Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Finding a Balance

Since I started this blog I have been doing a lot of reading, both because I enjoy it and because in my conception of how the blog would be I wanted to be able to post about a book almost every day. In making time to read I took time away from some other things. I don't miss watching TV much, I still watch a few things but nowhere near as much as I used to. That trade I don't mind at all. The trade I need to reevaluate though is my time for fitness and exercise. Over the summer I was very goal oriented and made sure I worked out every day at least once, I set time goals and distance goals for myself each week and felt really good physcically. Since the end of August I kind of stepped away from that and I can tell in both my energy level and how my clothes are fitting that it is time to make this a priority again. I will miss the extra reading time, but in the long haul I believe that finding a balance will enhance my life and give me more energy to find the time to read. Now I have to decide if I am going to use this as a resolution for the new year or just think of it as a life chance.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"The Magician's Nephew" by C.S. Lewis

My rating 4.5 out of 5
Where the book came from: Borrowed from local library as an audio CD

Synopsis from Amazon:
The first title in the classic Chronicles of Narnia series, The Magician's Nephew, is a gorgeous introduction to the magical land of Narnia. The many readers who discovered C.S. Lewis's Chronicles through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will be delighted to find that the next volume in the series is actually the first in the sequence--and a step back in time. In this unforgettable story, British schoolchildren Polly and Digory inadvertently tumble into the Wood Between the Worlds, where they meet the evil Queen Jadis and, ultimately, the great, mysterious King Aslan. We witness the birth of Narnia and discover the legendary source of all the adventures that are to follow in the seven books that comprise the series

My thoughts:
The only Narnia story I had read prior to this was "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" so I was intrigued to see what could have come before that story began. I borrowed the audio book with the intention of listening to it with my children in the car. Over the course of a week or two we had a chance to discover how Narnia had begun, where the wardrobe came from, and to get a though introduction to a very magical world. I enjoyed this story, as did my children, and while I was at the library yesterday I checked out the next two stories on cd for us to listen to in the car. It makes long rides much more pleasant and I prefer it to having a DVD player in the car. I like that I can listen along too and alos have the option of stopping it to ask them to predict what will come next. It is great for reading comprehension!

Digory and Polly were very likeable children, who were curious and brave. I loved watching Aslan in my mind creating Narnia. Seeing how it was that some of the animals were able to talk and walk around just like a person and to see the lamppost grow from the ground. I wonder if my new knowledge will color what I think of "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" when we start it tomorrow.

In My Mailbox 6

Since last week my TBR pile has grown a bit, although two of the books listed here have already been read and reviewed in prior posts. I received a few books for Christmas but, as I don't plan to review the cookbooks I haven't listed them here today.

These are the books I received to review:

"Crossing the Bridge" by Micheal Barons I received to review from the the publisher of The Story Plant. I should have it read and reviewed soon. The publication date for the book is in January.

"The Dark Divine" is part of an ARC Book tour hosted by another blogger. I read and reviewed it over the weekend and sent it out in the mail Monday to the next reader on the list.

As a Christmas gift I received:

"The Christmas List" which I am looking forward to reading.

Yesterday at the library I added two more books to read:

"Catching Fire" so I can pick up where "The Hunger Games" left off and find out what happens to Catniss.

This one I started and finished yesterday and already reviewed. It really touched me and I am glad I gave in to my impulse to pick it up to read.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"The Red Suit Diaries: A Real-Life Santa on Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith" by Ed Butchart

My rating: 5 out of 5
How the book came to me: borrowed from the local library

Product Details:
Published: October 1st 2003 by Revell (first published 1999)
Details: Hardcover, 224 pages
ISBN 0800718143 (ISBN13: 9780800718145)

Description from Goodreads:
Tom Brokaw said it best about the author: This Santa ''can only be described as the real thing.'' With warmth, humor, and wonder, Ed Butchart shares his stories as a professional Santa Claus in The Red Suit Diaries. Deftly combining his Santa persona with his passion for God, Butchart reveals himself as a once-hardened Marine who found Jesus and began to serve others in unusual ways. Readers who open The Red Suit Diaries will find themselves transfixed-from Santa's day job refurbishing medical equipment for the disabled, to the sweetest of secrets whispered in Santa's ear and written in letters, and the story of how he unknowingly found ''Mrs. Claus.'' Woven throughout is a faith-and a joy of giving-that energizes Butchart's mission to spread love to all kinds of children and adults. This fun-spirited, inspirational read will delight collectors of Christmas books and anyone who's a child at heart.

My thoughts:
I walked into the library today with the intention of borrowing an audio book for the car and walked out with not only that but also this book. I sometimes feel like when I am at the library, more so than at a bookstore, that books call out to me. I'll be in front of a shelf and one spine and title will pop out and it always seems to be just what I was in the mood for! This one was set on top of a shelf in a Christmas display and I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I am so glad that I decided to take it home with me. It was a very enjoyable, uplifting read.

There is something magical about Christmas and this year I am not ready to let it go. The tree is still up along with the decorations and I am in no hurry to take everything down, not because of the work involved but because I am not ready to let go of the magic. In high school my best friend and I started going to get our picture taken with Santa. We haven't done it every year, but we have quite a few we've had taken over the years. There is a part of me that wishes I could still believe, maybe even to a certain extent still believes. Ed Butchart sounds like the perfect Santa. His stories are warm and real, a few times my eyes teared up and a few times I laughed out loud. One of the holiday traditions I started with my own children is a picture with Santa. Our first picture has one child, the second and third have two, then there are three of them and now there are four. I dread the day when they stop believing and hope it can go on for a few more years at least.

This book is broken down into four section on hopes, dreams, childlike faith, and believing. The author and his wife not only work as Santa and Mrs. Claus for December but at other times of the year as well. I never thought about how hard it could be to sit in a chair all day holding children. While he admits that many of the children blur together, there are some very special stories about a few children and families to touch your heart and bring to mind the true meaning of Christmas. Along with acting as Santa, Butchart is also a minister who works with a church and is a founder of a company that repairs and places wheelchairs and parts for free for families with a need.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"The Dark Divine" by Bree Despain

Rating 5 out of 5
Where the book came from: Received as part of ARC Book Tours

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (December 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606840576
ISBN-13: 978-1606840573

Synopsis from
Product Description
Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

My thoughts:
This was a very enjoyable and quick read. It had a lot of imagination and attention to detail. Before starting the book I didn't read any descriptions or reviews so that nothing would be given away ahead of time. That said if you are like me you might want to stop reading in case I reveal some spoilers! Not knowing where the book was going at one point when Daniel takes Grace to a memorial for angels I wondered if this book was going to be going down the angel track. Earlier this year I read a YA book about angels that I found very interesting. I liked how the author kept you guessing about different possible outcomes and kept giving surprises. There were things I saw coming but a few that I didn't. This was a different take on werewolves than I have read before and I enjoyed how it was handled. Actually I've read very few werewolf novels so this was kind of a fun change. The relationships between the characters seemed real and genuine, the high school students seemed like high school students and the parents sometimes had fights. No one was made perfect which helped them seem more real. I wonder if this might become part of a series since what happened to one of the characters is left up in the air at the end. I received the book in the mail yesterday and finished it this evening along with all my regular activities. Each time I had a chance I would pick it up to keep going. I really wanted to find out what was going to happen to Grace, Daniel and Jude. This is novel I plan on recommending to friends. I'm definitely glad I decided to read it!

About the Author
Bree Despain rediscovered her childhood love for creating stories when she took a semester off college to write and direct plays for at-risk, inner-city teens from Philadelphia and New York. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah,with her husband, two young sons, and her beloved TiVo. This is her first novel. You can visit her online at

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Reasons" by Tracy Fabre

My rating: 5 out of 5
How I acquired the book: Received for review from Stimulation Conversations

Product Details
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Publishing (February 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600761259
ISBN-13: 978-1600761256

Synopsis from
Delphi Brent, seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident as a teenager, is ready to spend the summer with old family friends when her parents make a distressing confession: the driver of the car that nearly killed her was one of the three sons of the Laughlin family she's about to visit. They urge her to stay home and let the past be, but she resolves to go out West anyway to learn the truth about what happened the night she was struck and one of the Laughlin sons died. However, in reconnecting with the Laughlins, who operate a sprawling ranch in Colorado, Delphi learns a lot not only about brothers and families, but also about the reasons people keep secrets, and what to do with the truth once it's uncovered. She also falls in love with one of the Laughlin brothers, and that wasn't part of the plan at all.

My thoughts:
This book kept me up late because I really wanted to find out the truth about the accident. I enjoyed watching Delphi grow and change and was surprised by her reluctance to ask outright questions about the car accident that had killed the third brother. I don't know that I would have been able to be around the people who knew the truth for all that time and not start asking questions that would lead back to the truth. Part of her reluctance stemmed from her fear of what the truth would be, but I am just too curious not to try to get the answers. Because of that I really appreciated her ability to keep a secret, although keeping it started to take a toll on her causing her to start having frequent headaches. The dialogue between characters seemed very genuine and the characters seemed real, not like stereotypes. Tracy really fleshed out who each of the characters was and gave them very evident personalities. I am glad that I had a chance to read this novel.

About the author:
About Tracy Fabre (from her web site)

"Vaguely-worded statements about "me"...

I consider myself a resident of the "mid-South", which is defined as everything from Oklahoma to upper Alabama. I've lived in various southern states and feel a pretty strong connection to Alabama, which doesn't claim me but hasn't figured out how to stop me from coming around.

In fact, three of my other (also unpublished) novels are set on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay (a series of mysteries) and I hope you'll see them in print someday.

I really am a "closet writer," but you can find me posting bits of fluff on (they can't figure out how to keep me from coming around, either).

Steadily writing for my own entertainment--because I just haven't been able to stop--for the last eight years, I am glad to finally get into print so I can find out whether anyone else has any interest in what I've
been doing "in the privacy of my own home" all this time!"

For more information her is Tracy's web site:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"At Home in Stone Creek" by Linda Lael Miller

My rating 4 out of 5 stars
How the book came to me: purchased at the store

Synopsis from
Product Description
"Everyone in Ashley O'Ballivan's life is marrying and starting families—except her. But what date can compare to Jack McCall, the man who broke her heart years ago?
And now he's mysteriously back. But he isn't who she thinks he is.

After a dangerous mission working for the DEA, security expert Jack McCall rents a room in Ashley's bed-and-breakfast. For her sake, he must keep his distance. But his feelings for her are so powerful that only his heart remains off-limits. To protect her—from his enemies and himself—he has to leave…vowing to fight his way home to her and Stone Creek forever."

My thoughts:
I enjoy how Linda Lael Miller creates families and then revisits them with new installments. You get a chance to catch up with familiar characters who already found their special someones and get to know some of the ones who are still waiting. While I have read two of the other books in this series they were published a while back and the characters were not all that fresh in my mind. Luckily Lael Miller included refreshers on who was who and what had happened in their pasts. This story is about Ashley O'Ballivan who has been in love with Jack McCall for years, but due to his job as a mercenary he frequently gets called away for prolonged periods of time. Each time he reappears she tries to stay away from him, but the attraction is just too strong and they get drawn back together again. This time Jack shows up at her Bed and Breakfast in an ambulance having been injected with a toxin while on an assignment to rescue a kidnapped seven-year-old from her drug dealing father. The toxin is not contagious but is slowly killing him and doctors don't know how to cure it. Ashley's family is leery of Jack and his tendency to hurt Ashley by disappearing without saying goodbye and the drug dealer is working to find both his daughter and Jack to exact his revenge. To complicate things Ashley's twin sister Melissa is thinking about leaving town after her romance with a local rancher ended, their sister Olivia is giving birth to twins, her brother Brad and his wife are also expecting a child, there are multiple blizzards and Jack has a family who believes he is dead. It was a nice quick read for a busy holiday time and there was plenty of fun in it. It features more passion than I usually look for in a novel, so if that isn't your thing this might not be the book for you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In My Mailbox 5

Last week I got a bit overwhelmed with all the books I bought at the used bookstore and never got around to posting the books I bought and received in the mail. I'm going to skip any that I already reviewed and only list ones that I still have to read and review. All images and descriptions were taken from and all of these titles are currently available for sale there.

These are books that I received in the mail to be reviewed:

Reasons by Tracy Fabre

Product Description
Delphi Brent, seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident as a teenager, is ready to spend the summer with old family friends when her parents make a distressing confession: the driver of the car that nearly killed her was one of the three sons of the Laughlin family she's about to visit. They urge her to stay home and let the past be, but she resolves to go out West anyway to learn the truth about what happened the night she was struck and one of the Laughlin sons died. However, in reconnecting with the Laughlins, who operate a sprawling ranch in Colorado, Delphi learns a lot not only about brothers and families, but also about the reasons people keep secrets, and what to do with the truth once it's uncovered. She also falls in love with one of the Laughlin brothers, and that wasn't part of the plan at all.

Beyond Blue by Theresa Borchard

Product Description
Therese Borchard may be one of the frankest, funniest people on the planet. That, combined with her keen writing abilities has made her Beliefnet blog, Beyond Blue, one of the most trafficked blogs on the site.

BEYOND BLUE, the book, is part memoir/part self-help. It describes Borchard's experience of living with manic depression as well as providing cutting-edge research and information on dealing with mood disorders. By exposing her vulnerability, she endears herself immediately to the reader and then reduces even the most depressed to laughter as she provides a companion on the journey to recovery and the knowledge that the reader is not alone.

Comprised of four sections and twenty-one chapters, BEYOND BLUE covers a wide range of topics from codependency to addiction, poor body image to postpartum depression, from alternative medicine to psychopharmacology, managing anxiety to applying lessons from therapy. Because of her laser wit and Erma Bombeck sense of humor, every chapter is entertaining as well as serious.

This book I bought for myself for a fun, fast read for Christmas:

At Home in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller

Product Description
Everyone in Ashley O'Ballivan's life is marrying and starting families—except her. But what date can compare to Jack McCall, the man who broke her heart years ago?
And now he's mysteriously back. But he isn't who she thinks he is.

After a dangerous mission working for the DEA, security expert Jack McCall rents a room in Ashley's bed-and-breakfast. For her sake, he must keep his distance. But his feelings for her are so powerful that only his heart remains off-limits. To protect her—from his enemies and himself—he has to leave…vowing to fight his way home to her and Stone Creek forever.

These books I found at the dollar store and they each interested me enough that I decided to take a chance on them:

700 Sundays by Billy Crystal Review
Actor and comedian Billy Crystal has forged a highly successful career by portraying other people in movies like When Harry Met Sally… and City Slickers. But in 700 Sundays, a memoir based on his one-man Broadway play of the same name, Crystal tells his own story, dissecting an often complex relationship with his father and how that relationship resonated in other aspects of his life. His father, Jack Crystal was an influential jazz concert promoter and operated an influential jazz record label, affording his son an opportunity to tell stories of being taken to his first movie by Billie Holliday and seeing his grandmother suggest that Louis Armstrong simply "try coughing it up." But Jack died when his son was fifteen years old, soon after a forever-unresolved argument between the two, leaving Billy to cope with crushing grief while simultaneously and perhaps ironically trying to launch a career in comedy. This lends 700 Sundays much needed gravity in a volume that is packed with zingy one-liners and whimsical observations that serve to illustrate the comedy career Crystal forged, while also providing some decent laughs. Interestingly, there is very little reference to the better known accomplishments of Crystal’s Hollywood career as the author chooses to focus instead on the seemingly mundane but highly entertaining aspects of his Long Island roots. Though 700 Sundays (the name comes from Crystal’s estimation of how many Sundays he got to spend with his father) is packaged here in book form, it reads like a piece of theater and, more specifically, like a selection of memories about a father, lovingly and touchingly re-told by his loving son. --John Moe --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Train Wreck

Product Description
She was the most outlandish, outrageous, in-your-face symbol of the age - and suddenly, shockingly, she was gone.
In life,her antics, adventures and behavior kept a nation riveted; in death she stunned a world gripped by the surprise and swiftness of her unexpected passing. Had she ever bothered with a resume it would have been laughably improbable: Krispy Fried Chicken waitress, K-Mart cashier, stripper, Playboy's Playmate of the Year, actress in a Paul Newman film, and spokesperson for Guess? jeans. She was a walking contradiction: often weighing over 140 pounds yet paid to represent a weight-loss pill; illiterate but paid to be a columnist for an American tabloid; she was demeaned and laughed at, yet the Bush administration sent its top lawyer to file a brief on her behalf in her fight for her husband's mega millions. At her death she may have beenon the brink of inheriting between $90 million and $450 million, yet she had lived on the edge of bankruptcy. The woman was, of course, Anna Nicole Smith. We were fascinated by her 10-year court battle for her late husband's estate, her fluctuating breast size, the birth of her daughter, the tragic death of her son three days later, the paternity suits against her, as well as her eviction from her ex-boyfriend's house in the Bahamas. Her life read like a soap opera script too incredible to be believed; while she lived there was always a surprise lurking at every corner, and her death came as the ultimate, astounding twist. This is the story of the little girl from west of nowhere, born into a broken, dysfunctional, dirt-poor family, told by the one woman who knew her best.

A mother at 18, with little education, she faced the same hardscrabble life as all her relatives. Her fierce resolve, pluck, luck and determination allowed her to claw her way to celebrity status,becoming a tabloid staple, and to reach the potential of unimaginable wealth. And then, in a moment, she was gone, not yet 40 years old. A Horatio Alger story with a bitter ending, TRAIN WRECK- The Life and Death of Anna Nicole Smith, is the definitive story of the rise and swift fall of one of the most compelling characters to blaze across the American sky.

Making it Up

From Publishers Weekly
In this engrossing, perverse challenge to genre—"an anti-memoir"—Booker Award novelist Lively (Moon Tiger, 1987) explores the road not taken. What if her family, evacuating Egypt during WWII, had traveled to South Africa rather than Palestine? What if a date that ended chastely had led to unwed motherhood? What if her husband-to-be had been captured in Korea? What if that other Penelope had taken up with Achilles? What if Lively, who eventually became a writer, had, as a student, gone on an archeological dig? "This book is fiction," Lively warns. The narratives are inventions, rendered by an omniscient voice, framed by brief, evocative autobiographical passages, and peopled by non-Penelopes. Lively achieves "the authenticity of fiction" in their credibility, but she lived none of these alternative lives. Writers and would-be writers will be intrigued to observe the transformation of life into literature. Readers may enjoy wrestling with questions of choice and chance in human affairs, or they may settle for a series of neatly crafted tales. The vividly imagined lives stir up questions far more thought provoking than the simple "what if?" As Lively so elegantly demonstrates, "The paths do not so much fork as flourish."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Love is a Mix Tape

From Booklist
Sheffield was a "shy, skinny, Irish Catholic geek from Boston" when he first met Renee. Southern born and bred, "she was warm and loud and impulsive." They had nothing in common except a love of music. Since he made music tapes for all occasions, he and Renee listened together, shared tapes, and though never formally planning to, married. On May 11, 1997, everything changed. He was in the kitchen making lunch. Suddenly, she collapsed, dying instantly of a pulmonary embolism. Devastated, he quickly realized that he couldn't listen to certain songs again, and that life as he knew it would never be the same. Fun and funny, moving and unbearably sad, Sheffield's account at its quirkiest, and because of his penchant for lists, is reminiscent of Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity (1995). Anyone who loves music and appreciates the unspoken ways that music can bring people together will respond warmly to this gentle, bittersweet reflection on love won and love irrevocably lost. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Talk to the Hand

A Note from Lynne Truss

Dear Amazon customer and fellow stickler,

There’s an odd thing I’m finding about my new book, Talk to the Hand. The moment I start describing it to people ("Basically, it’s about the rudeness of everyday life – "), they jump straight in with stories about all the rudeness they’ve encountered in the past ten years. When I was trying to tell people about punctuation, engaging their attention was a victory. Well, not this time. "And another thing!" they say, banging the table. "What about cell phones? What about cold callers?" I make a feeble stab at outlining my six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door, also my theory of the alienation of modern life, which is that fundamentally we expect to be met half-way in our dealings with strangers and are continually shocked that this courtesy no longer pertains – but who am I kidding? I never get further than the first good reason (the decline of "please", "thank you", and "excuse me") because people are agreeing so vehemently, and I’m saying "Absolutely" and "You’re right" and "Actually, some of this is in the book." The thing is: there is nothing original in being against rudeness. Everyone is against rudeness. In fact, very, very rude people object to it strongly. But why does it matter to us so much? Are we so scared of other people? Why do we spend so much of our time saying, "Oh, that’s so RUDE"? All I can say is, you could find out from reading the book! But if you'd rather not, best wishes to all sticklers.

The Prayer of Jabez

Oddly Amazon did not have a description of this one.

"The Dark Reunion" by L.J. Smith

My rating: 4 out 4
Where I acquired the book: borrowed from a friend

Synopsis from
"The Final Conflict...The Last Deadly Kiss
Now she rises from the dead to recreate the powerful vampire trio.

Summoned by Elena, he keeps a promise to her and fights the most terrifying evil he's ever faced.

Joining the brother he once called enemy, Damon battles this new horror with strength, cunning, and deadly charm. "

My thoughts:
SPOILER ALERT- if you haven't read this series and plan to you might want to skip my thoughts on this installment.

When the last story ended and Elena was dead and Stefan and Damon left town I kind of wondered what could possibly happen next. I didn't see how the series would go on without Elena, though I did like how Bonnie took over as the diary writer. I know this as fiction the author can do whatever she likes, but it feels like each of the stories adds a new level of bizarreness (if that is even a word) to the series. I was able to take Damon and Stefan as vampires, and although I was surprised when Katherine returned in the last book I was able to take that in stride as well. But then to add in werewolves and a vampire who is an Old One which sounds so much like Meyer's Cold Ones. I know Meyer's books were published a decade later so I am in no way saying these stories were influenced by them but I wonder if Meyer may have read and been influenced by these. Then Elena is able to speak from beyond the grave because she died too young and had too much living left to do, Fell's Church has a lot of psychic energy due to a lot of early deaths by Civil War soldiers and it is a magnet for the supernatural, and Tyler's family has a dormant werewolf gene that can be activated by killing. Things just kind of started to spin out of control to me, almost as if the author didn't want to let go of the series so she had to find some new way to captivate her readers. I almost wondered if she had originally planned to end it after the third book, since everything was wrapped up, and then due to publisher or reader urging decided to add on. Maybe not, perhaps this was always where she was going. Bringing someone back from the dead just felt like a cheap shot to get to keep going with the storyline though. I did enjoy the book, and the previous three, and it definitely kept me guessing. I need to borrow a copy of the last two books to see where it goes. Will Elena be the same as she was before now that she is back? What about Tyler, how will being a vampire change him? Since they all graduated what will become of them, will the last stories take place over the summer of at college? How in the world is Elena going to explain to Aunt Judith how she is alive again or does she plan to disappear and start over somewhere else?

Monday, December 21, 2009

"The Fury" by L.J. Smith

My rating 4 out of 5
Where I acquired the book: Borrowed from a friend

Product Description from and back cover of book:
"Elena: transformed, the golden girl has become what she once feared and desired.

Stefan: tormented by losing Elena, he's determined to end his feud with Damon once and for all—whatever the cost. But slowly he begins to realize that his brother is not his only enemy.

Damon: at last, he possesses Elena. But will his thirst for revenge against Stefan poison his triumph? Or can they come together to face one final battle?

Collected here in one edition are the third and fourth volumes of The Vampire Diaries, a riveting conclusion to the tale of two vampire brothers and the beautiful girl torn between them. "

My thoughts:
This review is just for "The Fury" which is book three in the "Vampire Diaries" series. This series continues to surprise me. SPOILER ALERT I did not expect Elena to be turned into a vampire. I know it is the logical outcome of spending time with vampires, but when it happened in book two I was surprised. I kind of put the book down in shock at that point. Then the conclusion of this one was full of more surprises. It turns out I was totally wrong about who the Other Power was. Part of me hopes it is just because I started the book, then put it down for a few weeks and then picked yesterday to finish. Did I miss clues because I didn't read it all at once? But I think the author may have just done a really good job of concealing the Other Powers identity while giving small clues along the way. i was glad to discover who it was who was speaking through Bonnie when she was in the trance state. My big question at the end was how the series could go on if one of the main characters is dead and the other two are leaving town. How would there be a need to continue the Vampire Diaries. I read the first chapter or two of the next book and kind of see where it may be going. I think this is well written and keeps the reader guessing. Things are not as obvious as they may seem. One thing that continues to throw me is how different it is than the TV series the CW is running. I guess the TV series took the general idea and went in their own direction with it. It will be interesting to see how that continues to play out and what other changes will be made to the original story.

Christmas Reading Challenge hosted by

I saw a post about this contest before Thanksgiving and wasn't going to participate as I had already read three Christmas books prior to Thanksgiving. Now that Christmas is almost here and I have read the required amount I thought I would add it to the challenges I am doing/have done. I copied the information from the host below:

The Christmas Reading Challenge:

Will run from Thanksgiving Day, November 26 through New Year's Eve, December 31, 2009
a. You can choose 1 - 3 books...I know it seems a small amount, but it's a busy time of year and the challenge is only a little over a month.
b. These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore or a book of Christmas short stories (sorry, no children's books, but YA novel is okay).
c. Be sure to check back here ( in a couple of days, I will have a list of new Christmas books coming out and some old favorites to recommend.
d. Be sure to come back and link your post ( here on Mr. Linky. This is my first time using it so if it doesn't work, leave your link in the comments. Please leave a comment after you post your link in Mr. Linky. Thanks!

This month I read:
1. A Highlander Christmas by Janet Chapman
2. A Blue and Gray Christmas by Joan Medlicott
3. The Christmas Jars by Wright

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 Library Challenge

I had been keeping a list on my sidebar for the 2009 Library Challenge. Since I didn't have a list of what I read prior to September when I started the blog I decided to read 25 books from the library. I only included a few of the my children's books. They bring home 3 every week from school and we visit the library weekly, but I was more interested in tracking my adult reading choices. Most of these have been reviewed at some point on this blog so you can check the blog list to see when if you are interested in my thoughts on them. This was a fun and worthwhile challenge and there is another one for next year for anyone who is interested. The link is posted in my sidebar.

2009 Library Challenge Book List
The Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree
Sleeping Beauty
The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweater that Grandma Knit
The Christmas Jars
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Hunger Games
The Power of No
Vision in White
The Traveler
Handle with Care
The Letters
Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes
Down the Rabbit Hole
Have a Little Faith
The Perfect Christmas
Summer on Blossom Street
Julie and Julia
You Better Not Cry
A Creed County Christmas
Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
White Witch Black Curse
Finger Licken' Fifteen
sTori Telling

"The Mudhogs" by Dalton James

My rating 4 out of 5
How this book came to me: Received from Bostick Communications for review purposes

Information from the publisher
About the book:
The Mudhogs by Dalton James
ISBN: 978-1432745608
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Date of publish: Oct 28, 2009
Pages: 32
S.R.P.: $13.95

Info from email about book:
Eight Year Old Releases His Third Book, The Mudhogs

Oak Ridge, TN - Dec 14, 2009 - Dalton James is on a roll. Outskirts Press today announced publication of The Mudhogs, the third book Dalton has written and illustrated.

It is remarkable enough that anyone has three books to his credit, but even more remarkable in Dalton's case. He is eight years old.

The Mudhogs is the third book Dalton has written and is unrelated to his series of imaginary adventures with his dad, The Sneakiest Pirates and The Heroes of Googley Woogley, both of which have received excellent reviews. Dalton has a knack for matching the imaginative reality of his peers in his clever stories, and any or all of his books are perfect gifts for a book happy eight year old to enjoy.

The Mudhogs is about Dalton's favorite animals, pigs. Narrated by a tick named Fangs, who lives on one of the pigs, the book tells the story of a group of three friendly pigs who love to play in the mud, but one day find their mud has disappeared because of a recent lack of rain. The three friends try everything they can to make it rain, but they have no luck and so embark on an even greater adventure to different cities, states and countries to try put some mud back in their home yard.

Although ultimately unsuccessful in their search, the three arrive back home and are surprised to find everything they were looking for and in doing so, they learn a valuable lesson.

Dalton James is the quintessential young author and loves to give talks about writing to other third graders in local schools. He particularly appreciates it when he is paid in chocolate chip cookies.

About the author:
Dalton is currently in the third grade and is illustrating his third book in his imaginative adventure series with his dad, Super Pete Saves the Day, while writing another book on pigs, Snouter Pig, and brainstorming the second book in his mudhog series. Dalton has a large collection of stuffed pigs of all shapes and sizes as well as his own small library of books about pigs.

He holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and likes to practice and enter tournaments. He also plays basketball, baseball and runs five kilometer races. Dalton wants to be a fireman, a policeman, a detective, a doctor or a writer when he grows up; depending on the day you talk to him.

My thoughts:
This book showed imagination and attention to detail. I liked the repetitiveness of some of the passages because it made it easier for my first grader to read on his own. It made all three of my older children laugh. What was particularly special to me was that I got to share a book written by a child author who was not too much older than my own children. Many times kids think things like writing a book are just for adults, so to be able to show a finished product written and published by a child was great. I am considering donating this book to my son's classroom for his teacher to use to motivate her students. I plan to keep it for a bit because my three year old especially has latched onto it, but I would love to see it shared with an even wider audience. The illustrations look like they may have been created with a computer. I hope it inspires my children to think about writing more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Mommywood" by Tori Spelling with Hilary Lifton

My rating: 4 out of 5
How I came across this book: checked out of local library

Product Details
Hardcover: 243 pages
Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment; First Edition edition (April 14, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 141659910X

Synopsis from

"If you thought Tinseltown was tough...

Tori Spelling might have grown up with everything a girl could wish for, but these days she's just another suburban working mom...whose toddler regularly recognizes her in the pages of Us Weekly. Welcome to Mommywood, where the stars are two feet tall and your neighbors know who you are before you move in.
Like most parents, Tori wants her children to have the one thing she didn't have as a kid -- a normal family. On their hit Oxygen reality show, Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood, the starlet and her husband Dean McDermott regularly wrestle dirty diapers, host the neighborhood block party, and tackle temper tantrums on the red carpet. But when the cameras aren't rolling, Tori's still having awkward run-ins with a former 90210 costar at a laser tag birthday party, scooping rogue poo out of the kiddie pool on a resort vacation, and racing to win back her pre-baby body before the media starts calling her fat. For all her suburban fantasies, Tori Spelling is no June Cleaver.

With the same down-to-earth wit that made her entertaining memoir sTORI telling a #1 New York Times bestseller, Tori tells the hilarious and humbling stories of life as a mom in the limelight. From learning to be the kind of parent her own mother never was to revealing what it's like to raise a family while everyone is watching, Mommywood is an irresistible snapshot of celebrity parenthood that you won't get from the paparazzi.

My thoughts:
After reading sTori Telling earlier this fall I wanted to give Mommywood a try and was excited to find it on the shelf at the library this week. I enjoyed reading about Tori's experiences being a mother and wondered how it might differ from my own. While some of her issues are due to her own celbrity status, a lot of her other struggles are ones all mothers deal with. While I really enjoyed sTori Telling I thought she came across as a bit more spoiled and self involved in this one. I still have never seen any of her reality shows, I guess reality tv and tv in general just isn't really my thing. I did see the beginning episodes of 90210 but I think I stopped watching before the end of teh series. I liked how she does so much for her children and tries to include them in everything. I do wonder what it is like to be a part of her life and have people reading about you in her book. She has often talked about her struggles with her own mother and it seems as though she has given up on having much of a relationship with her, but she also never mentions her brother. It made me wonder if there was a story there about why they aren't involved in each others lives. She mentions that she plans to write more books so I will most like tune back in to see what she has to say then.

In one scene she ends up abandoning her stroller because she can't figure out how to fold it down. While I do know how to fold my strollers I could understand her frustration, I jave a double stroller that sometimes folds perfectly and other times won't go all the way down and even after months of using it I still haven't figured out what the trick is. She had some cosmetic questions after her 3D ultrasoudn. I only had one of those done with one of my children but the way it looks the babies nose does look odd or out of proportion, when our baby was born she looked fine. I think maybe the nose just gets a bit squished in the womb and with a regular ultrsound you don't know. So, I found myself agreeing with her about some things related to being a mother while a lot of the celbrity stuff was issues I will never have to deal with adn don't miss.

This was a quick and fun read, kind of like the US Weeklies her son looks for her pictures in!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Books that Came to Me this Week!

So I became a book magnet this week. I picked up 19 books at out local used bookstore that was having a $1 a book sale. Not that I needed 19 more books, but I was lucky to only walk out with 19! Here they are in no particular order:

1. Sword of the Highlands by Veronica Wolff
2. Huntress by Christine Warren et all
3. Damien by Jacquelyn Frank
4. Master of the Highland by Veronica Wolff
5. Highland Guardian by Melissa Mayhue
6. Fairies Gone Wild by MaryJanice Davidson et all
7. Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris
8. Curse the Dawn by Karen Chance
9. High Stakes by Erin McCarthy
10 Darkness Calls by Marjorie M. Liu
11. Atlantis Awakening by Alyssa Day
12. Dark Victory by Brenda Joyce
13. Dark Lover by Brenda Joyce
14. These Boots Were Made for Stomping by Julie Kenner
15. Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
16. All I Want For Christmas is a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks
17. Street Magic by Caitlin Kittridge
18. Hex Appeal by Linda Wisdom,
19. Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward

Most of these I don't know anything about, I let myself pick based on whatever jumped out at me so I could branch out and give some new to me authors a chance. If you have recommendations from this list let me know!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"A Blue and Gray Christmas: A Covington Holiday Novel" by Joan Medlicott for Pocket Books Blog Tours

My rating 3.5 out of 5
How I aquired the book: Received as part of Pocket Books Blog Tour for review

Synopsis from Amazon:
"In this stunning holiday story, a cache of Civil War-era letters and diaries sweeps the ladies of Covington up into a dramatic and heartwarming historical saga that inspires them to plan an unforgettable Christmas for two families forever changed by war.
When a rusty old tin box is unearthed at the Covington Homestead, longtime housemates Grace, Amelia, and Hannah discover that it contains letters and diaries written by two Civil War soldiers, one Union and one Confederate.

The friends are captivated by the drama revealed. The soldiers were found dying on a nearby battlefield by an old woman. She nursed them back to health, hiding them from bounty hunters seeking deserters. At the end of the war the men chose to stay in Covington, caring for their rescuer as she grew frail. But while their lives were rich, they still felt homesick and guilty for never contacting the families they'd left behind.

Christmas is coming, and the letters inspire Amelia with a generous impulse. What if she and her friends were to fi nd the two soldiers' descendants and invite them to Covington to meet? What better holiday gift could there be than the truth about these two heroic men and their dramatic shared fate? With little time left, the ladies spring into action to track down the men's families in Connecticut and the Carolinas, and to make preparations in Covington for their most memorable, most historic Christmas yet."

My thoughts:
This is the first novel I have read by Medlicott so it was also my first in the Covington series. There are 9 others listed at the front of the book and I saw a few titles online that were not in that list. Overall this was a very nice story about how being generous with others can reap rewards for you overall, by giving you get even more back. The three women were believealbe and likeable. I loved the idea of the letters the women found and read. I though Medlicott did a really good job of capturing what seemed like authentic speech patterns for the two soldiers who had written the diaries and letters. However I thought the way she had some of her present day characters speaking was a bit formal and dated. The three women's dialogue was fine but the 20ish male teacher they met spoke like he was much older. While I liked the characaters overall, I did find myself forgetting who was who since there were so many of them and I had not read the other stories in the series. I coudl see places where the author tried to fill in the gaps for new readers, but Grace had a boyfriend/companion and it took me until halfway through the book to realize who he was. It was kind of like he just showed up all of sudden and I didn't remember him having been in the story prior to that. This was an enjoyable story especially for Christmas time, as it was and easy and fairly quick read as well.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Gifts of the Heart" by Karen Boes Oman

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars
How I acquired this book: Received from Bostick Communication for review purposes

Grandma and Grandpa are on their way to see their grandchildren for Christmas when their car is caught up in the wind and all the gifts blow all over Mother Goose Land. The children from the shoe find the coats, Little Bo Peeps sheep find the socks, the spider from Little Miss Muffett finds the skates. Instead of demanding their gifts back grandma and grandpa decide that by filling a need (a coat for the coat less, etc) they are giving their hearts. In return the Mother Goose characters make them gifts from their own hearts and repair their rocking horse.

I read this book to my children and it really held their interest. It has good rhythm and pacing. It is both silly and sweet. The illustrations really work with the text, the loved seeing Little Bo Peep and her sheep pulling the flying sleigh past the moon. I liked the message about giving to others especially at Christmas time when it is easy to be focused on getting gifts and coveted toys. Sometimes the best gift isn't the one that costs the most. I can foresee my children requesting to hear this story again and I will enjoy rereading it with them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fun Children's Books for Christmas part 1

I have been reading stories about Christmas each evening with my children. These are some of the ones we read so far that we have really enjoyed so far.

Who Will Guide My Sleigh Tonight is a book we bought from the a school book order last year. In it Santa tries animal after animal to pull his sleigh until he settles on reindeer. It really amused the kids and elicits laughs when he tries snakes and mice to pull his sleigh.

The Night Before Christmas is one of my all time favorite stories and we have multiple versions with different illustrations. Jan Brett's are some of my favorites because I love how she used the pictures on the sides of the frames as a preview of what is to come in the story. My other favorite book by Brett is The Mitten, but I usually pull that out in January to celebrate winter.

Snowmen at Christmas is one of my children's most requested stories. The little boy in the story imagines what his snowman and all the other snowmen in town do after all the people fall asleep. The snowmen celebrate Christmas with snow gifts and snow treats. There is also a Snowmen at Night book that I've seen in book orders but we haven't read that one yet.

The Snowbelly Family of Chillyville Inn was put out by Hallmark a few years ago and there are other books in the series about the family. The snowmen celebrate Christmas at an inn made of snow with gifts made of snow. The rhythm and pacing of the story is really enjoyable to read.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"The Christmas Jars" by Jason E. Wright

Rating 3.5 out of 5
Where I got the book from: checked out of the local library

Synopsis from
"In a plot reminiscent of Penelope Stokes's The Blue Bottle Club and Angela Hunt's The Note, a journalist happens upon a human interest story that winds up teaching her lessons about love and forgiveness and renewing her own faith in human kindness. On Christmas Eve, twenty-something Hope Jensen is quietly grieving the recent loss of her adoptive mother when her apartment is robbed. The one bright spot in the midst of Hope's despair is a small jar full of money someone has anonymously left on her doorstep. Eager to learn the source of this unexpected generosity, Hope uses her newswoman instincts to find other recipients of "Christmas jars," digging until her search leads her to the family who first began the tradition of saving a year's worth of spare change to give to someone in need at the holiday. Wright commits some rookie mistakes in style and pacing; the novel veers heavily toward melodrama at some junctures, and he tends to show us and tell us about his characters. Still, the heart of this novella is its transformative message about the power of giving, a compelling theme that calls to mind books like Pay It Forward and The Kingdom Assignment."

My thoughts:
While I enjoyed this story and appreciated that it was on the short side (perfect for the busy holiday season!) I thought it had a slow start. The beginning few chapters contained a lot of set up about Hope, the main character. Instead of letting the reader learn about Hope naturally a lot of the details were just given. Perhaps that was a function of it being a short book and the author wanting to get to the heart of the story more quickly. I loved the idea of the Christmas jars, it reminded me a bit of the idea of paying it forward. Helping someone in need anonymously for the good of all started by a small girl who gave away the families Christmas savings to a woman in need. It was so nice to read about people helping others rather than using Christmas as a time to buy tons of gifts.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"A Highlander Christmas" by Janet Chapman for Pocket Blog Book Tours

My rating 4.5 out of 5
Where the book came from: received as part of Pocket Blogs Book tours (although I had it on my wish list on Paperbackswap and had thought about buying it.

Synopsis from
"Camry MacKeage has absolutely no intention of telling her parents that she left her job as a NASA physicist for the small-town life of a dog-sitter -- which is why she's spending the holidays alone in coastal Maine with her furry friends Tigger and Max. Unfortunately, her irresistibly handsome rival, scientist Luke Pascal, accidentally spilled the beans. Now he's on a mission from her mother to tempt Camry home for the family's annual winter solstice celebration. But Luke is hiding his own secret, and he'll need a little bit of magic to earn Camry's trust...and a whole lot of mistletoe to seduce his way into her heart."

My thoughts:
This is part of Chapman's Highlander series. It is the seventh book in the series. Prior to this I had already read the previous books and enjoyed them. The first two are among my favorite books. As the series has gone on I've started to get some of the characters a little mixed up but I still enjoy them and the magic they contain. I think Camry may be the last unmarried daughter out of Grace and Greylen MacKeage's seven daughters. She has burned out and is taking a break from NASA while working in a small town not far from her family as a dog sitter and bartender. The Luke drops in and things start happening. Believing in a little magic is so fun in December, who wouldn't like to be able to believe for just a little while, but while Camry is open to the magic that is pat of her family heritage, Luke is very grounded in science. When they get married by a wizard turned justice of the peace they both have to evaluate what it means to love "uncompromisingly, unpretentiously, and unconditionally" and make allowances and adjustments for each other. Through an avalanche on a Maine mountainside they both work through their doubts about life, magic and science. This was the perfect December story for snuggling by a fire and watching miracles happen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

In My Mailbox 4

This week I received four books in the mail and bought one at the store.

In my mailbox I received:

Highlander Christmas by Janet Chapman

Witch Fire by Anya Bast

A Blue and Gray Christmas by Joan Medlicott

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

From the bookstore:

The Elf on the Shelf
(reviewed previously)

Checked out from the library:

The Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"The Elf on the Shelf" by Carol V. Aebersol and Chanda A. Bell

My rating 5 out 5.
Where the book came from: purchased at book store

This comes as a set with a hardcover book and an elf. The story talks about the story of the elf who is visiting just until Christmas Eve. He is magical but has promised Santa not to talk to children. At night he reports back to Santa at the North Pole and then returns and hides in a new place to be found the next day. At the back of the book there is a place to write your elf's name and the date you started the tradition as a family.

I heard a lot of my friends talking about this book and was interested. It seemed a bit high in price to me, but we used a coupon and a gift card which made it seem more reasonable. My children loved the story and got so into it. We purchased it yesterday and this morning they were so excited to come downstairs to find Elfie (our current name, we haven't decided for sure so I am waiting to record it in the book). It helped a bit with some behavior and fighting issues. Although the illustrations in the book were not quite as good as I had hoped for, the fact that my children love it and are having a good time with it makes up for that. i would recommend this book to people with small children.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 out of 5
Where the book came from: audio book checked out of local library

My thoughts:
I'm not going to bother with a synopsis for this one since by this point most people have either read the book, seen the movie, or both. This was not my first time reading it, or even second time, but it was my first time listening to it. To avoid fights in the car we always have a book going even for short trips. This was the first time my children had heard this book. After listening we watched the movie again and it was great to see the differences they saw and what they noticed being left out. It really helped reinforce the idea that often times the book is more detailed and interesting than the movie since it doesn't have to fit into a certain amount of time.

There were details I had forgotten since my last reading of this novel and things I looked at differently based on the ultimate outcomes through the series. One of the things I really noticed were details in how Professor Snape treated Harry and acted towards him due to revelations about his feelings for Lily Potter. Seeing that he loved her and hated James I would have thought that his love for Lily would have won out and made him more protective of Harry than he was. That said, while writing this as the first book in the series Rowling may not have made the decision for that love to exist in the future. She never contradicted herself, but it was something I wondered about when reading one of the later books.

My children all really enjoyed this one. At some point I would like to read it with them again from our copy of the book, but I have to say that I am now loving audio books. I haven't listened to one for adults in years, but even the ones for children's chapter books are fun to listen to. i recommend them to anyone going on long trips with their kids or with kids who tend to fight when forced to sit next to each other for prolonged periods of time. Check out you library. Often they have great selections.

Barnes and Nobel Fist Look Book Club

Barnes and Noble is having registration for the next First Look Book Club. I copied the information from their site below if anyone is interested in registering and participating. This will be my 4th time and it has been fun participating in the discussions.

How To Get Your Free Reading Copy & Enroll in the Discussion[ Edited ]

Eternal on the Water -- Joseph Monninger's poignant tale of both love and life -- is ready made for the First Look Book Club and we're thrilled to share it with you!

You will receive a free advance reading copy and access to the discussion with the author. The ARCs will mail soon and the discussion will begin on January 4th.

Please only enroll if you're going to participate in the discussion. ARCs are limited, so if you do not participate, you will be excluded from future First Look selections.

Here is how to enroll:

1. Sign in
If you are not signed into your book club account, please sign in from the link in the upper left of this page. This is important. If you don't sign in, you will not be able to request a book. If you are having trouble signing in, please click here for more information.

If you are not a registered book club user, you can create an account by clicking on the register link in the upper left of this page. It's easy, and it's free.

2. Submit your information
Now that you are signed into your account, click on the small envelope icon above the list of boards. Click on New Message* and enter the following information into the window, as described below:

Send To -


Subject --
Sign up for Eternal on the Water

Your Message --
mailing address, including zip
daytime telephone number

Click "Send Message"

* Your private message must be enabled -- you can find that in Preferences > Display & Privacy Settings.

Note the following:

•This message will be automatically sent to the correct mailbox -- do not insert or replace with additional addresses. We are only accepting registrations there. Please do not attempt to send this message to another account.
•Be sure to give us all the information required and do not include any other text in this message other than what is requested.
•These free books are limited, only one per account, per person, please. We will stop taking requests once we run out.
•Finally, please do not post the requested information on the boards. Your information should only go into a private message.

You only need to send this message once. You'll receive confirmation of your enrollment via private message, not via email. It may take up to a week before this confirmation arrives.