Friday, December 18, 2015

Red Queen

Aveyard, Victoria. Red Queen. New York: Harper Teen, 2015. Print.

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My Thoughts
I'd been seeing this beautiful cover through several library world things. I put it on my "to read" pile and my first order of the year.

I made time for it this month, bumping other books that should probably be read first. I just couldn't wait any longer. SO HAPPY I READ IT and now I'm disappointed that I'll have to wait until February for the next installment.

The writing is vivid. The story is believable. There are some cliches, stereotypes and "fantastical" elements, but this was a fresh spin on an old story. I really got lost in the story. I could envision the scenery and the action. In parts of the book, I thought of Game of Thrones, especially when the Silver houses are described. Each has a specific color and personality.

Mare Barrow is a Red. She is not a Silver. Silvers have all the power, wealth and supernatural ability. However, Mare has a power, one she didn't know she had until an accident brought it out of her. She then is "forced into being someone else. Into being one of them. A puppet. A show to keep people happy, quiet, and trampled" (Aveyard 86).

"Strength and power are the words Cal has been raised to know. Not goodness. Not kindness. Not empathy or bravery or equality or anything else that a ruler should strive for" (Aveyard 151). At least, this is what Mare first thinks.  As the story moves, I think she sees and learns more about Cal.

Queen Elara is someone you love to hate. I'm sure she will be a big part of the second book.

Trying not to compare GOT to this book too much, but Maven reminds me of King Joffrey. I wanted to like him, but there was something nagging at me about him. Mare realizes, "he was too perfect, too brave, too kind...he gave me exactly what I wanted, and it made me blind" (Aveyard 339).

If I were borrowing an idea from another book (Everything, Everything), the Life Is Short Spoiler Reviews would be "A forgotten son, a vengeful mother, a brother with a long shadow, a strange mutation. Together, they've written a tragedy" (Aveyard 355).

Quite a twist happens in the Epilogue. Come on, February! Glad I pushed this book up on the pile.

The title reference is on pages 268, 354. I think there's even a book cover reference on page 303.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman.
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My Thoughts
I have serious doubts about whether or not Harper Lee actually wrote this book. I think she probably wrote some of it, but it just doesn't sound like be same narrative voice used in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Unfortunately I didn't get to discuss this book with my book club to hear if they thought the same. 

Everything, Everything

Yoon, Nicola. Everything, Everything. New York: Delacorte Press, 2015. Print.

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My Thoughts
I really enjoyed reading this book! In fact, I added it to my "books I really enjoyed" list on the homepage of this blog. This was an ARC (advanced reader copy) that I got at TLA this year. I'm happy to be reading current books instead of years after they are published.

The premise is interesting and the story throughout stays true to the premise. To me, this story could be an applied metaphor for all of our lives. There are several "ah ha" moments and things I flagged. I enjoyed studying the cover (the juxtaposition of the two words and the accompanying art work or lack of art) as I read. It made more sense.

Madeline is sick--allergic to the world to be exact. Her house is a no germ zone. She cannot leave and very few people will endure the decontamination process to enter.  Then the mysterious "new guy" moves in next door. She sees him. He sees her. They communicate through the windows. Then the emails begin. Olly is his name. He's got a funny sense of humor. I often laughed at his antics.  He sends her pictures of his school, including the "library and librarian who looks exactly as I imagine a high school librarian would, which is to say bookish and wonderful" (Yoon 155). LOVE IT!

Since Madeline can't experience life for herself, she reads. A LOT! I loved her "Life is Short Spoiler Reviews" about the books.

  • Flowers for Algernon- A is a mouse. The mouse dies.
  • Lord of the Flies-Boys are savages. (Timely reference since I just listened to this book over the summer). 
  •  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland-Beware the Queen of Hearts. She'll have your head.
  • Invisible Man-You don't exist if no one can see you. 
  • The Stranger, Waiting for Godot, Nausea-Everything is nothing.
  • The Little Prince-Love is worth everything. Everything.

This book not only blends formats (narration with email and screen shots), there are also great illustrated drawings (done by the author's husband) that supplement the story. Truly, when I finished this book, I was delighted--not that it was over but because I had experienced the story.

This is a book I will share with my teens. WARNING: There is a sex scene (you'll see how this is possible when you read it).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Everybody Sees the Ants

King, A. S. Everybody Sees the Ants. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2011. Print.

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Plot Summary (from inside cover)

"Lucky Linderman doesn't want to wake up...Lucky Linderman didn't ask for his life. He didn't ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn't ask for a father who never got over it. He didn't ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn't ask to be the target of Nader McMillan's relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

But Lucky has a secret--one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos--the prison his grandfather couldn't escape--where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It's dangerous and wild, and it's a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?"

Image result for everybody sees the ants
My Thoughts
I can't remember now how I first heard of this story and put this in my "to read pile." A.S. King touches on a few topics, but the biggest is about bullying-- a topic I wrestle with helping my teens--so I moved it "up" on the pile.

The story follows Lucky Linderman's life. He has been bullied since he was 7 years old by Nader McMillan. The latest incident sends him and his mother to stay with his uncle and aunt in Arizona. Staying with them was quite an experience. Aunt Jodi is C.R.A.Z.Y. crazy! Uncle Dave tries to mentor Lucky, but Dave has his own secrets.

The ants do play a part in Lucky's imagination. He first finds them in his jungle dreams, where he tries to save his grandfather. Later, he sees the ants reacting to the people in Lucky's life. The ants provide a bit of comic relief, and I found that the ants and I often agreed.

Another thing I found funny was the scab on Lucky's face. As the story progresses, the shape of the scab changes. It begins looking like Ohio, changing to West Virginia, the hand part of Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and finally Hawaii. I could visualize the changing shape.

Lucky meets Ginny, a girl who is a night ninja. (Read the book--this will make sense). There is a wonderful analogy that tie Lucky & Ginny together. "That's the perfect way to explain how I feel about everything in the world. I don't even use the stupid shampoo" (King 219). Again,  read the book.

When Lucky and his family go to the Grand Canyon, I knew his description was true. "It really is the most mind-blowing thing I've ever seen...All we can say is 'wow'" (King 153).

The book is divided into three parts. The title reference appears on page 243. Lucky addresses the reader by starting some chapters with "___ thing you need to know." There are 12 things the reader needs to know.

The book doesn't offer answers or try to preach about bullies, even though I recognize many "answers" the adults try to give Lucky. The story shows how bullying can sometimes occur over years, and how it manifests in different relationships. In one part of the story, Lucky says, "It occurs to me that...we'd be like a folded map of America...I wonder, then, how many other kids could join in. Where are the Montanas and the Colorados? Where is Vermont? Florida? How many maps could we make?" (King 241).

The ending is hopeful. Lucky realizes he'll have to be the change he wants. He starts by eating what his dad cooked and finally saying goodbye to his granddad in his dreams.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lord of the Flies

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. Read by William Golding. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2003. Audiobook.

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Product Details
Plot Summary 
British schoolboys are stranded on a tropical island. In an attempt to recreate the culture they left behind, they elect Ralph to lead, with the intellectual Piggy as counselor. But Jack wants to lead, too, and one-by-one, he lures the boys from civility and reason to the savage survivalism of primeval hunters. In Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding gives us a glimpse of the savagery that underlies even the most civilized human beings.

The three most important aspects of Lord of the Flies:
  • The major theme of Lord of the Flies is that humans are essentially barbaric if not downright evil. The stranded boys begin by establishing a society similar to the one they left behind in England, but soon their society has degenerated into rival clans ruled by fear and violence; before the book is over, three boys have been killed.
  • The novel is an allegory, which is a story in which characters, settings, and events stand for things larger than themselves. For example, the island represents the world; Ralph and Jack symbolize different approaches to leadership.
  • William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies following World War II, during which the Nazis exterminated six million Jews and the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. In this context, the novel's profound pessimism is understandable.
My Thoughts

I've heard about this book for years, as my Senior English teacher friends teach this book. It is one I've never stopped to read, so when it was available as a free audiobook, I was excited to get it.

I listened to this book on the way home from South Dakota this summer. The narrator's voice was the author! I thought that was neat. His pauses, pronounciations and inflections are still in my head.  I remember driving through Kansas imagining the island the boys lived on in this book.

Piggy was the voice of rational thoughts. He tried to keep the island calm, but he was pushed aside by Jack's quest for leadership and power. It made me sad to hear what happened to him.

Ralph was also a character I came to care about in this story. He was trying to do the "right thing" and when the boys are finally found, he cries. I almost cried, too. It was a very moving scene.

As I was driving (and it's been a few months since listening), I can't remember what else happened. I remember a waterfall and again, just listening to the author's voice read the story. This will probably be a story I actually pick up the book to read to help me remember more.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Gilbert, Kelly Loy. Conviction. Hyperion: Los Angeles, 2015. Print.
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My Thoughts
I got this ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) at library conference this year. It was one of the first things I wanted to read from this year's haul. It sounded like a great story and was getting some good buzz on Twitter. However, after reading it, I was disappointed. I wanted a lot more from this book. There is a lot happening in this book, but it just didn't come together for me.

The story started great--there was a baseball connection (even though I found a pretty big error about the game on page 49). From the opening pages, I was ready and intrigued.

Braden Raynor plays baseball. When his dad, a radio personality, is arrested for a hate crime, the characters' stories begin to unfold. However, the dad's story is never really explained. I understand that the boy is the main character, but I needed more about the dad. The story dropped hints that there was more to him, yet at the end of the the book, he was still pretty one dimensional. He is mean, aggressive and drinks. His own dad committed suicide  I wanted the dad's mystery explained. There are glimpses into who he is and what possibly (or actually) happened, but it seemed like there was more to say about him that wasn't.

(On a side note, I read this book shortly after watching American Crime Story, a story starring Felicity Huffman & Timothy Hutton, that centers on a hate crime. I thought the timing was ironic).

There was a lot of cussing and "f bombs" dropped in the story that was off-putting. Wasn't this supposed to be "Christian fiction?" There are many references to God's grace and faith, even a few scriptures used, but it often seemed either preachy or flippant.

Braden's older brother Trey came to stay with him while the dad was incarcerated. I wondered would he really give up his life to stay with a brother he hardly knows in the house he left years ago? This didn't seem believable to me. I guessed pretty early in the book that Trey was gay. This side story offered some mystery to the overall story. Why did Trey leave home? What was the relationship between Trey and his dad?

Oh, and then there's an absent mother who dismisses Braden when he finally meets her. Really? Did this even need to be in the story? It was almost like the author was forcing a story episode that could have been summarized (or omitted).

The ending of the book was disjointed and rushed.  So, overall, I was disappointed in this read. Perhaps some corrections will happen before the actual book is published, but this won't be one I recommend.

One thing I learned from this book:

  • There have only been 23 perfect games in MLB history. Honestly, I didn't realize that number was so low. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Impulse and Perfect

Hopkins, Ellen. Impulse. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. Print.
Hopkins, Ellen. Perfect. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011. Print.

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My Thoughts
These are companion books. While Impulse tells Conner's, Tony's and Vanessa's stories, Perfect tells the stories of what's happening "back home" while Conner is at Aspen Springs. It was interesting when the two stories "merged."

In Impulse, Conner tries to commit suicide. This brings him to Aspen Springs where he meets Tony, a gay boy with a drug problem, and Vanessa, a girl who cuts herself to cope with her life.

True to Hopkins' books, these three characters' stories are not always easy to read. Hopkins uses the novel in verse format to relate the stories. Once the layers begin peeling away, the reader understands why these three have ended up in Aspen Springs. It reinforces the idea that appearances are not always as they seem, and judgments should not be assumed.

Late in the book, during a segment of Tony's story, he describes Vanessa, "She's incredible, not that she's perfect. But you once said imperfections create character" (Hopkins 607). I thought this was not only foreshadowing the next book (and at the time, I thought the sequel would be more about Tony's and Vanessa's emerging love story), but a good life mantra.

I was shocked at the end of Conner's story and couldn't wait to start reading Perfect.

When I began reading this "other side of the story," I realized that the timeline is concurrent with Impulse. 

In this installment, we meet Cara, Conner's (perfect) twin. Her boyfriend Sean is addicted to steroids and her best friend Kendra is starving herself to become "perfect." Kendra's sister Jenna has wild behavior, including dating Andre a rich, black kid who wants to dance (thereby upsetting his parents' expectations).

The title reference of this book appears many times, as each character is striving to become "perfect." I liked that Andre realizes what being perfect really is. "She is pretty, and perfect in her own way, because she knows who she is and doesn't pretend to be anyone else. Doesn't care who she pleases, as long as she is good with herself, and what else really matters? (Hopkins 598).

I noticed that Sean's poems were like a double poem. The first column created its own poem. This fits as he's struggling with who he is and who he is while doping. Then I noticed that Andre's and Kendra's stories also did this double poem effect. Very clever, Ellen Hopkins!  I also saw a pattern that sometimes one character's ending lines is how the next character's story began.

Again, these characters' stories are not always easy to read. There are two rapes in this book; one resulting in a stalking situation and the other resulting in a horrific beating and the girl being left to die. However, I also think there's a thread of hope in all these stories. I hope teenagers will see themselves and try to learn from these fictional characters' experiences instead of having their own similar experiences.

These characters are real with real struggles. I'm glad that Hopkins tackles this true life scenarios without judgement. Her author's note at the end of the book should reach kids.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Stoker, Bram. Dracula. Read by David Horovitch, Jamie Parker, Joseph Kloska and Alison Pettitt.
Naxos Audiobooks. 2015. Audiobook.

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Dracula (unabridged)

My Thoughts
I started listening to this book during a full moon. When the narrator describes the full moon in the story, as Jonathan first sets out to the Count's home, I thought that was eerie.

The story's pace is slow. The description is superb. The violence is hardly there by modern standards. I was so proud to finally have this "classic" story read (even if I actually listened to it). I made connections about who Van Helsing is and now know the "rules" of vampires. I kept thinking about how popular "vampire stories" are now, and in part, without Stoker's story, I'm not sure we'd even have the genre.

Chapter Two gives a vivid description of Dracula. I could see him in my mind throughout the story. He is not the Count from Sesame Street! HA!

When the other characters' stories began, I wondered why we were going off in another direction with the story and not staying with the Count and Jonathan. Listening to Mina & Lucy's letters back and forth made progress in the story slow for me, but then they finally connected to the Count.

I liked Van Helsing's role in the story. I was amazed at how fast he could travel from England to Amsterdam, so I wondered for awhile if he was "inflicted" or not.

There was a reference to a character being a "stranger in a strange land." I wondered if that is where Robert Heinlein got the title for his book.

I'm glad that Mina was a strong, female character. She played a crucial role in helping make the connections to hunt down Dracula.


Pratchett, Terry. Dodger. Read by Stephen Briggs. Harper Audio. 2012. Audiobook.

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My Thoughts
As I listened to this book, I kept thinking of Charles' Dickens' Great Expectations. In fact, "Charlie" Dickens is even mentioned in this story.

Dodger is a tosher-a person who goes through the sewers of London looking for lost/valuable things. When he stops a lady from being abducted, his fortune changes. Several important people enter his life to help this young lady (who turns out to be someone of prominence herself).

I enjoyed the narrator's voice in this book. At first, I wasn't sure if I'd like to listen to a story set in England, but the narrator (and Pratchett's writing), made it work for me. The story has mystery (who is this girl and why are people after her?). The story has political & socio-economic issues (Dodger's upbringing) as well as a romance. There is subtle humor and even murder.

Dodger's friend becomes a moral compass and guide for living like a gentleman. Again, this reminded me of Pip in Great Expectations.

As it has been a few months since listening to the book and writing this post, I can't remember all of the book, but I do still think about Dodger toshing in the sewers and that made me think of "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe.

Beautiful Creatures

Garcia, Kami and Margaret Stohl. Beautiful Creatures. Read by Kevin T. Collins with Eve Bianco. Hachette Audio. 2012. Audiobook.

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Beautiful Creatures

Plot summary (from the publisher)
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything. - 

My Thoughts
I've seen this book come across the counter many times, so I put it in my mental "to read someday" pile. When I got the opportunity to get a free audiobook, I was excited. I began listening and found it easy to keep up with the many characters (and there are many!). I also found that I enjoyed the music that accompanied certain scenes, and wondered how that music looked in the print source (was it there or just something added for the audiobook?).

I liked the tie-in and references to Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (which I'm seeing now as a coincidental pattern for the year). For example, the dog's name is Boo.

The story itself is a teenage love story, with some mystery and rushed drama.There is humor. There is rushed and contrived plot. When, as a listener, I was questioning something, it was if the narrator heard me and then answered.

The readers in the story did not have consistent dialects, and I wondered if there were just too many characters for two people to "voice." [This is a complaint against the audiobook, not the story].

I LOVED that there was a secret library in the real library. YEA!

Uncle Macon refers to mortals as "Beautiful Creatures" hence, the book title.

Even though I know there are several books in the series, I do like that Book 1 ends with the song changing from "16 moons" to "17 moons"--a sure clue to the reader/listener there is more story. I will probably pick up the second book, but not immediately.

After the story, there was a lengthy interview of the authors included in the audiofile. I enjoyed hearing their process of co-writing this book and how their own personal lives are included in the story.

After I listened to the book (which I enjoyed), I watched the movie. I know that liberties must be taken and that a movie is never as good as the book, but honestly, I thought the movie was HORRIBLE! I'd read the book and was lost while watching the movie. I guess some of the explanation is left on the cutting floor.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


McCormick, Patricia. Sold. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Print.
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Plot summary (from the inside cover)
"Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Her family is desperately poor...Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid working for a wealthy woman in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi undertakes the long journey to India and arrives at 'Happiness House' full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution."

My Thoughts
The content of the book made this a tough read. How can young girls (9-18) be subjected to this kind of life, and we (the rest of the world) seemingly do NOTHING to change their plight? Well, that's not exactly true. There are many people trying to stop this form of slavery.

The novel is written in verse form. It starts with her meager life in the mountains. Her stepfather accepts 800 rupees for her (McCormick 53). Does he know where she's really going and what she'll have to do? When she packs, she has:
my bowl, 
my hairbrush, 
the notebook my teachers gave me for being the number one
girl in school, 
and my bedroll.

Inside my head I carry: 
my baby goat, 
my baby brother,
my ama's face, 
our family's future. 

My bundle is light.
My burden is heavy. (McCormick 60)

On her journey, she learns that if she tries to run away, her head will be shaved and she will be publicly disgraced. When she arrives at Happiness House, she wonders if this is "where the movie stars live" (McCormick 91). That broke my heart seeing that she was still so hopeful for her future. Just a few pages later, she learns what her future really will be. She must do whatever she is asked to do. 

McCormick writes a powerful story that has stayed with me. I think about the countless girls (and boys) who are promised things and then must endure such atrocities because they "owe" their captive. When Lakshmi decides she will work hard to pay off her debt, she quickly learns that her "expenses" are never met with the money she's made. She is devastated. "Because if [another girl] is right, everything I've done here, everything that's been done to me, was for nothing" (McCormick 239). She does get hope to escape, but even that is painful. "This affliction--hope--is so cruel and stubborn, I believe it will kill me" (McCormick 256). 

Even though her character is fictional, McCormick writes about the research she did to create Lakshmi's story. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Howard, A. G. Splintered. New York: Amulet Books, 2013. Print.
Howard, A. G. Unhinged. New York: Amulet Books, 2014. Print.
Howard, A. G. Ensnared. New York: Amulet Books, 2015. Print.

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My Thoughts:
I thought I'd write about this series instead of each book at a time. I met A.G. Howard two years ago at library conference. Book Two's cover was being unveiled. (Oh, it is SO pretty!). I got my book autographed and it stayed on the shelf. The next year at library conference, I saw her again, and got the second book autographed (and a picture with her. I think we could be sisters!). Finally, this summer, I started reading this Alice in Wonderland retelling. Except it isn't, but it is.

Howard takes a story and weaves Lewis Carroll into it. We see some "corrections" to Carroll's story.I enjoyed reading the details. I took my time while to imagine the scenes, characters and places that Howard describes. I was transported to another place through the books.

When I started reading Unhinged, I started making notes for this blog. Well, 2 1/2 months have passed since reading these books, and I'm just now blogging. I was stuck in what to say. How much detail do I give you or do I let you experience the story for yourself? (This wins.). When I read the third book, I marked pages or "interesting" things that I thought I would include here. I'm not doing that after all. I think I could reread this series and have different passages that "speak" to me. Truly, this is a series that will either capture you or drive you mad (pun intended).  There are a few flaws with the story (especially for me in the third book. I didn't like the jump in time nor the Epilogue insertion).

I'm not much of an Alice in Wonderland person. I didn't grow up with those stories (which is now on my to read pile), but I very much enjoyed Howard's spin and infusion of Wonderland. I very much enjoyed the details and characters. I liked almost playing detective while reading, figuring out how things connected together. I enjoyed the attention to detail that Howard writes that made the story truly come alive in my brain. I liked how the covers mirrored the characters in the book (sometimes the book covers don't fit. I think the person who created all three beauties actually read the book!).

I read all three books in this series with just reading a few minutes a day. This is a very descriptive series that will attract fantasy lovers, readers who enjoy classic stories retold, and those who enjoy a good versus evil driven plot.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Zebulon Pike: Explorer and Soldier

Doak, Robin S. Zebulon Pike: Explorer and Soldier. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006. Print.
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My Thoughts
With only 95 pages of text, this was a super quick read, exactly what I wanted to learn more about Zebulon Pike. I'm heading to Colorado this summer, so I wanted to refresh why Pike's Peak was named. The book only spends a few sentences on this topic. The rest of the book gave me more information about Zebulon Pike's life.

Pike's Peak
Pike was an explorer. On one trip, he was sent to the western mountains to explore and find the source of the Arkansas and Red rivers (Doak 45). In November of 1806, he found a very large mountain that "in his journal, Pike named the mountain Grand Peak. He was convinced it would never be scaled or climbed" (Doak 60). Many years later, in 1842, John Charles Fremont recorded "in his journal that he had spotted 'Pike's Peak.' The name stuck, even though Pike never made it to the top" (Doak 60).

Other interesting facts about this mountain that Doak records:
  • it is more than 14,100 feet high
  • in 1820, four Americans climbed to the top
  • motto for many miners was "Pike's Peak or Bust!"
  • in 1893, Katharine Lee Bates "was so impressed by her trip to the top...she wrote the lyrics to the song 'America the Beautiful'" (60).
While on this same expedition, conditions became very harsh for Pike and his fellow travelers. In fact, the group had to be split. When Pike sent relief parties back, some of the men "spent along pieces of their gangrene-ridden toes, begging Pike not to abandon them" (Doak 69). These men would be later rescued by Spanish troops. 

As I really didn't know about Pike, I found out that on one exploration, he was captured by the Spanish and held prisoner. "Pike was housed  with Juan Pedro Walker, a New Orleans native who spoke Spanish, French and English" (Doak 80). I found it humorous that Walker asked Pike to pay rent while living there.

The Spanish thought Pike was a spy. Even after they released him, his reputation was tainted by his association with others. He did write a book about his explorations, but it caused the publisher to go bankrupt.

My objective was met with this book's content, and I learned a little more than I expected.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca. Read by Anna Massey. Hachette Audio. 2014. Audiobook.
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My Thoughts
I listened to this book. Anna Massey did a phenomenal job reading. I found myself mimicking her voice and pronunciation to certain things. She also had a creepiness about her voice with a few characters that added to the suspense of the book.

Plot summary (from Amazon) "The reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten—a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife—the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca."

The book was originally published in 1938 and is 27 chapters long. As I was listening, I kept thinking, "Where's the action? This is supposed to be a suspense novel? How long is this going to drag on? Oh, this is so British!" Then, I hit the apex chapter and got very excited. I wanted to hear more. I had to know what was going to happen. In fact, I was at scrapbook retreat listening to this book! I had to find out what was next for these characters. When I finished the book, I was surprised. I expected one resolution only to find a different one. The story continues until the very last word. WOW! 

We are never told the narrator's first name. We are, however, told of Rebecca, the late first wife of Maxim de Winter. As the unnamed second Mrs. de Winter imagines what life was like or scenes from her husband's past or scenes of how something should occur, I thought about how we all do that--imagine scenarios. The narrator has quite the imagination of what life MUST have been like at Manderley with the beautiful late wife. Boy, was she wrong!

I'm not sure if I read this book, I would have stuck with it. However, listening to it was a great experience. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Eat To Live

Fuhrman, Joel, M.D., Eat to Live. New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2011. Print.
My Thoughts
A friend of mine committed to hard core following this book. She got GREAT results, so I thought I'd read it and see what it's about, and if I could follow the "plan" Dr. Fuhrman gives.

Well, I've read the book. Thought about what he says (which does make sense), but I haven't actually committed to it yet. I feel like summer is a good time to try this, but not having a routine schedule and being at the mercy of the road hasn't made me start.

The premise is to eat 1 pound of raw vegetables, 1 pound of steamed vegetables, 1 cup of beans and 4 fresh fruits daily. This sounds doable. I eat salad. I eat fruit. Should be easy. However, I'm not finding myself doing it. I'm eating lots of other stuff that isn't included in Fuhrman's plan. He also gives some items to limit: cooked starchy vegetables or whole grains, raw nuts & seeds, avocado, dried fruit and ground flaxseeds. Off limits items are dairy products, animal products, between-meal snacks, fruit juice and oils (Fuhrman 284).

There is a detailed meal plan with recipes included. This is 56 pages of the book. I liked that Fuhrman says to read the book first, without skipping ahead to the "plan." Included are "ten easy tips for living with the six week plan"

  1. Salad is the main dish: eat it first at lunch and dinner
  2. Eat as much fruit as you want but at least four fresh fruits daily.
  3. Variety is the spice of life, particularly when it comes to greens. 
  4. Beware of the starchy vegetable.
  5. Eat beans or legumes every day.
  6. Eliminate animal and dairy products.
  7. Have a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds every day.
  8. Consume nuts and seeds in limited amounts, not more than one ounce per day.
  9. Eat lots of mushrooms all the time.
  10. Keep it simple.  (Fuhrman 287)
Fuhrman includes case studies of his patients. Most are morbidly obese, so dropping 100 or more pounds is very much needed. I don't need to drop that much weight.

He backs up what he's saying with scientific studies and refutes other claims made by experts, including the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid (Fuhrman 99). He is realistic. "This program is not for everybody, because added to the desire to lose weight must be the willingness to make a commitment to achieve wellness" (Fuhrman 309).  He is informative (did you know that meat isn't the only source of protein? Did you know "all green vegetables are high in calcium" (Fuhrman 140)? He is funny. "Believe it or not, I do not expect you to eat exactly like a gorilla" (Fuhrman 96). He states that by eating more healthy green vegetables, the healthier and thinner the doer will become (Fuhrman 96). "The high volume of greens not only will be your secret to a thin waistline but will simultaneously protect you against life-threatening illnesses" (Fuhrman 155). He is encouraging. "Eat to Live does not have to be an all-or-nothing decision on day one. Incremental improvements bring benefits" (Fuhrman 221). "We can't buy good health; we must earn it" (Fuhrman 412).

Caffeine "promotes inadequate sleep, and less sleep promotes disease and premature aging" (Fuhrman 403)

Cancer Fuhrman writes that "the war to follow the overall advice presented in this book and begin at as young an age as possible (132). He later writes that there is evidence that "high-growth-promoting foods such as dairy products" are "a causative factor in both prostate and ovarian cancer" (Fuhrman 142). This got my attention.

Headache "Recurrent headaches...are almost always the result of nutritional folly and...are completely avoidable" (Fuhrman 264). He lists 15 common migraine triggers (sweets being the first one listed) (Fuhrman 266). He advises instead of medicine to "drape a cold washcloth over their forehead and lie down in a dark room to rest" (Fuhrman 265). He even includes an Anti-Headache Diet

Hunger "True hunger is felt in the throat, neck, and mouth, not in the stomach or head" (Fuhrman 201). WHAT? I was interested in these paragraphs about true hunger. Very informative (and logical). "Symptoms of true hunger: enhanced taste sensation, increased salivation, gnawing throat sensation" (Fuhrman 202). He encourages the reader to "get back in touch with true hunger" to understand the correct signals a healthy body will give.

Nutritarian-a term Fuhrman coins to describe "a person whose dietary focus is on eating healthful, nutrient-rich foods (217).

Social support-Fuhrman suggests to have family and friends read this book "not with the purpose of recruiting them to this way of eating, but so they will help you and understand why you are eating this way" (Fuhrman 383).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave

Boyne, John. Stay Where You Are & Then Leave. New York: Henry Hold and Company, 2013. Print.
My Thoughts
Yet again, this is a book I got signed by the author at TLA conference (2014). I was excited to met John Boyne, as he wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I finally got around to reading this story. It is probably a little young for high school students, as Alfie Summerfield, the main character,  is only 5 when the story begins.
The story takes place prior to and during World War I. Alfie's father goes off to fight, leaving Alfie and his mother to survive at home. Alfie earns money by shining shoes at the train station. There, he learns that his father must be alive and sets out to find him at the hospital. His father suffers from "shell shock" and is not himself. Alfie doesn't understand what has happened to his father (as the doctors seemed a bit baffled themselves). This is understandable.
Some of the events seemed unbelievable (e.g., Alfie travels alone and is able to get his father out of the hospital; Alfie shines the Prime Minister's shoes). However, because this book, I think, is geared towards a younger audience, I can accept some latitude in what the young character is able to pull off in the story. I was glad that Alfie talked to Joe Patience and gained more "adult" knowledge about his dad.
I enjoyed the description of the librarian (as I seem to notice more since becoming one). "He loved to hear Mrs. Jillson, the librarian, reading from a book...Mrs. Jillson was as old as the hills, but she put on funny voices and made all the children do the same thing, and Alfie loved that part of it" (Boyne 50). Ahhh...the difference a little fun can have with a child.
I learned about white feathers and the war. Apparently, women would hand out white feathers "to any young man they see who isn't in a uniform. It means you're a coward" (Boyne 175).

The title reference is on page 101. It comes from Alfie's dad's letters where he explains his role in the trenches. It is further explained on page 216.

 So, I think this is a good book for middle grade readers. This coming of age story touches on war, relationships, discovering knowledge, understanding "adult secrets" and the importance of family.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Heir

Cass, Kiera. The Heir. New York: Harper Teen, 2015. Print.
image from:

My Thoughts
I WAS SO EXCITED FOR THIS BOOK! I got to meet Kiera Cass and take pictures with her at TLA this year. The book was released three weeks later, so I didn't get a signed copy of this one (but I did get the first three signed). I loved that she was so friendly and genuinely interested in her fans.

About the book--18 years have passed since The One. King Maxon and Queen America have come to their eldest child "seeking a way to boost morale" in the country (Cass 12). This surprised me, as I thought this book would pick up with America's pregnancy. Nope, their daughter is now ready to face her own Selection, but Princess Eadlyn has her own thoughts about marriage. I kept thinking about in the first book how her mother, now Queen, had her own thoughts, too. I even marked one page when Princess Eadlyn says, "'Do you know how hard it is when you love jeans but you're a princess?'" (Cass 131). Fans of the first book will see the connection.

I was surprised at how Princess Eadlyn's attitude was so...rude/spoiled/condescending. There were times that I didn't like this character or her sarcasm. There were other times I'm glad that Cass depicted her as strong and independent and  someone who doesn't "need to be rescued" (Cass 121). Princess Eadlyn is conflicted. She wants to appease her parents, lead her country, but she also doesn't believe in the fairy tale. "This was why love was a terrible idea: it made you weak. And there was no one in the world as powerful as me" (Cass 276). Like many young adults, she must find her own way.

I kept a list of the men in the Selection to help me keep track of who was who. Cass devoted separate chapters to each of these guys and his "date" with the princess that also helped.

I think there is more to Henri and Erik. I predict that Erik is really the suitor and not the translator (but then I wonder if I've just seen that so many times before, that Cass is throwing that red herring in here).

I also know there is something developing with Kile. I'm not sure if it's a pseudo sibling love or if this might be that "right in front of you but can't see it" love story.

I liked that even though the story jumps to 20 years after the last book, some of those years were discussed, including Lucy and General Leger's story. Sometimes we don't always know why people are the way they are because we don't know their histories. Princess Eadlyn was learning much in these pages.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

All Over But the Shoutin'

Bragg, Rick. All Over But the Shoutin'. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. Print.

My Thoughts
This was my book club read this month. This book has been on my "to read" list for about two years, so I was happy to have the deadline.

First, I enjoyed the storytelling. Rick Bragg creates a picture of his life that I can see. I wondered if I could understand it so well because
  1. I'm a Southerner. 
  2. My great grandparents came to Texas from Alabama. 
  3. Rick Bragg is just a gifted writer. 
This is a memoir. In such, I'm sure the details are embellished or understated as Bragg remembers. I'm not calling Bragg a liar, but I know that memories form in a lens that might be tainted. 

I liked how he told the good with the bad. His life was not magical or privileged. He lucked into some things and in others he worked hard. He does not try to blame his upbringing for his faults. He simply shows how people and events shaped who he is. "I am proud of who and what I am, just as proud of being the son of a woman who picked cotton and took in ironing as I am of working for a place like the New York Times. I have always believed that one could not have been without the other" (Bragg xx). 

The book is divided into three parts. For the most part, the book is in chronological order. He writes in the prologue that his "momma believe that she failed [her sons]....She blames herself for that" (Bragg xix). He gives an example for each brother and even himself. Then, he writes about winning the Pulitzer "the highest honor our profession bestows. I hope she blames herself for that, too" (Bragg xx).

Some funny things he wrote: 
"[she] might have told a lie, since she felt that another benefit of old age was that it gave you license to lie like a Republican" (Bragg xvi)
"When she got made she could cuss paint off the wall, cuss crows from the trees, cuss the lame straight and the wicked pure" (Bragg 32)
"Momma kept a garden, which sounds romantic to people who have never held a hoe" (Bragg 46)
squash were used as clubs (Bragg 47)
Bragg's older brother Sam would drop down to pray when he got in trouble. This kept him from getting beat! (Bragg 48)
"Telling stories was something you did on your porch. Journalism was too much like work, like digging taters" (Bragg 116)

Some things he wrote that I liked:
"Hungry does not have a color" (Bragg xvii).
He writes about the dialect and how his grandfather added "r" to words, so Edna became Ednar. I've heard this in my own family.

Overall, I think Bragg is a gifted story teller and carries on Southern traditions. He introduces the reader to people in this book just as he would introduce them---by explaining family connections. For example, "Abigail was a Hamilton, a Presley on her momma's side..." (Bragg 32). He uses colloquialisms that I understand. He is related to the same people I am. Even though I have never meet Rick Bragg, I feel as if I know him. This book was an enjoyable memoir in spite of the hardships.

The title reference is on page 12. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

I Kill the Mockingbird

Acampora, Paul. I Kill the Mockinbird. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2014. Print.
image from:

My Thoughts
This was a cute story. Three friends (Lucy, Michael, & Elena) decide they want everyone to read To Kill a Mockingbird for their required summer reading. They create a movement ("conspiracy") that makes people think the book is one others DON'T want kids to read. "Because wanting what you can't have is the American Way, right?" (Acampora 54). So, they begin hiding copies of To Kill a Mockingbird in local book stores and leaving a flyer stating "I Kill the Mockingbird" with a website address they created. The movement grows (and so does the readership).

The book is only 163 pages and is a fast read. It starts off that Lucy's mother has returned from the hospital. She's undergone cancer treatment. The way the author addresses this real life situation is appropriate and not fully of sentimentality. It also ties in to the Mockingbird conspiracy.

Lucy attends at Catholic school where her father is the principal. I found Acampora's descriptions of Catholic teaching humorous. "We both spend our days in Catholic school. That's where you learn that faithful people can be a little insane sometimes...We're taught that sometimes the world is a puzzle waiting for us to solve it. Other times it's a mystery to appreciate and accept" (Acampora 5).

In fact, there were several times I marked something that I found humorous in this book. For example, "Why do teachers think that shoving summer reading lists down our throats is a good idea?" (Acampora 7). This is timely as many posts on my library list serv right now are talking about summer reading lists.

Another thing that I laughed about was "Fat Bob's" funeral. There is an incident and the funeral director's reaction is simply "Sweet Jesus" (Acampora 12). I know that I found this probably funnier than it is because I just recently attended by uncle's funeral.

I appreciated that there is mention of why libraries weed books. I, however, will probably not use the same technique as the conspirators to rid the library of the discards (Acampora 140).

I have a great display idea to create in my own library to encourage kids to read this book as well as To Kill a Mockingbird. I can't wait until it's built.

Some insightful thoughts from this book:
  • "It's not enough to know what all the words mean...A good reader starts to see what an entire book is trying to say. And then a good reader will have something to say in return. If you're reading're having a conversation" (Acampora 10).
  • "At our house, thank you cards are a big deal" (Acampora 28). YES! This makes me smile because I'm trying to teach my daughter the same.
  • When events happen, "you don't know what will come of it. I don't believe that God has motives that we are supposed to understand or enjoy " (Acampora 29).