers, doctors, and personal servants. And she was determined to pass her throne on to her children.

By the time Marc Antony entered her life, Cleopatra had no illusions. She may have loved Antony, but she was also well aware of his faults and how she could use him to better herself and her people. The reader is left to question what Antony's fate would have been had he not been pressured to proclaim Cleopatra to be his wife or if Octavian had not befriended Agrippa. The queen's ambitions may have been the ultimate downfall of not only herself but also her Roman husband.

The book ends with an author's note about the historical basis of the story. George is clear about which plot lines and characters are factual and which are not. I did some quick research and am satisfied that George doesn't stray too far from what is known about the queen. I did find two glaring anachronisms. Cleopatra mentions paper several times. I don't believe paper reached Egypt until long after the queen was dead. Furthermore, she mentions having ships of the line, which I believe is a seventeenth-century term. There may have been other slips, but I either wasn't aware of them or I've forgotten them.

The story was engrossing throughout. I've long had an interest in the age of Julius Caesar and his nephew Octavian (later Augustus). It was interesting to see the events through Cleopatra's eyes. Her relationship with Octavian was hostile for a number of reasons, including the fact that she was mother to Caesar's son and insisted that Antony divorce Octavian's sister. Rome needed Egypt's treasury and its grain, and Octavian would stop at nothing to secure both.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook, which was brilliantly narrated by Donada Peters. The paperback is about 975 pages, and the audio comes in at 49 hours! The novel translated wonderfully to audio, and I have no doubt that it would be just as good or better in print.

I read this book to meet a number of challenges, listed below. To learn more about a challenge and to see what others are reading click on the title in the sidebar. If you have reviewed this book and are not listed in the links section, let me know and I'll add your link.

Print: Published by St. Martin's Press, 1998
ISBN-13: 9780312187453
Unabridged audio: Published by Books on Tape
Challenges: Winter Reading, A-Z Author, 999, 100+, Audiobooks, Well-Seasoned Reader, Buy 1 and Read
YTD: 21
Rating: B+

Author's website
The Owl's Nest Blog
Bianca's Book Blog

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15 March 2009

Book Review Blog Carnival

Today is the Thirteenth Book Review Carnival hosted by Bookish Ruth. Don't miss it, Ruth has gathered together great reviews in a number of genres.

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Weekly Link Round-Up (March 15 )

Here's what I read this week.

Go Visiting

Have you heard of the Women’s National Book Association? Well I hadn't either. They have chapters around the USA. If you're in the New York City area, be sure to look into the great programs they offer.

Indie Book Bloggers is looking for book reviewers who would like to share their feeds and expand their readership. You'll recognize several blogs in the feed list there. Just click the "add my blog" button if you're interested.

Have you been over to the blog Life of a Publisher? If not, you're missing out on some great reading.

Get Organized

Have been thinking about spring cleaning? You must head over to Devourer of Books and follow along as Jen shares her adventures with Gail Blanke’s Throw Out 50 Things. I know that I've been inspired to get a grip on the clutter and junk wonderful collection of fabulous items that can be found in my house!

Check Out Reviews, Interviews, and Giveaways

Carrie form Books and Movies has a review of a book by one of my favorite authors: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. If you are unsure about reading the series, here's a bit of what Carrie says: "The first book was really good, but the sequel blew me away."

Do you like chocolate? Then don't miss the terrific giveaway over at S. Krishna's Books. Okay, so I misled you. The giveway is for The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson. This is a chance to win a book that is currently available only in the UK.

Nicole from Linus's Blanket has a powerful book to pass along: Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away by June Cross. This is a moving story, and Nccole says she "learned a lot about not only about human relationships and race relations in this country, but also wonderful stories about the evolution of the entertainment industry."

Amy from My Friend Amy offers an awesome guest post by Phyllis Scheiber. In her discussion of Willing Spirits, she asks: "Exactly when does a writer begin to store the really important memories?" Don't miss this post because once you get a taste for Scheiber's writing you'll want to win a copy of the book.

A huge 100th-post giveaway is happening at Marta's Meanderings: 5 winners of two super book packages! Head on over and enter for your chance to win 10 books!

Shelly at Write for a Reader has a review and giveaway of for My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff. She is celebrating International Woman's Day and will be posting an author interview too!

And finally don't forget to enter my first giveaway! I've got two books to pass along.

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Award Again

Oh no! I just realized that I forgot to mention that Sherrie over at Just Books gave me this award too! Please head on over to her blog and check out her great reviews. I bet you discover new additions to your wish list! Thanks so much Sherrie, I truly appreciate this award!!

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14 March 2009

Awards Times Three!

I love blogging and I am constantly amazed at the friendship and generosity of the book blogging community. And I can hardly believe I deserve such recognition, but here are the awards I've won in the last couple of weeks:

* * * * *

Jenners over at Find Your Next Book Here gave me this awesome award. Don't you love the button? The award is given "to either newbie blogs or blogs that are new to you." Thanks for discovering my blog, Jenners. I hope you all visit her blog in return. You'll find some great reviews and a super post (with photos) about using a Kindle. Oh, and don't forget to take her poll.

* * * * *

I was twice blessed with this I Love Your Blog award; and on the same day! I can't thank Margot from Joyfully Retired and Robin from My Two Blessing enough. I love both of their blogs and am a daily visitor to each. Don't miss Margot's great feature called Favorite Places, in which she posts some photos and talks about super travel destinations and asks you to join in the fun. Robin's blog contains a variety of posts; one of my favorites is her recent participation in WIP Wednesdays. If don't know what that is, click to her blog and find out.

* * * * *

Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews gave me this intellectual-sounding award. Here's what the award is for:

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

Wow! Thanks, Yvonne. I'm thrilled that you would have thought of me. Yvonne's blog is another stop on my daily rounds. She posts great reviews and hosts giveaways, but one thing I really love is all the cat and kitten photos she manages to add to her posts. I'm a cat lover, so checking out the photos is a given.

* * * * *

Thanks everyone! Instead of passing these awards on, I would like to turn them around and ask my readers to be sure to visit each of these blogs. I'm hoping you'll like them as much as I do.

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13 March 2009

Giveaways! Be the First to Review!

Two books have found their way into my home that I will not have time to read and review. I'm hoping two of you will want to be among the first to see these these.

The Books

The first one is The Secret by Beverly Lewis. That's right! I have a copy of an ARC by this popular author. The book goes on sale on March 31. This is the first book in Lewis's new series, Seasons of Grace.

From Amazon: In the seemingly ordinary Amish home of Grace Byler, secrets abound. Why does her mother weep in the night? Why does her father refuse to admit something is dreadfully wrong? Then, in one startling moment, everything Grace assumed she knew is shattered. Her mother's disappearance leaves Grace reeling and unable to keep her betrothal promise to her long-time beau. Left to pick up the pieces of her life, Grace questions all she has been taught about love, family, and commitment. Heather Nelson is an English grad student, stunned by a doctor's diagnosis. Surely fate would not allow her father to lose his only daughter after the death of his wife a few years before. In denial and telling no one she is terminally ill, Heather travels to Lancaster County--the last place she and her mother had visited together. Will Heather find healing for body and spirit? As the lives of four wounded souls begin to weave together like an Amish patchwork quilt, they each discover missing pieces of their life puzzles--and glimpse the merciful and loving hand of God.

The second one is called The Scavengers' Manifesto by Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson. This is not an ARC but the finished book. Along with it you'll get some press materials to help you create an exciting review. The book goes on sale in April.

From Amazon: An exciting new movement is afoot that brings together environmentalists, anticonsumerists, do-it-yourselfers, bargain-hunters, and treasure-seekers of all stripes. You can see it in the enormous popularity of many websites: millions of Americans are breaking free from the want-get-discard cycle by which we are currently producing approximately 245 million tons of waste every day (that’s 4.5 pounds per person, per day!).

In The Scavengers’ Manifesto, Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson invite readers to discover one of the most gratifying (and inexpensive) ways there is to go green. Whether it’s refurbishing a discarded wooden door into a dining-room table; finding a bicycle on freecycle.org; or giving a neighbor who just had a baby that cute
never-used teddy bear your child didn’t bond with, in this book Rufus and Lawson chart the history of scavenging and the world-changing environmental and spiritual implications of “Scavenomics,” and offer readers a framework for adopting scavenging as a philosophy and a way of life.

The Giveaway

Here's all you have to do to win one or both of these books.

1. One chance: Leave a comment telling me which book you want. You can enter to win both books; there will be a separate drawing for each book. Be sure to put your email in the comment so I can contact you if you win.

2. Extra chance: Tweet or blog about this giveaway. There is only one extra chance per book, if you are entered for both books, you'll have to Tweet or blog twice. Leave a comment with the link to your tweet or blog post.

Who can enter? Anyone from anywhere around the world. If you're not in the U.S. or Canada, be aware that I'll be sending the book the least expensive (read: slow) way.

Last day to enter: March 25.

Winners announced: March 26 (picked by random using a random number generator)

Good Luck!!!

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Book Review Site: Paperback Frenzy

I'm thrilled to say that I'm now one of the reviewers at Paperback Frenzy, a site that collects book reviews from a number of book bloggers. Head on over there by clicking on the button. You'll recognize some of the reviewers, but others will be new to you. The reviews are written by men and women and even a teenager! Enjoy!

Paperback Frenzy

Next time you're looking for a good book or just want to see if a book is worth reading, check the site and read the review(s).

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12 March 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Lights, Camera, Action!

Here's this week's BTT hosted by Deb. To read other answers or to participate, click through to the meme's blog (here).

What book do you think should be made into a movie? And do you have any suggestions for the producers?

Make This Movie

I'd like see to A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher made into a movie. I read the book before I started blogging, so I can't direct you to my review. It's about one of the first groups to travel the Oregon Trail and is based on the true story of the author's relatives. It is an insightful and frank look at how the journey affected the pioneers, especially the women. I loved the book.

I know nothing about producers and so on. But the people who produced and directed and filmed the Lonesome Dove mini-series would be my choice for this movie.

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11 March 2009

Wordless Wednesday (March 11)


For more Wordless Wednesday photos click here.

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10 March 2009

Where Are You? / Teaser Tuesdays (March 10)

I'm in junior high, and I've just gotten my first real job! Okay, so it's in a teashop owned my grandmother (Louisa), but still . . . it's a job. I hope my best friends, artistic Genna and athletic Zoe, will be as excited as I am, but all they seem to care about lately is boys!

For more Where Are You? answers, visit Raidergirl3 at An Adventure in Reading.

MizB at Should Be Reading hosts Teaser Tuesdays. Here's how it works: Grab your current read; let the book fall open to a random page; and share 2 “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12. For more teasers, click on through to MizB's blog.

"Keep an eye on Jonathan when you can, dear. I want to make sure he's using enough tea in each pot." My heart leapt a bit at the sound of his name. I hope Louisa didn't notice me blushing. I didn't want her to regret hiring me because I flipped out every time her other employee turned up.*

— both from The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer**
*Note: quotation is from p. 46 of the ARC; text in the published volume may differ.
**In case you're wondering: I'm on hour 43 of 49 of the audio of Memoirs of Cleopatra. I hope to finish it this week!

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Graphic Novels Challenge: Wrap Up

Yesterday I officially finished the Graphic Novels Challenge hosted by Laza. I am so glad she talked me into joining this challenge. I have been introduced to a whole new world of books. I am totally amazed at the scope of genres and artistic styles available in GN books. If you don't believe me, check out the challenge blog here.

I committed to a Major, which was 12 books. Here is my reading list. (Click on the author's name to see my review; my rating is in parentheses.)

1. The Demon of River Heights by Stefan Petrucha (B-)
2. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (A)
3. Bone 1 by Jeff Smith (B+)
4. Bone 2 by Jeff Smith (A+)
5. Bone 3 by Jeff Smith (A)
6. Bone 4 by Jeff Smith (A-)
7. Bone 5 by Jeff Smith (A)
8. Mouse Guard Fall 1152 by David Petersen (C)
9. Bone 6 by Jeff Smith (B+)
10. Bone 7 by Jeff Smith (B+)
11. Bone 8 by Jeff Smith (B+)
12. Bone 9 by Jeff Smith (B)

No question about it, I loved the Bone series. Some volumes were better than others, but none disappointed. Mouse Guard was a bit of a mystery to me because I thought I would be a fan. I am totally taken with the artwork, and I love a medieval setting. But the story and characters just didn't hook me. After having read Bone, Nancy Drew and Artemis Fowl both fall short in comparison. Yes, I gave Artemis an A rating, but that was only the second GN book I had ever read. What did I know? I'd probably give it a B- now.

I will be keeping up with the reviews posted on the challenge blog. That blog is shaping up to be an awesome resource for graphic novels. And I am now definitely a GN fan.

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09 March 2009

Review: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith

Crown of Horns is the final volume in the Bone series. Both the summary and the review assume you've read the other volumes. At this point it's almost impossible not to reveal something about the earlier books, so you might want to jump to my final thoughts.

My Summary. All the action and plots culminate at the gates of Atheia. Everyone and every creature, good and bad, meet in the battle of the age. Meanwhile, Thorn, Fone, and Bartleby head off to find the Crown of Horns that Thorn has so often dreamed about. Will they find it in time, and will it save the day?

My Thoughts. Crown of Horns is about twice as long as the other books in the series. The pace is quick, and we finally learn the answers to many of the mysteries and find out which legends were true and which were not. Although the characters and their personalities are unique, the plotting was reminiscent of the last chapters of Lord of the Rings. From the battle at the city gates to the way in which the enemy is finally defeated, the parallels to Tolkien are clear.

Final Thoughts about the Series. I loved the Bone books, and I highly recommend the series for anyone who likes humor, graphic novels, fantasy, and/or fun characters. I was caught up in the story from beginning to end, but I think I would have been happier to have read the entire series in either a much shorter or a much longer time period. Reading and reviewing the 9 books in the series within 6 weeks was a bit wearying.

The books are rated for a fairly young audience (9 to 12 years old), but I think the humor, the larger themes of good and evil, and the motivation behind some of the characters' behavior would be lost on the younger kids. Even some of the drawings are better suited to the 14 and up crowd.

The artwork and colorization were outstanding. The faces and postures of the characters clearly conveyed the emotions and thoughts of the individuals. The scenery, from forest to desert and from village to city, was arresting.

With this book I have officially completed the graphic novel challenge! The book also fits into a number of other challenges (listed below). For more information about a challenge click on its title in the sidebar.

Published by Scholastic, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780439706322
Challenges: Winter Reading, A-Z Title, 100+, 999, Graphic Novel, Buy 1 and Read
YTD: 20
Rating: B

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Musing Mondays: What's New?

Here's this week's Musing Mondays hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. Join in or read other answers by clicking here.

What is your policy when it comes to new authors? Do you feel comfortable purchasing a book or do you prefer to borrow new authors from the library? How often do you 'try out' a new author?

I generally jump right in when it comes to new authors. I love discovering new writers. And I have no problem purchasing a book by an author I've never heard of before.

I try out new authors every month. How many depends on my reading kick at the time. Once in a while (like this year), I work my way straight through a series. But my usual situation is quite the opposite: I enjoy trying new authors so much that I neglect series or novelists I am familiar with just for the thrill of trying something different!

I've have read five new authors since January 1. What about you? How many new authors have you read this year?

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08 March 2009

Weekly Link Round-Up (March 8)

Here's what I was reading this week.


Be sure to congratulate Amy of My Friend Amy on getting a book endorsement published! How cool is that? Then read her post and join in the discussion. Do jacket blurbs and book endorsements influence your decision to read a book? Yea or nay, don't forget to join in the conversation.

I want to be a kid in Carrie's house! She says, "I . . . fix the kids’ breakfast, and while they’re eating, I read aloud to them. It’s a daily ritual that we all love, and I hope will continue for a long time." Go see what she's reading. Then leave a comment at Books and Movies and share your favorite family books.

Things to Read

Did you know that each week Harper Perennial posts a short story on its blog Fifty-Two Stories? Sone of the authors are well known (to me) and other are not. This week the story is by "Carol Windley, from her new story collection, Home Schooling. 'What Saffi Knew' asks questions all children would if we could."

Peter Pnin's site Lilies Lakes and Lonely Lizards offers an audiovisual collection of poems. Poetry lovers should check this out.


Jen at Devourer of Books almost didn't read America America by Ethan Canin. But once she started listening to this coming of age story, she found that "Cory was a great character, from an uncertain boy to man who has matured into his role in life." Don't forget to check out what she has to say about the narrator of the book (and don't tell her husband!)

"The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is, in one word, fantastic," according to Trish of Hey! Lady Watcha Readin’? Read this review with your credit card in hand, because you will be placing an order for the book.


As you know this was the week of the Book Carnival Giveaway Tour. It's not too late to sign up for the contests at Marta's Meaderings. Marta has five (yep, five) books to give away. Look in her sidebar: three contests end tonight but two go for another couple of weeks.

Shelly at Write for a Reader is giving away a copy of Everyone Is Beautiful by Katherine Center. This sounds like an interesting look into contemporary life: "It's about what really happens in a marriage, the emotions that are out there, and the way women feel but are sometimes so afraid to talk about."
Some of these links were part of a link-sharing group. To find out more, e-mail Amy of My Friend Amy. If you want to do this on your own, feel free to use my button.

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