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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Actor and the Housewife

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

Mormon housewife Becky Jack is happily married and pregnant with her fourth when, on a trip to California, she meets him. Felix Callahan. That dreamboat, that heartthrob, that irresistible star who played the lead in her favorite girls-night movie. They don't hit it off right away, but as their encounters become more frequent everyone wonders what roles Felix and Becky will play in each others' lives.

I don't want to say too much, but I loved this one. It is indubitably Shannon Hale's best so far. And I REALLY like her other stuff. But this one is just more. More than I thought it would be, more funny, more heart-wrenching, more thought-provoking, more romantic.

It would be fantastic for a book club. Tons of interesting discussions to be had here. Highly recommended.

The Keeper of the Bees

The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter

No, this isn't the one you've probably heard about. The one that is so popular with "bees" in the title right now is The Secret Life of Bees. The Keeper of the Bees, on the other hand, was written in 1925.

The book follows Jamie Louis Macfarlane -- a wounded serviceman who finds his way on a grand adventure that makes him a better man and brings hope and love back into his life. Strong Christian themes run through the book, which isn't a surprise considering the time in which it was written. And it was an interesting study for me to see all of the ways that political correctness has changed in the last hundred years.

More than that, though, Keeper of the Bees is superbly written. It's so eloquent that even the boring parts were riveting to me. I found myself thinking, "I can't stop now, he's looking around the house!" So when things really pick up, when there's action, I couldn't stop for anything.

I found it shelved in the Juvenile section of my library, and am a bit mystified. Sure, there is no objectionable material in it; but, noawadays books are often shelved by the protagonist's age, and Jamie is a full grown man. He does have a great relationship with the Little Scout, but the story is certainly Jamie's. Anyway, I highly recommend this one.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pendragon: The Soldiers of Halla

Post by Ashley
My husband and I both finished reading this one. Unlike him, however, I've actually read the whole series---all ten books of it. He just read the ninth and then this one, the tenth. But we were agreed on our general impressions of the book: Cool concept, some holes here and there, really confusing and basically disappointing epilogue, but generally a fun read.

The series follows the adventures of Bobby Pendragon, a kid who's told when he's twelve that he's a Traveler, an individual chosen from his planet to try to maintain the balance in Halla---basically the universe. He travels through flumes (something like wormholes) from territory to territory (world to world), trying to foil the evil mastermind plots of one Saint Dane, a bad guy bent on causing all of the territories (ten in all) to collapse into chaos and thereby bring about the downfall of all of Halla. He does this by exploiting the worst propensities of mankind---pride, violence, greed, hatred, envy, etc. So Bobby and his team of Travelers, of whom he becomes the leader, along with his two best friends from his youth, Courtney and Mark, form the heroic team who combine their efforts in this final book to bring about the complete downfall of Saint Dane and the restoration of peace to Halla.

There were some unexpected twists and turns in the book, which was fun. That's something D. J. MacHale is good at---twisting the plot in directions you didn't expect. The problem is, you come to anticipate that there will be a twist. A bad thing? Possibly. I wish the series had been condensed a bit. Some of the books seemed a bit superfluous. A semi-important thing happens in each book that leads toward the ending, but I think some of those could have been doubled up and the series shortened. I was about ready for it to be finished around book 7, but since I'd already gotten that far, I had to keep reading to the end of the series. Book 8 was particularly hard to slog through. Anyway. They are generally fun books, and I'd recommend them to youngish teenage boys and girls. I'm kinda glad the series is done now, though. On to the next!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hey, what's going on?

My posts have been fewer and farther between recently -- mainly due to the death of the morning nap. Yes, the toddler (he's so not a baby anymore...) is changing things up around here.

I'm in the middle of a couple of books -- Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A collection of Zen and pre-Zen writings; and The Bee Keeper by Gene Stratton-Porter. I'm liking them both, and I'll surely review them, but it may be a while yet.

image from hilarious post here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Last Olympian

Post by Alysa
Book 5, the final installment in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series: The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan.

Yay! yay! yay! yay! It was so good! It definitely lived up to my expectations. And my wildest dreams didn't have to come true -- I managed to get my hands on it pretty quick, since we bought it.

These books are so much fun.
The concept is fun: what would Greek gods be like in the modern day?
The delivery is fun: Percy is a hilarious narrator you can relate to and enjoy.
The characters are great
: my favorite this time was Paul. But Grover was still wonderful and Annabeth was still kick-butt and I even liked dark Nico. . .
And the action is non-stop: I was obligated to put the book down in the middle of a couple of different battle sequences, just because I knew things weren't going to be any less exciting in a few pages.

A triumphal finish to a great series. Well done!

Umm, need I say recommended? Begin with The Lightning Thief.

Jellaby: Monster in the City

As soon as I figured out this one was available, I snatched it up. The original leaves you quite without denoument!

I'm happy to say this one picked up right where the original left off. And what an adventure! It was kinda crazy. Especially that magician dude who looks a bit like a lego-man! And all that comic-book action!

The book has friendship at its heart. What makes a good friend? How do you make friends with others? What do you do when your friends hurt you? I think it brings up all kinds of great topics for it's age group.

Oh, and I ESPECIALLY liked the epilogue. Yay! It brought it all together for me and helped me feel like the series is headed in a good direction.

Recommended to fans of Jellaby (Everead mini-review here) and kids 8+. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Now, even more famous!

You can catch my guest post on the lovely Heather's blog over here. Including exclusive picture of me with a book for a face! Jacob thought I was trying to remain anonymous or not put my face on the interwebs, and thought that was dumb because the post links to my blogs which have plenty of pictures, but I was like, "No. I'm just trying to be funny." So there you have it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I Am A Mother

I Am A Mother by Jane Clayson Johnson

This one is a change from my usual fare, but Annaliese recommended it, so I had to try it out.

The book is about motherhood. Written by a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, its target audience is the women of the same church. However, I think it would be a fine read for any person who wants a postive perspective on motherhood.

Johnson talks about her experiences with motherhood, her own mother, and other women. She talks about how women who have not borne children of their own are still mothers. She quotes others on the eternal, spiritual importance of motherhood and on why mothers are undervalued today.

The book was good -- it made me smile and it even got me a bit misty a couple of times. The only criticism I have is that I think she was writing for a small field, sometimes. What I mean is, sometimes she would say something like "whether you're x, y, or z, ..." and I would think "what about the rest of the alphabet?" But really, I quite liked the book.

I couldn't seem to put it down; I zipped through it on a Sunday afternoon. So if you want something uplifting about a very large demographic in our world today (read: mothers) give it a shot!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed by J. C. Phillipps

"It was the happiest day of Wink's life when he was accepted to the Sumer Moon School for Young Ninjas."

What a brilliant beginning to a brilliant book. It is hilarious and colorful and cute. It moves you: you totally feel for little Wink and can see where he's coming from. The method of his ultimate success is very gratifying.

I absolutely love the cut-paper illustrations. When I was required to write and illustrate a picture book for my Elementary Music Education class, cut paper is what I chose. It just looks so cool. And so of course the whole time I'm thinking "what fantastic papers!" and "where did she get them?" But only the second time through, because the first time I was too caught up in the story.

Recommended for all ages.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Win Catching Fire

Enter to win Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (sequel to The Hunger Games) from Reviewer X here.

The Hero of Ages

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn Trilogy book 3.

Loved it! I was getting frustrated at the beginning because I knew I was in for another long book, and I have an internal book clock that was bugging me all through the second one saying "you should be done with this book by now" over and over. But that's just because I don't usually read books that are this long. So I decided I would take it slow and read other books while Jacob read along with me.

But yeah! It was a return to some of my favorite things about the first book. Plus Sanderson never fails to surprise. But it's like Jacob says, his surprises get you every time, but they make sense. They are foreshadowed, but not obviously looming.

Very enjoyable trilogy. Highly recommended to fantasy fans teen and older.
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