Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Mystery of the Blue Ring by Patricia Reilly Giff

This is an ebook I received from netGallery.  It is the first in a series of children's mystery novels by Patricia Reilly Giff.  Ebooks for young readers is always a hard recommendation for me because I've had trouble finding ones I like where the book can stand alone without illustrations.  Some ereaders, my Kindle included, don't do a great job with illustrations.

This is a children's ebook I can enthusiastically recommend for younger readers.  I'm sure my second grade class would be extremely comfortable with its reading level.  This is the first in a series.  I love to recommend series books to kids because it helps them become more fluent readers as they read through familiar characters and settings.  It also solves the "I don't know what to read!" debate.

It's a cute mystery about a missing ring that Dawn and her sidekick, Jason, solve.  I enjoyed the silly descriptions of their disguises, and the other children in the class.

I'd give it 5 stars for being an easy to reader ebook for kids!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen

The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen

320 pages

Christian fiction

June 2010

This is a first novel by a non-fiction writer.  It is based on a true location in Sunset Beach, North Carolina and a mailbox on an isolated part of the beach where people leave letters to The Kindred Spirit.  The actual letters are collected but no one seems to know who maintains the box.   I would actually stop to find it if I'm ever in the area.

In the novel we meet Lindsey, a recent divorced mom of two kids, who has visited Sunset Beach every year since she was a teenager.  As a teenager, she fell in love with Campbell.  We learn about their story through the letters she leaves in the mailbox each year as well as some flashbacks in the novel.

Other reviewers have compared this to a Nicholas Sparks novel because of the heartbreak and second chances.  I will admit that I don't like Sparks that much.  Maybe I haven't read the right book.  The Mailbox was very predictable.  You probably already know how it ends, even from my brief description.

The author seemed to throw in every side plot she could think of:  divorce, cheating, anorexia, teenage pregnancy, heart attack, and multiple crises in faith.  In the end notes to the book, she even admitted that she almost had a secondary character die!  It was a little too much for me.  I kept thinking so what's going to go wrong now.

I really didn't hate the book - it just wasn't for me.  I did think the author did a good job weaving in the main characters' belief in God and how it wavered and strengthen throughout their lives.  I also liked Lindsey.  Her struggles to make sense of a divorce and its impact on herself and her kids were well-written and insightful.  I think I kept reading because of her character.

In a previous review, I commented that a really don't like everything.  Well, I really don't like everything.  I'm giving it 3 stars.  If you are a Sparks fan, you may like this.  If you have read it, I'd love to know what you think.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Night Owl

btt button

What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up reading a book? Is staying up late reading a usual thing for you?

Yes, I've stayed up late reading a book.  I have a comfy reading chair and light in our den which won't disturb the rest of the house if I read after everyone has gone to bed.  I tend to stay up more in the summer because it gets really hard to do on school days when I'm up at 6:00.  I enjoy being up in the quiet, dark of the house engrossed in my book.  I do admit that I'm more likely to stay up when I'm near the end of a book that I really like.

When I was younger, I remember reading in bed with the flashlight under the covers after my parents made me turn off the lights.  I'm surprised I wasn't sleep-deprived through elementary school!

I used to read late into the night much more than I do now.   By 10:00 most nights, I'm already wiped out.  I tend to do more early morning reading now because I'm up early to take my daughter to skating practices at ice rinks.  That's especially true during the school year.

What about you?  Do you read late at night?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Most Dangerous Thing

Here's the description from Amazon:

"Some secrets can’t be kept. . . .

Years ago, they were all the best of friends. But as time passed and circumstances changed, they grew apart, became adults with families of their own, and began to forget about the past—and the terrible lie they all shared. But now Gordon, the youngest and wildest of the five, has died and the others are thrown together for the first time in years.

And then the revelations start.

Could their long-ago lie be the reason for their troubles today? Is it more dangerous to admit to what they’ve done or is it the strain of keeping the secret that is beginning to wear on them and everyone close to them? Each one of these old friends has to wonder if their secret has been discovered—and if someone within the circle is out to destroy them."

It's due on August 23, 2011 and sounds like just the kind of mystery/adventure that I want to end my summer reading.  What about you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Tough Issues

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  Play here. 

This week is a list of the top ten books that deal with difficult issues.  I already read a few lists and am amazed with the diversity of responses I already see.  Here's my list:

1.  The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak  - one of my favorite books that truly deals with man's inhumanity to man through the Holocaust. 

2.  Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - one of the best introductions for kids to death.  Every kid should have the chance to meet Charlotte and Wilbur and cry at her death.

3.  My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult - two tough issues in this one.  Reading about sick and dying children is never easy, but I can't imagine living with it.  Also, this is a great novel for discussion of medical advances and the legal issues they create.

4.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - racism, sexual assault, and drug addiction.  Many books have covered these issues but this is a classic.

5.  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - I actually just finished this one, and it's an excellent examination of school bullying.

6.  The Wall by Eve Bunting - this is a children's picture book by one of my favorite authors.  It very simply tells the story of a young boy who visits the  Vietnam Memorial with his father to find and trace his grandfather's name.  I cry every time I read it to my class, but it truly makes the sacrifices of war a multi-generational issue.

7.  Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting - another children's picture book.  It's the story of a homeless family who "lives" in an airport.  It's a great story for starting a discussion with kids about what it means to be homeless and how we can all help.

8.  Paula by Isabel Allende - Allende's haunting memoir of the sudden illness and death of her adult daughter.  The last twenty pages will bring you to tears and leave you wondering how any parent survives the death of a child.

9.  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss - Seuss's environmental warning from 1971 which is still valid and relevant today.

10.  Elijah's Angel by Michael J. Rosen - another children's picture book.  This is one of the best books I've read about tolerance.  It's the story of a little Jewish boy who befriends an older African American Christian barber.  The most touching part is when the Jewish family walks through the snow to see the menorah lit in the window of Elijah's barber shop each night of Hanukkah. 

Most of my list is children's books.  It's interesting because I've found that many children's authors do an excellent job presenting tough issues.  I'm looking forward to reading your list and hearing what you think of mine.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

368 pages


June 2011

I'm sure everyone has read about this one by now.  The basic premise is that the main character, Christine, wakes up every day and can't remember who she is.  She doesn't recognize her husband, Ben, or even know how old she is.  Each day she gets a phone call from a Dr. Nash who directs her to a diary she is keeping of each day to help jog her memories.

Watson slowly builds the tension as Christine's story is revealed in small steps.  As a reader, I became so involved with Christine that I couldn't help but to identify with her.  As parts of her story started to become inconsistent, you start to realize that everything is not what you believed.  There is a tremendous tension in the story as it starts to unravel.  It is heightened by the fact that Christine can't clarify anything for us, as readers.  So, in a sense, we are memory-impaired with her.

Ben is an intriguing character.  I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll simply say that I'm not sure I completely understood his motivations.

Overall, this was a fun read, and I highly recommend it.  I'm giving it 4 1/2 stars.  It's starting to sound like I love everything I read.  That's not quite so, but I've had a string of good luck with books lately.  If you've read it, I'd love to know what you think!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 480 pages

 Young Adult

 March 2010

I'm not normally a fan of YA books, but this one caught my attention.  I can best sum it up as Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day meets The Lovely Bones.  Samantha, Sam, narrates the story which is basically a 7 part rerun of the day of her death.  Sam is a high school senior who is part of the popular clique in the second semester of senior year.  She has three best friends and a popular, Lacrosse playing, boyfriend.

I know that this sounds slightly morbid, but I was quite fascinated with the book.  I couldn't put it down and read far too late to finish it.  I've read a number of reviews and other bloggers who hated Sam, the main character, and her friends.  I actually found myself sympathizing with Sam and really disliking her friend Lindsay, the leader of the girl pack.  The author tries to give you reasons to be sympathetic towards Lindsay by the end, but I just couldn't.  I've seen way too many Lindsays in real life who do tremendous damage to others along the way.

However, I did feel tremendous empathy for Sam, and not just because she's dead!  I could truly understand how she felt torn between following along with her friends and doing the right thing.  I also understood the moments of self-absorption because that rang true for the typical teenager.  Sam's struggle to understand what was happening, and her final realization, felt very real to me. On a spiritual level, her soul's struggle made sense.

The bullying of Juliet felt, unfortunately, very real and was an essential element in both Sam's and Lindsay's stories.  I think Juliet is the character who will haunt me.  It brought home the costs of bullying in teens and how vigilant we, as adults, need to be, but, also, how helpless we can be. 

I truly enjoyed the book.  I would caution that there is under age drinking, drug use, and talk of sex in the story.  I'm giving this book 4 1/2 stars.  I can't quite give it 5 stars because I wanted more redemption Lindsay's character.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

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

This weekly book meme is hosted by Sheila.

Here's this week's agenda:

Currently reading:

I read about this one a blog and hope to finish it this week.  I'm actually fascinated with it!

On the list next:

I got both of these in the recent Kindle deals sale.  The first is a lark because I liked the cover.  The second is one that has been on my TBR list for awhile.

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

I picked up Then Came You because of a review I read in that literary giant, People Magazine.  I'm willing to take recommendations wherever I can find them. 

The story reads very much like a Jodi Picoult novel.  It is told through the eyes of four women:  India, Bettina, Jules, and Annie.  They are all related through the process of surrogacy.  India is the younger bride of a wealthy older man, and Bettina is his daughter from a first marriage.  Jules is the egg donor and Annie is the surrogate.  I don't want to review too much of the plot, but there are some twists and turns in the story.  What I thought would be a story about wealth and social status ended up being about families and how they are created.

Strengths of Then Came You:

There is a sign in my house that reads "Friends are the family one finds along the way."  That sentiment sums up the book for me.  The four women do become a sort of extended family for baby Rory by the end of the book.  I found myself most interested in Annie's story.  There was a real life quality to her that made her likable, and I could really understand the choices she made in the book.

Weaknesses of Then Came You:

The narrative shifts between the women much like a Picoult novel.  However, Weiner's writing was not as crisp as Picoult's.  There were many times when it was clear what would happen even when the perspective changed.  Also, the second half of the book is loaded with Bettina, who was my least favorite character. 

Bettina's mother, the first wife of India's husband, was underutilized in the novel.  The author gave her an interesting back story.  I'd have been interested in bringing her more to the forefront, especially in the second half of the book.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, a chick lit book with some meat and substance.  I'm going to give it 4 stars.  If you've read it, I'd love to know what you think!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Follow

Q. Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from?

This is a tough one because I don't want to say the obvious.

#1 - E.B. White

I'd love to hear about Charlotte's Web.  It is one of the books that I remember bonding with as a child and enjoy teaching to my second grade class.  I'd love to hear the inspiration and thought process that went into writing it.

#2 - Ray Bradbury

This is kind of a cheat because I had to chance to meet him when I was in Junior High School.  He attended a play version of one of his novels and talked to us afterward.  I remember he had a very distinct view of the world and writing.  I'd like the chance to learn more from him with an adult perspective.

#3 - JK Rowling

I'm sure this is someone lots of people would like to spend time with.  I'm most curious about her writing process and whether or not she feels that she has a different story to tell.

What about you?

Book Hop

Book Blogger Hop

I just found this Friday book meme and sounds like fun so here's today's question:

What’s the ONE GENRE that you wish you could get into, but just can’t?

I really do like to read almost anything.  I tend to chose books by author and subject matter not genre.  However, I have always had a tough time with non-fiction.  I can't seem to stick with it and get bored.  That's especially true of the motivational, this is how I do it, type of non-fiction.  I'd rather have great characters and a juicy plot any day.

What about you?  Play here:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Let's Try This Again!

Here's a new question:

What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)

What book have you read the most times? And–how many?

The first book I remembered reading more than once must be a Nancy Drew mystery when I was 10 or 11. I read them so quickly that I had to read them more than once since I only went to the library once a week!

There are so many books I want to read now that I don't tend to read books for pleasure more than once. I have read many children's books over and over because that is how I share my love of books with kids. I have probably read Charlotte's Web over 25 times!