Monday, June 29, 2009

Back at It

Thanks for bearing with me as I read Harry Potter. It was lovely, thank you. Here are a bunch of books that I had read previously (most of them many times), and I will be updating with books I am currently reading as soon as I finish them. I find myself rather swamped because I unknowingly chalked up my que to reading 9 books at once; I tend to lose patience when I get a new book and so I start it right away and then go back to the ones I was reading before once I'm done. But don't worry I once did 13 at a time! Have fun reading!

The Screwtape Letters

By C.S. Lewis

A masterpiece of satire, this classic has entertained and enlightened readers the world over with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to "Our Father Below." At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis gives us the correspondence of the worldly-wise old devil to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man. The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging and humorous account of temptation-and triumph over it-ever written.

I don't care what religion you are, if you're trying to life a good life, you need to read this book. It is, like the summary said, hilarious yet very thought-provoking. It certainly made me more aware of why I choose to do things for good or ill. It tuned me in to how a Screwtape might be subtly pulling me off the path. At the beginning, it took a while to get used to C.S. Lewis's way of writing. It takes a bit more brain power to stay on track with what is going on, so it is a little hard at first if you're used to easy reading (like youth books). But it definitely makes my list of 'books everyone should read before they die'.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

by Jessica Day George

When a woodcutter's daughter known simply as "the lass" agrees to accompany a great white bear to his castle, she believes she has made a wise decision. After all, the bear has promised her family untold riches in exchange for a year of the lass's company. Although she is given every luxury, the lass feels more a prisoner than a gues, and it's not long before her contentment turns to unease. One by one the servants disappear, and the lass suspects the bear knows more than he's telling. In her quest to learn the truth, the lass unwittingly sets in motion a chain of events that take her on a windswept journey beyond the edge of the world, to fight for the man she has only just discovered is her true love.

Based on the Nordic fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and with romantic echoes of Beauty and the Beast, Jessica Day George's spirited retelling will lure readers in and hold them happily spellbound to the last page.

Okay, so I actually bought this book because it was supposedly much like Beauty and the Beast. While it does have some similarities, it is so wonderfully norse that I was tickled to read it. I adore Norse history and mythology and had never come across this story. One thing that hooked me right off the get-go was the fact that the main character doesn't even have a name! Her mother was so sick of having had girls that she didn't even name her and she is simply known as "lass". This book is so fun to read and full of that fairy-tale feel. The only thing that I don't like is the ending feels very rushed to me, and I wish it had been more detailed and drawn out better. But it's the kind of ending I like: happily ever after....and then some!

Burrying Our Swords: How Christ Can Remove Rebellion From Our Hearts

By Kevin Hinckley

Mike and Sherrie Thomas are sick with worry. Their son Kyle has taken a wrong turn, leaving both their home and the gospel.
One day Mike finds a cryptic message on his desk at work, written on yellow paper and folded in half. "Alma 23:7," it said.
Thus Mike begins a deep and thoughtful search of the scriptures-and his own heart- to discover how to retrieve his wayward son. In the process he learns that, like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in the Book of Mormon, he must bury his own swords of unrighteousness.

An extended parable that's filled with wisdom and insight, Burrying Our Swords: How Christ can Remove Rebellion from Our Hearts helps us understand the value of sacrificing something we view as important for something the Lord views as more important. "In our rush to do things 'our way', we may end up ignoring and running from God's counsel, simply because we're not yet ready to do things 'his way', author Kevin Hinckley writes.
Just as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies buried their swords in a covenant to no longer rebel against God or man, Hinckley teaches us how we, too, can bury the swords of our rebellion- and in the process, find greater peace in our lives and our relationships.

I've loaned this book to quite a few people because I was just awed by the insights I found inside of it that led me to look at my own life and what swords I was lugging around that needed to not only be put down, but burried for good. I think I enjoyed it more because it was just like how Jesus taught (though less through symbols) by telling a story that everyone can relate to. It inspired me to search the scriptures more diligently and truly study them to find messages like the one Mike found in this book. It really changed my perception of things and gave me a beautiful example in the Book of Mormon that I had never seen before and was shocked that I didn't notice it. It's a book that I'm so glad I decided to pick up and read because it has helped me change a lot of things that I needed just a little bit more of a nudge to really change.

The Iron Ring

By Lloyd Alexander

When Tamar, the young king of Sundari, loses a dice game, he loses everything-his kingdom, its riches, and even the right to call his life his own. His bondage is symbolized by the iron ring that appears mysteriously on his finger. To Tamar, born to the warrior caste, honor is everything. So he sets out on a journey to make good on his debt- and even to give up his life if necessary. And he enters into a world where animals talk, spirits abound, and magic is everywhere...

This book is based on the culture of India in all its richness. It was one of my favorites as a kid. I even found a ring and wore it for probably two years because I decided it was my own iron ring and I was off to have adventures like Tamar. This book has everything anyone could want in it: warriors, magic, animals, love, laughs, and many teaching moments. I adore this book and have read it many times over the years. It shows that while honor is everything, caste is really nothing. Tamar's story is akin to a coming of age, but more like a coming to wisdom. At the beginning he is very naive and also extremely proud, but as he comes to the end of his journey and loses everything, he gains everything in the process. It's a beautiful story.

Princess Academy

By Shannon Hale

High on the slopes of Mount Eskel, Miri's family has lived forever, pounding a meager living from the stone of the mountain itself. Miri dreams of working alongside the others in the quarry, but she has never been allowed to work there- perhaps, she thinks, because she is so small.
Then words comes from the lowlands: the king's priests have divined that the prince's bride-to-be - the next princess- will come from Mount Eskel. The prince himself will travel to the village to choose his bride, but first all the eligible girls must attend a makeshift academy to prepare for royal lowlander life.
At the school, Miri finds herself confronting both bitter competition among the girls and her own conflicted desires to be chosen. Yet when danger comes to the academy, it is Miri, named for a tiny mountain flower, who must find a way to save her classmates- and the chance for the future that each of them is eager to secure as her own.

After picking up this book to read, I didn't set it down again until it was finished. There was never a dull spot to get through and I was left guessing until the end. I enjoyed it immensely. It's not what I was expecting, to be sure, when I started reading it. I expected this silly little fairy-tale that would be quite mushy and full of happily-ever-afters. Boy was I surprised! It was delightful and exciting. I was cheering for Miri the whole way, telling her "No, don't do that!" and "Good one!" as she went. Shannon creates a whole new, believable culture and world set on a mountain side. It was enchanting and left me with a comfortable warmth in my heart as I turnned to the last page. It's a great one for girls especially.

Fun facts: Princess Academy won the Newberry Honor medal for children's literature. Shannon has also written The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River Secrets, Forest Born, Book of a Thousand Days, and Austenland. She's a wicked-awesome author!

The Giver

By Lois Lowry

Jonas's World is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community.
When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it's time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

I read this for the first time probably three years ago now. Since then I've read it another three times. This is a book about living. It is so masterfully done that you will never wish that you didn't have to make a hard decision again after reading it. I enjoyed it because it was fresh and new and easy to get into, and it made you think in a way you weren't accustomed to thinking. For me, it's a book about the pains and pleasures of life and how we would be if we didn't know them. Everything would be blah. I would recommend everyone to read this book that is over 14.

This book is actually banned from some schools who don't want their children to read it. Basically it is for some minimal reference to puberty and the desires that arise from it in adolescents. I would say, you be the judge on whether to let your kids read it by reading it yourself. It's different for everyone, and it does have a scene that might be uncomfortable for some kids who are sensitive. I myself didn't have a problem and I'm quite sensitive myself.

Info: The Giver has won the Newberry award for children's literature. It also has two companion books called Gathering Blue, and The Messenger, both of which are placed in the same setting with cameo appearances from Jonas and others of The Giver. They both follow the feel of The Giver, but I didn't enjoy them as much. Just my oppinion though. If you want a great book by Lois, read Number the Stars; it's about the Holocaust and it is absolutely amazing. (it also won the Newberry).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just so you know...

FYI: I won't be posting for probably the next week. I'm into the Harry Potter series at the moment, and I figure since the whole world has read them, I won't review them. I just got to the point where I had been reading so many new things I was craving something I knew was great and would be quick and entertaining. I swear I'll get back to reading and reviewing in a week! So, I'm on the 4th one at the moment and should be done with the series by the end of next week. Until then, happy reading!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Alchemist

By Paulo Coleho

This story is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself a king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

The Alchemist has stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 88 consecutive weeks now and for good reason. In the same style as Johnathan Livingston Seagull, the story of Santiago will fill you with a new motivation to live life and follow your heart. Mr. Coleho tells his story in a simplistic, yet very deep way. I very much look forward to reading it again because I am positive it has more than I picked up in it. Santiago's story is one that has inspired people all over the world, and I would recomend this book as one not only to be read by everyone, but one you should go and pick up to keep on your shelf. It was absolutely incredible and gave me a lot of hope to fufill my own Personal Legend. Without a doubt you need to read this one!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer is here!

YES!!! The summer is here, and that means more books! So, as a warning, this site is due to receive many many reviews in the coming months as I have more time on my hands than ever. Also, if you have a request or a book you want me to read please let me know either in the comments or you can e-mail me at Hope your summer is off to a great start!

Staci- the book junkie ^_^


By Alice Hoffman

Estrella de Madrigal thought she knew herself: daughter, granddaughter, dearest friend. But truth is rare in this cruel and unforgiving century in Spain, when Jews who refused conversion to Christianity risked everything- love, life, family, faith.
Then: a startling discovery shakes Esrella’s world to the core. Emerging from a cocoon of secrets, new love burns brightly, but betrayal unleashes a monstrous evil upon her. Estrella must find the strength-despite grave consequences-to become the person she is destined to be.

Remember the story she is about to tell you.

This is a story about love and loss. This is a story about finding yourself and then being true to what you find. This is a story about faith. I loved reading this book. Alice Hoffman has a very dream-like way of telling a story and it has a haunting effect when it’s a story about something that really happened. The setting is Spain during the inquisition; Jews are forced to denounce their religion or die. This book opened my eyes; I don’t like to think about the many cruelties that were inflicted upon people in history, but this was not only a story about loss, it was a story of hope and enduring. I’m glad I read it, it really was beautiful, though heart-wrenching. I will definitely remember this book and read it again. Absolutely beautiful.


By Alex Flinn

I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright- a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever-ruined-unless I can break the spell.Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly….beastly.

I’ve been in a Beauty and the Beast kick lately, so I apologize to everyone who is annoyed with it, but this one was pretty good. There were two things that bothered me: one was the references to sex and the other was the rather un-real change Kyle goes through after he becomes the beast. Oh, wait I forgot one, after each ‘part’ in the book there is a section where other people who have been transformed have an online chat and that was just really stupid. It detracted from everything and made me say, “Man, this is so lame.” It broke whatever hold the story had on you. But for the good, it was probably the best present-set telling of the story I’ve ever read. I liked how character-focused the book was instead of trying to fit the plot into a more prominent role. Although the dialogue became slightly un-real toward the end I was hooked enough to read the whole 300 pages in 4 hours. It’s a fun read. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 16, possibly 17-18; just for the crude stuff- although it’s different for everyone.

Castle in the Air

By Diana Wynne Jones

Abdullah has always lived in Zanzib, a lowly carpet merchant, spending his every free moment daydreaming. His life was pretty consistently boring until the day he was sold a thread-bare carpet that happened to be magically endowed to fly. This one event leads to Abdullah’s daydreams beginning to come true-he finds the love of his life, princess Flower-in-the-night, only to see her be whisked away by a powerful djinn. In an effort to save her, Abdullah starts on a magical journey with the aid of his magic carpet and an ornery genie. Mayhem is sure to be a step ahead of him as he finds himself in the land of Ingary; the self-same land that houses a certain wizard named Howl…

Oh, I just love Diana Wynne Jones! I read this hoping for another helping of Howl and all the characters in the previous book, and much to my delight, I found myself loving Abdullah and new characters just as much. This book is a great fantasy and reminiscent of Aladdin or Ali Babba and the fourty thieves, wrought with magic carpets, sultans, deserts, genies. While the first two-thirds of the book can be read without any foreknowledge of Howl’s Moving Castle, the last bit of the book will definitely confuse readers who haven’t read it. It makes me laugh just to think of this book and all the hilarious encounters that Abdullah has, and Howl and Sophie’s unconventional return! Read it if you liked Howl’s Moving Castle! Please do!

The Fire Rose

By Mercedes Lackey

Rosalind Hawkins is a medieval scholar from a fine family in Chicago, unfortunately, her professor father has speculated away the family money and died, leaving young Rosalind with no fortune and no future. Desolate with grief, forced to cut her education short, she agrees to go west to take a job as a governess to a wealthy man in San Francisco. However, when she arrives, she finds that there are no children at all: only a man who wishes her to read to him through a speaking tube. As she takes on the strange task of translating and reading aloud to her employer, she finds many mysteries to be solved; her employer being one of them. As she comes to know him she finds a keen mind and wit akin to her own. But when Rose discovers his secret and the bitter pain that comes with it, will she be able to find a way to help the man who took her out of poverty before he destroys himself?

This was one of the most original ‘Beauty and the Beast’ type books I’ve read to date. It was however highly disturbing in many ways. I would suggest if you read it to skip chapters 5 and 12. They deal with the man-servant Paul du-mond, who is the most unsavory and vile of characters. This book was strange to say the least and had a lot of anti-religion in it, and dealt mostly with ‘logic’ despite the fact that it had magic in it. I felt like I was reading a witch-craft book and it was just odd. I didn’t like it very much, and it was far too…something for me. It was just too much. I don’t recommend it.

Things Not Seen

By Andrew Clements

Things were pretty normal for Bobby up until now. This morning he woke up and couldn’t see himself in the mirror. Not blind, not dreaming- Bobby is invisible. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why; even his physicist Dad can’t figure it out. For Bobby, that means no school, no friends, no life. He’s a missing person. Then he meets Alicia. She’s blind, and Bobby can’t resist talking to her, trusting her. But people are starting to wonder where Bobby is, and if he’s even still alive. Bobby knows that his invisibility could have dangerous consequences for his family and that time is running out. He has to find out how to be seen again-before it’s too late.

I’ve never read Andrew Clements before, but apparently he’s written over 50 books for kids. This book was entertaining. A good mix of science-fiction/fantasy and truth. This was a quick read and kept me interested the whole time. There were a few kinda awkward moments when Bobby was naked and invisible that I was actually blushing for the kid. I don’t think I could walk around stark naked even if I was invisible. It has a sweet little budding romance, and I enjoyed the references to other books in it, and the characters are very ‘real’. I think I will pick up more of his books after reading this one. It slyly addressed people who feel invisible in their own lives and how horrible that can be. It was a great read. Once you read this book, however, you will never look at electric blankets in the same way again! Happy reading.