Wednesday, October 31, 2007

RIP II Challenge Wrap-up

On this late Halloween evening, I am putting an end to the RIP II challenge. This is going to go down as one of my favorite challenges. Although I didn't read nearly as many books as I would have liked, I did read enough to successful complete the Peril that I choose!

Peril the First:
Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Additional Perils:
For those of you who have never done so, or want those who want to do so again, choose one or more of the following books to read after you have completed your other peril of choice:
1.Dracula by Bram Stoker

2. A collection of tales by Edgar Allan Poe

3. The Mystery of the Sea by Bram Stoker

4. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

The four books that I completed are:

Marked: A House of Night Novel by PC Cast and Kristin Cast

World War Z by Max Brooks

Betrayed: A House of Night Novel by PC Cast and Kristin Cast

The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason

and of course, Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman.

Thanks Carl, for hosting such a wonderful challenge!!

Happy Halloween!!!

This is a picture of my 2 girls and their father right before we went Trick-or-Treating tonight. Aren't they all just lovely??? I Heart Halloween!!

Decades Challenge 08

Wow. I have spent the last few days trying to decide what books to read for this challenge. You think it would be easy....but no. There are just too many books out there in the world that I want to read!! are the rules that Michelle (from 1 More Chapter), the wonderful host, has put down for the challenge:

The rules are simple:

1. Read a minimum of 8 books in 8 consecutive decades in ‘08.
2. Books published in the 2000’s do not count.
3. Titles may be cross-posted with any other challenge.
4. You may change your list at any time.
5. Peruse the eligible book lists and reviews from last year. Any book from that decade is eligible; it doesn’t have to be on the list to qualify. Another good source to find out when books were published is wikipedia. For example if you follow this link, you will see how easy it is to search books by a particular decade. Another resource is
6. Come back and post your reviews in the appropriate Mr. Linky (I’ll have them up after January 1). You are encouraged to post all the books you’ve read for that decade if you’re participating in Decades ‘08.
7. Prizes: One credit or in-stock book each will be given away to 8 individuals through paperbackswap or bookmooch. International is okay. The grand prize winner will get 8 credits or in-stock books! If you complete 8 decades, that is one entry for the prize. For each additional decade you complete consecutively, that is an additional entry. So, if you complete 12 consecutive decades, that would be 5 entries for the prize.
8. Have fun reading!

If you want to join too, here is the link: Decades Challenge 2008
Here is my list of Challenge books:

1830's - The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
1840's - Agnes Gray by Anne Bronte
1850's - Bleak House by Charles Dickens
1860's - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
1870's - Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
1880's - A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
1890's - Jude the Obsure by Thomas Hardy
1990's - Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
1910's - Something Fresh by P. D. Wodehouse
1920's - Oil by Upton Sinclair
1930's - The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
1940's - The Diary of Anne Frank
1950's - The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein
1960's - The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
1970's - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
1980's - Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
1990's - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Yeah!! Doesn't that sound fun!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Short Story Sunday.....on Monday Final Week (for Fragile Things)

Well, this is the final installation of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things. So if you are tired of me blathering on about it, then fear not! I am finished. If you like reading the posts, then hang on till next week. I may start a NEW Neil Gaiman book of Short Stories!!

John, from The Book Mine Set also asked me to host this week's Short Story Monday! So if you read a short story this week, just leave me a link to your review!! That way, we can all enjoy it! (I'd use Mr. Linky, but frankly I just don't feel like the hassle!)

"If you ask me," said the little man to Shadow, "you're something of a monster. Am I right?" And so begins The Monarch in the Glen, the final story in Fragile Things. It is a short Novella, and it features Shadow, from the book American Gods. This story takes place 18 months afterwards. Shadow has been on the road since then, and is now in a small village in Scotland. He was approached by a man called Dr. Gaskell. The little grey man had a proposition for Shadow. He was looking for a big guy, a "monster", to work at a weekend party. He was needed to be a "bouncer" to keep the locals away from the rich, weekend guests. The pay was large for a weekend. And Shadow was chosen for a reason.

The story is filled with fables and tales of Grendel and hulders and Norse Gods. Gaiman has a way of taking legends and making them his own. With this one, he weaves a wonderful tale about a monsters -- and asks the question, Who really is the Monster? Before I read this story, Shadow was one of my favorite literary characters. And he still is!! This was the perfect way to bring Shadow back, and I'm really hoping that some day there will be more to Shadow's story.

That's it for Fragile Things. It was a fantastic book filled with stories about ghosts and legends, monsters and men. It has cemented Neil Gaiman as one of my very favorite authors! If you are looking for short stories that bite, definitely pick this one up!!

Don't forget to leave a link, if you have a short story to add to this week's Short Story Monday!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

2008 Reading Challenges

Is is possible to plan out an entire year of reading? It seems that the challenges we join certainly makes it a possibility!! I seem to fail miserably at them, but I do enjoy trying. AND it makes finding something to read that much easier. I like having a ready list when I go to the library or the book store (although the spur of the moment books are great too!) I've already finished 4 books for the RIP II challenge, and by Wednesday I should have 2 more complete. So although I didn't read all the book I wanted, I guess I could say I DID complete what I set out to do!

For 2008, I have already signed up for a couple of challenges. I hope to do a little better with them this time!!

Becky, from Becky's Book Reviews, has put out a couple of challenges that I want to participate in next year. The first is the Cardathon Challenge, and it has it's own blog. The trick is to read Orson Scott Card's works or books that he has reviewed or liked. My list has already been posted here. Becky also set up 2 mini-challenges that I'd like to participate in. One is to read at least 2 Jane Austen novels. I've only read Persuasion, so I'd like to actually read the other 5.

  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Mansfield Park
  • Emma
  • Northanger Abbey

The other mini-challenge is to read C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. I think I will read the Lord of the Rings books for this one.

Becky is also hosting the Celebrate the Author challenge. It is designed to Celebrate authors birthdays. Each month, read a book whose author has a birthday that month. My list is forthcoming!

Michelle at 1 More Chapter, is hosting another By the Decades Challenge 08. I participated this year, although I haven't come close to finishing!! I really like this challenge. Just read 8 books (or however many you choose) from 8 consecutive decades. My list is forthcoming!! I'm hoping to have it solidified today!

Sharon, at Ex Libris, is hosting the Russian Reading Challenge 08. I love Russian History. I just find myself very UN-read in Russian Literature. It's a 12 month challenge, with it's own blog, but the minimum amount of books is 4. I choose 12, although that may be pushing it quite a bit. But I added some Classic Lit, with just a couple of new titles:

  • The Fiery Angel by Valery Bryusov
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Overcoat and Other Tales of Good and Evil by Nicolai Gogol
  • Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District by Nikolai Leskov
  • Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabakov
  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov
  • The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
  • Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

I'm still thinking about the 888 challenge. I love the idea, I just don't know whether or not I have nearly enough time to complete it. If you don't know what it is, it is to read 8 books from 8 Different Categories in 08. We'll see!!

John, at The Book Mine Set, is hosting the Canadian Reading Challenge. It actually goes from now until July 1, so I really need to get started on this one! I don't know much about Canadian authors, so this is going to be a new one for me!! So far, this is the list I have chosen. I tried to pull books from all the provinces:

  • The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
  • Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  • A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence
  • The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • The Studhorse Man by Robert Kroetsch
  • Generation X by Douglas Copeland
  • Yellowknife by Steve Zipp
  • Consumption by Kevin Patterson
  • Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
  • Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler

There is also a Young Adult Challenge hosted by Joy from Thoughts of Joy, a Romance Challenge hosted by Naida at The Bookworm, and the Expanding Horizons Challenge hosted by Melissa at The Book Nut that I'm also considering.

So many books, so little time!! Oh's food for thought. I'm also hoping Carl hosts another Once Upon A Time challenge and another RIP challenge next year too!!

Any more challenges I'm missing out on? Just let me know!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Read with Abandon?

Today’s suggestion is from Cereal Box Reader:

I would enjoy reading a meme about people’s abandoned books. The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?

I'm one of those people that HATES to quit reading a book....even if I'm having a hard time with it (ie The Sea by John Banville). But there have been a couple of books that I have stopped reading in the last few years.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson was such a dull, dry book that I had to stop. It took me almost a week to read about 40 pages. I just couldn't stand any more!!

Wings of the Dove by Henry James. Ack! This book was SO hard to read. Sentences would run for more than a page. Paragraphs would run for 3 pages. By the time I read the preface, I knew I wasn't going to finish this book!

OK....this may be a book that everyone LOVES (so don't hate me for saying it!) Wuthering Heights by Bronte. I actually think it was probably timing when I tried to read this one. The characters just annoyed me so much....they were all crazy!! And I think I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what this book was about. By the time I got to about the 8th chapter, I just had enough. I will definitely try to read it again sometime. And hopefully, I will get through it!!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Not Just Another Vampire Tale......

After visiting Colleen Gleason's blog many times, I FINALLY made the attempt to read her first novel, The Rest Falls Away (368 pgs, Signet). I picked it up because of the RIP Challenge, and I'm certainly glad I did!! This is an excellent 1st novel in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles.

In every generation a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy. That legacy is to be a Venator -- vampire slayer. And this generation it is Victoria Gardella Grantworth that was chosen. Her Great-Aunt Eustasia, the former Gardella Venator, is now her teacher. Not only is Victoria learning to hone her skills as a vampire slayer, but she is also about to debut! Her mother, who knows nothing about Victoria's legacy, is trying to make a suitable match for her daughter. So she has to fit in a little vampire slaying between balls and musicales!

Phillip de Lacy, the Marquess of Rockley and London's most eligible bachelor, has his eyes set on Victoria. When he announces his intentions to ask for her hand in marriage, Victoria is ecstatic! She has fallen hopelessly in love with Rockley and would love to be his wife. But how is she supposed to keep her life as a Venator secret from her beloved?? Especially now that Lilith, queen of the Vampires, has arrived in London searching for the Book of Antwartha? This book is supposed to contain powerful spells and incantations that will allow Lilith to raise demons at will by the legion. If that happens, the world will never be safe again.

When you through in Maximilan Pesaro, another veteran Venator, and Sebastian Vioget, a rather slimy but seductive man who knows more about vampires than the average man, you have a cast of characters that will thrill you to no end!! This book was such fun, although the ending was a lot darker than I expected. Victoria turned out to be a strong character and a fierce fighter. And the Victorian setting really worked. I think this is a great start to a very exciting series and I can't wait to read book two! 4/5

Also reviewed by:
Marg @ Reading Adventures
Chris @ Book-A-Rama

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Book Reviews

OK....maybe it's just me. But every since I started blogging about books, I've noticed a lot of animosity over the so-called book review. With the announcement last week of the Man Booker Prize winner, Sir Howard Davies, the director of the London School of Economics AND the chairman of the Man Booker Prize selection committee, blasted Book Reviewers. (at least this time, book bloggers were NOT fired upon. Maybe he thinks we are too inconsequential!)

In this article found at The, Davies pretty much launched an attack of all professional book reviewers, and novelists in particular. He said, "I think a little more distance, and critical scepticism, is required by our reviewers, together with greater readiness to notice new names." He stopped short of accusing authors of back-scratching, though he said he was well aware that such practices went on, and he called for "more diversity in the sort of people who review novels".

I have myself wondered sometimes about author reviews of books. I think it would be hard to give an unbiased review for a book that was written by someone you know. Even so, that is hardly a reason to give a blanket statement saying that all author reviews are biased. For example, Stephen King(who you all know is my very favorite author) writes for EW, and I LOVE to get his take on books. I figure, if Uncle Steve like them and I like Uncle Steve, then I'll probably like the books.

The Bookseller article did print a response by Erika Wagner, literary editor of The Times. She was trying to defend her occupation by saying, "It is very difficult, I have found over the years, to offer any coherent defence of how and why novels are reviewed. What a strange business! Novels, I believe, exist to move the reader, to change the way a reader looks at the world; the trouble is, and ever was, that every reader (and so, every reviewer and literary editor) is different." There. Isn't that really the heart of it all? Every reader is different. No matter how hard you try, not every person is going to agree with you. Not everyone is going to like the books I read. I don't expect them to.

I think this is why I rely so heavily on reviews by book bloggers. In this strange little "world" we occupy, I feel like I have gotten to know a lot of you a little more personally than I know the book reviewers for the New York Times. In that sense, I feel like I can trust your reviews. And if I in turn disagree, I certainly have that right, just as all you have the right to disagree with me. People are would be a very boring world if we were all the same.

I do realize all of this was prompted by this year's Man Booker Prize selections. Books that most of us have never even heard of. The Gathering by Anne Enright won the coveted prize. It is described as "Exileratingly Bleak". Maybe it's just me again. But when I read, I'm trying to escape and enjoy myself. Do I really want to read something bleak?? Probably not. I want to be entertained. That is the main reason I read. I have to be in the mood to enjoy something that is going to be hard to process. If one of my book-blogging friends recommend it, then I may indeed pick up The Gathering one day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Short Story Sunday.....on Monday Part VI

Yes, indeedy! It's Monday, and time for my next-to-last installment of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things! And this week, the stories were very good! Aliens and Zombies and even a Phoenix. Oh my!

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is the story of Enn and his friend Vic. Enn is quite and shy and doesn’t understand girls in the least. Not Vic. He’s charming and lovable and the girls all flock to him. When Vic gets them an invitation to a party, Enn is worried that he won’t be able to talk to any girls that are there. After losing the address to the party, the boys walk up and down the street until there hear music. When they get to the party, it is filled with girls. Of course, these girls are different. They are “visitors” to the area! This story won the 2007 Locust award for Best Short Story, and it leaves a lot to your imagination!

The Day the Saucers Came is a remarkable little poem that gives a little insight into what happens to a person if he spends his (or her) life waiting around for someone else. It's an absolute gem!

Sunbird is an attempt by Gaiman to write a story in the style of R. A. Lafferty. It’s a tale of the Epicurean Club, and 5 of it’s members. The Epicurean Club has been around for many centuries. The Epicurean’s get together and feast on everything. From beetles to tigers, Mammoths to pandas, this group must try everything! And just when they think there is nothing left to try, Zebediah T. Crawcrustle, one of the oldest members, thinks of just one more thing they haven’t eaten. The Suntown Sunbird. It can only be found in Suntown, an area of Cairo, Egypt. So the group sets out to capture the elusive Sunbird.

Inventing Aladdin is a poem written by Gaiman in an attempt to show an example of how folklore or fairy tales come into being.

Once again, I am amazed by Gaiman. He's so creative, and can completely capture you imagination in just a few words (which is good, since the very nature of the short story is to be brief!) Although I thought Sunbird was rather strange, it was indeed engaging. And How to Talk to Girls at Parties was fantastic! It leaves you with just enough information, and then it's up to your own imagination! The last installment of this WONDERFUL book will be next week, when I review the last story, the short novella The Monarch of the Glen!

Friday, October 19, 2007


No one ever said having kids was easy. And let me tell you, it's been one of those weeks! I was sitting home yesterday working on the computer, when I got a call from the school. The principal at Oak Grove West was on the phone to let me know my son, who is a 6th grader, was being suspended for one day for fighting. Now...this is my straight-A son. Mr. Wagner wouldn't tell me who the fight was with, or what it was about. Just that he could finish up the day, but was not allowed to come back on Friday (today).

Of course, I spent the rest of the afternoon worrying about it. Chad is not really an aggressive child. He fights with his sisters all the time, but has never been in a fight at school. He is the youngest kid in his grade (which makes him the youngest child in the entire Jr. High). To top it all off, he's small for his age too. Probably my fault, since I barely top 5'2"!

When he got home, he was so upset. Apparently, he was playing ball with his best friend, when a group of kids started messing around with them. This group of bullies has been bothering Chad and kids in the class for years. Most of the time, it's just words. Chad has heard all the short and midget jokes there are. And I know it bothers him. The boy that started the whole thing is in Chad's class. But he is almost 2 years older. His birthday is in September, which makes him one of the oldest in the class....then he was held back a year. So he's 13....and a good foot and a half taller than Chad. The kid put Chad in a headlock, and bent his glasses all out of shape.

Don't get me wrong. Chad can handle himself. When his glasses got bent, he punched the other boy. Of course, the school's all have a non-violence policy. And normally, I completely agree with it. But Chad was only trying to hold his own. At this point in a kid's life, you are in a catch-22. If you don't fight back and tell a teacher, you are a snitch and a wimp. If you do fight back, you get in trouble. And it breaks my heart that I can't protect him from this.

The worst part about it, was Chad had a huge History test today. The quarter ends next week and this is a huge chunk of his grade. He was devastated last night. Not the suspension, but the fact he was going to get zeros for the day. So I went in to the school today to talk to Mr. Wagner and the teachers. It is up to each teacher's discretion about the zero's in class. So I talked to each of them. Since Chad is such a good student, each teacher decided to give him a break this time. He's going to be allowed to make up all his homework/tests!! So that is at least one good thing that came from this.

It really is hard having kids sometimes. You want to protect them and make everything easy. You want the best for them. It took everything I had not to drive right over to this kid's house and try to beat the snot out of him myself! But I guess you have to have a little faith that each day they walk out of the house, they will make the right choices. Chad read his book for his AR points that are due next week. We went out and had lunch. It was a nice day for the two of us. Hopefully, when he goes back to school on Monday, everything will be fine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yeah for me!!

Thanks to the lovely ladies, Andi and Heather, from Estella's Revenge, I got myself a new book!! Yeah!! I won the "door prize" from last month's edition of Estella's Revenge! It's Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin. It's getting great reviews and I can't wait to read it!!

So, if you haven't done it already, please check out this month's issue of Estella's Revenge. It's a good one!! Great author interviews, book reviews and yes, they are giving away a copy of The Road by Cormac McCarthy this month!

Thanks again Ladies!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Darker and More Sinister than the First

After reading the first book in this series, I couldn’t wait to jump into Betrayed: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. This is book number two in the continuing story of Zoey Redbird and the House of Night and the first book that I read for the Fall into Reading 2007 Challenge.

One month after entering the House of Night, Zoey Redbird thinks she has it all figured out. She has survived her first month as a fledgling and finally feels like she belongs. She has a new boyfriend, and she has been made the leader of the Dark Daughters - only the most elite group in school. After the mess Aphrodite made of the Dark Daughters, Zoey wants to bring respect to the organization. She wants the Dark Daughters and Sons to be about more than looks and popularity. By creating a Prefect Council, she is well on the way to achieving that goal.

But then something unimaginable happens: human students start dying. And not just any students, but kids Zoey knew from her past life. When the police come to the House of Night to question Zoey, a bad feeling starts to creep into her stomach. And Heath, her human ex-boyfriend, is STILL trying to get back together with her. She knows that because she has tasted his blood: he has Imprinted with her. This means there is a strong bond between them, a bond that is not easily broken.

When a death among the fledglings rocks the House of Night, Zoey is forced to take a closer look at all the weird things that have been happening. She is even getting a strange feeling about Neferet, the High Priestess and her mentor. Neferet is acting funny, not at all like a High Priestess should. It is up to Zoey and her friends to figure out what is happening at the House of Night.

When I read Marked, I was sure this series would be a hit. And I was extremely pleased that Betrayed, as a sequel, more than lives up to expectations. This book is progressively darker and more sinister than the first, with an underlying ominous current of tension that is brought out in the first few chapters and plays through the entire book. P.C. Cast and her daughter, Kristin, have created a world in which “darkness does not always equate to evil, just as light does not always bring good.” Their writing is simple and enthralling, leaving you wanting more - it is truly addictive. I, for one, cannot wait until the series continues with Chosen in 2008. 4.5/5

Copyright Stephanie Toland/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book

Monday, October 15, 2007

Short Story Sunday.....on Monday Part V

Yes, folks. It's that time again!! Time for another installment of my Neil Gaiman Short Stories from Fragile Things! I really hope I'm not boring you....and that you aren't logging on just to say, "Lord, is she ever going to FINISH this book!!" I'm just trying to follow through with the RIP II challenge and read short stories on Sunday! I'm enjoying it so much, it may be a tradition I continue!

Feeders and Eaters is actually a rather scary little tale. Gaiman said it started out as a nightmare for him, and I can understand why! A man is at a dirty little diner in the middle of the night waiting for his train. As he's sitting there trying to go unnoticed, a man calls out his name. He doesn't recognize the man, but soon finds out it's someone he used to work with, named Eddie Barrow. But Eddie doesn't look like the man he once knew. The old Eddie was tall, strong and handsome. This man is thin, gray and looks like he's been to hell and back. Eddie starts to tell him the story of what has happened to him, and it all leads to a little old woman that lived in the room next to his. A woman who has a need to FEED.

Diseasemaker's Croup was written as an entry to a book of imaginary diseases. It's a strange little entry that is full of babble and really big medical terms!! Not my cup of tea, but interesting.

In the End is a one-page filler that is apparently Gaiman's attempt at writing the last book of the Bible. It's pretty much a reversal of In the Beginning from the Book of Genesis. And I have to say I liked it alot.

And finally Goliath, which was actually written to be a part of the website for the movie The Matrix. This story takes place in London, and is about a man that is very tall....almost 7 feet. He has just been rejected by the RAF on account of his height. One day he's working at his boring job of bookkeeper, and all of a sudden, the world starts to melt and drip away. Colors are becoming puddles, and everything goes black. He meets a bespeckled man that tells him that everything will be back to normal soon. The world is under attack by aliens and missiles have taken out a central processor. nothing ever happened, the world is back to normal!! He thinks that it must have been a dream, but the memory of that time stays with him until he meets the man in glasses again 15 years later!

I'm a huge fan of the original Matrix movie!! It blew me away when I first saw it. But Goliath is great story that blends in nicely with the concept. Actually this story is probably better than either of the Matrix sequels! Feeders and Eaters is a great short story for the Halloween season. Dark, scary and leaves a person wondering. I keep asking myself, "How does Neil Gaiman come up with this stuff?" He really has a knack for inventing worlds and stories in just a few sentences. Actually, I think I have a total literary crush on the man. Stay tuned for the final 2 installments in the coming weeks!!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Another Newberry Winner

When I took my kids to see this movie last year, I didn't have the slightest idea what it was about. And although I think I probably embarrassed the hell out of the kiddies by sobbing through part of it, it was a phenomenal movie. I very rarely read the book AFTER the movie, just because I hate to already know what is going to happen. But I'm glad I read Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (pgs. 163, Harper Collins) for the Newberry Challenge.

Jess Aarons is excited for the 5th grade to start. He's been running all summer so he can show everyone at recess that he is the fastest boy in the school. But things take an unexpected turn when the new kid at school turns out to be the fastest....and it's a girl!! Leslie Burke, a city kid that has moved to the country and just happens to be Jess' new neighbor, is different than the girls at Lark Creek Elementary. She dresses different, has short hair, and doesn't even own a TV! But once Jess gets to know her, they become inseparable. He finally finds a friend that understands his love of drawing.

Leslie and Jess create a world of their own -- Terabithia, a magical world in which they are the rulers and no one else is allowed to enter. It is a Kingdom of giants (which are not-so-surprisingly similar to the bullies at school) and spirits. Terabithia is place for Leslie and Jess alone, and the only way to get there is swing across the river on a rope. But when tragedy strikes and Jess blames himself, even Terabithia can't protect him from the grief he feels.

Paterson wrote this book based on personal experience. Her son David's best friend Lisa was killed in an accident when they were 8 years old. And this book was her tribute to both of them. I realize this book has been frequently "challenged" by parents. I can understand the reason, but I don't feel like children should be sheltered from this beautiful story. Yes, it is sad, but it is life. Children are more resilient than a lot of adults give them credit for, and I think this book could only be a benefit to them.

When the movie was released, all the trailers showed depictions of the fantasy world that was really only in Jess and Leslie's imagination. I think it is unfair to mislead people into thinking this book is a high fantasy book. Because it's not. It's about friendship and love. It's about understanding yourself and learning to live with that understanding. And it's about loss. It is a beautiful, simple story that everyone should read, adults and children alike. 4.5/5

Friday, October 12, 2007

A World Without Differences???

The Giver by Lois Lowry (208 pgs, Houghton Mifflin) won the Newberry Award in 1994. (On a side note, it also won the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Award in 1996 which is an award sponsored by the state of Illinois!) I picked it up for both the Newberry Challenge AND the Dystopian Challenge. I'm certainly glad I did!

"It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened." And so starts the story of a boy that is growing up in a time and place where sameness is the way only way of life. There is no such thing as choice. When a child is born, it is placed in the hands of a Nurturer. The child isn't even named until December. Every December, there is a ceremony celebrating the year's in the life of a child. The newchild is placed with it's new that is chosen for that child. Every family unit is allowed 2 children. One boy and one girl. No more, no less. As the years progress, so do the ceremonies. At 8, the child is allowed to start his volunteer hours. At 9, the child is given his bike. And at 12, the child is given his Assignment. This assignment is the job you are going to do for the rest of your life.

Jonas is nervous about the 12's Ceremony this year because he is to be assigned, and he has no idea what that assignment will be. As he sits in his position waiting, he hears the assignments of all his friends. But Jonas assignment is one that is a surprise to everyone. He is assigned to be the next "Receiver of Memories". It's one of the highest honors in the Community.

When Jonas starts his training, he meets "The Giver", the man he is replacing as a Receiver of Memories. The Giver must "give" memories to Jonas. And not just memories of the Community, but memories that have been passed from Receiver to Receiver. He is given memories of color, because there is no longer color in the world of Sameness. He is given beautiful memories of snow and family and love, all things that he has never really experienced before. But when Jonas is shown what it really means to be released, he must find the courage within himself to try to change the way of life for one newchild that is about to be released.

I thought this book was wonderful. I like dystopian books anyway. But Lowry has created a world that is structured and filled with sameness. A world that is hard to imagine. She shows us that even though the world we live in right now is filled with tough choices, at least we HAVE the right to choose. Maybe we make the wrong choice sometimes, but the alternative is not really better. And she has created a compassionate, loving and courageous character in Jonas. A character that should be admired. I can see why this book won the Newberry!! I think all young adults should read this one. 4.5/5

Also reviewed by:
Kristi @ Passion for the Page

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Short Story Sunday.....on Monday Part IV (But on Tuesday!)

Yes, I'm late with this one. Sorry. Yesterday I was pretty under the weather. I feel slightly better today, although not great. Damn, these headaches are killers, aren't they?

This week's readings for Short Story Sundays were a mixture of the odd, the weird, and the eerie! A perfect way to celebrate this October RIP season!

The first story I read was Harlequin Valentine. It's a strange little tale of Harlequin, inspired by Commedia dell'arte and the Harliquinaide pantomime. It is Valentine's Day, and Harlequin has found his Columbine, who is actually Missy. He decides to give her his heart for Valentine's Day. Literally, by nailing his own heart to her door. But it seems that the trick is actually on this trickster Harlequin, because Missy is a pretty shrewed gal!!

Locks is a poem about telling stories....this one is about Goldylocks and the 3 bears, as he is telling it to his daughter.

The Problem with Susan is a remarkable short story about Susan Pevensie, the girl from the C.S. Lewis Narnia tales. What really happened to the girl who wasn't allowed Paradise because she was 'too fond of lipsticks and nylons and invitations to parties'? Gaiman will tell you his interpretation!

Instructions is the coolest poem!! According to Gaiman, this poem gives you the instructions about what to do when you find yourself in a fairy tale!

How do You Think it Feels? is a small tale about a gargoyle. This gargoyle was not created to guard a building. It was created to guard a man's heart.

My Life was a poem that was written to accompany a picture of a sock-puppet in a book called Sock Monkeys. Sounds strange?? Yep. It is.

Finally, Fifteen Painted Cards From a Vampire Tarot". I really don't even know how to describe this. It wasn't really a story. Not really a poem. Just kind of a description of the Tarot cards. Strange, but rather intriguing.

Yes, I'm still enjoying this. I even like the poetry. I don't know how much more I can gush about it. I was pleased with each of the stories this time, although I think I liked Harlequin Valentine the best. Sorry, I'm not more wordy today. I think it's the headache still lingering. Hopefully my review of The Giver that I will post tomorrow will be better!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Oh Woe is Me!

Yes, I'm still here. Still alive. Barely. It was a rather long weekend that involved cleaning house, soccer, football, work, my daughter's birthday party. And last night, we had a slumber party for 7 girls!! A house full of 7 year old's has given me a migraine to end all migraines.

So....I'm postponing Short Story Sunday's on Monday till tomorrow. Hopefully, I will have recovered by then!!


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Decorum

Do you have “issues” with too much profanity or overly explicit (ahem) “romantic” scenes in books? Or do you take them in stride? Have issues like these ever caused you to close a book? Or do you go looking for more exactly like them? (grin)

Nope. Can't say that I do!! To be totally honest, "Romance" novels aren't exactly my thing. I respect a good love story, and a lot of the books I read have a love story-line. But I just don't do outright Danielle Steele, Harlequin Steamy romance novels. To each his own, right? Erotica? Another genre that just doesn't do it for me ! All of that being said, I've never put down a book because of sex scenes. If the author feels it's necessary to the story, then I usually read it.

Profanity?? Nope. First of all my dad was a Marine. I'm quite sure I've heard it all before!! Hell, on my bad days , I've probably SAID it all before! I think it just depends on the writer. I don't particularly care for a lot of profanity thrown in just because. It needs to add to the story. In reality, it's out there for the world to hear. It just makes a story more realistic, in my opinion. But it has to be written right. Once again, I go back to my old favorite, Stephen King. One of the reasons, I like Uncle Steve so much is his writing is so realistic. When I read dialogue that he has written, I can actually envision someone saying it. THAT is good writing. With or without profanity!!
Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Life in the City of Venice looks like I'm a few days late for the Non-Fiction 5 challenge end, but I finally, finally finished The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt (pgs. 432, Penguin).

In 1996, a fire started in the Fenice Opera House in Venice, Italy. And not just any fire. A fire that would consume not only most of the beautiful building, along with it paintings, frescoes and history in this last of it's kind building. No, this fire consumed almost a decade in the life of Venice. How did the fire start? Was it arson? Was it negligence? Who had the most to gain? Was it the Mafia or was it the contractors that were working on the remodeling? These are just some of the questions that drew John Berendt to extend his stay in Venice and try to capture the city and it's people in print.

In the course of the investigation, Berendt introduces us to many of the citizens of this city. We meet Archimede Seguso, a renowned glass maker, that watched the Fenice burn and then created over one hundred glass vases to memorialize it. Of course, most of these pieces still haven't been seen by the public because they are tied up in a litigation of a weird brotherly feud. We meet the Rylands - Jane, an American Expat and her British husband that waylaid a poor old lady and took her incredible achieves for their own profit. The woman was Olga Rudge, the famous Mistress of writer Ezra Pound, who's writings and letters were worth a small fortune. And we meet members of the Save Venice foundation, a non-profit organization that was created to help restore buildings and art in the city of Venice. But an implosion of the group was caused by mixing too many people with large egos wanting the Title and prestige involved with this organization.

I will readily admit I had high hopes for this book. I thought Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil about the city of Savannah, Georgia was fantastic! He did such a wonderful job describing the beauty of the city, as well as the eccentricity of it's people. Not so much with Venice, although he certainly tried. Maybe it's the fact that I just don't understand the Venetian culture the way I do culture in the US. Or maybe this book was more about the glitterati instead of just the average folks. Either way, it fell short for me. I really didn't get a chance to CARE about the people in this book. There were too many exceedingly shallow people that cared more for their titles and their parties than they did about anything else. The back story of the Fenice fire just seemed to get lost in it all. And since reality is never as cut-and-dried as fiction, we still don't know what really happened that night at the Fenice.

I did enjoy learning more about Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge. And I was intrigued about the side story of the poet Mario Stefani, a man that took his own life during this time period. But reading about the Save Venice Organization and their constant bickering over whose name would be at the top of the stationery and who got the best seats for a gala rather turned my stomach. As did the story of the Rylands and how they swindled a poor elderly woman AND her family out of their birthright. Maybe my expectations were just too high for this one. Venice is a beautiful city, one I'd love to visit some day. But this book didn't do much for me! Like a Seinfeld episode, it was a whole lot about nothing. 3/5

Monday, October 1, 2007

Short Story Sunday.....on Monday Part III's that time again. Time for another installment of short stories from Neil Gaiman. Fragile Things, as you all know is the title of this compilation of stories. Last week, most of the stories I read were ghost stories. Not so much this week. How to categorize them? I really can't answer that. But they were all good. (maybe not as good as before, but still definitely worth reading!)

Bitter Grounds tells the story of a man who was driving to the store one day...and just kept driving. The first line of the story pretty much tells it all: "In every way that counted, I was dead". Pretty nifty opening line, wouldn't you say? On his journey, he meets a man in need of a ride. "People come into your life for a reason." It's a premise that follows him around the entire story. A story that takes him to New Orleans, involves him in discussions with a High Priestess of Santeria, and introduces him to the Zombie coffee girls. It's a strange little tale with a strange little ending.

Other People is a mere few pages and seems to me to be Gaiman's personal definition of what Hell really is.

Keepsakes and Treasures is one of those short stories that left me wanting more. I want to know more about these people. Mr. Smith and Mr. Alice. Or at least that's what they are called today. Mr. Smith was taken in by Mr. Alice at an early age. Mr. Smith was born to a woman in an asylum. He was placed in an orphanage, where most of the little boys were abused and used for the personal gratification of the director. The director that incidentally committed "suicide" when Mr. Smith was 12 years old. Mr. Alice requested a meeting with the boy, and realized the potential he had....the potential of a sociopath. The story itself describes only snippets of a much larger story, a story that Gaiman needs to write.

Good Boys Deserve Favors is a story of an uninspired young boy that joins the school orchestra. Does he ever gain inspiration? Maybe. Was it magic that he played the way he did when he was asked to one day? Only you can be the judge of that.

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch was probably my favorite of this week's readings. When a group of people go to the Theater of Night's Dreaming circus, not everyone comes back. In an eerie turn of events, Miss Finch is "chosen" from the audience to gain her desires from the "Cabinet of Wishes Fulfill'd". Who knew the outcome of her desires would end in such a strange fashion??

And finally, Strange Little Girls is basically the liner notes that Gaiman wrote for Tori Amos to use in her cd. Although I'm a huge fan of Tori Amos, the addition of this to Fragile Things just seemed a little out of place and basically just a few pages of filler.

Although, I wasn't nearly as thrilled with this week's readings, I am still impressed with Gaiman's ability to catch a reader in just a few sentences or pages. He really has the knack for writing short stories, because the grip he holds on the reader is immediate. I'm looking forward to next week's installation already!