Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday (9)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly chance for bloggers to share books we can't wait to get our hands on.  
It's hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine. 

Available in Hardcover March 20, 2012:

A Temptation of Angels by Michelle Zink

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Format: Hardcover , 400pp
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • ISBN-13: 9780803737266

Synopsis From
When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world’s past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

Michelle Zink masterfully weaves historical fantasy with paranormal romance to create a gripping tale of love and betrayal.

Although I haven't yet read the Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, I want to.  And when I browsed the most recent catalog for Penguin Books, this beautiful cover caught my eye.  Very interesting premise! I look forward to finding out more about this upcoming release.

That's what I'm waiting on! Now how 'bout you?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Troubletwisters

Troubletwisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Pub. Date: May 2011
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 293pp
Age Range: 8-12
Series: Troubletwisters #1
ISBN-13:  9780545258975

When their house mysteriously explodes and they are sent to live with an unknown relative named Grandma X, twelve-year-old twins Jaide and Jack Shield learn that they are troubletwisters, young Wardens just coming into their powers, who must protect humanity from The Evil trying to break into Earth's dimension.

My Review:

Because Garth Nix is one of the authors for Troubletwisters, I went into this reading with lofty hopes.  Herein lies the problem with great expectations:  They can set you up for disappointment.  Yes, I was a little disappointed.  Troubletwisters is not a bad book, mind you.  It's a good book, and I enjoyed reading it.  But in the end, I was left wanting more.  Though to be fair, I'm not the targeted audience.  Unlike Sabriel, my favorite Nix novel, Troubletwisters will not find broad appeal among all ages.  However, in the hands of a child, especially a nine- or ten-year-old boy, this is likely a four star book.

Jack and Jaide are twelve-year-old twins whose appearances are as different as night and day.   At the story's beginning, you find them bickering and competing as all siblings do.  They seem like ordinary kids.  But when their Dad finally shows up (late again!) and the twins get a mysterious letter from their grandmother, the reader is curious and eager to learn more.

One thing the novel does well is address the questions that a reader might have in a manner that keeps the plot twists and turns from feeling contrived.  Many times the answers to these questions are grounded in logic.  For instance, when the twins ask their mother how long they will stay with their grandmother after their house explodes, her answer makes sense:  Long enough to wait for the insurance money to come through and the house to be rebuilt, she says.  This realistic detail lends credibility to the plot.  And, pay close attention, because things that are mentioned in passing may come into play later.

Troubletwisters also succeeds in setting up a mystery and building suspense.  As the twins learn more about their unusual grandmother, whose strange house (complete with talking cats) is vividly drawn, both their experiences and Grandma X become increasingly creepy.  Might she be a witch?! The narrator shares Jack's worry: "it could be the gingerbread house all over again, and mad or not, he didn't fancy being Hansel...."  The details gradually unfold as the twins gain more knowledge.  Grandma X is at once fascinating and frightening.  She seems omnipresent, faster than she should be, and she talks to cats! The cats -- Ari(stotle) and Kleo(patra) -- are great characters, by the way.  To some degree, I was more intrigued by Grandma X and the cats than by the heroic twin duo.

Once the mystery is revealed, the story pales a bit.  Troubletwisters left me wanting more imagination and originality.  Though the early promise is there, it never quite comes to fruition.  Young readers' interests, however, will increase as the novel progresses and the action builds.  And once the adventure begins, the reader is in for loads of creepy, skin-crawling descriptions of evil-possessed ants, flies, rats, cockroaches, piercing white eyes, and other sometimes scary, but always icky stuff.

This is a story of two gifted children who are caught in the classic struggle of good vs. evil.  Over the course of Troubletwisters, Jack and Jaide learn who they are, what their gifts are, and how to use them.  And, perhaps most importantly, by story's end they've learned to work together.  Their magical gifts complement each other like yin and yang.  And it's in working together that they are strongest.

By the conclusion, most of Jack and Jaide's questions have been answered, but there is some lingering mystery.  And there are characters like Grandma X's friend, Rodeo Dave, and the town schoolteacher Mr. Carver, or "Heath," as he insists we call him, whom we are merely introduced to.  Troubletwisters is the first in what is to be a 5-book series, so I'm sure we'll see more of them.  And this is where I hope my expectations will find fulfillment.  This series could be one of those instances where the first installment serves to lay the groundwork for greater things to come.  And I look forward to finding out what's in store.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (5)

"Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath his wings of love abide,
God will take care of you."
Civilla D. Martin, Be Not Dismayed

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday (8)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly chance for bloggers to share books we can't wait to get our hands on.  
It's hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine. 

Available in Hardcover September 29, 2011:

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Format: Hardcover , 384 pp
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • ISBN-13:9780399256608
Synopsis From
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city — gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific work of Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888. 

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, what is he planning to do about her? 

In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities. 

Another Ripper book for me.  What can I say? I love the period.  But wait--it's modern? Curious to know how past and present will merge.  And I love creepy!   This is the start of a new series.  If it's good, it could be dangerous.  Seems nearly everything I buy lately is part of a series....

That's what I'm waiting on! Now how 'bout you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Underdogs

Underdogs by Markus Zusak

Pub. Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 499 pp
Age Range: Young Adult
ISBN-13:  9780545354424

Synopsis from
From the bestselling author of THE BOOK THIEF. Before THE BOOK THIEF, Markus Zusak wrote a trilogy of novels about the Wolfe Brothers: THE UNDERDOG, FIGHTING RUBEN WOLFE, and GETTING THE GIRL. Cameron and Ruben Wolfe are champions at getting into fights, coming up with half-baked schemes, and generally disappointing girls, their parents, and their much more motivated older siblings. They're intensely loyal to each other, brothers at their best and at their very worst....
We're proud to present these novels together for the first time, and to be introducing American readers to THE UNDERDOG, never before published in the United States. Fans of THE BOOK THIEF won't want to miss reading the novels that launched Markus Zusak's stellar career.

My Review:

The Book Thief was no fluke.  It was the culmination of years of work and growth from a gifted writer.  When I began reading the first book in Underdogs, fearful that it would prove to be vastly inferior to The Book Thief (one of my all-time favorite books), I found real and rapid assurance that the hand that authored that masterpiece also wrote these words.  In The Underdog, originally published in 1999 (and his first work), Markus Zusak's talent and unique style, and the poetic beauty that shapes The Book Thief, are already present.

It's nice to see all three titles about the Wolfe brothers -- The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl -- bound in one volume.  This makes for a great reading experience as the novellas seamlessly connect to form one unified work.  And you'll find that the writing is so good you'll gobble up each piece whole.  So it's a relief not to have to hunt down another book or wait for another release to read more about Cameron and Ruben.  It's also worth noting that this publication is the first time American readers can get their hands on Zusak's first book, The Underdog.  (An observant reader might notice that the Australian version of Getting the Girl is titled When Dogs Cry.  This is not just repackaging or marketing by the publisher. They bear different titles for good reason:  Getting the Girl is actually a rewrite of When Dogs Cry.  But I'll talk more about this later.)

Let me tell you what I love about Markus Zusak's writing:  His characterization.  He writes about real people.  These aren't heroic renderings of polished, perfect humans like you'll find on TV. Cameron and Ruben, their family, and the other folks who inhabit their world, are dirty, flawed, messy, and raw.  And it's their sloppiness, their imperfections and vulnerabilities, these very human qualities, that give them life.  Any time you read a Zusak book, you come away feeling like you know the characters, as if they are real people.  And you feel you should be able to look out your window and find them walking in the streets.  You know and understand them, and most importantly, you care about them.

I won't tell you too much about the plot.  A plot synopsis or book jacket will never entice you to read a Zusak book anyway.  His books generally don't have out-of-this-world-I-wonder-what-this-could-be-about premises.  Instead, they are about ordinary people living ordinary lives.  But there is extraordinary beauty in every day life, and that's what Zusak is so gifted at revealing.  When you read about Cameron and Ruben Wolfe, you'll read about Loyalty. Family. Honor. Fear. Pain. Forgiveness. Longing. Hunger. Love. Pride. Fighting. Winning.  And by watching Cameron learn to live his life, you'll learn about Living.

I love this book, or rather, these books, more than I could express.  In fact, when I read The Underdog, I was busy and got away from it.  Not wanting to cheat the book or lose the emotion, I started again at the beginning and became so engrossed that I read the entire thing without pause.  The next night, I did the same with Fighting Ruben Wolfe.  With each tale, my emotional connection to the characters grew.  By the end, I loved Cameron.  I had laughed with and at him, ached and cried for him.  And I was happy for and proud of him, too.  It was difficult to say goodbye when the final story ended.

I didn't need to say an abrupt farewell, though.  After reading a note on Markus' Facebook page, I discovered that there was a significant difference in the third book.  Markus explains in this note (I wouldn't recommend reading it until after you've read the book) that the American publisher requested a change in When Dogs Cry (which would be renamed Getting the Girl)I was curious as to how the book was altered and wanted to know what Zusak's original vision was.  I had to get my hands on a copy of the Aussie version.  Luckily, Markus pointed readers to a couple of booksellers, and I was able to download an epub from an online store.  (Now, this is the beauty of e-books! No need to wait for (and pay for) international shipping!)  Once I had put the ebook on my Nook, I read it in one sitting.  Then I re-read the last 100 pages of Getting the Girl.  I was surprised at how the same story can be told so differently.  As Zusak says, "It was a change that would take it on a different course to arrive at almost an identical ending."  However, while both titles end at the same place, with essentially the same final chapter, they are very different.  I'm still trying to digest those differences.  The emotional experience has changed.  I don't want to ruin it, but if you read Underdogs, I would encourage you to read When Dogs Cry.  And if you've already read When Dogs Cry, you might want to get a copy of Underdogs or Getting the Girl to compare.

By all means, though, you MUST read Underdogs.  You need to find out for yourself why I love Cameron Wolfe.  Boy do I!  Forget Team Edward or Team Jacob or Team Fill-in-the-blank-boy-heartthrob.  I'm Team Cameron.  And more than that, I'm Team Wolfe.  Pick up this book, meet this family, and experience the beauty of Cameron's heart, soul, and words.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Pub. Date: August 2011
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Format: Paperback, 372 pp
Age Range: Young Adult
ISBN-13:  9780142419403

Synopsis from

Anna can't wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?

My Review:

This summer, everywhere I turned, people were raving about Anna and the French Kiss.  Publishers had begun to make reference to the novel to sell other books.  So when the paperback printing appeared in stores this month, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  Having finally experienced the novel myself, I'm not sure I found a satisfying answer to the question.  I didn't hate the book -- the reading was okay.  I just never seemed to connect to the characters.  The book never took flight.

From the start, Anna and I had a rocky relationship.  She seemed a little whiny and occasionally flighty, but I was willing to cut her a break.  She was dealing with a major change, after all. Eventually, though, I couldn't ignore the fact that Anna just has too many moments where she acts really stupidly.  Also, I found it hard to accept that she's a movie buff, an aspiring critic, and has her own movie review website, yet doesn't know that Paris is "the film appreciation capital of the world."  Finally, I was skeptical that she wouldn't have known her family motto was in French.  How can this fact never have been mentioned during her lifetime, considering that she has an embroidered pillow with the Oliphant clan crest and motto? But I tried to ignore these annoyances and read on with optimism.

*** Warning:  Spoilers ahead, proceed with caution ***
(I don't like spoilers, but I can't explain why I didn't love the book without mentioning specifics.)

Despite my continued attempts to give her the benefit of the doubt, Anna's behavior and decisions made it difficult for me to fully embrace her.  I thought her reaction to the Bridgette/Toph situation was a little over the top.  First, I thought her feelings for St. Clair should have overshadowed her crush on Toph.  Second, I thought the manner in which she found out about Toph and Bridgette would make her realize that Toph isn't exactly a prize catch.  He seems like a real slimeball.  And he wasn't even a very talented musician according to Anna.  So, seeing him in a different light, I felt she should react differently.  Not only is Anna's reaction a touch overdramatic, it is hypocritical.  It takes her nearly six months to see the parallel between Bridgette and herself -- each pursues and dates a guy knowing that a friend has feelings for him, and each hides the relationship from said friend.  Once again, Anna doesn't seem very bright:  she doesn't see signs that seem obvious to the reader, constantly makes incorrect assumptions, and her insecurities are bothersome.  For instance, because she assumes everyone hates her, she stops talking to her friends.  Seemingly motivated by spite and the desire to make St. Clair jealous, Anna starts dating Dave, a total jerk.  And when Dave comes to her room drunk and invites her upstairs to his room, she agrees to go? I think this moment was the beginning of the end for Anna and me.  I could never care enough about her to have any emotional investment in the outcome of her relationship with Etienne St. Clair.

Just as I struggled to relate to Anna, I had a tumultuous relationship with the narrative.  There were simply not enough compelling story elements outside of the romantic plot line to sustain my interest. Unlike Twilight, for example, here there is no overprotective father, no Volturi, no convincing love triangle (the Toph thing never felt genuine).  Anna and St. Clair's only real obstacle to romantic happiness is themselves.  They sabotage their relationship with their hesitancy, insecurity, dishonesty, and most of all, with their inability to communicate.  And this is where another of my gripes with the novel lies:  The author's hands are visibly pulling the strings.  Both Anna and St. Clair have a drunken revelation.  Stephanie Perkins gets each of her protagonists drunk so they can say the difficult words or ask the hard questions.  I don't know if this is the author's attempt to add narrative tension, but I don't like it.  I thought there was too much drinking in the novel.  You would think that after the first drunken episode with St. Clair, Anna would have been wise enough to refuse to go out drinking when her friends suggested it.  Too often, though, Anna is unable to stand up for herself.  Frequently, against her own better judgment, she goes along with the wishes and whims of others -- especially when a boy is involved.  Furthermore, if the double-drunken episode wasn't enough, the author has both Anna and St. Clair throw punches and land in detention one after the other.  This is just another contrived way to get the two characters alone together so that they'll be forced to actually communicate.

Sometimes when reading a novel, I'll mark pages that I think are important or interesting, or I'll flag a quote that I want to read again.  When I read Markus Zusak's Underdogs, I ended up with countless little flags in various colors.  It was really pretty.  With Anna and the French Kiss, however, I marked only a couple things.  And they were not positive ones.  They were phrases that stood out to me in a bad way.  The most glaring was this:  "My eyes look like I've mistaken cranberry juice for Visine, and my lips are swollen like wasp stings."  Cranberry juice? Really? This sentence feels like a forced attempt to say something ordinary in an original way.  It strikes me as something that would come from an inexperienced writer during a creative writing workshop.  And it feels overwrought (though I guess that's Anna, who tends to be melodramatic).

In all fairness, I did like the novel in places.  I enjoyed reading Bridgette's emails to Anna with her extravagant use of big words from the OED.  I missed this when Anna stopped communicating with Bridgette.  Parts of the book were very well done.  I particularly liked the Thanksgiving section and the Christmas break section.  It was during these moments that Anna and St. Clair began to talk and develop a legitimate and realistic relationship.  They were connecting and forging bonds of trust and a relationship based on real conversation and shared feelings; they were becoming best friends.  Too often with YA fiction, the romance seems to magically appear.  That's not the case with Anna and the French Kiss.  Perkins handled the romantic build-up very well.  That's why it was so frustrating and disappointing to see Anna and St. Clair take steps backward and sabotage themselves upon returning to school after Christmas break.  But there's the rub.  We return once more to the problem of insufficient narrative tension or interest outside of the romantic storyline.  If our young lovers had communicated their feelings honestly, and if they had gotten out of their own way sooner, the novel would have ended pretty quickly:  Boy dumps girl he doesn't really like for girl he does like.  The end.

Sunday Inspiration (4)

"I feel as if God had, by giving the Sabbath,
given fifty-two springs in every year."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Time Will Come (6)

"The Time Will Come"  is a weekly feature hosted by Jodie from Books for Company.
Each Thursday, we share a book that might be sitting unread on our shelves for now, but we do intend to get to! 
(Thanks go to Jennifer @ It's Fay, Not Fey! for the graphic!) 

Okay, so here is another book I was all excited about and purchased as an e-book since the hardcover is so large and pricey.  Well, that was in April! The premise makes me think of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane which I read and enjoyed.  I've just been reading stuff in print and gotten away from the ereader.  And I'll admit, I'm a little hesistant to dive in due to the length.  I was reading several large books at once this summer and have since taken a break from massive tomes.

I have a feeling that many of my posts like this are going to be for e-books!

Have you read this? Care to share your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Love This: Robert Pierre - I'm All In

Thanks to a giveaway held by Tiger @  All Consuming Books (with help from Propeller), I was the lucky winner of a new CD by 18-year-old Robert Pierre, I'm All In.  I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed the album! In fact, I'm still listening to it! 

I'm All In contains a good mix of energetic pop and thoughtful worship.  Robert has written or co-written all the material, and it's clear that he feels and believes what he's singing about.  If you like bands like Kutless (I can detect their influence on the worship songs--he sounds a bit like John Micah Sumrall) or Tenth Avenue North, I heartily recommend having a listen to Robert Pierre's music!

Listen to Robert's song "Light The Way"

Watch the Press Kit:  Robert Pierre EPK Video

"Waiting On" Wednesday (7)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly chance for bloggers to share books we can't wait to get our hands on.  
It's hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine. 

Available in Hardcover March 1, 2012:

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Format: Hardcover , 432pp
  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • ISBN-13: 9780399255243
Synopsis From Penguin Young Readers Group E-Catalog, Spring 2012:

You thought you knew him. You
were dead wrong.

Carver Young dreams of becoming a detective, despite
growing up in an orphanage with only crime
novels to encourage him. But when he is adopted
by Detective Hawking of the world famous Pinkerton
Agency, Carver is given not only the chance to
find his biological father, he finds himself smack
in the middle of a real life investigation: tracking
down a vicious serial killer who has thrown New
York City into utter panic. When the case begins to
unfold, however, it’s worse than he could have ever
imagined, and his loyalty to Mr. Hawking and the
Pinkertons comes into question. As the body count
rises and the investigation becomes dire, Carver
must decide where his true loyalty lies.

Full of whip-smart dialogue, kid-friendly gadgets,
and featuring a then New York City Police Commisioner
Teddy Roosevelt, Ripper challenges everything
you thought you knew about the world’s
most famous serial killer.
This has me curious, because it appears to take the Ripper story and turn it upside down.  After all, Jack the Ripper was supposed to have terrorized London in the late 1880's.  So, I want to see what he's doing in New York.  And Teddy Roosevelt? That's an unexpected twist!  I can't wait to see if the book is as creative as the premise suggests.

That's what I'm waiting on! Now how 'bout you?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (3)

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
  Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Time Will Come (5)

"The Time Will Come"  is a weekly feature hosted by Jodie from Books for Company.
Each Thursday, we share a book that might be sitting unread on our shelves for now, but we do intend to get to! 
(Thanks go to Jennifer @ It's Fay, Not Fey! for the graphic!) 

Bought this completely on a whim one day as an e-book for my Nook.  I  stopped at Barnes & Noble, purchased a frappuccino, and started reading in-store.  I didn't have a lot of time but was in love with the cover, so on Meg Cabot's reputation alone, I bought the book.  I soon had to get back to work, and was reading something else at the time.  Now, several months later, I still haven't gotten back to it! I find that with coupons and discounts, I'm able to buy print books more cheaply, so I'm not using my e-reader as much as I would like.  Unless you've got your e-reader turned on, you don't remember what you've loaded on there.  My goal:  Read one book a month in digital format.  We'll see if I can do it!  

Any thoughts??

"Waiting On" Wednesday (6)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly chance for bloggers to share books we can't wait to get our hands on.  
It's hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine. 

Available in Hardcover October 11:

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

I've read Dragon Slippers (first of a trilogy) and really liked it.  This is the start of new middle-grade series.  Jessica Day George is great! I love the cover art-- Celie looks plucky! 

That's what I'm waiting on! Now how 'bout you?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (2)

"Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength -- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."
 Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Follow Friday (3)

Follow Friday is hosted by &     
For the rules, click through on the button.

Q. Talk about the book that most changed or influenced your life. Was it a book that turned you from an average to avid reader, did it help you deal with a particularly difficult situation, does it bring you comfort every time you read it?

My immediate response was, This is too difficult. Then I paused, reflected, and realized there is really only one way to answer this question:  Jane Eyre.

Years ago, a very special person and I found in each other a kindred spirit.  This friend sent me a copy of Jane Eyre as a gift. We decided we would read and discuss the novel together.  Little did we know, dear reader, that in sharing this beautiful book we would fall in love.

Reader, I married him.

The Time Will Come (4)

"The Time Will Come"  is a weekly feature hosted by Jodie from Books for Company.
Each Thursday, we share a book that might be sitting unread on our shelves for now, but we do intend to get to! 
(Thanks go to Jennifer @ It's Fay, Not Fey! for the graphic!) 

My favorite thing about Alyson Noël's Evermore had to have been
Ever's little sister Riley.  So when I saw this book sitting on the shelves at the bookstore, I was happily surprised! Riley was getting her own spin-off series! I had no idea! My only worry was that I might need to be current with The Immortals series from which it originates.  I guess that's not the case, but I never managed to get around to reading this! Add this to my growing list of books-that-I-really-have-to-read-soon-but-I-don't-know-when! 

Wanna help me along? If you've read this and loved it, please let me know! A girl needs a little push sometimes....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday (5)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly chance for bloggers to share books we can't wait to get our hands on.  
It's hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine. 

Available in Paperback October 25:

The Fourth Book of Bayern

How do I love Shannon Hale? Let me count the ways! 

I love, love, love, love  The Goose Girl ! While the books may be marketed for ages 12 and up, you need to be a bit older to really appreciate the beauty with which Shannon Hale crafts her stories.  She has created modern fairy tales with this series.  I haven't read beyond The Goose Girl yet -- not because it wasn't great, but because it was.  I am afraid to gobble it all up too quickly, because I don't want it to be over.  That said, once Forest Born is released in paperback, my set will be complete.  And I might allow myself to delve into Enna Burning

I mean, come on....could these covers be any more beautiful??

That's what I'm waiting on! Now how 'bout you?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Much Ado About Anne

Much Ado About Anne by Heather Vogel Frederick

Pub. Date: August 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Format: Paperback, 315pp
Age Range: 9 to 12
Series: Mother-Daughter Book Club #2
ISBN-13:  9781416970798

Synopsis from

The mother-daughter book club is back!
This year the mothers have a big surprise in store for Emma, Jess, Cassidy, and Megan: They've invited snooty Becca Chadwick and her mother to join the book club!

But there are bigger problems when Jess finds out that her family may have to give up Half Moon Farm. In a year filled with skating parties, a disastrous mother-daughter camping trip, and a high-stakes fashion show, the girls realize that it's only through working together — Becca included — that they can save Half Moon Farm.

Acclaimed author Heather Vogel Frederick captures the magic of friendship and the scrapes along the way in this sequel to The Mother-Daughter Book Club, which will enchant daughters and mothers alike.

My Review:

If you like reading the book club's featured selections, I would recommend doing so before reading a Mother-Daughter Book Club novel.  I was surprised to find out that Much Ado About Nothing has its book clubbers discuss not only Anne of Green Gables, but Anne of Avonlea, too.  There is even a quote pulled from the third Anne book, Anne of the Island.  The connections between the story and the book club selections were perhaps not as frequent or as strong this time around, but the girls' love for Anne Shirley and her world is apparent.

I enjoyed Much Ado About Anne, despite a slow start.  This installment keeps the four-part organizational framework of the original, and my enjoyment of the first section was hampered by three things.  First, I was surprised that the mothers would decide to allow the bossy, know-it-all Calliope Chadwick and her snooty daughter Becca into the club.  I was willing to believe, though, that the mothers' graciousness was meant as an example to their daughters.  Second,  I was a little disappointed that the girls appeared to have taken a step backward in development.  The first book showed the girls growing closer to each other and their parents.  Here, they begin a little more mean-spirited than I remembered from book one.  And why does Cassidy seem more secretive (secrets abound and the plot sometimes hinges on them) and distant from her mother?  It seems the author has the girls regress in order to get them into an Anne Shirley-esque scrape or two before learning more life lessons.  Finally, the early focus on Clementine's TV show delays our opportunity to meaningfully explore the girls' thoughts and feelings.

I still heartily enjoyed my reading of the novel.  In some ways, the storytelling has improved.  While book one tended to tie things up too quickly and neatly, Much Ado About Anne allows events to be messier and more mixed-up.  And in some cases, situations, though improved, are not fully resolved.  This is more true to life.

Once more, the series uses humor nicely to offset the occasional weight of lessons learned and wisdom imparted.  Mrs. Wong is again at her ridiculous best, with her penchant for causes and her over-enthusiasm for all things organic and vegan.  And Mrs. Chadwick needs no help or disparagement from the others (it's nice to see the parents model respect for their kids) -- she makes a perfect fool of herself.
As the novel progressed, I found that the strengths of the first book remained.  I'm still fond of the whole Hawthorne clan and the closeness they share.  Emma and Phoebe Hawthorne have a believable bond.  It's heartwarming to see such a healthy mother-daughter dynamic portrayed amid a genre in which parents are often absent.  Emma, Jess, Cassidy, and Megan show themselves to be still, at heart, the same good girls they were in the first book, so I was able to forgive their apparent lapses and backslides.  They are, after all, growing girls, and kids their age sometimes need to learn the same lesson more than once before it sticks.  In the end, the girls learn the the value of trust, teamwork, and loyalty, and families and friendships are both strengthened and broadened.  And though our heroine's future is uncertain, like Anne, Cassidy faithfully steps forward trusting that even if she cannot see what lies around the bend, her future's filled with hope.


Want to start at the beginning?
For a review of book one in the series,
click on the cover!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
(First published 1908)

Pub. Date: April 1982
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 308pp
Age Range: 10 and up
Series: Anne of Green Gables #1
ISBN-13: 19780553213133

Synopsis from the book jacket:
As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever...but will the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she's not what they expected -- a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match. If only she can convince them to let her stay, she'll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anybody else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special -- a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables.
My review:

I just adore Anne of Green Gables! Avonlea is such a beautiful location for an imaginative getaway!

While not a fantasy, the world in which the characters of Anne of Green Gables live is brought to life through vivid descriptive passages.  The setting is king, becoming a character in itself.  Montgomery's vivid portrayal of the idyllic natural landscape is as large a part of her storytelling as Thomas Hardy's poetic descriptions of his fictional Wessex or Dickens' careful descriptions of filth, wont, and squalor in London streets and workhouses.  Whether seen through the eyes of the narrator or described by Anne, there is no doubt that Avonlea is a beauty to behold:
"Anne came dancing home in the purple winter twilight across the snowy places.  Afar in the southwest was the great shimmering, pearl-like sparkle of an evening star in a sky that was pale golden and ethereal rose over gleaming white spaces and dark glens of spruce.  The tinkles of sleigh bells among the snowy hills came like elfin chimes through the frosty air, but their music was not sweeter than the song in Anne's heart and on her lips."
Besides the setting, another thing that immediately impresses me about Anne of Green Gables is Montgomery's facility for creating characters that seem as alive as can be.  At the novel's opening, it's appropriate that we should be introduced first to the meddlesome Rachel Lynde, who with her "all-seeing eye" spies on the goings and comings in the town of Avonlea.  From the get-go, we feel that we know and understand Rachel, Marilla, and Matthew.  And we look forward to getting to know them better, as well as meeting other townsfolk.  Each character has a unique voice, especially the loquacious Anne who speaks her own language with words and phrases like "the depths of the despair," "kindred spirit," "bosom friend," and "tragical".

From the moment when Anne Shirley arrives in Avonlea nothing and no one will be the same.  Just as her imagination reshapes her reality, this small, wiry, orphaned "freckled witch" of a girl will transform the world around her.  Her presence at Green Gables alters more than just her small gable room -- Anne changes the residents of Green Gables, Matthew and Marilla. While Marilla and Matthew teach, guide, and love Anne, she in turn teaches them.  While we see this unlikely family take shape and watch Anne grow, we find that she not only impacts the hearts of friends and families whose lives she touches, including the cantankerous Aunt Josephine Barry, but she makes readers love her, too.  Indeed, even Mark Twain, creator of his own rapscallion, Huck Finn, adored Anne Shirley.  In a letter to Montgomery, he writes that she is “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.”

At the novel's beginning, eleven-year-old Anne is a bit like a young, untamed horse.  She's full of more spunk, zest, and joie-de-vivre than one body can reasonably accommodate.  This unbridled spirit, combined with a limitless imagination lands her in a great many scrapes and escapades.  But luckily, Anne learns that each dawn brings "a new day with no mistakes in it".  We watch her grow, both physically and emotionally -- by novel's end she is over sixteen -- learning lessons from each of her amusing and touching adventures and from her own foibles.

We see in young Anne a spark of childhood imagination and energy, but more than that, a vigor that does not fade as she ages.  Anne is the embodiment of spirit.  She knows what it is to be alive.  As such, she takes nothing for granted.  She loves mornings and soaks up not only the beauty in the world around her, but also any morsel of learning or knowledge that she can.  As she grows, Anne becomes as reflective as she was impulsive.  She never loses sight of the many blessings she has been given, and is grateful for all that she has.  Her gratitude and enthusiasm is as infectious as her charm.  She makes you laugh and cry.  She helps you dream and imagine right along with her.  But most of all, Anne leaves you grateful to have, as she does, your own little slice of  heaven on earth.  It may not be Avonlea, but it's home.  And who better to teach us gratitude for the simple pleasures and blessings of a loving home, than Anne Shirley, the most beguiling and loveable orphan you'll ever meet!

Alas, the only thing wrong with Anne of Green Gables is that the story has to end.  As Anne says:
"The worst of imaging things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts."

But luckily, there are seven more books in the Anne of Green Gables series!