Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review - The Beautiful Dead: Jonas by Eden Maguire

The Beautiful Dead: Jonas
Eden Maguire
March 2010
279 pg

Darina is devastated. Four people she knows has died in the past year. And one of them was her new boyfriend, Phoenix. Darina is drawn to the area around Angel Rock; and that's when she see's him. Phoenix. Alive. She thinks...
Then she gets to see and talk to him. Only he's not alive and he's not alone..

All of the recently dead ones are there and they need Darina. She can help them complete their missions and pass out of limbo. There are questions surrounding their deaths; were they murdered? Darina is their link with the mortal world or the far side as they call it. Darina accepts the challenge because it means she will get to spend more time with Phoenix. Even if he isn't really alive.

I really wanted to like this book but The Beautiful Dead is written in an overly dramatic way and is full of cliches. Many times I forgot that the characters were supposed to be teenagers.

"Will she think the worst?" He was still grinning, turning a little bit sheepish but also amused...
He embraced me one more time.

"My friends pussyfooted around me."

"He's our overlord, and without him we'd be out of here without a trace."

I didn't really get into the book until about 200 pages in. You don't really get to know any of the characters and therefore you don't really care what happens. Even the big scene when part of the group time-travels seemed unnecessary. I didn't see why Darina needed to be there since the group can erase people's memories. They can also hear everything. So, they should actually already know what's going on without her help. I'm hoping the next book gets better. Each book will focus on a different one of the four teens. I also didn't like Wuthering Heights, so maybe that's why I didn't get into this one...

Now, that being said, I'm sure I can find some readers for this series. I don't always get it but the students do. Plus, it's nice zombies... So, I'm passing this ARC on to some of my test readers. I'll update this in a month or so and tell you what we decided.

About the Author
Eden Maguire lives part of the time in the US, where she enjoys the big skies and ice-capped mountains of Colorado.

An abandoned farmstead two hours south west of Denver gave her the perfect setting for The Beautiful Dead. "It was as if time had stood still," she says of her first chance visit to the ranch. "The kitchen still had the old rocking-chair and iron stove, the ancient barn door really did blow open and shut in the wind."

It was here that the seed for a series of paranormal romance mysteries was sown. Eden Maguire's lifelong admiration for Emily Bronte's timeless classic, Wuthering Heights, ties in with her fascination for the dark side of life and informs her portrayal of the restless, romantic souls in The Beautiful Dead.

Away from her interest in the supernatural and the solitary pursuit of writing fiction, Eden's life is lived as much as possible in the outdoors, thanks to ranch-owning friends in Colorado. She says, "Put me on a horse and point me towards a mountain - that's where I find my own personal paradise."

Read the First Chapter
Beautiful Dead Book 1: Jonas - Chapter 1 Excerpt

Beautiful Dead Trailer

Beautiful Dead on Facebook
Beautiful Dead on Tour - there are so many bloggers doing this tour! It's pretty amazing.
Join The Beautiful Dead Ning

ARC provided by Sourcebooks Fire

Sunday Salon - Monthly Reading Update - February 28, 2010

I've been doing well with my staying off the computer but my book buying was off the charts! I've also been doing some aimless reading and here's how it all panned out:

1. Reading Challenges
Short update on my unjoined challenge participation.

Debut Author Challenge (The Story Siren)(7)
Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison
The Beautiful Dead by Eden Maguire

In The Middle Reading Challenge (O.W.L.) (9)
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
The Greatest Moments in Sports by Len Berman
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Young Adult Reading Challenge (J. Kaye)(18)
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
For Keeps by Natasha Friend
Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
The Beautiful Dead by Eden Maguire

Support Your Local Library (J. Kaye)(8)
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

POC Reading Challenge (POC Reading Challenge) (11)
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison

2. Book Buying
I got my taxes and went a little crazy. Hopefully this will hold me over the next few months!

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Beautiful Creatures by Garcia and Stohl
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (preorder)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemison
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in The Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel (school)
Paper Daughter by Jeanette Ingold (ARC from Netgalley to Kindle)

Total: ~$85.00

That's about 3 months worth of budget book buying! Not good. That means I have to try to refrain from buying until MAY!! ARGH!

Total books read in February (16)
Best Book for February - Going Bovine by Libba Bray and Soulless by Gail Carriger

Looking forward to making some changes going forward as I try to rein in my reading while fostering more reviews.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Review - The Greatest Moments in Sports by Len Berman

greatestmomentsThe Greatest Moments in Sports
Len Berman
Nov. 2009
138 pgs and CD

I reviewed this book because we have a fair number of sports fans at our middle school. In our 6th grade nonfiction classes about a third of the students wanted to do some sort of sports-related research paper. This should be popular even if it doesn't have any snow- or skate- boarding.

Each "moment" has a 2-page spread title page that includes a large picture of the subject. The text is in a box with a white background and superimposed over the background picture spread. The next 4 pages cover the "moment". There are several pictures and call-out boxes including captions and a Fast Fact. The book covers 1932 - 2008, so it's fairly up-to-date. There are 25 "moments" in the book and 10 of those are included on CD.

Each CD "moment" has an introduction, the original broadcast, and a follow-up. Berman also included an introduction and post-script.

The book is a nice size, hefty. The table of contents is laid out nicely and lets you know which moments are on the CD. The font is clear and easy-to-read. The graphics are colorful and over-sized. This edition includes a jacket but it's not needed since the cover looks like it's been library bound. Top-notch presentation!

Berman includes many of the obvious "moments": Micheal Phelps, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzy, and others. He also includes some moments by lesser known stars such as Nadia Comaneci and Roger Bannister.

Berman's passion comes through in the writing. It's as if you were sitting there talking to him as he relived the event. He tells you why he chose that moment and then goes on to describe what happened on that day and doesn't repeat everything that's on the CD. Like any good non-fiction book - you don't have to read this in order.

Hank Aaron - The Greatest Moments in Sports does a good job introducing Hank Aaron and talks about his excellence in football that led to a scholarship. Berman tells how Aaron received hate mail for trying to break Babe Ruth's record and how Aaron decided to keep the letters as inspiration. He also mentions the introduction of the Hank Aaron Award. These are all things I didn't know.

CD excerpt - About the Author Len Berman is a veteran sportscaster and creator of “Spanning the World,” a monthly collection of sports bloopers, which was a 20-year staple on NBC’s Today Show. Berman is the recipient of eight Emmy Awards and is a six-time winner of New York Sportscaster of the Year. His daily Top 5 email is featured in The Huffington Post and is received by thousands around the country. I give The Greatest Moments in Sports by Len Berman, 5 stars. I'm sure it will be checked out constantly! Book provided by Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky. Amazon Associate link...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog Tour - The Believers by Zoe Heller

believers The Believers
Zoe Heller
Harper Perennial
335 pg (plus About ZH, story behind the book, author book picks)

My Thoughts
The Litvinoffs are your average, dysfunctional family. Audrey and Joel weren't your typical parents though. They were socialists who didn't believe in coddling. They raised their children to question and never settle. At least in theory. Joel's stroke leaves the family spending time together and having to actually talk to each other. Audrey, his wife, is a bitter, foul-mouthed know-it-all in her late 50s. The children, Rosa, Karla and Lenny, are all facing their own demons and having to deal with what Audrey calls her "sane response to motherhood". Lenny's a 34 year old druggy who gets a $100 a week allowance from his mom. Karla is struggling in a loveless marriage that she feels is all she deserves. Rosa is trying to find a missing part of herself.

Rosa was the only character I liked in The Believers. I felt her struggles to come to terms with her Jewish past and reconcile the reality with her imaginations was believable. Many of the other characters felt like caricatures - over the top and dreary. All the black characters in the book were deficit - Berenice, the husband stealer who takes pictures of her "genitalia", the girls from Girlpower who "danced a nasty little pornographic dance" and were stuck in their "class destiny" and the "scruffy middle aged black man" who is homeless and plays music on trains for money.

I felt very distant when reading The Believers. I've read many books that were outside of my comfort zone but the author usually finds a way to bring me into the story. To show me the magic they are creating, they infuse a sense of wonder and sharing into the story that they are weaving. Here, I felt condescended to, like the author was saying here's a story, you won't understand it but I'll tell you anyway.

There were a few funny parts, when Karla's explaining how misjudged she is because she's not a nurturer. She has the "not infrequent desire to smack her mother in the face." Which I also felt. For most of the characters.

I enjoyed the insight into Jewish customs and traditions. Rosa's struggle between the emotional and intellectual when it comes to religion felt like one I'd been through and could understand.

All in all, The Believers was a decent book that I'd been wanting to read this since its HC release. I was happy to have this opportunity. It just wasn't the book for me at this moment.

About the Author
Zoë Heller is the author of Everything You Know and What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and made into an acclaimed film starring Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench. Heller lives in New York.

Zoe Heller interview (13 min)

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Perennial for providing this book! Click the links for more tour dates and to browse inside the book.

Waiting on Wednesday - Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Franscisco X Stork

Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Francisco X. Stork
March 2010

From IndieBound

When Pancho arrives at St. Anthony's Home, he knows his time there will be short: If his plans succeed, he'll soon be arrested for the murder of his sister's killer. But then he's assigned to help D.Q., whose brain cancer has slowed neither his spirit nor his mouth.

I loved Marcelo in the Real World and look forward to reading this one! It's on my Printz 2011 watch list too!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. What are you waiting on?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Salon - What Am I Doing? - February 5, 2010

BLOB - Biggest Loser of Books - what a good idea. A group of bloggers are trying to pwn their book coveting habits. I like that. I've adopted that BLOB attitude by coming up with a challenge for myself.

My Own Private Challenge
During the course of the past year, I've requested books and I've accepted books that are now sitting on my shelves. Most of them anyway. These are books that I really want to read but other obligations have pushed them down in the TBR pile. I'm proposing to bring those back to the top. I'm going to work one of those into the rotation in between each book blog tour book. Now, in March, I'll kick my Newbery/Printz reading into high gear. So, I'll have to re-balance the books then.

Newbery/Printz 2011 Search
How is it going you say? Well, I've only read 2 books that might be contenders. I'll tell more about them in March. Here are my top cravings up till now:
The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean - 5 Starred reviews - not eligible for Newbery
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher - 5 Starred reviews - not eligible for Newbery
Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter - 3 starred reviews
Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce - 3 starred reviews - not eligible for Newbery
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers - 3 starred reviews - not eligible for Newbery

I have a total of 57 books on my list but I don't have many books for children under 6th grade. I'll look more at those later in the year. Some titles I've listed won't come out until September. Some titles have no stars and I just think they will be significant. I need to hie over to the library to take a look at some review magazines and then do an update.

I'm thinking of adding a new feature called Saturday School. Twice a month I would talk about books being used in our classrooms here. I would give a short review and tell how the teacher is using it, if I know, and other significant information. I'm going to stick with Language Arts classrooms for now. Is there anything in particular you'd like to know about the books? This is in the planning/reading stages and I hope to showcase this starting in March.

Ok, that's my Sunday on a Monday. Hope you have a great week!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blog Tour - Katy's New World by Kim Vogel Sawyer

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Katy’s New World (The Katy Lambright Series)

Zondervan (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Bridgette Brooks of Zondervan for sending me a review copy.***


Bestselling, award-winning author Kim Vogel Sawyer wears many hats besides “writer.” As a wife, mother, grandmother, and active participant in her church, her life is happily full. But Kim’s passion lies in writing stories of hope that encourage her readers to place their lives in God’s capable hands. An active speaking ministry assists her with her desire. Kim and her husband make their home on the beautiful plains of Kansas, the setting for many of Kim’s novels.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310719240
ISBN-13: 978-0310719243


Like wisps of smoke that upward flee,
Disappearing on the breeze,
Days dissolving one by one . . .
Time stands still for no one.

Katy Lambright stared at the neatly written lines in her journal and crinkled her brow so tightly her forehead hurt. She rubbed the knot between her eyebrows with her fingertip. What was wrong? Ah, yes. Two uses of “one” on the final lines. She stared harder, tapping her temple with the eraser end of her pencil. What would be a better ending?

She whispered, “Time’s as fleeting as the —”


Just like the poem stated, her thought dissipated like a wisp of smoke. Dropping her pencil onto the journal page, she smacked the book closed and dashed to the top of the stairs. “What?”

Dad stood at the bottom with his hand on the square newel post, looking up. “It’s seven fifteen. You’ll miss your bus if we don’t get going.”
Katy’s stomach turned a rapid somersault. Maybe she shouldn’t have fixed those rich banana-pecan pancakes for breakfast. But she’d wanted Dad to have a special breakfast this morning. It was a big day for him. And for her. Mostly for her. “I’ll be right down.”

She grabbed her sweater from the peg behind her bedroom door. No doubt today would be like any other late-August day —unbearably hot —but the high school was air conditioned. She might get cold. So she quickly folded the made-by-Gramma sweater into a rough bundle and pushed it into the belly of the backpack waiting in the little nook at the head of the stairs.

The bold pink backpack presented a stark contrast to her simple sky blue dress. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips, while at the same time a twinge of uncertainty wiggled its way through her stomach. She’d never used a backpack before. Annika Gehring, her best friend since forever, had helped her pack it with notebooks and pencils and a brand-new protractor—all the things listed on the supply sheet from the high school in Salina. They had giggled while organizing the bag, making use of each of its many pockets.

Katy sighed. A part of her wished that Annika was coming to high school and part of her was glad to be going alone. If she made a fool of herself, no one from the Mennonite fellowship would be there to see. And as much as she loved Annika, whatever the girl saw she reported.

“Katy-girl!” Dad’s voice carried from the yard through the open windows.

Would Dad ever drop that babyish nickname? If he called her Katy-girl in front of any of the high school kids, she’d die from embarrassment. “I’m coming!” She yanked up the backpack and pushed her arms through the straps. The backpack’s tug on her shoulders felt strange and yet exhila-rating. She ran down the stairs, the ribbons from her mesh headcovering fluttering against her neck and the backpack bouncing on her spine —one familiar feeling and one new feeling, all at once. The combination almost made her dizzy. She tossed the backpack onto the seat of her dad’s blue pickup and climbed in beside it. As he pulled away from their dairy farm onto the dirt road that led to the highway, she rolled down the window. Dust billowed behind the tires, drifting into the cab. Katy coughed, but she hugged her backpack to her stomach and let the morning air hit her full in the face. She loved the smell of morning, before the day got so hot it melted away the fresh scent of dew.

The truck rumbled past the one-room schoolhouse where Katy had attended first through ninth grades. Given the early hour, no kids cluttered the schoolyard. But in her imagination she saw older kids pushing little kids on the swings, kids waiting for a turn on the warped teeter-totter, and Caleb Penner chasing the girls with a wiggly earthworm and making them scream. Caleb had chased her many times, waving an earthworm or a fat beetle. He’d never made her scream, though. Bugs didn’t bother Katy. She only feared a few things. Like tornadoes. And people leaving and not coming back.

A sigh drifted from Dad’s side of the seat. She turned to face him, noting his somber expression. Dad always looked serious. And tired. Running the dairy farm as well as a household without the help of a wife had aged him. For a moment guilt pricked at Katy’s conscience. She was supposed to stay home and help her family, like all the other Old Order girls when they finished ninth grade.

But the familiar spiral of longing —to learn more, to see what existed outside the limited expanse of Schell-berg—wound its way through her middle. Her fingernails bit into the palms of her hands as she clenched her fists. She had to go. This opportunity, granted to no one else in her little community, was too precious to squander.

“Dad?” She waited until he glanced at her. “Stop worrying.”

His eyebrows shot up, meeting the brim of his billed cap. “I’m not worrying.”

“Yes, you are. You’ve been worrying all morning. Wor-rying ever since the deacons said I could go.” Katy under-stood his worry.

She’d heard the speculative whispers when the Menno-nite fellowship learned that Katy had been granted permis-sion to attend the high school in Salina: “Will she be Kath-leen’s girl through and through?” But she was determined to prove the worriers wrong. She could attend public school, could be with worldly people, and still maintain her faith. Hadn’t she been the only girl at the community school to face Caleb’s taunting bugs without flinching? She was strong.

She gave Dad’s shoulder a teasing nudge with her fist. “I’ll be all right, you know.”

His lips twitched. “I’m not worried about you, Katy-girl.”

He was lying, but Katy didn’t argue. She never talked back to Dad. If she got upset with him, she wrote the words in her journal to get them out of her head, and then she tore the page into tiny bits and threw the pieces away. She’d started the practice shortly after she turned thirteen.

Before then, he’d never done anything wrong. Sometimes she wondered if he’d changed or she had, but it didn’t mat-ter much. She didn’t like feeling upset with him —he was all she had —so she tried to get rid of her anger quickly.

They reached the highway, and Dad parked the pickup on the shoulder. He turned the key, and the engine splut-tered before falling silent. Dad aimed his face out his side window, his elbow propped on the sill. Wind whistled through the open windows and birds trilled a morning song from one of the empty wheat fields that flanked the pickup. The sounds were familiar—a symphony of nature she’d heard since infancy—but today they carried a poi-gnancy that put a lump in Katy’s throat.

Why had she experienced such a strange reaction to wind and birds? She would explore it in her journal before she went to bed this evening. Words —secretive whispers, melodious trill—cluttered her mind. Maybe she’d write a poem about it too, if she wasn’t too tired from her first day at school.

Cars crested the gentle rise in the black-topped high-way and zinged by—sports cars and big SUVs, so differ-ent from the plain black or blue Mennonite pickups and sedans that filled the church lot on Sunday mornings in Schellberg. When would the big yellow bus appear? Katy had been warned it wouldn’t be able to wait for her. Might it have come and gone already? Her stomach fluttered as fear took hold.

Dad suddenly whirled to face her. “Do you have your lunch money?”

She patted the small zipper pocket on the front of the backpack. “Right here.” She hunched her shoulders and giggled. “It feels funny not to carry a lunchbox.” For as far back as she could remember, Katy had carried a lunch she’d packed for herself since she didn’t have a mother to do it for her.

“Yes, but you heard the lady in the school office.” Dad drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “She said the kids at this school eat in the cafeteria or go out to eat.”

Embarrassment crept over Katy as she remembered the day they’d visited the school. When the secretary told Dad about the school lunch program, he’d insisted on reading the lunch menu from beginning to end before agreeing to let his daughter eat “school-made food.”

Truthfully, the menu had looked more enticing than her customary peanut butter sandwich, but Dad had acted as though he thought someone might try to poison her. She’d filled three pages, front and back, in her journal over the incident before tearing the well-scribbled pages into min-iscule bits of litter. But —satisfaction welled—Dad had purchased a lunch ticket after all.

The wind tossed the satin ribbons dangling from the mesh cap that covered her heavy coil of hair. They tickled her chin. She hooked the ribbons in the neck of her dress and then brushed dust from the skirt of her homemade dress. An errant thought formed. I’m glad I’ll be eating cafeteria food like a regular high school kid. It might be only way I don’t stick out.

Dad cleared his throat. “There she comes.”

The school bus rolled toward them. The sun glared off the wide windshield, nearly hiding the monstrous vehicle from view. Katy threw her door open and stepped out, carrying the backpack on her hip as if it were one of her toddler cousins. She sucked in a breath of dismay when Dad met her at the hood of the pickup and reached for her hand.

“It’s okay, Dad.” She smiled at him even though her stomach suddenly felt as though it might return those ba-nana-pecan pancakes at any minute. “I can get on okay.”
The bus’s wide rubber tires crunched on the gravel as it rolled to a stop at the intersection. Giggles carried from in-side the bus when Dad walked Katy to the open door. Katy cringed, trying discreetly pull her hand free, but Dad kept hold and gave the bus driver a serious look.

“This is my daughter, Katy Lambright.”

“Kathleen Lambright,” Katy corrected. Hadn’t she told Dad she wanted to be Kathleen at the new school instead of the childish Katy? Dad wasn’t in favor, and Katy knew why. She would let him continue to call her Katy—or Katy-girl, the nickname he’d given her before she was old enough to sit up—but to the Outside, she was Kathleen.
Dad frowned at the interruption, but he repeated, “Kathleen Lambright. She is attending Salina High North.”

The driver, an older lady with soft white hair cut short and brushed back from her rosy face, looked a little bit like Gramma Ruthie around her eyes. But Gramma would never wear blue jeans or a bright yellow polka-dotted shirt. One side of the driver’s mouth quirked up higher than the other when she smiled, giving her an impish look. “Well, come on aboard, Katy Kathleen Lambright. We have a schedule to keep.”

Another titter swept through the bus. Dad leaned to-ward Katy, as if he planned to hug her good-bye. Katy ducked away and darted onto the bus. When she glanced back, she glimpsed the hurt in Dad’s eyes, and guilt hit her hard. This day wasn’t easy for him. She spun to dash back out and let him hug her after all, but the driver pulled a lever that closed the door, sealing her away from her father.

Suddenly the reality of what she was doing —leaving the security of her little community, her dad, and all that was familiar—washed over her, and for one brief moment she wanted to claw the doors open and dive into the refuge of Dad’s arms, just as she used to do when she was little and frightened by a windstorm.

“Have a seat, Kathleen,” the driver said.

Through the window, Katy watched Dad climb back into the pickup. His face looked so sad, her heart hurt. She felt a sting at the back of her nose —a sure sign that tears were coming. She sniffed hard.

“You’ve got to sit down, or we can’t go.” Impatience colored the driver’s tone. She pushed her foot against the gas pedal, and the bus engine roared in eagerness. More giggles erupted from the kids on the bus.

“I’m sorry, ma’am.” Katy quickly scanned the seats. Most of them were already filled with kids. The passen-gers all looked her up and down, some smirking, and some staring with their mouths hanging open. She could imagine them wondering what she was doing on their bus. She’d be the first Mennonite student to attend one of the Salina schools. She lifted her chin. Well, they’ll just have to get used to me.
Katy ignored the gawks and searched faces. She had hoped to sit with someone her own age, but none of the kids looked to be more than twelve or thirteen. Finally she spotted an open seat toward the middle on the right. She dropped into it, sliding the backpack into the empty space beside her.

The bus jolted back onto the highway with a crunch of tires on gravel. The two little girls in the seat in front of Katy turned around and stared with round, wide eyes. Katy smiled, but they didn’t smile back. So she raised her eyebrows high and waggled her tongue, the face she used to get her baby cousin Trent to stop crying. The little girls made the same face back, giggled, and turned forward again.
Throughout the bus, kids talked and laughed, at ease with each other. Katy sat alone, silent and invisible. The bus bounced worse than Dad’s pickup, and her stomach felt queasier with each mile covered. She swallowed and swallowed to keep the banana-pecan pancakes in place. Think about something else . . .

High school. Her heart fluttered. Public high school. A smile tugged on the corners of her lips. Classes like botany and music appreciation and literature. Literature . . .

When she’d shown Annika the list of classes selected for her sophomore year at Salina High North, Annika had shaken her head and made a face. “They sound hard. Why do you want to study more anyway? You’re weird, Katy.”

Remembering her friend’s words made her nose sting again. Annika had been Katy’s best friend ever since the first grade when the teacher plunked them together on a little bench at the front of the schoolroom, but despite their lengthy and close friendship, Annika didn’t understand Katy.

Katy stared out the window, biting her lower lip and fighting an uncomfortable realization. Katy didn’t under-stand herself. A ninth grade education seemed to satisfy everyone else in her community, so why wasn’t it enough for her?

Why were questions always swirling through her brain? She could still hear her teacher’s voice in her memory: “Katy, Katy, your many questions make me tired.” Why did words mean so much to her? None of her Menno-nite friends had to write their thoughts in a spiral-bound notebook to keep from exploding. Katy couldn’t begin to explain why. And she knew, even without asking, that was what scared Dad the most. She shook her head, hug-ging her backpack to her thudding heart. He didn’t need to be worried. She loved Dad, loved being a Mennonite girl, loved Schellberg and its wooden chapel of fellowship where she felt close to God and to her neighbors. Besides, the deacons had been very clear when they gave her permission to attend high school. If she picked up worldly habits, attending school would come to an abrupt and per-manent end.

A prayer automatically winged through her heart: God, guide me in this learning, but keep me humble. Help me remember what Dad read from Your Word last night during our prayer time: that a man profits nothing if he gains the world but loses his soul.
The bus pulled in front of the tan brick building that she and Dad had visited two weeks earlier when they enrolled her in school. On that day, the campus had been empty except for a few cars and two men in blue uniforms standing in the shade of a tall pine tree, smoking ciga-rettes. Dad had hurried her right past them. Today, how-
ever, the parking lot overflowed with vehicles in a variety of colors, makes, and models. People—people her age, not like the kids on the school bus —stood in little groups all over the grassy yard, talking and laughing.

Katy stared out the window, her mouth dry. Most of the students had backpacks, but none sporting bold colors like hers. Their backpacks were Mennonite-approved colors: dark blue, green, and lots and lots of black. Should she have selected a plain-colored backpack? Aunt Rebecca had clicked her tongue at Katy’s choice, but the pink one was so pretty, so different from her plain dresses . . . Her hands started to shake.

“Kathleen?” The bus driver turned backward in her seat. “C’mon, honey, scoot on off. I got three more stops to make.”

Katy quickly slipped her arms through the backpack’s straps and scuttled off the bus. The door squealed shut behind her, and the bus pulled away with a growl and a thick cloud of strong-smelling smoke. Katy stood on the sidewalk, facing the school. She twisted a ribbon from her cap around her finger, wondering where she should go. The main building? That seemed a logical choice. She took one step forward but then froze, her skin prickling with awareness.

All across the yard, voices faded. Faces turned one-by-one—a field of faces —all aiming in her direction. She heard a shrill giggle—her own. Her response to nervousness.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the pull on the other kids faded. They turned back to their own groups as if she no longer existed. With a sigh, she resumed her progress toward the main building, turning sideways to ease between groups, sometimes bumping people with her backpack, mumbling apologies and flashing shy smiles. She’d worked her way halfway across the yard when an ear-piercing clang filled the air. The fine hairs on her arms prickled, and she stopped as suddenly as if she’d slammed into the solid brick wall of the school building.

The other kids all began moving, flinging their back-packs over one shoulder and pushing at one another. Katy got swept along with the throng, jostled and bumped like everyone else. Her racing heartbeat seemed to pound a message: This is IT! This is IT! High school!

My Thoughts
Let me start by saying that I had to abandon this book. Although the premise of Katy's New World is promising; Mennonite teenager goes to high school in the outside world, it tries too hard to be "realistic". The language comes off as forced and funny in a way that had nothing to do with the story and everything to do with the writing.

"pushing your way past people wasn't Christlike. Dad - and the deacons - wouldn't be pleased if she became self serving"

"Bells go ring-a-ling. That thing goes braawnk."

"Or, her thoughts sniped...A Mennonite in a room full of heathens...she scolded herself...they aren't all heathens."

"We try not to encourage men to look lustfully at us, which would be causing them to sin."

I felt the preaching was heavy-handed. It may have gotten better but I couldn't finish it. Also, take a close look at the cover. The "mixed-race" student on the cover looks like some sort of computer-created alien. The head is disproportionate and her eyes aren't pointing in the right direction. It looks like she was photo-shopped in to create a sense of "inclusion". All in all, not my cup of tea.

I would be willing to send this to someone who would like to give it a try though! Just leave a comment with your email address. US only. I,ll take comments until February 11, 2010 11:59 pm.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Blog Tour - Spring Breakdown by Melody Carlson

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

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

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Spring Breakdown (Carter House Girls)

Zondervan (February 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Bridgette Brooks of ZONDERKIDZ for sending me a review copy.***


Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books for teens, women, and children. Before publishing, Melody traveled around the world, volunteered in teen ministry, taught preschool, raised two sons, and worked briefly in interior design and later in international adoption. "I think real-life experiences inspire the best friction," she says. Her wide variety of books seems to prove this theory.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031071494X
ISBN-13: 978-0310714941

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER: Just press the button!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Blog Tour - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

hotelbittersweetHotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Jamie Ford
Ballantine Books/Random House
285 p. (plus Author Notes and Reader's Guide)

Henry's wife has died and he's trying to put his life back on track. He walks by the Panama Hotel just as they are pulling the belongings of evacuated Japanese families from the basement. Henry's thrust back into the war years and memories of Keiko, a jazz club, bullies and an I Am Chinese button.

My Thoughts
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet alternates between Henry of 1986 and the Henry of 1942. Henry 1986 is jolted back to the age of 12 in Seattle.

Henry 1942 has been transferred to the White school and his dad makes him wear an I Am Chinese button. Henry's parents also wanted him to speak only in English, even though they didn't understand it.

Henry 1942 struggles to find his place at home and at school. Each place leaves him feeling isolated, no matter how hard he tries. One of the places he feels accepted is on the corner with Sheldon the sax player. Sheldon introduces Henry 1942 to jazz and a friendship blossoms.

One day Henry 1942 finds he's not the only outsider at the White school, a Japanese girl arrives. And although Keiko is second generation American, she's still considered a threat to peace in the US. Keiko and Henry's blossoming friendship prove difficult for both of them.

Henry 1986 tries to shake these memories from his head because it's too soon after his wife's death. He also wants to focus more on his son Marty. The more Henry 1986 delves into his past the more he finds he needs closure.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has just enough historical accuracy with the right amount of beautiful storytelling. You are pulled into the story, following Henry and Keiko as they get to know each other and then are pulled apart by the Japanese "evacuation". Henry's and Keiko's relationships with their parents play a big part in how they interact with each other. The Lees hands-off conservative style battling with the Okabe's open, supportive style. Keiko and Henry try to make things work, despite their upbringing and the political problems they are in the middle of, through no fault of their own. I loved how the story flowed back and forth between the ages yet never felt discordant or disorienting. I found myself afraid as we got closer to the end. For once, I wanted things to wrap up neat and tidy. These characters deserved it. But life doesn't always give you what you deserve or want. Jamie Ford finds a way to get darn close though.

This is one I won't hesitate to purchase for school. Students interested in this particular time period or historical fiction would be well served by reading it!

The publisher is offering a copy of
The Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet
to one lucky commenter! Open to US and Canada. 1 entry per person.
Just leave a comment with your email address!
Contest closes February 8, 2010 at 11:59 pm

About the Author
jamiefordJamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children.

Jamie on the Internets
Twitter - JamieFord
Facebook - Jamie Ford
Other TLC Book Tour Dates
Wednesday, February 3rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, February 4th: Nerd’s Eye View

Friday, February 5th: Feminist Review

Monday, February 8th: Suko’s Notebook

Tuesday, February 9th: Books and Movies

Wednesday, February 10th: Suko’s Notebook – author interview

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Random House for the review and giveaway book!

Numbers by Rachel Ward - Review

Rachel Ward
Chicken House/Scholastic
325 pgs. ARC February 2010

Jem knows your future. Or rather your lack thereof. She can tell you when you will die. She sees it in your head. She's been hiding from this "gift" her whole life. Keeping her head down. Not wanting to know. But once she sees those numbers there's no turning back. Enter Spider and what she knows about him shakes her to the core.

My Thoughts
Numbers starts out strong. Jem is a spunky, smart-mouthed loner and Spider is a walking, talking, bundle of action. They are opposites in every way: he's black, she's white, he's tall, she's short, he's friendly, she's not...

They form a friendship that, for Spider, quickly turns into something more. They start hanging out during and after school. Even though Jem knows Spider's number, somehow he helps her forget about those things.

Jem and Spider take a day to hang out and Jem notices that everyone in line to ride The London Eye have the same number and it's today. She convinces Spider to run away from the line. Everything explodes and she's forced to tell Spider about her "gift". They decide to go on the run and find a place to start their lives over. Only things don't play out like they'd hoped.

I enjoyed Numbers even though it dragged a bit in the middle. There was a little too much description of the locations for me. I also wish Ward would have spent more time on Jem's conundrum: was she causing death because she saw the numbers or could she prevent death by seeing the numbers?

The ending had a good twist and I look forward to reading the sequel. I give this 3 copies. I think students will enjoy this one and want to read with a friend.

ARC provided by Scholastic, Inc. Cover is the UK version.


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