Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: "Secret Society" by Tom Dolby



An eccentric new girl. A brooding socialite. The scion of one of New York's wealthiest families. A promising filmmaker. As students at the exclusive Chadwick School, Phoebe, Lauren, Nick, and Patch already live in a world most teenagers only dream about.

They didn't ask to be Society members. But when three of them receive a mysterious text message promising success and fame beyond belief, they say yes to everything—even to the harrowing initiation ceremony in a gritty warehouse downtown and to the ankh-shaped tattoo they're forced to get on the nape of their necks. Once they're part of the Society, things begin falling into place for them. Week after week, their ambitions are fulfilled. It's all perfect—until a body is found in Central Park with no distinguishing marks except for an ankh-shaped tattoo.

Tom Dolby makes his teen fiction debut with this riveting novel about a dangerous society so secret that once you get in, you can never get out.

Secret societies and clubs have been subjects of fascination for years. We don't seem to like it when a group keeps vital information from the public and chooses to do their business in total privacy. Books like The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol have brought to attention famous secret societies that have been around for centuries. This book brings the world of the secret society to the younger set and introduces readers to the underground privileged world of New York City.

What I found most interesting about the storyline is that it seems that money and power will get you far in life because you have the right connections. You can get into the right colleges, get the career you've always dreamed of or even find the perfect spouse. This continues throughout your entire life as long as you keep to the society's codes. The main characters in this story all have dreams that are now going to come true, if they can handle the pressure and keep to the rules. Patch's point of view was probably the most interesting as he kept trying to infiltrate the society's secrets. The other three characters seem to be kept in the dark as to why they were even picked and just go along with the motions. Meanwhile, Patch knows the history of the society and has even found out secrets about them. This makes him more knowledgeable than anyone else yet he is constantly shunted by the others.

I was a bit confused as to how public the location of the tattoo is located on the body. For most males and females who put their hair up or have short hair, it is highly visible and would be questioned. Even if the wearer is secretive about the tattoo, questions would still be asked and there would be inquiries. I just felt that a more discreet location would have served a better purpose. I also wasn't a fan of how it is implied that the society comes before everything even the law. It just bothered me that just because someone is chosen, they are now more important than anyone else in the world and that rules don't apply to them. The world also seems to be a very me-centric world. A person would rather let someone die than come out and admit their guilt because they don't want to commit social suicide.

The ending does leave you hanging and eager for the next book in the series. Overall I did enjoy the story, any problems I had I hope will be addresses or remedied in the next book. I was really surprised with the lack of sex or language in the story, I had been expecting to be bombarded with both subjects and instead found the topics to be fairly tame. I am looking forward to the sequel as we discover more about the society and whether or not everyone decides they want to stay in.

Secret Society by Tom Dolby is published by HarperTeen (2009)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Friday, November 27, 2009

Book Review: "Duplikate" by Cherry Cheva



To Do List:
  • Ace SATs
  • Ace finals
  • Ace AP physics project
  • Avoid murdering lab partner
  • Submit Yale application

Resolve possibly evil twin situation

Due date: December 15th

Countdown: 11 days

By the time Kate Larson accidentally fell asleep at three a.m., she'd already done more work in one night than the average high school senior does in a week. Getting into Yale has been her dream for years—and being generally overworked and totally under-rested is the price of admission. But when she opens her eyes the next day, she comes face-to-face with, well, her face—which is attached to her body, which is standing across the room. Wait, what?

Meet Kate's computer-generated twin. Kate doesn't know why she's here or how to put her back where she belongs, but she's real. And she's the last thing Kate has time to deal with right now. Unless . . .

Could having a double be the answer to Kate's prayers? After all, two Kates can do more work than one. Or will keeping her twin a secret turn her dream future into a living nightmare?

Reading this book made me realize several things. One, high school students have far too much pressure on them to get things done in order to get into a good college. This book brought back memories of my high school days when I was frantically trying to accomplish many tasks simultaneously to make my college portfolio stand out. Like Kate, I had to study for SATs, write college essays, do outstanding in my college classes, and only choose extracurricular activities that would make my application look worthy enough for the school I was applying too. Without having a clone, it's almost impossible to get everything done without stressing yourself or having a nervous breakdown. It's something that can be expected from adults in the workplace or even college students, but for teens to have to go through this, I think it's expecting too much. Yes, there is a time to learn how to handle responsibility and know how the real world is, but teens are too young to give up enjoying life to be stressed out physically and emotionally like this.

The second was, I need to go back to my Sims game and make sure my game self has plenty of stuff in their room to keep them happy! Rina has been living in a room with barely anything for the past 4 years because Kate got tired with the computer game and didn't think to stock her house! I found this hilarious because there have been many times I've played the Sims and depending on my mood, I've either maxed out my Sim's house to give them the comfiest pad possible or I've been bored and had them living in a bare bones house. I could not imagine with it would be like if one of them came to life like Rina did in this story. The little thing about how Rina devoured every book, just like a Sim were hilarious.

The storyline was extremely well done as we see Kate having to balance her life between her studies, her relationships and then now with Rina. I loved how Rina just got shoved back into the closet at the end of the day or when she had to hide. Something else that was also a really nice touch was having an Asian American character NOT be the stereotypical perfect student who always gets good grades. The only thing I would have changed would be more interaction with Rina and Kate. As it stands, I felt it was a little abrupt at the ending, and thought it would have been more interesting to see how the two would have interacted after everything they had been through died down. It seemed at first that there would be a possibility that Rina was trying to take over Kate's life and then send back Kate to the computer world but that storyline never really took shape.

Other than this, I really enjoyed this story. Even though there's the fantasy aspect to it, I think it's something a lot of teens will relate to, both the scholars and the gamers. I found the book hilariously funny and that's also due to the fact that the author is a writer for Family Guy, one of my favorite shows. I'll be looking to reading more books from her and in the meantime, off to make sure my Sims are happy!


Duplikate by Cherry Cheva is published by HarperTeen (2009)

This ARC was provided by the publisher

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm taking the day off from blogging due to the holiday. We've traveled to be with family and I'm planning on stuffing myself silly. Probably not going shopping the day after but we shall see. Anywho I wanted to leave you with one of my favorite Thanksgiving TV episodes. Granted if you're not a fan of this show, it wont' make you laugh like it did to me but since I consider all of you my "friends" here ya go!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Book Review: "Scared" by Tom Davis

Stuart Daniels has hit bottom. Once a celebrated and award-winning photojournalist, he is reeling from debt, a broken marriage, and crippling depression. The source of Stuart's grief is his most famous photo, a snapshot of brutality in the dangerous Congo. A haunting image that indicts him as a passive witness to gross injustice. Stuart is given one last chance to redeem his career: A make-or-break assignment covering the AIDS crisis in a small African country. It is here that Stuart meets Adanna, a young orphan fighting for survival in a community ravaged by tragedy and disease. What seemed like a chance encounter will forever change their lives. This sweeping, dramatic story explores the most vital social issues facing our world and offers a unique perspective on the tragedies taking place in Africa today.

With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, one does a lot of thinking about what they are thankful for in their life. For many, it's family or having a job or the material things they own. But have you ever been thankful for being alive and well? We as Americans take our way of life for granted. We have so many freedoms that we just immediately dismiss yet there are millions of people all over the world who are suffering and would give anything to have just one thing of ours that we so casually discard. This book really makes you think about what you have and what thankfulness really mean.

Stuart is a photographer who is searching for that perfect shot. He's having some marital problems and leaves for Africa with things unresolved between him and his wife. He had previously won a prestigious journalism award for a photo he had taken several years ago that depicted the tragedy of death and it's affected him ever since. Now in Africa he sees how the people are ravaged by AIDS, starvation and the children who have to suffer for it. Mixed in with Stuart's story is the story of a 12 year old Swazi girl named Adanna. Her story is absolutely heartbreaking. I can't describe it, you have to read it to know the full impact.

The contrast between the rich and the poor were incredible. Stuart sees both worlds. He ate the best food at the hotel, better than almost any restaurant in the US with steak and dessert. Then the next day he sees women weeping because their child has died from starvation. When Stuart realizes how much just a little bit of food from the local store helps out, he and his friend buy what they can to help out the village. One scene in the book that really interested me was when a so called charity comes the village and pretty much does a photo shot. They act like they're about to pass out tons of food but in reality they are just getting publicity to send back home to get more funds. The funds are clearly going into the pockets of the charity and NOT to help out the people. This is something one should always look into before donating, make sure you know exactly where the money is going.

This is a book that everyone should read. It's totally eye opening and really makes you think about what you have vs what others don't have. It's an intense book. I felt really guilty for being able to eat a PBJ sandwich while reading and thinking about how there are so many people who would literally die for a piece of that sandwich.

This book is not preachy at all. It's classified as Christian fiction and faith is obvious throughout the book. However the message about Africa, AIDS and the orphans take a much bigger precedence. This book really opened up my eyes to the plight of other countries and does make me want to go do something about it one day. I'm not sure right now exactly what that is, but I do know that I want to make a difference. While reading this book, I was reminded of a video I watched at church that stated that even though we don't realize it, if we live in the US or any western country, we are rich. Rich means being able to have a clean drink of water or have a roof over our heads. This book clearly makes you realize how much we have to be thankful for in our lives. Like one of my friends on Twitter said, I wish this was a book that Oprah would include in her book club as it's a book that everyone should read because of the powerful message it carries. I challenge you to read it and see if you aren't affected. VERY HIGHLY recommended.

Scared by Tom Davis is published by David C Cook (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publicist

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

500 Books in 2009

Yeah I'm pretty amazed myself. I finished my 500th book of 2009 today. This one was a powerful read and my review of it should be up in the next few days-weeks.


I pretty much don't know what else to say. I've far and beyond gone past any goals I had for this year. All that's left to say is that there is still over a month left in the year!

Book Review: "The Restorer's Journey" by Sharon Hinck



When a foreign threat invades their comfortable home, Susan and Jake soon find themselves drawn back through the portal to the world of the People of the Verses. Now Susan will struggle to love a people who have become her captors, while Jake suffers a tragic betrayal and discovers his destiny as the next Restorer.

I'm still not a fantasy fan but this is one series that I have enjoyed thoroughly. This is mainly due to Sharon Hinck's writing and her ability to suck you into the story even if you are totally unfamiliar with the genre, like myself. The story picks up right where The Restorer's Son left off it's a shocker right from the beginning. Two from the other world have now come into our world and the Mitchell family has to figure out a way to get them out. Mishap and mayhem occur as Mark, Susan and Jake do their best to return to Lyric. I would have liked a bit more time seeing how the outsiders fared in our world but it's not really an issue. When returning to Lyric, the family faces obstacles and consequences they didn't expect and find themselves amidst another battle that will threaten the lives of all those they have come to love. Lyric is like another Middle Earth or another Narnia. It's a world that Sharon has completely created. I normally shy away from fantasy because it's hard for me to grasp different worlds in relationship to our own world. I did have problems with this in the beginning of this series but by the time this book came around, I was totally able to accept the idea of Lyric.

There were some parts that I did feel drag on a bit. This was mainly during the scenes where the characters were waiting for action. It wasn't boring, just felt like there was a lull in the scene and in the reading. The ending also left me a bit hanging. I understood why it had to happen, yet at the same time I could foresee problems trying to explain the situation. It didn't seem like an easy way out to end the story yet at the same time I felt like something else could have happened. Either way, I would love to see a return to this series in the future. Sharon has done an excellent job of making non fantasy fans enjoy the fantasy world and stretch both their imagination and reading tastes.

The Restorer's Journey by Sharon Hinck is published by NavPress (2008)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: "Dear Pen Pal" by Heather Vogel Frederick

For the mother-daughter book club, everything changes in eighth grade.

Could the book club break up? When Jess is offered an anonymous scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, she's not sure that leaving home -- and her friends -- is what she wants to do. Meanwhile Megan's grandmother comes for a long visit and turns everything in the Wong household upside down; Emma crusades against her middle school's new uniforms; and Cassidy finds out there's a big change ahead for her family.

Inspired by Jess's unexpected opportunity, the book club decides to read Jean Webster's classic Daddy-Long-Legs, and there's an added twist this year when they become pen pals with the girls in a book club in Wyoming. There's plenty to write to their new friends about, from a prank-filled slumber party to a not-so-secret puppy -- and even a surprise first kiss.

In this third book in the beloved Mother-Daughter Book Club series, the girls learn that as long as they have one another -- and a good book -- they're ready for whatever eighth grade has in store!

This is probably my favorite tween series that is out there. I absolutely adore the characters, the storylines, the setup of the entire series. It's one of the few series where I wish I could literally dive in the story and become a character. It combines everything that I love in a great book: a cast of characters that's totally multi-dimensional and loves to read, food, friends and fun. It's a recipe guaranteed for success, at least in my opinion.

There's lots of humor in this book and I laughed out loud quite a few times. Also featured in the book are the awkward feelings that thirteen year old girls face, which I remember sadly all too well. The author does a wonderful job at portraying this without getting too sappy or uncomfortable. At the same time though, the writing is easy to read and just keeps you wanting to turn pages. I really like seeing how both the girls and their moms have changed since the beginning of the series. The mother-daughter relationships are just as important as the girls' friendship and it is interesting to see how different and unique each bond is. I was also pleased to see some Chinese culture come into play with Megan's grandmother.

I will admit, I had never heard of Daddy Long Legs before reading this book but now I totally want to read it! It's always great to hear about new books and from the talk in this book, this sounds like a great children's classic that I missed out on. The FAQ sheets that are handed out at the book club meetings serve as a plus for the readers who want to learn more about the author and how they wrote the book.

I'm wondering if we'll be getting a first person section from Becca in the following books. I am really impressed at how she's matured since the first book and has now become part of the gang. I'm also glad to see that the other girls do not hold grudges against her. These girls are very mature for their age and it's nice to see them act responsible. At the same time though, they still act like kids which is perfectly fine. It's such a refreshing change from books like The Clique series, where the characters there are acting like miniature wannabe adults.

I cannot wait until the next book in the series comes out. Honestly this is one of those books that I cannot find a single fault in. Everything in this book is truly wonderful and readers of all ages will enjoy it and be inspired to read the books mentioned in it as well. VERY HIGHLY recommended.

Dear Pen Pal by Heather Vogel Frederick is published by Simon and Schuster Children (2009)

This review copy was provided by the author

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Nancy Drew Challenge


Update 12/19: There are now prizes!

This is a very personal reading challenge for myself. I have tried EVERY year for the past 15 years (I honestly kid you not) to try to read every one of the original 56 Yellow Spine Nancy Drew books. But every year other obligations or loss of interest cause me to stop after a few books. However I have determined that 2010 is the year I will finally accomplish a goal that has plagued me over half my life.

While there are other types of Nancy Drew books out there (Files, Notebooks, Clue Crew, On Campus, River Heights, Girl Detective, Supermysteries with Hardy Boys), I am going to focus on the original Nancy Drew Mystery stories. I have tried reading the original versions from the 1930s, but I just could not get into the language. Therefore this challenge will be spotlighting the revised Yellow Spined hardback books that were reprinted and are universally recognized when you think Nancy Drew. The books for this challenge will be 1-56 (The Secret of the Old Clock to The Thirteenth Pearl)
.

Example of Yellow Hardback:
http://jacketsandcovers.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/the-secret-of-the-old-clock.jpg
Goal: To read Books 1-56 in the Nancy Drew series that have the yellow spines in 2010. A list of the books can be found here http://www.nancydrewsleuth.com/mysterystories.html

I realize that 56 books sound like a lot, but Nancy Drew books are really quick reads...and there are pictures!


FAQ
(thanks to S.Krishna's Books for this tip)


What are the dates for the challenge?

The dates for the challenge are January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.


Are audiobooks and ebooks allowed?

Yes! Any format will be allowed for this challenge.

Can I read any version of Nancy Drew books?
For this challenge, only the yellow hardback versions will be counted.

Do I need to buy the books for the challenge?
You don't HAVE to buy them unless you want to. You can get them from the library, borrow from friends, use your own copies.

What if I've already read some of the books? Do I have to reread? Can I skip those?
Re-reads can count. If you've already read some and want to skip to those you haven't read, that is allowed as well. The goal is to be able to say you've read ALL the books.

Do I have to write any reviews?

Reviews are not required.


Is there an age restriction for this challenge?
Nope! Anyone any age can join! Whether you've been reading Nancy Drew for years or are just starting to discover the books.

Can these books be used for other challenges?
These books can be used as crossovers in other challenges.


What if I don't have a blog? Can I still participate?

Yes! leave a comment on this post with the information for the challenge, along with an e-mail address. Use the link to the comment (hover over the date/time of the comment and copy that link) as your URL for Mr. Linky. (Borrowed with permission from
S.Krishna's Books)

Will there be prizes for the challenge?
YES, there will be chances to win prizes! Click here to read about it.

Please sign up in the Mr. Linky below with your post for the challenge. Please link directly to your post page and NOT your main blog page.


Shelf Discover Challenge Report: Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher


For all of her nine years, fragile Elizabeth Ann has heard her Aunt Frances refer in whispers to her "horrid Putney cousins." But when her aunt can no longer care for her, Elizabeth Ann must leave her sheltered life to live in the wilds of Vermont with those distant relatives.

In the beginning, Elizabeth Ann is shocked by country living--pets are allowed to sleep in the house and children are expected to do chores! But with country living comes independence and responsibility, and in time, Elizabeth Ann finds herself making friends and enjoying her new family. When the year is up and Aunt Frances comes to get her niece, she finds a healthier, prouder girl with a new name--Betsy--and a new outlook on life.

I will admit, even though this book is touted as being really famous and a landmark in children's literature, I had never heard of it before I picked up Shelf Discover. The reason how I picked up this book was that I randomly opened the book and chose the book the pages landed on. This happened to be the lucky one. This book is an oldie (orginally pubilshed in 1912) but it's a goodie.

This story takes place in the early 20th century. Betsy has been raised by two aunts who treat her well but raised her to quite prim and proper. She has never really done anything for herself and has grown up being treated more like an old lady than a little girl. Betsy however is not spoiled. She just hasn't had a chance to really enjoy her life. One of her aunts becomes ill so she's moved to another house with distant relatives. While there she discovers there's more to life and learns to do chores, take care of herself, and run around and be a kid. One of my favorite scenes was Betsy learning that she could eat as much as she wanted. Previously in her old home she had only been allotted one small share of the quart of cream, but here she could have all she wanted. She was shocked and amazed that this was possible. The entire book is filled with stories like that, Betsy discovering how much more to life it was with her new family.

Even though this isn't a prairie story a la Little House, it still reminded me very much of that lifestyle. It's a simpler time that doesn't depend on gadgets or fancy do dads to get the story across. I was also reminded very much of Caddie Woodlawn with how the story was told with each chapter being a potential separate story. The only thing I thought a bit weird was that Betsy is never referred to as Betsy in the book, she's always called and mentioned as Elizabeth Ann.

I would recommend this book for middle grade girls who like stories about girls their age and the time period. It's a really good comfort read as well for adults.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana by Tricia Goyer and Ocienna Fleiss

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


Love Finds You In Lonesome Prairie, Montana

Summerside Press (December 1, 2009)

***Special thanks to Amy Lathrop of LitFUSE Publicity Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Her book Night Song won Book of the Year from ACFW in the Long Historical Fiction category. Her book Life Interrupted: The Scoop On Being a Young Mom was a Gold Medallion Finalist. Tricia has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books.

Visit the author's website.



Ocieanna Fleissis a published writer and has edited six of Tricia Goyer's historical novels. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area. Connect with Ocieanna on Facebook!









AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:













The sound of little girls’ voices and the sight of the sun streaming through the tall, second-story window of the Open Door Home for Destitute Girls, a privately owned orphanage on upper Manhattan, told nineteen-year-old Julia Cavanaugh that the day had started without her. Julia, an orphan herself, now running the place for the owner, brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. She submitted to a second yawn as a twelve-year-old girl hopped onto her bed.

“He’s gonna ask her to marry him, don’t you think, Miss Cavanaugh?”

“Oh, Shelby.” Julia wiped the sleep from her eyes and smiled into the freckled face staring eagerly at her. “Give me a moment to wake before you go asking such things.” Julia stroked the girl’s cheek, her heart seeming to double within her chest with love for the youngster.

The embroidery sampler she’d fallen asleep working on still lay at the end of her bed. She picked it up and eyed the image of a small house she’d copied from Godey’s Lady’s Book. Above the house, she’d stitched the words Home Sweet Home in fancy script. Gazing around the broad room lined with small metal cots and bustling with little-girl chatter, Julia noted the embroidered pillowslips, carefully pressed—albeit dingy—curtains, and dandelions smiling from scavenged jam-jar vases. She’d done her best to make the room pleasant for the girls—and herself. She glanced at their faces and smiled, gladly embracing her role as caretaker.

A less-than-subtle “ahem” from Shelby reminded Julia she’d been asked a question. She glanced at her young charge, still perched on the end of her bed. “What did you ask?”

“Finally.” Shelby eyed her with mock frustration. “I said, do you think they will get married—Mrs. Hamlin and Mr. Gaffin? Haven’t you noticed the way they look at each other?” Shelby’s cheeks hinted of red. Her golden hair was already fixed in a proper bun, her hands and face washed, and her simple dress clean and pressed despite its patches and stray threads.

“Shelby Bruce.” Julia shook her head, as Shelby’s two-year-old sister Beatrice wiggled onto Julia’s lap with a squeal. Julia planted a firm kiss on the top of Bea’s head.

“Married? I don’t think so,” Julia continued. “Mrs. Hamlin would’ve told us—told me—if she was being courted. Mr. Gaffin’s just an old family friend.” Julia wondered where on earth the girl got the notion that their headmistress wished to marry.

Although they have been spending a lot of time together. Julia pushed the thought out of her mind as little Bea shuffled to a stand, planting her pint-sized feet on Julia’s thighs. “Fammy fend!” She pointed a chubby finger at her older sister, Shelby.

“All right, Bea.” Julia plopped the toddler on the floor and swiveled her toward the small bed she shared with Shelby. “Time to straighten your bed.” Then Julia eyed the twins. “Charity, Grace, would you two virtuous girls fetch fresh water for the basin?”

Shelby pushed away from the bed, wrinkled her brow, and thrust her hand behind her as if to support her back—a perfect imitation of their middle-aged headmistress. “Now where did I put my spectacles?” Shelby clucked her tongue as she waddled forward.

Laughter spilled from the lips of the girls around the room. Encouraged, Shelby scratched her head. She plopped down on her bed then hopped up again as if surprised, pulling imaginary spectacles from under her rump. “Oh!” she squealed. “There they are.”

The laughter grew louder, and Julia pursed her lips together to smother the impulse to laugh along with them. She planted her fists on her hips. “That’s enough. All of you know what must be done before breakfast.” The girls’ laughter quieted to soft giggles hidden behind cupped palms as they scattered to do their chores.

Shelby lingered behind, her form now straight and her eyes pensive. “Maybe she forgot to tell you, Miss Cavanaugh.” The young girl gazed up at her. “The way they look at each other—it’s like my ma and pa used to, that’s all.”

Julia folded a stray sandy blond curl behind the girl’s ear. “Don’t worry, my sweet. If Mrs. Hamlin was getting married, we’d be the first to know.”

Julia hoped her own gaze didn’t reflect the sinking disquiet that draped her. Mr. Gaffin was a rich world traveler. If there was any truth to Shelby’s suspicion, Julia couldn’t imagine he’d let Mrs. Hamlin continue to work with orphans. Perhaps they’d get a new headmistress.

Or maybe the girls would be separated, moved to new homes…

If Mrs. Hamlin got married, all their lives would be radically changed. And if Julia had to leave the orphanage, she had no idea what she would do. Julia swept that painful thought away and steadied her gaze at Shelby. She couldn’t hide her true feelings from this girl. Julia took Shelby’s hand and answered as honestly as she could.

“I don’t think she’ll get married, but if she does, God will take care of us, like He always has.” Julia lifted her chin in a smile. “And really, Mrs. Hamlin may be forgetful, but no one could forget that. I sure wouldn’t.”

Ardy, a shy Swedish girl, removed her dirty sheets from a small bed and then approached, taking Julia’s hand. “Don’t ya think you’ll ever be gettin’ married?”

“Actually, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you all….” Julia leaned forward, resting her hands on her knees.

The two girls eyed each other in surprise, and Shelby’s brow furrowed.

“Come closer.” Julia curled a finger, bidding them.

“What is it?” Shelby asked, her eyes glued to Julia.

The girls leaned in. “I’d like to tell you…that there’s a wonderful man who’s asked me to marry him!”

The squeals of two girls erupted, followed by the cheers of nearly three dozen others who’d been quietly listening from the stairwell.

“There is?” Shelby reached forward and squeezed Julia’s hand.

Julia let out a hefty sigh and giggled. “No, you sillies. Well, at least not yet. Someday. Maybe.”

Shelby pouted “But you said… ”

“I said I’d like to tell you I had a man. I’d sure like to, but of course since I don’t, I’m happy to stay here with all of you.”

The girls moaned.

The squeak of the front door down on the first floor of the Revolutionary War–era home-turned-orphanage drew their attention. They waited as Mrs. Hamlin’s familiar chortle filled the air, along with a bash and clang of items—hopefully food and supplies that she’d picked up.

“Julia!” Mrs. Hamlin yelped. “Julia, dear, where are you?”

“Coming.” Julia hurried down the stairs to help the older woman.

Julia neared the bottom of the steps and paused, trying to stifle a laugh at the sight of the twinkly-eyed woman sprawled flat on her back. Scattered boxes and bags covered the donated rug.

“Mrs. Hamlin! What on earth? Why didn’t you get a steward to help you?”

“Oh, I didn’t want to be a bother.” She cheerfully picked herself up. “I was in such a hurry to show you all what I’d bought. And to tell you my surprise. Such a wonderful surprise.” Julia eyed the boxes and noted they were from R.H. Macy & Co. More than a dozen boxes waited to be opened, and she couldn’t imagine the cost.

“I found just what the girls need, and on sale!” the headmistress exclaimed.

What they need is more food—vitamin drops, too—and maybe a few new schoolbooks. But Julia didn’t dare say it. And somehow God’s hand of providence always provided.

“New clothes, I gather. That is a surprise.”

“But only half of it, dear.” Mrs. Hamlin rubbed her palms expectantly. “I also must tell you my news. The best news an old widow could hope for.”

Julia followed Mrs. Hamlin’s gaze toward the idle youngsters who’d gathered on the staircase to watch. Her eyes locked with Shelby’s, then she quickly looked away. “News?” The muscles in Julia’s stomach tightened.

“Girls,” Julia shooed them away with a wave of her hand, “you know better than to eavesdrop. Off to chores with you. We’ll have breakfast soon.”

The girls started to scurry off, but Mrs. Hamlin halted them with her words.

“No, no,” her high-pitched voice hailed. “Come back. This news is for all of you.” They circled around her, and she tenderly patted their bobbing heads.

“What is it?” Julia wasn’t sure she’d ever seen Mrs. Hamlin’s cheeks so rosy or her eyes so bright.

“I’m getting married!”

Christmas Present Time!

It's about that time! Are you looking around for presents to get for the holiday season? Well make sure you stop by Keepsakes, Etc.'s website. They are an online store retailing in theme throws and wall decor.

Among their products include photo throw Blankets, Custom Designed Throws, Blanket Throws, Mink Faux Fur Blankets, Wall Tapestry, Wall Tapestry Hangings, personalized throw blankets, Fleece Blankets, Furniture Throws, College Stadium Blankets, tapestry throw pillows and College bedding. There are over 2500 gift items available on their website.

I received a Christmas throw blanket for gratis and let me tell you it's really nice. I chose the Thomas Kinkade Christmas throw blanket.

My mother is a HUGE fan of Thomas Kinkade (you should see the house) and I also like his paintings as well. It's really pretty and quite warm and snuggly (and HUGE!) as evidenced by this picture here:















You can get your gift monogrammed as I did which I was really geeked to do as it's our first item that says our married name on it. So we got a little giddy when we opened up the package and saw it. The package shipped really fast and came well packaged.

There are tons of other throw blankets on the site as well as many other gifts. I'm really happy with what I picked and am looking to see if I'll be ordering more for other presents! Be sure to also check out Simply Bags as well!

Thanks to Keepsakes' Etc for providing this product.

Friday, November 20, 2009

2010 100+ Reading Challenge

FINISHED!







Ok, this is a total no brainer for me so i HAD to join this one. I've decided to join a few challenges this upcoming year. I figure, I'm going to be reading these books anyways so why not?

This challenge, hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog, is to read 100+ books during 2009. This is a great challenge for me as I have, as of today, read 491 books for 2009. Yeah, I know. But believe me, I am definitely NOT going to be reading that many next year! Even so, I think I can still crank out 200, so 200 is once again going to be my goal for next year. I chose that number because I am shooting for 100 at least for library books alone so I figure the other 100 will either be review books or books I own.

To sign up for the challenge, go here.

To see other challenges I'm participating in, go here

I will be adding to this post as the year goes by with the books I have read.

1. The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen
2. Love Finds You in Holiday Florida by Sandra Bricker
3. The Choice by Suzanne Woods Fisher
4. Third Time's a Charm by Virginia Smith
5. Thicker than Blood by CJ Darlington
6. Songs of Deliverance by Marilynn Griffith
7. Ruby Unscripted by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma
8. The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
9. The Hidden Staircase by Carolyn Keene
10. Jenna's Cowboy by Sharon Gillenwater
11. Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma
12. Countdown in Cairo by Noel Hynd
13. Suspicion by Kate Brian
14. Gone to Green by Judy Christie
15. Mr Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Pattillo
16. Dreams That Won't Let Go by Stacy Hawkins Adams
17. Diva NashVegas by Rachel Hauck
18. Girl Most Likely To by Poonam Sharma
19. Undercover by Beth Kephart
20. Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter
21. Beautiful Dead: Jonas by Eden Maguire
22. The Bungalow Mystery by Carolyn Keene
23. Knit, Purl, Die by Anne Canadeo
24. Love Will Keep Us Together by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
25. The Last Place I Want to Be by P. Buchanan
26. The Baby Chronicles by Judy Baer
27. Mom's the Word by Marilynn Griffith
28. Within this Circle by Deborah Raney
29. The Blonde Theory by Kristin Harmel
30. Crowned by Julie Linker
31. Lucky by Rachel Vail
32.
How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart and Sarah Mylnowski
33. The Blue Moon by Lorena McCourtney
34. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison
35. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
36. Indie Girl by Kavita Daswani
37. Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel
38. Sloane Sisters by Anna Carey

39. Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fischer
40. House of Dance by Beth Kephart
41. Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer

42. The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank
43. TMI by Sarah Quigley
44. The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene
45. Dead Air by Robin Caroll
46. My Deadly Valentine by Valerie Hansen and Lynette Eason
47. Endless Night by Dana Mentik
48. Running for Cover by Shirlee McCoy
49. Shenandoah Home by Sara Mitchell
50. The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene
51. Becca By the Book by Laura Jensen Walker
52. Survival of the Fiercest by Anna Carey
53. The Secret of Red Gate Farm by Carolyn Keene
54. Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
55. Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan
56. A State of Grace by Traci Depree
57. A Test of Faith by Carol Cox
58. Spring Breakdown by Melody Carlson
59. Gorgeous by Rachel Vail
60. Zeta or Omega by Kate Harmon
61. Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman
62. The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara Zeises
63. The Best is Yet to Be by Eve Fisher
64. The New Sisters by Kate Harmon
65. Beguiled by Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand
66. The Formal by Kate Harmon
67. Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs
68. Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate
69. Winter's Awakening by Shelley Shepard Gray
70. Double Trouble by Susan May Warren
71. Katy's New World by Kim Vogel Sawyer
72. The Clue in the Diary by Carolyn Keene
73. Swinging on a Star by Janice Thompson
74. The Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka
75. Nancy's Mysterious Letter by Carolyn Keene
76. When You Wish by Kristin Harmel
77. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
78. Triple Shot Bettys in Love by Jody Gerhman
79. Through the Fire by Diane Noble
80. Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard
81. Outlaw's Bride by Lori Copeland
82. A Kiss for Cade by Lori Copeland
83. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
84. Wounded by Claudia Mair Burney
85. How the Other Half Hamptons by Jasmin Rosemberg
86. Geek Charming by Robin Palmer
87. What Would Emma Do? by Eileen Cook
88. All Things Hidden by Tricia Goyer

89. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman
90. South Beach by Aimee Friedman
91. Summer Intern by Carrie Karasvov and Jill Kargman
92. Bittersweet Sixteen by Carrie Karasvov and Jill Kargman
93. Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner
94. Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
95. Peace Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
96. The Insiders by J. Minter
97. The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
98. Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith
99. The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
100. French Kiss by Aimee Friedman
101. The Queek Geek Social Club by Laura Preble
102. An Amish Gathering by Beth Wiseman, Barbara Cameron and Kathleen Fuller
103. Plain Jayne by Hillary Manton Lodge
104. Hollywood Hills by Aimee Friedman
105. Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead
106. Anything but Normal by Melody Carlson
107. Flawless by Sara Shepard
108. The Real Real by Emma Mclaughin and Nicola Kraus
109. Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz
110. Out With the In Crowd by Stephanie Morrill
111. The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil
112. Frenemies by Alexa Young
113. The Upper Class by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne and Caroline Says
114. Ex and the Single Girl by Lani Diane Rich
115. Cover Girl Confidential by Beverly Bartlett
116. Sisters Ink by Rebeca Seitz
117. The Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren
118. Coming Unglued by Rebeca Seitz
119. Faketastic by Alexa Young
120. Waking Up in the Land of Glitter by Kathy Cano-Murillo
121. Miss Educated by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne and Caroline Says
122. The Sign of the Twisted Candle by Carolyn Keene
123. Scrapping Plans by Rebeca Seitz
124. Perfect Piece by Rebeca Seitz
125. Perfect by Sara Shepard
126. Virginia Autumn by Sara Mitchell
127. Password to Larkspur Lane by Carolyn Keene
128. The Crying for a Vision by Walter Wangerin Jr.
129. Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren
130. Flight of the Raven by Ellen Harris
131. The Clue of the Broken Locket by Carolyn Keene
132. Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfours
133. Out of the Red Shadow by Anne de Graaf
134. Whispers Through the Trees by Susan Plunkett and Krysteen Seelen
135. The Renovation by Terri Kraus
136. Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman
137. The Message in the Hollow Oak by Carolyn Keene
138. The Renewal by Terri Kraus
139. The Season by Sarah MacLean
140. As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
141. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
142. The Mystery of the Ivory Charm by Carolyn Keene
143. Faking 19 by Alyson Noel
144. The Whispering Statue by Carolyn Keene
145. The Dating Game by Natalie Standiford
146. Confessions of an Almost Movie Star by Mary Kennedy
147. Introducing Vivien Leigh Reed: Daughter of the Diva by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout
148. Starlet by Randi Reisfeld
149. TTYL by Lauren Myracle
150. The Haunted Bridge by Carolyn Keene
151. Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker
152. The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
153. Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot
154. Unbelievable by Sara Shepard
155. Songbird Under a German Moon by Tricia Goyer
156. As Young as We Feel by Melody Carlson
157. Scattered Petals by Amanda Cabot
158. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
159. Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson
160. Where Do I Go? by Neta Jackson
161. My Own Personal Soap Opera by Libby Malin
162. Wicked by Sara Shepard
163. The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene
164. Rachel's Garden by Marta Perry
165. According to Jane by Marilyn Brant
166. Who Do I Talk To by Neta Jackson
167. Killer by Sara Shepard
168. The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk by Carolyn Keene
169. Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
170. The Promise of Morning by Ann Shorey
171. The Lost Summer of Lousia May Alcott
172. Magna by Nicole O'Dell
173. Making Waves by Nicole O'Dell
174. Broadway Lights by Jen Calonita
175. Asking for Trouble by Sandra Byrd
176. Through Thick and Thin by Sandra Byrd
177. The Outlaw's Twin Sister by Stephen Bly
178. Disenchanted Princess by Julie Linker
179. A Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan
180. Ex-Mas by Kate Brian
181. Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald
182. Being Nikki by Meg Cabot
183. The Mystery of the Moss Covered Mansion by Carolyn Keene
184. A Distant Memory by Sarah Sundin
185. Hand of Fate by Lis Wiehl with April Henry
186. Laguna Cove by Alyson Noel
187. The Cougar Club by Susan McBride
188. The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor
189. Haters by Alisa Valdez-Rodriguez
190. The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Pattillo
191. Too Close to Home by Lynette Eason
192. Finding Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson
193. Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell
194. Heartless by Sara Shepard
195. The Quest of the Missing Map by Carolyn Keene
196. The Clue in the Jewel Box by Carolyn Keene
197. The Secret in the Old Attic by Carolyn Keene
198. The Clue in the Crumbling Wall by Carolyn Keene
199. Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland
200. After by Kristin Harmel

2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge

FINISHED!

Another challenge, I can't resist! It's that time of year again and I've decided to join a few challenges this upcoming year. I figure, I'm going to be reading these books anyways so why not?

This challenge, hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog, is to read YA books for 2010. I love YA so why wouldn't I do this challenge?

There are four levels:


--The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

--Just My Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 25 Young Adult novels.

--Stepping It Up YA Reading Challenge – Read 50 Young Adult novels.

--Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels

I'm going to go with the Super Size Me option. Surely I can find 75 YA books! If you want to join in on the fun click here to sign up.

To see other challenges I'm participating in, go here


I will be adding to this post as the year goes by with the books I have read.

1. Ruby Unscripted by Cindy Martinusen - Coloma
2. Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma
3. Suspicion by Kate Brian
4. Undercover by Beth Kephart
5. Beautiful Dead: Jonas by Eden Maguire
6. Love Will Keep Us Together by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt
7. The Last Place I Want to Be by P. Buchanan
8. Crowned by Julie Linker
9. Lucky by Rachel Vail
10. How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart and Sarah Mylnowski
11. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison
12. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
13. Indie Girl by Kavita Daswani
14. Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel
15. Sloane Sisters by Anna Carey
16. Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fischer
17. House of Dance by Beth Kephart
18. Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer
19. The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank
20. TMI by Sarah Quigley
21. Survival of the Fiercest by Anna Carey
22. Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
23. Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan
24. Spring Breakdown by Melody Carlson
25. Gorgeous by Rachel Vail
26. Zeta or Omega by Kate Harmon
27. Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman
28. The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara Zeises
29. The New Sisters by Kate Harmon
30. The Formal by Kate Harmon
31. Katy's New World by Kim Vogel Sawyer
32. When You Wish by Kristin Harmel
33. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
34. Triple Shot Bettys in Love by Jody Gerhman
35. Chicks With Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard
36. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
37. Geek Charming by Robin Palmer
38. What Would Emma Do? by Eileen Cook
39. South Beach by Aimee Friedman
40. Summer Intern by Carrie Karasvov and Jill Kargman
41. Bittersweet Sixteen by Carrie Karasvov and Jill Kargman
42. Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
43. Peace Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
44. The Insiders by J. Minter
45. The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
46. The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
47. French Kiss by Aimee Friedman
48. The Queek Geek Social Club by Laura Preble

49. Hollywood Hills by Aimee Friedman
50. Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead
51. Anything but Normal by Melody Carlson
52. Flawless by Sara Shepard
53. The Real Real by Emma Mclaughin and Nicola Kraus
54. Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz
55. Out With the In Crowd by Stephanie Morrill
56. Frenemies by Alexa Young
57. The Upper Class by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne and Caroline Says
58. Faketastic by Alexa Young
59. Miss Educated by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne and Caroline Says
60. Perfect by Sara Shepard
61. The Crying for a Vision by Walter Wangerin Jr.
62. Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfours
63. The Season by Sarah MacLean
64. As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
65. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
66. Faking 19 by Alyson Noel
67. The Dating Game by Natalie Standiford
68. Confessions of an Almost Movie Star by Mary Kennedy
69. Introducing Vivien Leigh Reed: Daughter of the Diva by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout
70. Starlet by Randi Reisfeld
71. TTYL by Lauren Myracle
72. Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker
73. The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler
74. Unbelievable by Sara Shepard
75. Hollywood Nobody by Lisa Samson

Book Review: "Green" by Ted Dekker

At Last . . . The Circle Reborn The story of how Thomas Hunter first entered the Black Forest and forever changed our history began at a time when armies were gathered for a final battle in the valley of Migdon. Green is a story of love, betrayal, and sweeping reversals set within the apocalypse. It is the beginning: the truth behind a saga that has captured the imagination of more than a million readers with the Books of History Chronicles.But even more, Green brings full meaning to the Circle Series as a whole, reading as both prequel to Black and sequel to White, completing a full circle. This is Book Zero, the Circle Reborn, both the beginning and the end. The preferred starting point for new readers . . . and the perfect climax for the countless fans who've experienced Black, Red, and White.

I think Ted Dekker is one of the most brilliant authors out there today, Christian or general fiction. I have enjoyed every single one of his books and have been amazed at how he takes a story and creates a whole new world with words. The stories really take you into the story and are able to make the outside world disappear. The Books of Histories Chronicles has been absolutely amazing. This is due the fact that an entire world has been created through several books even when you think the books have absolutely nothing to do with that world. Also if you think that Christian fiction is boring and only aimed at women, you HAVE to read the Circle trilogy. It will blow your mind away.

Green takes you back into the trilogy, pretty much starting right where White ended. Without spoiling the story, familiar characters are revisited, new characters are introduced, battles take place and evil tries to reign over all. That's pretty much the basic plot of the story. We meet up again with Thomas Hunter in the future and then his sister and their friends in the present time. The story shifts back and forth but it isn't confusing especially if you've read the past books. Even though I'm not a big fantasy fan, I really enjoy this series, mainly due to how in depth the characters are portrayed. The battle scenes are written very well as I could feel myself thrown into the action. The twist at the end was quite interesting though at the same time, I feel it was kind of a cop out. I guess how many times does this happen if it's a circle.

The book keeps saying that you can start with this book, even if you've never read the previous Circle books before. I have to disagree with that. I really feel as if you HAVE to read Black, Red and White BEFORE reading Green to really grasp everything. It just feels like Green plops you in the middle/end of the story and there are people, places and even terminology that are never explained in this book but are in the other books. It's kind of like watching Revenge of the Sith before you watch Empire Strikes Back or even Phantom Menace. You COULD start there but you'd be horribly confused. I think even if you've read the books but it's been awhile you could still get confused. Luckily for me, I had just read the books (for the first time) a few weeks ago, so I was still up to date.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and the entire series for that matter. Unanswered questions were finally answered and it was nice to see everything tied together. Other than the blip I mentioned before, this book was outstanding and would definitely recommend the book to both Dekker fans and newbies to Christian fiction.

Green by Ted Dekker is published by Thomas Nelson (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2010 Library Reading Challenge

FINISHED!

Wee hooo. It's that time of year again and I've decided to join a few challenges this upcoming year. I figure, I'm going to be reading these books anyways so why not?

This challenge, hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog, is reading to support your local library. And we all know what a HUGE fan of the library I am. Who needs a bookstore when you can get books for free from the library?

You can chose from four options:


--The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

--Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

--Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.

--Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

I'm going to go for the max and say that I challenge myself to read 100 books from the library in 2010. This year I read, 50 like it's nobody's business so I should have no problems doing 100!

To see other challenges I'm participating in, go here

I will be adding to this post as the year goes by with the books I have read.


1. Suspicion by Kate Brian
2. Undercover by Beth Kephart
3. Crowned by Julie Linker
4. Lucky by Rachel Vail
5. How to Be Bad by Lauren Myracle, E. Lockhart and Sarah Mylnowski
6. The Blue Moon by Lorena McCourtney
7. My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison
8. Indie Girl by Kavita Daswani
9. Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel
10. Sloane Sisters by Anna Carey
11. Braless in Wonderland by Debbie Reed Fischer
12. House of Dance by Beth Kephart
13. Secrets of Truth and Beauty by Megan Frazer
14. The Homeschool Liberation League by Lucy Frank
15. TMI by Sarah Quigley
16. The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene
17. Dead Air by Robin Caroll
18. My Deadly Valentine by Valerie Hansen and Lynette Eason
19. Endless Night by Dana Mentik
20. Running for Cover by Shirlee McCoy
21. Shenandoah Home by Sara Mitchell
22. The Secret of Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene
23. Survival of the Fiercest by Anna Carey
24. The Secret of Red Gate Farm by Carolyn Keene
25. Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
26. Summer of Fear by Lois Duncan
27. A State of Grace by Traci Depree
28. A Test of Faith by Carol Cox
29. Gorgeous by Rachel Vail
30. Zeta or Omega by Kate Harmon
31. Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman
32. The Sweet Life of Stella Madison by Lara Zeises
33. The Best is Yet to Be by Eve Fisher
34. The New Sisters by Kate Harmon
35. The Formal by Kate Harmon
36. Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs
37. The Clue in the Diary by Carolyn Keene
38. Nancy's Mysterious Letter by Carolyn Keene
39. When You Wish by Kristin Harmel
40. Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
41. Triple Shot Bettys in Love by Jody Gehrman
42. Through the Fire by Diane Noble
43. Chicks with Sticks (It's a Purl Thing) by Elizabeth Lenhard
44. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
45. Geek Charming by Robin Palmer
46. What Would Emma Do? by Eileen Cook
47. South Beach by Aimee Friedman
48. Summer Intern by Carrie Karasvov and Jill Kargman
49. Bittersweet Sixteen by Carrie Karasvov and Jill Kargman
50. Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott
51. Peace Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
52. The Insiders by J. Minter
53. The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
54. The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz
55. French Kiss by Aimee Friedman
56. The Queek Geek Social Club by Laura Preble
57. As Sure as the Dawn (Audiobook) by Francine Rivers
58. Hollywood Hills by Aimee Friedman
59. Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logstead
60. Flawless by Sara Shepard
61. The Real Real by Emma Mclaughin and Nicola Kraus
62. Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz
63. The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil
64. Frenemies by Alexa Young
65. The Upper Class by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne and Caroline Says
66. Ex and the Single Girl by Lani Diane Rich
67. Cover Girl Confidential by Beverly Bartlett
68. The Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren
69. Faketastic by Alexa Young
70. Miss Educated by Hobson Brown, Taylor Materne and Caroline Says
71. The Sign of the Twisted Candle by Carolyn Keene
72. Perfect Piece by Rebeca Seitz
73. Perfect by Sara Shepard
74. Virginia Autumn by Sara Mitchell
75. Password to Larkspur Lane by Carolyn Keene
76. The Crying for a Vision by Walter Wangerin Jr.
77. Flight of the Raven by Ellen Harris
78. The Clue of the Broken Locket by Carolyn Keene
79. Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfours
80. Out of the Red Shadow by Anne de Graaf
81. Whispers Through the Trees by Susan Plunkett and Krysteen Seelen

82. The Message in the Hollow Oak by Carolyn Keene
83. The Renewal by Terri Kraus
84. The Season by Sarah MacLean
85. As You Wish by Jackson Pearce
86. The Mystery of the Ivory Charm by Carolyn Keene
87. Faking 19 by Alyson Noel
88. The Whispering Statue by Carolyn Keene
89. The Dating Game by Natalie Standiford
90. Confessions of an Almost Movie Star by Mary Kennedy
91. Introducing Vivien Leigh Reed: Daughter of the Diva by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout
92. Starlet by Randi Reisfeld

93. TTYL Lauren Myracle
94. The Haunted Bridge by Carolyn Keene
95. Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker
96. The Cupcake Queen by Heather Hepler

97. Unbelievable by Sara Shepard
98. Wicked by Sara Shepard
99. The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene
100. Rachel's Garden by Marta Perry

Book Review: "Leah's Choice" by Marta Perry

Amish schoolteacher Leah Beiler is content nurturing her young "scholars" and helping out on her large family's Pennsylvania farm in Pleasant Valley. She has long since recovered from the defection of her former fiance Johnny Kile, who left the Amish community several years ago. But now Johnny has returned. Working at a local medical clinic on research into inherited diseases common among the Amish, he asks for Leah's help in circumventing his "shunned" status and reuniting him with his family, in particular with his twin, Rachel, who is also Leah's best friend. Johnny also encourages Leah to help out at the clinic, working as a liaison with the Amish community. Is Johnny secretly hoping to convince Leah to leave the community and join him in an "English" life together?

This book is one of few Amish books that I think really gets it. By it, I mean it allows the reader to enter the Amish world, yet does not try to push Amish beliefs on them, does not paint the Amish lifestyle as ideal or makes the world feel as if you're living in a bubble. I really enjoyed this book for the realistic way the Amish and the English worlds are portrayed.

This book talked a lot about subjects that I have never read in Amish fiction before. The one that stood out the most was the medical issues. This book mentioned a great deal about birth defects and other medical problems that stem from communities that continue to live in close proximity and only marry within that community. This is something I have never read in any other Amish book I have picked up and is a topic that I have always wondered about due to the circumstances of who someone can marry. Therefore kudos to Marta Perry for bringing this up. It may be a sore subject that no one wants to talk about but to deny that it exists because it makes the community look not so ideal is not helping anyone either. Honestly I feel like other authors don't bring it up because it breaks the bubble of the image that they are trying to portray of making Amish lifestyle appealing.

I thought I was going to have problems with Daniel due to comments he made early in the book but after finding out about his background, I understood him a lot better. His family's past was unique to the typical Amish storyline and even more so by the way he handled the situation. As for Johnny, I really liked the way his storyline played out. Everyone (for the most part) ends up where they want to be.

Honestly this is one of the most refreshing Amish novels I have ever read. I didn't feel as if this book was unrealistically portrayed and the outside world is seen in a positive light for once. If the rest of the series continues to be written in the same manner and tackles difficult but necessary subjects, it might possibly rank as one of my favorite Amish books. That being said, if you want a dose of reality with your Amish fiction, pick up this book.

Leah's Choice by Marta Perry is published by Berkley (2009)

This review copy was provided by the Amazon Vine program

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Review: "Jillian Dare" by Melanie Jeschke

Jillian Dare leaves her Shenandoah Valley foster home behind and strikes out on her own as a nanny at a large country estate in northern Virginia. She is delighted with the beauty of her new home, the affection of her young charge Cadence Remington, and the opportunity for frequent travel to the Remington castle in England. She is less certain about her feelings for her handsome but moody employer, Ethan. In spite of herself, Jillian realizes she is falling for her boss. But how can a humble girl ever hope to win a wealthy man of the world? And what dark secrets from the past is he hiding?

I will admit that I have not actually read the original version of Jane Eyre. I have however watched several movie versions, including my favorite starring Timothy Dalton as Rochester. Therefore I remember the original storyline even if parts might be a bit fuzzy. This tale is a modern updated version of Jane Eyre. In place of Jane, we have Jillian a 20 year old nanny who has been hired to take care of the daughter of Ethan Remington, a famous movie producer. Jillian is a very humble character who takes delight in her job and her new way of living while at the same time starting to feel affection for her employer.
I really liked the scenes that took place in England. I love the castle and enjoyed exploring it with Jillian. I could almost see myself there and would have loved to have spent more time in that setting.

The scenes in Virginia were exciting too but that was mainly due to the fact that I live in the same area as the story. It's always nice to read books that take place in my area and I can identify the places and locations. However, one quick qualm that a member of my book club pointed out: Jillian and her entourage go out to Tyson's Corner to go shopping. Where they live though, Tyson's would be extremely far and out of the way to go, and really wouldn't be the best place to shop. At the most, it would be an all day event and not the quick trip taken in the book. I liked Jillian's character. She just came across as very down to earth to me. She's not meek like Jane's character was yet she's not brash or outspoken. She was portrayed very well and I felt her character to be good for the story.


I felt that there were several conflicting issues throughout the book though. I felt that Ethan acted way older than his actual age. The explanation might be because he's British, but my argument would be that Jude Law is mentioned in this book and is the exact same age as Ethan. Jude is also British but he doesn't act stuff or old fashioned like Ethan does. I mean the way Ethan would talk sometimes just made me picture a 50 year old man. At the end scene at the hospital, the dialogue between Ethan and Jillian had me cringing because at how dated the conversation sounded. I also did not like John's character at all. After talking with other members of my book club, we discussed how his character vs. St. John in Jane Eyre acted totally different. John represents the stereotypical, preachy, condescending Christian that I hate reading about. Everything he did just got on my nerves. Also the fact that he wanted to marry his foster sister (warning bells!) but doesn't love her pretty much goes against everything he's supposed to believe in. I guess I was just really confused as to why John's Christianity comes off so strong because the rest of the story is meek and mild compared to him. While Jillian is a Christian, she doesn't feel the need to preach at everyone she comes in contact with. Therefore John seems to be a bad guy who wants it to be his way or no way at all.

Overall, while I enjoyed the story, I guess I just realize I'm not really a fan of modern adaptations. For this book, it comes from the fact that the characters acknowledge Jane Austen but either Bronte's story doesn't appear to exist or the characters just don't see that their lives are exactly parallel to Jane Eyre. I think the story best stands by itself and not as a modern adaptation. It does make for an interesting read and I look forward to going back and reading Melanie's previous books.

Jillian Dare by Melanie Jeschke is published by Revell (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Review: "The Secret of Joy" by Melissa Senate

As 28 year old New York paralegal Rebecca Strand's widowed father lays dying, he confesses a secret: he had an affair 26 years earlier when Rebecca was just a toddler. Now he wants Rebecca to deliver the secret stash of letters he wrote, but never mailed, to the daughter he fathered. Rebecca's lawyer boyfriend, Michael, is adamant that she forget the woman exists. He's sure the woman will be an opportunist who will demand half of Rebecca's father's million-dollar estate. But Rebecca, now without any family in the world, can't help but wonder about her one living relative. With her relationship with Michael in tatters, Rebecca drives from New York City to Maine to find Joy Jayhawk, who operates a Weekend Singles Tour service out of an orange mini-van that her regulars dub "The Love Bus." Enter a cast of lovable, colorful characters, from Joy's eccentric mother to the singles on The Love Bus, and a sexy carpenter for whom Rebecca finds herself unexpectedly falling in love...

Melissa Senate has always been one of my favorite chick lit authors. I loved all her books that she wrote for the Red Dress Ink line and was excited to hear that she had another one coming out. As soon as I started reading this one, I knew I'd love it as well. The story is really easy to get into and I couldn't stop reading as soon as I started. The setting is wonderful as you go from the hectic lifestyle of New York to the calm tranquility of Maine. It really made me want to go up and visit one day. The idea of singles tours and running an entire weekend tour event like Joy did seems like such an interesting job.

The characters are all very engaging and multidimensional. What I actually liked best were the secondary characters such as the Divorced Ladies Club. I felt that they could have had a book all to themselves! I felt extremely bad for Ella. She kept trying and trying to make her marriage work and her husband pretty much is acting like a baby. It just pained me to see him treat her like crap and then expect her to accept it. Even when confronted, his excuses are just flimsy and pathetic. It's really sad that there are guys out there who think like that and aren't able to commit.

Rebecca's and Joy's story brought feelings of warmth and uncomfortableness throughout the entire book. I felt that Rebecca could have handled things a little bit better with Joy. I understand her excitement and concern over finding out she has a sister. However, I don't think she really thought the whole situation over. She imagines that Joy would welcome her with open arms as soon as she hears the news. She doesn't think about the other reactions her words would cause. Rebecca is not very tactful at all either. I wanted to jump in the story and be like "Come on, THINK!!!" I'm not excusing Joy's brusque behavior but at the same time I could totally understand why she kept treating Rebecca in that way. At the same time, sisters are always exciting and it's a bond that's one of the closest you'll ever have.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but keeps you thinking as you read. It's not just a sister story, it's a relationship story. Marriage issues, family issues, and just relationships overall are discussed throughout the book. There are also discussion questions and an interview with the author included at the end of the story to help keep the conversation going about the story. There is some language and a little bit of sex but both are not main factors in the story. If you're a fan of chick lit, you'll really enjoy this one. I can't wait for Melissa's next book!

The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate is published by Downtown Press (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher