Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mystical Warrior by Janet Chapman


An eleventh-century lass with a stubborn streak unleashes the red-hot hero inside her modern lover in bestselling author Janet Chapman’s irresistible new Midnight Bay adventure.

Trace Huntsman’s peaceful life has headed to hell in a hand-basket ever since stunningly beautiful Fiona Gregor moved into the vacant apartment above his house. Kidnapped centuries earlier and transformed into a red-tail hawk, Fiona is human once more and must learn how to be a modern woman. But damned if Trace is going to be the one to teach her. Not when her mere presence ignites a fiery passion deep within his cautious heart.

Fiona longs to overcome the painful memories of her tragic past—to let down her guard and become a mother again. But so far her handsome landlord is not exactly thrilled with the stray animals—and suitors—that keep following her home. When the wizard Maximilian Oceanus shows up, Trace reaches the end of his rope. Weird things happen when Mac is around—raging storms, snarling demons—but this time, Midnight Bay is at the center of a fierce battle, and Fiona is the primary target. Only Trace can save her, but first, the lovers must set aside their fears . . . and open up their hearts.

My thoughts:
This is another book that has been sitting in my shelf since this summer.  It was supposed to go to the beach with me and it didn't make it into the bag.  Why it then took three more months to pick it up I really couldn't say.  I loved Chapman's Highlander series, this series I like okay but not as much as the other one.  I can't quite say why but the first two books in the series really grabbed me and made me love the characters.

This was a fun and action filled read.  I like that the couple is given a lot of time to get to know each other and to get over their differences, that they aren't just madly in love from the get go, but take time like any flesh and blood couple would in finding their way to each other and into each others hearts.  I must admit that I only have a foggy recall of Fiona's time as a red tailed hawk.  I remembered she was one, but I couldn't remember why exactly.  Seeing Fiona come to grips with her past and also embrace the present was nice, she grew and changed and found courage when she thought she didn't have any.  Trace went through some of the same changes, he had things in his past that he needed to find the courage to work past.  Together they fought through supernatural obstactles as well as mental ones to become stronger people.
Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439159903
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publication date: 6/28/2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Edition description: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 368
Series Title: Midnight Bay Series

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Christmas List by Richard Paul Harris


Dear Reader,
When I was in seventh grade, my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson, gave our class the intriguing (if somewhat macabre) assignment of writing our own obituaries. Oddly, I don't remember much of what I wrote about my life, but I do remember how I died: in first place on the final lap of the Daytona 500. At the time, I hadn't considered writing as an occupation, a field with a remarkably low on-the-job casualty rate.

What intrigues me most about Mrs. Johnson's assignment is the opportunity she gave us to confront our own legacy. How do we want to be remembered? That question has motivated our species since the beginning of time: from building pyramids to putting our names on skyscrapers.

As I began to write this book, I had two objectives: First, I wanted to explore what could happen if someone read their obituary before they died and saw, firsthand, what the world really thought of them. Their legacy.

Second, I wanted to write a Christmas story of true redemption. One of my family's holiday traditions is to see a local production of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. I don't know how many times I've seen it (perhaps a dozen), but it still thrills me to see the change that comes over Ebenezer Scrooge as he transforms from a dull, tight-fisted miser into a penitent, "giddy-as-a schoolboy" man with love in his heart. I always leave the show with a smile on my face and a resolve to be a better person. That's what I wanted to share with you, my dear readers, this Christmas — a holiday tale to warm your season, your homes, and your hearts.

Merry Christmas
My thoughts:
This book was a Christmas present two years ago.  At the time I really wanted to read it and I was reading a lot of Christmas books, and then the holiday passed and I guess it ended up on the shelf for longer than I was planning.  I think though that sometimes books come to you when you need them or are ready for them, so it wasn't really forgotten there on the shelf, it was just biding it's time until it was the right read for me for right now.  Maybe that sounds silly, but I know I buy books thinking I can't wait to read them, only to let them sit for months (or years) and then when I pick them up they are just what I was looking for then.

This is the first book I've read by Richard Paul Evans.  I've thought about picking up other titles he has written, but for whatever reason I haven't.  I know I have seen some of the his made for TV movies made from his books like The Christmas Box.

The  main thing I brought away from this book is that it is never too late to do the right thing and that there are more important things in life than money.  I know we all know that, but to have it brought home in a meaningful way is so much better than just spouting platitudes.  James Keir reminded me quite a bit of Scrooge and how his death affected other people.  To get to see what people really thought about you because they believe you have died was a blessing for him because it opened his eyes to his past mistakes and took him on the path of righting the wrongs he had done.  A modern retelling in a new and light. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439150009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 10/6/2009
Pages: 368

More by this Author

Lost December
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
Miles to Go: The Second Journal of the Walk Series
The Christmas Box
The Christmas Box Collection: The Christmas Box, Timepiece, The Letter

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's Monday, What are you reading?

This past week I actually got in more reading time, I think it was a combination of the holiday and some extra time at home and only working one day.  I finished a number of books and actually got some reviews up.
 The books I finished this week were:
Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich
The Christmas List by Richard Paul Harris
Mystical Warrior by Janet Chapman

Reviewed from the prior week:
Twilight" The Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Stephenie Meyer

The books I am still working on are:
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick
Throwaway by Heather Huffman
The Hollows Insider: New fiction, facts, maps, murders, and more in the world of Rachel Morgan by Kim Harrison

New to me this week:

Borrowed from a friend :
 The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Unbound by Vicki Person et al
The Mammoth Book of Special Ops Romance by Trisha Telep et al
Planting Dandelions: Field Notes From a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman

Reviews for the finished books are set to go up this week and I hope to have time to finish a few more. 

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich


Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and no one knows this better than New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

Dead bodies are showing up in shallow graves on the empty construction lot of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds. No one is sure who the killer is, or why the victims have been offed, but what is clear is that Stephanie’s name is on the killer’s list. Short on time to find the murderer, Stephanie is also under pressure from family and friends to choose between her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Trenton cop Joe Morelli, and the bad boy in her life, security expert Ranger. Stephanie’s mom wants her to dump them both for a former high school football star who’s just returned to town. Stephanie’s sidekick, Lula, suggests a red-hot boudoir “bake-off.” And Joe’s old-world grandmother gives Stephanie “the eye,” which may mean that it’s time to get out of town.

With a cold-blooded killer after her, a handful of hot men, and a capture list that includes a dancing bear and a senior citizen vampire, Stephanie’s life looks like it’s about to go up in smoke.

My thoughts:
I still like to read this series, but they are starting to seem very similar.  I have a few friends who have decided they are done with picking up the Stephanie Plum books as they all seem the same.  She will have trouble deciding which man in her life she wants to be with, her car will catch fire or be destroyed, she will have trouble catching her bounty hunter skips, and her mother will lament that everyone else's daughter is married already and giving her grandchildren.  That said, it is a fun escape and a quick read so I don't see myself giving up anytime soon.  I know who I would pick out of Ranger and Morelli and I wonder if she will ever make choice or if that would end the series.  Would it take the fun and tension out of it if she made a choice?

Because I waited so long to get around to this one, I know that number eighteen is already out and I already have a tentative plan in place to borrow it from a friend to read, so it is nice that I don't need to wait to see who Stephanie goes on vacation with and where they go.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345527707
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/15/2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 336
Series Title: Stephanie Plum Series

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Snapshot- Corn Maze- Saturday, November 26, 2011

I know everyone is now onto thinking about Christmas, and I must admit my children are very excited about it, but here are some photos from last month when we went to a local corn maze and pumpkin patch.  This is the maze we go to most years.  Every year they have a different design cut into the field and you use clues posted on signs to navigate through it.  This taken at the end of the maze.

As well as the large maze and pumpkin patch there is also a small children's maze that they can go through on their own.

This year it took us about 45 minutes to make it through.  We went as a family and helped with the clues.  Last year we went with a group of friends.  I think there were four moms and eleven kids and we were in the maze for more than an hour.  It was fun, but it got hard carrying the little ones!

This year we had a really nice day for the maze, it was sunny and warm but not too hot.  The week before we had a ton of rain so the kids wore their rain boots, but luckily it wasn't too muddy!

This is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books.  Check out her blog to see who is participating this week.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 2 by Stephenie Meyer Art by Young Kim


Having uncovered the dark secret of her enigmatic classmate, Edward Cullen, Bella Swan embraces her feelings for him, trusting Edward to keep her safe despite the risks. When a rival clan of vampires makes its way into Forks, though, the danger to Bella has never been more real. Will she make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the people dearest to her?

The second volume of Twilight: The Graphic Novel completes the visual adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's worldwide bestselling debut novel and is a must-have for any collector's library.

My thoughts:
This was one of my splurge books last week, I thought it would be fun to read it before going to see the latest movie.  At one point I thought I would reread all the books, and at some point I might, but it was a good way to get in the mood for the movie.  I forgot how much better the books can be than the movies for these.  I wasn't sure how I felt about all the graphic novels that were coming out to go with books, but I am enjoying reading the same stories in a different medium.  I think it adds something new to the story.

This is the second half of the first book, Twilight.  The first half was in volume 1.  It is a nice quick read and the illustrations add to the text making it a fun way to review in a short period of time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316133197
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Publication date: 10/11/2011
Edition description: Graphic novel
Pages: 240
Age range: 12 - 17 Years
Series Title: Twilight Graphic 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Alphabet Keeper by Mary Murphy

The Alphabet Keeper keeps all the letters caged in the dark. But one day they escape while she's cleaning their cage–and then there is no stopping them! The clever letters are on the loose, rearranging themselves at every turn. With a few quick moves, the Alphabet Keeper's hat becomes a cat. A bus turns into a bush. A rock changes into a rocket. And the flyaway alphabet is on its way to a final farewell!

Author Biography:
Mary Murphy is the author and illustrator of several picture books. This is her first picture book for Knopf.

My thoughts:
This was a fun book we borrowed from the library this week.  It a good book for the early grades.  I thought it was just going to be an alphabet book when I borrowed it, but it is something more.  The alphabet keeper accidentally lets her letters out of their dark cage and then tries to catch them again.  Each time she is close to catching them they change a letter in the word of what she is using or what they are in and then she is foiled.  A boat deck becomes a duck, a bus becomes a bush, loud letters become a cloud and a rock becomes a rocket.  It is fun for readers who are in the early grades because they can figure out how to the letter swapping, adding or subtracting makes one thing another.
Pub. Date: March 2003
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Format: Hardcover , 32pp
Age Range: 5 to 8
Series: The Flyaway Alphabet Ser.
ISBN-13: 9780375823473
ISBN: 0375823476

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Monday, What are you reading?

Last week I finished reading three books, but have only reviewed two so far.  I read House of Hope and uncharted terriTORI that were reviewed.  I also finished Twilight:The Graphic Novel Volume 2.  I also ran in my first 3.5 mile race.  The races I've done up until this weekend were all 5K's.  It was my first road race that was open to traffic and not on a path.  It was a really nice experience.

Last week I splurged on some new books.  I don't need new books at all, I have tons to read, but the urge struck so I placed an order and magically my new books appeared!  I know it isn't really magical, but if feels that way sometimes.  These are the books I bought last week:
1.  uncharted terriTORI by Tori Spelling
2.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid 6: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
3. The Hollows Insider: New fiction, facts, maps, murders, and more in the world of Rachel Morgan by Kim Harrison 
4.  Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2 (The Twilight Saga) by Stephenie Meyer

From library I borrowed Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen.

I also went to see Breaking Dawn Part 1 yesterday.  I'm glad the book wasn't too fresh in my mind when I was watching the movie, because I didn't notice many instances where changes were made.  The part that I didn't love was where the wolves were fighting with each other and you could hear them talking in their human voices as if you were part of the thought connection they all have while in wolf form.  I'm not sure how they could have done it differently but it reminded me too much of the talking animal movies my kids watch.

There's my week, how was yours?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

uncharted terriTORI by Tori Spelling with Hilary Liftin

Synopsis from
Welcome to Los Angeles, birthplace and residence of Tori Spelling. — It’s not every Hollywood starlet whose name greets you on a Virgin Airways flight into la-la land. But Tori Spelling has come to accept that her life is a spectacle. Her name is her brand, and business is booming. Too bad when your job is to be yourself, you can't exactly take a break.

Tori finally has everything she thought she wanted—a loving family and a successful career—but trying to live a normal life in Hollywood is a little weird. With the irresistible wit, attitude, and humor that fans have come to love, the New York Times bestselling author of sTORI telling and Mommywood is back with more hilarious, heartwarming, and candid stories of juggling work, marriage, motherhood, and reality television cameras.

Tori comes clean about doing her time on jury duty, stalking herself on Twitter, discovering her former 90210 castmates’ "I Hate Tori" club, contracting swine flu, and contacting Farrah Fawcett from the dead. Like many mothers, she struggles to find balance (Stars, they’re just like us!)—only most women don’t have to battle it out with paparazzi at the grocery store. She talks openly about the darker side of life in the spotlight: media scrutiny over her weight and her marriage to Dean McDermott, her controversial relationship with Dean’s ex-wife, and her unfolding reconciliation with her mother.

Having it all isn’t always easy—especially when you’re a perfectionist—but with the help of her unconventional family and friends, an underwear-clad spiritual cleansing or two, and faith in herself, she’s learning to find her happy ending. Because when you’re Tori Spelling, every day brings uncharted terriTORI

My thoughts:
I have been wanting to read this one for awhile now and last week I bought it used on Amazon.  I read both of her other two books and loved them from the start, this one I was a bit slower to warm up to.  It did kick in and I was hooked, but not right from the start.  I can't identify what it was about the start that didn't catch me, it could have just been built up anticipation since I thought the others were so funny.

Tori admits to being a workaholic who has trouble ceding control to others.  I think it is easy to get caught in the trap that we should be able to do everything and hard to accept that the way someone else might do something might not be the way we would have.  But in doing everything by yourself you create a lot of extra stress.  I can totally identify with this, but without all of Tori's perfectionist issues as well.  I know I am not getting it all done and not getting it all done perfectly, but it is still easier to do things myself than try to explain how I want them done.

Tori has been having headaches for ten years now and has gone through a lot of doctors and other types of practitioners in her quest to be cured.  She has another visit with the the voodoo practitioner she met with in one of her other books and this time is even more bizarre than the chicken being killed in front of her.  She over thinks a lot of things in the same way so many of us do, but unlike the rest of us, she admits it and admits she is trying to work on it.

I'd like to say she is just like anyone else, and in some ways she is, she worries about her family and her health and what people are thinking about her, but she lives in a world most of us can't imagine.  Last week I forgot to put make-up on before going to work one morning.  I did two loads of laundry and got the kids ready and walked out the door without it.  In the grand scheme of things it really didn't matter, it bothered me and made me self-conscious and I did consider coming home to remedy the situation but then I would have been late, but it wasn't like there was anyone hanging out to take a picture of me or I had to fear a headline about how I must be sick because I was out looking haggard.  I can't imagine the extra stress of worrying that complete strangers are judging you.

ISBN-13: 9781439187715

ISBN-10: 1439187711
Publication Date: 6/15/2010
Pages: 256

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Snapshot- Santa Visit, November 19, 2011

Last weekend Santa arrived at a number of local malls.  The one closest to us was offering free Reindeer Webkinz to the first 200 children to visit with him as well as three dollars off picture prices.  It seemed like a good opportunity to continue a tradition and, as my children love Webkinz, a nice chance to get another code to play for another year.

As usual, getting all four children to smile and look at the right place at the same time was a challenge, but the photos we paid for turned out pretty nice and they were nice enough to let me take a few myself as well.  I don't think they let you if you aren't already buying a package.

This is the same mall we usually go to.  I like the continuity of the Santa in the pictures from year to year.

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.  This is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books.  You can view the list of participating blogs on her site.

Monday, November 14, 2011

House of Hope by Elisabeth Gifford

About The House of Hope:
One couple’s powerful ministry to some of China’s most vulnerable children

Robin and Joyce Hill lived in a gated community in Beijing. Their family’s life was marked by luxury and the security of Robin's job as an engineer. Then one day, as members of their church, they had a chance to tour a state-run orphanage. Haunted by the needs of the children they saw there, for the next four years they tried to help the institute in meaningful ways.

In 1998 the Hills planned to leave China, but instead felt a sudden call from God on their lives. They left their gated community--reserved for only non-Chinese residents--moved their family into a small apartment miles outside of Beijing and immediately began to take in foster children.

They took in any child, but especially those that needed extra care—terminally ill children that couldn't receive care elsewhere, and those that needed complicated and expensive surgeries that the Hills soon began to coordinate and sometimes pay for out of their own savings.

What began as Hope Foster Home is now New Hope Foundation. As they continue their work, the Hills enjoy support from major corporations and high-profile philanthropists as well as the trust of the Chinese authorities. The Hills' story is an inspiring example of God's care and provision for those whom society does not value. Learn more about Hope Foster Homes here:

"I strongly support Robin and Joyce Hill's New Hope Foundation which is saving so many orphan lives in China. Read this amazing story of God's grace and accept the challenge to make a difference!"
--Steven Curtis Chapman

"I had the privilege of going to China and witnessing the work that God is doing through Robin and Joyce Hill. They are wonderful servants of God who lovingly care for the 'least of these.' I hope that many will read this book and consider their example."
--Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love

My thoughts:
I read this book as a participant in a Litfuse Blog Tour for the book.  One of the things that really motivated me to take part in this tour is that  100% of the proceed of this book for to fund the work at Hope Foster Home.  Their site is located  here.

One of the main things that kept coming back to me in reading this book was the faith that Robin and Joyce Hill placed in God to lead them down the right path and to make the right decisions.  Even when it seemed like they were going to run out of money or room to take in more at risk and in need babies they believed that what they needed would be provided, and it was.  It is a faith that so many of us lack or struggle with.  It is hard to trust that God will provide when so many signs are pointing in the opposite way, but people come into your life for a reason and you may be called to do things that are uncomfortable, but if you break free from the mold of safe and easy, the rewards can be even greater.

It was so insightful to see how Joyce and Robin came into the life that they now lead and the good that they are doing for so many children.  It is hard to see a child in need of medical help and to step up with a willingness to use their own money if necessary to get these babies the help they need.  It is equally hard to realize that not all of the babies in need of operations are going to be able to be saved, some may have conditions that cannot be cured and that will end in their early departure from this world.  But to have love and attention for the time they are able to be here is priceless.

I gained a new appreciation of adoption from reading this and the hoops and conditions that people must comply with in order to bring a forever child into their homes and their lives.

Link to buy the book: here. (100% of the proceeds go to fund work at Hope Foster Home)

About the Giveaway! The publisher is sponsoring a $50 "GET / GIVE" GIVEAWAY: One winner will receive a $50 gift certificate for themselves AND $50 will be given in the winner's name to Hope Foster Home.
To enter all you have to do is send a tweet (using #HFH) about The House of Hope or share about it on Facebook!

If you tweet we'll capture your entry when you use #HFH. If you share it on Facebook or your blog, just email us and let us know ( Easy.

About Elisabeth Gifford:
Elisabeth Gifford is a journalist who has written for the London Times and the Independent Newspapers. She lives in Kingston, England, and teaches children with dyslexia.

Blog Tour Schedule

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's Monday, What are you reading?

This week I feel like I had book ADD.  I would pick one book up and read a few pages or chapters and then put it down only to pick up a different book next time.  It was not very conducive to actually finishing anything!

What I managed to finish this week were Dating a Cougar by Donna McDonald and The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

I am still reading quite a few.  In the car I am listening to Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo the first in a fantasy series.  I am reading The House of Hope by Elizabeth Gifford for a Litfuse blog tour.  There are a bunch of other started books around, but I'm not going to mention them until I commit to one since who knows if I will finsihe them or not!  I have read a few books that haven't been reviewed yet so I hope to get those posts done and up this week just to be caught up.

I just ordered some more books yesterday that I am excited about.  Maybe I'll start doing the In My Mailbox meme again to share my new reads, I've been slacking off on that one.  Also this week I bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

That was my week, how was yours?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

Book description from
The non-stop sequel to The Dark Divine delivers an even hotter romance and more thrilling action than Bree Despain's first novel. Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She gave her soul to the wolf to save him and lost her beloved mother. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven. Desperate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot - a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel begins to crumble. Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace becomes prideful in her new abilities - not realizing that an old enemy has returned and deadly trap is about to be sprung. Readers, ravenous for more Grace and Daniel, will be itching to sink their teeth into The Lost Saint.

My thoughts:
I bought this book last year when our local Border's was going out of business.  I thought I would immediately remember The Dark Divine, but didn't feel like I did so I put the book to the side with the intention that I was going to find and reread the first one.  That never happened and the other day I was inspired to pick it up again.  It read so fast and was so full of action!  Part of the first one came back to me, but even without knowing everything this was an enjoyable stand alone novel. 

Grace is getting frustrated by the long absences of her father as he searches for her missing brother Jude who has succumbed to the wolf infection, her mother who has become a zombie in her quest to find her son, and her boyfriend who seems to no longer want to help her come to grips with the powers she now has.  Her best friend hasn't been speaking to her for ten months and everyone at school is whispering behind her back and with her new super hearing she can hear what they have to say about her.  Things change when she and her friend April are rescued at a local gaming bar by Talbot, a new guy in town, and the religion teacher at school quits making way for a new teacher who is different than any teacher they have had before!

At times I had trouble following the different species of supernatural origin, but I could see Grace growing stronger and embracing her powers in her quest to find Jude and return him to ehr family.  This was a well written book that seems to lend itself well to another book in the series.  It s hows how we can be blinded by our course of action and miss things along the way and how it can be hard to know who to trust.

Product Details

Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (December 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606840584
ISBN-13: 978-1606840580

Saturday Snapshot- Boo at the Zoo- November 12, 2011

Last weekend we went to an event at our local zoo called Boo at the Zoo.  It was rescheduled from the previous weekend due to the snowstorm that hit our area and shut down many roads and left many, many people without power.  In a way the rescheduling worked out for us as we were not going to be able to make it on originally planned weekend.

We used to have a family membership at the zoo, but we had let it lapse.  With our visit we renewed our membership as the children love going and it is a nice local outing.  One of the more recent acquisitions were the penguins.  They  have been there for a couple years now, but I remember when they were fundraising for them two or three years ago.

In past years there was more at Boo at the Zoo, I think with the change in dates they may have lost some of the originally planned demonstrations and such.  I don't think the kids noticed the difference though so in the grand scheme of things it is no big deal.

There were a lot of photo ops throughout the zoo and we stopped at each of them.

One of their favourite things to do is to dig in the sand for bones.  This time they didn't find anything.  I'm not sure if it was all buried deep or if people had walked aways with the bones.  Hopefully if they have been taken they will be replenished soon.  They spent quite a while there and were a bit frustrated that with four people digging they didn't find anything..  At the same time it is a good lesson in what archaeologists actually go through and how rare a find can really be.

This meme is hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dating a Cougar by by Donna McDonald (Book One of the Never too Late Series)

After several decades of looking for true love and never finding it, aging model and lingerie designer, Alexa Ranger, has finally given up the search. A couple years ago, she got tired of the game completely and just stopped dating. Now friends and family keep her mostly content, so it’s shocking at 50 yrs old to find herself suddenly wanting a sex life again. It’s even more shocking to be attracted to a much younger man this time. She definitely thinks Casey Carter is sexy, but not handling her own age well, Alexa just can’t get passed their twelve year age difference to even consider a fling. Not that it matters anyway, anything resembling a normal dating relationship is totally out of the question because Casey is related to and living with her daughter’s boyfriend. The very last thing Alexa needs is yet another talk-show worthy drama in her already complicated life, no matter how amazing Casey’s kisses make her feel.

For a couple of years, 38 yr old, medically retired Marine, Casey Carter, believed his military injury had made him impotent. Having lost his wife to cancer, he hadn’t exactly been worried about the problem. Most days walking with cane was enough challenge for him. But now that he was ready to move on with his life, he had become more worried when none of the females his cousin brought around held any interest for him. So the last woman in the world he expected to start his engine revving again was the mother of his cousin's girlfriend. Even at fifty, Alexa is drop-dead gorgeous, and his libido certainly keeps reminding him she is the first woman he has wanted in a long, long time. Ironically, the more Casey gets to know and like Alexa, he finds out desiring the older woman is the easiest part. Jaded and cynical about love, Alexa is a difficult woman to convince of anything, but her kisses are all the proof he needs that they belong together. The former Marine decides his next mission is figuring out how to fit himself into her life.
My thoughts:
So I had a picture in my mind of what a cougar was, not just the actual animal cougar, but the women who are now referred to as cougars.  I saw an older woman, not sure how old but older than your usual bar crowd I guess, who was looking for a younger man.  And by looking, I mean actively seeking someone to date who is significantly younger, I guess I saw someone who was a predator like the animal, wearing tight clothes to lure in some young meat.  That sounds terrible, but that is what always came to mind with the word cougar.  Also, wearing animal print was up there on my list.  This book turned that notion around.  Yes there was an age difference, but Alexa was not out there looking to meet a younger man, she wasn't even looking to meet anyone, it simply happened and then the age difference  came front and center and had to be dealt with.  I read this book as a free downloads and I wasn't sure if it would be any good since I had never heard of it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked the characters and came to care about them.  I am even considering looking into reading more in the series.
I read this book as a free e-book on my Ipod.  When I just checked now it is still listed as a free book.  Since my Ipod is still pretty new I've been trying out different features and wanted to see what it would be like to read a book on it.  I love that it tells me what page I am on of how many and also that it says how many more pages are still to go in my current chapter.  I love that feature because if it is less than ten or twenty I will finish the chapter before stopping, but if it is more like forty I will just bookmark it.  The tiny screen isn't the best place to read, but being back lite really helped while we didn't have power, except I used up the battery and then  had to wait to charge it!
•Pub. Date: March 2011
•Publisher: Donna McDonald, via Smashwords
•Format: NOOK Book (eBook)
•BN ID: 2940011239090

Meet The Author
Donna McDonald has been a writer all her life and managed to complete her first novel in August of 2010. Her idea of success is to be on an airplane and see a fellow passenger reading one of her stories. If the person is laughing or smiling, she will consider it a bonus. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky with her fiancée, Bruce. Her work history covers everything from housekeeper to business owner to college English instructor. It also includes an eighteen year stint as a technical writer, publications planner, and information architect in the corporate world. Her current career goal is to be a prolific, multi-published author for the rest of her life and write stories readers will love to read. She thinks a little travel and adventure would be nice, too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Clementine (Clementine Series #1) by Sara Pennypacker , Marla Frazee (Illustrator) .

Clementine is having not so good of a week.

•On Monday she’s sent to the principal’s office for cutting off Margaret’s hair.
•Tuesday, Margaret’s mother is mad at her.
•Wednesday, she’s sent to the principal…again.
•Thursday, Margaret stops speaking to her.
•Friday starts with yucky eggs and gets worse.
•And by Saturday, even her mother is mad at her.
Okay, fine. Clementine is having a DISASTROUS week.

My thoughts:
I was looking for an audio book at the library and the children's librarian recommended this one.  My children really enjoyed it.  It really reminded me of Junie B. Jones, so if you have a fan of her they will probably love Clementine as well.  I thought that would be the first character my children would be reminded of, but my daughter thought of Ramona first.  Then I turned the case over and Booklist compared Clementine to both Junie B. and Ramona!

Things just keep going wrong for Clementine, but part of it felt forced to me.  Like a third grader would really think things were going to be okay when she was drawing with permanent marker on her friend and her hair?  I hope my children have more sense than that, but they did enjoy listening to her antics and how things just kept getting worse and worse.  I do have to say her circular logic reminded me of my children at times though. 

This is the first book in the series and it looks like there are four or five more.

•Pub. Date: February 2008
•Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
•Format: Paperback , 160pp
•Age Range: 7 to 10
•Series: Clementine Series #1
•ISBN-13: 9780786838837
•ISBN: 0786838833

It's Monday, What are you reading?

Last week was a tough week with not having electricity and therefore Internet and all that for four days.  I did get more time to read than usual as there were less distractions, but reading with candles, flashlights and reading lights isn't idea either.

Last week I finished two audio books, The Tale of Desperaux and Clementine.  I don't think I finished any other books.  I am still reading Dating a Cougar on my Ipod, The Lost Saint by Bree Despain and Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick along with The House of Hope for a Litfuse blog tour.  Last week I spent a lot of time trying catch up on laundry and such from the days without power and worked out a little extra to make up for the days when I couldn't.  (I didn't want to get sweaty and not be able to take a shower and we were mostly in survival mode.  It kind of made me wish we belonged to a gym again because a number of people I know went to the gym not only to work out but also to be able to take a shower!)  I still have some books I've read  to review that I haven't gotten to yet.  Hopefully I'll catch up on that back log this week.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Saturday Snapshot- Trick-or-Treat, November 5, 2011

Our actual trick-or-treat night ended up being disappointing, our neighborhood had not electricity and no street lights so we chose to stay inside, but luckily we had already gone to some of other events.  The Friday before Halloween we went to a party at a friends house and trick-or-treated in their neighborhood and the Wednesday before we went to a free event at the local amusement park.  They had local businesses, firefighters, ambulance workers and costume characters.  It ended up being a lot of fun so it softened the blow of the snowstorm that took out our power for 4 days.  We we lucky because there are still some homes where people are waiting for service to be restored.

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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Overview from Barnes and Noble:
"Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul-stirring as it is delicious." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other's lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

From the master storyteller who brought us BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE comes another classic, a fairy tale full of quirky, unforgettable characters, with twenty-four stunning black-and-white illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering. This paperback edition pays tribute to the book's classic design, featuring a rough front and elegant gold stamping.

The adventures of Desperaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin.
My thoughts:
Yesterday we finished listening to this audio book from the library on the car.  Earlier this year we listened to a number of other Kate DiCamillo books.  The movie for this one is one we've seen more than once, we actually went to see it in the theater one summer during a free family movie time.  The book is close to the movie, but not the same, and some things happen in a different order than they do in the movie.  Luckily we haven't watched it lately so all the differences weren't as glaring as they can be.
This made a good book to listen to, instead of addressing you the listener as "reader" it is changed to "listener" and it feels like the narrator is speaking directly to you.  Despereaux is different than all the other mice and scares the rest of them, so he is sent to the dungeon where no mouse has ever returned from.  He learns along the way that forgiveness means as much to the forgiver as it does to the one being forgiven.  I'm not sure how much children absorb this, but as an adult it really resonates.  It can be hard to let go of grudges or wrong doings, but by not letting them go and forgiving it is hard to move forward.  Sometimes forgiving has more to do with ourselves than it does the other person, as they may not care if they are forgiven or not.
The world of the castle and the beings living there really come alive in this story.
•Pub. Date: April 2006
•Publisher: Candlewick Press
•Format: Paperback , 272pp
•Age Range: 9 to 12
•Series: Tale of Despereaux Series
•ISBN-13: 9780763625290
•ISBN: 0763625299

Thursday, November 3, 2011

To Be a Runner: How Racing Up Mountains, Running with the Bulls, or Just Taking On a 5-K Makes You a Better Person (and the World a Better Place) by Martin Dugard

With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, instruction, and humor, best-selling author—and lifelong runner—Martin Dugard takes a journey through the world of running to illustrate how the sport helps us fulfill that universal desire to be the best possible version of ourselves each and every time we lace up our shoes.

To Be a Runner represents a new way to write about running by bridging the chasm between the two categories of running books: how-to and personal narrative. Spinning colorful yarns of his running and racing adventures on six continents—from competing in the infamous Raid Gauloises to coaching his son's high school cross-country team—Dugard considers what it means to truly integrate the activity into one's life. For example, how the simple act of buying a new pair of running shoes can be a source of meaning and hope. As entertaining as it is provocative, To Be a Runner is about far more than running: It is about life, and how we should live it.

My thoughts:
Over the weekend I completed my third 5K.  Running is still relatively new to me so I've been signing up for a 5K a month to keep myself working towards a goal.  There are two libraries I regularly visit and somehow at the one location I seem to always find running books.  This is the book I read on Sunday night when we were without power.  It was nice to have few distractions, but it would have been nicer to have more light.  I think I  need a better book light!

The book is a collection of essays about running that run in a pretty much chronological order for Martin Dugard from how he first tried running when his parents ran laps in a gym, to being a runner in high school and college, to stopping and getting heavy, returning and then stopping again and getting heavy.  Now he is a writer and a high school coach and the excitement he feels for his runners is so motivating.  One thing I've found in my limited experience with the running community is that so many people are so encouraging.  Very few people criticize if your time is slow or you aren't overly confident, and he seems like he is a very motivated and understanding coach who pushes his runners to do their best and believes in them.  I wish at some point I had tried running as part of a team.

One thing he comes back to over and over again is how running, and he does mostly trail running, helps him put things in perspective and break out of a bad mood.  He runs almost daily as a break in his writing and a lot of it really is getting your shoes on and getting out the door.  Once you start you are so much less likely to stop or quit than if you never get yourself up to do it in the first place (like lots of things in life I guess).
•Pub. Date: May 2011
•Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
•Format: Hardcover , 256pp
•ISBN-13: 9781609611088
•ISBN: 160961108X

The Creed Legacy by Linda Lael Miller


Rough-and-tumble rodeo cowboy Brody Creed likes life on the move. Until a chance encounter with his long-estranged twin brother brings him "home" for the first time in years. Suddenly Brody is in Creed territory—at thirty-three, he's a restless bad boy among family with deep ties to the land and each other. And a secret past haunts him as he tries to make plans for his future.

Carolyn Simmons is looking for Mr. Right in Lonesome Bend, as the ticktock of her biological clock gets ever louder. Then she falls for gorgeous Brody Creed, the opposite of everything she wants. Until lassoing his wild heart becomes everything both of them need.

My thoughts:
I started this book in August and forgot to take it with me when we went on vacation, then one thing after another got in the way of me finishing it.  Over the weekend we lost power for four days which gave me time to read, with flashlights or candles or book lights, but time without other distractions.  The first night this is the book I decided to pick up and finish.

Earlier this year I read the first two books in this segment of the Creed story.  This time I was finding out about the bad boy in the family who turned out to be not such a bad boy after all.  Both Carolyn and Brody are carrying around  a lot of baggage from their pasts and it takes a lot of work for them to move past the hurts and insecurities from the past to build a future.  I think part of what allowed me to put this book down earlier this summer was that I got a bit frustrated with the two of them for the roadblocks they were allowing to stand in the way of their happiness, but many of us do that by not allowing ourselves to trust or to believe, so eventually I worked my way back to the book and saw the couple through to their happy ending.  It was just right for a night of no lights or head, reading by candlelight wrapped up in blankets.

•Pub. Date: June 2011
•Publisher: Harlequin
•Format: Mass Market Paperback , 384pp
•Series: Montana Creeds Series
•ISBN-13: 9780373776009
•ISBN: 0373776004

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

In this ingenious and captivating reimagining of Rudyard Kipling’s classic adventure The Jungle Book, Neil Gaiman tells the unforgettable story of Nobody Owens, a living, breathing boy whose home is a graveyard, raised by a guardian who belongs neither to the mortal world nor the realm of the dead. Among the mausoleums and headstones of his home, Bod experiences things most mortals can barely imagine. But real, flesh-and-blood danger waits just outside the cemetery walls: the man who murdered the infant Bod’s family will not rest until he finds Nobody Owens and finishes the job he began many years ago.

A #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of many international awards, including the Hugo Award for best novel and the Locus Award, The Graveyard Book is a glorious meditation on love, loss, survival, and sacrifice...and what it means to truly be alive.

My thoughts:
I picked out this audio book for the car for the month of October in honor of Halloween.  I was a little worried that it might be too scary for my children, but it wasn't.  Bod wanders into the graveyard as a baby on the night the man Jack kills his parents and sister.  The ghosts there decide to protect and hide him and he is given powers that allow him to live there, like the ability to fade and hide himself and the ability to walk through solid objects in the graveyard.  His guardian is not a ghost, but not a human either, but finds him teachers among the ghosts so Bod can learn and be schooled while living among the unliving.

Bod has parents and rules and free reign within the walls of the graveyard, but when he leaves its protection he has to rely on himself and each time finds himself in some sort of danger.  All the while he is getting older and you wonder what will become of him.  Will he spend his whole life among the dead or will he one day make a life for himself outside of the gates?  Will he ever be able to keep a human friend?  There are mysteries surrounding his guardian as well.  Who and what is Silas?  He eats, but not the same food as Bod.  That gave me a clue as to what he was, but it wasn't until later in the story that his true nature comes into focus.  The mysteries are, for the most part, resolved and the story felt complete.  I am interested in reading more books by Gaiman as they seem to be well thought out.

I borrowed this book from our local library as an audio book.  We didn't get to see the illustrations as we did not have the paper copy of the book.

•Pub. Date: September 2010
•Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
•Format: Paperback , 312pp
•Age Range: 9 to 12
•ISBN-13: 9780060530945
•ISBN: 0060530944

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Monday, What are you reading?

Oh what a weekend it has been!  The snow we got Saturday knocked down tons of tree limbs that were still leaf covered as it is still fall and we were one household of many who were without power.  We lost power at 5pm on Saturday and finally had it restored today, Tuesday, at 4:34pm.  Many people in our area are still without power.  I think my children will be less interested in camping after this.  Our house was cold, candles got old and they missed TV.  It was hard to play once it got too dark and reading books with reading lights and flashlights lost its luster.  Being stuck in gave me a chance to do a bunch of reading, but wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be. 

While we were powerless I finished reading  The Creed Legacy by Linda Lael Miller, read through To Be a Runner by Martin Dugard, started Dating a Cougar on my Ipod, and finished reading Get Organized on my Ipod as well and started The Lost Saint by Bree Despain.   Now as I sort through all this laundry and dishes and spoiled food I need to find time to post some reviews.  They may be a bit slow to come, but I'll get to them.  I still need to comment on Saturday Snapshots as my cable and Internet cut out pretty much right after I made my post.  What a wacky weekend of weather!