Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Return of the Wemmicks

Best of All
by Max Lucado
Illustrated by Sergio Martinez

genre: Children's picture book
series: Wemmicks
pages: 31
rating: ****

Best of AllThe little Wemmicks return in Best of All.  This time Max tackles prejudice.  A famous Wemmick visits the village.  Bess Stovall divides the village by the wood the Wemmicks are made from.  Maple is seen as the best wood.  Thus the town begins to treat each other differently based on their wood.

Another great moral from Max.  The point is, regardless of ancestry, God made you the way you are on purpose, and you are special.  In a world full of negative images, it's nice to have a positive book for children.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bryant & May

Full Dark House
Christopher Fowler

genre: mystery
series: Bryant & May
pages: 356
rating: ***1/2

Full Dark House, is the first Bryant and May Mystery.  (It's always nice to read the first in the series.)  The pair work in the Peculiar Crimes Unit.  This book parallels Bryant and May's first case with what could be there last case.  There first case took place in 1940's London, during the Blitz, as the pair investigate the death of a dancer at a local theater.  Then 60 years later their office explodes and Bryant is inside.  The stories are interwoven as May remembers the old case and tries to solve the new one.

Full Dark House (Bryant & May Mysteries)Bryant & May are a cross between the odd couple and ghost busters.  Bryant is an ardent believer in all things paranormal and May is the light of reality, sort of.  They are loads of fun to read.  Both characters are smart, witty, and adept at thinking out of the box.  I really enjoyed reading reading the book, for the characters and for the historical aspect.  I have never read much on life during the blitz.  This is a work of fiction, but it seems well researched.  I can't imagine living through the constant fear of bombs falling from the sky.  Supporting characters are just as interesting and well developed as the main characters.  A few times I did have to pull the dictionary out to look up words, that's not a bad thing.  I'm not sure if it is because it was set in the 40s or because it is British.  The only negative I have to mention is that when Fowler switches from past investigation to present, sometimes it was hard to tell when, in time, things were happening. 

Regardless, it was a fun read, not necessarily a fast read, but full of interesting characters and a good plot.


Friday, November 25, 2011

You are special

You are Special
By Max Lucado
Illustrated by Sergio Martinez

genre: Children's, picture book
series: Wemmicks
pages: 31 pages
rating: ****
quote: "You are special because I made you.  And I don't make mistakes"

You are Special is a simple, yet profound tale about a town of wooden puppets called Wemmicks.  The Wemmicks like to give stickers for good and bad.  This makes some Wemmicks feel less valuable because they don't get 'good' stickers.

You Are Special (Max Lucado's Wemmicks)I love this book.  I regret that my children might be too old to really enjoy it.  But I can still read it to them anyway!  The crux of the story is to ignore what others think.  What matters most is what God thinks.  Spend time daily with God and those that criticize you will not matter as much.  The story of the Wemmicks is a great analogy between us and God.  A wonderful, timeless story.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Baaaad Kitty!

Bad Kitty Gets a Bath
Nick Buel

genre: children's chapter book
series: Bad Kitty
age: 5+
pages: 125
rating: ****
favorite quote: "It's simply that...CATS HATE BATHS!"

I was subbing in my daughter's 2nd grade class, when I came across this book.  Knowing I would be surrounded by little people I didn't bother taking reading material.  All year I have heard about Bad Kitty, so I decided it was time to read it.  It only took about 30 minutes, tops.

Bad Kitty Gets a BathBad Kitty Gets a Bath is a story about a kitty who gets dirty and needs a bath.  It's a how-to guide, complete with diagrams and a dictionary in the back.

I loved this book.  Th illustrations are very funny, especially the one of kitty after the bath.  It is funny to read about what could possibly happen if you gave kitty a bath.  Kids love this book, they laugh at the funny pictures and story.  I really enjoyed the added notes from the editor when things became too harsh for children!  Those were really funny.


Monday, November 21, 2011

It's about time...

Christopher  Paolini

genre: fantasy
series: Inheritance Cycle, book 4
pages: 857, including dictionary and pronunciation
rating: *****

I have been waiting for an eternity,or so it felt, for this book to come out.  It is the final book in the Inheritance Cycle.  It was well worth the wait.

If you have not read any books in the Inheritance Cycle, here's a brief review.  Inheritance is the final book in the series.  The first book was Eragon.  Basically, you have the world filled with the basic fantasy creatures: elves, humans, dragons, etc.  In Alagaesia, there was once a group of men, and elves, that rode dragons to ensure the peace of the land.  Then a rider destroyed the riders, killing them and their dragons.  Only the ones who swore allegiance to him, Galbatorix survived.  A few eggs were saved.  That's a brief history at the beginning of Eragon, thankfully the new book does a recap!  Anyway, one egg survives and Eragon becomes her rider.  Inheritance covers the final battle between the rebels (Varden) and the evil king Galbatorix.  Epic battle!  I'm trying not to get into all books or give away too much of the new book. 

Inheritance (The Inheritance Cycle)Review: I found the beginning of the book a little jolting.  It starts in battle.  There is no time to gently get into the story, you thrown full force into the tale.  Once I had my bearings I was into it until the end.  All of the characters I fell in love with in the first book are here.  All of the questions I had were answered.  What's so great about this series is Paolini's ability to give vivid descriptions for totally foreign races and geography.  I've never been to Alagaesia, but I have seen it in my mind through his writing.  I also like that nothing is easy for Eragon.  He, as well as the rest of the Varden, have to struggle to win.  Even then the win comes at great losses.  I must admit I really expected someone to die.  But that is all I have to say about that.  It's a great book, well worth me actually buying a copy!


Friday, November 11, 2011

An oldie....

A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin

genre: fantasy, middle reader
series: Earthsea Cycle
pages: 192
rating ***

I discovered fantasy books rather late in life, I read The Hobbit in college.  Since then I have been a fan of children's and YA fantasy.  I have seen this book in the children's section of the library for years, so I finally took it home.

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1)A Wizard of Earthsea tells the story of Ged, aka sparrowhawk.  As a boy Ged goes into wizard training.  His main flaw is arrogance and maybe pride.  Because of these flaws he sets loose a "shadow" on the world, and sets on a quest to conquer it.

Before I say anything I have to say Ursula Le Guin is a wonderful writer.   The book is easy to read, but it is not a quick read.  It took me a little longer than I had intended.  She is heavy on narration.  I enjoyed the book, but I was not attached to the characters.  Because of that I may not read another one.  Earthsea is probably a great book for a middle reader new to fantasy.

- Caren

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gobble Gobble

A Catered Thanksgiving
Isis Crawford

genre: cozy mystery
series: Mystery with Recipes
pages: 335
rating: **
favorite quote: "Death by turkey."

I was really looking forward to reading this book, being that it is November.

A Catered Thanksgiving by Isis Crawford (aka Barbara Block)A Catered Thanksgiving, is about two sisters who own a catering company.  They are hired to make Thanksgiving dinner for the Field family.  They are a wealthy family that owns a fireworks company.  They take dysfunctional to new heights.  The Thanksgiving dinner is ruined by a murder.  To makes thinks worse a freak blizzard keeps help away and forces the sisters to solve the murder.

The beginning of the book was laugh out loud funny, the ending was pretty good as well.  Unfortunately, what was in the middle was not.  Beyond the main characters, Libby and Bernie, the extended cast was flat.  You had this large cast of unhappy family members, who only bickered.  They kept rehashing the same thing over and over again, it was really annoying.  The story line was good, but it got lost in the family feud.

- Caren

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guest post and a review...

I am taking part in the Geek Girl, blog hop.  I just love that book title.  Today we have a guest post from the author Cindy C. Bennett.       You can catch up with the rest of the tour here.

Inspired Character by Cindy C Bennett

People often ask writers of fiction where they get the inspiration for their characters. The answer to that question is as varied as the writers themselves. Sometimes characters are based on someone the writer knows, other times they are entirely created from imagination. I can’t answer for any other author as to where they get their inspiration from, but I can tell you about my characters in this particular book.

Jen is almost entirely from my imagination. I don’t personally know anyone like her, nor did I in high school. But I’ve known people like Jen in that they are people judged based solely on how they look. I wanted to write a character who is very distinctive in how she dresses, purposely painting herself into a specific guise. Her reasons are to show the world that she is hard and untouchable, which is the absolute opposite of the truth. She also found that the others who dress in a similar manner were the ones who would accept her into their circle without question. I did pull her backstory from the real story of a boy who I saw on TV some time ago. His childhood closely reflects hers, though I fictionalized it to a degree. He, however, chose to take a different path and his interview that I watched was from prison. I also wanted to show Jen finding her strength, becoming who she wanted to be rather than who she felt forced to be.

Trevor is not based on one specific person, but on a few different guys I’ve known at different times in my life. I went to school with kids who were just genuinely kind guys like he is, who were a bit geeky, but who were well liked anyway, though they could hardly be called popular. I also based him loosely on a boy that liked my own daughter at one time. He was definitely a geek, though a very cute one. He played the piano and sang as Trevor does. So Trevor’s sort of a blend of a bunch of different people.

Jane is based on those girls or people we’ve all known at one point or another, people who are just so sincerely nice that no one could possibly dislike them. I have a neighbor who is like that. Everyone who knows her absolutely loves her. There is no vanity, meanness, or guile in her at all, qualities I admire and try—and fail—to emulate.

Trevor’s mom is based on a few moms of friends I’ve had over the years. Who didn’t have a friend whose mom was controlling, strict, and didn’t like any of their child’s friends? But I also wanted to give her some redeeming qualities, as I believe all people have some kind of redeeming qualities.

Jen’s foster mom is based on a woman I know who was a foster mom herself, though she had taken in many kids over the span of many years. She really loved her foster kids, and I believe she would have adopted them all if she’d been able. I know she helped find adoptive families for a couple of the kids she fostered. She was pretty amazing.

I suppose in all of my characters there is at least one quality or quirk that belongs to someone I know. I don’t know that any writer can create a character that doesn’t have something in them that helps the author to have compassion or at least some small bit of love for those characters—even the villains. There isn’t any real person who is so completely beyond human that there isn’t one single, recognizable compassionate quality about them. Obviously if a writer wants their characters—all their characters—to seem realistic, they will have to borrow from people they know or love themselves, even if it’s something as small as pushing glasses back up the bridge of their nose. That’s how we give our characters, well . . . character.

Now ... a review

Geek Girl
 Cindy C. Bennett
genre:  YA
pages: 280
rating: ***3/4
I was given an e-copy of the book for review.  The review is my own.  I was not required to give a positive review.
 Geek Girl is a story about a teenage girl living in a foster home.  She is "Goth" and has a tragic family story.  The basis of the tale is Jen bets she can turn a geek into a bad boy.  She chooses Trevor.  Anymore and I give away the book.
First off I have to say...I am a geek and I love geeks.  When I received the book I scanned through to get a feel for it.  I was thrilled to find a table of contents.  The titles for chapters are awesome, The Wrinkled Prunes and Stardates and Spock-girl are just two titles.  I had difficulty rating this book.  I really enjoyed the characters and the story, yet at times the writing was too simple.  Maybe I'm just used to adult books. 
 Parts of the book have Romeo and Juliet overtones, but no one dies.  You have classic angst associated with high school, complete with cliques.  The characters, at first glance, seem to be stereotypes' of teenagers.  A dark Goth girl in black and heavy makeup who makes fun of the "normal" kids and likes to party.  A buttoned up geek who makes straight A's and enjoys sci-fi movies and bowling.    Yet, as the story moves on the characters evolve into complex people.  I am a character nut.  I will stick with a bad book if the characters are authentic and interesting.  These characters are blessed to be in a really great story, as well as being authentic and interesting.
I would be wrong not to mention Jen's extremely low self-esteem irritated me to no end.  At the same time it fits with her character.  Once you read her back-story, you understand why she is the way she is.  But it still bothered me. 
 In the end, the story is not about high school.  It is about overcoming the odds, even those you are born into, and finding love and redemption.  I laughed and I cried, seriously, it's a good read.  It would be a great book for teenagers, obviously it's a YA book.

A few helpful links:

Author Website:


Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Book for Christmas

The Christmas Shoppe
Melody Carlson

Genre:  Christmas, fiction, Christian
Pages:  168
Rating: ***

The Christmas Shoppe  -     
        By: Melody Carlson
The Christmas Shoppe is a short fiction book.  It's a really quick read.  The story is set in a small town called Parrish Springs.  A new shop is opening in town, by a new resident.  The whole town can't wait for it to open.  When it does they become divided over loving it and wanting to run in out of town.  It's not a normal shop.  The shopkeeper, Matilda, doesn't offer anything new.  Everything is used and mostly broken.  Yet those that venture in leave with something more valuable than material possessions. 

I picked up this book last week on a whim.  I'm a sucker for a Christmas book!  It is a sweet tale of love and forgiveness, with a sprinkling of the real meaning of Christmas.  It was a nice distraction.  I enjoyed the break from reading about murder and mayhem.  If you are interested in a quick read, one that will lighten your mood, give The Christmas Shoppe a try.


You bet they were...

Snip Snap What's That?
Mara Bergman (author)
Nick Maland (illustrator)

Genre: children's, picture book
Pages: 32
Age: 4 years and up
Rating: ****1/2
Publication: 2005

I was going through Goodread's, marking books I have read, and came across this jewel.  I had totally forgotten about this book.  Sadly, my kids haven't read it in a while.  First....

Snip, Snap  What's That? is a picture book following three kids as they come in contact with a giant alligator.  The gator is going through the apartment wrecking the place.  The kids, of course, are scared.  Without giving the end away, the kids must deal with their fear...and the gator.

Snip Snap!: What's That?I love this book.  We had to buy it after checking it out a dozen times from the library.  It's a wonderful read aloud book.  The kids love the flow and rhyme of the story.  They also love the repetition of ,"you bet they were".  After two or three readings the kids will be shouting out their part.  I love taking it to school when I read to the class, the more kids the better.  They pick up real quick to yell "You bet they were".  For added effect slam the book shut, loudly, when you get to the full 2 page spread of the gator's face.  Kids fall over with giggles.  It's not scary at all just fun.

This is an older book, but I love it so much I wanted to share it with you.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Mystery Series...

Missing Persons
Clare O'Donohue

Series: A Kate Conway Mystery
Genre: mystery
Pages:  280
Rating:  ***1/2
Warning:  There is some language the 'F-word' is used a few times

   I have had this on my TBR pile for a while.  I am so glad I finally got around to reading it.  I must say I don't usually read books with the 'F-word', but the story was so good I stuck with it.  I am so glad I did!  Clare is the writer of a cozy series entitled, 'the Someday Quilts Mystery Series'.  This is not a cozy.
   Missing Persons, is a book with two mysteries.  One is the sudden death of the main characters soon to be ex-husband, Frank.  The other is the disappearance of a young woman.  The main character, Kate is a freelance TV producer for a crime network.  Her assignment is to cover a young woman who disappeared over a year ago.  Eventually the tables are turned and she is questioned about Franks death.  If that's not enough she is being threatened, has to deal with her husbands mistress, and her in-laws.  That's enough to drive anyone crazy!
   I loved this book.  It was not cozy, it was edgy and at times too real.  I have learned more about TV producers than I ever dreamed, I will never watch a real crime show the way again!  This book is so different from the Quilt series Clare writes.  The characters are flawed, cranky, and real.  The idea of meeting your hubbies mistress and not killing her is mind boggling.  I really enjoyed the character of Kate for her flaws as well as her intelligence and attitude.  I also really enjoyed Kate's crew Andres and Victor  they at times provided comic relief and a protective male presence.  All of the characters were multi-faceted with secrets.  It was a great read!

- Caren