The Wedding Planner's Daughter

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Wedding Planner’s Daughter
Coleen Murtagh Paratore
4/5 Stars

From the Publisher: Twelve-year-old Willa Havisham is a classics reader, a cherry-cordial eater, and quite possible the world’s worst wisher. But when she and her glamorous single mother, Stella, move to Bramble, Cape Cod, Willa’s wishes are beginning to come true: She makes her first-ever best friend, Tina. She bonds wither her hip, candy-making Nana. And best of all, steely Stella is falling for Willa’s English teacher Sam – he’s perfect dad material! But before Willa can marry off her mother, or dance with her adorable crush, Joseph, disaster strikes…

Can Willa undo the damage before Stella misses her chance to say “I do?”

Every once in a while, I like to read a book for sheer enjoyment. When I’m in this mood, I seek out a novel that is fast paced, entertaining, and a lot of fun. The Wedding Planner’s Daughter has all of these qualities, and more! From the drama of Willa’s relationship with her mother, to the mystery of what makes a perfect wedding – this book is perfect mix of and humor, romance, and action.

If you are looking for a book for your pre-teen, give this one a try.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The winner of "The Guardian" is hylianvampire.

Thanks to everyone who entered!


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Anisha Lakhani
5/5 Stars

From the Publisher: All she wants to do is teach. For Anna Taggert, an earnest Ivy League graduate, pursuing her passion as a teacher means engaging young hearts and minds. She longs to be in a place where she can be her best self, and give that best to her students.

Turns out it isn't that easy.

Landing a job at an elite private school in Manhattan, Anna finds her dreams of chalk boards and lesson plans replaced with board families, learning specialists, and benefit-planning mothers. Not to mention the grim realities of her small paycheck.

And then comes the realization that the papers she grades are not the work of her students, but of their high-priced, college-educated tutors. After uncovering this underground economy where a teacher can make the same hourly rate as a Manhattan attorney, Anna herself is seduced by lucrative offers--one after another. Teacher by day, tutor by night, she starts to sample the good life her students enjoy: binges at Barneys, dinners at the Waverly Inn, and a new address on Madison Avenue.

Until, that is, the truth sets in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Being a teacher myself, I understood where Anna was coming from - wanting to make a difference, unsure where to begin, and longing for support from those around her.

Lakhani's characters grab you from the first page. Anna Taggert is a truly likable heroine - I found myself cheering for her until the very end. Although she falls prey to the lure of easy money, she works heard to regain her integrity. Similarly, the students of Langdon are not what they seem. at first glance, the appear merely spoiled and lazy. But, as Anna works with them, we seem them begin to bloom - and we witness how they are manipulated by the world in which they live.

I have to admit, I have been a reading slump lately. But, this was the perfect book to get me back on track. If you are looking for a book you can loose yourself in - pick this one up!

Teaser Tuesdays

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The rules are:

1. Get the book you are currently reading.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.


Today's teaser is from Schooled by Anisha Lakhani page 36:

"Impulsively, I took a piece of chalk and wrote MS. TAGGERT in cursive writing with big, sweeping strokes. Even the smell of chalk was thrilling."


Sunday, September 21, 2008

This week's giveaway is an ARC of the young adult novel - Guardian by Julius Lester.

From the Publisher: When one teenage boy chooses not to tell the truth, an innocent man is lynched, and the boy must bear the burden of shame and suffer the pain of losing a friendship.

Not since To Kill A Mockingbird has there been a more haunting and poignant novel about what happens when a group of people deny human rights to others.

Leave a comment to enter. I will choose the winner on Saturday, September 27th.

Good Luck!


Congratulations Gwendolyn - you are the winner!


Joanne Dahme
3/5 Stars

From the Publisher: From moving to a new house to making new friends and preparing for high school, life for the new girl in town can be unsettling. But thirteen year-old Courtney is unprepared for how creepy life in Murmur, Massachusetts turns out to be. Her ivy-covered house overlooking the antiquated cemetery next door is one thing, but Courtney finds herself thrust into a full-fledged haunted adventure after meeting Christian and Margaret Geyer, a strange father and daughter with unfinished family business. The body of their ancestor, Prudence, has gone missing from beneath her ivy-carved tombstone and must be returned to its final resting place in order to break the spell that looms over Courtney’s house. To add to the suspense and help solve the mystery, authentic documents and photographs are set at the beginning of each chapter pertaining to Murmur, Courtney’s house, and the infamous cemetery. Will Courtney uncover the secret lurking within the dark, dank underbelly of her ivy-covered basement?

I found this book book to be a quick and, only somewhat, enjoyable read. Throughout the first half of the book, the plot was interesting and well-developed. I was disappointed in the end of the novel, as many of the plot elements were not sufficiently 'tied-up' - too many loose ends.

Courtney, the main character was authentic and believable. The characters that surround her, however, seemed a bit flat and undeveloped. I understood where Dahme was going with the characters of Christian and Margaret - they just weren't interesting.

I love a good ghost story, but I expect to be captivated and intrigued. After reading Creepers, I was left wanting more - more insight, more suspense, and more satisfaction.

The Boy From the Basement

The Boy From the Basement
Susan Shaw
4/5 Stars

From the Publisher: For Charlie, the basement is home. He's being punished. He doesn't mean to leave - Father wouldn't allow it - but when Charlie is accidentally thrust outside, he awakens to the alien surroundings of a world to which he's never been exposed. Though haunted by hallucinations and fear of the basement and his father's rage, Charlie embarks on a journey toward recovery that blossoms when he finally finds unconditional love.

This book as marketed as young adult - although the subject matter may be a little too sensitive for some.

In the novel, we see the world through Charlie's eyes - those of a severely neglected and abused young boy. We travel with him as he realizes he has missed out on the simple joys of life - rain, sunshine, and love. Charlie must confront his fears along the way, but he is guided by new friends, a loving foster mother, and a strong zest for life.

If you are looking for an attention-grabber for your older teen, this may just be it!

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thanks to Lezlie for sending this to me!

We Have a Winner!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The winner of Suicide Notes is - robin_titan!

Thanks to everyone who entered, and be sure to check out my new giveaway!


Friday, September 12, 2008

This week's giveaway is - my ARC of Something Wickedly Weird - The Icy Hand.

Read my review, and sign up by leaving a comment. I will pick the winner on September 20th.

Good Luck!

Firefighter Saves Cat with Mouth-to-Mouth

I am not a fan of cats, but I am a fan of firefighters. I'm sure this cat and her owner are too!


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wells, it's time to clean out my bookshelves. In the next few weeks, I will be giving away some of my ARCs. The first to go is - Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford.

I enjoyed this YA novel - you can find my review here.

Please leave a comment here if you are interested. I will randomly choose a winner on Saturday, September 13.

Rookie the Golden Retriever

The Burn Journals

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Burn Journals
Brent Runyon
4.5/5 Stars

From the Publisher: In 1991, fourteen-year old Brent Runyon came home from school, doused his bathrobe in gasoline, put it on, and lit a match.

He suffered third-degree burns over 85 percent of his body and spent the next year recovering in hospitals and rehab facilities. During that year of physical recovery, Runyon began to question what he'd done, undertaking the complicated journey from near-death back to high school, and from suicide back to the emotional mainstream of life.

There were times that this book was difficult to read, simply because I have a fifteen-year old son. The teenage years are tough - I've been there. But, I hate to think that anyone could feel as hopeless as Brent Runyon did on that February afternoon.

After the debrieding treatments, skin grafts, and surgeries, Runyon begins healing emotionally. When he is asked why he attempted suicide, he answers honestly, "I don't remember anything about myself back then." It's heartbreaking to think that those feelings that drove him to hurt himself were so transitory.

Eventually Runyon makes it through rehab, the treatment center, and to high school. Once there, his friends welcome him with open arms. At this point, any thoughts of suicide seem far away. However, Runyon points out that the depression that haunted him as a fourteen-year old does return. As an adult, he realizes that he must ask for help. He is now in therapy, taking medication, and living a productive life.

Runyon's voice come through very clearly in this memoir - one of the main reason I enjoyed this book so much. His style is clear, honest, and no-nonsense. He tackles the difficult topics of self-worth, sexual activity, pain, and uncertainty - all without playing the victim.

I would highly recommend this book for older teens. The lessons Runyon has to teach are vital - and often not discussed.

Saturday Silliness

Be sure to check out my latest post at Saturday Silliness - My Son, The Non-Reader.

Teaser Tuesdays

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The rules are:

1. Get the book you are currently reading.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.


Today's teaser is from The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon page 17:

"I fall down. I'm going to die."

30 Books in 30 Days

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Peek at my Bookshelf is hosting a great giveaway -- Head on over to check it out!

Ghost in the Mirror

Ghost in the Mirror: Real Cases of Spirit Encounters
Leslie Rule

From the Publisher: When you gaze into your mirror, you don't expect to see anything other than your reflection. However, you may be surprised to learn that this ubiquitous sheet of glass is really a doorway to another realm. Thousands of witnesses have stepped forward to admit that they have seen apparitions in mirrors. In fact, the mirror is one of the most common places where ghosts appear.

I have always been a fan of ghost stories. I don't like to admit it, but I actually watch A Haunting - it's a guilty pleasure. Needless to say, I was very excited to receive this book.

Rule does an admirable job with several stories in this book. They are well researched, well written, and not a little creepy. The majority of the tales, however, read like newspaper copy. Most are less than a page, and relate minimal information. Rule does include addresses of locations where the stories take place -- just in case the reader may want to do their own investigating.

Overall, I enjoyed Ghosts in the Mirror. Many of the stories were new to me, and encouraged some internet searches. My reason for the lower rating -- I would have preferred fewer, but more in-depth, stories.

Read other reivews on Library Thing.

Something Wickedly Weird - The Icy Hand

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Something Wickedly Weird - The Icy Hand
Chris Mould
5/5 Stars

From the Publisher: It's winter on the isolated island of Crampton Rock and there's a chill in the air that has nothing to do with the temperature. Even the talking fish is warning of imminent danger.

Stanley Buggles has inherited Candlestick Hall from his uncle, Admiral Bartholomew Swift. He is beginning his second trip to Crampton Rock - and it will be just as exciting as his first (you can read about his first adventure in The Wooden Mile). When he arrives at the Hall, he is warned of a grave danger approaching from the north. Stanley must work with his friend Daisy, the headless ghost of Admiral Swift, and a talking pike to foil a duo of ghostly pirates and protect the magical Ibis. If he succeeds, there are many more adventures ahead of him. If he fails.....

This story has a little of everything - mystery, intrigue, ghosts, pirates, a talking fish, and a brave, young protagonist. This is the perfect series for those youngsters who are enthralled with Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Mould's writing is fast-paced and is he is able to hold the attention of kids and adults alike. In addition, the illustrations are captivating, adding another level to this already wonderful book. I highly recommend The Icy Hand - It makes me wish my son was younger, so we could read it together.

Saturday Silliness

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I have been invited to post over at Saturday Silliness. If you haven't had a chance to visit yet, click on over for some funny, book related stories!

You can find my first post here -- Kids Say the Darndest Things.

Mailbox Monday

Monday, August 25, 2008

I received an unbelievable number of books this week -- 25 to be exact! Now that I unpacked them, all I have to do is hide them from my husband. Love ya - Poo Man ;)

My ginormous stack includes:

A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity

The Desert Pilgrim

Bright Angel Time

The Boy From the Basement

Black Earth City

Back Then

One Small Boat

The Circus in Winter

Beautiful Stranger

An Ordinary Woman

Lilya's Journey

The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo

An Uncommon Enemy

The Book of Kehls

After Life

By Way of Water

A Stone Bridge North

Flying Over 96th Street

The Birth House

Wife in the North

Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced & Covered in Cat hair

Ghost in the Mirror

Autobiography of a Fat Bride

I ordered most of these books from Book Closeouts. Click here to check out their $1 sale! Happy Shopping!

Suicide Notes

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Suicide Notes
Michael Thomas Ford
4/5 Stars

From the Publisher: When fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year’s Day to find himself in a hospital psychiatric ward, bandages on his wrists, he’s certain it’s all a huge mistake. Jeff knows he’s not like the other kids in there. They’ve got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on – the crazies start to seem less crazy.

Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel that examines that fuzzy line between “normal” and the rest of us.

Sentenced to a psychiatric hospital for forty-five days, Jeff begins a journal of his experiences, encounters, and discoveries. Jeff is a typical teenager – sarcastic, disrespectful, and belligerent. He doesn’t believe he belongs in the ward, nevermind the scars on his wrists. When his doctor, whom Jeff has nicknamed Cat Poop, attempts to bring his problems to light, Jeff responds with typical off-color remarks.

But as the days pass, and Jeff interacts with the other patients, he begins to see that even troubled teens deserve kindness and respect.

Ultimately, Suicide Notes is a novel of self-discovery and tolerance. By the end of the book, Jeff is able to acknowledge and love himself – as well as move toward healing the relationship with his parents.

I found Suicide Notes to be a realistic look at the difficult questions all teenagers face –

Who am I?
What do I want?
What makes me happy?
How do I fit in?

Suicide Notes will be released on October 14, 2008.

Bobbie has also reviewed Suicide Notes - take a look at what she has to say.

Teaser Tuesdays

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The rules are:
1. Get the book you are currently reading.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.


Today's teaser is from Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford page 18:

"There are five of us. In the fun house, I mean."

God Bless Rebel

Monday, August 18, 2008

This story just broke my heart -- of course that means it has to do with a dog. I believe that you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat children and animals. In my opinion, these car thieves are the lowest of the low. Catch them soon!

A Three Dog Life

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Three Dog Life
Abigail Thomas
5/5 Stars

From the Publisher: When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his skull was shattered, his brain severely damaged. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he was sent to live in a nursing facility that specializes in treating traumatic brain injuries. He had no memory of what he did the hour, the day, the year before. This tragedy is the ground on which Abigail had to build a new life. How she built that life is a story of great courage and change, of moving to a small country town, of a new family composed of three dogs, knitting, and friendship, of facing down guilt and discovering gratitude.

Life is not perfect. Tragedy can strike at any minute. How do you handle it when it happens to you? Thomas faces her tragedy with grace and poise. After her husband is injured in a horrific accident, Thomas begins the seemingly unending cycle of hospitals, doctors, and emergency calls. Eventually, Thomas realizes that, while Rich’s life may remain in a state of limbo, her life must go on. She manages to find a balance between the wife she continues to be, and the woman who must now find meaning in her life -- on her own terms. She finds comfort with friends, family, and above all else her dogs. This is truly a story of love, loss, and ultimately – healing.

I applaud Thomas for her ability to stand by her husband under such devastating circumstances. Her memoir is honest and thought provoking -- sharing her feelings of fear, self-reproach, and even happiness. Her love for Rich is evident in her writing. A Three Dog Life is a true love story and a joy to read.

These bloggers have also reviewed A Three Dog Life:

What's Sarah Reading
Across Time and Space
Reading Notes

Books this Week

This has been another slow reading week. I go back to work on Monday, and don't have the energy to do much of anything. But, I did manage to do a little reading....

Just Finished

Currently Reading

Just Received

Have you read any of these books? If you have, leave a comment with a link to your review.

Stupid News

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ant Bite Turns Out to be Gunshot Wound

Teaser Tuesdays

The rules are:

1. Get the book you are currently reading.2. Open to a random page.3. Share two “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.


Today's teaser is from Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason, page 218:

"Being familiar with vampires, as she was, she read an entirely different message in his eyes. And it wasn't pleasant at all."

New Books This Week

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Rest Falls Away

The Rest Falls Away
Colleen Gleason
4.5/5 Stars

Victoria Gardella Grantworth is about to make her debut when destiny intervenes. Like countless Gardellas before her, she is meant to become a Venator – a vampire hunter. Victoria must be on guard for the familiar ‘chill at the back of her neck’ that signals a nearby vampire. And the vampires seem to be everywhere. With the help of her Great-Aunt Eustacia and her fellow Venator, Max, Victoria fights to keep London safe from Lilith – a seductive and powerful vampire. But when Phillip de Lacy, Marquess of Rockely, asks for her hand in marriage, Victoria is torn between her duty and her heart. Which will win?

This book combined two of my favorite genres – Regency romance and vampire tales. What’s not to like? Gleason has taken the ordinary vampire story and added new twists – a vampire queen, a dynasty of vampire hunters, a love triangle, and a tragic ending.

The Rest Falls Away grabbed my attention and didn't let go – I read it in less than 24 hours. I found Gleason’s characters to be interesting, the dialogue easy to read, and the plot well thought out.

While I did thoroughly enjoy this novel, there was some information I missed. I wanted more background into the Gardella dynasty – how did they become Venators? What about Max’s background? And then there is Sebastian – how does he fit in? Hopefully these questions will be answered in the three remaining books in The Gardella Vampire Chronicles. I can't wait to find out!

These bloggers have also reviewed The Rest Falls Away:

Reading, etc.
Bookshelves of Doom
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
The Written Word

More '80s Trivia

Saturday, August 9, 2008

'80s Sitcom Potpourri

Score: 85% (17 out of 20)

Bliss to You

Bliss to You: Trixie's Guide to a Happy Life
Trixie Koontz, Dog
as told to Dean Koontz
5/5 Stars

I’ll admit it – I love dogs. What amazes me about my dogs is that they are content, not just happy, but completely at ease. I’ve always wanted to be more like my dogs.

Trixie Koontz agrees and calls this state ‘bliss’. Trixie was the faithful companion of author Dean Koontz until her death in 2007. Now on the other side, Trixie has written this book to show humans how to achieve bliss.

According to Trixie, there are eight steps to reaching bliss:

- Calm
- Beauty
- Fun
- Meaning
- Others
- Humility
- Loss
- Gratitude

In each section, Trixie explains how to focus on the important things in life and let go of the trivial.

Along the way, she also bestows important dog wisdom, such as:

“Optimism is like mental cookie.
Cookie nourishes tummy.
Optimism nourishes heart.”

I have to admit that I cried through the Foreword, written by Dean Koontz. Dog books always seem to bring tears with them. However, the rest of the book was incredibly uplifting and enjoyable.

Bliss to You will be released on September 16, 2008. All author proceeds will be donated to Canine Companions for Independence.

Maybe the path to bliss really is paved with dog wisdom. I hope so!

Bliss to you, Trixie.

July's Books

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Since I've started keeping track of my reading, I've noticed that there are times I read very little. When I am stressed, very busy, or not sleeping well - I don't have the energy to pick up a book.

July was a slow month for me. Between packing for vacation, unpacking, and getting my son ready for school, I only read five books. :(

- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
- Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
- Smoke, Mirrors, and Murder by Ann Rule

To Dance With the White Dog was my favorite. It was a reread - and I was not disappointed. I first read it in the early 1990s, and was just a captivated today as I was then.

Booking Through Thursday

- Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live?
- Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?

I have always been a huge fan of Regency romance. I know, even my husband makes fun of me.

The lives of the women in those novels are very different from mine - maids to dress you, cook for you, clean up after you. (sigh) I suppose it wasn't always easy to live in Victorian England, with all the pressure to make 'a good match', but in the novels I read, everything works out in the end.

Add to that all the irresistible dukes and counts running around sweeping beautiful girls off their feet - I suppose I am a hopeless romantic!


I would definitely NOT want to live in the world of science fiction. I don't watch it, I don't read it, and I really don't enjoy it. My problem is that I lack the ability to 'get my mind around' such far-fetched concepts. I think I have a pretty good imagination - but, I have something familiar to base my imaginings on.

Stupid News

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Sliding Doberman -- What else can I say??

Teaser Tuesdays

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The rules are:

1. Get the book you are currently reading.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.


Today's teaser is from A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, page 302:

"Felicity is so anxious she doesn't come back with a snappy reply. Instead, she nods gratefully and, looking as if she might be unable to hold her breakfast a moment longer, dashes off toward the lawn."

Stupid News

Monday, August 4, 2008

As a high school teacher, I find it very difficult to grab my students' attention at the beginning of class. I started using the "Stupid News Story of the Day" to 'shock' them into silence. After a week, they began asking about the story before the bell had even rung.

Now that school is out, I find plenty of stories to use, but I no longer have an audience. So, I decided to post them here. Enjoy!

Man Calls 911 to Complain About Sandwich Sauce

Autobiography of a Face

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Autobiography of a Face
Lucy Grealy
4/5 Stars

From the Publisher: It took Lucy twenty years of living with a distorted self-image and more than thirty reconstructive procedures before she could come to terms with her appearance after childhood surgery left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special. Later she internalized the paralyzing fear of never being loved. Heroically and poignantly, she learned to define herself from the inside out.

Grealy was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma at the age of nine. From then on, her life was divided into two parts before and after cancer. After the surgery to remove half her jaw, Grealy spent over two years enduring weekly chemotherapy treatments. When she was finally declared 'healthy', Grealy returned to the sixth grade -- only to be met with scorn and cruelty from her classmates.

Her story is written clearly and concisely. She is unerringly honest about how her disease affected her family, her developing personality, and those around her. As the reader follows her through years of skin and bone grafts, she witnesses her need for acceptance from others and her gradual acceptance of herself.

I was particularly struck by Grealy's need to be 'strong.' She is constantly reminded not to cry and to never show fear. This begins Grealy's quest to be the model patient. I am amazed that this small child was able to internalize and minimize her emotions, suffering, and considerable pain. To me, she seemed like an adult soul in a child's body.

I recommend Autobiography of a Face -- it is a moving and meaningful read.

Name That Baby

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I love these little quizzes - especially when they have to do with music. Give this one a try. Just listen to the song and match it up to the singer. Sounds easy, right?

Name That Baby!

Score: 100% (10 out of 10)

Painting a Picture

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I just started The End of East by Jen Sookfong Lee, and the language she uses is just amazing. Lee's writing style is beautiful and poetic. Take the first paragraph, for example:

"At first, what frightened her about this place was the drizzle -- the omnipresent grey of morning, afternoon, and nightime too. She was afraid that she would slowly be leached of colour and that, one day, while she was combing her hair in the mirror, she would see that her reflection was as grey as the sky, sea and land that surrounded her. Everything she saw as she moved about the city was filtered through the mist -- dampened, weighed down, burdened."

This novel is set in Vancouver, Canada. I found this beautiful photo of Stanley Park online -- this kind of fog would act on my imagination too!

Wow! Talk about painting a picture...

Wordless Wednesday

California Redwoods - Muir Woods

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Monday, July 28, 2008

Al Capone Does My Shirts
Gennifer Choldenko
5/5 Stars

Moose Flanagan has just moved to Alcatraz. His father has gotten a job as an electrician at the most notorious prison in the United States. You would think Moose would be excited, but he isn’t. Instead, Moose must watch over his autistic sister, Natalie, while trying to avoid the warden’s scheming daughter, Piper.

Moose’s problems multiply when he catches Natalie holding hands with Prisoner 105. Is Natalie safe on the island? Who is Prisoner 105? Moose enlists the help of the notorious Al Capone in an attempt to keep Natalie in school and off the island.

This is one of the best examples of juvenile fiction I have read in a long time. I am always on the lookout for books that will catch the attention of ‘reluctant readers,’ and this book does just that. The character of Moose is a typical preteen boy – his feelings for his family conflict with his own growing interests. He must choose what is important to him – baseball or Natalie. Ultimately, he make the wise decision and cares for the sister he loves.

Although fiction, the novel has a basis in reality – guards and their families did live on Alcatraz Island, Al Capone did work in the prison laundry, and civilians did interact with some prisoners. Choldenko has included this and other information in the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end of the book. This section sheds some light on ‘life on the rock’ and is a great link between the historical information and the novel itself.

This novel will capture your child’s imagination. I highly recommend it.

First Challenge Completed!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I have officially completed the Non-Fiction Five Challenge! I was afraid that I had joined too many challenges, but now that I have finished this one -- I feel better about finishing the others.

Thanks Joy!

My final reading list:

1. Desert Flower by Waris Dirie

2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

3. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

4. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

5. Smoke, Mirrors, and Murder by Ann Rule

Without a doubt, The Glass Castle was my favorite book. This memoir was so well-written that it was easy to read - even though the subject matter was extremely disturbing. If you are looking for a honest portrait of a family, flaws and all, I recommend you pick this one up.

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Friday, July 25, 2008

I have been a member of LibraryThing's Early Reviewers for months now. Every time new books are posted, I faithfully request the books I would like to read. Up until recently, I have had no luck.

July must be my lucky month -- I have been selected to receive two ARCs! I am expecting a copy of Schooled by Anisha Lakhani and Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenburg.

Nothing is better than opening your mailbox and finding books!

Winchester Mystery House

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When we decided to go to San Francisco, I knew I wanted to visit the Winchester Mystery House. I was fascinated after watching numerous television shows that highlight Sarah Winchester and her mansion. If you don't know the story, you can read it here. Beautiful and tragic, the Winchester house stands - seemingly unchanged - since Sarah's death in 1922.

The mansion is located in San Jose, California. It was a 45 minute drive from San Francisco, and incredibly easy to find. We began our tour at about 10:00. And by the time we finished, the waiting area was full. If you do have to wait, take some time to stroll around the gardens or visit the Firearms Museum.

Both of my guys agree - this was the best tour of our vacation. It even scored better than Alcatraz!