Without the love of books the richest man is poor, but endowed with this treasure the poorest man is rich. –Leon Gutterman

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 School Videos

School Videos for 2008

Not a lot of exciting commentary on these movies. They were all very helpful in rounding out our learning experience. One thing I plan on doing in 2009 is review the movies that we watch to offer a little more than just titles available.

Movies have always been a great learning tool for our family and we are very grateful our library offers such a varied and deep selection. My husband has signed us up for Netflix and I'm pretty sure 2009 will see us using that option a lot too.

Don't forget movies when doing your lesson plans!!

2008 Reading for Me

Finished in 2008

Fifty books for 2008. I'm happy with that. That is almost a book a week, although sometimes I admit to reading three in one week and no books in others. Oh well...such is the life of a homeschool mom.

Favorite book of 2008? I would have to say Miss Bishop by Beth Streeter Aldrich, followed very closely by Little Britches/Wild Country by Ralph Moody. They were books that I could recommend with confidence to anyone. They addressed the human condition. They were straightforward without being too simple or easy. They made me think. They made me cry. They made me laugh.

Best series of 2008? I am still wading through Cynthia Harrod-Eagles Morland Dynasty series, now 31 books strong. It is a vast historical account of England (and sometimes the United States) set in a fictional setting. I stumbled upon the books at the library in 2007--"just browsing," you know. And wound up purchasing several of the later books. I plan to go back and add a book at a time as I find a good used price. This will be a series I reread (although I don't know how I will fit anything else in!).

2009 is going to be a wonderful year to read! I already have the first 14 books picked out. Shall we see how long I can stay on track?

If you are interested the books with links for 2008 were:

Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

ISTP - The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

But, but...it says here that...and there that...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Winter Reading Challenge

Robin of My Two Blessings is hostessing the Winter Reading Challenge. I'm hoping that it's not too late to join in. I'm just now feeling the fog start to lift and am ready to read again.

Robin's challenge is easy for someone to participate in.

"The rules are very flexible:

1) Choose any number of books you would like to read and post them on your blog.

2) They can be fiction and/or nonfiction including e-books and audiobooks

3) They can overlap with other challenges.

4) Sign up on Mr. Linky. I'm still trying to figure out Mr. Linky so will let you guys post your links yourselves when you have your lists ready.

5) In a few days, I set up a link where you can post links to your book reviews"

I think I can handle that!!

The books I've put on my list for this winter are:

1....And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santemeyer I've read this book more than once before, but it is one of my favorites and it has been a few years. I'm looking forward to revisiting the wonderful ladies of Waynesboro.

2. A Light in the Window by Jan Karon Apparently I have a lot of catching up to do in Mitford! I loved getting to know these people.

3. Grim Tuesday (Keys to the Kingdom, Book 2) by Garth Nix I didn't think I would read the second installation after the first, but have changed my mind. This is a Young Adult book.

4. I Am Mordred: A Tale of Camelot by Nancy Springer Another Young Adult selection that I'm checking out to see if it is something I would like my oldest to read.

5. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin I really enjoyed A Wizard of Earthsea and have started this already.

6. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon It's been a long time since I visited Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser. It's time to go back.

7. Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller I've read this before and wanted to read it again for the Fall Into Reading Challenge, but didn't fit it in. I think it will be a good way to start the year.

8. When Mothers Pray by Cheri Fuller What more needs to be said?

9. The Fire Within by Chris D'Lacey My oldest has read this series and started to read it outloud to his brother (I was eavesdropping.) I think I'll check into it further.

10. The Restless Sea (Morland Dynasty) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles It's been a while since I've picked up a Morland Dynasty book. This is book number 27 of 31 (so far). This has been a fabulous series. I highly recommend it.

11. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë My neice is receiving this for Christmas from us, I read it eons ago, I'd like to read it again.

12. Eragon by Christopher Paolini I've had best of intentions to read this book for quite a while, quite a while, actually. And since two sequels are out now would be a good time.

13. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper Always wanted to read this. Wish me luck.

14. I am already editing!! I forgot that I received Magi by Daniel L. Gilbert from a sweet friend and am going to be reading that right away. I was so surprised by this gift--it came with perfect timing.

I'll post full reviews here on my Reviews & Recipes blog and updates on Joyful Days.

Visit Robin and see who else is reading in the Winter Reading Challenge.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Preparing for Jesus: Meditations on the Coming of Christ, Advent, Christmas, and the Kingdom by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

Last year this book was on my list to read before Christmas. Somehow it became one of those things that got passed over. That was my loss and I'm glad I didn't make the same mistake this year.

Walter Wangerin offers a devotional journey that starts the first day of December and travels through Advent to Christmas to the Twelve Days following ending at Epiphany. We meet people who played a part in the birth of our LORD. Wangerin offers insight and intimacy with Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Joseph, several others and Jesus, Himself.

This book is one that will touch your heart. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to adjust their attitude before Christmas.


From my original list to read for the Fall into Reading 2008 Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days. Check out other participants and their book reviews!

At Home in Mitford

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

I'm really mad! Why didn't anyone tell me about Mitford??? Oh wait...lots of people told me about Mitford. I just didn't listen.

I love Mitford! I love Jan Karon. I want to live there! I know these people, or at least people like them. How wonderful is this hometown Karon created for everyone to embrace as there own? I lost a couple of nights' sleep because I couldn't put the story of Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest who is the rector of The Lord's Chapel, in Mitford.

Fr. Tim is surrounded by a cast of unforgettable characters, his dog Barnabas who adopted him and is commanded by Scripture recitation, Emma the impertinent secretary, Dooley the grandson of the ailing sexton, Hoppy the doctor, Miss Sadie the wealthy chuch member, and Cynthia Coppersmith his delightful neighbor.

At Home in Mitford was a delightful, uplifting read, with plenty of twists and turns and even some mysterious happenings. Trials are faced with family and friends and the love of the Lord. Who could ask for more? Well I did. I'm reading book two--A Light in the Window. What a love story.

This is high on my recommendation list.

At Home in Mitford is on my original list to read for the Fall into Reading 2008 Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days.

The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

I read the Andromeda Strain in high school. Apparently it didn't leave as big an impression on me as I thought, because I had the title confused with another story--On the Beach by Nevil Shute.

I want to read On the Beach again, but I am glad that I read The Andromeda Strain again, too.

Crichton is a highly skilled, very technical writer. Written in 1969, he created the circumstance of meeting life from outer-space, but the extra-terrestrials are nothing the average person ever thinks of.

The deadly story rapidly unfolds in the small town of Piedmont, Arizona. A town wiped out in a matter of minutes, save two survivors--an old alcoholic with ulcers and a wailing infant. What do they have in common? How fast will the apparent virus-like lifeform spread? How to fight an unknown enemy?

The book is a quick read, very thought provoking, but also very technical. Almost too technical for me, but I am glad I re-read it.

While reading the book my husband and I watched the 2008 movie bearing the same name based somewhat loosely on the book. Crichton was involved in the creation of the movie also, which was a very exciting (at least PG-13) film. Understandably the movie was updated to appeal to current viewers, but I think some of the original story was lost.

There is an older, 1971 version of the movie that I would like to see. Hopefully we will be putting it in the Netflix cue.

My oldest son (11) has seen it sitting in my pile and asked if he would be able to read it. While the decimation of the town of Piedmont is pretty graphic the following story is more of a techno-thriller than anything else. After much consideration I decided to allow him to begin reading it after much discussion he started it yesterday and has flown through it. He's really grasped the technology and the biology--probably more so than his mother. While I would leave it up to each parent to decide the book would be my choice to allow, but not the 2008 movie. The visuals were very graphic and disturbing.

Not a book that everyone is going to like. But really a good read for a sci-fi lover.

On my original list to read for the Fall into Reading 2008 Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days

A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Two years ago a conversation with a stranger in the waiting room of a hospital introduced me to the name Ursula Le Guin and her Books of Earthsea. I was intrigued, but preoccupied and didn't search them out for a while.

I stumbled on them last summer at, where else, the Half Price Bookstore sale rack. I could not pass up the bargain and bought the first three books. I was rewarded with a treasure.

The first A Wizard of Earthsea is a slim, just under 200 page gem. It is of the wizard Ged, known as Sparrowhawk as he grows. He is a motherless child, with a preoccupied father, living in the archipelago of Earthsea on the stark isle of Gont.

Sparrowhawk is trained first by the village witch, his aunt, later by Ogion a solitary and great wizard, and then at the island of Roke, the Isle of the Wise. Sparrowhawk is hindered often by his feelings of inferiority and the conflicting pride which ends up almost costing him his life.

A Wizard of Earthsea is a fable, a story of maturing and choices, a story of nature and nurture and questing. Full of real creatures and fantastical creatures, A Wizard of Earthsea is a quiet delight. Listed as a Young Adult selection, I would have no problem allowing my eleven year old to read this thoughtful fantasy/adventure story.

I didn't have huge expectations, but was indeed very surprised and pleased. Currently I am reading The Tombs of Atuan, the sequel.

On my original list to read for the Fall into Reading 2008 Challenge hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your day be happy, blessed, safe & most of all filled with the joy of the LORD!

Many Blessings!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Yeah...I'm a Bookworm

Renee at 2 Peas in a Pod awarded me with the Bookworm Award. Well, gee...where did she get the idea that I liked books??? Thanks, Renee!! This is just one of the things we have in common.

The meme rules:

Pass this on to 5 blogging friends.
Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or the most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, to page 56.
Write the 5th sentence, as well as two to five sentences following that.

The book: ..And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santemeyer

The dormitory hall was empty; she let slip her dignity and sped up the stairs in a swish of silken skirts, flashed around the balustrade and down the corridor. She half-expected to find that Minna and her roommate had gone out, but she could at any rate leave a note of greeting; and so when her knock at Minna's door went unanswered, she opened it, uninvited, and paused on the threshold. Before she could move further, she was caught off balance and knocked to one side by a....

Well I guess you'd just have to read the book, heh?

This books spans 1868-1932 in Ohio. The women who make up the "Club" start out as young women freshly graduated. How will they continue to develop their minds, their hearts, their lives?

You want an American history lesson? It's here. Would you like a book about women with dignity and courage--yep this is it. You want to laugh and cry and feel a connection to characters--read this. Worth each page. Be warned--it is huge and it is heavy. You have to slowly wade into it. It is not a thriller. It won't yank you in. But it is worth the time it takes. It left footprints on my heart.

I have a short list of books that I read over and over. This is one of them. On my list for 2009.

I'm going to pass on passing this along unless you want to play--yes you, and you and you too! Let me know and I'll come visit.

Check out Renee's blog(s) for good friends, good food, good reads--great heart!! (()) Renee!

Cross-posting this on my Joyful Days blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wild Country/Little Britches

This fantastic, good old fashioned book has captured my heart.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody is based on the author's life when his family moved to Colorado in 1906.

In my library system this book is shelved in the adult fiction section. I think that this is sad because it is a story that parents can read to their younger children and more proficient readers can read for themselves. Roo read this and loved it. It has some terribly sad situations, but it is a story of hope and persistence; a story of the American spirit and how this country was settled by good, hard-working people.

When the Moody family leaves New Hampshire to farm a rented ranch near Denver, they are not prepared for the life that they will find. However they learn they are stronger than they ever believed.

While I read this book I was amazed at what was expected of children, I was reminded how blessed we are with our modern conveniences, and humbled at the determination, courage and faith that people showed just over a century ago.

No gadgets, no electronic entertainment, no foreign intrigue, no faraway star traveler--Little Britches is a simple, straight-forward story that is more exciting, more entertaining and more inspiring than most.

You won't go wrong reading this book. I'll be checking out the other books Moody wrote in this series.

This was another of my selections for the Fall into Reading Challenge.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Littles--A Review

What is it about tiny people or creatures that captures our imaginations? Be it the Faery Folk, tiny animals as heroes, or minute people, stories about the smallest of beings draws us in in a big, big way.

Boo recently finished The Littles by John Peterson. He enjoyed it so much and wants to read more. We have several in the series thanks to a fortuitous trip to the Half Price Bookstore. I found five or six for 50 cents each! Cannot turn that kind of bargain down!

The Littles are four-inch high "people" who live in the walls of the house of the Bigs. They look just like ordinary people with the exception of their lovely tails that they are immensely proud of.

In this Little adventure the Bigs go off on a trip and rent the house to a couple called Newcomb. The Newcombs are nice people, but incredibly messy and leave trash lying around. Who likes mess and trash? Mice!!

Mice come to the house. The Little take have to take on, not only the mice, but the method of mouse control the Newcombs choose.

The recommendations on this book are 3rd grade or ages 9-12. I think a younger child with a good grasp of reading could handle this on their own and it would be a marvelous read aloud for children much younger. Chapters aren't long and the book could be read in brief sittings for those with shorter attention spans.

The Littles always makes me think of The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The Borrowers was one of my all time favorite books as a child and I've read all of the series to the boys and Roo read them again on his own later. Mary Norton published TheBorrowers in 1952. Peterson published The Littles in 1967.

Both books, in my opinion, are fabulous choices for children. The Littles, by the American Peterson, is a much simpler read and can be read solo by a much younger audience. Written by British Norton, The Borrowers offers a much more complex style and vocabulary and a much more detailed story line, not to mention just more reading because of the size of the books. Both have been made into movies or cartoons. Surprisingly both books have the same age recommendation--however The Borrowers would be a much more challenging read and would appeal to more grown-ups.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Keys to the Kingdom: Mr. Monday--a Review

The Keys to the Kingdom: Mr. Monday by Garth Nix

Mr. Monday was on my Fall into Reading 2008 list. The dark and foreboding cover had intrigued me for quite a while and my oldest had asked about it repeatedly. I've heard mixed reviews about the book both from children and parents and decided this was definitely a book that I would pre-read myself.

Nix certainly has some unusual and unique settings, odd characters and weird timelines. Arthur Penhaligon, a young teen in a new school, finds himself the possessor of an odd "key"--a clock hand delivered by either two very strange men or a delusion. Arthur is a "true heir" to "the Kingdom" which exists inside a large castle-like mansion. The goings on inside the mansion affect the world outside--the world Arthur is from and the world which is threatened by an incurable virus.

The seven deadly sins are the basis for Nix's seven books and seven of the characters included in the stories. While I like the premise, I felt left hanging at the end of book one. I understand series are supposed to leave you uncertain, but I don't know if I care enough to follow up with the second in the series, Grim Tuesday. I've read series with my sons before, I just don't know if this will be one I'll get very far in.

There wasn't anything that will stop me from allowing Roo to read the book; I just wasn't enamored with it. I'm considering getting the audio books from the library and seeing if that adds to the story.

Fall into Reading 2008 is hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days. Visit other bloggers participating for their reading lists and their book reviews.

Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn--Review

Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

***Spoilers included in this review.***

(Smashed all four books into one review, so get a cup of coffee if you want to read, ‘coz it got long.)

I, of course, got off the Fall into Reading Challenge track. And once off track it is hard to hop back on board. And I am very easily distracted. But a young friend of mine wanted me to read and loaned me the first three books of Stephanie Meyer’s very popular and very controversial Twilight series. I finished her three and went out and purchased the fourth. I never do that.

Honestly some days I think I live under a rock. I was vaguely aware of these books, but they were somewhere on the periphery. But they are out there and “all the rage” with the teen crowd, and pre-teen crowd to be honest. There are reviews and websites and forums galore out there. These books are “hot.” The movie is creating quite a buzz too.

So, why bother writing a review if there are so many out there? I don’t know for sure. I know I didn’t find very many opinions like mine. I always feel like an odd consumer and it sometimes washes over into my reading. The other thought for writing a review was so that another parent might have an opinion if their teen or pre-teen is asking about this book. Anyhoo…I’ll give it a shot.

First of all, I flew through these books. The writing is not difficult; Meyer’s style is easy and smooth. Almost…hmmmm…seductive. Yes, that is the right word for these books, seductive. Maybe addictive.

Welcome to the boring town of Forks, where the weather is almost always dreary and rainy and nothing exciting ever happens. Isabella Swan leaves sunny Arizona and her mother to live with her dad in a place she really never wanted to return to. But now she’s back, going to high school, trying to fit in and finding her desk mate in Science hates her. Or seems to. Until he saves her life.

Welcome to a world where some things are not as they appear. The creatures from horror movies, vampires and werewolves live here. Only they aren’t what you’ve been led to believe they are. Well…not all of them.

Isabella, “Bella” for short is both a typical and atypical teen. She cares about how she looks, whether she will fit in, she wants to do well in high school, but she’s not a genius. She is awful when it comes to sports and is very self-conscious. She is a total klutz. At the same time she is also very mature for her age, she’s spent a good part of her life parenting her ditzy mother who has remarried. Bella comes to live with her father to give her mother some room with her new husband. There is nothing wrong with the new husband—we don’t see him much, but there are not icky factors about him.

Bella is attracted, mesmerized by the dazzlingly handsome, Edward Cullen, of the slightly odd Cullen clan. Edward at first seems to loathe her. Well…that doesn’t last long.

Guess what? Edward is a vampire. Guess what again? So is his whole family. But they are good vampires. They’ve learned they don’t need human blood to survive. They are “moral,” if you will, vampires. Most of them remember their own humanity and don’t want to kill or change humans into what they’ve become. Oh and they are rich. Stinking rich. Of course if you had forever to live and had already been around a few centuries you would manage to come up with a lot of money to have around.

And to make it a better story, Bella’s best friend, a younger teen from the nearby Native American reservation—he’s a werewolf. Yup. And so are a few of his friends. And they are the good guys too. And know for certain, if there are good guys that means there are bad guys. Very bad guys.

Bella dates Edward, in a very warped way. Bella is very lucky Edward is moral in more ways than keeping his vampire-ness away from humans. Bella is also attracted to her friend Jacob and finds herself very emotionally conflicted.

Well…now what to do with all of this? It’s a good story, very exciting, plenty of romance and teen angst. Even though it was targeted at a teen/young adult audience, this old mommy blogger was easily drawn along by the story.

But is this a book I want to share with my boys? My young friend is waiting for my verdict. I don’t think she is going to be happy with it. My youngest is waaayyyyyyy to young--that's a no brainer. And my oldest, who is really the one she's campaigning for me to allow to read these, is still too young for it. Personally, I think she might have been a bit young for it, but then again, that might just be wishful thinking. There is just a lot of mature content. There are a lot of hormones, pheromones and poor choices floating around Forks.

Is this a harmful book to read? If you want your child to focus only on very moral and upright subject matter, I’d say steer them clear of Bella and Edward. If the thought of vampires and werewolves makes you upset and goes against your conscience then by all means don’t read it. If you don't want your children to read about others who make some pretty questionable choices, this is not the book for your family. If you don't want what I feel is mature content read by your family, by all means pass it by.

If your child is easily obsessed with characters from books, movies, gets lost in fantasy vs. living in reality, these books might offer some unhealthy fodder, but no more so than any prime time television show or soap opera.

Is this a must read book? No, life will go on if you choose not to read, or let your child read this series. Oh there may be some peer pressure and some, “But everyone else is!” thrown your way. But stick to your guns!! You are the parent.

Was it a fun read? Yes it was. I almost feel guilty in saying so. It was exciting (in a soap opera way) reading material. Can your child read it and come away with a positive experience? Certainly. And I think, even more so, if a parent will read and discuss the books with their child.

Sometimes I think it is difficult and awkward to talk about all the feelings and situations teens find themselves in. Their hormones have changed quickly, maybe are still changing. They are attracted to members of the opposite s3x and popular culture offers them many possibilities to express themselves. With a book like Twilight and all of its subsequent story additions, there are numerous openings that could be discussed between parent and child.

Some points to make. These books are not religious in nature. Souls are discussed, life after death is worried about, God isn’t denounced, but no one bothers to pray and ask for guidance. (Might have been a good idea many times, though.) But these books are not Christian fiction.

So what was good about these books—from a mom’s viewpoint? If my son wants to read it in a few years, will I let him and what will we talk about? Required reading either before of after Twilight in my opinion should include Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights. Meyers draws directly from them and refers to them in the story often.

Yes, I will likely let Roo read these when he is older—think freshman year.

Questions I would want to bring up and have my child answer would include:

What happens when we are attracted to unhealthy choices? When we allow ourselves to be ruled by our emotions or hormones? Are relationships based on obsession healthy?

Can God make a good outcome even when we have chosen poorly? (Again, these are not Christian books—but I will be asking from a Christian perspective.) Just because He can, does that mean He always will?

What happens when we break good rules our parents have put in place to keep us safe? What happens when we lie or sneak around? Is omission of truth a lie or just conveniently slanting a story to reach a desired outcome? Some answers I will bring to the discussion are that these behaviors lead to the hurt of other people, guilt and depression.

Topics in the series include: self-sacrifice, putting other’s needs ahead of ours to make them happy, possibly keeping them healthy. Family ties are important in this story. Families are made up of traditional families and extended or friendship based families with a clear “father figure” and “mother figure” Although sometimes families are split apart by death or divorce. Waiting for marital intimacy until after marriage and fidelity are dealt with.

In the fourth book there is a baby. Oh yes…and one thing I was pleased about was that Bella fights for the life of her child, although it might be more “prudent” for her health and from a worldly belief to terminate her pregnancy. Remember she and Edward are married at this point. So you aren’t dealing with a child out of wedlock, but still mature content.

What did I dislike or would I not like that my child would be reading? The mature content—while not a b0dice ripper, it is certainly steamy. Edward and Bella “sleep together,” even if they don’t “sleep together” in the first three books. And when they do get married they sleep together as married people are wont to do. I’m not a prude, but I approached this book as a parent first, so what might be fine for me…not ready to share that with my children.

The contrasting series that came to mind were Anne Rice’s vampire books, which I read eons ago. Twilight and its successors were certainly not full of evil or as brutal as Rice’s stories. Those works were adult only content. Rice’s work was much more intricate, studied, darker and deeper. Meyer’s work is “vampire lite.”

I also related them to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Both controversial in subject matter and both acquired massive followings. I thought the Harry Potter books were much more complex and researched. HP was definitely the object of much obsessing by many children, but I think the characters were definitely characters children could understand. Twilight is definitely teen and above material.

I’ve seen trailers for the movie. I’ve chosen not to go to the theaters and see it. Really, what I saw did not fit my image of the characters and I was not impressed with the special effects. I may cave and get the DVD when it comes out.

Meyers has decided to release the fifth book in the future. I think I’m going to pass on reading that. It is the same story from a different view point. I’m not sure I want to invest more time into the series. As always I reserve the right to change my mind for no reason other than. I want to.

Whew! That was long! So to sum it all up--Vampire romance, not bad, pretty good, in fact. While the outcome is somewhat “happily ever after” and expected there are many surprising twists and unexpected turns—enough to keep me turning pages. Not child appropriate. At my house someone would have to be at least 15 to read with adult discussion following.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Recipes obviously are a little slow in coming. I'm going to work on that next week!!

A Bride So Fair by Carol Cox

I received A Bride So Fair quite a while back in a book giveaway and to be embarassingly honest, I don't remember who I won it from. It's been sitting staring accusingly at me for a while and I decided to add it to my Fall into Reading 2008 list. Sometimes you just have to read something "nice." You know what I mean?

A Bride So Fair is part of Carol Cox's A Fair to Remember series, a group of three mysteries that take place at the Chicago's World Fair in 1893. Book One is Ticket to Tomorrow, Book Two is Fair Game and the last is A Bride so Fair. (Follow the links attached to the titles to read an excerpt from each of the books on Ms. Cox's website, if you are interested.)

Unlike many series, these books are very capable, stand alone stories, but they are intertwined by The World Fair and the characters. Carol Cox offers discussion questions for book clubs and devotionals on her website.

A Bride So Fair is a Christian mystery. While there is definitely intrigue and a couple murders, the story is handled in a gentle manner. This would not fall into the "thriller" category, although there is plenty of suspense to keep the pages turning to the end.

I would recommend this book for a a Christian ladies book club choice.


Category 7 was on my Fall into Reading 2008 list. Fall into Reading is hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Okay. What rock have I been hiding under? This book is older than me and I am just finally falling in love with it.

Roo had A Wrinkle in Time on his reading list, and while I cannot keep up with all of his reading and mine, drive to dance, do laundry and put food on the table, I do try to read some of the books he is reading. Especially if he keeps telling me, "Mom! This is so great! Can I read another chapter?"

A Wrinkle in Time has been in my peripheral vision for as long as I have been homeschooling, which in my mind is as long as I have had children. It is often on the list of recommended reading lists, it is a Newbery Medal winner and I've heard several children mention reading it.

Is this a science fiction book about time and space travel? Is this a book about a young girl coming to terms with her uniqueness? Is this a religious book that shares about the battle between Light and darkness? Or is it all of the above?

Madeleine L'Engle drew criticism for the book being too religious from the more liberal minded thinkers and too New Age from Christians. Seems no one wants to be happy. With the terms "witch" and with aliens and faraway planets the book is definitely fantasy and science fiction. L'Engle knows Love and she knows how to share Scripture also. This book is undoubtedly Christian in theme.

If you've been under the same rock I was living under and didn't read it, I highly recommend it. If you are looking for a wonderful book for children, my son loved it.

My library lists this book as 5th to 8th grade reading level, with an interest level of ages 9-12. My opinion is that it would be a suitable read aloud for 2nd to 5th grades. And unless you are fossilized it is a completely enjoyable book for adults.

Happy reading!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review--Category 7

Category 7 by Bill Evans and Marianna Jameson

She is brooding, moody and mysterious. She comes from from far away, the Sahara, Barbados; moving northward. She is fierce and she is perfect. She is Simone.

Starting rather slowly and building to a rapid and breathless finish, Category 7 is reminiscent of a hurricane. Individual stories unfold, heat up and then wind into one to create a weather thriller that is the stuff nightmares are made up of.

Can the weather be controlled Can it be used for political purposes? Who is creating storms out of nothing? Anomalies that are off the weather charts? Meteorologists Kate Sherman and Jake Baxter team up to find out before it is too late. Kate is employed by a man with aspirations of the presidency and Jake is employed by the government. They meet at a conference where Kate is presenting research. Will they find the answers before New York City is devastated by a hurricane that is larger than has ever been seen before? A hurricane of such magnitude that it's wind speeds had never been dreamed of before?

Meteorologist Bill Evans and author Marianna Jameson team up for a weather junkie's feast, full of current events timely theories. Category 7 is filled with technical jargon and characters with political and personal ambitions.

If The Weather Channel is the first place you check when you turn on t.v.; if you consider yourself an amateur meteorologist--this might be the thriller of the year for you. It was a good read, slow to get moving, but finishing well. I wished the characters had been fleshed out more. Nothing wrong with the book at all, but it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Evans and Jameson are teaming up to publish another novel next summer Frozen Fire.

Category 7 was on my Fall into Reading 2008 list. Fall into Reading is hosted by Katrina at Callapidder Days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008

I've gotten diverted from my Fall into Reading plan, but I think that I should be able to get back on track this week.

I am reading Category 7 and have been intrigued by the ideas that are presented. I have a feeling I'm just getting to the good part.

Life just doesn't make curling up with a good book easy.

The Rook

The Rook is Steven James second book. His first, The Pawn was incredibly disturbing, frightening even with his ability to look into a serial killer's mind.

The Rook picks up with Special Agent Patrick Bowers trying to create a family with his step-daughter Tessa, while simultaneously working on a series of fires started by an arsonist. His wife, Tessa's mother, has been dead less than a year, after succumbing to cancer.

Tessa a volatile Goth-like teenager gives him conflicted and dishonest signals, sometimes charming and profound, sometimes surly and caustic. The developing relationship between step-child and step-parent is riveting to read, sometimes almost shadowing the crime that Bowers is trying to solve.

As with The Pawn, The Rook is chilling and dark. James leads the reader into dark and twisted minds of killers. But what began as a hint of the salvation message in the first book, becomes a cry deep within desparate souls for light. There is obviously going to be at least one more book in the series and I will be looking forward to seeing where this "thread" leads.

I received The Rook from Glass Road Public Relations. As I recommended after reading The Pawn, these books are not for the faint of heart or those who are looking for gently stories. The subject matter is gruesome. These books would definitely fall into the category of thriller.

From Baker Publishing and various reviewers:

The Rook by Steven James

Special Agent Patrick Bowers is about to uncover the military's darkest secret . . . and his own dark past.

While investigating a series of baffling fires in San Diego, Special Agent Patrick Bowers is drawn into a deadly web of intrigue where nothing is as it appears to be. With a killer on the loose and one of the world's most deadly devices missing, Bowers is caught in a race against time to stop a criminal mastermind's trap before it closes around the people he loves.

Full of fast-paced action and mind-bending plot twists, The Rook is an adrenaline-laced page-turner that will hold you captive until the very end.

Praise for The Rook

"James ratchets up the thrills and chills, the twists and turns, and our connections with the characters. This is first-class suspense, with threads of wisdom tying it all together. I'm panting for the next book already."--Eric Wilson, author of A Shred of Truth and Expiration Date

"James's ability to use modern, up-to-date investigative techniques to solve his criminal mysteries places him at the forefront of current mystery writers. [This is] a book you hate to put down even when you reach the end."--E. Cleon Glaze, retired FBI agent

"Steven James does it again! The Rook is a riveting nail-biter that takes the reader on a wild ride of suspense, thrill, and danger. James seamlessly combines the edginess of contemporary crime-solving stories with the real world struggles of romance, broken families, loss, and honor."--John Thurman, counselor and radio personality

"Steven James has certainly done his homework. His level of detail and knowledge in the area of the military characters is superb. . . . [They] almost come to life as you read his books. I could not put this one down! Top-notch work."--LT Robert Bess, US Naval Special Warfare/Naval Special Operations

"Sophomore slump? Fuhgeddaboutit. In his second thriller about FBI criminologist Patrick Bowers, James delivers the caffeinated plot twists and intriguing characterizations that made The Pawn a welcome addition to the suspense genre. In this installment, Bowers is called to San Diego to investigate a rash of fires, but he begins to suspect that a seemingly random kidnapping and suicide may be related to the arson attacks. As Bowers digs deeper, he uncovers a chilling biotech conspiracy. Fans of CSI and Law & Order will enjoy the police work and forensics, but this jacked-up read feels more like an explosive episode of 24; it's a wild ride with a shocking conclusion."--Publishers Weekly starred review

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Pawn

The Pawn by Steven James

I received The Rook by Steven James for review for a bloggers' book tour, courtesy of Glass Road Public Relations. The Rook is the second in the Patrick Bowers Files series. Ever the obsessed with starting a series at the beginning, I dutifully went to the library and checked out The Pawn so I would have some history of who Patrick Bowers, PhD was.

This is a very graphic novel, very well researched and so intense that if I read it at night I had to follow it with a chapter from another book as a chaser. The heebeegeebees, the willies, the creeps--this book gave me all of that and more. Steven James has looked into the mind of a madman and put it down on paper.

To be honest, this is not going to be a book for everyone. If you are someone who prefers comfortable reading, reading that is not graphic, this is not your book. Don't even try it. If however you like thrillers, this will draw you in and not let go until the last page.

I will say the first few chapters were not my favorite. The Prologue, while written well, was just flat out upsetting, depressing, sad and sick. But it was necessary for the premise for the whole book. Chapters 1 & 2 seemed a bit stilted. James alternates his narrator and it took those two chapters for me to get settled in. By Chapter 5 there was no way I could lay the book aside.

Steven James has subtly included the beginning of the salvation message in this book. I'm curious to see how he follows up with it in the Rook and any future books he writes for the series.

The promo video captures the book quite well.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Trying a New Path

I want to continue with book reviews,reading lists, homeschool curriculum suggestions & reviews. I want to try some new recipes and share if the results are good. But I'm not sure I want to post these things in full on Joyful Days as I have in the past. So with that thought I'm going to try to use this blog as a "decluttering device." Perhaps if I can't declutter my home, I can at least clean up the blogging.

We'll see...