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Sunday, December 4, 2011

It'll Heal What Ails You, Laddie

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor

An Irish Country DoctorI've been wanting to read this book for a long time, and I'm so glad I finally did.  One person at the store where I work said it's like James Herriot's book except with people as patients.  I think that's pretty close.  It's simply a story, and I loved that.  Dr. Barry Laverty has just graduated from medical school.  We join him on his way to Ballybucklebo (a fictional city in Northern Ireland) to answer a job notice.  He meets his possible employer, Dr. Fingal O'Reilly, literally throwing a patient out the door.  With this auspicious start, Barry questions if he should accept a position here, yet he does need a job.  We get to see Barry grow as a doctor, a partner, and a person.  It's a heart-warming ride with the beauty of Ireland as it's backdrop.  I hoped there would be a strong Catholic character.  There wasn't one in this first book though religion is not let completely out of the book. (You couldn't have anything close to a realistic book taking place in Northern Ireland without some religion.)  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book immensely.  There are several more in this series which I highly recommend.  [Interestingly, this book is available as a Mass Market.]

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Next But Not Last, Last But Not Least

I've been reading lots of sequels lately.  I don't think there much point in posting about other books in a series if I've already posted about the first book.  I have thoroughly enjoyed all the series I've been reading.

I finished the Leviathan trilogy.  It gets better as it goes.  Since I listened to the first book on audio, I missed out on the books' beautiful illustrations by Keith Thompson.  Though it was good on audio, don't forget to look at the artwork in the book!!  Scott Westerfeld (the author) has many other good books.  One of his most popular series is the Uglies Series.

I read the second in the Miss Dido Kent Series.  It's called A Gentleman of Fortune, Or the Suspicions of Miss Dido Kent.  It's just as good as the first if not better.  The third book, A Woman of Consequence, Or the Investigations of Miss Dido Kent, is due out April 10, 2012.

I've also been reading more in the Sister Frevisse Series.  They have all been fabulous.

Raise Your Spirits

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

Piper McCloud, an imaginative, curious, irrepressibly positive girl, lives in a very quiet rural town where nothing out of the ordinary happens nor is it welcome.  But, when Piper is seen flying, shocking the town's people isn't the only consequence.  The McCloud's home is swarmed by reporters, until Dr. Hellion and her swat team descend upon the McCloud home clearing the area of any reporters and voyeurs.  Dr. Hellion explains to the McClouds that she has a special school where children like Piper can go and learn in safety.  Not realizing she'll be leaving her parents, Piper agrees to go to the school.  She's always wanted to go to school (rather then being isolated at home).  The school seems wonderful, except for Conrad, who bullies the kids.  However, not everything is as it seems.  Piper will need all of the courage and love in her heart to overcome all that is against her.  And somehow, overcome she does.
Girl Who Could Fly
This book was interesting and uplifting.  I don't know if there will be others to follow, but I would enjoy reading more about Piper and her unique friends.

This is the art on the paperback cover.  I think the art on the hardcover edition makes the book seem very serious and somber.  The cover here protrays the action that's also waiting for the reader to enjoy.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

For All Those Math and Science Fans Out There.....Big and Small

A Gebra Named Al by Wendy Isdell

The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Wiker

A Gebra Named Al: A NovelSurprisingly, Wendy Isdell wrote her book when she was in eighth grade!  My son and I loved this book.  It's a little bit like Alice in Wonderland except it's Julie in Mathland and the creatures are more helpful.  Julie is transported to a land of math and science (after having a frustrating time doing algebra problems).  On her quest to return home, AL the GEBRA (algebra) and his friends the Periodicals (horses with characteristics of the element they are named after) introduce Julie to the Land of Mathematics.  On the way Julie learns about isotopes, travels through the Order of Operations, and eats fruit shaped like Bohr's model of the atom.  This cute book gives accurate information about science and math concepts.  It's a very pleasurable read.

Mystery Of The Periodic Table     Benjamin Wicker's book is outstanding.  He explains the chemistry behind atoms, elements, and the periodic table so well.  A middle school student could easily read this book independently and understand the concepts and ideas Wicker explains.  Yet, the information is not a dumbed-down presentation, it's powerful concepts illustrated with pictures and words in a way that is easy to understand.  Wicker also keeps the book very interesting throughout by linking the different discoveries together, talking about the personal side of some of these scientist, and asking readers questions directly to make a point and to make them think.  The periodic table is a thing of awesome beauty, and we should all know how it came about and how perfectly the elements in nature fit together.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  It seems any book published by Bethlehem Books is a winner (though this book is not religious).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I Had a Ball Reading Bellfield Hall

Bellfield Hall: Or, the Observations of Miss Dido Kent  by Anna Dean

     I really liked this book!!  I could sum it up most simply by saying it is a Jane Austenesque mystery.  To sum it up with a little more detail, I would tell you this mystery is written in 3rd person with glimpses into Miss Dido's thoughts by the letters she sends to her sister.  I really liked getting a peek into her thoughts through the letters interspersed throughout the narrative.  Catherine Kent, sends for her spinster Aunt Dido to help find out why Catherine's fiance vanished from their announcement ball.  Shortly after Miss Dido arrives, a body is found on the estate's grounds.  Dido has many mysteries to unravel while at Bellfield not the least being the identity of the deceased.  This was a delightful book.  Anyone who likes mysteries (especially heady mysteries rather than blood and gore) and fans of Jane Austen will love this book!!  I can't wait to read the second in the series, A Gentleman of Fortune: Or, the Suspicions of Miss Dido Kent.

Bad Title for a Good Book?

Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio

Is God a Mathematician?     I enjoyed this book, though it was not the book I thought it would be.  Mario Livio tackles the question whether humans discovered or invented mathematics by tracing the history of mathematics from Pythagerous (ca.597-472 BC) to near present day.  It is an incredible trip with Livio's excellent summarizations, connections, and explanations.  I found it fascinating to learn how certain concepts came about, which mathematicians agreed and disagreed, and how religiously some people took mathematics.  In the last chapter, Livio takes the evidence from the history of mathematics and adds his own opinion on the debate between discovery and invention.  He ends with the indecisive explanation that it is some of both.  Well, I guess if that's how you really feel.  I was looking for something a little more definitive after going through the book, but the history lesson was worth the wishy-washy stance at the end.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Brilliant Book

The Creative Brain: The Science of Genius by Nancy Andreasen

The Creative Brain: The Science of GeniusI really enjoyed this book.  It's not that long and worth a second reading to really apply the book to my life and my kids' lives.  At the time of this books publishing Dr. Andreasen, a highly respected and honored doctor, worked as the director of the Mental Health Clinical Research Center at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.  In this book she explores what makes people creative.  She makes this exploration easy to understand and exciting to learn.  This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in the brain, creativity, or a parent or educator.  As a homeschooler, I found many of her discoveries and insights helpful in how I plan my children's education.  Dr. Andreasen examines several creative geniuses.  I remember that most of them had a childhood that was unstructured, allowing them to explore, experiment, play, and observe.  It seems our society is going in the opposite direction in educating our youth.  Dr. Andreasen also touches on the link between genius and mental illness, a topic I would love to read more about.

I feel this book as appeal for most readers, who will find it educational and enjoyable.  I highly recommend this book, and I look forward to reading her other books.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sister Frevisse Is Simply Divine

Warning:  Many of the books in this series are out of print.  If you don't want to get interested in a series in which you may not be able to find the middle books, you may not want to read this review.

The Novice's Tale by Margaret Frazer

This mystery takes place at an English convent in the 1400s.  A wealthy dowager, Lady Ermentrude, charges into the convent demanding her niece leave the convent in order to marry, despite the Thomasine's deep desire to take her religious vows at the convent..  While staying at the convent Lady Ermentrude dies.  The novice, Thomasine, seems the likely suspect.  Sr. Frevisse is secretly given the task to find the true cause of death, despite what the crowner may say.

I liked this novel for so many reasons.
1. I enjoy reading about the Medieval times.  The reader can tell Maragret Frazer has a vast knowledge of this time period.  I learned a lot.
2. The mystery is a good one.  I enjoyed the twists and turns it took.
3. Each nun is unique.  It seems so often religious people are portrayed as dull or extremely evil.  Here, the nuns have unique personalities, talents, faults that are all evident to the reader, despite the nuns' rule of silence.  Sr. Frevisse is a complex but very likeable character.  I wish she was my aunt.
4.  The Catholic religion is respected and described accurately.  It is neither white-washed to perfect purity nor vilified.  Many books I've read take unneeded jabs at the Catholic church.  Frazer's approach was rather refreshing.

I think whether you have read many Medieval novels or none, whether you are religious or not, you will enjoy this interesting mystery.

Unfortunately, many of the books in this 17 book series are out of print and unavailable as ebooks.  Books 1 and 2 are in print.  Books 3,4, &5, are available as ebooks.  I believe books 9 and above are in print.  If you become interested in this series, you can look a book up on the Barnes and Noble website ( and click the link that requests this book be offered as an ebook.  They send this on the publisher.  I could not find a way on the Penguin USA website to place a request.
Margaret Frazer has another series of books based on a traveling actor, Joliffe.  He is introduced in the second book of the Sister Frevisse series called The Servant's Tale.  The first book in the Joliffe series is called A Play of Isaac.  The seventh book in the series is due out this December.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vish Puri is Purely Wonderful

Booker...   (I hope Puri is pronounced like pure-ee)
The Case of the Missing Servant (Vish Puri Series #1) by Tarquin Hall

When I picked up this book, I was thinking it would be like a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency set in India.  I was mostly wrong.  But, I was right to pick up the book.  I really enjoyed it.

Vish Puri, India's most successful private investigator, does long for the simpler more moral days of the past and his investigations don't include the violence and sexual content found in so many of the mysteries on the shelf these days.  In those ways this series is similar to the No. 1 Detective Agency, but in many ways it is different. 

Puri has all the modern technology an investigator could want.  He's also got more enemies than any person would want.  This story starts quickly!  We begin this story at the end of an investigation, giving you an idea of what Puri is all about.  Then comes an assassination attempt.  I really liked the start of this book. 

In the story, Puri investigate two cases, one more major than the other.  Both are solved in the end by the detective, who we discover is a compassionate upstanding person.  Yet, he is not perfect so he's very likable.  There's also a fun  meddling character in the family who adds humor to the book.

I don't know much about India and its culture.  I don't think I've even ever read a book that takes place in India, which actually made me a little hesitant to read the book.  But, I enjoyed learning a little about India from Hall, a British writer who lived and worked in South Asia, the Middles East and Africa.  Hall also provides a helpful glossary in the back of Indian words used in the book.

This is a great mystery book.  And the second in the series is now out in paperback (The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing).  Tarquin Hall also received Barnes and Noble's "Discover Great New Writers" Award for To the Elephant Graveyard.  It got excellent reviews.  He has other non-fiction work as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Can COUNT on This Book Series

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

"Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.

Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. We have lived among you without you knowing.

But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four.

I am next."
I can't possibly give you a better preview of this book then the synopsis from Barnes and Noble quoted above. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is the "hardest-to- put-down" book that I've read since the 7th book in the Harry Potter series. I started reading on Saturday afternoon, and finished on Sunday night, after 3, two hour reading sessions. Yes, 439 pages in 6 hours...I used to speed read. Thanks to my wife for recommending this book and for allowing me 3, two hour reading sessions in one weekend.
"I Am Number Four" is the first in a planned 6 book series by Pittacus Lore. Pittacus Lore is the pseudonym adopted by the writing duo of Jobie Hughes and James Frey. There is also a movie planned for next spring based on this book. The second book in "The Lorien Legacies" series is supposed to be released in the Spring of 2011, and I for one can't wait.
I can't recommend "I Am Number Four" highly enough. It has everything you could want in a book...super powered alien heroes, super powered alien villans, likable characters, action, humor and a love story. They packed so much into one story that I can't wait to see what they can get into 6 books. Hands down, one of the best books I've read in recent memory. There is some strong language, so it's definitely PG-13. I hope you'll give it a shot, I think you'll like it.

The Power of Six by Pittacss Lore

The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies Series #2)The Power of Six is the 2nd book in the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore (a Pseudonym for the 2 guys working on this series). You will recall that I really liked I Am Number Four, and I liked the 2nd book as well.

This 2nd book continues to follow John Smith (a.k.a Number Four), but in this story, we also get to know Six, who we met at the end of the first book, Seven (a.k.a Marina) and Nine. The Power of Six takes place over a very short period of time, and thus moves extremely fast and is packed with action. The story continues to follow the conflict between the Lorien's (good aliens) and Mogadorians (bad aliens) on earth. The Mogadorians are trying to exterminate the remaining Loriens before they attain their full power...yes they have super powers. Trust me, it's a good story.

You will discover that this book does not have top notch writing. I mean, it's not terrible, but I wouldn't describe it as literary genius either. Still, this was a great read and I'm excited about the third book, which will probably come out next summer. My brief internet search did not reveal a title, and I'm too lazy to keep digging.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who Wouldn't Want Some Chocolate?

The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
How It's Made: Chocolate Bar by Sarah Ridley

Chocolate TouchI used The Chocolate Touch with my younger son for a home school unit.  He really enjoyed the book.  It definitely helped that he knew the Greek myth of Midas' Touch.  In this book, John Midas, who loves all things candy, gets the chocolate touch.  As he goes through the day, his chocolate touch becomes more powerful.  My son found some of his mishaps quite funny.  It is a fairly short chapter book with at least one full page illustration for each of the twelve chapters.  I think the new cover art definitely draws kids in more than the original cover.  I would recommend this book for a younger reader who loves chocolate or a reluctant reader who could be drawn into the story by the chocolate and funny situations.  At the end of the story, hopefully the reader has learned that greed gains nothing good or too much of a good thing can be bad.

After reading  The Chocolate Touch, we had a unit study on chocolate.  One of the best books I found on the process of making chocolate was A Chocolate Bar, copyrighted 2005 and 2006.  I don't usually blog on the resource books I use during home schooling, but I was so impressed by this book that I needed to let people know about it.  This book had just the right amount of information--enough that we both learned many new things, but my son was not overwhelmed by all the facts or bored by too much information.  The reader starts in Ghana at a cocoa tree and follows the cocoa from harvest, then  across the ocean to the factory and finally to the wrapped chocolate bar.  The photographs and glossary are wonderful.  I also appreciated the information on fair trade chocolate!!  I don't know if this book is available now or if only libraries can get it, but I highly recommend this book if you're interested at all in how chocolate is made.  There are other titles in the How It's Made series covering Cotton T-Shirt, Rubber Tire, and Wooden Chair.  The books are published by Gareth Stevens Publishing with a website at .

Monday, September 12, 2011

Steampunk is So Cool

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

     Remember the show Wild Wild West.  It was great, huh?  And it could be called steampunk.  I've found I really like this genre.  Steampunk books take place in the past but have other aspects that are futuristic or science fiction.  The Parasol Protectorate Series is steampunk.  So is Leviathan, a science fiction/alternate history/steampunk novel for teens.

     Leviathan takes place at the very start of The Great War (later to be known as World War I).  Alek must hide his identity as he races from the Germans.  He and his crewmates pilot a two-legged walking machine. (I pictured something similar to an AT-AT Walker from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.)
     Deryn must hide her identity as well.  A girl would never be allowed to join the military, but she won't let that stop her from achieving her dream of serving on airship.  The airship she ends up on is no ordinary airship.  It's actually a whale who's life thread have been incorporated into a blimp like machine. 
     The Darwinists use life threads of animals to create useful devices.  The Clankers rely on metal and machinery to do their work.  We follow Alek, a Clanker, and Deryn known as Dillan, a Darwinist on their dangerous journeys filled with danger and suspense and a bit of humor.  It's a great book!  It might even inspire you to investigate a little more about WWI.
     I knew there was a sequel, Behemoth, but I didn't realize Leviathan would end in the middle of the story, leaving us with a big cliff hanger.  Luckily for us, Behemoth, is out, and the third book,Goliath, is due to come out September 20th! 

[I listened to the audio book of Leviathan, which was very good, but I haven't seen the names in print.  I think they are all spelled correctly except maybe Dillan.]

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Move Over Miss Marple

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #1)No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I do love Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books--better than the Hercule Poirot mysteries.  I like the Fr. Brown mysteries over Sherlock Holmes, too.  I guess that shows I prefer the unconventional detective over the "super" detective.  But, that's only part of the reason why I love the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series so much.

These books take place in Gabarone, Botswana.  Alexander McCall Smith does a fantastic job of describing Botswana enough that I can picture the scenery without bogging down the story.  The unconventional detective in this series is Precious Ramotswe, who uses her inheritance to open a detective agency.  Mma Ramotswe has many adventures in each book.  Some cases she takes turn out to be humorous, some heart-warming or heart-tugging, and others start out simple enough but end up getting the detective into danger.  As the series goes on, we get to better know Mma Ramotswe's friend Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni and her secretary Mma Makutsi--both fantastic characters.  This series is full of wonderful stories and characters that make me feel like I'm at home with them whenever I open the book.  The stories in this series are usually not intense, but are always enjoyable.  I recommend reading the books in order because the lives of the characters progress throughout the series.  The books are not numbered so I've listed the series below.  Don't miss out on the wonderful world of Precious Ramotswe.

1-No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
2-Tears of the Giraffe
3-Mortality for Beautiful Girls
4-The Kalahari Typing School for Men
5-The Full Cupboard of Life
6-In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
7-Blue Shoes and Happiness
8-The Good Husband at Zebra Drive
9-The Miracle at Speedy Motors
10-Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
11-The Double Comfort Safari Club
12-The Saturday Big Tent Wedding
13-The Limpopo Academy of Private Detecting  (due out 4/3/12)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Good Book...Honest

True (...Sort Of)  by Katherine Hannigan

True (...Sort Of)This was another good book from Ms. Hannigan, the author of Ida B.  It is similar to Ida B--both have a character with a very close bond with nature, both deal with a serious issue, and both end with hope.  In True, Delly is trying to stay out of trouble, something she hasn't been able to do up to now.  It's not that Delly's bad or mean or thoughtless--quite the opposite in fact.  Delly's passion and spirit usually lead her on path she shouldn't have rushed onto.  To stay out of trouble, Delly decides to trail Ferris, a new kid in her class.  Since Ferris doesn't talk (ever) (for a serious reason), Delly figures Ferris should be boring enough to keep Delly out of trouble. Should be anyway.

My kids really liked the Dictionary in the back of the book with words Delly made up and her invented no-cuss words.  They're used heavily in this household now.  My youngest son didn't really understand the ending and that's okay.  He was able to enjoy the magic of the story and not deal with the serious stuff.  My older son liked the book but felt uneasy at the end, which I think is a good thing.

In the book, Ferris has a special relationship with animals.  Birds and squirrels flock to her.  She easily communicate silently with her cat.  Yet, the story is quite real.  It's not a fantasy book.  I hadn't thought about a story being about realistic people in a realistic setting and having a little bit of magic in that real world, too.  At first, I tried to ignore the unrealistic reaction the animals had to Ferris and chalk it up to Delly exaggerating a little, but later I asked myself 'Why can't there be this "unrealistic" thread in a realistic story? Who says it has to be one or the other?'  Then I embraced that part of the book.  I was very glad this book again reminded me not to live in a world that's black and white.  Gray happens, gray is real, and gray can be good.

It's been so many years since I read Ida B that I don't feel I could give an accurate review of it.  I just remember being very moved by the book.  The main character is home schooled until her mom becomes very sick and she has to go to "regular" school. 

This book was one my wife chose to do as a read aloud to the kids on a recent trip we made. As I was driving, and almost all the reading was done in the car, I got to listen too. Author Katherine Hannigan spins a really good tale of friendship, of overcoming perceptions and of learning how to do what's right.

The story centers mostly around Delly Pattison, a 5th grader who likes surpresents (surprise presents). But, her surpresents tend to get her in trouble. In fact, she is in trouble so often, that most of her family and friends have given up on her. That all changes when Delly meets Ferris Boyd, the new kid in town who is like no one Delly has ever met before. Ferris comes with her own set of troubles though. Can Delly overcome her troubles and help Ferris?

There is a side story involving another kid's (Brud Kinney) interaction with Ferris as well, but I think the Delly/Ferris story is definitely the main theme. I really enjoyed this book, and my wife read it so well. This story is funny at times, sad at others, and heartwarming at others. A great choice for a read aloud book with kids. There are some tough themes at times, so I'd suggest kids 8 or older. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Don't Have the Words

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

This is a fantastic book!!  I don't have the right words to say how much I liked it, but I really really did.  I read it as an ebook so I was spared a spoiler on the cover of the paperback, which kept me in suspense for at least the first half of the book.  Don't read the reviews on the cover of the book.

The book is the diary of a woman pioneer, Sarah, in the Arizona Territory.  The diary begins when she is seventeen years old, and her family is traveling across the southwest to sell horses.  The diary continues on for almost two decades.  Sarah faces many trials, but she is so strong and compassionate.  Her outlook on life is so interesting.  I found her thoughts both comforting, inspiring, and thought-provoking, while I enjoyed the plot line immensely.

I enjoyed the diary format of this book.  Sarah is not formally educated so she doesn't write with proper grammar.  Some people told me this bothered them in the beginning until they got use to it, but it didn't bother me at all.  I think that was a good decision by the author because is makes Sarah's voice so much more real.

I was very pleased when I realized there are two more books about Sarah following this book  [Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden].  Living in the midwest, I'm familiar with the life of pioneers in the this area (see Laura Ingalls Wilder), but I hadn't thought much about the life of pioneers in the southwest.  I was glad to be exposed to that part of U.S. history.  This book was inspired by the diary of the author's grandmother.

You've got to read this book.  It's great.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lost in a Good Book

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff          

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IIThis book tells the story of a true rescue mission in New Guinea towards the end of World War II.  An officer rewards some of his workers stationed in New Guinea with a flight over a newly discovered civilization in a valley on the island.  The plane crashes; only three aboard survive.  The survivors are located by plane, but the military has few plausible ideas on how to remove the survivors from the deep forested valley.  As they wait to leave, the survivors meet the "locals". 

Mr. Zuckoff does a great job of painting the picture of life at the base camp so we can understand the people on the flight.  He expertly weaves the story of the crash and rescue with interesting information about the native inhabitants, the history of the war, and types of military equipment.  The book also contains photographs.

It's got to be a good book, when you know the ending but you still can't wait to read it. 

Not Blazing But Still a Great Read

The Ring of Rocamadour (The Red Blazer Girls Series #1) by Michael D. Beil

Again, as I was shelving books at work, I found the second book of the Red Blazer Girls series.  I was very intrigued because it was girls in a Catholic School who were working with a priest to solve a mystery.  Could this be a secular Catholic book, I wondered. 

I read the first book and I really liked it.  The girls in the book do refer to Cosmo and Vogue, which I don't think most of the Catholic homeschool girls I know would relate to, but I don't have girls so maybe they would and probably most girls regardless of religion would know about those magazines.  I did not like that the girls said hell.

But, there were many things I did like.  I liked that the girls were good kids who came from a variety of backgrounds.  School was important to them and one of their teachers is a good mentor for them.  The girls are also respectful to adults.  In the end, they help bring members of family who were estranged from each other back together again.  The priests in the book are portrayed as good people, not sticks-in-the-mud or hypocrites.

The girls must use knowledge about literature, social studies, math, and more to solve the many clues in the mystery.  I thought that was really cool.  Along with the mystery, there's also a crush to deal with.  In the end there is a kiss in public with their families there.  A good compromise?  There's the kiss for the audience, but with a purer environment for selective parents' of the reader. 

I think this is a great read for young girls with a bit of boy and Glamour and an emphasis on what we should really treasure-friends and family.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Book for Book Lovers

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

What a wonderful book.  I enjoyed it so much.  This is definetly a book for booklovers.  Guernsey is a small island off the southern coast of England, quite close to France.  The island was occupied by the Germans during World War II. 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe book, told in letter form (the perfect way to tell this story), takes place just after the end of World War II.  A man writes to a woman whose old book he now owns, to ask her if she might help him find other books by the same author.  The woman writes back.  We learn she is an author, looking for inspiration for a new book and a new opportunity at living again.  Her correspondence extends to others on the island, member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.  A friendship forms between them.  We learn about wonderful people and the suffering endured during the German occupation of their home.  The writing is wonderful, the characters become your friends, and the history revealed is absorbing.  The importance and relief the love of books and reading brings is interwoven throughout the story.  Pick this book up, and you won’t want to put it down.

This Book is Over the Top Awesome

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles #1) by Suzanne Collins  

I have been meaning to read this book for years.  I finally did.  It was one of the free books offered to kids who completed the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program.  My friend was having a book discussion on it, so I got the audio for the kids and I to listen to as we drove back and forth from camp.  I mentioned earlier that my kids don’t really like fantasy books, so I wasn’t expecting them to like this book, but since we were stuck in the car I hoped they would just keep listening.  Well, they were hooked within the first couple chapter when the cockroaches say Gregor’s two-year old sister smells good and she announces, “I poop.”  I think I had to pause the CD so they could finish laughing and copying what they heard, but they were hooked and they paid close attention throughout the whole story.  And, we all loved it!!!!  We immediately listened to the second book once we finished the first, and we can’t wait to read the third!

Suzanne Collins wrote this story after wondering what city kids would think of Alice in Wonderland.  They wouldn’t have rabbit holes around.  I’m so glad she wondered that, and then wrote about it.

Life has been difficult for Gregor and his family after his father disappeared over two years ago (Grerogt can tell you how long his dad’s been gone to the day).  Soon into the story, Gregor and his sister, Boots,s fall down a shaft taking them to Underland.  Giant cockroaches find them and greatly admire Gregor’s sister.  Eventually, Gregor and Boots find themselves in Regalia, a city of underground dwelling humans who ride giant colored bats.  They live in fear of the Gnawers.  Gregor learns of a prophecy telling of a warrior who helps them against the rats.  The humans believe Gregor is the warrior.

So far, this follows the path of the ever-loved classic quest.  A boy, unsure of himself, is forced upon a quest to find his father and help his friends, if only he can find the inner strength to make the right decisions.  There’s a reason we love quest stories so much.  And this is definitely one to love!

Technical Difficulty

Sorry about the lack of posts recently.  I had computer trouble, but now we're back up and running.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Interesting Book, I Swear

Blood Oath (Nathaniel Cade Series #1) by Christopher Farnsworth

In this story, there are worse evils threatening our country than terrorists and biological weapons.  And, for over a century, the President of the United States has had a vampire protect us from this evil.
This vampire is Nathaniel Cade; he is forced by a blood oath to always and completely follow the presidents' commands. 

Blood Oath is a legal/government thriller with some sci-fi mixed in.  Blood Oath (Nathaniel Cade Series #1)A fair part of this book is spent helping us learn about the characters we'll be involved with as is usual for the first book in a series.  I think the author does a good job of keeping this interesting by using flashbacks and a mix of story lines.  There is also enough left out to leave us wanting to know more.  I thought the idea of the president having a vampire who helps him protect the country was such an intriguing idea.  The plot is interesting with a few unexpected turns (unexpected by me at least).

I was excited to read this book.  I think I had very high hopes.  I did like the book, but I didn't absolutely love it liked I hoped.  I think it is very similar to a lot of the bestsellers out there by Patterson, Griffin, Clancy, Cussler, and the like.  So there's a few swear words, no biggie.  I guess I had a little problem with the woman putting up with rough sex to get what she wanted.  But at the same time, I don't think that's uncommon in most books of this type and it's not a big part of the book.

I came to like the main characters and the relationship between Cade and Zach.  When I began this book, I did not know it was going to be a series, but I think I will read the next one, The President's Vampire, which just came out this April.  Blood Oath was a good story with interesting likable characters that leave you asking questions you're looking forward to being answered.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Saints Alive!

Adventures with Sister Philomena, Special Agent to the Pope Series  by Dianne Ahern
Book 1  Lost in St. Peter's Tomb
Book 2  Break-in at the Basilica
Book 3  Curse of the Coins
Book 4  Secrets of Siena

My family is only on Book 2 right now, but we have really liked this series so far.  Riley and his younger sister Delaney are staying with their aunt, Sr. Philomena, for the summer.  Riley is not pleased at all with the idea of spending his summer in a rural convent outside of Rome.  He's certain this summer will be the most boring summer of this life.  But, on the second day of their stay, the kids must rush to the Vatican with their aunt.  Sr. Philomena must meet with Pope John Paul II!  Riley and Delaney learn that their aunt is not a stereotypical nun.  She is a nun, who is also serves as the pope's special investigator.

Each story not only holds a mystery that Sr. Philomena must solve (usually with the help of Riley an Delaney), but it also provides information about different saints.  The reader learns about the saints' lives without it being very obvious because they are receiving the information as they progress through the mystery.  And, the information they learn about the saint can give them clues to help them solve the mystery.  We have found these books informative while entertaining.  It's a great combination.  Color illustrations are plentiful and each chapter has a theme picture for each page.  My child has enjoyed trying to guess what the picture will be.  I would recommend these books for early elementary readers or as a read-aloud.

I wasn't able to get these books through my place of employment, but you can order them from Fiat Catholic Books.  Just click on their picture logo at the top right of my blog, or go to

Could Nellie Bly be my Next Amelia Peabody?

The Alchemy of Murder (Nellie Bly Series #1) by Carol McCleary

A fellow co-worker pointed out a book to me she thought I would like.  It was called The Illusion of Murder, a book about Nellie Bly investigating a murder in Egypt during her trip around the world.  She knew I loved the Amelia Peabody mystery series about a woman in the late 1800s who goes to Egypt and becomes an archaeologist.  I was excited to read the book.  Before I started, I found it was actually the second in a series, so I started with the first.

The Alchemy of Murder (Nellie Bly Series #1)This mystery series is very interesting because, as the name implies, Nellie Bly is the main character.  (Nellie Bly was a female newspaper reporter who did remarkable things, such as infiltrate a mad house by pretending to be a patient in order to report on the conditions inside, called for equal pay for equal work for women, conducted news investigations in Mexico, traveled around the world in 72 days, and more.)  In the first book, Nellie has tracked a murderer from New York to Paris, hosting the World's Fair.  There, she enlists the help of Jules Vern, and in turn gets help from Dr. Louis Pasteur and Oscar Wilde.

Most of the book takes place in the seedy parts of Paris, thus there is quite a bit of vulgarity in the book.  It's not necessarily unwarranted because it is certainly characteristic of the setting, but not a tale for the squeamish.  I enjoyed most of the author's portrayal of the real-life characters.  I think most of their actions seemed to follow what's known of their personalities, though I'm not a real expert on them, especially Jules Verne, so I can't stay for sure how much they may have "acted out of character".  There is probably always a delicate balance to maintain when using real-life people in a fictitious story.

I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as the Amelia Peabody Series by Elizabeth Peters for a few reasons.  The real-life people portrayed by Peters are secondary characters, so I think it is easier to have them following their perceived public personality and actions.  I also love these books because the setting is made very real without the blunt expression of vulgarity.  Hints, innuendos, and the like make known to the reader what is true without plopping the ugly truth right before their eyes.

Though it may not be my new Amelia Peabody, The Alchemy of Murder was a good story.  It took a different path than I thought it was headed for, and had a lot of suspense and twists.  I think those who enjoy historical mysteries, especially mysteries involving real-life events and people, will enjoy this book.  Happy sleuthing!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Andrew Clements Rocks

My sons and I have read and listened to many books by Andrew Clements.  Most of his books are, what I would call, school room stories, meaning somewhat realistic stories about kids and their experiences in school. 

Initially, I had stayed away from his books because I thought my homeschooled kids, would not really enjoy reading about kids in a world they really didn't have much experience with.  I tried reading fantasy books with them.  My oldest just does not like fantasy books.  I tried Andrew Clements, and my boys LOVED his books.   A little later I thought, "What reference point do they have with any of these fantasy worlds I've been reading to them about.  A school room drama or adventure is maybe a bit like a fantasy novel to them, but doesn't require so much abstract thinking [which is difficult for them]."  And, I think they like the idea of imagining, what if that really did happen because it could happen, everything in that story is found in real life--that can make the what ifs even more fun to think about.

There are so many reasons Andrew Clements' books are excellent.
1. The kids involved are good kids.  They may make mistakes, but they learn from them.  They aren't snobby or mean or rude.
2. It's good writing, good literature.  These books can capture kids' imagination without being dopey like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants or even some chapters that are just dumbed down.  Andrew Clements writing gives students a good model for word use, structure, and voice.
3. The teachers/principals model healthy relationships with their students.  The teachers and students often don't agree, causing tension in the story; however, they still act respectfully to each other.  And, when one party has erred, they admit it.  The teachers model the ability to take in other evidence and change their minds, agreeing with the students and sometimes the students change because they look at things from the teacher's perspective.  There are many school books I don't read to my kids because the students and teachers are too disrespectful to each other.  I really appreciate the respect teachers and elders are given in Clements' books.
4. Both girls and boys are included in his stories.  Boy and girl characters both have strengths and faults, sometimes they argue and sometimes they work together, and sometimes they do both, yet they are each strong characters.
5. The stories are creative, suspenseful, funny, warm-hearted.  Just so enjoyable to read.

Some of our favorite Clements books that we've read so far are:
Frindle  (great for kids who may be hesitant to start a longer chapter book)
No Talking (my kids have listened to this book in the car 5 times now)
Lunch Money (inspired my son to try to make his own comic)
Keepers of the School (mystery series!)

I have not read Things Not Seen and the books after, but I really want to.  They seem to be more like science fiction than his more common school room stories, but I bet we will still get to read about a character who world view and self-insight development and grow.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not a Baker's Dozen (or mine for that matter)

A Dangerous Dozen: Twelve Christians who Threatened the Status Quo But Taught us to Live Like Jesus by Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson, PhD

                   I'm going to list the dozen.
                   A Dangerous Dozen: Twelve Christians who Threatened the Status Quo But Taught us to Live Like JesusThe Apostle Paul
                   Mary Magdelene
                   Origen of Alexandria
                   Francis of Assisi
                   Hildegard of Bingen
                   Thomas Cranmer
                   Sojourner Truth
                   Dorothy Day
                   Dietrich Bonhoeffer
                   Janani Luwum
                   Oscar Romero
                   K. H. Ting

It was nice to learn about some of these Christians who I did not know before.  The author does state that whenever you are making a list like this, there will always be opinions that some person should be on the list instead of one he chose, and that's true.  I don't think you could have had this list without St. Francis of Assisi and Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero are excellent choices as well.  However, I wondered at many of them.  After the chapter, I couldn't answer the question of how they had taught us to live like Jesus.  I just didn't enjoy this book that much.  Has anyone else out there read it?  What did you think?

A Book to Sink Your Teeth Into

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I'm years behind, but I finally read this best seller.  Actually, I listened to the audio book, which uses different actors for the different characters.  It was marvelous--the accents for each character (which I don't think I would have been able to hear in my head if I read it) really added to my enjoyment of the story.  And some of the voices made some scenes very eerie.  The whole audio book is very well done.

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I'm glad I was listening in the car rather than reading the book at night.  I'm sorry I can't remember the young girls name, but she lives with her father who travels throughout Europe.  She begins to travel with him and finally asks about her mother.  He has never spoken of her to his daughter before, but reluctantly begins to tell his daughter bits and pieces of the painful story over many months.  The daughter learns her parents met at an English university where they were both researching historical data on Dracula.  Things transpire and eventually a desparate hunt for Dracula begins again. 

This story has beautiful descriptions, interesting historical information, suspense, and a few shiver-inducing moments.  You don't have to be a Dracula fan to enjoy this intelligent book.  I highly recommend it. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rick Riordan Is At It Again

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
All the man does is write entertaining, high quality books for kids, young adults and 30 somethings who are recapturing their childhood.  In The Throne of Fire we are once again reading the transcript of a recording made by Carter and Sadie Kane.  Carter and Sadie are descendants of the Egyptian Pharaohs, in fact, 2 of the most powerful Pharaohs, and they are also magicians.  The problem is, other magicians think they are outlaws because their father released trapped Egyptian gods back into the world.  He did this to save the world from the return of Apophis, the most evil of all the ancient gods.  Carter and Sadie believe that their father is right, that the old gods of Egypt are the solution to stopping the rise of Apophis, and they are bent on seeing this mission through.  This time they have the help of a few other junior magicians who answered the call they put out with their first message in The Red Pyramid.

The Throne of Fire is another masterfully crafted story from Rick Riordan, who is my favorite author.  As this is the 2nd book in The Kane Chronicles series, we have already met our narrators, Carter and Sadie.  Each character tells about 2 chapters before "switching" with the other narrator.  Riordan varies the storytelling style enough that you really believe you are reading 2 different views of the events.  It's a really cool way to read a story.

At first, I wasn't thrilled with this book.  It took me a while to remember what I read in The Red Pyramid, which is the problem with only releasing 1 book per year.  Once it all came back to me though, I thoroughly enjoyed the 450ish pages of this book and really look forward to the final book, due out next year.  If you haven't picked up The Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordan yet, give these books a shot.  I think you'll really enjoy them.

I Did Not Get Bogged Down in This Book (b/c it's awesome)

The Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd


You can appreciate this story much more if you know some history of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Britain.  At the time of this story, many people in Northern Ireland are protesting that this land was not given it's independence with the rest of Ireland and still belongs to Great Britain.  Some protesters are using bombs to make their point, but not all.  Many rebels are also being criminals.  The rebels want to be considered and treated as prisoners of war--not criminals.  Bobby Sands started a hunger strike in the prisons to help this status come about and with hopes that conditions in the prisons would improve.

Bog ChildDespite the danger, Fergus and his uncle have crossed the border to collect peat on the Irish side of the border.  While collecting the peat, Fergus discovers the body of a child.  The bog preserves like the sands of Egypt, so it's difficult to know how recently the child may have died or been killed.  Fergus insist his uncles contact the authorities despite the danger this may impose.  Fergus feels a connection to the "bog child" and is eager to help the woman who comes to investigate and enjoys her daughter's company, too.  But Fergus has more to worry about than his gruesome discovery.  His final exams are coming up, Fergus's brother has been imprisoned, and now Fergus is getting pressure to join the fight against Britain. 

This book has so much depth.  The story of Fergus and that of the Bog Child are interwoven wonderfully.  This is a magnificent book, and would make a great book club selection because there are so many things to discuss.  A friend from work has read two of Ms. Dowd's other books and highly recommends them as well.  Unfortunately, Ms. Dowd passed from breast cancer at the age of 47.  She was an amazing woman working hard for human rights and to help bring literacy to those who most needed it.  You can a view a short biography of Ms. Dowd at which lists her community and global work and her success as a writer.  There is also a link to the trust she established shortly before her death.  The website address is .  We are fortunate that she was able to give her readers four phenomenal books.  (Two more teen books: Swift Pure Cry and Solace of the Road and a juvenile fiction book The London Eye Mystery)

Parental note: There are jokes about condoms, physical affection, and a reference to sex.  While this may make it inappropriate for some readers, the subjects are mentioned in a fairly innocent way.

Move Over Encyclopedia, The Orignal Brown is Back in Town

The Innocence of Father Brown  by G. K. Chesterton


I enjoyed this book, even a century after it was written.  It is filled with twelve short mysteries involving the Catholic priest, Father Brown.  I found every story intriguing.  I would have a hard time picking one favorite, but a few of my favorites included the beloved Blue Cross, The Queer Feet, and Three Tools of Death.  I really liked Falling Stars, as well.  I didn't figure out that one at all and I liked how it ended.

Chesterton converted to Catholicism and wrote many good religious philosophy books including his famous Orthodoxy.  Chesterton was also a good friend and encouragement to C. S. Lewis.  Both men are known for their spiritual writing and their great fiction books that still carry a layer of their Catholic beliefs, referring to Narnia and the Father Brown mysteries.  Chesterton has created Father Brown with opposite features one would expect a fantastic detective to display.  (Perhaps like a king that came and turned our ideas of a king and kingdom upside down.)  Fr. Brown's appearance deceives many people, leading them to believe he is insignificant.  But, he always solves the case, while showing mercy and offering holy advice when needed.  The closest comparison I would have for these mysteries is a cross between Agatha Christie's mysteries and Encyclopedia Brown.  The reader is always give clues to help them solve the case along with Fr. Brown, but Fr. Brown always fills us in on the imaginative and complex motives, as found in Christie's mysteries.

This may not be a book to read over a few days, but it would be very nice to keep on your night stand to stimulate your brain or to keep in the car for a bit of entertainment while waiting.  Once you've finished this book, pick up The Wisdom of Father Brown , The Incredulity of Father Brown, The Secret of Father Brown, and The Scandal of Father Brown.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Didn't Fall for This Book

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black  (aka John Baneville)

It's 1950s Dublin and Christine Falls is dead.  Dublin pathologist, Quirke, in a somewhat inebriated state, stumbles upon his brother-in-law rewriting the file for this dead woman, who is due for an autopsy the next day.  The next day, her body is missing with no trace of its ever being in the morgue.  The search for the truth will bring this brooding and depressed pathologist as far as away as Boston and as close as the secret affairs of his own family and Church. 

This is a very dark mystery with a protagonist who is not perfect, but doesn't even seem to try to be half-way decent.  It was hard for me to root for him because he seemed so ambivalent about his downward spiral, but yet he was driven to discover the truth of this mystery.  I didn't understand why he wanted to find the truth out so badly until the end of the book, but I wonder why he even started in the first place.  Though there are some priests and nuns portrayed as evil people, I didn't object to this as I do sometimes.  Other books I've had a problem with presented the religious as evil or hypocritical, etc. simply as a jab at the Church, but I don't feel that was the case in this plot. 

There were several times when I thought I had things figured out and then would realise I definitely didn't.  But the overall dark tone to the story just didn't appeal to me.  There are also several instances of casual sex that didn't seem necessary to me or even to make a whole lot of sense of why they happened.

If you like mysteries and especially dark mysteries, you may very well like this book.  Those who enjoy family secrets and intrigue would also have a good read with this book.  If you think you might be interested in this book, it is available as an ebook at for only $2.99 right now.

Rick Riordan Is At It Again

The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
All the man does is write entertaining, high quality books for kids, young adults and 30 somethings who are recapturing their childhood.  In The Throne of Fire we are once again reading the transcript of a recording made by Carter and Sadie Kane.  Carter and Sadie are descendants of the Egyptian Pharaohs, in fact, 2 of the most powerful Pharaohs, and they are also magicians.  The problem is, other magicians think they are outlaws because their father released trapped Egyptian gods back into the world.  He did this to save the world from the return of Apophis, the most evil of all the ancient gods.  Carter and Sadie believe that their father is right, that the old gods of Egypt are the solution to stopping the rise of Apophis, and they are bent on seeing this mission through.  This time they have the help of a few other junior magicians who answered the call they put out with their first message in The Red Pyramid.

The Throne of Fire is another masterfully crafted story from Rick Riordan, who is my favorite author.  As this is the 2nd book in The Kane Chronicles series, we have already met our narrators, Carter and Sadie.  Each character tells about 2 chapters before "switching" with the other narrator.  Riordan varies the storytelling style enough that you really believe you are reading 2 different views of the events.  It's a really cool way to read a story.

At first, I wasn't thrilled with this book.  It took me a while to remember what I read in The Red Pyramid, which is the problem with only releasing 1 book per year.  Once it all came back to me though, I thoroughly enjoyed the 450ish pages of this book and really look forward to the final book, due out next year.  If you haven't picked up The Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordan yet, give these books a shot.  I think you'll really enjoy them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An Illuminating Story

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

A very rare illuminated haggadah (illustrated Jewish book) was rescued from the bombings in wartorn Sarajevo.  Now, Dr. Hanna Heath has been asked to restore/conserve the book so it can be put on display.  Dr. Heath finds some artifacts in the pages of the book, including a hair, a salt grain, a wine stain, and a butterfly wing.  The story of Dr. Heath's work with the book and the resulting activities in her life is broken up by explanations of the artifacts' origins, allowing the reader to learn the truth of the book's journey and how the book was created. 

Like the Sarajevo Haggadah, Geraldine Brooks, a pulizter-prize winning author (March), has created a masterpiece.  The short stories of the haggadah's travels and creation had me emotionally involved so soon into the story.  And, there are unexpected twists and turns in Dr. Heath's part of the book's story as well.  Simply put, it is an engrossing read, especially if you love history or short stories.

Amazingly, the Sarajevo Haggadah, actually does exist.  A short synopsis of the haggadah's history is given at the end of book.  It explains what parts of the story are based on fact and which Brooks has imagined.  It's just incredible.  Unfortunately, I don't know much about the war/s in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia.  It was interesting to learn a little more about that area of the world and it's history from reading this book.

I will definitely be reading more of Geraldine Brooks' works.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Sisters Grimm Makes Me Grin

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
I love LOVE love this series.  When I was shelving at work several years ago, I noticed a book that had a cloth cover--truly a trade cloth cover.  So, I picked it up and looked at it.  It was about two sisters whose parents vanished in a bazaar accident.  They are sent to live with a grandmother they knew nothing of and learn from her they are related to the Brothers Grimm, who did not record folktales, but recorded historical events people became to believe were fanciful tales.  After trouble between humans and the Everafters (fairy tale characters), the Brothers Grimm hoped to avoid a war by trapping the Everafters in Ferryport, where they must stay until there are no Grimm descendants living in the town.  This makes some Everafters quite upset with the Grimm Family, but the Grimms do still have some friends in the Everafter population.

Each book has it's own story and mysteries the sisters must face while the overall mystery of what happened to their parents continues and intensifies throughout each book.  I started to read the first one, then put it down and didn't pick it up again for a long time.  I found the orphanage lady annoying, but afterwards, I realized she's not a big part of the story, so if you feel the same way as I did just keep's gets great!!!  While the books have a seamless overall story arc, each book has it's own uniqueness.  One book has a court room drama, one has time travel, another is like a war novel, and one is like the twilight zone!  I was hoping the final book in the series, book #9, would be out this month, but I've got no word at work when it is due out.

Samantha and Daphne are strong girl characters.  (Goal accomplished by Michael Buckley, who said at a talk I attended it seemed to him all girl characters were either rescued by a prince or own a horse.)  The other characters in this series are extremely likeable.  I also found it so fun to see what Mr. Buckley would do with different fairy tale characters.  As an example, one of the three little pigs who wasn't good at construction like his brothers, went into law enforcement and Snow White teaches self-defense classes.  Can you guess what occupation Prince Charming might have or Robin Hood?  There are so many twists and surprises throughout the series.  You never know what's going to happen!!  No one I have recommended this series to has come back to me without rave reviews.  You've just got to read this series.  The audio editions of the books are also very good.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

You Should Re-Read This Book Until it is Tattooed on Your Heart

TATTOOS ON YOUR HEART: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Fr. Gregory Boyle

I noticed this book last month on a display at work.  One of the best parts of my job as a bookseller is being exposed to so many books through different displays, receiving books in, shelving them, sorting them, and so on.  As is often the case, the book's cover caught my eye.  I have a special fondness for Our Lady of Guadalupe, who is pictured on the candles on the cover of the book.  Then I noticed the word tattoos and I like tattoos, so I figured I'd better pick up this book and see what's it's about.  Well, thank goodness for that display because it lead me to a great book.

The author, Gregory Boyle, is a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries.  All proceeds from the sale of this book go to Homeboy Industries, an organization providing training, tattoo removal, jobs, and more to those formerly involved in gangs or who are at-risk.  Fr. Boyle works in a Los Angeles parish with the highest concentration of gang activity in America.  But Father brings his compassion and persistence to the young people in this area to show them they are valued, they have a choice, there is a different future.  I think Fr. Boyle is a hero.

And...he has written a fantastic book.  Each chapter has a theme.  Father Boyle expounds on each theme by telling us of different experiences he has had working with gang members and their families.  Some stories make you laugh, some make you cry, some make you smile, some make you sigh.  All of them make you think.  Fr. Boyle deftly combines these stories together to exemplify or guide you toward the chapter's theme.  There is much wisdom to be found in this book. 

It's so interesting I wanted to just speed right through the book, yet some of the insights it gave me forced me to pause and contemplate what I had just read.  This is definitely a book I will have to read again and again so I can be sure to get all from it that I can.  I do so wish I could tattoo these pieces of wisdom onto my heart, to be able to recall them at once anytime.  They may not be on my heart permanently, but I know for sure a deep impression is definitely there.

To learn more about Homeboy Industries go to .

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Magical Series

THE MAGIC THIEF by Sarah Prineas

So far, there are three books in the Magic Thief Series: The Magic Thief, Lost, and Found.  (As of Sept. 2010, I believe five books are planned for the series.)  I really like this series.  We meet, Conn, a young orphan surviving on the streets of Wellmet by his slight of hand as a pickpocket, until he pickpockets a wizard--then things begin to change for Conn.  Eventually, Conn becomes his apprentice.  Conn must learn to read in runes, memorize spells, and locate a locus magicalicus--a stone that enables a wizard to perform magic.  Conn must also face a force of dark magic looming over the city.

Ms. Prineas has carefully constructed this wonderful fantasy with it's own history and culture.  And, her story is full of interesting and compelling characters.  Conn is bright and honest.  His wizard mentor, Nevery Flinglas, seems harsh and cold, but we learn he actually cares a great deal about Conn.  I especially enjoyed the wizard's journal entries, "reproduced" periodically throughout the book.  This gives us a unique insight into his thoughts and feelings. 

When I read these books, I become immersed in the world of Wellmet.  This is a sure pick for those who enjoyed Harry Potter or any fantasy fan.  My children and I actually listened to the first one as an audio book.  It was very well done.  I didn't want to stop driving.  We liked the book so much, we went to a talk by the author.  We were the first in line to meet her.  She autographed a book for each of us and wrote a message in Rune for us to decipher using the tranlation page in the books.  The book's website may also be of interest to readers.

I've only read the first two and I can't wait to open up the third!!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Real Story of Alyss in Wonderland


The Looking Glass Wars (Looking Glass Wars #1)
Seeing Redd (Looking Glass Wars Series #2)So, apparently Lewis Carroll totally botched it.  Luckily, Frank Beddor figured it out and now tells us the real story of Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland Throne, who ended up stranded on earth for a few years and told her story to Carroll, who twisted it into a children's story.

In The Looking Glass Wars, we meet 7 year old Alyss, just before her evil aunt Redd takes control of Wonderland.  The women of the Heart family are gifted with a powerful imagination, so powerful that they are able to imagine objects into being.  As Redd is attacking, the Queen's bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, takes Alyss through the pool of tears to earth.  They become separated and Alyss is eventually adopted by the Liddell family and comes to think of her prior life in Wonderland as nothing more than a dream.  That is, until she reaches 20 and it is learned she is alive on Earth.  Queen Redd promptly sends assassins to kill her niece, but her allies in Wonderland save her, and they hatch a plot to retake Wonderland.

I won't give away much of the follow-on books, "Seeing Redd" and "Arch Enemy" except to say that "Seeing Redd" was the weakest of the 3 books.  Overall, I really enjoyed these books.  I found them to be a fairly light read and books that I could easily put down and come back to later.  This series isn't on the level of "Harry Potter" or "Percy Jackson", but is a good, quick, entertaining read, that you don't have to really focus on to enjoy.

ArchEnemy (Looking Glass Wars Series #3)One complaint I do have is that there seemed to be quite a few typos in "Arch Enemy", and I thought the editing in the final book was a little off.  Basically, things resolve themselves too quickly...almost as if they had to hit 370ish pages, so the author and editor made some weird choices to end it on time.  Still though, these books were worth the time I took to read them, and I'll never be able to look at "Alice in Wonderland" the same way again.
There is also a graphic novel available for at least the first book, The Looking Glass Wars.  I also think Frank Beddor is a really nice person, not just a good author so I would encourage people to read this unique fun series.

Also, if you've never read the orignal Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, you really should.  I think they are such fun books.  Many people read Wonderland but not the Looking Glass.  I think the Looking Glass is definitely the best of the two books.  If you've seen Disney's animated Alice in Wonderland, you'll find some of the characters actually come from Through the Looking Glass.  I think you would enjoy Frank Beddor's series even more if you knew the orginal tales.