Friday, August 29, 2008

Anne of the Island

Title: Anne of the Island
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Genre: Young Adult, Classics
Pages: 243
Date Finished: 9 August 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars

What can I say about this classic book? The third book in the Anne of Green Gables series, I think this is one of my favorites. Scratch that, I know it is one of my favorites. Possibly even my favorite of the whole series.
In Anne of the Island, Anne leaves Green Gables and Avonlea to attend Redmond College in Kingsport. The novel follows Anne's years at Redmond and her frequent trips back home to Avonlea as she transitions from girlhood to womanhood. Anne is more mature in this book but she is still very much the same Anne with her "scope for imagination."
This book has it all. Laughter, tears and love.

- Philippa Gordon is a riot. I love this character and thought she was the perfect addition to Anne's circle of friends.
The cat, the cat, the poor stray cat. I laugh out loud every time I read about the girls attempts to kill that poor stray cat.

-The death of Ruby Gillis just gets me every time. I also love that Anne finally gets to see the home she lived in with her parents before they died. Such a sweet addition to the story.

-What would college be for a group of friends with out boys, boys, boys? How many times did Anne get proposed to and in how many crazy ways? I lost track. And really? Can you imagine if Anne married Royal Gardner? Ack!
I also really enjoyed reading about Philippa and her love triangles.
Gilbert! Sweet and true and faithful Gilbert. Oh how his first proposal just breaks my heart. And how happy I am when Anne finally realizes that what she feels for Gilbert goes beyond friendship.

I love this book! I really truly do!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Underneath

Title: The Underneath
Author: Kathi Appelt, Drawings by David Small
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 313
Date Finished: 19 August 2008
My Rating: 4 Stars

First, a little disclaimer. This book is categorized as a Juvenile book which surprised me. I have actually categorized it under Young Adult. This book is not for sensitive readers. I suppose a more mature elementary age child could handle this book but generally I think it should be aimed at an older, more mature audience. The book is graphic in depictions of animal abuse and there is a lot of death, both of humans and animals. This is not a cuddly, feel good book about a dog and some cats as the cover might lead you to believe.
Now, with all that said, I have to say that this in a beautifully written and moving story. I was memorized by the narrative style of this book right from the first page. The fact that I got caught up in a book about a snake, an alligator, some cats, an old hound dog and some magic thrown in tells you this is a good book. These are not subjects that generally appeal to me, but this folktale like book just drew me in.
The Underneath is the story of Ranger, an old hound dog who has been chained for years to an old run down shack by his owner, Gar Face. It is the story of a pregnant calico cat who finds Ranger. Together they teach her kittens the importance of staying in the safety of underneath, away from the sight of the dangerous Gar Face.
The Underneath is also the story of an old snake called Grandmother by her reptilian cousins. It is the story of Grandmother's magical daughter, Night Song, who sheds her snake skin and leavers Grandmother when she falls in love with another magical creature. It is the story of what Grandmother does when faced with the loss of her beloved daughter.
The power of promises and the power of love weave their way through the narrative of The Underneath. All of these stories unfolded slowly but brilliantly and left me feeling nervous throughout. I was on tenterhooks waiting to discover how the stories would merge and what would become of the cast of characters, both animal and human.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tangled Roots

Title: Tangled Roots
Author: G.G. Vandagriff
Genre: LDS Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 295
Date Finished: 6 August 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars

By the time I got to reading this third book in the Alex Campbell genealogy mystery series I was really questioning why I was still reading the series. I was hopeful that maybe the passage of time between the second and third book would equal a better book. My hopes were dashed in the first few pages.
In Tangled Roots Alex Campbell is investigating the family history of a teenage girl who has been institutionalized by her parents for supposed drug use. The premise for the story was just weak and once again I found it extremely farcical. The book brings back all the characters from the previous two books and introduces a few new ones but they were all still flat. The characters always seemed to have strong emotions but I only knew they had strong emotions because the author would employ such words as "she exploded at him." No depth. Many of the passages were just nauseating or had me rolling my eyes.
Alex's character was just annoying in this book. I really have a difficult time gaining interest in a character who is so whiny, needy and dense. A note to the author: if you are going to develop a love story between characters that are cousins can you stop having them refer to each other as cousins? Even if they are 2nd or 3rd cousins. Having someone declare love to someone else and then refer to her as his cousin, it just has a certain ick factor.
I also felt like I had read this book before as it seemed very similar to Cankered Roots.
There is another book in the series coming out soon but I am done with this author. They are quick reads but there are so many other books I would rather be reading. That and I hate writing these negative reviews. I really do. But I also really did not enjoy these books.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Book Stacks

Now that August is almost over, I have finally gotten all my July books written about. I am really hoping to catch up on reviews this week. (I know. I say that every week...)

Now, onto my books for the week, as laughable as it is. If you want to see this week's book stack you should just go look at last weeks. The only thing that has changed is that I did finish The Underneath. (Wow! What a book!) And things probably won't change this week. I doubt I will finish either of the books I am reading. There is just way too much going on this week and so my reading time will be sacrificed. I am really hoping things will slow down in September so I can get back to more reading.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Of Deadly Descent

Title: Of Deadly Descent
Author: G.G. Vandagriff
Genre: Mystery, LDS Fiction
Pages: 238
Date Finished: 29 July 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars

In this sequel to Cankered Roots, Alex and Briggie are in England to track down Alex's long lost cousins who don't know that they might be heirs to a rather large inheritance left by Alex's Grandfather. Shortly after arriving in England, Alex's new found cousins start turning up dead and of course, someone is after Alex as well.
I don't want to say this is the most enjoyable of the 3 novels by G.G. Vandagriff that I read because I don't know that I really enjoyed any of them. It was the one that had me rolling my eyes the least. Like Cankered Roots, the characters were poorly developed and flat. Only this time there were too many and I did not want to make the effort to try and keep track of all the characters when I did not really care about them. The ending was not very believable and the killer's motive was odd and weak. I found myself skimming over the parts when the characters started talking about religion, not because I have a problem with the topic but because it just did not fit in and made the story even more choppy.
I like a good mystery and while this one was clean, it was not very entertaining.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Book Stacks

I have about a bizillion books to write about. (What? bizillion is to a word and a number. It means an overwhelming amount.) I had planned to write about 3 or 4 this week and only did 1. Oh well. More to come next week, hopefully. In the mean time, here are my books for the week. As I suspected I have not gotten much reading in. To many late nights up watching the Olympics. Every time I try to read I start to fall asleep.

Currently Reading:
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel

Reading Next:
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

The Watsons and Emma Watson by Jane Austen and Joan Aiken

Monday, August 11, 2008

Faith, Hope and Charity

Title: Faith, Hope and Charity: Inspiration from the Lives of General Relief Society Presidents
Authors: Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt
Genre: LDS Non-Fiction
Date Finished: 4 August 2008
My Rating: 5

From the book:
"Since the day in 1842 when the Prophet Joseph Smith 'turned the key' in behalf of the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, signaling the organization of the Relief Society, fifteen women have served as general presidents of the organization. From Emma Hale Smith, the first Relief Society president, to Bonnie D. Parkin, who from 2002 to 2007 led more than five million Relief Society sisters in 165 nations across the earth, Faith, Hope, and Charity tells the stories of the Relief Society presidents of the LDS Church."

I really enjoyed reading about the lives of these women who served as General Relief Society presidents. They all had very different stories but common themes of faith, service and love for others ran through all the stories. I especially enjoyed reading about the women "in the middle" whom I had not previously heard much about. Most of us are familiar with Emma Smith and Eliza R. Snow and with the women who have served in recent years but it was interesting to read about Louise Y. Robison, Amy Brown Lyman and Clarissa Smith Williams, women who served during the 1930s through the 1950s.
I enjoyed reading about Louise Y. Robison because I felt like I could identify with her. She was considered the ugly duckling of her family and was very shy but still a very effective leader. I also felt like I gained a lot from reading about Barbara W. Winder (I did not realize Susan W. Tanner was her daughter). It was interesting to read about why and how she changed the curriculum for Relief Society in the 1980s and I was impressed with her compassion and commitment to the Gospel.
This book really was just full of inspiration and I finished reading it filled with a desire to stand a little taller as a daughter of God and to do more to reach out with compassion towards others.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Book Stacks

Currently Reading:

Reading This Week:
(although, with the Olympics on I don't know how much reading I'll get in...)


Friday, August 8, 2008

Cankered Roots

Title: Cankered Roots
Author: G.G. Vandagriff
Genre: LDS Fiction, Mystery
Date Finished: 26 July 2008
My Rating: 2 Stars

I don't have much to say about this book because frankly, I did not enjoy it all that much.
Cankered Roots is the story of Alex Campbell and her search for answers to her past. Alex has not seen or spoken to her parents in years and after confronting them about the "family secret" her father is murdered. Alex and her friend/business partner begin to unravel the secret through genealogical research in order to catch the murderer.
The characters were flat and I often found myself wondering what their motivations were for the actions they took. Much of the plot was farcical and unbelievable. I found myself rolling my eyes at the way she portrayed the police and Vandagriff tried to heighten the suspense by bringing in a supposed connection to the mafia but it was poorly developed and far from suspenseful.
An interesting idea poorly executed.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bronte's Book Club

Title: Bronte's Book Club
Author: Kristiana Gregory
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Pages: 149
Date Finished: 18 July 2008
My Rating: 3

This was a fun book that would make a great summer read, or anytime read since summer is almost over, for a preteen girl or anyone who enjoys books and words.
Bronte Bella (I love that name!) has recently moved from New Mexico to the beach in California. She is determined to make a fresh start, make new friends and be a better friend than she was when she lived in New Mexico. This does not prove to be easy for shy Bronte. Until one day book loving Bronte decides to start a summer book club in an attempt to meet people and make friends. After a rocky start, and many attempts by Bronte to keep the discussion on the book, she does start to make friends. There is popular Willow who seems to be hiding something, Lupe who wants to be an actress and has a flare for the dramatic, and Jessie who is quiet and does not really seem to want to be a part of the book club. Together these girls have some adventures and learn what it really means to be a friend.
This was a fun book about trust and friendship.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Shooting The Moon

Title: Shooting the Moon
Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Date Finished: 18 July 2008
My Rating: On several occasions I've thought about taking away the ratings I give books. Too often I have a difficult time placing a neat, cut and dry rating on a book. This is one of those times. I really enjoyed this book but I don't think I want to give it 5 stars. I try to reserve the 5s for books that I absolutely loved and think I will read again and will rave to all my friends and family about. I don't think this book falls into that category. But then again, maybe it does? A 4 goes to a book that I really enjoyed but am not gushing over. A 3, just an average read, nothing great but I didn't hate the book. A 2 generally means that I did not like it but realize others with different tastes might like it. The book was not horrible. I just did not like it. A 1 star means that I think the book was absolute tripe and in my opinion not worth any one reading. So, after writing all that out I think I have finally decided what to rate this book. I really enjoyed it and do think it is above average so...
4 Stars.
Maybe I should go read it again. (Oh, but that means I should give it a 5! See what I mean about having a hard time assigning a rating?)

"When twelve-year-old Jamie Dexter's brother joins the Army and is sent to Vietnam, Jamie is plum thrilled. She can't wait to get letters from the front lines describing the excitement of real-life combat: the sound of helicopters, the smell of gunpowder, the exhilaration of being right in the thick of it. After all, they've both dreamed of following in the foot steps of their father, the Colonel. But TJ's first letter isn't a letter at all. It's a roll of undeveloped film, the first of many. What Jamie sees when she develops TJ's photographs reveals a whole new side of the war. Slowly the shine begins to fade off of Army life - and the Colonel. How can someone she's worshiped her entire life be just as helpless to save her brother as she is?"

This is the first time I have read a book by Frances O'Roark Dowell and I really enjoyed her writing. The story and Jamie just seemed to vividly float off the page. Here are a few examples,
"We were stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, a flat piece of real estate that threatened to burst into flames every afternoon from June through September." (11)

"You would have thought the very idea of TJ enlisting would have sent the Colonel cartwheeling down Tank Destroyer Boulevard, Fort Hood's main drag. But when the announcement came, over a Sunday dinner in March, a couple of days after TJ's eighteenth birthday, he didn't say a word for a long time, just looked down at his plate like the medium-rare steak staring back up at him was about to whisper the meaning of life."

' "She'll be happy when we win,' I told him.
Private Hollister looked skeptical. 'If you say so.'

'I don't say so. I know so.'
And I did know so. I knew it like I knew my name: Jamie Dexter. I knew it like I knew my birthday:December 10. I knew it like I knew the flag: fifty stars, thirteen stripes, red, white and blue, all in all a piece of cloth worth going to war for.
I was six months away from turning thirteen and I thought I knew everything." (8-9)

I could go on, but you'll just have to read the book. :-)

Jamie's character felt real in her exuberance and confidence. She was naive but you could understand and believe her naivety towards war and combat. She had been raised by an army colonel and loved the army way of life.
As the story unfolds and Jamie gets to know soldiers at the rec center where she volunteers and as she develops the film her brother sends her, she starts to see things a little differently and begins to realize that real life, real war and her father are much more complicated than she had believed.
This is Jamie's story, from her point of view. I think if Dowell had tried to make the book longer or added more about the other characters, like more about the Colonel and his motivations, we would have lost something in the telling. The book is short and to the point but still tells a powerful story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day

Title: Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day
Author: Winifred Watson
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 234
Date Finished: 16 July 2008
My Rating: 5 Stars

Originally published in 1938, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was re-issued in 2000 by Persephone Books in the UK.
Miss Pettigrew is "a middle aged, rather angular lady of medium height, thin through lack of good food, with a timid, defeated expression and terror quite discernible in her eyes, if any one cared to look. But there was no personal friend or relation in the whole world who knew or cared whether Miss Pettigrew was alive or dead."
As a nanny, Miss Pettigrew has failed but there are no other alternatives so she returns to the employment agency everyday in search of work. On the particular day that the story takes place Miss Pettigrew is given the wrong address and instead of turning up at the home of someone needing a nanny she ends up at the doorstep of night club singer Miss LaFosse.
Through an entertaining twist of events Miss Pettigrew spends the day with Miss LaFosse and her poor, ho-hum life is changed forever. Miss Pettigrew finds herself at the center of social activity like she has never experienced as she helps Miss LaFosse and her friend avert disaster in their love lives. Miss Pettigrew plays a kind of Jeeves to Miss Lafosse's Wooster.
An absolutely delightful story that takes place in one day, I laughed my way through this book and imagine I will be re-reading it often.
There were a few aspects of the story that some might find questionable, Miss Pettigrew's drinking, punching a cop, Miss LaFosse's many men etc, but I thought the book was saucy in a fun and innocent kind of way. Especially when you consider that Winifred Watson had never even been to a nightclub when she wrote this book.
I was pleased that Persephone Books also included the interesting, original line drawings when they re-issued the book.

I've not seen the recent movie but will probably rent it soon. From what I see on the trailer, it looks like they've changed a bit but it still looks fun and entertaining.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Book Stacks

Back when I started this blog I was doing a weekly post on Tuesday that I called my Tuesday Book Stack. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing it and this is my attempt at reviving it (only not on Tuesdays).

Currently Reading Stack:Faith Hope and Charity by Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt

The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother
(I really am going to finish this soon...)

Reading This Week Stack:Tangled Roots by G.G. Vandagriff
Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery

The Watsons and Emma Watson by Joan Aiken

Finished Stack:
Cankered Roots by G.G. Vandagriff

Of Deadly Descent by G.G. Vandagriff

Friday, August 1, 2008

July Reading Review

So I've decided to try something new that I've seen some other book bloggers do, a monthly reading review.

This has been a slow reading month for me and an even slower month for writing reviews. I've read 8 books but only written about 3 of them! I'll be working on the rest this weekend.
The break down of the books I read goes as follows:
1 Juvenile Non-Fiction
2 Juvenile Fiction
2 Non-Fiction
3 Fiction

Juvenile Non-Fiction
The Dangerous Book for Boys

Juvenile Fiction
Bronte's Book Club (review coming)
Shooting the Moon (review coming)

Once Upon a Town
Sunflower Houses

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day(review coming)
Cankered Roots (review coming)
Of Deadly Descent (review coming)

Total pages in July: 1679
Yearly book count, so far: 48

July Challenge Update:
I did not finish any challenges during the month of July

Here is a list of the reading challenges I am currently participating in:
A Daring Book Challenge
9 books between 6/15/08 and 6/15/09: 0/9
Ongoing Challenge (to read the whole list) 28

Summer Reading Thing 2008: 11/38

Summer Book Trek 2008: 2/7

A to Z Reading Challenge: 29/52

Decades Challenge 2008: 8/8 (I've read books from 8 decades but they are not all in a row so I have not actually completed the challenge.)

Young Adult Reading Challenge: 3/12 (I am surprised I have only read 3 YA books. I've been reading a lot of Juvenile and not so many YA I guess.)

I have high hopes of a productive month of reading for August!