Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lucy Maud Montgomery Challenge Wrap-Up

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

Well.... I didn't finish Anne of Avonlea. To be honest, I barely got started on it! There's been so many review books I just couldn't seem to pass up lately. I still passed on WAY more than I accepted. I DO have a little self control with books. (only a little, though). ;) I've tried to make sure I've kept them read as they come in, though. From now on, I think I'll stick to only committing to one book per challenge.
I'm thrilled that I've finally read Anne of Green Gables, regardless! I remember back before I started reviewing books(Well, not reviewing, but just telling my thoughts about a book, as one author put it), I would find a book I loved and would quickly make my way through the entire series. Sometimes, I miss those days! I do love getting books that I already want to read for free, though! No complaints here. If I had read Anne of Green Gables in those days, though, it would be a series that I read through quickly!

You may remember I also wanted to watch both versions of the Anne movies. Annette watched the older version(her review HERE), and I decided I'd rather spend my time elsewhere. :) I didn't get a hold of a DVD version of the newer Anne movie, so I didn't watch them, either.

For those of you who haven't kept up with the challenge, and love Anne, you have to see this post! Carrie(the challenge host), hosted an Anne of Green Gables Brunch. This is such a FUN idea!!!!! My mind is just twirling with possibilities now! :)

Top Ten Books That Caught My Attention in January

Since I'm trying to whip this post up very quickly, I'll just let the pictures and all be self explanatory for the most part. All of these have really grabbed my attention, and I'd LOVE to read each and every one of them!!!!!

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

The Visions of Ransom Lake by Marcia Lynn McClure

Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

Stardust by Carla Stewart

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

A Wedding to Remember in Charleston, South Carolina by Annalisa Daughety

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?: Answers to the Big Questions of Life by Edward T. Welch

These next two are extras. They are two that I'm REALLY looking forward to reading this year! I read the first book in both series last year.

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Underworld by Meg Cabot

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Loom by Shella Gillus

Guideposts (December 1, 2011) 312 pages(my ARC was only 224 pages)

When it comes to reading fiction, I tend to go towards light and fluffy or encouraging. I read to stir my imagination and to relax. I typically stay away from books about slavery. They make me angry and it just hurts to read about what slaves went through. (take note I said fiction-I do think slavery is an important subject to remember) The Loom arrived in my mailbox as a surprise, though, and it sounded really interesting, so I gave it a try.

First of all, let me say that I read an ARC. From the description at Amazon, apparently names and details were changed in the story. While I can tell it's the same book, the description at Amazon does not describe the book I read. Apparently, a great deal was changed.

Lydia is the leading lady of the story. She's a slave, but she's so light skinned that she can easily pass for white with new clothes and a new hairstyle. She falls in love with John, a field slave. She's given the chance at "freedom", and she has to decide whether her love of John or her freedom is more important to her. That's a quick summary of the book I read.

Here's the description from Amazon:

A slave owner’s wife harbors a secret that threatens to unravel her marriage and the lives of those around her. Caroline Whitfield lives in the world she dreamt of as a child. Married to Jackson, a plantation owner, in the quiet hills of 1835 Montgomery County, Maryland, she enjoys a simple life, until new slaves, seven-year-old Sadie and her father, arrive. When Sadie’s daddy is taken from her, the young girl is forced to serve the master and mistress she holds responsible for her loss. With her grandmother, fellow slaves in the “Loom Room,” and a young man bent on obtaining his freedom, Sadie struggles to make sense of God’s will in the midst of pain. But Caroline harbors a secret that could bring her world crashing down, and her love for Sadie, the daughter no one knows she had, threatens to tear it all apart. Meanwhile, Caroline draws closer to an old friend, an empathetic and dependable married man. Now she must douse the raging flames of a jealous husband and fight to keep her perfect world intact. The Loom is a colorful tale of three families linked by a lie and their discovery that the truth is not always black and white.

John isn't even mentioned in that description, and he plays a huge role in the ARC. Jackson isn't married, and I have no idea who Sadie is. ????

I had a couple of issues with my version of The Loom.

First of all, I was confused for a big chunk of the book! There seemed to be new characters introduced so quickly that I ended up back-reading several times, trying to place who they were. I was still half confused by the end of the book. There were a few characters that I expected to hear more about, but I was left in the dark as to why some of them were really mentioned in the first place. Then there were passages that I really had no clue what was trying to be said.

Secondly, I just didn't understand WHY Lydia AND John made some of the choices they did. The lack of communication made no sense whatsoever to me. I know that with most stories there's lack of communication, or else there wouldn't be a story. I can usually understand why a person has chosen to keep quiet, even if I don't agree with it. I didn't in this case. I still don't know WHY they made their choices, and I just didn't agree with them at all.

Now, with all that, you're probably thinking I hated the story. I didn't. Other than all that, I DO like the book. It kept my interest enough that I was reading it as I cooked. I typically don't read AND cook at the same time! So, I liked it.

I'd actually really like to read the final version. The final copy does have almost 100 more pages to it. It made me wonder whether I should be reviewing the ARC or not! I decided to go ahead with it to at least put it on your radar. I have a feeling that the issues I had with it are probably worked out in it, though, judging from the Amazon description. Even though I enjoyed this version, I honestly think I would have liked the final version more. I'll definitely be keeping my eye on future books from Shella!

If you've read the final copy, PLEASE let me know what you think of it, or link to your review. I'd love to hear some thoughts on it!!!!! From the reviews I've seen, I think they're all of the ARC.

*I received this book as a gift from the publisher. I wasn't required to review it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments by Marty Machowski

New Growth Press (December 5, 2011) 328 pages

Description from Amazon:

Can a Bedtime Story Actually Change Your Life? It is easy to forget Jesus in the midst of frantic schedules, family squabbles, and conflicting priorities. But the truth is that he is the hero of every story, including these ordinary ones. This is why Marty Machowski puts God's plan of salvation in Christ on continuous display in The Gospel Story Bible. The easy-to-read storybook introduces your family to many captivating people, places, and events from the Bible's Old and New Testaments, showing how each one ultimately points to Jesus. As you share these Bible Stories together, you and your family will meet Jesus and learn a new, life-changing way of recognizing Christ as the hero of every story. Vibrant illustrations by A. E. Macha, child-friendly discussion questions, and Scripture references accompany each narrative to help you lead your family in exploring the Bible. You will be delighted to discover how easily even a young child can understand the original text of a story that he or she has already come to love. Ideal as a storybook for your preschooler, a devotional for your grade school student, a refresher for the adult believer, or an introduction for the new one, The Gospel Story Bible is also a companion to Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God and the forthcoming Gospel Story Sunday School curriculum.

My Thoughts:

Y'all know how much I adore My First Hands On Bible. Well, I love The Gospel Story Bible almost as much for a slightly older audience! I really feel like the author has taken great care in summarizing the Bible stories without adding, taking away, or changing important details. I won't even pretend that I was familiar with every one of the stories to know if there were any issues, but I didn't notice anything so far. The wording of the stories make me think of the way a Sunday school(or Wednesday night) teacher would summarize a story for their class. At the end of each story, there a "Let's Talk About It" section that contains 3 different questions about the story or the picture.

I only have one issue with The Gospel Story Bible so far. I know that many of you will roll your eyes at this, but the background colors of the page hurt my eyes. Each story get a 2-page spread. The story takes up about a page and then there's a picture taking up the other page. These pages alternate between bright colors. (There's about 7 to 8 different colors). It strains my eyes extremely easily and makes them "flash". I wear contacts, so my eyesight isn't the issue. I really do wish that a more neutral color had been used for the pages, but otherwise, I think this book it great!! If you don't think the colors would be an issue, I highly recommend The Gospel Story Bible.

*I was provided a review copy through B&B Media Group in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

HarperCollins (January 17, 2012) 320 pages

Description from Amazon:

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

My thoughts:

When I saw The One and Only Ivan at another blog with high praise, and the fact that it's narrated by a gorilla, I knew it was a book I wanted to read. I was very curious how the author would go about writing a book from an animal's perspective, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Ivan is the narrator, and as I mentioned above, he's a gorilla. With the innocence of a child, he tells it like it is. He's very serious about what he says, but many times it comes off humorous. Other times, it leaves you needing a tissue. It's a heartbreaking story, and even more so when you find out that it is based on a true story.

As much as I loved Ivan and Stella and Ruby, Bob stole the show for me. Bob is Ivan's tiny "pet" dog. He's a loner, thinking he doesn't want to get tied down to an owner. He loves to sleep on Ivan's stomach, though, and occasionally give his opinions on various conversations.

The format of the book is a bit different. There are no chapter numbers, only names. Each chapter is only a page or two, sometimes 3. Each "paragraph" is only one to two sentences, for the most part. I reviewed an ARC, so I can't give you an example, but I really wish I could! At the beginning, you mostly get Ivan's thoughts on various subjects, but eventually those thoughts pull together to form a story. There's also small pictures scattered throughout the book.

I think it would make a perfect read aloud! There are a couple of scenes that tell just how mean humans can be. For example, there's mention that Ivan's parents were killed and then their heads, hands, and feet were cut off, and that at that moment a gorilla's hand is for sale in the gift shop as an ashtray. I really think that is about the worst of it, though.

Overall, I think The One and Only Ivan is a very sweet book that has earned its place on my boys' bookshelf!

*I was provided an ARC through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest opinion.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

January is the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge over at Reading to Know.

Anne of Green Gables was my introduction into the writing of Lucy Maud Montgomery. I have fell in LOVE with it! I adore this book! This is one of those books I just loved so much, I wanted to hug it. Now I don't remember actually ever hugging a book, but there are those rare books that just earn a place in my heart. This is one of them.

You may remember from the last challenge that I watched the movies first. Anne got on my nerves just a little bit at the beginning of the movie best I remember. She did win my heart pretty quickly, though. I don't know if it was because of already knowing I loved her character or what, but I loved EVERY minute of reading her story.

I feel like I got to know Matthew and Marilla better, too. I really related to Matthew.

"Matthew, much to his own surprise, was enjoying himself. Like most quiet folks he liked talkative people when they were willing to do the talking themselves and did not expect him to keep up his end of it."

I was surprised that Anne of Green Gables ended up being as funny as it was. I wasn't expecting to laugh out loud(literally!) so much.

"Oh, we have named that little round pool over in Mr. Barry's field Willowmere. I got that name out of the book Diana lent me. That was a thrilling book, Marilla. The heroine had five lovers. I'd be satisfied with one, wouldn't you? She was very handsome and she went through great tribulations. She could faint as easy as anything. I'd love to be able to faint, wouldn't you, Marilla?"

And, Anne's story of Cordelia and Geraldine! Hilarious!

This book was like a breath of fresh air! I couldn't help thinking that a book like this is the perfect Sunday afternoon read(the afternoons that are actually peaceful). Montgomery's many descriptions of nature made for quite a relaxing read.

"Oh, Matthew, isn't it a wonderful morning? The world looks like something God had just imagined for his own pleasure, doesn't it?"

***As a side note, when I was searching through Amazon deciding which one to link to, I saw this Anne of Green Gables Coloring Book. (I ended up just linking to the one I have. It's a combination of Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, but it was the cheapest I could find. They are UNabridged, which is important to me!)
How cool is it that there's a coloring book?! I don't know if a little girl is in my future, but I think I'll have to get this for her if I have one. I do have a niece, though! :) (And nephew #7 is on the way. We're surrounded by sweet little boys)!

I'm still hoping to finish up with Anne of Avonlea before the end of the challenge, but we'll see.

What A Son Needs From His Dad by Michael A. O'Donnell

Bethany House Publishers; Reprint edition (October 1, 2011)

What a Son Needs From His Dad is a really short book at 141 pages. There's lots of wisdom packed in there, though. There were so many things mentioned that I'd never thought about!

Obviously, this book was written for men, but even as a woman, my mind was opened to many things my sons will face, and things they will need as they grow. I do think that men will get more out of it, though. It has managed to get a spot on my keeper shelf, and I will re-visit it as my little ones grow into young men!

My favorite chapter was the one on creativity!

"The benefit to your son when you become a fun dad is that correction is easier to take when he's hearing it from a guy with whom he leg-wrestles, because he knows you really like him in spite of the fact that he just soaked his sister with a hose and made her scream!"

"One important way of helping your son to enjoy life is developing his imagination. Start when he's young and introduce him to the meaning and importance of fairy tales."

"Spontaneity can actually prepare your son to be a great husband, because the element of surprise goes a long way in keeping the romance alive in a marriage."

I just really like that whole chapter! (and the others)!

With this book being so short, the suggestions made are direct and to the point. If you don't like or connect to something being said, it won't be long before you make it to another point.

Overall, I liked it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo

Random House Books for Young Readers (January 24, 2012) 384 pages

Description from Amazon:

Malora knows what she was born to be: a horse wrangler and a hunter, just like her father. But when her people are massacred by batlike monsters called Leatherwings, Malora will need her horse skills just to survive. The last living human, Malora roams the wilderness at the head of a band of magnificent horses, relying only on her own wits, strength, and courage. When she is captured by a group of centaurs and taken to their city, Malora must decide whether the comforts of her new home and family are worth the parts of herself she must sacrifice to keep them.

My Thoughts:

There's a couple of things to know about Daughter of the Centaurs before you decide to read it.

I don't recommend picking it up unless you're willing to give it at least 100 pages. There were many times I was tempted to give up on it, because it was just weird and a bit boring. Since I agreed to review it, I told myself to give it 100 pages. Somewhere between 75-100 pages, it got interesting enough that I kept reading. It did get better. I still won't pretend like it was my favorite book ever, but I am curious where the author will take the story in the following books. It's hard on the first book in a series, because there's so much background information that needs to be told. This book definitely seemed like a "set-up" book.

Also, Centaurs are secondary in the story to horses. This really is a book about horses, for the most part. The Centaurs could have been replaced by any other creature and it probably wouldn't have changed much at all as far as the story goes.

I do think that there was so much potential for this book. Centaurs aren't exactly a popular subject for books, and it had an opportunity to really stand out from all the other young adult books out there. I do love horses and all animals, but I really didn't care to read all the information that I got on horses and racing.

There was just lots of little things that bothered me throughout the story, too. One example: The Centaurs have a library filled with Classics. (This story takes place in the distant future). They no longer print or write books. Some modern day popular authors were listed in there with actual Classics, and it just really bugged me at some of the authors named. (One was an author of a popular young adult paranormal series. I don't have anything against the author or the series. I liked it! But, to call it Classic?) There were also too many mentions of horses having bowel movements and what kind of movement it was(runny). I just don't care for all that. I know those are just picky kind of things, so those might or might not be something that would bother you.

There is some violence, but not much. There's mention of dead bodies, and bones. Malora goes hunting a few times. At one point, she snares some squirrels and then bangs their head against a wall to finish them off. Again, that's just some details I could have done without. It wasn't enough that I wouldn't read it based on that alone, though.

The highlights of the book were definitely Zephele and the Twani! Zephele is a female centaur, and she was just unique and fun. I enjoyed reading about her. The Twani were also fun creatures to read about. When they were first mentioned, they just seemed so weird, I didn't know what to think of them. They grow on you, though. Although, I didn't hate the main character, Malora, I didn't overly like her either. I just really didn't feel anything reading about the characters. I like books that transport me into the book. When I'm told a character is happy, I want to feel that. When a character is crying, I want to feel some sympathy and tears of my own. I just didn't get that with this book.

It was a pretty clean book. "A**" is used a few times, and "pi**. That was all as far as language, though.

Overall, I'd say if you really like reading about horses, give Daughter of the Centaurs a try.

*I was provided an Advance Reader's Copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

**I also thought I would mention that the cover shown is the one I have. Apparently the final cover is a bit different. You may notice the author's name, though. My cover has the author's name as K.K. Ross. As far as I can tell, they decided to go with Kate Klimo on the final one. (??)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sea Turtle Summer by Nancy Stewart

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc (November 15, 2011) 24 pages

Description from Amazon:

Bella and Britt think living by the beach is the coolest thing ever. When they discover an unprotected sea turtle's nest, they go into action! Will their bravery and quick thinking save the baby turtles? How can do they do it, and what lesson will they learn about themselves? The book also contains kid appealing sea turtle facts. Suggested for readers:6-9

My Review:

I love children's book that are fun AND teach something. It's so easy to learn when you're having fun! Nancy has created a cute series that teaches about marine life. Sea Turtle Summer is about the loggerhead turtle and the need to protect them. I haven't read One Pelican at a Time, but I'm guessing it's just as great.

There's a list of facts at the end of the book that add to it's educational value. I don't live close to the beach, so before reading Sea Turtle Summer, I wouldn't have known what to do if I saw a sea turtle laying eggs. I think it's awesome that kids(and adults) from all over the place can learn about beach life through this book.

I also really like that the artist(Samantha Bell) has created characters of different ethnic backgrounds. That's always a bonus for me!

Overall, this was a fun, informative book that I definitely recommend!

Guardian Angel Publishing(link for book)

*I was provided a review copy from the author through Pump Up Your Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion.