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.