Monday, October 31, 2011

"You Have Seven Messages" ~ Stewart Lewis

You Have Seven Messages

"But how do you really know what's true?  Is there some big book of truth?" "The book is here." She placed her hand where my heart is.

Imagine discovering what you thought was true about your family might be nothing more than a lie?

Fifteen year old Luna is still grieving the death of her super model mother when she stumbles upon her cell phone a year later and finds it's still in working order with seven new messages on it.  The rational thing to do would be to delete them but curiosity wins out and Luna decides to listen to each one in order.  All of the messages will have a lasting effect on Luna, even the mundane ones, but the rest will turn her world upside down and threaten to destroy her once happy family.

Stewart Lewis writes an endearing story about a young girl's journey to piece together the puzzle that has now become her life. What's truth and what's a lie? How can you tell the difference and is it really worth knowing?

Click here to read more 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky" ~ Joe R. Lansdale

All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky
"The wind could blow down a full-grown man, but it was the dust that was the worst."

This was a pleasantly surprising story of adventure and camaraderie found in the midst of heartbreaking loss during The Great Depression.

Jack Catcher has recently lost both parents, the money's gone, the dog's gone, the food's gone and soon enough the family farm will be gone too thanks in part to the Oklahoma dust storms that have killed anything and everything edible.  (Sounds like a bad country music song, doesn't it?)  There's nothing left for him in the only place he's ever called home except memories and those aren't even worth sticking around for.

All he wants to do now is get out of Oklahoma but he has no idea how to accomplish that.  Enter Jane Lewis and her younger brother Tony.  Jane and Jack used to go to school together, until the Depression hit and Jack had to stay home and help his parents out around the farm.  Jane and Tony are orphans now too with their father having had his unfortunate tractor accident and their mother running off with the Bible salesman, but they've managed to survive the storm somehow.

Click here to read more

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Happy "Dauntless" Halloween

Today, our homeschool co-op held it's Halloween party and we added a twist on the traditional costume idea by having the kids come dressed as their favorite literary character.  Percy and Harry showed up as well as Prince Caspian and even the Bumble Bees from Winnie the Pooh.  I decided to join in on the fun and went as "Tris" from "Divergent".  

 I did not anticipate just how much fun it would be to have tattoos - especially the birds on my neck!  (In the book she gets them on her collarbone but my Dauntless T was too high so my neck was a good substitute.)

Here's me, as Tris, giving my best Dauntless stare. --->


Who knows, maybe I'll get some real ink after all. ;)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The Dovekeepers" ~ Alice Hoffman

The DovekeepersI rarely make use of the word "epic" because it's been so overused in the past couple of years but that's the word that keeps coming to mind when I think of how to describe this story...epic.  Four women with four incredible stories, all leading to the same place, literally, figuratively and spiritually.

Alice Hoffman is a talented author and while her style may not be my favorite, (this is the third book I've read and we just haven't "clicked") that's okay because I know there are people who will love this book like there's no tomorrow.  There are no marked chapters to separate the characters, just "Parts" and it's extremely detailed which is good for helping to visualize the story in one's mind but can be a challenge if one is expecting to read it quickly. 

As with the other Hoffman books I've read, the ending to "The Dovekeepers" has left me frustrated.  Why did certain characters have turn out the way they did?  Why couldn't others find their "back"?  Without giving too much away, I DID like how all the different "parts" circled back around and tied together in the end. 

This book, like her others, will no doubt be a huge success and I wouldn't be surprised to see this particular story hit the big screen one day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac" ~ Gabrielle Zevin

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

This book is a few years old and I found myself comparing it to Zevin's most recent work, "All These Things I've Done" which I absolutely loved. This story was a little slow and halting in places for me and while I enjoyed the characters, it was too short overall. (Maybe it's my appreciation for a good Epilogue or because I've become accustomed to reading books that are part of a series...who knows?)

I felt like the storyline between Naomi and Will, while sweet, was a little too predictable. I really liked James, even with all of his baggage and was hoping he and Naomi would be able to benefit more from their relationship. I did like how she seemed to think that her accident had some positive effects on her life especially where her family was concerned.

This book is a good reminder to not wait for the right moment to tell someone how you feel, repair a damaged relationship or to take for granted those who are most important to us in our lives. We never know when they might be gone from us forever or when we might not remember they even existed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Lola and the Boy Next Door" ~ Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Lololololo-la! Sorry, can't help but hear the Kinks song in my head, each time I hear the name, see the get the picture.  I thoroughly enjoyed "Anna and The French Kiss" and was really looking forward to "Lola" and I was not disappointed! 

I'm a sucker for a good cover and I LOVE this cover!  The more I read, the more I would flip back to look at it and swoon over the tiniest details that were included.  (I heart stars!)

Once again author, Stephanie Perkins has created unique characters full of heart, passion and who are just plain fun to read! If you could take a rainbow, a few rays of sunshine, some shooting stars (for their sparkle factor), and maybe even a snowflake or two, mixed them all together and shook them out, Lola is what would you get.  She's bright, colorful, full of life and has a sparkle that's all her own. 

"Lola" has all the love and heart pounding romance that "Anna" did but with a couple of interesting twists thrown in.  There's also a few unexpected guests who had me squealing with delight and I DO NOT squeal. (Really, I don't.)  Plus, "Lola" has not one, not two, but three cute boys... T-H-R-E-E!  Let's take a peak at them shall we?

Max is the resident rocker bad-boy. What makes him bad?  Weeelll, for starters, he's just a "few" years older than Lola but just a few. Her two Dads aren't too thrilled with the idea of him but then again they're dads.  He's cute, he sings and writes music, has multiple tattoos and engages in less desirable behavior (according to dear old "Dads) which of course, makes him a total chick magnet.

Cricket is Lola's neighbor and childhood friend. He's not only cute, nice and super intelligent (he invents cool stuff like Barbie elevators) but he's tall - really, really tall.  He's also the twin brother of Calliope Bell (aka figure skater extraordinaire/mean girl).  Lola's parents like Cricket and there's a bit of history between he and Lola which isn't all happy, happy sunshine but no biggie, because he's the very definition of "Tall drink of water".  Thirsty much?  Yes.I.Am!

Whose the third cute guy?  Well, now, that would just spoil the fun so you'll have to read it for yourself. *wink* *wink*

Lola struggles with making the right choices sometimes as a way to protect herself or those around her from getting hurt.  This is familiar territory for her considering she's had her fair share of pain either from her mother's behavior or for being ostracised for her appearance.  What she learns is that in order to be true to yourself, you have to "be" yourself, regardless of what others have to live fully and without fear. (You wanna wear a pink wig, a sparkly tutu and combat boots?  You go girl!)  She also discovers that some things are worth the risk if you're willing to give it a chance, even if it's a second, or a third chance and she finds that when it comes to love, sometimes you have to go back to the start in order to cross the finish line.

**Personal side note**
I have hot pink stripes in my hair and when my 7yr old son saw the "Lola" cover he said, "Hey Mommy, that girl has purple in her hair kinda like you have pink in yours. Cool!" I smiled.
So, a BIG "Thank you!" to Stephanie Perkins for making striped hair cool, especially for those of us over the age of, well, 17.  :D

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Kissing Tree ARC" ~ Prudence Bice

The Kissing Tree

Thank you to Netgalley for this ARC. Nicely written, sweet and with a little luck o' the Irish thrown in, you can't go wrong.

When Georgiana bravely steals a kiss from Ridge Carson under the kissing tree she imagines it just might be the first of many the childhood friends will share. Little does she know it will be five long years before she'll see him again, let alone kiss him. So much can change in one's life and in one's heart in five years.

If either one of them hopes to recapture that heart stopping feeling of their first kiss, they'll have to rebuild their friendship first.

In this endearing story of first loves, loss and finding it again, author Bice shows us that true love is worth fighting for and that sometimes "home" is found in heart of the one you love.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"You Against Me" ~ Jenny Downham

You Against Me

This book moved a little slow for me but the writing was good and the plot was definitely intriguing. I loved the cover and I thought the title was "Brilliant!" as the English would say. (I also found that the voice in my head took on an "Ee-nglish" ah-cent while reading.)

In "You Against Me", Mikey's sister Karyn has accused Ellie's brother Tom of attacking her and like a good big brother, Mikey wants nothing more than to shaft the bloke who hurt his sister with a spinner!  (OK, if you're like me, you might have to search an "English" online dictionary to double check the words, "shaft" and "spinner" because they mean totally different things to us on this side of the pond.) 

Ellie, is the only witness to the alleged attack and she, wanting to be a good sister, is siding with her brother.  Wouldn't you?  Especially if it meant your brother's life would be ruined, your family torn apart and life as you've known it would be forever changed if you didn't?

Karyn and Mikey Makenzie come from the wrong side of the tracks and she hasn't spoken to anyone outside of her family since she reported the attack to the police and word on the street is that she must be lying.  Tom and Ellie Parker are upper class "good" kids and in the eyes of those around them, there's no way a guy like him could've possibly done something like this. 

When the Parker's decide to throw Tom a party to celebrate his making bail, Mikey works out a plan with his BFF, Jacko (when put together, they become "Michael Jackson")  to "handle" the situation themselves since the justice system isn't moving fast enough for them.  What Mikey doesn't plan on is meeting Tom's younger, beautiful and interesting sister Ellie.  

The story takes an interesting turn when both Ellie and Mikey decide to use each other to gain information about the others sibling in the hopes of helping their sides win their cases.  The result is nothing like they planned and when the truth comes crashing out, their lives will never be the same.

Both Mikey and Ellie will not only have their family loyalty questioned but their integrity as well. Can one decision really define the rest of your life?  How far would you go and what would you be willing to risk to save the ones you loved? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Touch" (A Denazen Novel - Book 1) ARC ~ Jus Accardo

Touch (Denazen, #1)

Thank you to Netgalley for another interesting ARC. "Touch" is a fast paced, action packed thriller with a heaping dose of romance.

Deznee Cross is a seventeen year old full of teen angst, defiance and the need for the next adrenaline high. Her Mother's been gone for longer than she can remember and she's left to her own devices much of the time because her dad works long hours as a high powered attorney for the local Denazen Corporation. He doesn't seem to care who she spends her time with so long as the police aren't involved and this lack of parental supervision is an open invitation for a teenager seeking attention. Dez lives recklessly and without concern for her safety or her reputation and if she can tick her dad off in the process, well, then, that's just the icing on the cupcake.

When Kale literally stumbles from out of nowhere into Dez's life late one night, she can think of no better (or faster) way to get on Dad's bad side then to bring him home. Almost as soon as she does though, she notices that Kale isn't like other guys in her town. He behaves as if he doesn't understand the simplest things like DVD's, empty vases, and he wears her borrowed shoes in the shower (refusing to give them back) and when she offers to help him clean his wounds, he acts as if simple human contact would kill him...or her. What Dez doesn't realize is that Kale isn't a normal guy but a high tech weapon designed to kill with one touch, literally.

When Dez's Dad comes home from work and sees Kale, his cover is blown and the secrets he's been hiding begin to unravel. Kale threatens to kill Dez, knowing that anything he touches with his bare skin dies - anything that is, except Dez. What happens next will set in motion a series of events that will have the two of them on the run and in the fight of their lives. They're journey will lead them to uncover the secrets the town has been keeping for years; that the people and things in it are not always what they seem and Kale isn't the only one with special abilities. In order to survive they'll have to learn to trust not only each other but those who claim to want to help them. They'll also discover whether or not love really can overcome anything, including a deadly touch.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Paradise" ~ Jill A. Alexander

This is a sweet, coming of age story about Paisley, a girl drummer in the Waylon Slider Band, an otherwise all boy southern rock band from Texas.  All Paisley's ever wanted to do is to play the drums and get out of her small town.  She and her band mates have one shot to make it at Texapalooza in Austin but there's just one problem...they don't have a lead singer.  Well, that and Paisley can't let her mother know she's the band's drummer. 

To say that Paisley's mom is a control freak is an understatement. (Nightmare is more like it.)  She would go ballistic if she new about Paisley's involvement with the band.  She knows she plays in the school band but there's no way any daughter of hers would be allowed to hang out with people who play in bands. (They're nothing but good fer nuthin', beer drinkin' white trash.)  Mom claims she doesn't want her daughter's making the same mistakes she made, having to give up on their dreams and getting stuck in the same town for the rest of their lives, all because of "some boy." Nevermind, that her "some boy" is Paisley's Dad and a good husband and father.

The sad thing is that Paisley's mother doesn't have a clue about what she and her sister, Lacey's dreams really are.  Lacey has a decent singing voice and her mother has made it her life's ambition to make a singing career for her not realizing that's the last thing Lacey wants.  It's what Mother wants and that's all that matters. 

The boys in the band are decent guys all with dreams too but without the egos.  Waylon, the band's namesake, comes from a famous music family and feels the pressure to make the band a success.  Levi enjoys playing guitar but has dreams of playing baseball at college and Cal, the bands main songwriter is into skateboards and harbors a secret crush on Paisley.  Then there's the newcomer, Paradise...he's the hot, new lead singer with the smokin' squeezebox. (Squeezebox = accordian, in case you didn't know, like me.)

When Paradise shows up on the scene, everything changes, from the band's sound, vocals and pretty much life in general as Paisley's known it.  The band stands to learn a lot from him, as does Paisley, the most important being how to live life "wide-open".  He learns from them that living fearless means not being afraid to say "no" when you need too.

Paisley's journey to achieve her dreams could take her to places she never though possible but dreams are also not without hard work and sacrifice and she'll have to decide just how much is she willing to give up?  She'll also discover that paradise isn't always where you end up, but where you left.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Sign Language" ARC ~ Amy Ackley

Sign Language

Thank you to author Amy Ackley for allowing the me opportunity to read and review this book!  It took me a little while longer to get through this one for several reasons, the first being the subject matter and knowing it was based on the author's own experience with losing her own father to cancer.  The other was having been a witness on the sidelines as my husband and his siblings watched their father fight a losing battle with pancreatic cancer in 2005.

This is a well written, moving story of one young girl's journey through death and grief after losing her father to cancer.  While Abbey's story is a heartbreaking one, it is not a hopeless one.  "Sign Language" is told from Abby's point of view and follows her life from the ages of 12-17 not only dealing with the slow process of her father's illness and passing but the normal challenges that come with being a teenager. 

Ackley does an excellent job of bringing the reader into the heart of the story and
describes the gradual dying process so vividly that you feel as if you're experiencing all the raw emotion that Abby is. (We are big Star Wars fans here and needless to say, I will never look at "Darth" the same way again.)

Abby's surrounded by people who love and care for her, like her mother, older siblings, Deanna and Josh, Spence (her longtime BFF), her friend Leise and even grumpy old Aunt Fran.  Her family isn't the most demonstrative which makes it difficult for Abby to express how she's feeling, causing her to bottle things up inside.  She regularly consults her Magic 8 Ball for signs or answers (who hasn't, right?) but still can't seem to find what she's searching for.  School is her haven and the one place she feels she can still maintain a sense of normalcy.  The only friends that know about her Dad and how serious he is are Spence and Leise and neither of them will betray her. 

Her Mom does the best she can but is dealing with her own feelings and Josh is the typical older brother who acts annoyed that Abby even exists most of the time but he has his moments.  Deanna is Abby's older sister who is called into town occasionally to stay with she and Josh and while she's preferred over Aunt Fran, she's hardly the epitome of responsibility.

Spence is the most consistent friend in Abby's life and is like a second brother to her.  He likes being around her family because his own home life isn't so great.  Abby's father, Sam has even stepped in for Spence's absentee father over the years.  Spence is kind, loyal and hard working and readily helps Abby's Mom and brother Josh around the house when it's apparent that her Dad no longer can. (Did I mention that we love him?!)  He's the type of guy who likes to "fix things" and would do just about anything to be able to fix what's going on in Abby's life.  By the time high school rolls around he and Abby have grown even closer and it's obvious to everyone that his feelings for her go beyond friendship even if Abby is somewhat oblivious.

Leise remains a good friend to Abby, even at the height of her grief when she seems bent on pushing everyone who cares about her away.  She's a great example of what it means to be a true friend and we should all be lucky to have someone like her in our lives.

A good portion of the book is spent on the relationship Abby has with her Dad, one that was full happy times spent together creating good memories.  She struggles with the realization that he won't be there for some the major milestones in her life and it's those times that your heart breaks for her all over again. Abby's journey has really only just begun at the end of the book but her perspective is different.

"Sign Language" is a must read in my opinion, especially for anyone whose lost a loved one to cancer. This story shows that while losing a loved one is painful and life goes on, that person lives on in our memories, in our hearts and there are signs everywhere to remind us of them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"the unbecoming of mara dyer" ~ Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer I LOVE this cover!

If this book were a movie (the kind you pay full price to see and after doing so are only able to mumble something mildly coherent like, "You just HAVE to see it for your self."), much of my viewing time would've been spent with my hands over my face to hide from the creepy parts (while peaking out through my fingers so as not to miss anything), a hand over my heart to keep it from literally beating out of chest during the intensely romantic parts (the other would be fanning my face) and a hand over my mouth to hide my shock at the ending. (Btw, if this were a movie with a soundtrack, Coldplay's, "Fix You" would be on it.)

This is a MUST! Just to clarify...when I say it's "creepy", I mean creepy in the best sense of the word, not like evil "creepy" but "creepy" cool, keeping up here?  OK, good.

The key players in this book are Mara Dyer and her family which consists of Psychologist Mom, Lawyer Dad, and two of the best brothers a girl could ask for, Daniel is the oldest (I wish Daniel was real & I wish he was my big brother) and Joseph is the youngest.  Mara's friends are Rachel (her longtime BFF), Claire (more Rachel's friend & not so much a fan of Mara's), Jude (Claire's brother & Mara's crush), Jaime (he's a good friend to her) and Noah (Yum). 

The story begins in Rhode Island where there's been an accident involving Mara, Rachel, Claire and Jude, and she's the sole survivor.  Everyone is looking to Mara for answers but she can't give them any because she has no memory of any of it.  Another bizarre thing? She's come through the accident without any injuries.  In the days and weeks that follow, she tries to recall details about what happened but has no real luck until the nightmares begin and strange things start to happen during the daytime that leave her struggling to decipher between reality and imagination. (Enter the creep factor)

In an effort to help her, the family decides to make a clean break to Florida where she and Daniel start at a new private school, and her father takes over on a high profile murder case.  At her new school she hopes to makes a fresh start and leave her past behind her but something won't let that happen.  Instead, she meets Jaime, a boy genius who has a penchant for retaliation that involves bio-hazard material of epic proportions, she catches the eye of Noah, the school's #1 hot guy who comes with a rep for being a notorious womanizer, garners the unwanted attention of Anna (Mean Girl extraordinaire) and Ms. Morales aka the Spanish teacher from hell...all on the first day.

Things escalate when the "strange" turns to "creepy" and Mara watches as her world begins to spiral out of control.  She knows she's reaching the breaking point not only within herself but with her family as well and she desperately searches for answers only to find help in the most unlikely places, like Noah.  On the outside, he's cocky and pretentious but behind that gorgeous, British exterior of his, he's not so bad and he comes to Mara's rescue more than once. (Need to retrieve a Sketchbook anyone?)  As she gets to know him more, she sees that, like her, his reputation may not really proceed him and he too is hiding a few secrets.  But what they discover about themselves and each other has the potential to change everything, forever. 

As Mara begins to face life as she now knows it to be, she realizes the choices others have may not be the same for her. She'll have to decide if protecting those she loves means giving up what she wants the most. Will she choose right?  Just when Mara thinks she's make up her mind, once again her world flips upside down leaving both she and the reader gasping.

While I'm partially relieved that this is the "end of volume" because I would most likely have had a heart attack if this was really the end of the story, I want to know NOW what happens! NOW! NOW! NOW! I tell you! :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Divergent ~ Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

(I originally read "Divergent" back in June but was telling a friend about it today & thought I'd re-post this.)

One of thee BEST books I've ever read. EVER. I can't wait until Insurgent comes out! I read this one in less than 24 hours...I could NOT put it down! 

Tris was my hero & to say I loved Four is an understatement. 

"One choice can transform you"  "More than family, our factions are where we belong.  In our factions, we find meaning, we find purpose, we find life."  ~ Divergent

The world as we know it is gone and broken into five different factions, each one based on the belief that we "are" one way and when we live with a community of people who share those same beliefs we can find "life". 

There are 5 factions and a snippet of their manifestos are:

Abnegation - The Selfless - "I will be my undoing if I become my obsession.  I will forget the ones I love if I do not serve them."  

Erudite - The Intelligent - "Intelligence is a gift, not a right.  It must be wielded not as weapon but as a tool for the betterment of others."

Candor - The Honest - "Dishonesty is rampant. Dishonesty is temporary.  Dishonesty makes evil possible." 

Amity - The Peaceful - "Trust. Self-sufficieny. Forgiveness. Kindness. Involvement."

Dauntless - The Brave - "We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another."

Beatrice aka Tris, has grown up in Abnegation but struggles with the strict rules and not feeling selfless enough. (this reminded me of the Amish and my Catholic upbringing)  She watches the Dauntless kids arriving each day at school (as they jump from moving trains!) always wondering what it would feel like to live life free from fear.  Upon completing her aptitude test which doesn't go as smoothly as she expected, she chooses to join the Dauntless faction much to the chagrin of her overbearing father.

She's not the only new Dauntless to arrive and meets several interesting people, like Christina, Will, Uriah, and Four.  Christina is from Candor (she's brutually honest at times and hilarious!), Will from Erudite (he's a little too "Mr. Smarty Pants but you can't help but love him), with Uriah being the only Dauntless born recruit. (Uriah's fearlessness scares me but in a good way.) 

Four (ah...Four - read the book and you'll be sighing too.) is one of their instructors and while Tris probably should be intimidated by him, she's not.  She's the smallest of the bunch physically speaking, and since it's pretty much "survival of the fittest" in the Dauntless faction, she'll have to do everything within her power to survive even if it means relying on the help of others.  Four seems to be one of the few people who can help her overcome her weaknesses but he also has the ability to push her to her breaking point.  He's brave, strong, has a good heart under that tough exterior and is not too hard on the eyes either. He's a guys guy but one you can also bring home to Mom.

Tris learns the hard lesson that while everyone has the capability of being incredibly brave, they also possess the ability to be a big fat coward.  Not everyone is who they appear to be nor can they be trusted simply because they are part of your faction.  She will also discover not everyone is defined by just one choice or one faction. 

When a power struggle starts between several of the factions and threatens to destroy the status quo, everything Tris has ever believed to be true about herself, her family and the world she lives in will be questioned.  She will have to rely on her newly acquired skills as well as her basic instincts in order to survive.  Lives will be sacrificed, friendships will be betrayed, families will be torn apart and new love will put to the ultimate test. 

Once you've read the book, head over and "like" The Divergent Facebook page, where you can take the Faction Quiz.  This is a fun version of the aptitude test Tris takes in the book. I took it several times and came up "Dauntless" every time!  Once you know what faction you represent, go to Cafepress and order your t-shirt. :)