Thursday, September 30, 2010

Written In Blood -- Early Review Copy

I received another very exciting book from Librarything to review:

Wilson, John
Written in Blood
2010, 157pp. $12.95 pbk. Orca. 978-1-55469-270-5. Grades 7-12.

Written in Blood will appeal to young adults looking for a fast-paced adventure.  It is 1877 and sixteen-year-old Jim Doolan is on a journey from Canada to Mexico to find his father who left Jim and his mother ten years before.  Jim has only a note that his father left that gives the name of a town in Mexico and the name “Don Alfonso Ramirez.”  There are many interesting characters and exciting situations in store for Jim.  He will be beaten, rescued, and almost killed before he finds out the truth about his family.  Each character that Jim meets is richly described and each situation adds a little bit to the pieces of the puzzle, keeping those pages turning.  
The story discusses “scalping parties” that hunted the Apache for money.  Also included is information about Mexico’s history, and the search for gold in California and Canada, making it an excellent accompaniment to a curriculum that covers these topics.
The story is bloody and includes scalpings, shootings, and bloody beatings.  This could be disturbing to some, but it is also what appeals to many reluctant readers, especially boys.  The reading level is lower, chapters are short, and the dialog is easy to follow.
A sophisticated reader will begin to suspect the outcome of the book, but even that doesn’t detract from the excitement of each predicament that Jim encounters.  Jim discovers that much of his past is Written in Blood, but in the process is better prepared to take on the future.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Willow, by Julia Hoban

Wow.  I thought this book really captured at least one example of the emotions and turmoil of a "cutter."  Willow has lost both of her parents in a car accident in which she, Willow, was the driver.  One can hardly imagine a more horrible event, and you can almost understand how the cutting "helped."  She began to cut herself because that pain took away the pain of thinking about that horrible event.

She meets a boy, Guy, and he is the perfect boy.  That's a bit hard to believe, but he's a gem.  The relationship develops slowly and believable and is a satisfying part of the story.   Willow now lives with her older brother and his wife, and their relationship is understandably strained.  I like that the book ended, not perfectly, still with questions, but at least the reader feels like progress has been made.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Crazy-For-Books Book Blogger Hop

I added my blog to the list at Crazy For Books.  The question of the week is:

When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book?

My answer:  I can't imagine reviewing a book without finishing it.  If I don't finish a book, sometimes I will post that information and why a couldn't stand to finish the book, but that rarely happens.  I try to post as soon as possible after I finish the book.

Check out some other books blogs on the Book Blogger Hop!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Drive, by Daniel H. Pink

This book was recommended as a good book for educators to read.  It's about new theories of what motivates people.  Actually, the theories aren't that new.  Psychologists have research that shows that people, after a certain point and for certain tasks, do not respond to the traditional "reward/punishment" techniques for motivation.  Especially for creative, out-of-the-box thinking, intrinsic motivation works much better.  A sense of  mastery, purpose, and autonomy work much better in the workplace as well as at home for bringing the best out of people.

This was an easy, enjoyable book to read.  Sometimes when I read books like these, I tend to skim because they get so bogged down in details. This book was easy to understand and not so detail oriented.  The last part of the book is a "toolkit" which even suggests that you only read the parts that are of interest to you.  I skimmed some of that, but read most of it.

I would recommend this to educators, managers, and parents.  It gave me a lot to think about.

Friday, September 24, 2010

April Fool, by William Deverell

This was a colorful book about a retired lawyer who comes back to the courtroom to defend an old client who has been accused of murder.  It takes place in Canada, and the retired lawyer, Arthur, lives in a small rural town and spends his time raising goats and gardening.  The side story is that Arthur's wife is staging a sit-in up a very large tree to try to save the forest from being developed.  There are many colorful characters, and the story is very light hearted -- no suspense here, although we really don't know "who done it" until the very end of the book.

The colorful descriptions of the small town, the sit-in, and the trial caused the introduction of so many characters that at times I became a little confused.  I decided that remembering each character wasn't really important to the main and sub plots, and ended up enjoying the book.

This was the first book that I read on my new Kindle, and I really enjoyed it.  I found myself reaching up to turn pages a few times, as if I were holding a book.  My favorite thing is being able to enlarge the size of the text so I don't have to wear my reading glasses.  Even though I had to turn pages more often, the lack of glasses really made me happy . . .

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I really enjoyed this book.  I wasn't sure I was up for another supernatural romance book, but this one was unique.  It's about werewolves.  They change into humans in the summer, but cold weather changes them back.  I thought Stiefvater's descriptions of the life of a werewolf were very interesting and imaginative.  I also liked that I didn't know how the book was going to end -- I really felt compelled to finish so that I would know the ending.  There was some foreshadowing, and I thought the main characters were a little slow figuring out the puzzle, but it was still. OK.  I don't want to say much more because I don't want to be a spoiler.

The romance was also very sweet and cute, and who doesn't like that!  There were no worries of a violent relationship in this book, which I think was a concern about the Twilight series.  Recommend this to your vampire fans.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Audio Book . . .

I finished listening to Sarah Waters' book The Little Stranger.  I thought the book took a long time to get started, but that could have been because I was listening to the audiobook, and I tend to drag those out.  It is a very macabre book, as most of the reviews indicate.  The reader just is never quite sure what is going on, but it certainly isn't much good.  Basically the story is about a haunted house.  The house is really the main character, and the descriptions are wonderful.  Dr. Faraday, the narrator, is mostly blind to the creepy nature of Hundreds Hall.  I think he falls in love with the house, more than any of the Ayres family that live in it. Rest assured, there is no happy ending here.

If you are interested in historical fiction, with a very creepy twist, this would be the book for you!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets

This is the story of a teenage girl, Lucy, who is keeping big secrets.  Her mother is a hoarder.  Not only does she fill the house up with newspapers and magazines, but she is a bargain hunter and shops incessantly.  The worst part is that her neglect has gotten so bad that there is no hot water, the drains are clogged, the furnace doesn't work and the kitchen is covered in mold.

Of course this is embarrassing for Lucy and she does everything she can to hide this from her one and only friend.  The story gets more interesting and Lucy goes to great lengths (sometimes unbelievable) to keep her secrets.

The book was very interesting, and it's hard to believe that there are millions of people who live with this disorder.  I thought that some of the decisions that Lucy makes are so illogical that they are hard to believe, but it makes a good story and draws attention to a subject that maybe teens need to hear about.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A New Toy -- and a book finished

I just completed Haunted Ground by Erin Hart.  I had read about this book and wanted to read it because it involved anthropology and forensics.  I thought it might be like a Kathy Reichs book.  It wasn't.  The book was interesting and informative.  It takes place in Ireland where a human head is found buried in a bog.  Now, a bog is a very special place because remains do not decay like they would if they were just buried in dirt.  There a several colorful characters and the story was interesting as the main character, Cormac, tries to figure out several different mysteries.  The bog lady is one, but there's another mystery of a woman and her child that disappeared several years ago. 

I enjoyed reading the book; it was descriptive and colorful.  But not the suspense and intrigue of a Reichs.

I had to read a lot last night -- I had to finish that book so that I can read a book on my NEW KINDLE!! I have been researching and desiring an ereading device for a while now.  I had just about decided on the Kindle, when in July, they announced a new version.  I took that as a sign from God and took the plunge.  It arrived yesterday, and so far I'm thrilled.  I've loaded one book on it so far, and I find the controls very easy and intuitive.  I'm anxious to get started, but I also have three other books checked out that I want to read!  Where to begin???

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review Copy -- Death Benefits

Here's my first review of a book that hasn't been published yet -- I received a review copy from the publisher to review.

Royce is miserable. He’s been moved from Nova Scotia to Vancouver (pretty much all the way across the country, for those of you unfamiliar with Canadian geography) because his grandfather can no longer take care of himself. Royce is not attending high school because, after contracting mono he missed so many days that he talked his mom into letting him stay home until the next school year. I thought this situation was a bit contrived (what mom would agree to such a thing) but it makes the story work.

Death Benefits, by Sarah Harvey, is a story about a teenage boy growing up and realizing that his struggles are not that different from his ninety-five year old grandfather’s. Nina, Royce’s mom, has had such bad luck keeping caregivers for Arthur (Royce’s cantankerous grandfather) that she hires Royce to take care of Arthur for six hours every day, Monday through Friday. Royce is in it for the money. His intention is to buy a car and get back to his friends in Nova Scotia as quickly as possible, and surviving his grandfather’s verbal abuse and vicious mood swings is the fastest way to do it.

Of course, the relationship becomes much more. Royce does his best to understand his grandfather’s mood swings – and begins to realize his grandfather’s unhappiness is not that far from Royce’s. “Why does everyone treat him like his brain’s as feeble as his body? I mean, yeah, sometimes the cogs slip, but most of the time he knows exactly what’s going on. He just doesn’t like it very much. I know how that feels.” Royce begins to understand his grandfather (who is a famous cellist) when he explores the many old photo albums in his grandfather’s closet.

This book was enjoyable to read. Arthur’s character is very real – if anyone has ever dealt with aging parents or grandparents, his character rings true. Royce is a bit too good to be true, but his maturation throughout the story is satisfying. I’m not sure how appealing this story will be to teens. I think it will take some marketing on the part of teachers and librarians. I believe girls, especially, will enjoy the book, but I don’t think they’ll pick up a book that’s about a teenage boy babysitting his 95-year-old grandfather without some prodding. A very heartwarming, satisfying read.

This review has also been posted to my librarything account:

Thursday, September 9, 2010


It took me a while to get into the book Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.  It was very confusing, but I think that was by design.  Sometimes I think, after I complete a really good book (Ten Cents a Dance)  that it takes a while to get into any new book because my mind is still in the last enjoyable throes of that reading.

Incarceron is a science fiction adventure book.  Apparently there are two different worlds -- a prison world, where many years ago all the "bad" people were sent, and the "real" world, which apparently by decree is stuck in the 19th century.  Everyone in the "real" world thinks that the prison is a utopia.  But as the reader finds out, it is far from it.

The books is about these two worlds coming together to find out about each other -- through just a few characters.  The author has designed some very imaginative technological systems that make the book very enjoyable and entertaining.  Young sci-fi readers will definitely enjoy and will clamor for the sequal, which comes out in December.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ten Cents a Dance

I know I've said it before, but I love historical fiction.  This book takes place right before and right after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The author, Christine Fletcher, does a great job of setting the mood and the scene.  The main character, Ruby, is a sixteen-year-old in Chicago who has been forced because of family circumstances to quit school and go to work in the meat packing industry.  Totally disgusting.  When she finds out about an opportunity to be a "Taxi Dancer," she lies to her mom, and begins to lead a double life.  These dancers make quite a bit more money, but they walk a fine line between simply dancing and becoming a prostitute.  Ruby grows up very fast.  She makes mistakes, but she's savvy and spunky and this is a very satisfying read.  My own mother was about Ruby's age, and although she was a farm girl and didn't lead a double life, the stories of life during the war, the rationing, the stars in people's windows, and the constant worrying were situations that my mother and her family also dealt with.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Very good sci-fi book.  I liked Skinned by Robin Wasserman because it was a look at what the future could be, and it made me uncomfortable.  The premise is that you can get a new computerized body and download the contents of your brain.  Wasserman thought of a lot of details about the complexities of this existence that made it seem real (and unpleasant.)  This book takes place in the future, after nuclear devastation, disease, plagues, and floods.  You name it.  There is a strict cast system in place.  There are drugs to change your mood to whatever you want.  She describes a lot of futuristic technology (some maybe not so far in the future.)  I thought this book did a good job of setting the scene and provided a lot of food for thought about what is "life?" This is the first book in a trilogy, and the other two books are already out, I believe.  I think some good companion reads would be Uglies by Westerfeld or Unwind by Shusterman.


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