Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs (Roscoe Riley Rules) by Katherine Applegate Illustrated by Brian Biggs

Synopsis from Paperbackswap.com:
If the kids can't sit still for the class performance, Roscoe's teacher could be in big trouble. Fortunately Roscoe has a plan to save her?a super, mega, gonzo plan! What could go wrong? 
Link to Roscoe Riley #1

My thoughts:
A couple weeks ago our local library held an event for children featuring five authors and illustrators.  Each of them took time to talk about their work and how they got into either writing, illustrating or doing both, then they held a question and answer session and lastly they were available to sign their books.  My children were very excited to take the books they had picked out to be signed by the people who had written or illustrated them.  We started with four books that we pre-ordered before the event to pick up there, but ended up buying two more after hearing the authors talk about them.  Then they had them signed and got to meet and talk with the authors.

One of the people we met that day was Brian Biggs who illustrated this book.  It was the first I had heard of this series and we bought the first three books.  In this one Rosoec and his first grade class are putting on a show for their parents and, in order to help his classmates keep their bee antennae ,or as the children refer to them "head bobbles", on their heads Roscoe adds some Super-Mega-Gonzo-Glue to each one.  Also, he adds some glue to all the drummers chairs.

This book was funny while still being age appropriate.  Each of the chapters was short as were each of the sentences.  It is a very manageable book for beginning readers to ease them into chapter books without a lot of pressure.  Plenty of parts of the book brought laughter to my children.  This is the first book I've read by Applegate for this age group, I know I have seen her name on Animorphs books and some other young adult titles.

The most exciting part for my children was being able to put a face with the name of the illustrator on the front cover.  Coming up we will be reading the other five books we bought at the event, two more Roscoe Riley books as well as three from other authors/illustrators we met.

Book details:
ISBN-13: 9780061148811

ISBN-10: 0061148814
Publication Date: 6/1/2008
Pages: 96
Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: HarperTrophy
Book Type: Paperback

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Overview .
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

My thoughts:
This book made me laugh so hard.  My children were watching TV at one point and my daughter told me how they needed to turn up the volume if I was going to laugh so much!  I love reading about other peoples lives and getting a peak into what makes them tick and what made them who they are.  I was reminded of Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays book while i was reading.  Partially because both Fey and Crystal work in comedy and also because of how they include their families in their writing.

I've never watched 30 Rock, it isn't that I think I wouldn't like the show, I just don't watch a lot of TV in general.  When we moved six years ago we decided to forgo cable.  After two or three years we decided to get it again because we could bundle the phone, int4ernet and cable together so we've had it for three or four years, but the break from being able to tune in got me out of the habit of watching much of anything and I've tried to be sparing in what I decide to watch.  If our cable had better On Demand features I would probably watch more on my own time line, but it doesn't.  Same with SNL, I've seen episodes here and there but I've never been a regular viewer.  So why did I want to read this book?  I really think Tina Fey is funny and I loved her in Date Night.  The book did not disappoint!

It really takes talent to find the comedy in every day events and make them funny.  I can't even tell jokes very well because if I think something is really funny I tend to get the giggles before I finish the joke.  I do get people to laugh, but they are laughing at (or maybe with) me because I am laughing so hard.  At this point I've given up on even trying to tell jokes, which makes me appreciate people who can so much more!

In discovering Summer Theater Fey became friends with a number of gay people.  Her quote about her friends and gay people in general really made me laugh, " Gay people don't actually try to convert people.  That's Jehovah's Witnesses you're thinking of".

•Pub. Date: April 2011

•Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
•Format: Hardcover , 277pp
•ISBN-13: 9780316056861
•ISBN: 0316056863

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Groundswell by Katie Lee

Overview from Barnes and Noble:
EAT, SURF, LOVE. A butterfly flaps its wings in New York City . . . and a groundswell forms in Mexico. . . .

Sometimes the biggest ripples come from the smallest events. Like the day that Emma Guthrie walks into world-famous movie star Garrett Walker’s trailer. When she steps through the door, she’s a novice PA who’s just dropped out of college after losing her scholarship. When she walks out, she’s on her way to becoming Mrs. Emma Walker—wife of an A-list actor. Soon, Emma has made the transition from nobody to red-carpet royalty, trading jeans and flip-flops for closets full of Chanel and Birkin bags, swishing past velvet ropes to attend every lavish party and charity gala on both coasts. With her husband’s encouragement, Emma pens a screenplay based on her life, Fame Tax, which becomes a blockbuster sensation. Through it all, Garrett is her ally and her mentor . . . until their relationship is thrown into question by an incriminating text message that Emma discovers on Garrett’s phone the night of the Met Costume Institute Gala.

Devastated by her husband’s infidelity and hounded mercilessly by the paparazzi, Emma must flee New York City to get away from it all and clear her head. Her destination? A sleepy coastal town in Mexico where no one recognizes her and there is nothing but unspoiled beaches for miles. Here, she meets Ben, a gorgeous, California-born surf instructor, who teaches her about the healing powers of surfing, shows her the joys of the simple life, and ultimately opens her up to the possibility of love.

From Manhattan’s hippest restaurants to the yacht-and-celebrity infested waters of St. Barts, Katie Lee’s debut novel is an irresistible insider’s glimpse into a glittering world—and a captivating story about how losing everything you thought you wanted can be the first step to finding what you need.

My thoughts:
I received my copy of the book through Book Blogs Gallery and Pocket Book Blog Tours.  I was grabbed by the idea of "Eat, Surf, Love" from the description of the book so I signed up to participate.  I am glad that I did!
I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down.  It pulls you in and makes you want to keep reading.  The prologue starts at the Met Gala mentioned in the overview and the text in question.  Then it goes backwards to when Emma and Garret met and fell in love.  That takes about half the book.  Then it jumps back to the Met Gala and continues from there.  While I very much enjoyed the book, I think the description is a bit misleading.  I would have enjoyed having spent more time with Emma as she was getting to know herself and be herself through learning to surf and be independent.  From the synopsis I thought this was going to be the majority of the book, but in reality it was less than half of it.  I have no problem with how the story was, as I said I had trouble putting it down, but I wish the description had been more accurate.  It felt like I was waiting for the story to start at times rather than just enjoying the ride as I went along.  I think I would have enjoyed the story even more if I hadn't read the description ahead of time.  Believe it or not, I actually do that a lot with movies and books so I can just enjoy them as they are instead of having my enjoyment clouded by the way other viewers or readers felt about the subject matter.
I liked Emma.  She really worked hard to be the person she wanted to be and did not let herself coast along on her husbands success.  When she is first meeting the wives of Garret's friends and peers she asks a group of women what they do for work and they all kind of look at her in shock.  The question one of them poses is, "Why would I want to work?".  Emma doesn't do that though and finds success in her own right, while I am sure it was easier to have a screenplay looked at by the right people if you have an in in the industry, she still did the work.
One thing I also kept wondering was how much of the story is taken from Katie Lee's life with Billy Joel.  I know they are divorced but I never read anything about why they split up.  Did he have an affair?  Resent her written work through the cookbooks she has written?  Emma in the story keeps saying how she writes what she knows, so her first screenplay is about falling for Garret with names and details changed and her second is about finding herself, surfing and Ben.  Is this novel about Katie Lee with details changed or is it strictly from her imagination?  I don't tend to wonder about this as much with people who aren't celebrities, but I think is is a question that readers are going to have about this one.  Not that it makes the story less enjoyable, just a matter of being in the public eye already.
•Pub. Date: June 2011

•Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
•Format: Hardcover , 240pp

•ISBN-13: 9781439183595
•ISBN: 1439183597

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House Book #5)

Have you ever met a real live ninja?

Jack and Annie do when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to ancient Japan, where they find themselves in the cave of a ninja master. Will they learn the secrets of the ninja? Or will the evil samurai warriors get them first?

My thoughts:
At the end of book four the children discover that they tree house belongs to Morgan Le Fey.  Starting with this book each book starts with a prologue so that new readers or readers who have missed a book or two can catch up on where Jack and Annie have been and how far along they are to solving different mysteries and riddles.  My children always want to skip the prologue, but we usually read it anyway just as a refresher of the storyline.

When the children get to the tree house at the start of the book they find a little mouse that Annie names Peanut.  They also find a note saying that Morgan is under a spell and they need to save her.  A book is open to a page and that is their first destination in the four adventures to free Morgan.  In old Japan they meet ninjas, a ninja master and see samurai warriors.  The item they get from the master is an object that starts with an "M".  Starting with this book as well, the children are unable to find the Frog Creek book and leave the place where they are until they have completed their mission.

While someone will help the children in each of the books, instead of it being Morgan in a disguise it will be someone else.  Jack and Annie are starting to grow and change,  Jack still records facts in his journal about their adventures and Annie still seems to be able to communicate better with the animals and understand what they are thinking and feeling.  For some reason this has never been one of my favorite Magic Tree House books, I can't put my finger on why it just never has been.

Product Details
•Pub. Date: March 1995

•Publisher: Random House Children's Books
•Format: Paperback , 80pp
•Age Range: 6 to 8
•Series: Magic Tree House Series #5
•ISBN-13: 9780679863717
•ISBN: 0679863710

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House Series #4)

Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

It's a treasure trove of trouble!

Jack and Annie are in for a high-seas adventure when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the days of deserted islands, secret maps—and ruthless pirates! Will they discover a buried treasure? Or will they be forced to walk the plank?

My thoughts:
This is the fourth trip for Jack and Annie and each time they find another clue as to who the magical person is who owns the tree house.  If you have never read the series and don't want to find out ahead of time stop reading now, but if you have read any book after this one the magical person is named in every one so you already know.  The owner of the tree house is Morgan Le Fey, a magical librarian from the time of King Arthur and Camelot.  She travels though time to collect books for the scribes in her time.  No one besides Jack and Annie has been able to make the tree house work or even see it.  They can see it because Annie believes in magic and Jack loves knowledge.  On each of their adventures Morgan has gone along as a helper.  She has been a pteranodon, a knight, a cat and a parrot.  At the end of this one she reveals herself to the children.

Jack and Annie leave a dreary day in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania to travel to an island in the Carribean where they encounter illiterate pirates who force them to help read a map to Captain Kidd's treasure.  This is a good summer time reading book because it would make for fun sandbox games and provides just enough real facts to interest readers in learning more about pirates and ships.

Product Details

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (March 8, 1994)
ISBN-10: 0679824251
ISBN-13: 978-0679824251

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House #3)

.Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

Jack and Annie don't need another mummy.

But that's what they get when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to ancient Egypt. There they meet a long-dead queen who needs their help. Will Jack and Annie be able to solve the puzzle, or will they end up as mummies themselves?

My thoughts:
This is day number three for Jack and Annie and the tree house is still in the tallest tree in the woods.  This time they go to see a pyramid and meet a mummy.  They find out about a sacrophagus, tomb robbers, hieroglyphs, and mirages.  This time not only do they get to experience a different time and place but they also meet a ghost of the mummy in the burial chamber who needs help finding the book of the dead that was hidden by her brother for her safe passage a thousand years ago.  Because of her eyesight (she is far sighted) she cannot read the directions left by her brother.  Jack and Annie help her and make discoveries at the same time.  In the first book a pteranodon helped them when they got in trouble, in the second book it was a knight, this time it is a black Egyptian cat.

As the children become more comfortable with the idea that the tree house can travel and no time has passed from their own time when they return, they start to relax a bit more during the journeys.  I can't wait to keep listening to the stories in order this time!

 •Pub. Date: August 1993
•Publisher: Random House Children's Books
•Format: Paperback , 80pp
•Age Range: 6 to 8
•Series: Magic Tree House Series #3
•ISBN-13: 9780679824244
•ISBN: 0679824243

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House Series #2)

.Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

A Castle with a secret passage!

That's what Jack and Annie find when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to the Middle Ages for another wild adventure. In the Great Hall of the castle, a feast is under way. But Jack and Annie aren't exactly welcome guests!

Visit the Magic Tree House website!

My thoughts:
I am enjoying going back to the beginning of the series and seeing the characters make connections and discoveries involving the tree house and the owner of the tree house.  I think it was good planning on Osborne's part to make the first books in the series take Jack and Annie to places that children tend to have a high degree of fascination with.  In the first book they visited the time of the dinosaurs this time they go to a medieval castle.  By using a book they go to a place in history and find out about what things were like in person, but at the same time these books are encouraging young readers to use books as doorways to discover what things were like through using their imaginations.  For reluctant readers these books offer a chance to open up new worlds in a fun and non threatening way.

I am revisiting these books with my children because we did not read them all in order the last time we were reading them and we never even finished reading all of them.  I think at this point my children have finished quite a few of the unknown ones on their own, but if they are out of order you miss putting the details together to solve some of the mysteries.  Later on they start having to go on four adventures to achieve some sort of goal, for now they are just getting used to the idea that there is a tree house that can take them places from books that they wish to see.

I liked how Osborne gave a map of the castle grounds, both inside and out and showed what children who were seven and eight might have been doing in the castle at that time.  It brings it to their level.  Plus the information about the suits of armor, especially how the helmet can weigh as much as 40 pounds, really added another layer.

 •Pub. Date: February 1993
•Publisher: Random House Children's Books
•Format: Paperback , 80pp
•Age Range: 6 to 8
•Series: Magic Tree House Series #2
•ISBN-13: 9780679824121

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts (Book Four in Bride Quartet)

Dreams are realized in the eagerly-awaited fourth novel in Nora Roberts's Bride Quartet.

As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride's vision. She just can't see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcolm Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker is no exception. Both know that moving from minor flirtation to major hook-up is a serious step. Parker's business risks have always paid off, but now she'll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart...

My thoughts:
I enjoyed finishing the series with the last of the four friends finding love.  I really enjoyed the first book but had more time getting invested as time went on.  I'm not sure if I just wasn't in the right mood but I had a difficult time really getting into this one.  I did not dislike it, but did not feel my usual pull to pick the book up and keep going.

Of the four friends, Parker was the one I had a harder time relating too.  She is very efficient and organized, both traits I wish I had more of, but she kind of took the fun out of things a bit.  I believe that was part of the point because she meets Malcolm who helps her let her hair down literally by doing things that are outside of her comfort zone like riding on a motorcycle.  Parker's dedication to her friends and the business they built together showed how she is looking out for others and wants to be successful in her own right, not just coast along on her families name and reputation.

Malcolm is a mechanic with his own childhood issues that he has trouble sharing.  They seem like opposites at first, but they both share a drive to be the best and a good work ethic in their own businesses.  Part of me is sorry to see the series end because I would love to see how they plan out the other three weddings, what they wear and eat and dance to, but Robert's pretty much just does romances so I doubt she will be revisiting one unless she decides to find a man for Mrs. Grady!

•Pub. Date: November 2010

•Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
•Format: Paperback , 355pp
•Series: Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet Series #4
•ISBN-13: 9780425236758
•ISBN: 0425236757

The Dilemma- Movie Review

Editorial Reviews from Barnes and Noble.com:

A lifelong bachelor struggles over whether to tell his best friend that his wife is cheating on him with another man in this comedy from director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer. Inseparable since college, best friends Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) have recently gone into business together by starting their own engine design firm. Meanwhile, Ronny has begun dating Beth (Jennifer Connelly) and Nick is happily married to Geneva (Winona Ryder). The four friends couldn't be more happy together until the day that Ronny catches Geneva with another man (Channing Tatum), and tells her that he can't keep the news a secret from Nick. But when Geneva fires back that she will deny everything and shift the blame to Ronny, the decision over how to handle the sensitive situation becomes all the more difficult. Subsequently attempting to gather irrefutable evidence of the affair, Ronny uncovers a few secrets about his old pal Nick as well. And the timing couldn't be worse either, because in just a few days Ronny and Nick are scheduled to give the presentation that could make or break their company. With the weight of the truth bearing down on Ronny's conscience and no simple solution to his pressing dilemma, it all comes down to one crucial, defining moment that could make or break his friendship with Nick forever.

My thoughts:
It is starting to feel like Vince Vaughn is always playing the same character.  I'm not sure if it is simply the way he delivers his lines and the timing of them, but I really think it is more than that.  His movies are fun and funny, but he always seems to be able the same.  he could still be the same character he played in The Break-Up or Four Christmases, there was nothing here in this performance to separate him from the others.

That said I did feel like Vaughn did a good job a Ronny, he made him seem like a believable character who was very conflicted about telling his friend about the affair the other man's wife was having, but the extremes he went to were only in the movies kind of things.  The spying and following I could buy, but he went a step beyond that and I really doubt that most people would.

I had trouble finding sympathy for Winona Ryder's character.  She feels she isn't connecting with her husband so she has an affair and does not seem to feel remorse about her lies.  If she was so unhappy in the marriage, why wouldn't she just leave it? 

While there were a lot of funny parts, I had a hard time watching some of the scenes, I was embarrassed for the characters and that is one of the things that puts me off of movies.  I love comedies and having a chance to laugh, but hate feeling like I am laughing totally at someone elses expense.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House Series #1)

Overview from Barnes and Noble.com:
Jack and Annie are ready for their next fantasy adventure in the bestselling middle-grade series—the Magic Tree House!

Where did the tree house come from?

Before Jack and Annie can find out, the mysterious tree house whisks them to the prehistoric past. Now they have to figure out how to get home. Can they do it before dark . . . or will they become a dinosaur's dinner?

Visit the Magic Tree House website!

My thoughts:
When I taught second grade this is the first book from the series that I ran across.  It was recommended to be used in a unit on dinosaurs I was teaching.  It got me hooked on the series and I have used it in the classroom and at home with my own children.  My children are listening to the book for at least the third time, and I know the older two have read it to themselves already as well.  I felt like heading back to the beginning of the series and checked out the first eight books on audio last week.  I love that they take less than an hour to listen to, so often in the course of running around in one day we can hear a whole story and I am enjoying sharing them with my younger children now too since I don't know how well they were listening or comprehending the last time around.

Now Jack and Annie are the same age as my children so I have been trying to picture if they would be as together if this sort of magic travel were to happen to them.  In this first book the stage is set for the series that comes behind it.  Annie find the tree house and goes up to explore while Jack keeps telling her to come back, then he is tempted to come up the rope ladder too by the lure of books, a careless wish whisks them off to prehistoric times and Jack starts to take notes on what they are seeing.  While the wording for their travels is always the same, it is comforting in a way.  All of my children can repeat that part and I can remember my students repeating it as well when we would read the books at school.  It might border on tedious for an adult, but children love that repetition!  I also love that Osborne started with dinosaurs since they are so universally appealing to children.  I am hoping I can get my children to work their way through the series again with me this summer. 

•Pub. Date: July 1992

•Publisher: Random House Children's Books
•Format: Paperback , 68pp
•Age Range: 6 to 8
•Series: Magic Tree House Series #1
•ISBN-13: 9780679824114
•ISBN: 0679824111

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is a truly extraordinary Viking hero known throughout Vikingdom as "the Dragon Whisperer" ... but it wasn't always so. Travel back to the days when the mighty warrior was just a boy, the quiet and thoughtful son of the Chief of the Hairy Hooligans. Can Hiccup capture a dragon and train it without being torn limb from limb? Join the adventure as the small boy finds a better way to train his dragon and becomes a hero!

My thoughts:
This was the audio book we listened to in the car this week.  I had no idea that it was part of a series until I started to write this review.  When it ended I thought it seemed like it was done, so it will be interesting to see where the series goes on to.  I didn't read any of the summaries so I don't know what will happen in the ensuing books.

I borrowed this book because we watched the animated movie last year and I thought it would be interesting to read the book as well.  Except for the character names, setting and time period, not a whole lot else is the same as the book.  In a way that made it nice because we couldn't simply recall what happened in the movie but were able to listen to a whole new story.

Hiccup is still the son of the chief and is going through the initiation to become a hero in the Hairy Hooligan tribe.  The first feat for the group of ten boys is to go into a cave and select a sleeping dragon to be theirs to train.  The boys are supposed to follow Hiccup, but not a lot of them have a great deal of faith in him.  Many things ensue, including meeting some giant dragons that have been sleeping at the bottom of the ocean for centuries.  Hiccup is given the chance to prove he is a hero in his own way.

The names of the members of the tribes were silly and made my children laugh out loud.  Because they were so odd they were also very memorable like Baggy Bum and Fish Legs.  One thing I found missing were female characters.  Hiccup's mother is in the story a few times, but I can't recall any other female characters.  I'm not sure if this was meant to be in keeping with the time period and women wouldn't have had a big role but I appreciate how in the movie version of the book one of the teens being trained and learning to work with dragons is female.

It looks like, at some point this summer, I will need to look for the next book in the series at the library.  Right now we already have our next few audio books checked out so it won't be for a few more weeks at least.  Plus I need to see just how much interest my children have in it.

•Pub. Date: February 2010

•Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
•Format: Paperback , 214pp
•Age Range: 8 to 11
•Series: How to Train Your Dragon Series #1
•ISBN-13: 9780316085274
•ISBN: 0316085278

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run by Kristin Armstrong

In Mile Markers, Runner’s World contributing editor Kristin Armstrong captures the ineffable and timeless beauty of running, the importance of nurturing relationships with those we love, and the significance of reflecting on our experiences. This collection considers the most important reasons women run, celebrating the inspiring passion runners have for their sport and illustrating how running fosters a vitally powerful community. With unique wit, refreshing candor, and disarming vulnerability, Armstrong shares her conviction that running is the perfect parallel for marking the milestones of life. From describing running a hardfought race with her tightly-knit group of sweat sisters, to watching her children participate in the sport for the very first time, Armstrong infuses her experiences with a perspective of hope that every moment is a chance to become a stronger, wiser, more peaceful woman. Running threads these touching stories together, and through each of them we are shown the universal undercurrents of inspiration, growth, grace, family, empowerment, and endurance.

My thoughts:
Last month I took up running for 11 days.  I know that doesn't sound like very long and I keep saying I am going to do it again but haven't done the greatest job following through on it.  In my 11 days I added to how long I ran each day, starting with just four minutes that made me feel like I was going to explode, to getting to almost a half hour.  I ran the longest I ever have and felt good about it, and then I took a break for a day which turned into a month.  When I saw this book at the library it felt like it was there for a reason.  My whole life I have been telling myself that I can't run, but that isn't really based on anything real, just that running makes me uncomfortable.  I'm not a big fan of sweating and running makes me sweat, but after my try last month I know I can do it.

I loved this book from beginning to end.  I found something in each chapter that inspired me and made me want to grow and change as a person.  When I picked it up I didn't realize that Kristin Armstrong used to married to Lance Armstrong and I was impressed that, while she mentions her ex-husband when it comes to her children, Kristin never says anything bad about Lance as a person.  She really only mentions him when she writes about feeling melancholy on her children's "Daddy days" or in connection to their children.

This book uses posts that were done on the blog Armstrong keeps for Runner's World magazine and then they are grouped into 26, with a small .2 at the end as an epilogue, categories.  Because of this not all of it chronological.  Sometimes her twins are 5 other times they are 8, her age and her friends birthdays jump around too, but everything is grouped under umbrella topics for running.  This was another book that brought up so many ideas and feelings for me.  I was impressed by how much faith in God Kristin has and how comfortable she is in expressing it.  I thought of her a lot too in the way she deals with her children and the patience she has.  One passage talks about how our attitude can really make or break something and if we start thinking about things in terms of "get to" rather than "have to" it can change our whole mindsets.  Make chores into blessings.

Another passage that she got from a quote from someone else is that if you keep doing the same things you've always done you will get the same thing you've always gotten.  She was told this in a yoga class, but it really could go with anything.  It is so easy to get stuck in a rut with routine and regular things that to change things up can make all the difference.  Like when babies are small and seem fussy, often times if you take them outside they calm down because it is different than before.

She takes things she learns from running and applies them to life, like breaking up miles into chunks just as we can break up difficult tasks, looking ahead instead of looking behind and taking time for yourself.  At one point she describes taking her children on a vacation because she felt like she was always telling her 'little people" to hurry and go and they didn't seem to want to hurry and go which told her it was time for them all to take a break.  That hurry and go thing is going full swing here at my house.  The older kids have a little over a week left of school and all their activities are winding down, but every night we are out the door to go somewhere for someone, sometimes more than one place.  We are all looking forward to less rush and a more relaxed schedule.

A big part of running for Kristin is her friends, or "sweat sisters".  A couple summers ago I used to walk every night with neighbors and that time was so nice.  It was easier to talk while we walked and it was like we had the chance to exercise both our bodies and express ourselves at the same time.  It was harder to decide not to go walking because someone else was waiting for you and expecting you.

I was looking for inspiration to start running again, which I found, but I also found ideas for life as well.  Yesterday I parked by a car that said"13.1" in an oval magnet on the back and today I was behind one that said, "RUN", "26.2" and "Runner Girl".  If this keeps getting in my path it is time to get back into running.  I even looked up a local 5K I can do in two months for added motivation!  I recommend this book to even non-runners because it is so inspiring and motivating.

•Pub. Date: March 2011

•Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
•Format: Hardcover , 288pp
•ISBN-13: 9781609611064
•ISBN: 1609611063


I am Number 4- Movie Review

I usually try to save seeing a movie until after I've read the book, and I mean to read this book, but I found it in Redbox last weekend and wanted to give it a try.  Hopefully by the time I get around to reading it a lot of the details will have faded from my memory a bit so that I can enjoy it.  I had thought going into the movie that this was a stand alone book, but the ending led me to believe there must be more since it was so open to a possible sequel.  I have no idea how long the series is supposed to go for, I'm sure the information is out there but I simply didn't take the time to find out.

I'm not overly picky when it comes to special effects, for years I was haunted by the idea of birds attacking after seeing Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.  Those effects weren't even all that great and they got to me, so you kind of get the idea that it doesn't take much for me.  That being said I thought the special effects in this movie were pretty good.  I found the aliens that were hunting for number four were really creepy looking.  Each time someone from either set of alien beings was killed they simply turned into dust and floated away, which made it very easy to hide what had happened.  At one point there is a fight at the high school and the destruction was huge, but no bodies were left.  That one was going to be a little more difficult to explain by the authorities, although with the other weird things that had been happening that night it might not have been quite as big an issue.

The actors each did a good job in their roles, I was able to buy them all as the character they were playing.  It helped that most of them were not too well known already.  Yes the lead is also in Beastly and the one female character is from Glee (which I do not watch so that didn't make any difference to me at all), but no one jumped out at me as someone I associated with just one role which can be distracting.  The one I knew most well was Timothy Olyphant and even him I haven't seen in too many roles.  Lately I haven't been watching a lot of movies or TV so this was a nice break.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Boardby Bethany Hamilton , Rick Bundschuh , with Sheryl Berk

When Bethany Hamilton lost her arm in the fall of 2003 to a shark attack, it looked as if the career of one of the country's top amateur surfers was over. But just ten weeks later, she returned to competition in her native Hawaii, vowing never to give up the sport she loves. She has since earned an indelible place in America's heart by making appearances on 20/20, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and a host of other venues. Now, in Soul Surfer, this extraordinary fourteen-year-old recounts her incredible, harrowing story in her own unforgettable voice.

Bethany has already lived more than a lifetime's worth of triumph and tragedy, and she shares every poignant moment in these pages. Readers learn how she rose once again to the challenges of competition after a life-changing event, how she dealt with the maelstrom of media attention, and how she relied on her faith and innate positive thinking to embrace changes that would undo most people. Written with passion and insight, and filled with thrilling moments of the sport Bethany has come to personify, this is a portrait of American heroism that will captivate readers of all ages.

My thoughts:
On Monday when I was returning books to the library I saw this one on a table of required reading for high school students.  My children aren't in high school yet, but my understanding is that our district requires them to read a given number of books during the summer.  They can chose from different topic areas and have to read at least one fiction and one non-fiction book to fulfill the requirement.  Each grade level has different choices and each title the student picks has to be from the same topic area.  This book is listed as a choice for incoming ninth graders in the sports non-fiction category.  I figured once summer started the books on the list would be impossible to find on the shelf so I decided to read it now.

I saw a number of commercials for the movie that was out recently with the same title, but hadn't realized it was based on a book.  I seem to be on a bit of a non-fiction kick lately so this jumped out at me.  I liked the writing style.  Bethany wrote by talking to her friend and pastor Rick Bundschuh and then he took the transcriptions of their talks and helped her form it into a book.  perhaps because of the way it was written it has a very conversational tone, as if she is sitting down with you and telling her own story in her own words without dressing it up or trying to sound pretentious.  I thought there would be more dealing with how she learned to surf again after losing her arm, but the part when she started surfing again was just a few pages.  Not that she downplayed how it was difficult to master without the arm, but she was able to get back up on her board in small waves by the end of her first time back out in the water.  Not the first or even second time she tried, but before she called it a day she was surfing again.

When I read the subtitle I thought the book was going to be about Bethany having faith in herself that she was still the same person and that she could still do almost everything she could before, but the faith component is about her faith in God and her desire to share that faith with others through the celebrity she has developed since the attack.  I admire her message, but had been hoping for more personal passages.  More back story about surfing and her family.

It will be interesting to see the movie now that I have read the book.  Many times I am disappointed in the adaptations of books to film.  Since this is a book based on actual events things might be different, plus there really isn't a lot of action in the book aside from the shark attack so the movie must also be based simply on Bethany's life before and after the attack.
•Pub. Date: June 2006

•Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
•Format: Paperback , 240pp
•ISBN-13: 9781416503460
•ISBN: 1416503463


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond

Booklist says, "Inspired by [folk] lyrics, Richmond arrives on the inspirational fiction scene with a moving debut novel. Readers will be filled with hope that Susannah will learn the true meaning of love. Highly recommended where inspiring, romantic historical fiction is in demand."

About the book:Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.

When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available: becoming a mail-order bride. Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.

Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves. Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them. And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge. But Jesse's confidence in her-and his faith in God's perfect plan-slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.

When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winter, Susannah's fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble. Still, Jesse's love is unwavering. Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring. And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.

She looks to the future with a renewed heart. Yet in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.

My thoughts:
This review is part of the Litfuse Blog Tour for the book which started yesterday.  A link to the other blog stops is listed after my review.

This book is different than any that I have read lately.  When reading I enjoy breaking off in different areas to keep things fresh.  At the beginning of the book I wasn't sure if I liked Susannah or not.  She has agreed to come to the Dakota territory to meet a husband she married by proxy.  While this man is the brother of her pastor, she had never herself met him and has only exchanged a few letters with him.  Her mother had very strict ideas of what a lady does and does not do, so going to live in a sod house with a stranger was a big leap of faith for her.  Her parents have passed away and a banker has been hounding her for money he claims her father owed him.

Jesse ends up doing all the taking in the beginning, owing to the fact that Susannah believes that women should not be spending too much time talking about themselves along with her shyness and reticence about sharing details about her past.  Slowly they get to know each other and pieces of the real Susannah start to peek through.

The beginning of each chapter started with a prayer from Jesse to God, just a short sentence that then set the tone for the chapter that followed.  Susannah had lost her faith in God, feeling that he did not answer her prayers, but Jesse helps her to see that even though God hears us sometimes the answer is still "no" because of reasons unknown beyond our sphere.  Slowly Susannah not only finds herself and allows herself to be herself, but she also comes to have faith in God and to pray for guidance when she is feeling lost.

Something happens that tests them both in a very big way, and how they deal with the challenge they are dealt speaks volumes for their characters.  It made me wonder, how many of us today put our faith in a higher power when things get tough?  How many of us remember to pray or ask for guidance, not just what is is we think we want?  We can't know the plan and when things get tough is it a way for us to change and find a new path or is it a chance for us to show our true character and what we are really made of?  Do we have the faith that Susannah had in herself by the end of the novel and her faith that things are going to work out?
Blog tour schedule:  http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/text/13347248

About Catherine: Catherine Richmond was focused on her career as an occupational therapist till a special song planted a story idea in her mind. That idea would ultimately become Spring for Susannah, her first novel. She is also a founder and moderator of Nebraska Novelist critique group and lives in Nebraska with her husband.

For more about Catherine, please visit http://www.catherinerichmond.com/.

Link to buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Spring-Susannah-Catherine-Richmond/dp/1595549242?ie=UTF8&tag=sprightly-20&link_code=btl&camp=213689&creative=392969

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Catherine Richmond’s Spring for Susannah! Kindle Giveaway

To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Swept away from their Kansas farm by a wild cyclone, Dorothy and her little dog, Toto, find themselves in a strange and magical place: the Land of Oz. A marvelous adventure begins as she makes new friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. Together they set off down the Yellow Brick Road in search of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Can the Wizard send Dorothy and Toto safely home?

My thoughts:
I have loved the movie version of this for years.  When I was in elementary school I read an abridged version of it that I think I recall getting at McDonald's (but that may or may not be true, I do know it was condensed.  I still don't really understand the point of condensed or abridged books, the point of reading is to get the whole story.)  Since we have watched the movie together I thought this would be a fun book to share with my children.  It was what we listened to in the car this week.

One of the things we did while reading/listening was to pick out things that were changed from the book to movie.  Some of the ones that come to mind right away are the color of the shoes (silver not red): how the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion get their brain, heart and courage: there were no workers on the farm who looked like the beings she met in OZ; no magician; and most of all it wasn't a dream like in the movie.  My daughter at the end was the first to pick up on that, and asked why it wasn't a dream like on TV.  I don't know the reason all of those things were changed.  After seeing the movie so many times I am actual kind of partial to the way it was done there.  I am guessing that red shoes were more distinctive on the screen but as for the other changes, I always took the fact that the characters had what they wanted all along but didn't realize it as a lesson to the reader/viewer to look inside of themselves for the things they think they lack.  It was mostly the same message in the book, but the Wizard went further to convince the characters that it was so. 

Most of the time I like the book version of a story more than the movie but in this case I think it is the opposite.  Most likely because I am so familiar with the movie that the differences really hit me a lot harder and felt more jarring.  I am not sure if we will be reading any of the other books in the series,  Until I went to look up a picture for my review I had forgotten there were more books in the series.  I guess time will tell.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Nixie's Song (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles #1) by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

The Spiderwick Chronicles leave the old-fashioned charm of New England far behind and head south for some fiendish faerie fun in the hot Florida sun. Eleven-year-old Nicholas Vargas only thinks his life has been turned upside down after his developer father remarries and moves his new wife and daughter into the soon-to-be completed Mangrove Hollow.

But an "expedition" to a nearby lake turns up a little nixie with a giant problem - the huge, lumbering, fire-breathing variety - and it's up to Nick; his stepsister, Laurie; and his big brother, Julian (plus a familiar face from the original Spiderwick Chronicles) to figure out the best way to stop a host of rampaging giants before all of Florida goes up in smoke.

My thoughts:
We've continued our rereading of the Spiderwick series with the first book in the second series.  I didn't enjoy these books as much the first time around and seem to be having the same experience this time as well.  Nicolas isn't that likable a character.  I think the authors did a good job portraying a middle school (or soon to be middle school) boy.  He would rather play a video game than go outside and he resents the introduction of new members to his family.  He especially hates that he had to give up his room so that his new step-sister Laurie would have her own.  This might seem silly, but if his father is the developer and he is building houses you would think that his own house would have been built with an extra room somewhere, like a guest bedroom or home office that might have been able to be converted into a bedroom.  I know children can share, as Julian and Nick do after the remarriage, and my own children have shared on more than one occasion, but we made the effort to convert our attic into bedroom space so that they would all have their own space.  Now it may be that Nick's family isn't going to be staying in this house for good, it is just until the development is built or their new home is done, because I do think it was referred to as the model at one point.  That doesn't have all that much to do with the story but was one of the tangents my mind took while listening to the audio book.

The faerie beings in this one start to seem more hostile.  The two children meet Taloa, a nixie, who has been cut off from her sisters due to the developers dragging her lake and disconnecting it from the larger water ways.  She wants Nick and Laurie to help her find her sisters, when they do not agree she causes bad things to happen so they are forced to go back and agree.  Even after finding out the fate of three of the sisters Taloa still holds that they have promised to help her find out the fate of all of her sisters.

The giants are another issue.  They are waking up after a long sleep.  Giants are supposed to sleep for 500 hundred years and people with the site have been hunting and killing them as they slept, but now that they are waking up big problems are about to start.

It was nice to see the twins away from their series and from the outside looking in rather than being with them.  Seeing how other characters viewed them gives them a fuller and more real feeling.  Jared shows many of the characteristics that defined him in the Spiderwich series.  I haven't checked out the next books yet, but we are going to the library this weekend so I am sure my children will insist that we need to look for them!

•Pub. Date: September 2007

•Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
•Format: Hardcover , 192pp
•Age Range: 7 to 11
•Series: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles Series #1
•ISBN-13: 9780689871313
•ISBN: 0689871317

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Audrey Hepburn by Paul Duncan (Editor) , Kobal Collection (Photographer) , F. X. Feeney .

Overview from Barnes and Noble:
Her beauty has proved timeless—should we be surprised? Equally graceful whether moving or standing still, blessed with a balletic poise, luminous dark eyes, and an exquisite profile a queen might envy, Audrey Hepburn would no doubt have become famous in her youth even if the movies hadn’t found her—simply because no self-respecting camera could resist her. What sets her iconic beauty apart now, for us, more than a decade after she quit the stage of this life, is that her physicality is oddly secondary. Her extraordinary good looks merely halo a still-living smile.

Movie Icons is a series of photo books that feature the most famous personalities in the history of cinema. These 192-page books are visual biographies of the stars. For each title, series editor Paul Duncan has painstakingly selected approximately 150 high quality enigmatic and sumptuous portraits, colorful posters and lobby cards, rare film stills, and previously unpublished candid photos showing the stars as they really are. These images are accompanied by concise introductory essays by leading film writers; each book also includes a chronology, a filmography, and a bibliography, and is peppered with apposite quotes from the movies and from life.

My thoughts:
In high school and maybe a bit during college I went through a phase where I watched a lot of old movies.  From time to time I come back to them but lately I haven't watched many movies at all.  There is something about Audrey Hepburn that always captivated me.  The first movie I recall seeing with her is Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Whenever I hear Moon River it makes me think of the movie and Hepburn in her role as Holly Golightly. 

This book is very well done.  I found out about a lot movies Hepburn acted in that I've never sen.  The quotes added to the photos.  I enjoyed flipping through this book and seeing moments from many (not sure if all were included or not) of the movies that Audrey graced during her acting career.  I wonder what actors and actresses from today will hold up this well years in the future?  While I really do like Breakfast at Tiffany's I think my favorite movie is Funny Face.  Maybe it is the part where she works in the bookstore that cinched it for me, but I loved that one and know I watched it way more than once!  I am going to have to look for more of this series at the library.

Product Details:
•Pub. Date: December 2006

•Publisher: Taschen America, LLC
•Format: Paperback , 192pp
•Series: Movie Icons Series
•ISBN-13: 9783822820018
•ISBN: 3822820016

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon

After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.

My thoughts:
This is the first book I have read on NetGalley.  I signed up for access to Net Galley back in March and then things got busy with work and my family and I never got around to reading anything.  I always read about other bloggers using it and really wanted to give it a try.  It was fun!  I find myself more and more wanting to buy a Kindle.  Honestly i can see myself giving in pretty soon, because it would have been so much nicer to read the book on an electronic device rather than the computer screen.

Cinder and Ella is the first book I've read by Melissa Lemon.  While it was classified as children's in the genre description, I do not think I would be comfortable with my own children reading this quite yet.  Young adult seems a more appropriate classification.  Characters declaring their love for one another was fine with me and sharing a kiss or two, but there was a male character who seemed to be lusting after the girls  a bit too much for my idea of a book for children.

In this version of the story there is no wicked step mother or step sisters.  There is a family with four girls and a mother and father.  The father disappears after a visit from the prince and the mother falls into despair.  The youngest daughter starts to act like a baby all the time and the oldest gets very self-centered and selfish.  The middle two are Cinder, so named because her hair is grey like cinders in a fire, and Ella who looks the most like the lost father.  Cinder is very, very good and helps out enormously at home.  She cares for them all and puts herself last.  Ella resents the way things are but still helps Cinder with some chores and things unlike the other two.  The mother has reached a point where she spins yarn all day, every day and does not participate with her daughters at all.  When Cinder gets a job at the castle, Ella tries to take up the slack but finds that her mother does not even seem to know her anymore and thinks she has three daughters, one of whom is named Cinderella.  Ella goes out on her own but eventually ends up in danger with her sister at the castle.

When I started this book I thought it was going to be a retelling of the Cinderella story.  I was curious since I had just read the nonfiction book, "Cinderella Ate My Daughter" by Peggy Orenstein which looked at the ways in which the current princess culture is affecting girls.  While this book did use some elements of the story I am familiar with (I know there are many different versions, but the one I know the best is of course the Disney version) a lot of it was quite different.  I would say though that it was different in a good way.  The changes and branching out kept it new and unexpected.  The parts involving magical areas reminded me of Joy Prebles's "Haunted" and "Dreaming Anastasia".  I don't want to reveal too much but I liked the way the trees were used in the story.

At the end of the story things are well wrapped up reminding me of the endings of fairy tales, although there is still evil lurking out and about so I guess there could be a sequel at some point in the future.  There was a very inspirational line about the evil in the book.  One of the characters is asking how to combat evil and is told, "Plant seeds, My Dear.  Plant good seeds, and maybe someday, if there is enough good in the world, we will be able to overcome him."  It reminds me of paying it forward and how if we all work each day to make things just a bit nicer for those around us that maybe we really will reap what we sow.

Book Details:
Pub Date: 11/08/2011

ISBN: 9781599559063
Genre: Children's, Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Teens & YA