Friday, February 27, 2015

My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith, 2014

Summer, 1941. For Peter in rural Britain, the war is a long way away, being fought by a faceless enemy. Until the night a German plane is shot down over woods that his missing dad looked after before he went off to fight.
Peter rushes to the crash site to see if there’s something he can keep, but what he finds instead is an injured young German airman. The enemy. Here.

And helping him seems like the right thing to do...
(368 pages)

I originally learned about this book at Becky's Book Reviews, and thought it sounded intriguing. It also sounded right up my alley. A World War II novel about English children harboring a German in the woods? Now that's a story I want to read!

This is really more of a message/story book than it is a character book - or at least, that's what it felt like to me. I felt like both main characters were very unrealistic, and their friendship became too deep and too lasting too fast. It was like insta-friendship instead of insta-love! The characterization of the German, Erik, was very well done considering he didn't actually speak English. I really liked him, and was probably more emotionally invested in him than I was in either Peter or Kim. He wasn't a picture on a propaganda poster, or a German solider-clone. He was a real person, with parents and a little brother back home, forced into a war he didn't want to fight and stuck in a miserable situation with little hope of evading discovery.

As I was getting the cover image off of Goodreads, I discovered that there were two different versions of the cover. They are practically identical except for one thing: the model. In the version I read (which I put to the right so you can see what I'm talking about), Peter is much younger and fresh-cheeked. In the other cover, which I like better and put next to the synopsis, Peter looks older and more serious. These two different covers are a great illustration of the big quandary with this book: who is the target audience? After a lot of hard thought, I'm still not sure.

You see, the young age of the main characters implies a younger audience, but the honest depiction of scenes such as the crash and the carnage inside the plane make it a bit too much for younger readers. The story line with Erik (the nineteen-year-old injured German they hide in the woods) is a great tale of impossible, forbidden friendship against the odds. I also love the way Smith explores the idea that there is a difference between what war propaganda says about the enemy, and what the enemy is really like. The most obvious example of this is the scene where Peter is comparing the Germans on the war posters to Erik, and he decides that Erik doesn't look anything like a German because he isn't blond and menacing. More subtle messages about the humanity of the enemy are scattered throughout the book, making for a very touching and thought-provoking story.
 But then there's the side story where Peter's father is off at war, and his dad's friend Mr. Bennett hangs out around the house giving Peter's mom presents. Peter wrestles with Mr. Bennett's intentions (which are never really clearly explained) and his mother's reception of this attention throughout the book, and is taunted by the village bullies about this. It's probably subtle enough kids wouldn't understand it unless someone went out of the way to explain it to them (which I definitely don't advise), but that combined with a few gory descriptions keep me from wholeheartedly recommending it to everyone.

What do you think? Have you read My Friend the Enemy, and if so who would you recommend it to?

Note: after writing this review it occurred to me that the brown-haired, older model might not be Peter - maybe he's Erik, instead. Ah, well, my opinion of the book still stands.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Top Ten Favorite Book Heroines

Here we go, my next Top Ten Tuesday! To learn more about this meme, click here to check it out over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt is "favorite book heroines," which is probably my favorite prompt yet. Here are my top ten (links go to my reviews, or Goodreads if I haven't reviewed the book/series yet):

1. Hermione from Harry Potter - Okay, so everyone is going to have Hermione on her list. But there's a reason for that! Hermione is a strong, smart, independent girl who uses her brains instead of her brawns to win the day, and doesn't insist on being the macho, warrior-girl who steals the show. She loves her friends, protects the exploited, and she loves to read. I ask you, is there anything better than a main character who loves to read? No, there is not.

2. Jenna from Septimus Heap - I love those books so much. And I love Jenna, because she goes through so much (finding out she's adopted, training to be Queen, meeting her birth father, etc.), but never caves. She comes to grips with her identity as Princess as the series progresses, embracing what started out as nothing but a millstone around her neck, but never loses hold of her own identity. She is Jenna Heap, the only girl in a family with seven boys.

3. Aubrey from Love, Aubrey - How can you not love this poor, heartbroken heroine? Her father and sister died in a car accident before the  book begins, and her mother abandoned her out of grief. Aubrey moves in with her grandmother, and is both incredibly strong and incredibly weak - just like a real person is when they grieve. She has good days and bad days, wonderful ones and terrible ones, and I, the reader, absolutely love her for the way she comes to grips with everything that has happened.

4. Annabeth from the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus books (link goes to my review of Blood of Olympus)- Can I get a "you go, girl!"? Everybody loves Annabeth. She's strong, smart, and clever, with just enough imperfection to make her the perfect heroine. She doesn't go gaga over Percy, date him by the end of the first book, and forget how to be useful by the end of the second. She takes
her time, she gets to know him first, and she puts the fate of the world before her personal feelings. That's my kind of heroine, and one that I would be honored to call a friend in real life!

5. Creel from the Dragon trilogy - Creel is hilarious, stubborn, and clever, more concerned about her friends the dragons than she is about her own safety. She turns down a handsome reward in favor of a dress shop in the city. I love her dress designs, and just reading about them makes me forget I don't actually care about clothes that much! I love her gung-ho personality, and the way she isn't afraid to rush out there and get her hands dirty. I also love her relationship with Prince Luka, who is a friend first and a love interest second.

5. Frankie from the Knightley Academy books - Frankie is so hilarious I can barely stand it! She stands out as the only girl at an all-boys boarding school when she gets kicked out of yet another boarding school and must come live with her father, headmaster of Knightley Academy. While she
isn't the main character, I love her to pieces (right alongside Henry, I'd have to say), and admire her guts, determination, and refusal to be anyone but herself. Also, she is really, really funny.

6. May from the Half Upon a Time books - May is, like a lot of the heroines on this list, a strong and witty female character who shares the stage with an equally strong and witty male character. What I love about May, though, is that her situation is different from most of the others. It's not just that she gets thrown into some terrible situation; her whole world is literally tossed upside down as she is kidnapped into a world where fairytails are real life (but fairies don't have tails), and her entire identity is thrown into question as she fights a battle that revolves around her grandmother, a woman not as ordinary as May once thought.

7. Amanda from the Willow Falls books - There isn't really anything in particular that I love about Amanda's personality or idenitity, as she's a pretty typical middle school girl. I just love her for the
situations she is put in, the way she deals with them, her willingness to use her predicaments to help others however she can, and her extremely sweet childhood friendship/blooming romance with her best-friend-since-diapers Leo.

8. Lina from the Books of Ember - The thing about Lina is that she is so strong in so many ways, but she still acts her age. At twelve years old she has lost both parents and loses her grandmother. She is the only family member left for her baby sister Poppy, and she takes that very seriously. She also entertains childish dreams about being the saviour of Ember along with her friend Doon, finding a way out of their collapsing underground city and announcing it grandly in front of everyone. She is determined, brave, and smart, but also has as many fatal flaws as the next person.

9. Molly from the Silver Bowl trilogy - I love Molly because she is strong, independent, and powerful, but she also knows her place. Growing up at the palace, she isn't broken. She merely chooses to obey her superiors so that she won't lose her job. Later, she is never forward with the prince: even when he has bad ideas, she remains respectful as she shoots his suggestions down in flames. I love her for her strength and suppleness, her sense of humor and adaptability that allows her to be a real, likeable character instead of the obnoxious brat she easily could have become with less self control.

10. Cimorene from the Enchanted Forest chronicles - Cimorene has been one of my favorite heroines since I was small. She is clever and independent, a princess who turns tradition on its head when she seeks out a dragon to "capture" her so she won't have to marry a prince. She is very practical, keeping house for her dragon friend and meeting every challenge that comes her way. Whether it's wizards (they dissolve in water mixed with lemon!) or the king of the Enchanted Forest (a cute young man Cimorene's age), she keeps her cool and gets things done as efficiently (and often hilariously) as possible.

What are your favorite book heroines? Let me know in the comments below!

Teaser Tuesday: My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith (Feb 24)


Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My current read is My Friend the Enemy by Dan Smith.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):


Summer, 1941. For Peter in rural Britain, the war is a long way away, being fought by a faceless enemy. Until the night a German plane is shot down over woods that his missing dad looked after before he went off to fight.
Peter rushes to the crash site to see if there’s something he can keep, but what he finds instead is an injured young German airman. The enemy. Here.
And helping him seems like the right thing to do...
Here´s my quote, the first two sentences of the book:
I was in the far corner of the woods, setting snares, when the siren started. 
I stopped.
Does this interest you? Check back on Friday for my review!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau, 2006

Click to view on Goodreads
It's 50 years before the settlement of the city of Ember, and the world is in crisis. War looms on the horizon as 11-year-old Nickie and her aunt travel to the small town of Yonwood, North Carolina. There, one of the town's respected citizens has had a terrible vision of fire and destruction. Her garbled words are taken as prophetic instruction on how to avoid the coming disaster. If only they can be interpreted correctly. . . . 
As the people of Yonwood scramble to make sense of the woman's mysterious utterances, Nickie explores the oddities she finds around town--her great-grandfather's peculiar journals and papers, a reclusive neighbor who studies the heavens, a strange boy who is fascinated with snakes--all while keeping an eye out for ways to help the world. Is this vision her chance? Or is it already too late to avoid a devastating war? 

Each book of Ember has a very specific role in the series. The first one, The City of Emberwas an adventure, suspense novel with the threat of the dying generator looming over Lina and Doone at every turn. The second one, The People of Sparks, was a look at conflict, war, and the slippery slope of giving "an eye for an eye." Both yielded even more on rereading than they did the first time, so I had high hopes when I started reading what was, for me, a boring and pointless addition to the series the first time around.

Unfortunately, my opinion hasn't risen too much the second time through. It's true that I see now the purpose of putting this book in the series: it shows the beginning of Ember, life on Earth during the conflicts that would ultimately tear apart all of human civilization. It explains in a way that the Emberites, clueless to their past, never could, what life was like in the lead-up to the events that destroyed almost all of humanity.

At least, I think that's what she was going for. In reality, it wanders all over the place and never really delivers on any of its promise. Parts of it remind me a little bit about Leaving Fishers by Margaret Peterson Haddix, because of the cult-like behavior of the superstitious village-members. Then there's Nickie's plans for the summer (she wants to fall in love, move to Yonwood for good, and help make the world a better place), which you'd think would help give the story a bit of backbone as she works toward those goals. Nope. For me, what kills any enjoyment I might have had is the fact that not only does DuPrau wander all over the place with her plot (religious fanaticism! Impeding war! Nickie wants a dog!), but she takes the time to set up for a great story . . . and then lets the reader down in practically every respect. Nothing happens the way you would expect it to, and I don't mean that in a good way. I mean it in a "wow, what a letdown" kind of way.

Nickie just never really clicked with me as a character, partly because she wasn't very bright (she spends half of the book spying on people to find sinners because she believes this is how she can help the world) and partly because she wasn't very, well, original. She just kind of was, and there was nothing special or unique about her. Grover had a lot of potential, and I was actually more excited about him than I was about Nickie. But while he wasn't as great a letdown as Nickie was, I still felt like DuPrau missed the mark so many ways with what could have been a great character.

All in all, this was a book with a great set-up and a very poor execution. Because it's a prequel, I would almost advise skipping over it as you read through the Ember books, unless you want to see if you can get more out of it than I can. I most definitely do not advise starting with this book before reading the rest of the series because a) it's really not necessary and b) it might turn you off from trying the rest of the wonderful series.

Have you read this book in the Ember series? Do you agree with me about The Prophet of Yonwood?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur, 2009

Click to view on
Goodreads
A tragic accident has turned eleven-year-old Aubrey’s world upside down. Starting a new life all alone, Aubrey has everything she thinks she needs: SpaghettiOs and Sammy, her new pet fish. She cannot talk about what happened to her. Writing letters is the only thing that feels right to Aubrey, even if no one ever reads them.
With the aid of her loving grandmother and new friends, Aubrey learns that she is not alone, and gradually, she finds the words to express feelings that once seemed impossible to describe. The healing powers of friendship, love, and memory help Aubrey take her first steps toward the future.
Readers will care for Aubrey from page one and will watch her grow until the very end, when she has to make one of the biggest decisions of her life.
Love, Aubrey is devastating, brave, honest, funny, and hopeful, and it introduces a remarkable new writer, Suzanne LaFleur. No matter how old you are, this book is not to be missed. 
(262 pages)


Gosh, I love this book so much. And oh, how it makes me cry! I have read many sad fictional books, from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (honestly, so many people die in that book!) to books about the Titanic and the last Romanovs, but most of them can't bring me to tears. They can make me really, really sad, it's true, but they can't make me actually cry. This book, though, gets the waterworks flowing in the first three chapters and never lets them stop. And this may sound miserable, but it's actually wonderful.

You see, this is a story of pain and grief and abandonment, but it's also the story of love and friendship and strength at the worst of times. It is the story of Aubrey, whose father and sister died in a car accident. Her mother was so incredibly consumed with grief she ran away from home a few months after the funeral, leaving Aubrey behind to take care of herself. The story is told in first person past tense, which worked well for the story by providing a compelling contrasts with the first person present flashback scenes in which Aubrey remembers life before the car accident. Instead of an info-dump at the beginning of the story we gradually find out the events of Aubrey's past as she is forced to remember them, which (you guessed it!) provides haunting snapshots throughout the story of how much Aubrey has lost.

The saddest parts of the narrative, however, are probably the letters Aubrey writes. At the beginning of the book she writes letters to her sister's imaginary friend Jilly as a way to sort of indirectly talk to a piece of her sister. As she begins to come to grips with everything that has happened to her, she starts to write more directly to her mother, father, and sister, telling them what she wishes she could say to them in person. She signs each letter "Love, Aubrey," which is the source of the title.

This is, without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite books. It's heart-wrenching, but it's also realistic and  heartwarming. Aubrey has had the unthinkable happen to her family, and she responds the way any real person would - through denial, through tears, and through shutting down at any reminder of what has happened. But as the story goes along, she learns to cope and to forgive and to live her new life with her grandmother and best friend/neighbor Bridget.

This is an amazing book, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. But please, know what you are getting into. This is not a light or easy read, and if you don't want to read a book that will make you cry, then don't pick this one up. But know that it does not just toy with the emotions: it is sad because terrible, tragic things happen in life, and sometimes you have to cry about them.

Note: I have also read the author's other books, and they were really good as well. She is a master at portraying difficult emotions and reactions to traumatic situations. While I liked the other ones, though, this is still my favorite of her books.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two Renegade Realms by Donita K. Paul, 2014

From bestselling author, Donita K Paul, the second installment in a fantasy series that follows Cantor, a Realm Walker, chosen to battle the corrupt Guild.
In Two Renegade Realms, the second installment in Donita K. Paul's Realm Walkers Series, Cantor, Bixby, and Dukmee must band together to find the storied realm walker Chomountain after a devastating attack by the corrupt Realm Walkers Guild. But what they discover while traveling turns their mission upside down: the great wizard is not as he once was, and they must now find a way to restore Chomountain before they and he can restore the Guild once more.




As a long-time fan of Donita K. Paul's Dragon Keeper books, I've been itching to get my hands on this series for years. When I saw the second book available through BookLook Bloggers I knew I had to grab it, the fact that it was an ebook notwithstanding. While reading it, I was completely engrossed. I found myself drifting away from my school work, reading "just one more page" in the middle of doing what I was supposed to be doing. I thought I would give it a high rating, maybe 3.5 or 4. It wasn't quite as good as the Dragon Keeper books, but I was definitely loving it!

Then, somehow the ending just kind of . . . dropped me. Really, I was starting to get antsy by the last third of the book. Because the first third sets the book up for amazing things: old friends reunited, a spark of suppressed romance between two main characters, impending doom and the right hand of Primen. There was some serious potential there, and even though they spent a lot of time wandering around in ruins in the middle of a mountain, I enjoyed myself. The second third involves the loss of two characters, one minor (a mining slave) and one I'd thought wasn't so minor (Neekoh had better be important in the third book, because otherwise he serves abolutely no purpose that a bit of magic couldn't have performed). It sees the beginning of travel, the addition of a bunch of dragons with names that all sort of blur together, and this random guy who keeps popping up, asking Bixbee to marry him, and then disappearing again. I was sure there would be some sort of great purpose for his presenncem and kind of disappointed about where he wound up fitting into the plot. He'd better have a pretty important role in the third book (along with Neekoh), otherwise he's a pretty big waste of time.

Over all, this is a good book from a great author. The world-building is amazing as always (Paul is a world-building pro at this point!), but while I did love the characters I felt like by the final third of the book there were too many mixed in there, pulling the focus away from the characters and plot-lines that really mattered. I am definitely looking forward to the third book, though, and I think that will be the one to make-or-break the series. If the third book pulls everything together perfectly, then One Realm Beyond is a great introduction to a lot of the threads that will be needed for a masterful ending. If the third book is disjointed, overwhelming, and disorganized, then this book will have been the book that set up for that. Basically, it's a stepping stone for the story arch. Whether that step leads upward or downward is still up in the air.

Disclaimer: I received a free ecopy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author:
Donita K. Paul retired from teaching and took up the mantle of grandma. She loves her new career as author of stories her grandchildren devour. Winner of multiple awards, she lives in Colorado, enjoying friends and family, pets and beautiful scenery. Her favorite part of writing is the readers.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Top Ten Book Related Problems I Have

All right, this one's going to be fun! This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt (click here to learn more about Top Ten Tuesdays over at The Broke and the Bookish) is book-related problems. Let's be honest, we all have them. Maybe you even have some of the same problems I do:

1. Constantly losing bookmarks - And when I say constantly, I mean constantly. I swear, those things just sort of evaporate! Then I wind up grabbing something random to hold my place, and half the time it's something weird. I'm not the only person who uses squares of toilet paper as bookmarks . . . right?

2. Staying up late to finish a book - Yep, as you can see by the name of my blog I have a very, very hard time putting a book down at night. I don't often wind up staying up till dawn (luckily I'm a fast enough reader that I usually finish the book before then), but I definitely stay up past my bedtime immersed in a totally different world. Then when it's time to start my life in the real world the next morning, I am shot. My eyes are red (from exhaustion and possibly tears, depending on the book), my energy level is nill, and it takes all the restraint I have not to crawl back in bed and shut out the world until lunch time.

3. My free time goes down a black hole - Oh, look, I have three hours of uninterupted free time. Yay! I'll just start by reading for a few minutes . . . three hours later: *putting the book down* Oh, no! My free time is over, and it only felt like I was relaxing for half an hour! *looks at books and sighs*

4. Sobbing and getting weird looks from family - Sad books make me look like I'm having a meltdown. My dad and I were alone one weekend right after Christmas and I decided to reread Love, Aubrey (one of the best, and saddest, books I've ever read). Halfway through the book I came down for lunch and had to explain that no, nobody had died. At least, not in real life. Then, as I started to explain the book's to him I started choking up and I had to turn away to hide my tears, and I swear he spent the rest of lunch shooting me worried looks out of the corner of his eyes. No, Dad, I'm not psycho! I'm just emotionally invested, okay?

5. Running out of shelf space, choosing what to get rid of - Yes, I know what you're going to say: "just get another bookshelf! Don't sacrifice your babies!" But what's a girl supposed to do when she shares a room with her sister the hoarder, and doesn't have enough floor space for another bookshelf? Well, what this one does is she "donates" her less-loved darlings to her younger siblings who, let's face, don't even want them. But the process of sorting through the books is nothing less than wrenching.

6. To lend books to friends or not? - NOT! But then, I don't want to come across as being all clingy, or make them think I don't trust them with my books. But I also kind of . . . don't trust them with my books. One time I lent a girl one of my books, and she didn't give it back for almost a year because she kept leaving it at her mom's house! So what I usually do nowadays is foist it off on my parents: "No, I don't think I can lend that to you. My parents don't like me lending books out." Ha, as if they'd really care if the number of books in my bedroom decreased by one.

7. What do I do with a book I bought and then really didn't like? - I just spent real money buying this thing, which means I thought it was going to be good. I invested in it, and it let me down big time. I hate it! I never want to read it again! But what am I supposed to do with it? Let it sit on my bookshelf sucking up space, just because I don't want to admit I threw that money down the toilet? Give away or donate the book, and lose the money I spent on that book forever? What if I decide I want to re-read it someday (even though I swear it will never happen because it was so bad!), but can't because I gave it away? What do I do??

8. ebooks. I hate them, but they're so convenient! -  There's something . . . personal about holding a real, physical book with words printed on it that tell a story. The words on the book's pages will never change. Everyone before and after me who looks at those pages will read the exact same words that I read, made with the same ink on the same paper particles. With an ebook, everything is so computerized and impersonal and ever-changing that I have a hard time getting absorbed in books. But then again, I could read so many books in ebook form that I couldn't in physical! For example, my library has only one physical copy of the fourth City of Ember book, The Diamond of Darkhold, but a bunch of ecopies. I've been waiting for almost two weeks now for some hoarder to turn in the physical copy so I can get my hands on it, but I could have already finished it by now if I'd checked it out on my iPad app. Oh, the tragedy of modern technology.

9. Buy the hardback and read it, or wait until the paperback comes out - Okay, so we've all had this problem. A book is coming out that you absolutely know is going to be phenomenal. Maybe it's by your favorite author, part of a great series, or has just been so highly reviewed by people you trust that you know you have to get it. You know you'll probably wind up owning the book eventually, because it's guaranteed to be amazing, but there's a big difference in price between the price of a hardback and a paperback. Do you wait and wait until you can get your hands on a free copy from your very pokey library, then buy it when it comes out on paperback, or do you snap up the hardback right away? I am one of the most impatient people I know when it comes to books, so after a few days of nail-biting and fretting, I usually wind up buying the hardback. If I'm really good, sometimes I can even get my mom to take me to Barnes and Noble on its release date, so I can get it the day it comes out! But this is still a money-drain that sometimes makes me feel guilty. I mean, I could buy like three more paperbacks with the money I would have saved in 2014 if I'd waited for paperbacks. What's an impatient bookie supposed to do?

10. No one knows what to get me as a present - I literally had about sixty dollars in Barnes and Noble gift cards by the end of 2014. Don't get me wrong, I love being able to go to the store and pick out whatever I want! I got a couple of great CDs and some of my all-time favorite books with the gift cards, with about twenty dollars left over, and it was pretty awesome. But every now and then I wish people could read my mind and know exactly what book would make my day - it's more personalized, you know? Yes, I realize this is unrealistic, so I'm okay with this problem never going away. I really love my friends and family for giving me the ability to buy any book I want, because it means that they know me well enough to know this is what I want. Also, because books!

So how about you, what are your biggest book related problems? Do you have any of the problems I do, and if so what's your way of dealing with them?

Teaser Tuesdays: Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur (Feb 17)


Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My current (re)read is Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Click to view
on Goodreads
A tragic accident has turned eleven-year-old Aubrey’s world upside down. Starting a new life all alone, Aubrey has everything she thinks she needs: SpaghettiOs and Sammy, her new pet fish. She cannot talk about what happened to her. Writing letters is the only thing that feels right to Aubrey, even if no one ever reads them.
With the aid of her loving grandmother and new friends, Aubrey learns that she is not alone, and gradually, she finds the words to express feelings that once seemed impossible to describe. The healing powers of friendship, love, and memory help Aubrey take her first steps toward the future.Readers will care for Aubrey from page one and will watch her grow until the very end, when she has to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. Love, Aubrey is devastating, brave, honest, funny, and hopeful, and it introduces a remarkable new writer, Suzanne LaFleur. No matter how old you are, this book is not to be missed.


Here´s my quote, taken from page 12:
"Gram, read to me?"
 "Okay, darling, like when you were little? You always loved a story . . . " Gram doesn't finish her thought, but I hear it finish in my head. She used to say it a lot, and the same words always came next: "Savannah, she wouldn't ever sit for a story . . . "
Does this sound interesting to you? Check back on Friday for my review.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor, 2014

A voyage across the ocean becomes the odyssey of a lifetime for a young Irish woman. . . .
Ireland, 1912 . . .
Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the few passengers in steerage to survive. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that fateful night again.
Chicago, 1982 . . .
Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her great-grandmother Maggie shares the painful secret about Titanic that she's harbored for almost a lifetime, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads both her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.
Inspired by true events, The Girl Who Came Home poignantly blends fact and fiction to explore the Titanic tragedy's impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants.

(384 pages)


Hmm. Well, I wanted to like it. I really did. But I just . . . couldn't. The narration jerks all over the place, from Maggie to Grace to Harry to Frances (a minor character living in America waiting for her sister to arrive). I could see why Gaynor wanted to have so many narratives: she was trying to depict the tragedy from every angle. But I just didn't work for me, and I wound up skimming through some parts just to read other parts about characters I cared about - until I realized I didn't really care about any of them that much, and started skimming through the entire thing.

No, that's not entirely true. I liked seeing old Maggie talk about her past with Grace. I'm always fascinated with the effect of the Titanic after the fact, and seeing this little old lady reminisce about her life and how it was changed by the sinking was pretty cool. Even if those scenes did feel like a slight rip-off of the James Cameron movie.

Anyway, I love studying the Titanic. My favorite books about it are either real first-hand accounts (warning: only read them if you want to cry!), or the occasional well-done documentary-style book like the amazing classic A Night to Remember by Sir Walter Lord. I've had my eyes peeled for a spectacular fictional book set aboard the Titanic, but have yet to encounter one that isn't either really bad (the worst one I ever read was The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky, which spends most of the book focusing on what people are wearing, and turns the tragedy into an "oops, better get out of here!" moment for the ditzy heroine). This may very well be the most well-researched fictional Titanic book I've read. The vast majority of the book is extremely detailed, and very true to history; you can definitely tell Gaynor did her research. Which is why I'm even more disappointed I didn't care about any of her characters. 

Part of that isn't really her fault, though: I've had this problem before when reading books about the Titanic. After reading about so many real-life heroes and victims from the tragedy, I just can't bring myself to love, admire, or even really sympathize with made-up characters on the Titanic because they act the way they do or have the fate they do because the author decides that they will. For the people who were really on board the ship that night, it was real.

If you want a fictional book set on the Titanic, I still recommend this one, my lukewarm feelings toward it aside. It's probably the most detailed, historically accurate fictional account I've found so far, and it makes much easier reading than some of the first-hand accounts (which are written in the jargon of the day). If, however, you want a nonfiction book about the Titanic, please talk to me! I became obsessed with it two and a half years ago, and though it's been a while (I ran out of material to read), I still know my stuff and would love to discuss anything Titanic.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Knitting Block by Block by Nicky Epstein, 2010

No one forgets the sweet victory of completing their first knitted block, but most of us quickly move on to more complex constructions, only making swatches for guage. In this comprehensive volume, celebrated designer and innovator Nicky Epstein reimagines the humble block with 150 new patterns and masterfully demonstrates how to mix, match, and easily combine them into stunning one-of-a-kind garments and accessories. Inside you will find: 150 original block patterns, from simple textures to embossed pictorials, intricate lace to cables, colorwork, double knit, and more, all with Nicky’s signature wit, verve, and style. More than ten exclusive project designs that will make you say “I can’t believe that is made out of blocks!”Detailed guidance for creating exciting pieces out of block knitting, without using increases or decreases. Exclusive cut-and-paste project design pages. Simply cut out the printed blocks and arrange them to help create your own masterpieces.
Blocks are quick to knit, portable pieces perfect for group and charity projects, and now not limited to just afghans! Knitting Block by Block gives you the tools to unlock a world of creative possibilities and confidently build your own design “blockbusters,” one block at a time.  

My knitting project (the blobs are
supposed to be cabling)
Yes, I really did request a knitting book for my next read-to-review. I clicked before I finished thinking it through, okay? My inner voice was going "you know, you've always wanted to learn how to knit" and I had requested the book before my brain remembered that this isn't actually a book that's made to teach people how to knit. It arrived two weeks ago, and it's been interesting. I really have learned how to knit! I've had a blast learning the ins and outs of knitting, purling, and even cabling (though I have a sinking feeling I'm doing it wrong), and after half a dozen bad starts I even got a project well under way. I decided to make the "Reversible Cables" block (in retrospect maybe I should have started with something toward the beginning, instead of the back, of the book), and I'm about halfway through. It's taken me a really long time, though, because my hand is still weak from the surgery I had in December (though on the whole it's doing much better), and so it gets sore if I knit for more than half an hour at a stretch. Also, I had an English assignment and two science tests in the last two weeks, and not a lot of down time. I decided I wouldn't wait until I finished the entire square to write the review, because I'm not exactly gathering any new knowledge about the book itself while I knit - I know how it works, what the projects are, and (bonus!) even how to knit now, so I've got everything I need to review the book - following the same instructions for another two weeks won't give me any deeper understanding into the books as a whole.

I'm not exactly a knitting patterns connoisseur, but I really love Knitting Block by Block. It has patterns ranging from simple beginners' blocks to the intricate ones I can't even begin to decipher at first glance (how the heck do you put a decorative zipper on a block of knitting?!), with detailed pictures of every project so you can see exactly what it should look like when you're done. The instructions are laid out neatly and concisely, listing exactly what you should do in simple enough terms that I caught on with only one Google search necessary - and that was just for the cable. There are also box chart  thingies that show you what to do using dots and slashes and things, but I'm afraid I still can't make heads or tails of those. It's fun, it's detailed, and there are some really cute projects that I can't wait to try out. There's also a chapter with some ideas for ways to sew blocks together into bigger projects, like scarves and afghans and a (rather ugly) shrug/shawl thingy. I obviously am not far enough to attempt any of these, because I don't have the blocks to do them, but I'm excited to make some of the projects - I think I'll start with one of the one-block projects, which are these cute little stuffed animals, and then try either the tote (which is a two-block!) or the "cool ruffle pod bag," which is a weird name for a cute purse.

All in all, the only complaint I have is that there aren't more projects for using the blocks. There are tons and tons of awesome block designs, but only like ten ideas for putting them together in larger pieces. For someone who knits more than me, this might be a problem if they wind up with more blocks to try out than they have projects to put them in. As for me, though, I think this book will provide fodder for my knitting projects for a very, very long time. If you are at all interested in knitting blocks, then this is most definitely the book for you!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review

Friday, February 13, 2015

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes, 2014

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.
The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.
Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!

With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film. 
(259 pages)

Wow, what a book!

As a long-time Princess Bride enthusiast, I absolutely loved reading this behind the scenes look at filming the movie. I mean, Elwes literally lost consciousness when filming the scene where Count Ruben knocks him out! And Andre the giant fell into a drink-induced sleep on the floor of a posh hotel the night of the first read-through! And Elwes had only two months of training for the famous duel - half of which he spent with a broken toe!

These are just a few of the many, many tidbits about the film scattered throughout the book. I am now dying to re-watch the movie. I mean, I always want to re-watch it, but now I really really want to because I know what was going on behind the scenes, and even inside their heads as they were acting the scene. Like how they took six takes to film the Kiss That Surpassed Them All, just because Elwes and Wright kept saying "no, I think we need to try again! *giggle*" Or how Wally Shawn was incredibly nervous while filming the battle of wits, because he'd heard he was the third pick for Vizzini and he honestly thought Rob Reiner was going to tell him he was fired for not being good enough at the part. It's tragic, really, that he was so miserable and insecure in the part while he did such an amazing job with it.

It's obvious that the movie is very close to Elwes' heart, and that he had a lot of fun filming it. I never really considered what it must have been like for the actors who brought the now-iconic film to life, and I certainly never really realized how hard Elwes and Mandy Mantinkin worked for the famous duel scene. While a cynical part of me wonders if there was more drama going on during the filming than Elwes might like to depict in his rosy picture of life on set, I sincerely hope I'm wrong. After all, The Princess Bride is a one-of-a-time movie experience. Why couldn't its filming be just as special?

All in all, a wonderfully informative book that provides all the juicy insider details about the behind-the-scenes for arguably the best movie ever made, told from the point of view of our darling Wesley and filled with short inserts by everyone from Rob Reiner to Billy Crystal. If you're a fan of The Princess Bride, then this is definitely the book for you!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike in Romances

Here we go, my second Top Ten Tuesday! You can find my first one, a list of Fictional books I can't believe I haven't read yet, here. You can read more about Top Ten Tuesday here at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is "things you like/dislike in romance." I'm doing five I like, four I don't. Here they are:

Things I like:

1. Slow-burning  - Is there anything more romantic than a relationship that takes it time? Is there anything sweeter than watching the hero and heroine go from strangers, to friends, to a little bit more than friends, to a little bit more than that . . . all the way to true love?

2. Childhood friends - I don't know if everyone will agree with me on this one, I know it's become a bit cliche. But there's just something so wonderfully sweet about the relationship between two people who have known each other their whole lives. I love the idea that two people can know each other so incredibly well because they've shared secrets, memories, and friends since they were very young.

3. They both are loyal to the end - Yep, this one's definitely cliche. But if there's anything I can't stand, it's a character who's flaky about his priorities. If he or she is the one, then he or she is The One! Don't waffle about it, don't be a flake and lead on two different people at the same time. Just pick one, love them forever, and don't ever, ever, betray their trust or their love.

4. Characters have their priorities straight - Let's see, should I save the world from impending doom or dream about how hot my crush is? Um, duh! Save the world! I love a good romance that doesn't take center stage, and doesn't take over the main plot line. If two people are really in love, then great. I'd love to see some of that slow-burning romance I mentioned in my first point (in fact, it's books like these that often have the best slow-burn squee moments!). But if I'm going to like them as characters, they'd better spend more time worrying about Impending Doom than they do about whether or not their crush likes them back.

5. They are willing to do anything for each other, but don't spend a lot of time talking about it - Back to the slow-burn. I guess most of these points all go back to this, but I really really love subtle romance. I love it when it's light-handed and sweet, when characters spend most of the time poking fun at each other, insulting each other, or even pretend to hate each other, but at the end of the day they each know they would both go to the ends of the earth for the other person.


Things I don't like:

1. Insta-love - What's betting this is on almost every Top Ten list this week? Everybody hates insta-love! Well, probably not everybody. I suppose there must be a group out there who like it, otherwise they would stop publishing it. But I for one detest insta-love. So sure, he's cute and he has an accent. Maybe he's got magic powers, I don't care. He might be an awesome person (and the way these stories go, he probably is), but you don't know that, do you? You don't know that because you only met him last week! Any time a character falls for someone after knowing them less than, say, a couple of months, I lose any respect I had for their intelligence.

2. Love triangles - I kind of touched on this with #3 in the first list, but I had to reiterate this second pet peeve of mine. Love triangles are proof that the main character is not worth either of the people she's considering being with. If two people offer you their love, then you pick one and move on. You don't keep stringing them along because you're paralyzed with indecision. That's just plain mean, and shows that neither of them is really your "true love," because if he were you wouldn't spend the whole time vascilating between him and the other guy!

3. When the childhood best friend is really obviously the One, but the protagonists spends the entire book looking everywhere and anywhere else for true love - Yeah, I love stories where childhood friends fall in love. I know this looks like I'm rescinding that statement, but I'm not. I just don't like childhood friends stories where one of the main characters spends the whole time running in circles looking for love away from her best friend when I, the reader, am just holding my head and moaning "figure it out already!"

4. On-again-off-again - Be one or the other. Just pick and be done with it. If you're really waffling that much, then how on earth are you planning on spending the rest of your lives together?

And there you have it, some of my favorite and least favorite components of romance. What are yours? Let me know in the comments section below!

Teaser Tuesdays (Feb 10)


Okay, so for those of you who are new to this meme, here's how it works:


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My current read is As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes, who plays Wesley in the classic movie The Princess Bride.

Synopsis (click the cover to check it out on Goodreads):


From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in 
The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.
Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!
With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

Here's this week's teaser:

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
What? That was in the book! Just because it's a quote from the movie doesn't mean it wasn't in the book. Anyway, there aren't many good original quotes in the book, because it's just talking about things that happened on set. It's a great book for any Princess Bride fan, though, let me tell you. Check back this Friday for my review!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau, 2004

Click to view
on Goodreads
"it is green here and very big. Light comes from the sky...."
When Lina and Doon lead their people up from the underground city of Ember, they discover a surface world of color and life. The people of a small village called Sparks agree to help the Emberites, but the villagers have never had to share their world before. Soon differences between the two groups escalate, and it's up to Lina and Doon to find a way to avoid war!

In the riveting sequel to the highly acclaimed The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau explores the nature of conflict and the strength and courage necessary to overcome it. 
(338 pages)

This is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling dystopian The City of Ember, which I reviewed here. There are some inevitable spoilers from the first book, so read ahead at your own risk!

Where Ember was a story of setting and plot, this was a story of characters and relationships. The people of Sparks are reluctant to care for four hundred extra people out of their own reserves, and the people of Ember quickly become embittered about the "stinginess" of their unwilling hosts. The book is one long look at conflict: the small things that can spark big wars, and the devastating effects of human anger.

A few times in the book characters talk about the idea that the only way to stop bad events from escalating, is to return good for bad and convince your opponent to stop the cycle of retaliation. This was the idea that stuck with me most strongly when I first read the book many years ago, and it's the idea that once again hits me with the most force. It's a very important message, and one that everyone could take a moment to consider.

Lina and Doon play prominent roles in this book, which makes me happy because I love them. What I particularly love about them is that they don't let their relationship drama consume the story: in fact, I wouldn't even call it "drama." They go through a small rough patch in their friendship, but it doesn't consume the story. They've each got much bigger issues to deal with as Doon struggles to decide what to do/where his loyalties lie during the revolution, and Lina worries about her sick sister and finding a place to live away from Sparks. They spend most of the book apart from each other, both physically and emotionally, but there's none of that "oh no, we'll never be friends again" garbage that authors often throw in to add some tension.

On another note, it's fascinating to see the world a couple centuries after the cataclysmic events ended. People survive by scavenging goods from old deserted cities, the science of electricity long forgotten. It's like a primitive time period from our own past in many respects (the water pumps, the farming for survival, etc.), but it's also futuristic in the most fascinating and kind of depressing way. Roamers, who pick through ruins to find goods to trade for, drive trucks - that's right, trucks - pulled by horses or mules. One woman buys (via trading) an old sink top with hot and cold faucets, because she likes the looks of it and wants to use it as a candleholder. 

It's hard to put this book into words, but it really is a gripping, fascinating, throught-provoking read about the future, the past, the nature of conflict, and the road to peace. If this sounds interesting to you, read The People of Sparks - I promise you won't be disappointed!

Note: click here to read my review of the third book in the series, The Prophet of Yonwood.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. by Ben Carson, 2015

Click to view
on Goodreads
Throughout his life, renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson has needed to overcome many obstacles: His father leaving the family; being considered stupid by his classmates in grade school; growing up in inner-city Detroit; and having a violent temper. But Dr. Carson didn't let his circumstances control him, and instead discovered eight principles that helped shape his future.

In You Have a Brain: A Teen's Guide to Think Big, Dr. Carson unpacks the eight important parts of Thinking Big--Talent, Honesty, Insight, being Nice, Knowledge, Books, In-Depth learning, and God--and presents the stories of people who demonstrated those things in his life. By applying the idea of T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. to your life, and by looking at those around you as well, you too can overcome obstacles and work toward achieving your dreams.
(240 pages)

It's misleading of the cover and synopsis to suggest that the mnemonic is the focus of the entire book. Carson doesn't even mention it until over halfway through! He spends the first half of the book explaining his own humble beginnings and tracing his path to success. Then he turns around and tells the reader how "you too can become a famous neurosurgeon by following this one simple trick!"

Haha, no, that's not what he says. Really, I think he just wanted a nice kind of gimmicky mnemonic to help people remember his advice. And let me just say, it's definitely solid. He traces his early life and career in what is, for those of us who have read any of his other books, partly a review. To be fair he did mention things I hadn't read in the other books, focusing more on his study habits than on his relationship with God this time around, but there was still quite a bit of overlap. I suppose for some this might be kind of annoying, but for me it was nice to get a refresher and see exactly what he did in his own life to become successful. I wasn't sure if he was going to be one of those people who becomes successful one way, then turns around and advises something completely different for those who want to get ahead in life. By showing his own life, and what worked and didn't for him, he proved to me (and to anyone else who reads his book) that he's not just making this stuff up - the ideas presented in T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. really were the ones that helped him climb to the top.

As a teen, I found a lot of practical advice that I am definitely going to work on implementing in my own life. By putting the practical advice in the last few chapters, he makes it very easy to go back and reread concise instructions for applying each step in T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. I'm in the middle of a book about study techniques entitled Make it Stick (link goes to Goodreads) that I have to say is probably the most rambling. boring nonfiction I've ever read. I'd have quit it long ago if it weren't for the fact I'm required to finish it for English. After reading the mess of advice, examples, and anecdotes running rampant in Make it Stick, I really appreciated the way that Carson separates his anecdotes from his advice in a way that actually makes his anecdotes interesting but separate from his advice.

Do you need to read this if you're an adult who has read his other books? Probably not, unless you've got a burning desire to read everything the man writes. Should you read it if you're a student or the parent of a student trying to prepare for academic success? Most definitely. While Carson's approach may not work for all of us (I think it's pretty obvious he's got a natural advantage in the brain department - pun intended!), there's still a lot of good info in there about study habits, choosing a career, and remembering to focus on God before all else.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget, 2014

A moving middle-grade story about love, loss, and the unlikely places we find home.
Poppy's life has been turned upside down after her grandma (and guardian) had a stroke and ended up in the hospital. But Poppy is working on a plan to help Grandma Beth so their life together can go back to normal. But when she witnesses an armed robbery, "back to normal" slips even further out of her reach. To keep Poppy safe, the budget-strapped police devise an unusual "witness protection program," wherein Poppy will stay with Detective Brannigan's mother. Soon Poppy is feeling almost at home, even making sort-of friends with a girl named Lizzie and definitely friending Gunner, a beautiful dog with an uncertain fate. But it's still not home. So while she and Lizzie navigate a rocky friendship and plot to save Gunner's life, Poppy also tries to figure out a new plan to save Grandma Beth and their home, all while avoiding a dangerous robber who might be searching for her. But what if Grandma Beth can never come home and the robber is put behind bars? What will happen to Poppy then?
(272 pages)

What a good book! I went into it expecting a book with nothing special to offer, that thought it was offering the world. Instead I found a sweet, poignant tale of family, loss, and love (familial love, not romantic love - I was worried about that when I read the synopsis!), and all the different types of "home." I enjoyed myself greatly while reading the entire book, and then after finishing it read back through to watch the development of a certain relationship throughout the book. Which one, you ask? It doesn't really matter; they're all great. The particular one I wanted to retrace was between Poppy and Trey, but it could have just as easily been between Poppy and pretty much any other main character, or even just between two other main characters with no Poppy involved.

You  see, this is a book about relationships. Not even just Poppy's relationships, though those often take center stage, but all sorts relationships. The relationships between Poppy and Lizzie, Lizzie and her unseen dad (Lizzie's parents recently got divorced), Trey and Poppy, Poppy and Grandma Beth - honestly, it goes on and on. And it's beautiful.

Now, Poppy was a great if sometimes infuriating character. She wandered away way too often for someone under a modified version of witness protection. To be fair, though, she had a ton on her plate so I think she just kind of didn't have room in her head to worry about the robber coming after her. When your grandmother/legal guardian is in the hospital because she keeps having strokes and you're only out of the Children's Center because you are a witness from a murder case . . . well, either you're going to crack with stress or you're going to kind of ignore one of the stressing factors. So while I don't love her to pieces, I do love her just a little bit. Because she went through so much, and was so brave, and - well, I don't know. I guess that kind of sums it up.

The story is both sad and sweet, and its tale of loss is offset by a thread of love and friendships. It's the kind of book that makes you give a happy sigh as you put it down, and makes you reread it every few years if you spot it on a library shelf. I don't know if I'd want to own it, because it's not quite that good, but I'll definitely reread it down the road.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Top Ten Fiction Books I Can't Believe I Haven't Read

So who's ready for a new meme? I know I am! I've been contemplating adding Top Ten Tuesdays to the blog for a while, and figured I'd give it a try. Let me know what you think, and if I should stick with it.

Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish in which they provide a prompt every Tuesday, and you make a Top Ten list about that topic. You get pretty much complete creative liberty to do whatever you want within the prompt, and don't even have to make a list of ten if your list is really more of a Top Fifteen or a Top Five.

So this week's topic is "Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't/Want To Read From X Genre." I wanted to do either historical or science fiction, but I had so much fun browsing through my Goodreads shelves I knew I couldn't just limit it to a single type of fiction! So I'm making a Top Ten list of fictional  books I haven't read, but want to.

1. The Secret Under my Skin by Janet McNaughton
In the year 2368, humankind must struggle to survive under dire environmental conditions and strict government control. In this startling world, one brave young woman begins to unravel a web of lies about life on Earth that will empower her to discover, at last, who she really is. McNaughton vividly imagines an all-too-believable future and celebrates the impact that one person can make on the world.

How can this not be good? Wait, no, I know: insta-love and love triangles. If those pop up, I'm gone. Otherwise, this looks so cool I can't believe I haven't read it yet!
 It looks a bit like Allegra Goodman's The Other Side of the Island.


2. Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley
In the little village of Castle Down, in a kingdom plagued by war, lives a peasant girl called Bella. Blessed with a kind family and a loving friend, she manages to create her own small patch of sunlight in a dark and dangerous world. Bella is a blacksmith's daughter; her friend Julian is a prince -- yet neither seems to notice the great gulf that divides his world from hers.
Suddenly Bella's world collapses. First Julian betrays her. Then it is revealed that she is not the peasant she believed herself to be: She is Isabel, the daughter of a knight who abandoned her in infancy. Now he wants her back, so Bella is torn from her beloved foster family and sent to live with her deranged father and his resentful new wife. Soon Bella is caught up in a terrible plot that will change her life -- and the kingdom -- forever. With the help of her godmother and three enchanted gifts, she sets out on a journey in disguise that will lead her to a destiny far greater than any she could have imagined.

I love Stanley's Silver Bowl trilogy so, so much. Why haven't I read this other book by her? It looks so awesome! There's magic, royalty, friendship, love - That's it, I have to get my hands on a copy! Library, here I come.

3. Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French
It′s 1939, and for Georg, son of an English academic living in Germany, life is full of cream cakes and loving parents. It is also a time when his teacher measures the pupils′ heads to see which of them have the most ′Aryan′- shaped heads. But when a university graduation ceremony turns into a pro-Nazi demonstration, Georg is smuggled out of Germany to war-torn London and then across enemy seas to Australia where he must forget his past and who he is in order to survive.
Hatred is contagious, but Georg finds that kindness can be, too.

This is by the author of Hitler's Daughter, a short WWII book I first read many years ago. It really impacted me because it was the first WWII book I ever read, and because the plot was so cool to eight-year-old me. I've been meaning to read this companion novel for years but never really got around to it. One of these days, maybe I really will.

4. Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl
It starts when Alexandria, a poor, plain goose girl, offers her own bread and water to a hungry old woman-who just happens to be a witch in disguise. Poof! Alexandria is suddenly heartstoppingly beautiful. Her hair rains down gold dust, and the tears she sheds turn to diamonds. Soon a prince and a king are fighting for her hand, and they've locked her in a tower to keep her "safe." How Alexandria wishes she was a goose girl again! Clearly the only thing to do is escape-which is when her problems really begin! Patrice Kindl's inimitable voice and craft make this take on the classic fairy tale extraordinary-and extraordinarily hilarious. 

This reminds me of the Gail Carson Levine fairytale retelling of The Goose Girl. It looks like so much fun, and right up my alley - I've got a huge thing for fairytale retellings.


5. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
In this Newbery Honor-winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero. The Wednesday Wars is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year in Long Island, New York.
Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

This just looks fun, and way different from most Newberry Award-winning books (let's be honest, most of them are really boring/sad/both). I just discovered it recently, and I'm definitely looking forward to checking it out.

6. Revolution by Deborah Wiles
It's 1964, and Sunny's town is being invaded.  Or at least that's what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote.  They're calling it Freedom Summer.
Meanwhile, Sunny can't help but feel like her house is being invaded, too.  She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe.  And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool -- where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.
As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel COUNTDOWN, award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place -- and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what's right.


This one looks grabbing, thought-provoking, and funny. I've seen a lot of positive reviews, so I've got high hopes for it!

7. Paperboy by Vince Vawter
An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything. 
The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble--and puts the boy's life, as well as that of his family's devoted housekeeper, in danger.

Aw, doesn't this look good? I've been seeing it all over the place lately, which is why I knew I had to put it on this list. I've never had a speech impediment, but I like reading about people overcoming them. It's just so inspiring!

8. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg
"I Prefer Not To.... "
That's Margaret Rose Kane's response to every activity she's asked to participate in at the summer camp to which she's been exiled while her parents are in Peru. So Margaret Rose is delighted when her beloved uncles rescue her from Camp Talequa, with its uptight camp director and cruel cabinmates, and bring her to stay with them at their wonderful house at 19 Schuyler Place.
But Margaret Rose soon discovers that something is terribly wrong at 19 Schuyler Place. People in their newly gentrified neighborhood want to get rid of the three magnificent towers the uncles have spent forty-five years lovingly constructing of scrap metal and shards of glass and porcelain. Margaret Rose is outraged, and determined to strike a blow for art, for history, and for individuality...and no one is more surprised than Margaret Rose at the allies she finds for her mission. 


This is an E.L. Konigsburg that looks really good, which I haven't read. How has this happened? I must fix this! Now!

9. The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle
Martin lives in a perfect world.
Every year a new generation of genetically-engineered children is shipped out to meet their parents. Every spring the residents of his town take down the snow they've stuck to their windows and put up flowers. Every morning his family gathers around their television and votes, like everyone else, for whatever matter of national importance the president has on the table. Today, it is the color of his drapes. It's business as usual under the protective dome of suburb HM1.And it's all about to come crashing down.Because a stranger has come to take away all the little children, including Martin's sister, Cassie, and no one wants to talk about where she has gone. The way Martin sees it, he has a choice. He can remain in the dubious safety of HM1, with danger that no one wants to talk about lurking just beneath the surface, or he can actually break out of the suburb, into the mysterious land outside, rumored to be nothing but blowing sand for miles upon miles.Acclaimed author Clare B. Dunkle has crafted a fresh and fast-paced science-fiction thriller, one that challenges her characters -- and her readers -- to look closer at the world they take for granted.

Grr, this one drives me crazy. It looks so good, but I can't get at it! My library doesn't have it (I checked - twice), and I don't want to buy it in case it's not as good as it looks. But it sure looks like it's pretty good.

10. Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry
In a secluded village, magic sparkles on the edges of the forest. There, a young girl named Evie possesses unusually strong powers as a healer. A gypsy's charms—no more than trinkets when worn by others—are remarkably potent when Evie ties them around her neck. Her talents, and charms, have not escaped the notice of the shy stonemason's apprentice. But Evie wants more than a quiet village and the boy next-door. When the young king's carriage arrives one day, and his footman has fallen ill, Evie might just get her chance after all . . .
Berry's debut novel garnered glowing reviews and strong sales—and now she's done it again with a beautifully woven tale to keep all readers, young and old, absolutely charmed.

It was the cover that first caught my attention and made me add it to my Goodreads TBR list, but it got buried by other books so fast that I completely forgot about it until I started making my list and dug it back out. I will definitely be reading this one soon.

Have you read any of the books on this list? If so, please let me know whether you liked it or not! Also, do you think I should continue this meme? Please tell me in the comments section below!