Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jordan by Susan Kearney

Product Details
Pub. Date: March 01, 2010
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: Paperback, 416pp
Series: Pendragon Legacy
ISBN-13: 9780446558440
ISBN: 0446558443

Vivianne Blackstone devotes herself to her career, putting her love life on hold. Her latest project is a spaceship designed to protect Earth from the deadly Tribes. But its engineer, the alluring Jordan McArthur, now threatens both her job and her wary heart . . .
Jordan's past goes back to King Arthur, and he must find the ancient artifact that can save the galaxy. Vivianne's ship is his best hope, but convincing the fiercely independent beauty won't be easy. Especially when the passion flaring between them burns through their defenses - and love is the last thing they need to survive.

My thoughts:
I wasn't sure if I would run into problems following the story since this is the third book in a series, but not having read the other two books wasn't an issue. The characters from the prior books were mentioned but did not feature prominently. I do think I may go back and read them now that I've read this story.

This was a different type of paranormal romance than what I am used to. Most of it took place in space while visiting different planets and encountering different races of beings. Earth is feared to be infiltrated by members of a group called the Tribes who either take over other planets or destroy them if they cannot convert them. People are becoming suspicious of one another and are looking for moles and spies among themselves who might be passing on information. Jordan sets the ship to take off before they have finished all of their checks because he knows a way to save earth. Jordan is from a home planet that was destroyed by the Tribes and has been alive for centuries, he once called King Arthur his friend.

This story really grabbed me and kept me reading, it was both fast paced and smooth. I never felt like I had to keep reading but that I wanted to keep reading. In other novels I sometimes find a point that feels like a lull that I need to push myself to get through to see what happens, but there were no spots like that in this one. It was a very enjoyable, engaging read.

Friday, February 26, 2010

GIVEAWAY: Let Me Lie Down by Kristin van Ogtrop

Kristin van Ogtrop knows she's lucky--fulfilling career, great husband, three healthy kids, and, depending on the hamster count, an impressive roster of pets. She also knows she is tired. Always.

Using stories and insights from her own life, she provides a lexicon for the half-insane working mom. Anyone who has left a meeting to race to the Halloween parade immediately understands van Ogtrop's definition of "Kill the messenger" as "The action you must take in order to forget about the office for a time--that is, to remove your Blackberry/Treo/iPhone/whatever from your person and store it as far away as your neurotic self will allow." Filled with essays, lists, and resonant observations, JUST LET ME LIE DOWN establishes van Ogtrop as the Erma Bombeck of the new millennium.

About the Author

Kristin van Ogtrop is the editor of Real Simple magazine and has held positions at Glamour, Vogue, Travel & Leisure, and Premiere. She
lives outside New York City with her family.

Giveaway details
This is my third giveaway. It is hosted by Hatchett Book Group and they will be shipping the books to the winners.

This is a giveaway for 3 copies
-Only residents of the U.S. or Canada are eligible to win.
-No P.O. Boxes, please.
-To enter you need to be a follower.
-Giveaway ends on March 10.
-Leave a comment with your email address to enter.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass

Product Details
Pub. Date: January 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 352pp
ISBN-13: 9781439156797
ISBN: 1439156794

For Kira Solomon, normal was never an option.

Kira's day job is as an antiquities expert, but her true calling is as a Shadowchaser. Trained from youth to be one of the most lethal Chasers in existence, Kira serves the Gilead Commission, dispatching the Fallen who sow discord and chaos. Of course, sometimes Gilead bureaucracy is as much a thorn in her side as anything the Fallen can muster against her. Right now, though, she's got a bigger problem. Someone is turning the city of Atlanta upside down in search of a millennia-old Egyptian dagger that just happens to have fallen into Kira's hands.

Then there's Khefar, the dagger's true owner — a near-immortal 4,000-year-old Nubian warrior who, Kira has to admit, looks pretty fine for his age. Joining forces is the only way to keep the weapon safe from the sinister Shadow forces, but now Kira is in deep with someone who holds more secrets than she does, the one person who knows just how treacherous this fight is. Because every step closer to destroying the enemy is a step closer to losing herself to Shadow forever....

My thoughts:
I continue to be impresses with the fantasy/science fiction choices made for the Sci-Fi Pocket Blog book tours. I think perhaps I have had the wrong impression of fantasy books for a long time or didn't quite realize what was in the genre. Kira's character really intrigued me. When I started it I was reminded of one of the X-Men characters, I've never read the comics but saw the movies. Anna Paquin played her and she was a girl who couldn't touch anyone with her bare hands because she would drain them of energy (or something like that, i was never totally clear on what she was taking from them). Kira has a similar affliction, because of her powers she cannot touch anyone with taking away their energy and possibly killing them or putting them into a coma. Can you imagine how lonely it would be to go through life never being able to touch anyone in anyway? No kisses or hugs, no holding hands or anything more.

Kira was a likable character who really wanted to do the right thing. I enjoyed Nanse as well, he was quite the character but I don't want to reveal anything that might take away from the story for another reader. I wondered from the ending if Glass was setting this up to be the first in a series, she makes it seem as if Kira has some more battles to fight and goals to meet but nowhere on the book does it say it is number one of a series. Perhaps it depends on how well the first one sells whether or not the publisher will release a second one.

I find that I am liking these stories with people who have special powers. It adds a new element to my reading! Also I liked how gods and myths were pulled in to add to the story. I would recommend this book to other readers and as I said in the first sentence, I am so glad I was introduced to this author and had the chance to read her book. On my own I might not have picked this one up (although that might have had more to do with my towering TBR piles than the book not appealing to me!).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Coming of the Storm (Contact: The Battle for America Series #1) by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O"Neal Gear

Published:February 9th 2010 by Pocket (first published 2010)

Details Hardcover, 512 pages

Isbn 1439153884 (Isbn 13: 9781439153888)

Description: COMING OF THE STORM is the first book in an exciting new series from renowned archaeologists and authors, Kathleen O'Neal and W. Michael Gear. With twenty-three internationally bestselling novels, more than 17 million copies of their books in print worldwide, and a legion of devoted fans, this husband and wife writing duo are regarded as the definitive authors of pre-Columbian Native American history. Now, for the first time, they bring to life the clash between Native Americans and Europeans. In 1539, Hernando de Soto landed in Florida with a thousand soldiers, horses, and slaves, and proceeded to march through sixteen American states, forever changing the face of America. COMING OF THE STORM follows his journey through Florida, as told through the eyes of a Chickasaw trader named Black Shell.

My thoughts:

The Gears have other books in another series, I even have a few on my shelf, but this is the first one that I have read. I received this book as part of Pocket Blogs Book Tours. When I read the introduction I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy it or not, but I was surprised by how quickly I was able to get into the story. I like the two main characters and enjoyed seeing how they worked as a team and used their intellect to make their way. Having the story set from the point of view of the Native American people and the way they viewed the "Kristanos" who arrive on floating palaces and enslave the people with metal collars brought history alive for me. So much of what it taught in school is geared to the point of view of white Americans that it was nice to see that changed around. While I am enjoying this novel I am afraid that I haven't quite finished it. I plan to post a completed review in the near future, but from what I have read so far I would definitely recommend this book to other readers. I am even thinking about pulling some of the other books I have from these authors from the shelf to read as well.

Other tour participants:
Coming of the Storm: Tuesday, February 23rd
Frugal Plus:
Book Junkie:
Book, Books Everywhere:
Pam’s Private Reflections:
Reading at the Beach:
My Reading Room:
Starting Fresh:
Confessions of an Overworked Mom:
Just One More Paragraph:
I Read:
Simply Stacie:
Thoughts in Progress:
Jeanne's Ramblings:
Booksie’s Blog:
Pick of the Literate:
Blog Business World:
The Book Tree:
Cheryl’s Book Nook:
Vision Quest Fail:

Monday, February 22, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading?

This is hosted by Shelia at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books . While this is my first time participating, it has been on my mind. Every week when I see other readers posts I think about creating a post and then I get busy and forget and it's Wednesday and seems too late. You know how it goes.

Right now I am reading:
Shadow Blade by Seressia Glass
Coming of the Storm by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O"Neal Gear
How to Never Look Fat Again by Charla Krupp

If all goes according to plan I should have a review up for each of these books this week. My goal is to try to finish up books I have agreed to review and then become more selective about what I agree to review so I have more time to devote to self selected reading. I've had a good time being exposed to new authors and new genres, and I have no regrets about agreeing to review books, but I am starting to miss just picking up a book because I want to not because I feel like i have too.
So what are you reading?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Changing of the Guard: The Yellowstone Chronicles by Ted Rechlin

Product Details
Pub. Date: December 2009
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Format: Paperback, 38pp
ISBN-13: 9781432750084
ISBN: 1432750089
Cover price: $22.95

Merging past and present, Changing of the Guard: The Yellowstone Chronicles tells the story of the daily life of the wild inhabitants of Yellowstone National Park, both seventy million years ago and today. Told in documentary style, Ted Rechlin's wonderful book is full of vivid illustrations depicting Yellowstone as you have never seen it before. Discover the story of the dinosaurs continues every day in the lives of the great mammals that roam the park today. Changing of the Guard beautifully depicts Bison and Triceratops side by side, Wolves and Raptors shoulder to shoulder, and the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex and the imposing Grizzly Bear alongside one another. Rechlin's detailed illustrations are a treat for the eyes and will captivate audiences of all ages. Changing of the Guard: The Yellowstone Chronicles is a truly unique experience for the reader. This children's book is a must for fans, the world over, of dinosaurs, wildlife, and wild places.

My thought:
I have an almost seven year old who loves dinosaurs! Every week he brings home two more books from his school library about dinosaurs so I thought this book would be perfect to share with him. I really liked how Rechlin put the animals that live in Yellowstone today right next to the ones who were living in that area 70 million years ago. Each animal has their statistics next to them giving their size and weight. Even though a lot of facts were included it was still interesting to read and very easy to get into. I haven't shared it with my son yet, I did the first read through on my own, but I am very excited to share it with him tomorrow when we read together. One thing I thought would have been helpful would be to have the pronunciation for the names listed along with the facts. From having read so many dinosaur books aloud I have to say that some of them have names can be tricky and I hate finding out that I've been mispronouncing a name. That said, most of the dinosaurs in this book are ones I've read about before and I already knew how to pronounce, it was just something I noticed as I was reading through.

The illustrations added to the story for me. I liked how the ground squirrel and the purgatorius were present for most of the story going about their daily task of finding food for themselves and their babies. It showed how so many things are going on at any given moment. I am ashamed to mention that I didn't know that both coyotes and wolves live in Yellowstone. I knew about the wolves but never considered coyotes. At one time we lived in Nevada and we saw coyotes on more than one occasion. Yellowstone sounds like such a great place to visit. At some point I would like to visit. Seeing national parks really brings nature into focus, I remember seeing the Grand Canyon and being really struck by how quiet it is as well as obviously being quite huge. Pictures just don't show it the way it is in person and I have a feeling Yellowstone is the same way.

I received this book from the author through an annoucement posted by Bostick Communications. The book was received for review purposes.

About the author from his web site
Ted Rechlin is a successful illustrator and a highly sought after illustration instructor.

Ted has built up a portfolio in many different fields of art and illustration. He works professionally in comic books, trading cards, t-shirt design, tattoo design, graphic design and logo work, and picture and children's book illustration

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Voyage of the Dawn Treader" by C.S. Lewis

My thoughts:

About a week ago I finished listening to Voyage of the Dawn Treader of audio CD. Pretty soon I will be done with the Chronicles of Narnia and I have The Swan Thieves to start next, time to move on to some adult reading!

I enjoyed this one and I heard a rumor that it will be out as a movie this summer. I looked and found this site: that gives a release date for December 10, 2010. While I can't tell for sure if this is authentic, it looks like there is a movie to be made or that has been made for this book which will be interesting to see. It will be the first time that I've recently read the book and seen the movie, rather than the reading and movie being separated by years.

I was glad to see Lucy and Edmond back in Narnia for another adventure, but a bit sad that Peter and Susan weren't along as well. Out of all the characters I thought that Eustace underwent the largest transformation to his character. Going to Narnia seemed to change him for the better. While we were listening my six year old wondered if Eustace might return to Narnia because Aslan does not say that he will not, so it left the door open for a return visit. During their voyage the two islands that caught the most imagination and thoughts for my children were dragon island, where Eustace actually spent time as a dragon, and Goldwater Island (which was later changed to Deathwater Island). They had a lot of questions especially about the pool that changed everything to gold. The funny part is I don't even think they realize how valuable gold is.

I did wonder where Reepicheep went. His faith was uplifting. He knows he is supposed to make the journey alone and that he will not be returning but he does not show fear, he trusts that this is what he is supposed to do and he is not afraid. Imagine if we all knew what we had to do and had the faith that it would work out because it was as it was supposed to be?

At the end I wondered if we had seen the last of Caspian or if we would see him again since time in Narnia and time in our world do not pass in the same fashion.

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:

In the fifth book in C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, Edmund and Lucy Pevensy along with their bratty cousin, Eustace, are transported through a painting into Narnia where they join Prince Caspian on a voyage to the west. The children are tested on this voyage, and visit strange lands and encounter unusual creatures. Eustace is turned into a dragon, and then helped to return to human form by Aslan, the lion god.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spider's Bite: An Elemental Assassin Book by Jennifer Estep


My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South — when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction...especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

My thoughts:
I received this book for review purposes as part of Pocket Books Sci-Fi/Fantasy Blog tour on Book Blogs. After a slow start I really enjoyed reading this. Usually it doesn't take me too long to get into a book, but the beginning of this one dragged a bit for me. Perhaps it is because it is the beginning of a series and Estep wanted to set things up for her main characters, but it wasn't until I got further in that I was hooked. Once I was I finished the book in just a few readings.

Gin is an interesting main character. She is very independent and capable, but still has a vulnerable side that she tries to keep hidden. Even though she is able to kill people without any qualms, she also loves and cares about her circle of friends very deeply and works very hard to keep them safe and protected. It will be interesting to see where the series goes to from here especially in light of some of the events towards the end of the novel. Don't worry, I am not going to give any spoilers. I hate knowing too much ahead of time and don't want to do that to any other readers.

It was interesting to me that the book seems to be set in our current present but with added elements of elementals who can use air, stone, fire or ice or even combinations of these elements. There are dwarfs, who have longer life spans, and vampires, who tend to become prostitutes, and giants along with humans. Part of me kept thinking that this was a different reality all together and then Harry Potter came up and the car names and types all seem to be current. Fantasy books are not my regular reading material, I've mentioned that I am trying to challenge myself to read different genres and such to keep from getting stuck in a rut. That is part of the reason I am really enjoying these blog tours, it is giving me a chance to read something I might not have on my own and find new authors. Perhaps this is normal in fantasy books, to have it be the present but a modified present, I guess I will see as I read more of them.

Other bloggers participating in this book tour:
Spider’s Bite: Thursday, February 18th
Pam’s Private Reflections:
The Cajun Book Lady:
Book, Books Everywhere:
Book Junkie:
My Life In Not So Many Words:
I Heart Monster:
Carol’s Notebook:
My Guilty Pleasures:
The Neverending Shelf:
Steph the Bookworm:
My Friend Amy:
The Bibliophilic Book Blog:
Chaotic Book Obsession:
Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm:
Drey’s Library:
Jeanne's Ramblings:
Books Gardens & Dogs:
See Michelle Read:
Book Series Reviews:
The Wayfaring Writer:
What Book Is That?:
So Many Books, So Little Time:
Jen’s Book Talk:
Pick of the Literate:
My Overstuffed Bookshelf:
Temple Library Reviews:
Dan’s Journal:
I Heart Book Gossip:
Geek Girl Reviews:
All Things Sizzle:
Find the Time to Read:
Poisoned Rationality:
Reading with Tequila:
Mindful Musings:
Vision Quest Fail:
Wendy’s Minding Spot:
Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks:
Red Headed Book Child:
Eclectic Book Lover:
Parajunkee’s View:
You Wanna Know What I Think?:
Patricia's Vampire Notes:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Women's Running Shoes

I've been thinking a lot about womens running shoes, which seems kind of weird since we have over two feet of snow on the ground right now, but they've been on my mind. In high school I hated running. It was just never my thing, but from time to time during my adult life I have been tempted to give it another chance. Most recently this past summer I got into actually running outside. I was only going a mile each time but it felt like an achievement for me to make that change from hating running to actually liking it. I had even started running at intervals in between walking on our treadmill.

There are so many different kinds of shoes out there that I wondered how people go about deciding which ones to buy. There are even videos on youtube to help make that decision. I have to admit that along with all the many components of the shoe itself I look for two main things in a sneaker, is it comfortable and do I like how it looks. I have managed to get away from the looks aspect a bit. This summer I bought a pair of Curves sneakers with the rounded soles, similar to the Sketchers ones. I feel like they help my muscles get a better workout, but that they look a bit orthopedic. I know I never would have worn them in high school but I guess I am a bit less vain now! That said the pair of sneakers I picked before that were pink and on sale. I guess on sale rates up there for me too.

There are so many different names for Running_shoes. Some people call them sneakers, other trainers, others tennis shoes, and the list goes on. Believe it or not sporting shoes have been around for over a hundred years, starting at least in 1907 when Spalding came out with shoes designed for basketball. Since then many inventions have gone into the shoes we use today and when you go to the store they are broken down into what sport they are made to be used for. I always wonder though if that makes that much of a difference. I both run and walk in mine, but are there people out there who buy one just for walking and one just for running? I understand the need for specialized shoes for sports that require cleats (like football,soccer, softball and baseball) and for wrestling. But what about cheer leading? I know there are shoes for it, I bought my daughter two different pairs this year alone, but is there anything different about the interior of the shoes or is it all exterior cosmetics that make these shoes?

I guess I've been thinking about shoes in the hopes that spring arrives and we will be able to go out and enjoy a walk or run in nature. But until that time comes I am going to smile at our snow and walk on my treadmill. I wonder if there are shoes designed just for treadmill walking?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cupidity by Hayley and Michael DiMarco

Cupidity: 50 Stupid Things People Do for Love and How to Avoid Them

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble
You’re a smart person. You really are. Most of the time. So why are you having such trouble making sense of your love life? Whether you’re single and wondering where your “one” could be hiding; head over heels in a new relationship and vowing that this time it’ll work; or finding that married life isn’t the thrilling adventure you’d once anticipated . . . you might be surprised to discover that the answer lies in your own ‘Cupidity’—stupid love. In this book, popular authors Hayley and Michael DiMarco identify 50 of the most common acts of Cupidity, ways to avoid them and learn from them, and some surprising things God has to say about relationships. With the help of their inside information, smart, successful love can be just around the corner.

Product Details
Pub. Date: January 2010
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Format: Paperback, 264pp

My thoughts:
I received a complimentary copy of this book book from Tyndale House Publishers for review purposes. I was expecting something different from this book, but as I continued to read it I found some parts that were very helpful and others that I am not so sure that I agree with.

The book is broken down into sections of stupid things men and women do all in the course of love, be it dating, looking for love or in marriages. The word for each of these things is cupidity. It is broken down into emotional acts, mental acts, physical acts, social acts and spiritual acts. One of their main points is that love is not a feeling because God commanded that we all love one another (as in loving your neighbor as yourself) so if it can be commanded it is not a feeling. Another is that you have to forgive or you cannot move ahead in your own life, but will remain stuck. If someone asks for your forgiveness and you refuse to get over whatever happened then you are the problem not the issue that needs to be forgiven (although if it is domestic violence that is a whole different issue that they give a chapter to).

One of the big things that stuck with me from reading this book is something that I have read before, you can't change someone else and the more you try to change someone else the less likely they are to change, but you can change yourself. So if you are unhappy with how things are going in your marriage or relationship think about changing the way you are reacting to the other person or some of the actions you yourself are taking and see how different outcomes become available. You can't make someone change, but changes you make in yourself can lead to changes in the other person. Even changing your attitude about something can have a large ripple effect on your life and those around you. If you recognize that there is a higher power that you can go to for help you will feel less alone and more empowered. Don't try to take away other people's chance to work through obstactles because those obstacles might have been put there for a reason.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensey, the heroes and heroines from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, return in this fourth installment of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. The four children are transported from an English train station to an island in the world of Narnia. Though Narnia has been at peace since the children left, it is now under the control of Wicked King Miraz. The youngsters, along with Aslan the great lion, must help young Prince Caspian restore Narnia's glorious past. This full-cast dramatization adheres closely to the book's text. Actor Paul Scofield is the "storyteller," and other British actors read the character parts. The production features sound effects and background music, and is a more complete version of the story than the BBC audio production (Bantam Doubleday, 1998). Children familiar with the series will enjoy this impressive production.

My thoughts:
“Prince Caspian” is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. While I saw the movie version a few years ago I had never read the book before. As always, it is interesting to look at what was changed when the book was made into a movie. After listening to this on cd I watched the movie again. While a lot of the movie follows the book quite well, there were definitely some changes. The whole fight scene in the castle courtyard never happened. I loved Reapacheep. The little mouse was such a fun character. I also wondered what the lifespan of Dwarfs is because the Dwarf that served the white witch was Knickabrick and there is also a Knickabrick in this book as well who keeps talking about how much better off they were when the white witch was in power.

One thing I worry about when I listen to a book is what I am missing. Especially since I listen in the car I know there are times when I am distracted by traffic or looking for my turn or even just loud noises outside and I will stop listening and then tune back in a realize that I don’t know what I missed. My preferred method for reading is to have a chance to sit down and hold a book in my hands, but I also love that audio books make it possible to read while on the go.

I was glad to see that Peter, Susan, Edmond and Lucy had the chance to come back to Narnia again. I don’t know if some or all of them will be in the rest of the books. I know about the next one because that is the one I am listening to now, but for books 6 and 7 I keep wondering if they will still be present or if we will be introduced to all new characters. Another thing I am thankful for is that I can share this series with my children. They are getting very into listening to these stories.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Schooled in Lies by Angela Henry

GED instructor Kendra Clayton's high school days were nothing to brag about. So she's not too thrilled when on top of having to take a class to renew her teaching certificate or be fired, she gets roped into serving on her high school's reunion committee.

Spending time with her former classmates is even less fun than having a root canal. Then to make matters worse, Kendra and the other committee members start receiving strange messages and having freak accidents. When one of the accidents results in a death, Kendra is convinced it's murder. Unfortunately, neither the reunion committee nor the police take her seriously.

To try and prevent another death-and to keep from worrying about all the time her sweetie, Carl, has been spending with his scheming ex-wife-Kendra digs into the lives of her fellow committee members and uncovers enough secrets, lies, and betrayal to make her head spin. When a second murder occurs, Kendra realizes she needs to watch her back in her search for the truth before a killer turns her into another buried secret.

My thoughts:
I read “Schooled in Lies” as part of a Pump up You Books Promotion Tour. I was interested in reading it because of it’s reference to school and the cover image. I think something about the apple and hands reminded me a bit of the cover for “Twilight”. It didn’t hit me until I was reading it that it reminded me of the other cover. There are so many different ways that a book can jump out at us, but I am glad that I decided to take part in this tour.

This is the fourth book in a series about Kendra Clayton. Kendra lives in a small town in Ohio and works as a teacher at a literacy center and as a hostess in a family restaurant. While I have not read the other books it seems that Kendra has a habit of finding murdered people and getting herself into sticky situations. She reminded me of an African American Stephanie Plum with her frequent mishaps.

Kendra is serving on high school reunion committee along with the current high school principal and some members of the popular clique. The reunion has been delayed for a year due to the old committee head’s death the year before. This time around new issues arise. The fund for the reunion has been emptied, the members start to get threatening letters and phone calls, lots of past secrets and hurts are revealed and uncovered, and the police get involved. There were a few sections that made me laugh out loud

This book moved at a very fast pace and I didn’t want to put it down. I felt like I was racing towards the conclusion and Henry did a good job of keeping the reader looking for clues. She threw in enough extraneous detours to keep you guessing as to the identity of the killer. My one complaint for the book does not have to do with the story but the editing of the final product. There were a lot of errors in the text, extra words in sentences and missing quotation marks. For me as a reader those mistakes are distracting and throw off the flow of my reading, especially the sentences that are missing words or have extra words because I stop reading by being thrown off by a sentence that doesn’t make sense. That said, I really enjoyed this book and would not let that one issue keep me from recommending it to other readers.

Product Details:
Pub. Date: December 2009
Publisher: Boulevard West Press
Format: Paperback, 354pp

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

Synopsis from School Library Journal
Grade 4-7-British narrator Alex Jennings does a smashing job with C. S. Lewis' delightful classic (HarperCollins Children's, 1994), the third story in the Narnia series. The tale begins with a poor slave boy named Shasta escaping from his adopted fisherman father who plans to sell him to a brutish stranger. A dignified talking war horse named Bree helps Shasta flee. Jennings plays Shasta with refreshing gentleness-listeners get a sense of the boy's sensitivity and fear as he embarks on the adventure of his life. The talented narrator plays Bree with the right amount of dignity and haughtiness. This horse amuses with his witty observations about human behavior, and sense of equine superiority. The horse and his boy hope to travel north to Narnia, and encounter numerous adventures and strange characters, all beautifully portrayed by Jennings. The most memorable supporting characters are another escaped child, a tough girl named Aravis, and her talking mare called Hwin. Jennings brings these two adventure seekers to life with his crystal clear narration. Thanks to his skills as a storyteller, the action moves rapidly from one exciting episode to the next. Evocative music plays at the beginning and end of each side of the tape. This presentation will enchant young listeners and encourage them to read the other titles in the series. It is helpful for students to have read The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe before enjoying this, but The Horse and the Boy stands alone as enthralling, self-contained entertainment.

My thoughts:
I listened to “A Horse and His Boy” as an audio book in the car. Out of the Chronicles of Narnia books that I have read so far (this is book 3 but I am currently listening to book 5, I just fell behind in actually writing about them) this was my least favorite. This was a tough book to listen to for me because the names of the characters were unusual which sometimes made me unsure what they really were. For most of the book I thought Shasta's name was Chester. Bree is a Narnian talking horse who was kidnapped as a foal and taken to another country and used as a warhorse. Shasta was a boy who was found as an infant in a boat by the beach with a man who had died. The fisherman who found him kept him as his son but had him work as hard as a slave. The two meet and decide to run away to Narnia together. Along the way they meet a young girl, Aravis, and a talking mare, Hwin, who are also running away, Aravis from an arranged marriage and Hwin back to Narnia where she was born. Through their journey they meet Edward, Susan and Lucy prior to their first departure from Narnia through the wardrobe. Aslan also makes a few appearances in the novel.

It was interesting to see Susan, Edmond and Lucy as kings and queens. During the first two books I pictured Narnia almost as an island all on it’s own, but when we hear about them trying to get to Arkanland and out of Tashbarn I remembered how Aslan told Diggory and Polly in the first book about the boundaries of Narnia and where they were and were not supposed to go while there. I am glad that I am reading, or rather listening, to these books in order. It is making it more interesting to me as a reader. I can’t wait to find out what other adventures will take place during the rest of the Chronicles. That said, this story would also work as a stand alone novel, I just appreciate having the background information from the previous two stories.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The First Christmas: What Could Have Actually Happened by Er Nuylan

Description from
Martha discovers the young Mary's pregnancy by chance on their way back to Nazareth from their three months stay with Elizabeth and her husband, the priest Zechariah in Judea and keeps the secret to herself until she can disclose the matter in the appropriate time.

Mary intends to reveal it in the proper time, too, knowing that she cannot keep it for long - at her third month of pregnancy, everyone will notice it eventually; but Martha divulges it to Mary's parents before the young girl had the chance.

Mary knows how to say the truth exactly, and says it when confronted by her father - "it is by the power of God and the Holy Spirit". She had rehearsed with Elizabeth how to say it and determined to stick to such a statement no matter what happens.

However, they know it is impossible for a woman to conceive without a man involved. It contradicts the way of God's process of procreation - that God, being purely spirit, had given man, Adam and Eve, the responsibility for procreation. Her father points out that "God does not go around cohabiting with and impregnating women." Even if they believe her, being the parents who love her most and can turn a blind eye for the sake of parental love, who will believe her from among the people in the society?

They know who exactly the only man she had been with and conclude the obvious as everyone else would.

They wail at the foreseeable tragedy - the chosen people of God who strictly adhere to the Mosaic laws to the letter, will not hesitate to cast the stones... demanding death.

Three months prior to these events:

The young Mary, barely out of her puberty, but betrothed to Joseph, lives the ordinary life of every girl in her time and place -- pious and dedicated to the tenets of her faith as everyone else among the people of Israel. She dreams of every girl's natural course in life - be married, raise children, and be the household's mother, supporting the husband to make their home a dwelling of place of God.

But the turning point comes with the visit of the angel who announces that she is favored by the Lord from among all women to give birth to a son who she should name as Jesus -- the promised Messiah.

To her question of how possible is it for a virgin like her to conceive without a man, the angel replies that her cousin Elizabeth, although old and barren, is in her sixth month of pregnancy, "by the power of God and the Holy Spirit."

Understanding the meaning of the task commissioned to her, she rushes to her cousin Elizabeth, of the house of Zechariah, to fulfill the prophecy - with the servant and distant cousin Martha in tow, her escort and ticket to an otherwise forbidden journey. It's her way of getting around against the wishes of her parents, and of Joseph, the man with whom she is engaged. Social norms require that the betrothed stay put at home until taken home by her man in a "home-taking ceremony", a part of the marriage process.

Now, having fulfilled the prophecy of conception, she comes back home, victorious of the God-given mission, but along with it comes the people's judgment that she had broken the law.

Product Details
Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press (November 8, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1432742116
ISBN-13: 978-1432742119

My thoughts:
"The First Christmas: What Could Have Happened" is the story of Mary's journey from her visit with the angel who foretold the birth of Jesus and His conception and birth. It uses currently held beliefs of what life was like at that time, the attitudes and customs the people had, and then creative ideas to put together a story. It was not the story that I was expecting and I am afraid it may not be the story for everyone. Mary's faith in God is inspiring and Joseph's tough decision on how to proceed with the unexpected pregnancy show true character, but the manner in which the conception occurs goes against my beliefs and colored the rest of the book for me. When the conception occurred I put the book down for a few days and wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish it.

It is interesting to consider what parents today would think and feel if they were in Joachim and Anna position of having their teenage daughter claim to be pregnant “by the power of God and the Holy Spirit,” after having not been with a man. The fear her parents have of her possible punishment by death by stoning is well portrayed. Faith plays a big role and the author also paints the backdrop of what the region was like politically at that time. I received this book for review from Reader's Favorites. After submitting my review to them I looked at what other readers had thought about it on and found that the other ratings were really high. Maybe I will be alone in my issues with this book, but I really didn't care for it. The one thing that threw me right from the start is the way the cover was done. While the title according to the CIP is "The First Christmas: What Could Have Actually Happened" the way it is on the front the "could have" is very light so it looks like it reads, "The First Christmas: What Actually Happened".

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What do you do with your books?

Besides reading them of course, what do you do with books once you've read them? Do you keep them on a bookshelf, donate them, trade them, lend them out, recycle them, sell them? I think most of us do a combination of those things. When I love a book and know that I will be rereading it earns a place on my shelf. Most of the time though, even though I may have thoroughly enjoyed a book, I know that I will not be reading the book again. Then I want to find either find a new home for the book or find someone to lend it to. Books that are stuck on shelves make me sad because it could be being read by someone else. Since so many used bookstores have been closing their doors I've really come to love . Whenever I finish a book that is able to be traded according to their guidelines that I am not going to lend to a friend or family member I list it. I love knowing that the book that I enjoyed is going off to another reader who is excited about reading it. I like to think about the books traveling around to other peoples homes to bring them so joy an imagination. I checked out a few other book trading sites, but so far Paperbackswap is still my favorite.

Stem Cells

Lately I have seen a lot of information in the news about stem cells. It seems like a lot of research is starting to make some new headway and gaining ground. Stem cells are cells that are able to replicate themselves through cell division and are able to make cells with special functions, like red blood cells. They are often thought of as a way to replenish or replace diseased cells. I found a lot of general information about stem cells .

When I was reading the news on CNN recently I came across a study currently underway with patients who suffer from ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Researchers injected stem cells from an 8 week old fetus directly into the spine of a 60 year old man with ALS. There are plans to replicate this procedure with at least twelve patients. The injections were into the lumbar region of the spine since the first muscles affected are usually in the lower body. CNN did a really good job reporting on the study.

MSN had a story about looking for ways to grow stem cells without needing embryonic tissue. Stem cells are present in adults as well so researchers have started to use skin cells to grow stem cells. While they have had some success so far, these cells do not tend to live as long in the lab as ones obtained from embryos. This research sounds promising.

Taking my back to high school science classes I watched some videos on you tube like this one to get a better idea understanding of stem cells.

The New York Times also ran a very informative article about the legislation currently being used to govern the use of stem cells . This legislation is very informative.

Stem cell research seems so promising to people suffering from many disorders such as ALS, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and more. At the same time there are a lot of questions and ethical issues about the ways that stem cells are obtained. When I read the article on CNN the first time I somehow had in my head that they had taken the cells from the spine of an 8 week old baby which seemed cruel, when I looked back I saw it had been obtained from a fetus instead. As a mother my first thought was sadness for the baby that will never be. Now I have no idea why that fetus did not have the chance to grow to maturity, it could have been left over from fertility treatments, grown in a tube for the purpose of research, miscarried, or aborted. How do we weigh this issue? I can’t see there ever being a point when everyone will be happy with the way it is treated. The lives that can be made better and possibility improved in large ways for patients who are suffering and dying have to be balanced with the lives that did not get to be for one reason or another. A whole new can of worms is opened with this.

I would like to see more research done with cord blood, blood that can be obtained from the umbilical cord after birth. It can be obtained from the cord attached to the placenta and in no way takes anything away from the baby. While removing the cells from the embryo destroys the embryo taking cells from the cord after birth does not hurt anyone, neither the baby or the mother. While I was pregnant I received a lot of information about banking cord blood, but little about donating it. I asked numerous times and tried to find a way to donate it and eventually just gave up because everyone tries to steer you towards paying to have it banked. Why not harness the possibility of using cord blood as well as stem cells to look for cures and ways to improve the quality of life of people who are suffering?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

Product Details
Pub. Date: February 16, 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Format: Paperback, 368pp
Sales Rank: 829,913
ISBN-13: 9781439168332
ISBN: 1439168334

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
From the day Cobb and Mary meet kayaking on Maine's Allagash River and fall deeply in love, the two approach life with the same sense of adventure they use to conquer the river's treacherous rapids. But rivers do not let go so easily...and neither does their love. So when Mary's life takes the cruelest turn, she vows to face those rough waters on her own terms and asks Cobb to promise, when the time comes, to help her return to their beloved river for one final journey.

Set against the rugged wilderness of Maine, the exotic islands of Indonesia, the sweeping panoramas of Yellowstone National Park, and the tranquil villages of rural New England, Eternal on the Water is at once heartbreaking and uplifting — a timeless, beautifully rendered story of true love's power.

My thoughts:
I read this book as part of Barnes and Nobles First Look Book Club. This is the fourth first look that I have participated in. Once again it was an excellent book that lent itself very well to discussion and I enjoyed reading other peoples reactions and ideas about the book.

This is a book where you know the ending right from the first page, but to find out how that ending came about you have to read the rest of the book. At first I wasn't sure if I liked starting out with Mary's death. Don't worry, this is not a spoiler, the first sentence of the book is, "They found Mary's body in Round Pond." Knowing that Mary is going to die made me search different scenes and situations with the why behind her death. It also kept me wondering how much of her life she would get to have before that death occurred.

Monninger did a wonderful job with the settings for his novel. He really brought to life the woods in New Hampshire, tropical islands in Indonesia, Yellowstone Park and Mary and Cobb's own backyard. The animals were prominently featured and close to characters on their own. There are beautiful stories and myths about crows, ravens, wolves, bears, turtles and more.

More than being a story about Mary's death, it was a story about someone fully living the time allotted to them on this earth. Towards the end of the novel Mary says,

"Life is so funny. So strange, really. It happens all around you and you can only see this little frame, this moment, and then it goes on. And you never know who is going to star in your life movie. It's always a surprise."

Mary's father died from the effects of Huntington's Disease which is hereditary. Both Mary and her brother Freddy had the option of having a test done to ascertain if they have the gene for the disease. There is no treatment for it and if you have the gene you will develop the disease. Freddy chose to have the test while Mary has decided she wants to live her life fully whether or not she will one day become ill. Not knowing if she has Huntington's makes her wary when things like memory lapses or falls occur because they could indicated the start of the disease or they could just be a benign accident, we all fall and forget from time to time.

Mary and Cobb have a wonderful and caring relationship with each other and with nature. This was a very enjoyable read!

Winners Selected!

My first two giveaways ended yesterday. The winners were selected and emailed this morning for addresses for the books to be sent to. Each winner has 48 hours to respond to the email after which a new winner would be chosen. I've heard back from both winners for The Last Song and those addresses have been submitted to the publisher. Once I have all the address for Corked I will submit those as well. Thank you so much to all of you who entered the contests and became new followers on my blog. Congratulations to all of the winners. Have fun reading!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Even More Outrageous Celebrity Meltdowns

Even More Celebrity Meltdowns: Pop-up Parodies of your Favorite Stars is like reading a glossy star magazine with an extra little touch. Each page features a pop-up of some sort. The book came out in 2007 so the snafus aren’t the most recent star mishaps, but mostly ones we all can remember like Mel Gibson’s drunk driving arrest and Lindsay, Britney and Paris exiting vehicles sans underpants. The Waldenbooks at out local mall went out of business in January and the last few days they had all of their bargain books on sale with a special of 5 books for $4. My kids each picked out a book and we needed one more and they asked for this book because it was a pop-up book. Not quite right for kids but I was intrigued and bought it. I don’t think it was intended for kid use, not just because of the subject matter, but because all of the pop-ups are now pretty much ripped or not working after a couple of uses. That said, I’m not even sure anyone would be able to find this book anywhere anymore since it isn’t current. (I revise that thought, when I went to to find a cover image I saw it is still for sale both new and used so if you are so motivated it is definitely still available.) It brought a smile to my face and was unusual so I decided it deserved it’s own post. Along with the mishaps mentioned above it also has Britney Spears driving with a baby in her lap, Matthew McConaughey drumming in the nude, Nicole Richie driving the wrong way on a one way street, Naomi Campbell and her phone throwing tantrum plus others. While I wouldn’t suggest anyone go out to buy this book, if you see it somewhere pick it up and take a look for some fun.