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Showing posts from January, 2012

Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini was a bit of a troublemaker as a kid, but when he discovered running as a teen, he shaped up and took control of his life. With the help of his devoted brother, Zamperini began setting records and even made it to the Olympics in 1936. Then he went to war.

In Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of Zamperini's life, with particular focus on his time in the war. As a bombardier during World War II, Zamperini fought the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean until his plane went down during a search for a lost aircraft. What follows is an odyssey that takes Zamperini from one horror to another. And in every case, he proves to be a survivor.

This is an amazing story of a truly amazing man. First he survives a plane crash. Then he survives being on a life raft for 47 days, only to fall into the hands of the Japanese who put him in POW camps that I wish were a figment of the author's imagination. The detail…

Weekly Reading Recap

Well, I managed to post this on Monday ... just several hours later than normal. Work is absolutely insane this week and I just didn't have a minute to spare. But here I am ready to share my reading and reviewing from last week.

Last week, finally finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to write up my review yet. My plan is to do so tomorrow, so it publishes before the end of them month. However, it's now almost time for me to go to bed, and I expect work will be crazy again tomorrow, so the odds of me actually writing the review before the month ends is pretty slim!

I did manage to write a couple reviews last week. First was No Story to Tell by KJ Steele, a contemporary fiction novel with a bit of mystery. The other review was for a middle-grade book called Nate Rocks the World by Karen Pokras Toz. That was a fun one that I'm encouraging my son to read now.

Currently Reading
I am still reading The Ruins of Usby Kaija Parssinen, a…

Book Review: Nate Rocks the World by Karen Pokras Toz

Ten-year-old Nate is a good kid, but he has some challenges in his life. His older sister torments him constantly. He's starving because his mom can't cook. And he hates recess because he'd rather sit in the classroom and draw cartoons than play sports outside. In Nate Rocks the World, Karen Pokras Toz introduces us to Nate in a fun, adventurous way.

In general, we follow Nate through some pretty typical fourth-grade activities: a science project with an annoying partner, Halloween, Christmas. But Toz makes the story much more interesting as she interweaves Nate's adventurous daydreams into the day-to-day activities. In his mind, he rescues a dog from a house fire and helps a superhero save the world, among other crazy things!

Nate Rocks the World is a lot of fun and I think it would appeal to kids in elementary and early middle school. C hasn't read it yet, but he wants to and I'm sure he'll enjoy it. This is the first in a series, so I look forward to rea…

Book Review: No Story to Tell by KJ Steele

Victoria has been put down since the day she was born. First by her parents who were disappointed that she survived while her twin brother died. Then by her verbally abusive husband and his low-life friends. But soon an intriguing artist named Elliott arrives in town and starts encouraging Victoria to follow her dream of opening her own dance studio. She also begins to receive phone calls from a mysterious someone who gets her to open up about her past and face her true feelings.

In No Story to Tell, KJ Steele has captured the small-town atmosphere and brought these characters to life. From the victimized Victoria, to her drunk and obnoxious husband Bobby and his drunk and obnoxious friends, to all the side characters who you'd expect to encounter in a town like this ~ all are so realistic in both their actions and their voices. She has written a compelling story of an abused woman who thinks she is trapped in this loveless, miserable existence. But then she finds a spark of hope…

Weekly Reading Recap

Good morning. I'm writing this ahead of time since I'll be on the road on Monday, heading home from a weekend in Myrtle Beach visiting my mother-in-law. We had a nice weekend, even though it was pretty cold at the beach.

Last week, I had my book club meeting where we discussed Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I didn't manage to finish the book before the meeting, and I still have about 50 pages to go, but it was still a great discussion. I didn't bring the book on my trip so I'll finish it this coming week.

I did bring my Nook to the beach, so I started reading The Ruins of Usby Kaija Parssinen.

Last week, I wrote two reviews. The first was for The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram, a middle grade novel that was very good. The second was for The Art of Life by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton, the first book for my Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Reading Challenge.

This week, I hope to get time to write a couple more reviews since I'm a bit behind.

Currently R…

Book Review: The Art of Life by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton

In The Art of Life, author Traci L. Slatton has written a beautiful book about figurative sculpture, with her husband, Sabin Howard's work prominently displayed throughout. She begins with a personal story of how she and her husband each became enamored with this form of art. Then she reviews the history of figurative sculpture with many diverse examples from the Balikligol Man from Turkey, which is more than 13,000 years old, to Rodin's Striding Man.

The remainder of the book focuses on Sabin Howard. She offers a sort of biography of his education and growth as an artist, and chronicles his major works of art, including a complete look at the process of creating these clay-to-bronze figures. I found this to be quite fascinating. The book is filled with beautiful photographs of artwork, but the most interesting pictures in my opinion were the ones that showed this extensive process. Also quite interesting were the many sketches that were included in the last section of the bo…

Book Review: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram

Adam and Justin are so excited to be joining their Aunt Isabel and Gran on a tour of Egypt. Traveling from their home in South Africa, they can't help but wonder what sorts of adventures they may find on their trip. But soon they find themselves in a much bigger adventure than they had expected. It all starts with a dirty old stone scarab that a peddler slips into Adam's pocket. This sets off a chain of events that leads the boys down the Nile and across the desert in an effort to save the world.

Fiona Ingram's The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is a fun adventure that I'm sure will appeal to the middle-grade crowd. I asked my 7 year old, who is an advanced reader, to check it out but he was overwhelmed by the density of the text on the page. I think the themes of the story, which features bad guys often wielding guns or knives, would also be a bit too much for him. But for kids in the age 10 and up group, I expect this book would have them hooked right from the start. A…

Weekly Reading Recap

Good morning. This year already seems to be flying by! I can't believe we're halfway through January already. I got a lot of reading done last week. I finished reading No Story to Tell by KJ Steele. Then I read The Secret of the Sacred Scarab by Fiona Ingram, which is a middle-grade adventure novel. And I started reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, although I didn't get very far yet and our book club meeting is on Wednesday!!

I didn't get any reviews written last week, though. I'm due to participate in the book tour for The Secret of the Sacred Scarab tomorrow. Then I hope to find time to write reviews for No Story to Tell and The Art of Life by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton, which I finished a couple weeks ago.

I did manage to write about some of the winter-themed children's books we read last week. And I wrote a recap of the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge. I also put together some Goals for 2012.

Currently Reading
I'm trying to finish Unbroke…

Kids Books: All About Winter

It's been a while since I participated in this meme but I think I'm finally back to it. This past week, M's theme at preschool was winter. So we read several winter-related books that I thought I'd share.

The Magic School Bus Lost in the Snow by Joanna Cole is a Scholastic Level 2 reader. I read it to the kids, but C could definitely read it, and M could read most of it herself. I'll probably have her try soon. The story is about Ms. Frizzle and her class exploring snowflakes. One of the kids wants to see a snowflake up close, so they fly up into a cloud where they see ice crystals forming into snowflakes. It's the typical combination of fact and fun like other Magic School Bus stories.

Here Comes Winter by Janet Craig is one I'm sure I've mentioned before since we've had it for a long time. This year, M took it to school and read it to her class. She and her teacher read alternate pages. It's about a bunny who sees that winter is coming so he go…

Goals for 2012

I finally got around to writing up some reading and book blogging goals for 2012. I think the theme this year is freedom! I'm staying away from obligations ~ both in terms of reading and blogging. So here are my goals:

1. Read all book club selections ~ This is the third year that this goal tops my list. I've done well with this in previous years, so I hope to accomplish this goal once again in 2012.

2. Successfully host a reading challenge without stressing ~ This is the first year I'm hosting my own year-long challenge, the Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Reading Challenge. I want to engage everyone who is participating throughout the year, but I hope to do it in a non-stressful way!

3. Limit participation in challenges ~ I love the idea of challenges (after all, I'm hosting one myself) but I think 2012 is going to be a year of freedom from these sorts of commitments. I'm obviously participating in my own challenge, and I've joined a Chronicles of Narnia reading challeng…

Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge: Wrap-Up

I almost forgot to write a wrap-up for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge! I had a lot of fun with this one. I had signed up to read just one holiday book, and that's all I managed to do. But I also signed up to read holiday books with my kids, and we managed to read a lot!

For the one adult book, I read Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett. I loved it! It was such a wonderful story, written as a sort of companion to the classic tale, A Christmas Carol. You can read my review here.

As far as the books I read with my kids goes, here's the full list!

Can You See What I See? Night Before Christmas
My Little Pony: Rose Blossom's First Christmas
The Polar Express
Twas the Night Before Christmas
The Elf on the Shelf (followed by a visit from our elf, Jolly)
The Christmas Magic
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Pop-Up Book (after seeing the local performance)
Backyardigans Jingle Bell Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Minerva Louise on Christmas Ev…

Weekly Reading Recap

Good morning. I hope you had a good week. Thanks for stopping by! We had a decent week getting back into the swing of work and school. Work was a bit crazy as I'm currently working on two big projects at once, but at least it makes the time pass quickly. We also celebrated my husband's birthday last week, and M went to her first drop-off birthday party at her friend's house on Saturday night, which she really enjoyed.

As far as reading goes, I finished The Art of Life by Sabin Howard and Traci L. Slatton. That was my first book for my Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Reading Challenge. Yay! I'll try to write the review later this week.

I also put up a review of Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, which I really enjoyed. I can't wait to read the sequel since it ends in a bit of a cliffhanger!

I also wrote a wrap-up of the 2011 Where are You Reading Challenge. And I put up a post with a linky for reviews of books read for the challenge I'm hosting.

In addition to all of that, I …

Book Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Pearl and May are beautiful girls living the high life in Shanghai in 1937. They spend their evenings modeling and partying without a care in the world. But then their father announces that he has lost all their money gambling and has agreed to marry them off to two Chinese-American men to pay his debt. The girls go through with the wedding but refuse to follow the men to America, deciding instead to continue the life they've always known. But when the man who arranged the marriages begins to threaten their family, and the war invades their city, they find themselves on a treacherous journey to a very different life.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is a story of sisterhood at its core. The relationship she builds between Pearl and May is complex and very real. There are many conflicts and many examples of the deep love they feel for one another ~ from their struggle to get out of Shanghai to their experiences as married women in America. Throughout the story, they show their commitment…

Where Are You Reading Challenge 2011: Wrap Up

Sheila at Book Journey hosted the Where Are You Reading Challenge in 2011, and I had fun keeping track of the location in which each of the books I read took place. I didn't manage to read books from every state ~ my books took place in just 20 of the 50 states. But I also covered 12 different countries, which was cool. Here's my map:


View My Book Retreat in a larger map

The states I covered were: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington. I also read a couple books that took place in Washington DC.

The countries I covered were: Canada, Russia, Africa, China, Egypt, Albania, England, Denmark, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Wales and Germany.

Although I didn't manage to read from every state, I think I'm going to join this challenge again in 2012. It was fun to keep track!

Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Reading Challenge Reviews

If you're participating in my Non-Fiction Non-Memoir Reading Challenge for 2012, you can post your reviews in the linky below throughout the year. This linky is also accessible through the Challenge Page (see tab up above) along with details about the challenge and a sign-up linky. Be sure to sign up for the challenge before adding reviews to this review linky. Thanks!

Weekly Reading Recap

Good morning and Happy New Year! I'm a day late with my weekly recap but wanted to be sure and start the year right by continuing with my weekly post about what I've been reading and blogging about.

This past week, I finished reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. That was my 71st book of 2011. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to write the review before the new year, so it will likely be my first review of 2012 as well.

I did review two other books last week, though:
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith

I also wrote a wrap-up of the Fall into Reading Challenge. And I did a recap of my 2011 reading and goals. I still need to write up some goals for 2012, but that will have to wait another day or two.

I also have to make some changes on my blog, putting my 2011 books read list onto a page and freeing up my sidebar for the 2012 list. I also need to put together a reviews page for my challenge, and write wrap-up posts for the challenges I parti…