Archive for September, 2009

ngtjill: Book Review #1

…in which I rave and rant about two books on my challenge list and rave about one of my favorites EVER.

So far I’ve only read two books on my list for the challenge (way to go, Lindsay, for already having 3 done!).


Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Katsa was born with a Grace to kill.  At the age of 8, she strikes a man in self-defense and unintentionally kills him.  Because her parents have died, she is under the control of her uncle, the King Randa of Middluns, and forced to grow up serving as his torturer/killer.  Nearly everyone fears her.  She does her best to do good among the seven kingdoms, and when the book begins, she and two other members of Randa’s court secretly rescue the kidnapped grandfather from Lienid.  Then she meets Prince Po from Lienid, who also has a Grace, and her life begins to change.

I loved this book!  I think it’s kind of like a cross between The Hunger Games and The Lord of the Rings – but it’s still unique!  If that makes sense…  But really, it’s awesome!  I read all but 3 chapters yesterday, and it’s not a short book.

messengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

One day pathetic Ed Kennedy stopped a bank robbery.  After that he receives his first card in the mail with three addresses on it.  He soon learns that it’s up to him to go around solving the problems of the people on the cards.

I read Zusak’s The Book Thief about a year ago and hated it.  But my older sister loves it and told me after reading When You Reach Me that I might like I Am the Messenger.  Um, NO.  I hated this book too.  Lindsay, I think this book is on your list, so you should go ahead and try it, but I just hate Zusak’s style of writing.  It seems like he’s trying too hard to be a good writer.  In grade school, did your teacher ever tell you that when writing, you can mix long complex sentences with short sentences to create surprise or sarcasm or just a variation in your writing?  Zusak uses way too many short sentences and it REALLY annoyed me.  Also, Ed is a total loser through most of the book, and yes there are some good moments, but it mostly just annoyed me.  I almost quit reading.  I know this book is popular – it’s an Abraham Lincoln Award nominee (IL award) – and some people do enjoy it but not me.  So Lindsay if you do still read it, definitely review it.  I’d be really interested to know if you liked it!

extremelyExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Ok, so this isn’t even on my list for the challenge and I haven’t even read it lately, but I kept being reminded of it while reading I Am the Messenger.  Extremely… is one of my all-time favorite books (and it’s my favorite adult book)!  It’s amazing.  You know how you might read a book one time & love it?  That happened when I first read this about three years ago.  Then I read it again a year ago to see if I still liked it – yep, still amazing!

This book takes place after 9/11/01.  Nine-year-old Oskar has lost his dad in the attack, and one day he discovers something that leads him on a mission all around NYC.  Mixed in with Oskar’s story are two other stories that eventually all connect.  The reason I kept being reminded of this while reading Messenger is that the writing style seems similar – yet were totally different.  Foer’s writing is beautiful, funny, etc etc etc.  Somehow he succeeds where Zusak failed.  As I was telling my old roommate last night who’s about to start reading it, this is the only book I have ever dog-eared and underlined lines.  I think it’s always kind of risky telling friends about books/movies/songs/etc that you truly love because they may hate it (at least I feel that way), but I really want everyone to read this.  Ok, I’m done gushing now.  🙂

– Jill


ngtlindsay: Book Review #1

In an attempt to be true to my word, here is my first review. To date I have finished 3 books on my countdown challenge list: Enola Holmes #s 2 and 3, and Derby Girl by Shauna Cross. Here are recaps/thoughts on the books.

Enola Holmes #s 2 and 3Nancy Springer

#2: The Case of the Left-Handed Lady

#3: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets

The first book in the Enola Holmes series: The Case of the Missing Marquess, starts things off when Enola’s mother goes missing. Enola is then visited by her much older brothers, Mycroft and Sherlock, who must determine what to do with her. Mycroft, being the elder of the two brothers and also the heir of the Holmes estate, decides the best thing to do with Enola is to send her off to boarding school where she will learn to be a proper lady and one day a suitable wife. But with Enola’s free-spirited and suffragist upbringing, this is the worst fate possible that Enola can imagine. So of course, she runs away. To London.

In the second book, Enola has set herself up as the secretary to a scientific perditorian (a finder of all things lost), Dr. Ragostin (in reality, Enola herself). Her first case comes in the form of a missing young woman from the upper class society.

In the third book, Dr. Watson (who Enola thinks of as a kindly father figure…even though she had only met him 2 or 3 times) goes missing.  Of course Sherlock Holmes is on the case but of course some cases can only be solved with woman’s (or a girl’s in Enola’s case) intuition and knowledge.

I like these books so far. Sometimes I get a little frustrated with Enola for the way she thinks, but then I have to remind myself that Springer’s portrayal of an upperclass (however offbeat) 14 year old girl in late 19th century England is most likely correct. Enola shuns the way of life of upper class society women – those who take dancing lessons, learn how to draw prettily, speak French, and faint daintily because of their corsets. However, even though she shuns this way of life, it sometimes seems to me that she thinks she is the only one who might feel this way. But as I type this, of course all teenagers feel that they are the only ones who feel a certain way. Maybe all readers will feel this way of Enola, or maybe it is because I am no longer a teenager and realize that other people can feel just as I do.

The great thing about this series though, is that so far each book I have read I have liked better than the one that came before it.  I think that is because as the books continue, Enola grows up.  I absolutely love it when authors have the ability to make their characters grow up.  Springer never tells you things outright like, and then Enola realized that she needed to stop thinking like a child, etc.  I didn’t even realize she had grown up until I stopped and thought about it just now.  But it’s true.  Not even a full year has passed in Enola’s life.  She’s still 14.  But she has grown a considerable amount in what I think is a pretty short time.

I am so glad I picked up this series.  I’m pretty sure that Jen or Jill or Amber has mentioned this series on the blog before, so props to them for implanting this series in my subconcious!  I can’t wait to get my hands on #s 4 and 5!

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross

I picked this book because Whip It is coming out on October 2.  Drew Barrymore is directing it and Ellen Page is the main character in it.  The previews are so so so so sooooooo cute!  Imagine how excited I was when I figured out it was a book! ….but then again imagine how stupid I felt when I realized that pretty much every movie is based on a book….

I definitely recommend this book to anyone, especially those of you who love a good indie-misfit kind of character.  It’s a pretty short read – I picked it up last night because I couldn’t sleep and ended up finishing it about 2-3 hours later.  Some of the chapters are only 2 to 3 pages long, but it totally works for this book.

Recap: Bliss Cavender is stuck in cow-town Bodeen, TX and is dying to get out.  Luckily for her she’s only an hour away from Austin – the NYC of Texas.  One fateful day Bliss’s mother takes her back to school shopping in Austin and Bliss picks up a flyer for Austin’s All-Girl Roller Derby League.  She and her best friend take a quick road trip up to see what it’s all about and Bliss falls in love.  She tries out for the league, makes it and basically from there it’s history.

I loooooved this book.  Love love loooooved it!  It has made me even that much more excited for the movie!  But regardless of whatever the movie does, I will forever recommend this book.  Bliss is that kind of character that every girl who loves to read can definitely imagine herself as.  She’s a misfit yes, but not in the nerdy outcast kind of way.  Cross doesn’t make such a big deal out of it – no, Bliss doesn’t get along with the popular girl, no, Bliss doesn’t get along with her mother.  But it’s not so blown out of proportion that it makes it seem ridiculous as some other books can get.  All the characters in this book are completely and totally believable to me.

Favorite character: Malice in Wonderland ***I was totally going to insert a picture of whoever is going to play Malice in the movie, but there is no one listed as playing her!  I think they changed her name for the movie!  Noooooo!  I think most likely Drew Barrymore is “Malice in Wonderland”, and in that case her new name is “Smashley Simpson”.  Ughhhhhh.  But w/e!

Now go read!


Amber’s Bridal Blah Blah Blog: First

Hey you all! So I’m in love with a guy named Steve and getting married, blah blah blah, and so I decided to start a weekly (yeah more like monthly) update on how the planning is going. Not because I really think my wedding plans are super fascinating and deserve your attention, but because I’m lazy and now when people ask me “sooooo tell me about your wedding!!!” I can be like “Read the blog, Crazy!” and then “Sorry, I called you crazy.”

So this is post number One and I am calling it “First” and we’ll play catch-up.

Hey Cuckoo! Time to get married!

Hey Cuckoo! Time to get married!

So Steve proposed to me at the beginning of the summer (Yay!), but it has just been in the last week that Mom and I have gotten started on this shindig. Why did I take so long? As an experienced Bridesmaid and obsessive buyer of “Martha Stewart Weddings” magazine, I knew what to do. My problem was that I didn’t know what I WANTED to do! Somewhere along the way I became what the event planners call “nontraditional bride” as in “Do you think we could Pee-wee Herman to officiate our wedding?”

Large Marge sent me.

Large Marge sent me.

So I found that the normal wedding stuff, the kind of things that I love at other girls’ weddings, totally freaked me out or bored me—-as in I don’t really want everyone to watch me cut a cake and I think chair-covers are weird-looking. So I just didn’t do anything but think about how much I really wanted this casserole dish, but it would probably be gone from stores by the time I register:

This dish talks like me!

This dish talks like me!

But then I had this thought: “Bingo.”

Minus the Beach Blanket.

Minus the Beach Blanket.

Next time on Amber’s Bridal Blah Blah Blog: BINGO!

I steal watches.

Steve wanted to share this with us:

Lindsay’s Countdown Challenge List

Thanks to Jill for finding this awesome challenge! As Jill stated already, you read 10 books published in 2010, 9 in 2009, yadayada all the way down to 1 in 2001. In case you are too lazy to scroll down to Jill’s post, here is the link again. Crusty dragons. Hehehehehe! Raise your hand if you remember what THAT means!

It has taken me a few days to compile my list of books to read. I tried to branch out a little from YA – a LITTLE not a LOT! I had a really hard time with some years (2005 and 2008 were the last ones I completed) and no trouble at all with some years (2009 and 2010 mostly). I stole a few books from Jill’s list, but let’s face it – I was probably going to read those anyways.

So without further ado:

1. Runaway – Meg Cabot
2. Scarlett Fever – Maureen Johnson
3. Heist Society – Ally Carter
4. The Cinderella Society – Kay Cassidy
5. The Birthday Ball – Lois Lowry
6. Gimme a Call – Sarah Mlynowski
7. Emily the Strange: Dark Times – Rob Reger
8. Stranded – J.T. Dutton
9. Very LeFreak – Rachel Cohn
10. 39 Clues: Book #7 – Peter Lerangis

1. The Last Olympian – Rick Riordan
2. The Treasure Map of Boys – E. Lockhart
3. Going Bovine – Libba Bray
4. Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy
5. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (Enola Holmes) – Nancy Springer
6. Charlie Bone and the Red King – Jenny Nimmo
7. Liar – Justine Larbalestier
8. Dull Boy – Sarah Cross
9. When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead

1. Paper Towns – John Green
2. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes) – Nancy Springer
3. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan (Enola Holmes) – Nancy Springer
4. Lock and Key – Sarah Dessen
5. Impossible – Nancy Werlin
6. Well Witched – Frances Hardinge
7. Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn – Ridley Pearson
8. Science Fair – Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

1. Derby Girl – Shauna Cross
2. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (Enola Holmes) – Nancy Springer 
3. The Chimera’s Curse (Companions Quartet) – Julia Golding
4. Wicked Lovely – Melissa Marr
5. The World Without Us – Alan Weisman
6. The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick
7. The Daring Book for Girls – Andrewa J. Buchanan

1. Queen of Babble – Meg Cabot
2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
3. The Alphabet of Manliness – Maddox
4. Secret Society Girl – Diana Peterfreund
5. Fairest – Gail Carson Levine
6. The Looking Glass Wars – Frank Beddor

1. Alice MacLeod, Realist at Last – Susan Juby
2. Assassination Vacation – Sarah Vowell
3. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy – Jeanne Birdsall
4. Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time – Lisa Yee
5. Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You – Dorian Cirrone

1. Al Capone Does My Shirts – Gennifer Choldenko
2. Miss Smithers – Susan Juby
3. The Truth About Forever – Sarah Dessen
4. Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America – Steve Almond

1. Alice, I Think – Susan Juby
2. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
3. The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember – Fred Rogers

1. Running With Scissors: A Memoir – Augusten Burroughs
2. Summerland – Michael Chabon

1. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser

If you happen to read over this list and notice that I’ve gotten the wrong year on a book, please let me know so I can get it in the right year and find another book to fill its space.

This is a tentative list, subject to change. I would like to read all of these books, but I will be limited by what I can find at the library and Borders/Barnes & Noble/Davis Kidd (but mostly Borders).

And along with this book challenge, I will be summarizing/reviewing the books. Hopefully this will become a habit for me and make writing come a more naturally. In fact, my next post will be coming directly after this post. I have already finished Enola Holmes #2 and #3 (don’t worry – I totally had them on the list before I started reading them…I just didn’t have the list finished). I was going to post a review of just #2 (The Case of the Left-Handed Lady), but then decided to just go ahead and do a double review. Perhaps I will do the same with #s 4 and 5.

Happy reading!

My Guiltiest Guilty Pleasure: Road To Avonlea

I have been wanting to do a post about Road to Avonlea forever, and I guess you could say I was inspired by Jill’s post about TV on DVD to finally sit down and do it.  For those of you who don’t know what it is, Road to Avonlea is a Canadian television show that aired in the late 80s to the early 90s based on the world of Anne of Green Gables.  Anne Shirley herself never pops up, but there are some familiar characters like Marilla Cuthbert and Rachel Lynde who show up on occasion.  The show aired on the Disney Channel under the title Avonlea.

Felicity and Sara

Felicity and Sara

Now I will start off by saying that this is one of those shows that you probably had to grow up with in order to love.  It is ultra sappy, cheesy, and all around ridiculous sometimes, but that is one of the reasons why I adore it!!!!!  I have such fond memories of hanging out in my parent’s basement humming along to the theme song as I watched it with my sister.  I was the perfect age when it was on, right around the same age as little Sara Stanley herself.

The show takes place in the early 1900s and revolves around the King Family who are very important in the town of Avonlea.  Alec and Janet King have three kids Felicity, Felix, and Cecily.  Then there are Hetty and Olivia King who are two “spinsters” who live by themselves in Rose Cottage.  The show starts with Hetty and Olivia taking in Sara Stanley, their niece, when her father gets in financial trouble.  The first few seasons focus on Sara, but then the show shifts and revolves around the grown-ups and Felicity and her romantic entanglements.

I rediscovered this show when I was in grad school.  I’m not sure how…..I think I must have seen something that reminded me of the show, which caused me to impulsively order seasons 2-5 from Amazon…….luckily it was not an expensive mistake because I have watched the DVDs many times since then.

For newbies of the show, here are some of my favorite characters and favorite episodes:

Olivia King:  Oh how I adore Olivia!!  She starts out all meek and quiet and ends up becoming a career-minded woman who has

Olivia and Jasper

Olivia and Jasper

no trouble standing up to Hetty.

Jasper Dale:  Oh Mr. Dale.  He is known as The Awkward Man in the beginning because he is clumsy and he stutters and is terrified of people.  He eventually comes out of his shell and plays a significant role in the show.  (Also definitely a fictional character I would date!).

Alec King:  He is the rock that holds the King family together.  He is a great dad and a loving husband.  He is pretty much the perfect guy now that I think about it………oh, and did I mention he can sing?

Aunt Eliza:  She is the elderly (and I do mean elderly) aunt who stays with Janet and Alec for like half the series.  She is smarter than everyone else in the house and always has a quick and funny word to say about everything.  My favorite Aunt Eliza quote is “You’re only young once, but you’re old for a very long time.”  Too true.

Gus Pike:  Okay, now most females who love this show owe it all to a little character called Gus Pike.  When he showed up in the 2nd season and planted a whisper of a kiss on Felicity, our little hearts melted.  The saga of Gus and Felicity would last the rest of the show and keep me watching till the end.  His accent is adorable (and obviously fake) and he can’t fake-play a violin to save his life, but oh is he adorable!

Here is my favorite episode from each of the 7 seasons:  Some spoilery things found below.

Season 1:  The Story Girl Earns Her Name:  This is the first episode with Jasper, so that is why I love it.  He is all awkward and adorable, and there is even the tiniest hint that he totally has a crush on Olivia even way back then.

Season2:  May the Best Man Win–This is the episode where Jasper finally professes his love for Olivia.  There are so many great things about this episode, but the opening sequence is literally one of the sexiest things I have ever seen on tv.  Jasper and Olivia are taking photos in a field and it starts to rain.  They run for shelter in the barn and poor Olivia is all out of breath (probably strangled from all the underthings she is wearing).  She starts to fall and Jasper catches her around the waist.  The moment when they both realize that he is like actually touching her waist is so amazing I can’t even describe it!!

Season 3:  Friends and Relations–This is my favorite episode of the whole series!  The women go off to an auction and the men go on an ice fishing trip.  Needless to say hilarity ensues and everyone ends up lost in the woods.  I don’t know why this one is so great, I think it is because Gus finally admits that he likes Felicity and they share a little knowing look together when everyone is safe again at King Farm.  (beware of the horrible shrieking of the women as they are trying to find each other in the woods…..have the mute button ready.)

Season 4:  Home Movie:  A developer comes into town and tries to convince people to sell their homes so it can be turned into a modern town.  I love this episode because there is a lot of Jasper!  And he has to work together with Hetty, which is unheard of.  Plus, the part where Sara does an impression of Aunt Hetty is one of the greatest things ever!

Season 5:  Stranger in the Night:  A stranger comes to stay at the King farm and he ends of helping out and getting hired on to help.  Unfortunately, he has a past, so he will only be around for this one episode.

Season 6:  The Return of Gus Pike:  I don’t really like season 6 at all, but this is the episode where Gus proposes to Felicity (for like the 6th time!) and she really really says yes.

Season 7:  So Dear to My Heart:  This was the perfect way to end the series!  I won’t say anything else except that Hetty’s speech at the very end always brings me to tears.

Here are the opening credits to season 3 (not great quality, but it captures the feel of the show)

Anyway, that was a long and rambling tribute to one of my favorite shows.  If you feel the need to watch it yourself, it is available through Netflix.  I am not a real big fan of the first season, so if you started with the 2nd season you would still know what was going on.


New Book Challenge!

I just learned about a new reading challenge that I plan on doing.  (Thanks to The Infinite Shelf for leading me to it.)  It’s hosted by 1morechapter – go here to see the official signup & rules.  Basically it’s reading 55 books in just over a year – you “read the number of books first published in a given year that corresponds to the last digit of each year in the 2000s”.  The official challenge dates are 9/9/09 – 10/10/10 so it’s already started, but there’s still plenty of time!  I’ve decided to attempt to read mostly YA books for the challenge.  Here’s my tentative list:  [edit- the ones I’ve finished have links to where I reviewed them]

1. Runaway – Meg Cabot
2. Island Sting – Bonnie Doerr
3. Stranded – J.T. Dutton, which is about “a girl involved in a mystery in a small Iowa farm community” – so excited!
4. Living Hell – Catherine Jinks
5.  Scarlett Fever – Maureen Johnson
6. Freaksville – Kitty Keswick
7. Bomb – Alice Kuipers
8.  The Carbon Diaries: 2017 – Saci Lloyd
9. the world we live in – Susan Beth Pfeffer
10. The Unwritten Rule – Elizabeth Scott

1.  Reality Check – Peter Abrahams
2. Anything But Typical – Nora Raleigh Baskin
3. The Roar – Emma Clayton
4.  The Carbon Diaries: 2015 – Saci Lloyd
5.  Geek Charming – Robin Palmer
6. The Last Olympian – Rick Riordan
7. Flygirl – Sherri L. Smith
8.  Chasing Lincoln’s Killer – James L. Swanson
9.  Levianthan – Scott Westerfeld

1.  Audrey, Wait! – Robin Benway
2. Graceling – Kristin Cashore
3. Airman – Eoin Colfer
4. Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
5. The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
6. The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson
7. the dead & the gone – Susan Beth Pfeffer
8. I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee – Charles J. Shields

1. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
2. The London Eye Mystery – Siobhan Dowd
3. Before I Die – Jenny Downham
4. The Luxe – Anna Godbersen
5. Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy
6. Unwind – Neal Shusterman
7.  Born on a Blue Day – Daniel Tammet

1. I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You – Ally Carter
2. Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott – Russell Freedman
3. Stormbreaker: Graphic Novel – Anthony Horowitz
4. The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation – Sid Jacobson & Ernie Colon
5. Hattie Big Sky – Kirby Larson
6.  The Rules of Survival – Nancy Werlin

1. Our Eleanor – Candace Fleming
2. Wrecked – E.R. Frank
3. The Boyfriend List – E. Lockhart
4. Peeps – Scott Westerfeld
5. I Am the Messenger – Marcus Zusak

1. Peter & the Starcatchers – Peter Barry & Ridley Pearson
2. The Key in the Golden Firebird – Maureen Johnson
3. A Crack in the Line – Michael Lawrence
4.  how i live now – Meg Rosoff

1. A Great & Terrible Beauty – Libba Bray
2. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
3.  Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

1. Everything Is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer
2.  Bloody Jack – L. A. Meyer

1.  Whale Talk – Chris Crutcher

So that’s my list.  I’ll give reviews occasionally as I read.  Join in the fun!  What would you read?  Any suggestions?

– Jill