Friday, December 17, 2010

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

By Susan Wojciechowski

The widow McDowell and her seven-year-old son Thomas ask the gruff Jonathan Tommey, the best wood-carver in the valley, to carve the figures for a Christmas nativity.

This is one of those choice little stories about how when someone cares and keeps caring, it can change a life. It's a sweet story about healing and finding joy and peace.

Forest Born

By Shannon Hale

Growing up in the Forest, Rin always turned to the trees when she needed peace or reassurance, even direction, until the day they seem to reject her. Rin is sure something is wrong with her, something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest, keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all.
When her brother Razo returns to the city after a visit home, Rin accompanies him to the palace in hopes of finding a new sense of herself. But a mysterious threat haunts Bayern, and Rin joins the magical girls she thinks of as the Fire Sisters- Isi, Enna, and Dasha- as they venture into the woods toward the kingdom of Kel…where someone wants them all dead.

This is the fourth book in the Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale (who rocks by the way). I was rather surprised at this latest installment, because I didn't really like "Enna Burning" or "River Secrets" nearly as much as "The Goose Girl". But this book was right down my alley and was reminiscent of "The Goose Girl". It wasn't quite as good, but if you liked Goose Girl, you will definitely like "Forest Born". It clicked with me because Rin has a hard time trusting herself and she is pretty hard on herself. It was easy to relate to her because I feel much the same. I really think lots of people will relate with the heroine of this book; it's quite the journey of finding yourself and learning to trust in yourself and believe you're worth the trouble. :)


By Rachel Ann Nunes

A young woman is missing. In desperation, her parents turn to Autumn Rain for help. Autumn reads imprints-emotions mysteriously left behind on certain treasured objects. But will this ability enrich her life or destroy it?
Autumn isn’t sure- her life has become far from normal- but for people whose loved ones are missing, her talent might mean the difference between life and death. Even the infuriating Detective Martin has asked for Autumn’s help, though at times she feels more like a suspect than a consultant. Too often Autumn finds herself retreating to her antiques shop and the company of her best friend, Jake Ryan, to avoid notice.
But soon more than one woman is missing, and Autumn teams up with private eye Ethan McConnel to investigate their disappearance. Ethan’s attraction to her is a pleasant change from Jake’s frustrating offers of friendship, but once Autumn takes that first step, she sets in motion a series of events that risk not only her own life but the lives of those she cares most about.

This is the first mystery-like book I've read in a while. It was pretty good, a little strange because the main character was the child of a hippie-which was weird for me to read. She was always talking herbs and natural stuff, and didn't wear shoes. It was a little strange. The book seemed more like a romance that happened to have a mystery embeded into it. People who enjoy the girl looking for a guy will like this book. It's centered around the disappearance of two women who are both connected with a cult-like group that live togther at a place called Harmony Farms. Autumn goes undercover at the cajoling of attractive Ethan in hopes that she can both help and maybe start up a new romance in her life. I wasn't surprised at the ending, though there were a few surprises along the way. It was well-written, but not the best book I've read.

The Mansion

By Henry van Dyke

John Weightman is an impeccable businessman. He never makes a move without consulting how it will profit him. One day John has a vision of heaven and takes the journey to see his heavenly mansion that he has built by the way he lived on earth. What he sees both shocks and motivates a pivotal change in his life. A Christmas story that is an instant classic.

I read this book back when I was probably 14 or so, but when I watched the first presidency Christmas Devotional and heard President Monson mention it, I decided to pick it up again. It is a short story that has a great moral about laying up treasures in heaven, and not coveting treasures on earth “where moth and dust doth corrupt”. Really good.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

By Shel Silverstein

Collected poems for children ranging from the silly to the serious.

If you’ve never read Shel Silverstein, you need to go to the library and pick up one of his many poetry books. He also wrote “The Giving Tree”, a sweet book that is well known. His poems carry a fun theme and kids love them. This is the first of his books of poems.

Change Your Questions Change Your Life

By Wendy W. Nelson

As a young boy, Joseph Smith asked a question that not only changed his life forever but also changed the world. Truly, questions are powerful agents of change. Do you want better relationships? Ask better questions. Do you want a great life? Learn to ask great questions. The questions we ask ourselves and others can significantly influence the kind of lives we create. They can motivate or they can demoralize. They can increase our ability to solve problems or they can make situations worse. Sharing information based on more than 25 years of clinical research and practice, Dr. Wendy Watson Nelson helps readers look at the questions in their lives and the influence of those questions on their relationships, their challenges, and their beliefs. In her first book since marrying Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve in 2006, she discusses how our questions influence our attempts at problem solving and shares seven questions that can change our lives. Full-color graphics and illustrations throughout help readers visualize these important concepts.

This book is amazing. It is truly different from the typical doctrine-like books you find. Wendy Nelson leads you on an amazing journey, asking questions and making you think in ways you never have before. More importantly, she helps you realize how to ask the questions that you need to ask right now. With pictures to illustrate incredible lessons, and read-and-answer sections, this book is a great gift and learning tool. I keep learning every time I read it. Excellent book.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


By Ally Condie

In the Society Officials decide. Who you love, where you work, when you die. Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow- between perfection and passion.

I was really looking forward to this book, although a little worried that it wouldn't be well-written and I'd puke from over-done teenage romance and angst. I was molified, however, to find that this book was centered around love, but not gushy teen love. It's a lot about fighting for the right to make choices, and to live your own life. I think I can pinpoint my decision of liking this book to how the author pulled Thomas Dylan's poem, "Do not Go Gentle" into the main plot. I love that poem, so I was won over. :) The story is intriguing, and reminiscent of the triangle in The Hunger Games between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. Except lots better because she actually decides who to be with before you're dying to slap her to make her choice. Sad day however, it is a continuing story, for which I was once again annoyed. Tis the trend nowadays. I recommend it for people who like books like The Hunger Games, Twilight (yes you) and The Maze Runner.


By Mike Lupica

Zach Harriman thought he knew his dad. Knicks fan, ex-Harvard football star, special advisor to the President of the United States. And then Tom Harriman’s plane crashes under mysterious circumstances and everything Zach thought he knew about his father explodes with it. Now the same people who wanted his father dead want Zach very much alive. Why? Because Tom Harriman was no ordinary man. And because Zach is destined to follow in his footsteps. Starting now. As something no one even knows exists….a fourteen-year-old superhero.

This wasn't really what I was expecting, but I've never read one of Mike Lupica's books, which are mostly sport-related. I've heard nothing but good about him, it was just a little hard to get used to his style. I'm starting out negative though! I did really like the book once I got the gist of it; it was fun and an original way to do the classic comic-book superhero-like book. I even was mildly surprised at the ending, which always makes me like a book more. If you like Mike (ha ha, I rhymed!) and like superheroes, then this is a great book for you. Great fun.

Igraine the Brave

By Cornelia Funke

Igraine, who turns twelve tomorrow, dreams of becoming a famous knight. But today, like most days, life at the family castle remains…rather boring. Until the nefarious nephew of the baroness-next-door shows up. Greedy Osmund’s got a dastardly plan to capture Pimpernel Castle and steal the singing magic books that belong to Igraine’s mom and dad. Complicating matter, on the eve of the siege her parents misspeak a spell and turn themselves into pigs! (How inconvenient.)
Igraine’s birthday wish has come true, and the challenge is bigger than she ever bargained for: Will she face her fears and find the courage to save the day-and the books?

Two words: For cute. This book is just darling, full of the fun and simple storytelling of a master storyteller. Igraine is a fun heroine, with an annoying but endearing older brother, and parents who dote and love her. This book may be fluffy, but it's well-written and I can tell it would be an excellent read-aloud book for kids. It reminds me a lot of The Castle Corona, but I like this much better.

Ranger's Apprentice: Halt's Peril (Book 9)

By John Flanagan

Rangers walk the line between life an death every day, but never before ahs that line appeared so thin or death felt so certain.
Hot on the trail of the Outsiders- a cult that’s been making its way from kingdom to kingdom, conning the innocent out of their few valuables- Will and Halt are ambushed by the cult’s deadly assassins. Pierced by a poisoned arrow, Will’s mentor is near death and in dire need of the one antidote that can save his life. Time is not on Will’s side as he journeys day and night through the harsh terrain to Grimsdell wood in search of the one person with the power to cure Halt: Malkallam the Sorcerer.

Have I mentioned how awesome this series is? This latest installation is no exception to the incredibly fun story of Will, Halt, and Horace. I can't talk too much about the book without giving things away. I'll just say, it's pretty heart-wrenching. But full of laughs as well. Horace will keep you rolling with his sense of humor. My favorite it when Halt gives him an extra camoflage cloak and he grins, pulling the hood up and says, "Can you see me?" I laughed pretty hard. It reminded me of those camo shirts that say, "Ha ha, you can't see me now." It just tickled my funny bone. Great series. Great I say!!

Freckle Juice

By Judy Blume

Andrew wants freckles so bad, he buys a recipe from a classmate that will make him grow freckles.

This is a pretty hilarious story about a kid who thinks freckles are the bomb and will do just about anything to get them. meant for kids grade 3-4. It's an older book, but just as funny as if it were written for today.

The Rough-Face Girl

By Rafe Martin

In this Algonquin Indian version of the Cinderella story, the Rough-Face Girl and her two beautiful but heartless sisters compete for the affections of the Invisible Being.

This is a fun story of Cinderella Indian-style with beautiful illustrations. Little girls will enjoy this story.

Christmas Day in the Morning

By Pearl S. Buck

A boy surprises his father on Christmas morning by getting up early and milking the cows on the farm.

This is a sweet story that I first saw in movie form in my Primary class as a kid. I remember crying. It's a beautiful Christmas story and shows what true giving really is.

Gregor and the Code of Claw: Book 5

By Suzanne Collins

Everyone in the Underland has been taking great pains to keep The Prophecy of Time from Gregor. Gregor knows it must say something awful but he never imagined just how awful: It calls for the warrior's death. Now, with an army of rats approaching, and his mom and sister still in Regalia, Gregor the warrior must gather up his courage to help defend Regalia and get his family home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor's hands, and time is running out. There is a code to be cracked, a mysterious new princess, Gregor's burgeoning dark side, and a war to end all wars.

This is the last book in the Underland series, and by far the most violent. While being just as unputdownable as the last four books, it still unsettled me a little bit how Ms. Collins ended her series. Sometimes I wonder, especially after reading Mockinjay, if she even likes happy endings. It wasn't nearly as dramatically sad as Mockinjay, but still left you feeling somehow empty. But as usual, I still enjoyed the journey and was sad to let Gregor go. It was a bittersweet feeling.

To Be a King: book 11

By Kathryn Lasky

Nachtmagen rages through the N’yrthghar as hagsfiends and traitorous lords conspire to defeat the new king. With Grank and Theo at his side, Hoole must forge an army of free owls strong enough to defeat the forces of darkness massing on the horizon. The power of the one Ember fires the young king’s very gizzard and he grows great. But for young Hoole there is a danger much closer than treacherous lords and the poison of half-hags. For magic-even good magic-brings great peril to those who would wield it.
So Soren, Coryn, and the Band read the final legend and glimpse what the future may demand of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole.

The Coming of Hoole: Book 10

By Kathryn Lasky

A tale of chaos, betrayal, and nachtmagen unfolds in the second of three ancient legends. It is no idle history, for hidden in its pages are truths about the great promise-and great danger-that lie just ahead for the Guardians. And so Soren, Coryn, and the members of the Band read on:
A grizzled collier will tend a young prince in exile. An owl who would be a monk will done battle claws. A mother who is also a queen will raise an army. And under the shower of embers in the shadow of the Sacred Volcanoes, a king will be born-or die.

The First Collier: book 9

By Kathryn Lasky

An ancient malevolence that will threaten the very existence of the great tree has been loosed from the past. With his dying breath, Ezylryb tells Soren and Coryn to read the legends of Ga’Hoole hidden in his private library. There, they find a world of treachery and magic in which a young king and queen struggle to keep peace while Grank, their most loyal friend and supporter, studies embers and flames in a distant land. Then a desperate plea comes from the king, and Grank rushes to the aid of his noble friends.

The beginning of the story of Hoole: the great owl king for whom the great tree is named. His story lasts the next 2 books in the series.

The Outcast: Book 8

By Kathryn Lasky

Nyroc has exiled himself from the Pure Ones. He flies alone, feared and despised by those who know him as Kludd's son, hunted by those whose despotism he has rejected, and haunted by ghostly creatures conjured by Nyra to lure him back to the Pure Ones. He yearns for a place he only half believes in -- the great tree -- and an uncle -- the near-mythic Soren -- who might be a true father to him. Yet he cannot approach the tree while the rumor of evil clings to him. To prove his worth, Nyroc will fly to The Beyond the Beyond seeking the legendary Relic and bring it, a talisman of his own.

Again, this is where I think the story hits its stride. Excellent.

The Hatchling: Book 7

By Kathryn Lasky

Beneath a shadowed moon in a cloud-streaked sky, the sacred orb splits and a hatchling is born: It is Nyroc, son of Kludd, fallen leader of the Pure Ones, and his evil mate, Nyra. Born from evil, trained to evil, Nyroc is destined to fulfill his father’s terrible plan, the oppression of all owldom under the vicious talons of the Pure Ones.
But doubt grows in Nyroc’s heart, fed by strange forbidden legends of a great tree far away where noble owls live in peace. And a light dawns in Nyroc’s gizzard, nourished by friendship.
A day is nearing when Nyroc must choose to fulfill his destiny-or to defy it.
It will be a day of blood and terror.

This book is different from the other Guardian books. And in my oppinion, extremely good. This is when I thought the series became awesome. I loved the story of Nyroc.

The Burning: Book 6

By Kathryn Lasky

A great battle is on the horizon and drawing near. In preparation, Soren and his band must fly to the mysterious Northern Kingdoms to find allies and study the grim art of war. Meanwhile, St. Aggie’s has fallen to the Pure Ones. If they are not stopped, they will launch another, more deadly attack against the great tree. And without allies from the north, Ga’Hoole will surely fall. Soren’s mission must succeed. And the final battle must be won. The coming conflagration will demand wisdom, bravery, and sacrifice from all the owls of the great tree, and from Soren and the band, nothing less than heroism.

The Shattering: book 5

By Kathryn Lasky

Soren’s sister, Eglantine, is falling under the spell of a strange nightly dream. Then, just as Soren notices her trancelike state, Eglantine disappears, and the dreams become a deadly waking nightmare that puts the Great Tree of Ga’Hoole in terrible danger. Soren must lead the Chaw of Chaws to rescue his sister. Thus begins the next battle between the owls of Ga’Hoole and the evil Pure Ones, deep in the treacherous territory known as The Beaks, where a raging forest fire will prove the greatest danger to the rescuers-and their best hope for victory.

I'm just quickly going to put up the rest of the Guardian of Ga'Hoole books that I've read and comment here and there.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off-topic Harry Potter

So, question: Has anybody seen Harry Potter 7 yet? I need input as to whether I need to see it. I've been hearing the rumors of nudity and such and am wondering if they are exagerated. Once anybody goes to see it, I would appreciate some feedback as to what the claim of nudity means. I was a little nervous about them ruining the whole book for me with one scene...


By Cornelia Funke

Beyond the mirror, the darkest fairy tales come alive….
For years, Jacob Reckless has enjoyed the Mirrorworld’s secrets and treasures.
Not anymore.
His younger brother has followed him.
Now dark magic will turn the boy to beast, break the heart of the girl he loves, and destroy everything Jacob holds most dear…
Unless he can find a way to stop it.
If you’re looking for happily ever after, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Okay, so look at the cover and read the last line of the summary. What does this suggest? Perhaps a less-than-happy story? You're right. I went against my better judgement and read this book because I heartily enjoyed the Inkheart trilogy and The Theif Lord by Funke, but this one had a bit too many dark tones for my tastes. It left me feeling icky. This book is about Jacob Reckless, a boy who has lost his father in the mirror world- a world that is strangely reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales...extra Grimm. The whole premise of the book is Jacob's journey to try and save his brother Will from a curse that will turn him into a ruthless monster- nothing like the gentle loving soul he truly is. There is language and also blatant suggestion to immorality on Jacob's part which rankled me. There certainly was no happily ever after. In fact, I wondered what the point was at all. I definately don't reccommend it, even though I will say that it was superbly written and page-turner that lots of people will enjoy. Just a little too depressing and well....Grim.

He Took My Lickin' For Me

By Timothy Robinson

Rambunctious boys make rules for stealing, and one boy takes the punishment for another.

I had this story read aloud to me in Young Womens and remember getting teary. This is another special story that everyone will love. It's about love and mercy and forgiveness. Christians will especially resonate with the story and its parallels to what Jesus Chrsit has done for each of us.

The Secret of the King

By Rachel Ann Nunes

Two medieval children long to become knights in the king’s army, but they learn that they can be just as valuable doing other things.

This was a special story. I'm not sure why, but it really hit me. The plot is great and the story wonderful with knights, kings, and young kids who dream of serving a larger purpose. The illustrations add even more depth to the story and are beautiful to look at. I was amazed at the detail that went into this picture book's illustrations. This is a wonderful story, pick it up if you want to be inspired and feel those ever so wonderful warm fuzzies.

The Siege: Book 4

By Kathryn Lasky

Tensions erupt in the owl kingdom when the forces of evil wage war against the protectors of good. Enraged by his clash with Soren and driven by an all-consuming desire for power, Kludd and his group, the Pure Ones, launch an attack upon the Great Ga’Hoole Tree. The noble owls who live there must fight fiercely to protect their resources and defend their honor.
Meanwhile, Soren is called upon by the elders of the great tree to lead a mission back to the one place he thought he’d never see again – St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. He and his crew will have to enter St. Aggie’s as spies, then leave unnoticed once their work is done. Soren escaped the rocky confines of St. Aggie’s once. If peace is to be restored, he must do it again.

Okay, things are starting to get interesting in the series and the story plot thickens as Soren clashes with the owls of St. Aggies and also worries about his brother Kludd and his treachery against owlkind.

Gregor and the Marks of Secret

By Suzanne Collins

It's only a few months since Gregor and Boots returned from the Underland, leaving their mother behind to heal from the plague. Though Gregor's family receives frequent updates on her condition, they all know Gregor must return to fulfill his role as the warrior who is key to the Underlanders' survival. Accompanied by his now-talkative little sister Boots, still considered the honorary "princess," Gregor joins forces with another princess--12-year-old Luxa--and Ripred the rat to defend the Underlanders and the vulnerable "Nibblers," or mice, from the rat army.

This is where the Underland series takes a turn for the serious. It's been felt in echoes in the last book, but this is where it begins to show the grown-up aspects of life and war. Gregor, as usual gets thrown into the thick of things, but is more willing to help with his mother still recuperating and realizing that his friends need him. This is where things get a little disturbing as the 'nibblers' get treated with hatred and killed for no apparent reason. War sets in in earnest and Gregor is put to the test as he tries to cope with the rage inside that has been unleashed by being thrown into such a violent world. Great series, but there are war themes and death.

The Rescue: book 3

By Kathryn Lasky

Ever since Soren was kidnapped and taken to the St. Aegoliue School for Orphaned Owls, he has longed to see his sister, Eglantine, again. Now Eglantine is back in Soren’s life, but she’s been through an ordeal too terrible for words. And Ezylryb, Soren’s mentor, has disappeared. Deep within Soren’s gizzard, something more powerful than knowledge tells him there’s a connection between these mysterious events.
In order to rescue Ezylryb, Soren must embark upon a perilous quest. It will bring him face-to-face with a force more dangerous than anything the rulers of St. Aggie’s could have devised –

and a truth that threatens to destroy the owl kingdom.

While being fun reads for adults, this series would be much more suited to kids from 8-12. They are quite enjoyable however and worth a read to see how you like them. They were good enough for me to keep reading, and I'm glad I did. They are only about 180 pages on average, and I was glad I kept going because I felt like the story hit its stride at about book 6. So while this and the next few books are a bit on the -well not boring side- but slower, I'd keep going.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ranger's Apprentice 8: The Kings of Clonmel

By John Flanagan

When mankind seeks protection from the world’s many dangers, they put their faith in warriors, kings, gods, and even money. In the neighboring kingdom of Clonmel, a mysterious cult has sprung up, promising defense against lawless marauders in exchange for people’s riches. Their sermons are attracting audiences from miles around, but there’s a dark side to this seemingly charitable group, prompting Halt, Will and Horace to investigate. What the trio uncovers could threaten the safety of not only Clonmel, but their homeland of Araluen as well.
In this new installment to the series that has sold millions of copies and garnered worldwide acclaim, secrets will be revealed and battles to the death will be waged. And this is only the beginning…

How long I have been waiting to read this book! Being an avid fan of the Ranger's Apprentice series, I was so happy to find that my local library was finally FINALLY carrying them. While being a poor college student, I wasn't able to buy it, but now I can keep up with my favorite Rangers. :) I am a happy soul.

This latest adventure didn't let me down in the least. Halt, Will and Horace are together once more to solve the riddle of The Outsiders, a suspicious religious cult that is anything but charitable. We find out lots of secrets about Halt's life in this one, for which I was super happy. Won't spoil it though, and I will shamelessly say once more (as I do with each of these books I review) READ THEM IF YOU HAVEN'T YET!!!!!!!!!


By Brandon Mull

Teased by his friends for having an imaginary friend, Chad tries to bid Pingo farewell but Pingo refuses to leave.

Brandon Mull does it again! The author of the Fablehaven series tries his hand at a children's picture book and captures our imaginations with Pingo. Anybody who had an imaginary friend, or ever wanted one, will love this book about a little boy who decides he is too old for his imaginary friend. But his imaginary friend isn't going anywhere without a fight!

On The Night You Were Born

By Nancy Tillman

This is a story of how nature and creation celebrate at the birth of a child.

This is a beautiful little book with nature illustrations depicting how the world celebrates at the birth of a new child. I think it is a sweet book and would be a perfect gift for those with new little ones. Warm fuzzy alert! :)

Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Journey (2)

By Kathryn Lasky

It began as a dream. A quest for the Great Ga’Hoole Tree, a mythic place where each night an order of owls rises to perform noble deeds. There Soren, Gylfie, Twilight, and Digger hope to find inspiration to fight the evil that dwells in the owl kingdom. The journey is long and harrowing. When Soren and his friends finally arrive at the Great Ga’Hoole Tree, they will be tested in ways they never dreamed and face challenges they never imagined. If they can learn from their leaders and from one another, they will soon become true Ga’Hoolian owls- honest and brave, wise and true.

The second book in the popular series about noble owls who fight for truth, justice, and...well you know. This story centers around the four friends as they learn from the different Chaws, or groups, in the Great Tree. Soren finds his niche in the Weather Chaw with the old and wise Ezylryb as his mentor. They are the owls that ride the gales and can fly through forestfires to gather hot coals for the tree. Gylfie is a natural for the Navagation Chaw, and studies the stars. Digger is a tracker, and Twilight is just Twilight. This is a fun book that shows how the young owls learn to become true Guardians.

Flat Stanley

By Jeff Brown

After a bulletin board falls on Stanley while he’s sleeping, he finds that being flat has its advantages.

After having heard of Flat Stanley from each of my nieces and nephews, I finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about. And how fun was it to read about a little boy who mysteriously becomes flat after his bulletin board falls on him one night? Stanley travels by mail, folding himself up and shipping first class. Stanley slides under the door when his Dad locks them out of the house, and becomes a kite for his little brother. Being flat is great! Until it isn't. This is a cute story that I can see why my nieces and nephews have remembered and loved reading.


By Scott Westerfeld

Tally thought they were a rumor, but now she’s one of them. A Special. A super-amped fighting machine, engineered to keep the uglies down and the pretties stupid. But maybe being perfectly programmed with strength and focus isn’t better than anything she’s ever known. Tally still has memories of something else. But it’s easy for her to tune that out-until she’s offered a chance ot stamp out the rebels of the New Smoke permanently. It all comes down to one last choice: listen to that tiny, faint heart-beat, or carry out the mission she’s programmed to complete. Either way, Tally’s world will never be the same.

Finally the end! Really, that's how I was feeling. As usual, this was a page-turner and I've waited to read it for ages. It was a little weird and I was confused about what the author was trying to say. Tally is special in this one: super strong, super sleek, can heal at incredible rates...and has all pointy teeth. That image just creeped me out. Tally once again has to fight brain damage and decide who she really is and wants to be. It seems like everyone else has always been in charge of Tally and her life. That's about to change. Tally makes sure of it. Nothing matters now but taking control...even if she starts a war in the process.

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods

By Suzanne Collins

With Two Prophecies Fulfilled, Gregor is now focused on the Prophecy of Blood, which calls for Gregor and Boots to return to the Underland to help ward off a plague. But this time, his mother refuses to let him go…until Ripred the rat convinces her that Gregor and Boots need to stay for only a brief meeting. Finally, Gregor’s mom relents, provided she is allowed to travel with them.
When they arrive in the subterranean city, the plague is spreading-and it has claimed one of his closest companions. Only then does Gregor start to understand how the illness plays with the fate of all warmblooded creatures, but he still doesn’t know how he can help combat it.

And the plot thickens...That's how this third installment of the Underland series feels. There is a definite change of tone in this book, it gets a little darker and more heavy laden for the 12 year old warrior Gregor. Although, having his mother along is an interesting twist. As per usual, Collins is able to pull your heartstrings at the necessary fighting that accompanies war. When Gregor has to find the cure to save those closest to him, he begins to see that he just might be what everyone already thinks he is: the warrior destined to save them all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture

By Kathryn Lasky

Soren is born in the forest of Tyto, a tranquil kingdom where the Barn Owls dwell. But evil lurks in the owl world, evil that threatens to shatter Tyto’s peace and change the course of Soren’s life forever. Soren is captured and taken to a dark and forbidding canyon. It’s called an orphanage, but Soren believes it’s something far worse. He and his friend Gylfie know that the only way out is up. To escape, they will need to do something they have never done before-fly.

This is the popular series that spawned the recent movie "Legends of the Guardians". I read this over a year ago, but decided it deserved a review. I've read the first 11 books in the series and have enjoyed it immensely. Soren is a loveable character who believes faithfully in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole- a arthurian like legend among owls. He dreams of becoming just like them. When his life takes a horrible turn and he is pushed out of the nest by his brother Kludd, he is taken to Sanit Aggies, a school for "abandoned" owlettes. The story of his escape and survival is an epic journey; one that anyone who enjoys stories of good and evil will appreciate and love. A great read for owl-lovers like myself as well. :)
P.S. I did see the movie and it was okay for a book adaptation. My favorite part was the computer graphics and the song by Owl City. :) Read the book first if you see the movie. It makes more sense and is more enjoyable.

The Story of Ferdinand

By Monro Leaf

Ferdinand is a bull who likes to sit and smell the flowers, but is picked for the bull fights in Madrid.

So this is quite the cutest book I've ever read. The illustrations really make the book. I picked it up because of the movie "The Blind Side". I'd heard of this book, but hearing part of it on the movie made me want to read it. I actually read it to my Mom and we laughed and had a good time. Just goes to're never too old for kids books. :)


By Janell Cannon

Verdi is a young python who does not want to grow slow and boring like the older snakes he sees in the tropical jungle where he lives.

This is a cute picture book by the same author as the award winning "Stellaluna". Along with beautiful bright pictures, the story of Verdi is a charming one of growing up and learning how to be content and still yourself.

Of Two Minds

By Carol Matas and Perry Nodelman

The complex plot follows the adventures of Lenora, a headstrong princess with the power to make anything she imagines real, and Coren, the shy prince chosen by her parents to be her husband. Trapped in a strange land and stripped of their powers (Coren had been able to read the thoughts not only of humans, but also of animals and objects), the two must work together to overthrow the tyrannical Hevak, restore harmony to the country, and return home safely. Their triumph is particularly impressive and meaningful because it involves learning self-mastery (Lenora) and self-confidence (Coren) rather than simply overcoming an outside challenge through brute force. That the happy ending comes with no guarantees (and no imminent wedding bells) makes it even more believable and satisfying. The story moves swiftly and the writing is consistently smooth, with sophisticated vocabulary and challenging concepts. Matas and Nodelman have themselves done a heroic job of melding their two voices to create a kaleidoscope of character, cultures, and events that offers both entertainment and enrichment to young readers.

Written in the alternating voices of Coren and Lenora, this book was rather surprising. At first I picked it up because the little teaser on the front cover interested me. (You can't escape your deepest thoughts). When I started reading it, it seemed pretty typical and I almost put it down. I'm glad I gave it a chance. Usually I'm not a fan of alternating narrators, but they did a very good job. I usually end up liking one character over another, and that was true with this novel, but even so, I looked forward to the plot developement. It was an entertaining read and had some interesting concepts. Having Coren and his people able to read each others minds was rather funny. (His mother just pops into his head whenever she thinks he needs a pick-me-up). Lenora on the other hand can imagine anything into life. She's a menace to her people because she is so powerful. A fun book when all is said and done.

Smiles to Go

By Jerry Spinelli

He plans everything obsessively, from the perfect stargazing night with his crush, Mi-Su, to the regular Saturday-night games of Monopoly with his friends. He’s even planned his entire adulthood: Career as an astronomer; mint condition, black 1985 Jaguar XJS/12; two kids…
But everything changes the day Will learns one startling fact: protons-those tiny atomic particles, the building blocks to the building blocks of life-can die. The one thing that was so certain in this world to Will has an expiration date.
And Will’s carefully planned-out life?
Not so certain, either.

In his usual style, Jerry Spinelli delivers a believable story about teenager Will, who is just starting to realize that life isn't controllable. The catylst: a news story that a proton has died. Will begins to question the stability of everything in his life. If a proton can die, something that he thought was forever, then what is the point of everything? Asking questions we all ask at one point, this is the journey of one boy into getting a few questions answered...or at least he has started to answer them. It's a good book with a very personal story. It still wasn't one of my favorites from Mr. Spinelli, but it was good.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (Book 2)

By Suzanne Collins

Months have passed since Gregor first fell into the strange Underland beneath New York City, and he swears he will never go back. But he is destined to be a key player in another prophecy, this one is about an ominous white rat called The Bane. The Underlanders know there is only one way to lure Gregor back to their world: by kidnapping his little sister, Boots.
Now Gregor’s quest reunites him with his bat, Ares, and the rebellious princess, Luxa. They descend into the dangerous Waterway in search of the Bane, and Gregor knows what is at stake. If he does not fulfill the prophecy, his life, and the Underland, will never be the same.

I am super behind. I read this ages ago and greatly enjoyed it. Gregor is an intriguing character and as alway with Suzanne Collins, extremely well written. Gregor is very unwilling to return to the Underland, which is one reason why it draws you in when he is forced into fufilling the role that the Underlanders have given him. Boots, Gregor's little 2-year-old sister, is hilarious in her naivete and love for the big cockroaches. Ripred is seen more in this novel and the violence portrayed escalates a bit with this second novel. All in all, it is an excellent seires, this being the second of 5 novels. I highly reccommend it for anyone who has read the Hunger Games trillogy and enjoys Collins' style and messages about war.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pathways to Perfection

By Thomas S. Monson

I’ve been reading this one for months. It was my Sunday reading, so I was doing one chapter once a week about. It was excellent. It’s a bunch of compiled talks that President Monson has given throughout his apostolic career. This book was published quite a few years ago, so this was before he became the prophet. It’s been fun because I recognized a lot of the stories from talks he has given recently. They are just tweaked a little. Then there are some stories in this book I’d never heard before and greatly enjoyed and were very inspiring. President Monson’s book is filled to the brim with stories, poems, and motivational talks. I greatly enjoyed it.


By Brian Jacques

It is the Summer of the Late Rose, and the mice of Mossflower Wood are gathered at the ancient stone abbey of Redwall, celebrating a year of peace and abundance. But a shadow has fallen across the abbey, for it is rumored that Cluny is coming-Cluny, the terrible one-eyed rat, whose vow is to conquer Redwall!
The woodland creatures rush to a desperate defense. But what can peaceloving mice do against Cluny and his army? If only they had the sword of Martin the Warrior. But its hiding place is long forgotten, even by the wise old mouse Methuselah. It is his young apprentice Matthias who sets out to find the legendary sword and becomes a most unlikely hero…

I remember my 6th grade teacher reading Brian Jacques’ books to us out loud, and I recall everyone loving them, except me, who always had the attention span of a flea when it came to listening. So, I decided to revisit Redwall, the beginning of the animal stories of Brian Jacques. I love Mathias; a little abbey mouse who wants to be a warrior and a monk at the same time. This book has that classic hero-journey in it that so many people adore and is an age old tool to write a story. The only difference is you don’t have humans. It’s mice, ferrets, foxes, rats, badgers, adders, and chipmunks. It’s loads of fun to read and has a great feel to it. I’d recommend it to anybody any age.


By Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-goo-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys vuild character by spending all day, every day, digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.
It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment-and redemption.

I read Holes in 7th grade and loved it. I just recently re-read it and was left a little wanting. I guess the magic was reserved for the first-time read. This book is still excellent and I think middle grade readers will love it. Stanley Yelnats is a kid who has always had bad luck. His family always blames their problems on their dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. But things start to change when Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake, to dig holes to ‘build character’. A mystery ensues and a tragic tale unfolds about a bandit who lived a hundred years ago.

Seventh Son

By Orson Scott Card

This first volume of the Tales of Alvin Maker introduces young Alvin Miller Jr., the seventh son of a seventh son, who lives on the frontier of an alternate early 19th century America, where folk magic such as faith healing and second sight really works. While Alvin embarks on his mythic struggle against the Unmaker of all things, he is watched over by a flesh and blood guardian angel; he is pursued by the rigid, zealous Reverend Thrower; and he is guided by the wandering Taleswapper, William Blake.

So I was recommended this book when I was 15, and only now am getting to it 7 years later. Better late than never eh? What makes this book interesting is that I heard it was a science fiction loosely based on the life of Joseph Smith. There are some pretty obvious parallels in the book, but other things are completely independent. This book is about magic, good and bad. It’s about a boy who is the seventh son of a seventh son, and as such, has inherited a special magic and responsibility. This is the first book in seven I believe from Orson Scott Card about Alvin Miller. This book comprises Alvin’s birth to when he is about 9 years old. It was lots of fun and quite different. I’m not a fan of science fiction, but I can read this series.

Party Of One

By Anneli Rufus

In this compendium of everyone who was anyone who ever spent a moment alone, readers bump fleetingly into Kurt Cobain, French Resistance fighters, the Lone Ranger ("Tonto notwithstanding"), Michelangelo, Alexander Pope, John Lennon, cowboys, Saint Anthony and other solo acts. Rufus, the books editor of East Bay Express, views Degas's plain-faced dancers as "pretty ballerinas" whom the artist leaves every time he exits his studio, and Warhol's biography as "tellingly titled Loner at the Ball." She chases her motif, not so much a manifesto as a cri de coeur, through an assortment of perspectives: religion, advertising, clothes, crime, art, eccentricity, environment, literature, religion and popular culture.

This book was entitled ‘the loners manifesto’. So, of course it caught my eye. It’s funny, what I did read of this book showed me that I’m not as much of a loner as I once thought. The lady who wrote this book was a hermit! Also, I didn’t read all the chapters, as there were a few that were pretty risqué. It was interesting though. I don’t recommend it though. It was just a curious book I picked up at the library.

Choke: Book 2 in the Pillage trilogy

By Obert Skye

Because of the popular demand for a second book, Obert Skye delivers the sequel to “Pillage” with Choke. Beck is trying his best to get used to life, and not to mention, trying to spend quality time with his father, who seems to be incredibly absent for a guy who just had problems ever leaving his home. Dragons seem to be a curse for the Pillage family, and Beck just loves making it harder. But without his Dad to guide him, what is he supposed to do? Well, hatching another Dragon Egg is probably not the smartest decision…

So the second book wasn't at all what I expected. But it was entertaining to read. I enjoy Beck's sense of humor. It was surprising and quite fun, it was a page turner and I'm excited for the third book whenever it comes out. Obert is calling the Pillage series his Pilogy. :) Great fun. Read it you enjoyed Pillage!


By Obert Skye

When fifteen-year-old Beck Phillips travels by train to the secluded village of Kingsplot to live with his wealthy but estranged uncle, Beck discovers some dark family secrets. A buried basement, a forbidden wall, an old book of family history with odd references to... dragons? Beck's life is about to be changed forever in this suspenseful tale about the destructive nature of greed and the courage to make things right.

Pillage has to be one of the most imaginative books about Dragons I’ve read in a really long time. It was tons of fun to read Beck’s misadventures with Dragons and girls and school, not to mention his crazy uncle. This is a great read for kids that like dragons and a good story. When Beck’s mother dies suddenly he is sent to live with his only relative, his mother’s brother, who everyone says is crazy and never leaves his tower in his mansion. Beck is cool with that. He’s just glad he has somewhere to go. When he gets to his uncle’s house, there are a few strange rules. One is he can’t open any doors that are locked. Two: don’t go in the backyard. Of course, Beck almost immediately sets out to break the rules. Chaos follows as he finds he has an ancient gift that has to do with stones…and dragons.

Maniac Magee

By Jerry Spinelli

Maniac Magee is a folk story about a boy, a very excitable boy. One that can outrun dogs, hit a home run off the best pitcher in the neighborhood, tie a knot no one can undo. "Kid's gotta be a maniac," is what the folks in Two Mills say. It's also the story of how this boy, Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee, confronts racism in a small town, tries to find a home where there is none and attempts to soothe tensions between rival factions on the tough side of town.

This was one of those books my teachers read out loud to us in elementary school. But seen as how I’ve never had very good listening skills, I decided to read it again recently seen as how it is a Newberry medal winner. I was sorta surprised when I read it because I was expecting to like it more. I mean, it’s still good, but I guess I was expecting fantastic. It’s a great book that shows an outside character that comes into a racially segregated neighborhood and changes things upside down simply because he doesn’t get why it’s a big deal. I liked the simplicity of Maniac Magee. It makes it even more powerful when you understand the deeper meaning of the book. Great read, but not a book I’d read twice. You don’t need to.

The Wish

By Gail Carson Levine

Ever since her two best friends moved away, eighth grader Wilma Stultz has felt invisible at her middle school, Claverford. So when an extraordinary old lady offers her a wish, Wilma asks to be the most popular kid at school. Suddenly, she has more friends than she can keep track of, forty dates to the Grad Night dance, and a secret admirer writing her love poetry. But then Wilma discovers there's a loophole in her wish...and realizes that her popularity might not last forever.

I really like Gail Carson Levine, but this is not her best book. It’s about a girl in middle school, but I think it’s not very applicable. It lacked interest and became a little flat for me. It’s all about ‘be careful what you wish for’. The story revolves around a teenage girl who is just different enough to not have many friends and wishes she was popular. She finds that she doesn’t ever know if people really like her or just the spell that made her popular. And when she realizes that the spell will wear off on graduation, she’s afraid she’ll lose everything she thought she cared about. This is a story about finding out what matters. It’s cute, but like I said, not my favorite.