Monday, August 29, 2011

Musing Mondays - Fun List

   Here's this week's Musings.  Play along here.

What was the last book you…

• borrowed from the library? I can't remember ... probably something I read to my class last year.

• bought? The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman - review to come.

• cried over? I can't remember.

• disliked and couldn’t finish? Among the Missing by Morag Joss.

• read & loved? The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

• got for review? (or: got in the mail?) The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

• gave to someone else? a book about a dog to my mother-in-law but I can't remember the name.

• stayed up too late reading? Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

What about you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Friday Follow - Mythical Creatures

Here's today's Follow Friday question:

In some books like the Sookie Stackhouse series the paranormal creature in question "comes out of the closet" and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish this would happen with in real life?

I don't tend to read a lot of fantasy books so this one's a hard question for me.  I'd love to meet Firenze from the Harry Potter books.  It would be fun to have him as a teacher.  I'd also like to talk to Dobby and learn about house elves from Harry Potter.  It's such an exciting, magical world that I could pick just about anyone from that world.

What about you?

Booking Through Thursday - History

Here's today's Booking Through Thursday:

Sometimes I feel like the only person I know who finds reading history fascinating. It’s so full of amazing-yet-true stories of people driven to the edge and how they reacted to it. I keep telling friends that a good history book (as opposed to some of those textbooks in school that are all lists and dates) does everything a good novel does–it grips you with real characters doing amazing things.

Am I REALLY the only person who feels this way? When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

I honestly can't remember the last time I read a nonfiction biography or history book.  I've read lots of historical fiction, but that's slightly different.  I've also read a number of historical picture books.  The only thing I can come up with as an answer is that I've read children's biographies of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, a number of famous artists, and many famous women since I teach a unit on biography in my second grade class.  So I guess I value reading biography and history, but don't tend to do it as my personal recreational reading.

What about you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Musing Mondays - Plot or Character

This weekly meme is hosted by Should be Reading.  Here's this week's question:

Do you prefer character-driven stories, or plot-driven stories?

This is an interesting question.  I pick up a book because the plot sounds interesting, but I won't keep reading it if the characters aren't interesting.  I've noticed that many of my reviews focus on characters and their development in a story.  I think that any series books that I read must attract me because of the characters.  I can remember character names but not always the names of the books.  In a perfect world, books need both, but I have to have great, well-written characters.

This post is a day late since I'm sneaking in blogging time from a trip to the beach!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Skating

I just found this meme and thought it sounded like fun!

This is my daughter getting ready to skate in our local figure club's summer show.  She skated to "You Raise Me Up" in honor of her sixth grade teacher who, on Easter weekend, lost her year-long battle with breast cancer.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Blog Hop - Longest Book

Book Blogger Hop

I just started participating in this weekly blog hop and really enjoy it.  Crazy for Books hosts it so check it out!  Here's today's question:

“What’s the LONGEST book you’ve ever read?”

(Note: I’m putting one caveat on this question. You aren’t allowed to say the Bible, Torah, Qur’an, or other religious/spiritual text.)

That's a tough one.  I'm pretty sure it was something I read in school -  Gone with the Wind at 960 pages.  There are others - like Dante's Inferno that seemed to last forever but I don't think it was truly as long.

What about you?

Here's today's question:
Q. If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?
Fun question.  I'd probably write myself in The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.  I wouldn't want to experience all the tragedy of the story but I'd love to sit down and talk to Clara to understand how she experiences both the real and spirit worlds.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Curl Up

btt button

This is one of my favorite weekly memes.  Here's today's question:
You’ve just had a long, hard, exhausting day, and all you want to do is curl up with something light, fun, easy, fluffy, distracting, and entertaining.

What book do you pick up?

Most of the time I'd pick whatever book I'm reading because I'm a one book at a time girl.  But, there are times when I need total distraction.  If that's the case, I almost always gravitate toward a lightweight, cozy mystery - maybe one set in a kitchen or something like that.  It doesn't have to be a series I've read.  It can be a new one as long as it has some humor in it.

What about you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood by Daniel R. Heischman

Product Details
Good Influence:  Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood
by Daniel R. Heischman

146 pages

February 2010


First, a disclaimer, this book was purchased for me by my employer, and it was my required summer reading.  It will be the basis of teacher discussion and development at the start of the new school year.

The author, Heischman, is an Episcopal priest who has been a Dean of Students, Headmaster, and Chaplain at a number of private Episcopal secondary schools and colleges.  The thesis of the book is that teachers have a special responsibility to their students to be "grown ups" so that they can guide and model behavior and choices for their students.

By "grown up," he does not mean simply being an adult.  He makes the distinction that teachers are adults, but that not all adults are grown ups.  That point actually makes a great deal of sense to me.  I've seen too many teachers go overboard to make friends with students, only to lose their students' respect and the ability to control a classroom.

The same can be said of some parents.  In my twenty plus year teaching career, I've seen a real shift in how parents perceive their role.  Many, but by all means not all, parents seem to value their children's happiness above all else, and they think their job is to clear the path for their children.  Unfortunately, this results in questioning school and teacher decisions and not allowing students the room to make choices and solve their own problems.  In this case, Heischman would argue that a "grown up" needs to help facilitate student choice, and even student lack of success so that they can truly understand what it means to work hard toward a goal.

The point is well made, and one that I deal with all the time, even in elementary school.  It is a short book, but the author, unfortunately repeats himself and belabors some of his points.  I would have appreciated some more models, outside of his own experiences, to help guide me as I work with parents and students.

Overall, it was thought-provoking, but left me wanting more substance.  Some of my anti-non fiction bias may be coming through on this one.  Overall, I'd give it 3 1/2 stars.  I'd love to hear what you think of his idea of "grown ups."  I know there are a number of teen bloggers out there.  What do you think - should the teacher be your friend? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - My Favorite Reviews

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie week.  Since I just got back into my blog after taking an extended break, I decided that my top 10 would be my top ten favorite reviewed books.  That gives me a chance to re-introduce some of the books I loved from the past.

1.  The Book Thief - probably my favorite YA novel of all time!

2.  The Time Traveler's Wife - read the book, the movie doesn't do this one justice.

3.  The Wednesday Wars - a really fun YA read.

4.  The Sum of Our Days - I think anything Allende writes is brilliant.  I never reviewed Paula, but it's one of my all time favorite books.  The last 20 pages make me cry every time.

5.  Ashfall - the last YA book I read and I can't say enough good things about it.  And the author visited my blog and left a comment.  Very cool.

6.  The Keeper of Lost Causes - I think this could be the next breakout book series.

7.  Where All the Dead Lie - another of my current favorites.

8.  My Sister's Keeper - my favorite Jodi Picoult novel, but I never saw the movie.  I was afraid that Cameron Diaz would wreck it for me.

9.  Before I Fall - another new book which impressed me in many ways.

10.  Before I Go to Sleep - part of my current string of successful reads.

It was interesting to go back to my older posts and realize that my reading styles and preferences really haven't changed that much in the last few years.  I was also a bit sad that I stopped blogging for those years, because I wonder what books I've forgotten about that really should be on this list.

I'm looking forward to reading other people's lists.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Musing Mondays

This week’s musing asks…

Do you like looking at other people’s bookshelves?

Yes, I'm a bit of a snoop that way.  Probably like everyone else.  I do wonder if bookshelves are going the way of record players because of the number of Kindles and other ebook readers out there.  I've also started conversations with people I see reading Kindles.  I've found that people who are sitting reading in public places tend to like to talk about what they are reading.

What about you?

Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Where All The Dead Lie

Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

400 pages


September 2011

This is another netGalley book!  Here's the blurb:

"The shot to the head didn’t kill Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson. But it will crack her psyche and take her to the very edge.

In her showdown with the murderous Pretender, a bullet taken at close range severed the connection between Taylor’s thoughts and speech. Effectively mute, there’s no telling if her voice will ever come back. Trapped in silence, she is surrounded by ghosts—of the past, of friendships and trusts lost...of a lost faith in herself and her motives that night.

When Memphis Highsmythe offers Taylor his home in the Scottish Highlands to recuperate, her fiancé can’t refuse her excitement, no matter his distrust of the man. At first, Memphis’s drafty and singularly romantic castle seems the perfect place for healing. But shortly the house itself surrounds her like a menacing presence. As Taylor’s sense of isolation and vulnerability grows, so, too, does her grip on reality.


Someone or something is coming after Taylor. But is she being haunted by the dead…or hunted by the living? "

This is the seventh book in the Taylor Jackson series.  I was fine reading it as a stand alone novel, but it does reveal the ending of the last book so some people may want to read the series in order.

I'm three for three with netGalley books.  I loved this one as well.  It was another book that kept me reading late into the night.  There is a nice ghost story element to the book that adds to the suspense and tension.  I finished it during a road trip to Gettysburg, PA so I was probably in the mood to go along with the ghostly elements of the story!

I loved Taylor and her relationship with Sam, her best friend.  It's rare that friendships between women seem real, fractured, and repairable in books.  This one felt like all three to me!  I was a little less interested in Taylor's relationship with Baldwin - maybe the author assumed I knew a little more about him than I did.  That would be my only criticism of the book (and it's a minor one!)

There is a great villain, but I don't want to give it away.  I did see it coming, but enjoyed watching the author unfold the story anyway.

Again, another 5 star read!  I may need to go back and read the first six books to see how these characters got to where they are!

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading

This may be a bit of a cheat but here's what I've read in the past two weeks while I was on vacation.  For anyone living in Pennsylvania, I fell in love with your state.  Great place to visit and I met some fascinating people along the way.  Anyway,  titles I read:

Product Details Here's my review.

Product Details I finished this one since the last Monday post, but it may have been two weeks ago.

Product Details Here's the review.

Product Details Review coming soon!

Product Details This one was my summer reading assignment for work.  I don't normally read non-fiction so the review may take a few days because it's harder for me to write.

What's up for next week:

Product Details I read a great review on this one so it's high on this week's list.

Product Details I just got a netGalley copy of this one so I may give it a shot!

So what are you planning to read this week?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I just got back from a two week vacation and was treated to two lovely comments.

Darcus and Kristin both nominated my blog for an award.  It was a great welcome back to blogging.  Here it is:

The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.

2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

I love the idea of paying it forward so here are my five choices:

1.  Ramblings of a Day Dreamer - love the look of her blog and it's sense of humor!

2.  Book by Book - we seem to have the same taste in books!

3.  Much Loved Books - this might be a bit of a cheat because the blog's already got this award, but it deserves a bigger audience.

4.  Once Upon a Prologue - love her layout and great label list.

5.  Willa's Ramblings - I seem to be going for look but I like how much fun this blog is.

Check them out!

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

400 pages


August 2011

This is another review copy I got from netGalley.  Here is the blurb from their site:

"The Keeper of Lost Causes, the first installment of Adler-Olsen's Department Q series, features the deeply flawed chief detective Carl MØrck, who used to be a good homicide detective-one of Copenhagen's best. Then a bullet almost took his life. Two of his colleagues weren't so lucky, and Carl, who didn't draw his weapon, blames himself.

So a promotion is the last thing Carl expects.

But it all becomes clear when he sees his new office in the basement. Carl's been selected to run Department Q, a new special investigations division that turns out to be a department of one. With a stack of Copenhagen's coldest cases to keep him company, Carl's been put out to pasture. So he's as surprised as anyone when a case actually captures his interest. A missing politician vanished without a trace five years earlier. The world assumes she's dead. His colleagues snicker about the time he's wasting. But Carl may have the last laugh, and redeem himself in the process.

Because she isn't dead . . . yet."

This is the first in a series that, apparently, is already popular in Denmark and is being translated for the U.S. audience.  It is fabulous.  I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and read all three books.  I thought this book was even better.  Carl is a great character, and the author has given him both a personal and professional back story.  The other main character, Merete Lynggaard, is equally fascinating.  Her back story is also well-developed.  She has an adult disabled brother and is a highly-placed political official.

The book alternates between present day Carl and past/present day Merete.  As readers, we are lead to a point where their two stories converge, and this is one of those books I kept reading late at night because of the building tension.

The author also creates a second hand man for Carl.  Assad also has a back story, which is mysterious throughout the book.  He is clearly not a maintenance worker, but someone with an investigative or violent past.  We are only given glimpses of Assad's true nature, and it seems that the author has laid groundwork for some fascinating revelations in future books in the series.

This book does not disappoint.  The author deftly builds the story from both Carl and Merete's points of view.  I didn't guess the twist, because there is one, until it was unveiled to Merete.  Then, I couldn't stop reading until I was sure Carl had figured it out too.  5 stars for a great ride!  I can't wait to read more in the series.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullen

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

472 pages

Young Adult Fiction

October 2011

This is the first galley I've gotten from netGalley.  Here's the blurb from the website:

"Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don't realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying super volcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite.And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption.

For Alex, being alone for the weekend means freedom from his parents and the chance to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then Yellowstone erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek, searching for his family and finding help in Darla, his travel partner. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster."

This synopsis doesn't do the book justice.  It is the first of a planned trilogy which, I think, is going to be a huge hit with middle school students.  It should appeal to everyone who loved The Hunger Games.  The novel starts with a bang, literally, and Alex, the main character, is immediately in the middle of chaos and destruction.  He is not your average hero-type character, and he seems annoyingly immature.  By the end of the novel, he is a complex and interesting character because of what he goes through in the story.

As Alex travels from Idaho to find his parents, he is met with a lawless, post-apocalyptic society trying to cope with the aftermaths of the volcanic eruption.  He is alternately met with acts of selfless kindness and violent cruelty.  You never know, as a reader, what's going to happen next.

There are two quotes I really liked from Alex.  At the beginning of the story he says, "Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is a terrifying torture."  Nearer the end, he says, " ... the volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity.  No, we'd given that up on our own."  To me, Alex displays incredible growth of character to take the situation beyond his own needs to see how it impacted everyone.  Wow.

Darla, his female travelling partner, is an interesting character.  Alex meets her about 1/3 of the way through the book, when he is at his lowest and needs to be nursed back to health.  She is an intriguing character who also grows and changes in the story.

I don't want to give away too much more but, just a warning, there is violence in the story as well as a rape scene - it is not very vivid, but it is there, and talk of sexual activity with condom use.

This is probably one of the best YA books I've read since The Book Thief.  I am looking forward to the second novel!  I can enthusiastically give it 5 stars!