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Showing posts from December, 2009

The Year in Review: 2009 Books Read and Loved

Like many other book bloggers, as the year comes to an end, I thought I'd share a wrap-up of my 2009 reading. I'm including a list of all the books I read this year, as well as the books I enjoyed reading the most in 2009. So, first off, here is my Top 9 of 2009:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (review)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (review)Still Alice by Lisa Genova (review)Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (review)The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith H. Beer and Susan DworkinCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins (review)The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (review)The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, with Jeffrey ZaslowThe Faith Club by Ranya Idiby, Suzanne Oliver, Priscilla WagnerI haven't written reviews for all of these yet, but I plan to write them in January as time allows. And here is my Complete List of Books Read in 2009:
A Map of Home by Randa JarrarA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty SmithBalzac and the Little Chinese Se…

Book Review: The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Tom Langdon has plans to spend Christmas in Lake Tahoe with his girlfriend, but first he has to get from Washington, DC to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the reporter has been banned from flying after an air rage incident, so he decides to take a train from coast to coast and write about holiday rail travel. During his ride, he encounters all sorts of interesting characters from a bartender who looks like Elvis to a retired priest to a young couple about to wed aboard the train. He also runs into his former girlfriend, Eleanor, who he hasn't seen since she walked out on him many years ago.

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci is written in two sections: Tom has to take two trains to get to LA, so each section of the book covers a different train ride. Many of the characters continue on the trip from one train to the next with Tom, so their stories continue as well. I have to say I liked the second half of the book much better than the first. The first half seemed to be devoted to in…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Books completed last week:
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Reviews written last week:
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompsom

Books currently reading:
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Up next:
Crossing the Bridge by Michael Baron
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Upcoming reviews:
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Visit J. Kaye's Book Blog to see what others are reading.

What My Children Are Reading This Week - 12/26

It's been a busy week with Christmas, but here are some of the books we've been reading.

C's kindergarten teacher gave all the kids in her class a chapter book for the holidays: Reindeer Do Wear Striped Underwear by Marcia Thornton Jones and Debbie Dadey. We read it to C before bed this week, and he really loves it. It's about a group of kids who go to the zoo on a field trip. When they see a reindeer and someone who looks like Santa, one of the kids insists on checking him out. It's a short chapter book, so it could be read in one night, but we only read a couple chapters each night. The language is simple enough that C should be able to read most of it. We're going to work on having him read it now that we've read it to him once.

I picked up Stuart Little by E.B. White at the library because C has really enjoyed listening to other chapter books. I thought it would be fun to read more of a classic story, and he is enjoying it. Stuart Little is a mouse born …

Book Review: The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson

I was very excited to win The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson through this giveaway at Buried with Children. It's very fitting that I post this review on the eve of Christmas Eve, as this book is about the magic that comes to Santa on Christmas Eve. It's a beautiful story with soft illustrations and a charming, unique vision of Santa Claus.

In this book, Santa lives in a small house in a snowy, wooded place. The reindeer roam in the land around his home. There are no elves to help Santa prepare for Christmas. Instead, he has a room in his home where all the toys are kept. And in this room is also a book with the names of all the children. As Christmas approaches, Santa starts to feel the magic coming and begins to get ready, shining his boots and packing his bag.

I just love this story and so do my kids, especially M, who is 2 1/2. She says her favorite part is when the magic comes. To me, Christmas is a very magical time, and this book really brings that feeling to the su…

Book Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

After reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was anxious to read Stieg Larsson's sequel. The Girl Who Played with Fire did not disappoint. The Girl Who Played with Fire starts off where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo left off. Lisbeth Salander is back, along with Mikael Blomkvist and the rest of the Millennium staff, and Dragan Armansky and the rest of the Milton Security group. In this book, Salander is accused of murder. While the police try to figure out who she is and where she is hiding, Blomkvist and Armansky both delve into their own investigations as to whether she is guilty.

I have to say I actually liked the storyline of this book better than the first. Like Larsson's first book, this one is full of minute details and a host of characters that are sometimes difficult to keep track of. But it's so engaging and interesting, I had a hard time putting it down. The beginning was a little slower, as there is actually quite a long section at the beginning before …

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My Book Retreat is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact  justplayinaround_blog at Yahoo dot com.

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I accept free books from publishers and authors in exchange for an honest opinion about the books. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a book should be verified with the publisher, author or party in question.

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Support Your Local Authors Challenge

I've decided to sign up for yet another challenge: The Support Your Local Authors Challenge. I'm already doing the Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge, so I figure this fits in with that! It will also allow me to choose some books from different years to supplement the Countdown 2010 Challenge.

I've been looking into some local writers, and here are a few that I'd like to read during the challenge:
Nicholas Sparks - Can you believe I've never read a book by Sparks? I figure I'll try him out as part of this challenge.Maya Angelou - I look forward to being inspired by whatever I read by Angelou.Clyde Edgerton - His books sound like fun!I'm also considering checking out these books that were listed on my local library's list of Emerging North Carolina Authors:
The King of Lies by John HartThe Piano Teacher by Lynn YorkOne Foot in Eden by Ron RashThis challenge is completely open-ended, with no time limit or rules, which is very cool! I'll provid…

Book Review: The Christmas Box

It's almost Christmas when Richard and Keri, and their 4 year old daughter, move into the home of Mary. Mary is a widow who has hired them to be her caretakers. She is a kind elderly woman, but she soon begins pressuring Richard to reevaluate his priorities in life. Unfortunately he never has time to listen. This is reminiscent of The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere, which I read earlier this season, and in which another man was being reminded to focus on his family. But The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans is much more. Richard finds a very special box that contains a secret about Mary's past - and the secret to the first gift of Christmas.

This is a very short book - I believe I read it in about 2 hours. But it's a wonderful story to read during the Christmas season. It's a simple story, but very heartwarming. The book was originally written by the author as a private expression of his love for his daughters. I will say that those who do not have children may …

2009 Fall Into Reading Challenge: Final Recap

I started this blog near the beginning of Fall. I had just joined my first reading challenge, the 2009 Fall Into Reading Challenge, and wanted somewhere to keep track of the books I was reading. Today is the last day of Fall, so I thought I'd take some time to answer some questions about the challenge.

Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list?
I did finish all the books, and more! I had signed up to read seven books for this challenge, and I figured it was a pretty conservative commitment. But I never dreamed I'd finish so quickly and read so many more books beyond that! I've actually managed to read eleven books from September 22 through December 21. The seven I committed to were completed a full month before the end of the challenge.

Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?
I stuck with my original goals both in terms of the number of books and the actual titles.

What was your favorite book that you read thi…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Books completed last week:
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Gail de Marcken

Reviews written last week:
The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths
Sarah's Key: A Novel by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Gail de Marcken
What My Children Are Reading This Week:
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: The Junior Novel by Dan JolleyA Blue's Clues Chanukah by Jessica LissyAladdin: A Read-Aloud Storybook
Books currently reading:
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson ~ This one is taking a while, but I'm enjoying it ... and I'm almost done!
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Up next:
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn ~ February's pick for my book club

Upcoming reviews:
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompsom

Visit J. Kaye's Book Blog to see what others ar…

Book Review: The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

I recently had the honor of winning a copy of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann, illustrated by Gail de Marcken, from Buried With Children. The book is technically a children's book, but I have to admit that I sat down and read it by myself ... and I loved it. I've seen the Nutcracker ballet, and read books based on the ballet. But I have never read the full story as it was originally written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in the 19th century.

The story is much more complex than the ballet. We learn the background of the Mouse King, and we discover how the Nutcracker came to be a nutcracker. I thought all of this was quite fascinating. The language is lovely and the illustrations are beautiful. I enjoyed it enough that I plan to read this again, and will likely read it each holiday season.

I don't necessarily think this is a great book for young children, though. It will likely be another year or two before I try reading it to my kids. There is a great deal of text…

What My Children Are Reading This Week

I don't have a lot to report on this week. C has been focused on reading just two books this week, and I've already written about one of them, The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths. He is still loving this book and wanting to read the stories in it instead of any of the early readers I've taken out of the library.


The second book he's been focusing on this week is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: The Junior Novel by Dan Jolley. This is a more advanced chapter book that we've been reading to him for a couple weeks. We just finished it up this week. At the age of 5, he has not seen either of the Transformers movies in their entirety. But we've let him watch certain scenes and he loves the toys. These Junior Novels are great. We read the one for the first Transformers movie as well. We've actually taken that one out of the library a couple times because he likes it so much. We bought this second one. The book follows the movie for the most part, but…

Book Review: Sarah's Key: A Novel by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key: A Novel by Tatiana de Rosnay alternates between two characters who are experiencing the Vel’ d’Hiv roundup in France in very different ways. First is Sarah, a Jewish child living in France during World War II, who is arrested along with her parents during the roundup. To save her younger brother, she locks him in a hidden cupboard, taking the key with her, figuring she'll be back shortly to let him out. Second is Julia Jarmond, a journalist living in France in 2002, who stumbles upon Sarah's story while writing an article about the 60th anniversary of the roundup. She becomes determined to find out what happened to Sarah, and how their lives are connected.

I read Sarah's Key over a year ago, but it's a novel that has stuck with me and probably always will. This was a difficult read due to the subject matter, especially as a mother of a 4 year old boy (at the time I read it). But it was definitely worth it. It's a very fast read that pulls you in so…

Book Review: The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths

I recently saw a review about The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths at books4yourkids, and I thought the book would be perfect for C. It is written for early readers, but it is packaged to look like a chapter book for older kids. I admit when I saw it, I was worried it would be too advanced for C, who is in kindergarten. I figured I could at least read it to him if that were the case. But then he started reading the first story, and he did great!

Each story in the book is written to focus on one specific ending. For example, the first story is The Cat, the Mat, the Rat and the Baseball Bat. Obviously, it features a lot of words with the -at ending. The next chapter focuses on -ed words, and so on. The best part of the book, though, is that it's fun to read! C is getting to the point where books that are at his level are getting longer. And it's a struggle to get him to read an entire book because he's honestly bored with the story and doesn't care about reading …

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Book completed last week:
None

Reviews written last week:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
The Emperor of Absurdia by Chris Riddell
What My Children Are Reading This Week:
Wes Gets a Pet by Susan BlackabyA Birthday for Bear by Bonny BeckerI Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara S. GarrielThe Snowy Day by Ezra Jack KeatsBooks currently reading:
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans

Up next:
The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

Upcoming reviews:
The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffiths
Sarah's Key: A Novel by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Gail de Marcken

Visit J. Kaye's Book Blog to see what others are reading.

What My Children Are Reading This Week

The kids have continued to want to read some of the books I reviewed here over the past couple weeks. But we have also mixed in a few others this week, so here are some of the books we've been reading.

Wes Gets a Pet by Susan Blackaby is the early reader C has been reading this week. This is a cute book about a boy who wants a pet, and it takes the reader through several different options, like a bird, rabbit, fish or dog. This is part of the Read-It! Readers Purple Level, which is a great level for him. He stumbled over a few words the first time or two that he read it - words like bubbles and trouble. But after just a couple reads, he was able to read the whole thing without any problems.

I picked up A Birthday for Bear by Bonny Becker after seeing it on Maw Books Blog because M loves birthdays. But this is a much longer book than I realized. So we've been reading it to C instead. He has really enjoyed it. It's a fun story about Bear, who does not like birthdays. But Mous…