Friday, April 30, 2010

First Wildcard: Just Like You

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Zonderkidz (March 9, 2010)
***Special thanks to Pam Mettler, Associate Director of Public Relations, ZonderKidz for sending me a review copy.***


Marla Stewart Konrad is keenly interested in global issues and has a special concern for the well-being of children. Her career as a speechwriter and communications professional has taken her to numerous countries in Asia and Africa. She lives near Toronto, Canada, with her family, and is the author of several books for children.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (March 9, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310714788
ISBN-13: 978-0310714781

Please Click the Button to Browse Inside the Book:

My Review:
Thisis a charming book with repetitive text than brings home the idea that deep down inside, we are all the same.  Though look different, have different names and celebrate in different ways, we all celebrate the birth of children.  My six year old enjoyed the book too.  Grade B+

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wonder Hanger: My Review

Wonder HangerWonder Hanger

The Wonder Hanger® is an affordable tool that's great for any Spring Cleaning features. This cascading clothes organizer increases closet space by enabling you to stack clothes vertically.  Each Wonder Hanger holds 5 wood, metal or plastic hangers.  There are 8 hangers to a package – enough to hang 40 garments. The open-mouth design allows you to easily add or remove your jackets, skirts, pants and shirts. Supporting up to 20 pounds, it can hold up to 5 heavy winter jackets.

You can use it to group complete outfits or similar items, organize by color or season, and hang handbags or belts.   It retails for $9.99 and can be purchased at major retail chains including Walmart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and CVS and online at

It is official.  My five year old watches too much television.  Recently a package arrived at my house.  It contained the complimentary set of Wonder Hangers, sent to me for the purposes of this review.  She recognized the box immediately and then asked where the other pieces which are included with the package when ordered from the TV ad were.  I had to explain that the package Mom got only included the Wonder Hangers, and not the extra stuff.

Wonder Hangers are a "some assembly required" product, and a certain amount of hand strength was necessary to snap the pieces together.  Once assembled, I started to use them.  First, I went into my closet, hung up the Wonder Hanger, and grabbed the nearest hangers to fill it.  For those who don't watch commercials, a Wonder Hanger is basically two plastic hooks connected by a bar with slots for standard hangers.  The hooks are attached to the bar with a swiveling screw so that once you place the hangers in the slots, you can remove one of the hooks from the closet bar and drop it down so that your clothes are still hanging, but using more vertical space,at least at the top, so that hypothetically you can fit more clothes in the closet.  Anyway, once I had filled a couple of them, I acted like it was morning and I was looking for something to wear.  I found them much harder to peruse than regular hangers.  I ended up putting them at the back of my closet and using them for things I rarely wear but don't wish to discard.  They may have saved me a little space, but frankly, not much.

Next, I went into my girls' room.  I thought I would hang school uniforms on them, since they are all the same anyway.  The problem in there was that they have a bookcase under their closet bar.  When I dropped the Wonder Hanger down,  the clothes hit the bookcase.

As noted above, they sell for $9.99 at major retailers, and if you are an organization fiend with lots of clothes, you may find this product helpful--and you aren't out too much if you don't care for it.  However, if you order online, you'll pay an additional $15.99 and I think that's way too much.  You will however, get those extras my daughter noted were missing (not sure if you'd get those at the store or not).

This is a Mama Buzz review.  Free product was provided for this review.  To read other reviews, go to the MamaBuzz home review.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

With spring comes a wonderful New Orleans tradition--the church fair. Today I spent two hours doling out tickets and armbands for the rides at ours. Original predictions were for the weather to be bad this weekend, but we've dodged the bullet and it looks like we'll do well. However I'd like to ask everyone to pray for the folks around Yazoo City Mississippi and other parts of the south which were hit by tornadoes today. Deaths have been reported and of course, property damage.

I'm starting to get back to book blogging and this week I reviewed Encounter with Mercy, a book about confession. I'd also invite you to read my interview with Dr. Elaine Whitty about the Black-White achievement gap in our schools. I have a couple of other book reviews so feel free to poke around while you are here.

What did you blog about this week? To participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival, please create a post highlighting your posts this week. In it, link back here. Then sign Mr Linky below with a link to your Sunday Snippets post.

If you'd like a weekly reminder to post, please join our yahoogroup.

It was late last night when I wrote this post, and I forgot Mr. Linky. Here he is:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book Review: Happy Hour by Michelle Scott

Happy HourHappy Hour

About the Book:  SAN DIEGO - Mar 4, 2010 - Every woman has that group of friends in her life ~ her "go to girls" The friends that she can turn to who "get it." The ones who are there for you no matter what. The ones who laugh with you and cry with you. The ones that will always be there. These are the women of Napa Valley. 

Jamie is the editor-in-chief of Wine Lover's Magazine, a single mother and caretaker to her senile mother-in-law ~ a woman who thinks her daily caregiver is Dean Martin. Jamie is still recovering, financially and emotionally from the death of her husband several years earlier. And when she finds what could be the key to happiness, can she open the door and let it in? Or will her feelings of guilt and betrayal hold her back?

Danielle is a vintner and the divorced mom of two. She's basking in what she knows is going to be a successful launch of her new wines. Wines she created on her own after her divorce. But  what she doesn't expect is for her daughter to come home with news that will shock her to her  core. Will an old flame help her accept the changes that are coming and find the love she's been missing in her life for so long? Or will a tragedy that no one sees coming change their lives forever?

Kat is a sommelier, co-owner of a magnificent restaurant with her chef husband, and mother of a blended family. But is being deeply in love with your husband enough to get them through the teenage years, step-children and exes? And what happens when old faces return and she's faced with the knowledge that not everything is what you thought it was. What happens when she finds she was mad at the wrong person and finds out the "right one" was in the wrong? Can she forgive and move on? Can love overcome everything and truly bring a family together?  

Alyssa is an artist and gallery owner with a secret of her own. One she was hoping would stay buried deep in her closet. But the time has come for her to put someone else first, to face the past and to deal with her demons. What she never expected to find was love and her "home."

No matter what is going on in their own lives, no matter the heartache or joy they're experiencing these four women are always there to love, support and encourage each other.  This book includes recipes and wine pairings, discussion questions and an interview with the  author.

About the author:  Michele Scott is the author of the bestselling Wine Lover's Mystery series and The Michaela Bancroft mysteries. She's also penned the romantic thriller El Patrón. Scott is a graduate from The University of Southern California with a degree in journalism. She resides in San Diego with her husband, three children and an assortment of animals. 

My Comments:  For self-published novel, I'd say this one is better than average.  I've decided that books get 50 pages to grab me, or they are gone.  When I first picked this one up, I figured it for a 50 pager, based on the layout alone.  I don't quite know what it is, but may self-published books have the same "look" if you just open to a random page and glance at them--a look books by major publishing houses don't have.  This is a good story with interesting characters; and unlike some books about 40-somethings who have problems in their lives, I didn't want to shake these gals and tell them to grow up or get a life.  The book is rough around the edges with some typos or grammatical errors that a good editor would have caught, but it kept me around for the whole 300+ pages.  Grade: B-

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Monday Memes

Hi folks.  It has been a while since I participated in Mailbox Monday and other Monday Memes.   Like many book bloggers, I got a little burned out by the teeming tower of tbr--especially when tbr had been sent to me for review, so I cut back my requests and the mailbox wasn't as full.  This week I got two books, so I decided to play.
Encounter with Mercy is a short booklet I received from The Catholic Company as part of their review program.  My review is here.  .
I got Texas Roads for a First Wildcard tour.  I got it read and reviewed too.

What else did I post about last week? I interviewed Dr. Elaine Witty, co-author of The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time
Dogwood has been in my stack for months, and since there were no review books due, I read and reviewed it.

I loved Love Mercy, and posted my review.  Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter's Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God

Outer BanksAnother non-review book I enjoyed was Outer Banks, so I wrote a quick review.

Though I read it some time ago, the tour date for Forget Me Not was Monday.  You can see my review here.

Forget Me Not: A Novel (Crossroads Crisis Center)

Have a great reading week, and check out The Printed Page to see what others got.

Encounter with Mercy

I've noted here before that I have a love/hate relationship with the Sacrament of Reconciliation a/k/a Confession.  Yes, I think it is a good idea.  Yes, I believe it is a gift from God to his Church.  Yes, I do think there is Biblical support for it.  No, I don't like going and yes, I generally feel great after I go.

Encounter with Mercy is a pocket-sized booklet sub-titled "A Step-by-Step Guide to the Sacrament of Reconciliation".  As it is only 60 pages, it can be read in an hour, and can be used as a reference guide thereafter.  It is easy to read, encouraging and yet challenging.  It includes stories about people whose lives were changed for the better by the Sacrament.  Ten reasons to go to confession are listed, as are ten things you can expect from confession.  Next listed, and described, are seven things expected from you in confession.  Since objections to the sacrament are frequent, seven of them are listed, and countered with scripture.  Folks my age missed out on a lot of the lists of things, like commandments, virtues, fruits of the Spirit, works of mercy etc. when we were in religion class.  The next section of this book gives quite a few such lists that Catholics should know (or at least know of). The main preparation for the sacrament (and in my opinion one of the least pleasant part of the whole operation) is the examination of conscience, and the book gives seven of them.  Once you've done that, you are ready to approach the priest, and there is a six-step guide about what to do once the door closes.  Finally you are given seven ways to promote confession.

I received a complimentary copy of Encounter with Mercy from The Catholic Company.  It is going to take up long-term residence in my purse.  Perhaps having it there will encourage me to do what I know I should do.

An Interview with Dr. Elaine Witty

The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our TimeLast month I reviewed The Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing It Is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.  The publicist offered the opportunity to interview the authors and I decided to go for it.  If you read this blog regularly, you know I'm not big on author interviews--I guess I'm usually more interested in the books than in the authors, and since most of what I read is fiction, author interviews don't add much to my enjoyment of the book.  In this case, after I read the book, I had some questions about it, so I decided to do the interview.  Dr. Elaine Witty was the one kind enough to answer my questions.

Like you, I went to college in Mississippi.  With the current state of the economy, Mississippi is looking for ways to cut it higher education budget.  Closing or merging Jackson State, Alcorn, Mississippi Valley State and/or  Mississippi University for Women (my alma mater) is often mentioned.  Do you believe HBUs are currently part of the problem or part of the solution to the problem of the Black White achievement gap?  
Even in the face of extreme underfunding, historically black colleges and universities have enrolled thousands of underprepared students and transformed them into major contributors to society. Graduates of these institutions can be seen in all areas of life.
What we are suggesting in the book it that these colleges must do more. They have enormous access to the African American community and can provide tremendous leadership in helping to promote stronger community support for academic achievement. They can prepare their college students, many of whom will be parents, to understand the achievement gap and to promote community actions that help to reduce it.
Historically black colleges and universities are a part of the solution and hold great potential for even greater roles in closing the achievement gap.
Does the voluntary segregation they allow today give young African-Americans the chance to grow in a supportive environment, giving them chances for leadership and class participation they might not have at historically White schools, or does it just leave another generation unprepared for real life?
Historically black colleges and universities not only provide supportive environments and chances for leadership, etc., these colleges also provide opportunities for students to close the gaps in academic skills and knowledge that developed over the course of their education careers. Historically black colleges and universities aim to produce graduates who are competitive in the job market and who have a commitment to service to community.
I live in suburban New Orleans.  The public schools in New Orleans before Katrina were overwhelmingly African-American and overwhelmingly terrible.  Since Katrina, many of them have become charter schools or have come under the control of the state.  Many are hiring Teach for America teachers; young enthusiastic people who are not education majors, and who, for the most part, do not plan careers in teaching.  Have you had any experience dealing the Teach for America?  What is your opinion about putting these people in teaching positions?

Rod's experiences with Teach for America have been very positive. As a superintendent, he observed the work of Teach for America graduates and noted that their pupils performed as well as, or better than, pupils taught by graduates of traditional teacher preparation programs.

My own experience with Teacher for America has been through review of research reports that study the impact and effectiveness of the program and participants. Most recently, I have been impressed by the report of North Carolina’s K-12 teachers that concluded that those who come to the classroom from Teach for America consistently outperform the rest of the state’s newer educators. 

When I was in college, "everyone" knew the elementary education was one of the easiest majors on campus.  I was an elementary education major and even had people say they couldn't figure out why I was since I "have a brain" in my head.  Despite this, MUW's education program had (and I guess still has) a good reputation and I'm sure it turned out many fine teachers (and for the record, I was not one of them--I made A's in all my education classes but one, but was a miserable failure as a teacher).  My question for you is to what extent you believe colleges of education are responsible for the Black White achievement gap, and how you would revise the curriculum for prospective teachers, if given the chance.
Of the various factors involved in the achievement gap, teacher quality is surely a major one. Since most teachers are products of teacher education programs, it is reasonable to call on these programs to evaluate their programs so that they can be assured that they prepare teachers to (1) use assessment data more effectively, (2) use more culturally inspired curriculum activities and materials, (3) show a greater understanding of the values in the children’s communities, and (4) teach from a perspective of higher expectations for the children.
Often when I hear educators talking about standardized testing, they complain that the emphasis on the tests has taken the joy out of teaching.  They complain that our fixation on standardized testing has limited time for the arts, science, history--basically anything but reading and math.  Being able to properly respond to standardized tests, they claim, has little to do with real life; and they say they would like to spend more time teaching a love of learning and other such things.  Your book mentions the school in Houston that used (with success) a carefully scripted program of direct instruction.  I've read others say that middle class Whites could not allow their children to be taught in such a way; why should low-income African Americans?
There are many factors involved in student learning. The method of instruction is one of those factors. The methods should be selected based on the individual learning styles and needs of the students.
The point of direct instruction is to control the curriculum design and method of instruction used by the teacher in order to accelerate the students’ learning. Direct instruction is most useful in cases where the students’ knowledge and skill gaps must be alleviated at the same time their grade level curriculum is being taught. Efficiency of time is critical. This is a major value of direct instruction in those cases where it matches the needs presented by the students.
It should, however, be the goal of all teachers to expand students’ knowledge while at the same time helping them to master the needed skills.
 Do you believe standardized tests are a good measure of the learning that is supposed to be taking place, and do you see any downsides to today's emphasis on them?
Standardized testing can help teachers see the specific skill and knowledge needs of each student. Tests should be a part of a comprehensive system of educational assessment and instruction. The major value of tests is in the way the results are used by the teachers to focus on individual skill needs of students. A secondary value of test data is for administrators and school board members to make resource allocations.
If tests are poorly constructed, fail to measure what has been taught, or provide data that is not used properly by teachers and administrators, then these would be the downsides of testing.
Have you looked at whether, given two schools of roughly equivalent overall test scores, African American students do better in schools that are majority African-American or in schools where they are in the minority?
  African American students do less well than their peers when they are in schools that are in high-poverty areas. In these schools the students have less access to highly qualified teachers who are prepared or certified to teach in the subject they teach. Further, the teachers in these schools have less favorable working conditions, and less community and parental support. While there are many outstanding exceptions, on the whole, the academic performance in such schools is lower.
You served as superintendent of a large school system. What did you do while in that position to close the Black-White Achievement gap? How successful were you.
When he was a superintendent, Rod worked to involve the community in decisions and resources related to educating the students. Accountability, high expectations for students, and community involvement were goals. Reports on the changes in the Houston Independent School District under Rod’s leadership are well documented.
I realize that being superintendent is a tough job in which you are forced to work the different constituencies, which often have competing interests and which can block reform attempts. Hypothetically of course, I have just appointed you dictator of a large urban school system with a high African-American population, a school system characterized, as many such systems are, by a large number of failing schools. As dictator, you have pretty much the same job as the superintendent; however, unlike the superintendent, you can spend as much money as you want, fire or hire whomever you want, whenever you want and hire replacements (and pay them what you want) and change any rule you want to change. What you cannot change (except to the extent that a good manager can do so, or by firing them) the teachers or the pupils. The kids are still going to be typical of such a system and you can't turn a switch and make all your teachers terrific overnight. What would you do as dictator that you were not able to do as superintendent?

I am not sure that I can accept the premise of your question. It is my thinking that better decisions about educating all of our children are made when you have school boards, parents, teachers, and administrators working together.

The position we are focusing on in the book is that in addition to the reforms being made by schools, the achievement gap can be closed if there is stronger leadership by the African American community at this time.
I'd like to than Dr. Witty for taking the time to visit with me.  Until all of our children are able to reach their potential, I believe we as a society are poorer than we have to be.

My Review: Texas Roads

Texas Roads  One thing I've learned as  a book blogger is that there is usually a reason self-published books are self-published.  In other words, I have generally found that books that are self-published are books that publishers were smart not to take.  When First Wildcard offered Texas Roads, I didn't realize it was self-published, which is a good thing, because I wouldn't have taken it had I known--which would have been my loss.

Texas Roads is a Christian romance set in the present day.  Dani is a young woman who was recently widowed when her husband and his mistress were killed in a car accident.  She doesn't feel at home with her mother, or anywhere, but something draws her to an aunt who lives in a small town, an aunt her mother seems to try to keep away from her.  On the way into town she meets Steve, who she later learns is the mayor, and a good friend her her aunt.  The town is dying, and Dani comes up with a way to save it; but she doesn't want anyone know know she is the benefactor.  The novel is a pretty basic romance with attraction, conflict, and finally resolution.

The religious aspects of Texas Roads are front and center.  Dani is searching for a home, and the book makes it clear through sermon excerpts, Bible passages and prayers that the only real home she'll ever find is with God, and it isn't until she accepts God that she gets the guy.  Steve is attracted to her, but the book makes it clear he'll only marry her if she has God in her life.

As I noted at the beginning of this post, the book is self-published.  It could have used a little more polish, but it was head and shoulders above most self-published things I've read, both in quality of writing and in quality of layout, cover etc.  This is part one of a series, and I'd definitely be interested in reading part two.  Grade:  B-

First Wildcard will be touring this book June 1.  Check back then to read the first chapter.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival

It is that glorious season known as spring here in New Orleans.  It lasts for a month or so--after the cold is gone and before the real heat starts.  It is perfect weather for sitting on the patio with a good book,so guess what I've been doing?

I'd like to share some of my reads with you.  I enjoyed Dogwood, about the victims of an auto accident, but didn't like the ending. I absolutely loved, and definitely recommend Love Mercy.   The author, Lisa Samson, was baptized Catholic and remained Catholic at least long enough to make her first communion.  She then became a Protestant.  She is a novelist who writes Christian fiction and I've reviewed quite a few of her books. She recently reverted to Catholicism.  Love Mercy is partly the story of her spiritual journey and partly the story of a trip she and her daughter took to Swaziland.  I've got some more book reviews this week, and a children's book meme so have a look around while you are here.

What did you write about this week?  To participate in Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival, go to your blog and create a post entitled Sunday Snippets--A Catholic carnival, and in it highlight one or more of  your posts from this week, including link(s) to the post(s).  In that post, also include a link to this post.  Then come back here and sign Mr. Linky, giving a link to your post.

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My Review: Dogwood by Chris Fabry

DogwoodUsually when I finish a book, I write the review, and, if I'm inclined, go and see what other people thought.  Today I read other reviews before I started this one.  Why?  Because I loved reading this book, but I really didn't like the ending, and I was curious if anyone else felt the same way.  Looking at the very few available negative reviews, I'd say that if folks didn't like this book, the ending is why.

About the book: In the small town of Dogwood, West Virginia, Karin has buried her shattered dreams by settling for a faithful husband whose emotional distance from her deep passions and conflicts leaves her isolated. Loaded with guilt, she tries to raise three small children and "do life" the best she can. Will returns to Dogwood intent on pursuing the only woman he has ever loved--only to find there is far more standing in his way than lost years in prison. The secrets of Will and Karin's past begin to emerge through Danny Boyd, a young boy who wishes he hadn't survived the tragedy that knit those two together as well as tore them apart. The trigger that will lay their pain bare and force them to face it rather than flee is the unlikely figure of Ruthie Bowles, a withered, wiry old woman who leads Karin so deep into her anger against God that it forces unexpected consequences.

The book is told in the first person, with the main characters narrating different chapters, which are headed by their names.  It is an interesting literary device, and in this case very effective.  I read Fabry's second book, June Bug last summer so I was glad when my friend Renee gave me Dogwood,  Dogwood got a lot of four and five star reviews; I guess some folks found the ending to be original, but to me it was forced and actually left me wondering what really DID happen in one scene.  The book is classified as Christian fiction, and while the themes of self-sacrifice, forgiveness and redemption are Christian, but plot is not overtly so.  Grade B-

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blog Tour: Love Mercy

Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter's Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God

If you've read this blog for any length of time,  you'll know that Lisa Samson is one of my favorite writers.  When offered a chance to participate in this blog tour (and receive a complimentary copy of Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter's Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God) I was thrilled.  The book was as good as I expected it to be. 

Billed as a book by the author and  her daughter about their experiences on a mission trip to Swaziland, I figured it would be part travelogue, part mother-daughter stuff.  I was wrong--it was those but it was more.  It was the story of Lisa's spiritual journey, and the choice she and her husband made to leave a comfortable life for one more open to the needs of others--choosing to live in the city, not the suburbs; choosing to buy at thrift stores rather than department stores; chosing to give to those in need.  It is easy to say that priests and nuns should live a sacrificial life, giving up the things of this world to give to the poor--but we can't do that, we have kids to raise, right?  Lisa and her husband have made choices different from those many of us have made, and without laying guilt on us for our decisions, she does call us to consider where social justice and our faith should intersect.

Most of the book is written by Lisa, but some is by her daughter, Ty, who goes with her to Africa.  That girl is going to take after her mom--she can write.   Good work Ty and mom.

In  case you haven't guessed, I loved Love Mercy: A Mother and Daughter's Journey from the American Dream to the Kingdom of God and highly recommend it.  Grade:  A.

To learn more about Lisa Samson, see her blog.  She is also on facebook and twitter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Children's Book Meme

I found this over at A Patchwork of Books.  It is a list of the top 100 children's novels.  I'll bold the ones I've read and add comments:

100. The Egypt Game - Snyder (1967)
99. The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks (1980)--actually I didn't read it, I listened to it on tape with my kids in the car.
98. Children of Green Knowe - Boston (1954)
97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane - DiCamillo (2006)
96. The Witches - Dahl (1983)
95. Pippi Longstocking - Lindgren (1950--love Pippi
94. Swallows and Amazons - Ransome (1930)
93. Caddie Woodlawn - Brink (1935)--an early favorite, perhaps because it is set near my Mom's hometown, and beside, Caddie had spunk!
92. Ella Enchanted - Levine (1997)
91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Sachar (1978)
90. Sarah, Plain and Tall - MacLachlan (1985)
89. Ramona and Her Father - Cleary (1977)--Cleary was a favorite of mine
88. The High King - Alexander (1968)
87. The View from Saturday - Konigsburg (1996)
86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Rowling (1999)
85. On the Banks of Plum Creek - Wilder (1937)--read the whole set
84. The Little White Horse - Goudge (1946)
83. The Thief - Turner (1997)
82. The Book of Three - Alexander (1964)
81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Lin (2009)
80. The Graveyard Book - Gaiman (2008)
79. All-of-a-Kind-Family - Taylor (1951)--another favorite, I read all the books in the series
78. Johnny Tremain - Forbes (1943) I read this in college for kiddie lit.  It was ok but I didn't see it as a kids' book.
77. The City of Ember - DuPrau (2003)
76. Out of the Dust - Hesse (1997)
75. Love That Dog - Creech (2001)
74. The Borrowers - Norton (1953)--I think there were several of these too.
73. My Side of the Mountain - George (1959)--I lost count of how often I read this
72. My Father's Dragon - Gannett (1948)--I just looked this up, and if memory serves me, this an the others in the series were my favorites in first grade.
71. The Bad Beginning - Snicket (1999)--bought this, and the rest of the series for my daughter.  I wouldn't put them in the "best" category, though they were fun reads
70. Betsy-Tacy - Lovelae (1940)
69. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Stewart ( 2007)
68. Walk Two Moons - Creech (1994)
67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher - Coville (1991)
66. Henry Huggins - Cleary (1950)
65. Ballet Shoes - Stratfeild (1936)--I read all the "Shoes" books several times over, and bought them for my daughter, who didn't.
64. A Long Way from Chicago - Peck (1998)
63. Gone-Away Lake - Enright (1957)
62. The Secret of the Old Clock - Keene (1959)--somehow Nancy Drew never drew me
61. Stargirl - Spinelli (2000)
60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle - Avi (1990)
59. Inkheart - Funke (2003)
58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Aiken (1962)
57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 - Cleary (1981)
56. Number the Stars - Lowry (1989)
55. The Great Gilly Hopkins - Paterson (1978)
54. The BFG - Dahl (1982)
53. Wind in the Willows - Grahame (1908)
52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
51. The Saturdays - Enright (1941)--googled this one and I think I read it
50. Island of the Blue Dolphins - O'Dell (1960)
49. Frindle - Clements (1996)--my son had to read it, so I did too.  Cute
48. The Penderwicks - Birdsall (2005)
47. Bud, Not Buddy - Curtis (1999)
46. Where the Red Fern Grows - Rawls (1961)
45. The Golden Compass - Pullman (1995)
44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - Blume (1972)--pretty sure I read this for kiddie lit
43. Ramona the Pest - Cleary (1968)
42. Little House on the Prairie - Wilder (1935)
41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Speare (1958)--over and over again
40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Baum (1900)
39. When You Reach Me - Stead (2009)
38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling (2003)
37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - Taylor (1976)
36. Are You there, God? It's Me, Margaret - Blume (1970)--kiddie lit
35. HP and the Goblet of Fire - Rowling (2000)
34. The Watson's Go to Birmingham - Curtis (1995)
33. James and the Giant Peach - Dahl (1961)
32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - O'Brian (1971)
31. Half Magic - Eager (1954)
30. Winnie-the-Pooh - Milne (1926)--I guess, I mean I've read a lot of Pooh over the years
29. The Dark Is Rising - Cooper (1973)
28. A Little Princess - Burnett (1905)--multiple times
27. Alice I and II - Carroll (1865/72)
26. Hatchet - Paulsen (1989)
25. Little Women - Alcott (1868/9)--I liked Little Men better
24. HP and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling (2007)
23. Little House in the Big Woods - Wilder (1932)
22. The Tale of Despereaux - DiCamillo (2003)--I think I've read this, obviously as an adult
21. The Lightening Thief - Riordan (2005)
20. Tuck Everlasting - Babbitt (1975)--assigned reading for my son
19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Dahl (1964)
18. Matilda - Dahl (1988)
17. Maniac Magee - Spinelli (1990)
16. Harriet the Spy - Fitzhugh (1964)
15. Because of Winn-Dixie - DiCamillo (2000)
14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban - Rowling (1999)
13. Bridge to Terabithia - Paterson (1977)--tried this one a couple of times; just couldn't get into it
12. The Hobbit - Tolkien (1938)--in high school, "everyone" was reading Tolkien.
11. The Westing Game - Raskin (1978)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth - Juster (1961)
9. Anne of Green Gables - Montgomery (1908)--and the whole series
8. The Secret Garden - Burnett (1911)
7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)--interesting, disturbing, not sure what I think of it as a kids' book
6. Holes - Sachar (1998)
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - Koningsburg (1967)
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Lewis (1950)--and all the Narnia books
3. Harry Potter #1 - Rowling (1997)
2. A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle (1962)--I'm probably the only book worm to say this, but I hated it.
1. Charlotte's Web - White (1952)--who doesn't like Charlotte?

So, out of the 100, I've read 45.  Not too bad, considering the large number of them written after my childhood.  Which have you read?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lumby Books

Lumby's BountyThe Promise of Lumby

It's funny.  Sometimes when I get started on a series of books I enjoy, I get so aggravated that I have to wait months (or even years) for the next book in the series.  Other times, I'll start reading the book after several (or even all) books have been published, and go from book to book in short order, and overdose on them.  It happened to me with the Mitford books, and it happened to me with the Lumby books.  I enjoyed the first two books, as noted in my reviews here and here, but when I picked up book three, Lumby's Bounty, I just couldn't get excited about it.  I'll put these two books away for another time, but I'd like to thank Caitlyn Price  at FSB for sending me the review copies.

What about you?  Do you read series?  Do you prefer to read them one after the other, or to wait months between books?

Outer Banks: My Review

Outer BanksOuter Banks is my latest read.  It showed up in my discard box outside my office.  I guess (well actually I know) that some other folks liked my idea of giving away books, and throw theirs in there.  Since I enjoyed Off Season last summer, I thought I'd grab this one.

Like Off Season, the water/beach is important to this story.  Outer Banks is the story of four college sorority sisters.  It tells both the story of their college days in the early 1960's and of their reunion in the present day. We see the promise of youth, and the reality of adulthood; and what happens when reality never comes.

As I noted in my review of Off Season, Siddons is a better than average wordsmith, and while this is a story about women, it isn't your typical "all sweetness and light" novel.

Grade: B+

Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: Forget Me Not by Vicki Hinze

Forget Me Not: A Novel (Crossroads Crisis Center)Forget Me Not: A Novel (Crossroads Crisis Center)

I'm not usually a thriller reader, but the description of this book caught my eye, and since I'm getting a little worn out on romances, I thought I'd give it a try.

Book Description:  
Crossroads Crisis Center owner Benjamin Brandt was a content man—in his faith, his work, and his family. Then in a flash, everything he loved was snatched away. His wife and son were murdered, and grief-stricken Ben lost faith. Determination to find their killers keeps him going, but after three years of dead ends and torment, his hope is dying too. Why had he survived? He’d failed to protect his family.

Now, a mysterious woman appears at Crossroads seeking answers and help—a victim who eerily resembles Ben’s deceased wife, Susan. A woman robbed of her identity, her life, of everything except her faith—and Susan’s necklace.

The connections between the two women mount, exceeding coincidence, and to keep the truth hidden, someone is willing to kill. Finding out who and why turns Ben and the mystery woman’s situation from dangerous to deadly. Their only hope for survival is to work together, trust each other, and face whatever they discover head on, no matter how painful. But will that be enough to save their lives and heal their tattered hearts?

My Comments:

As I said, this isn't my usual reading material, so comparisons with other things are difficult.  I enjoyed the story, it was a real page turner, but I found the whole thing very improbable.  Any fiction requires from the reader a certain suspension of disbelief, but in this book people who knew they were in danger head off to places and situations that are really likely to be dangerous.  They trust people too quickly.  The web of bad guys is broad, and also somewhat improbable.  

The book is Christian fiction and features the contrast between the two main characters.  The female lead (she goes by different names in the book so I''ll leave her unnamed) has a deep faith and feels God's constant presence.  Even when she loses her memory, she doesn't lose her faith.  Ben lost his faith when he lost his wife and son.  While I wouldn't call it a book about their spiritual lives, the contrast between the two is obviously there to make a point--and Ben is one of the good guys.  

The title page indicates this is the first book in a series, and the story line is left slightly open, but not to the extent that the ending of this isn't satisfactory.    

Grade:  B+

This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.  See their webpage about this book.

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