My Aunt Betty as Guest Reviewer

My Aunt Betty has been an elementary school librarian for 24 years and I thought it would be fun if she reviewed children’s books now and then for my blog.  In the next few days I’ll be adding a page for her with fun facts and a photo or two.  Feel free to leave her comments 🙂

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We threw my mom a surprise 60th birthday party on Saturday and had around 30 people.  So, it was a wonderful holiday weekend.  Now it’s time to start getting ready for that other little holiday we have coming up.

A-Z favorite music-Have fun with me(me)

Don has a meme that I decided I would try.  You are supposed to list your favorite band or artist from A – Z.  I decided to cheat a little and list my favorite songs.  As you might guess from my list I spent the 80’s in junior high & high school with the big, teased hair and acid wash jeans.

I am not really into music, so don’t hate me for the choices I’ve made!  Also, some letters just gave me trouble and two songs made it on here by default (I could think of nothing better).  I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like a fun challenge go ahead and join me.  At the very least it should provide good Thanksgiving table conversation!

Feel free to chime in with your two cents!  They should all be linked to the video.

Adia – Sarah McLaughlin

Burning Down The House – Talking Heads

Careless Whisper – Wham

Don’t You Want Me – Human League

End of the Road – Boyz II Men

Faithfully – Journey

Grease – Bee Gees

Hotel California – The Eagles

Imagine – John Lennon

Joy to the World – 3 Dog Night

Kiss From a Rose – Seal

Lose Yourself – Eminem

Mickey – Toni Basil

No Son of Mine – Genesis

Out Here On My Own – Irene Cara

People Are Strange – The Doors

Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody

Rock Me Amadeus – Falco

Something – The Beatles

Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper

Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie

Video – india.arie

Walk This Way – Aerosmith

Xanadu – Olivia Newton John (obviously this one is by default)

Yesterday – The Beatles

ZZ Top’s Legs

Mistletoe & Holly, by Janet Dailey

Cover ImageFinished 11-24-08, rating 2.5/5, romance, pub. 1982

“It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas,” she tried to qualify her aversion to the season.  “It’s all the fuss that goes along with it.  It’s the decorations and the gift-giving and all the meaningless things that go along with them.  Too many people are making too much money off a day that’s supposed to be a religious holiday.  I guess I believe the meaning of Christmas has become lost under the fancy foil wrappings and bright ribbons.”            -Chapter 4

Leslie has a broken leg, a dislike for the Christmas season, and an aunt who will take her into her Vermont home while Leslie heals.  Her aunt Patsy’s new neighbors are a handsome man and his daughter who draw Leslie into the holiday spirit even as she tries to fight off the jolly pair.  Taggert and Holly include Leslie in their family and hope that she will want to stick around permanently.

I remember reading Janet Dailey in junior high and high school.  She wrote a romance for each of the states and I tried to collect them all.  I picked this up at a used book sale for 25 cents thinking I’d take a trip down memory lane.  I guess, as with many things I read when I was in junior high, it didn’t really hold up all that well.  I thought the writing was pretty bad at the beginning, but once I was drawn into the sweet story I didn’t think it was distractingly bad.  The story was charming, but as with most short romances it wasn’t a fulfilling read.

Ohio State-Michigan Football

It’s THE day for Ohio State and Michigan football lovers.  It’s the game that always ends the season and it should be a cold and snowy one.  The Buckeyes are 22 1/2 point favorites and have won the last four years.  But Michigan could make it’s whole season with a win today. 

Michigan Wolverines-Ohio State Buckeyes
Teams Michigan Wolverines
Ohio State Buckeyes
Originated 1897
Series Michigan leads, 57-41-6
Most Recent Winner Ohio State
Trophy None
Team Ohio State Michigan
National Titles 7 11
Heisman Winners 7 3
Bowl Appearances 39 38
BCS Bowl Appearances 6 4
Rose Bowl Games 13 20
All-Americans 177 75
Big Ten Titles 32 42

The Ark, the Reed & the Fire Cloud, by Jenny Cote

The Ark, the Reed, and the FirecloudThe Ark, the Reed, & the Fire Cloud. Finished 11-21-08, rating 4/5, children’s fiction, pub. 2008

This is book 1 in The Amazing Tales of Max & Liz

Max is a Scottish terrier who is called by the Maker to follow a fire cloud.  He leaves everything he knows behind and follows the cloud through Scotland, across Europe, to the Middle East.  Along the way he meets friends who are also being called to follow the fire cloud.  He meets a new best friend, an orange cat named Al, a mate for life, the beautiful white dog Kate, and a partner in leadership, the intelligent black cat, Liz.  Their adventures are fun and exciting and educational.  Liz loves sharing her knowledge with the others, like where rain and thunder come from and how food is fuel.

Their journey is entertwined with the story of Noah and his family as they build the Ark.  Noah’s family is shunned by their neighbors as they spend 100 years building the Ark as God has instructed.  One day animals from every place on earth begin to make their way to the Ark and a new adventure begins once they all board.

This book is magical and adventurous and fun.  It entertains, but also teaches and I think it is a must have for any Christian library.  It expands on the story of the flood without ever changing the biblical tale.  It is about friendship, loyalty, and hope.

This is a 450 page book for children 8-12.  I think it is beautifully done- the cover and the drawings inside.  Have you seen The Princess Bride?  Where Peter Falk is reading this grand adventure story to his grandson, Fred Savage?  Well, that is what I envisioned as I was reading this book.  It is a perfect book for you and a child to read together.  This is a perfect Christmas gift for preteen readers.

Author Jenny Cote has already written the next three in the series of Max and Liz and is also working with a movie studio to produce this book into a film.  I think it would be a wonderful movie.  Visit her website for more details and information,

2009 Book Challenge

readown3I’ve decided to participate in my first reading challenge.  This one is right up my alley and it should help me clear off my shelves.  The challenge is to read books already on my shelf.  If you haven’t seen how many that is for me, check this out. 

I perused the hundreds of titles on my shelves and chose these 50 that I’m committed to reading in 2009.  I know I will read more than that, but these are titles that have been on my shelves awhile and I need to get them read! 

I know it’s early, but these are the 50 I’ve chosen…

1. A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving

2. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

3. Second Nature by Alice Hoffman

4. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

5. The Pigman by Paul Zindel

6. Skinny Legs & All by Tom Robbins

7. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

8. The Man Who Ate the 747 by Ben Sherwood

9. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

10. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

11. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophi Kinsella

12. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve

13. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

14. Naked Came the Matinee by Hiaasen et al.

15. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

16. Summer’s Child by Luanne Rice

17. The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks

18. Mercy by Jodi Picoult

19. The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer

20. An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender

21. Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts

22. Joy School by Elizabeth Berg

23. Nickel & Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

24. Damage by Josephine Hart

25. Wacky Chicks by Simon Doonan

26.. The Rival by Brenda Joyce

27. Deep Shaker by Les Roberts

28. Small Town Girl by Lavyrle Spencer

29. Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

30. The Angel by Carla Neggers

31. Summer in the City by Robyn Sisman

32. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

33. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

34. Watchers by Dean Koontz

35. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

36. The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

37. The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

38. Bump & Run by Mike Lupica

39. Billy Budd by Herman Melville

40. Chocolat by Joanne Harris

41. Murder by the Glass by Michele Scott

42. The Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver

43. The Time Machine by HG Wells

44. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

45. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

46. Red Light by T. Jefferson Parker

47. Dead Sleep by Greg Iles

48. On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon by Kaye Gibbons

49. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

50. The Thieves of Faith by Richard Doetsch

(Yes, I’ve doubled my original goal.  I looked at my shelves and decided I needed to do it.)

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

Cover ImageFinished listening to on 11-17-08, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 1929

“When I saw her I was in love with her. Everything turned over inside of me. She looked toward the door, saw there was no one, then she sat on the side of the bed and leaned over and kissed me. I pulled her down and kissed her and felt her heart beating.”

Lieutenant Frederic Henry is an American serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army during World War I.  Catherine Barkley is a nurse who meets and flirts with Frederic before he is wounded on the war front. He recovers in a hospital in Milan with Catherine as his nurse and the two begin a love affair.  Before Frederic is sent back into duty Catherine finds out she is pregnant.  I’m not going to say more because I don’t want to give too much away. 

I’ve read that this is one of the best war novels ever written and that it is one of the best love stories ever penned.  I don’t agree with either of these, although I do think it does a great job of bringing the war to life and it is a grand love story.  Some of the problem may be that the character of Catherine felt very flat to me.  She felt like she was written by a man and, well, not all that sympathetic.  Surprisingly, I did enjoy the aspects of the war Hemingway chose to share.

This is an American classic, but because it is a war story I avoided it.  And somehow I earned my degree in English Education without ever having read a Hemingway novel.  I decided to listen to it and was pleased with the reader, John Slattery.  He did an excellent job.  Some of you may know him from his current job on the tv show Mad Men.

Finding Neverland, 2004 movie

Finding Neverland****

Finding Neverland is the charming story of James Barrie, author of Peter Pan, and his inspirational, yet odd relationship with the Davies family.  Barrie is a married man whose last play has just bombed on stage.  He meets the widower Sylvia and her four young sons and becomes fixture in their lives while becoming a ghost to his wife.  The boys, including the troubled Peter, provide the perfect muse for his next play, Peter Pan.

I love watching Johnny Depp on screen and the beautiful Kate Winslet was as wonderful as ever.  From the previews I was expecting a lighthearted, fun tale, not the earnest, heartfelt movie that it turned out to be.  I was very much moved by it.

It was nominated for 7 Oscars and won one for Best Original Score.

I have read that the movie is not exactly accurate in its details, but for me that did not take away from my enjoyment of the film.  If you know the true story of Barrie and the Davies family it might make you feel differently.

A Dangerous Love, by Brenda Joyce

Cover ImageFinished 11-14-08, rating 4/5, romance, pub. 2008

A book in the De Warenne Dynasty.  Cliff’s daughter from A Lady at Last is the heroine.

“God willed the Rom to be Travellers.  Yet in all of history, the Roma have never been able to travel freely.  You should be able to travel freely.”

“There have always been laws against us.” Stevan said resignedly.  “If you insist on leaving with us, so be it.  You are always welcome.”    – Chapter 15

It’s 1820 England and 24 year old Ariella De Warenne is living life on her own terms.  Her loving father, Cliff, is not placing any expectations on her, knowing that when she falls in love he will support her.  Viscount Emilian St. Xavier is a man with loyalties to two worlds.  He was born to a gypsy mother, but raised by his English father from the age of ten.  When Emilian and Ariella meet he is thirsting for revenge and she falls in love.

The story explores the truly ugly nature of prejudice and intolerance.  Emilian feels unworthy because he has always been treated a half-blood and his struggle to find balance was moving.  Ariella’s love for him and her desire to right the world’s ills make her a beautiful heroine.  Emilian and Ariella find they have much incommon and are very much a perfect match, but Emilian has many demons he must slay before peace can be found.

This was a very romantic story full of love and lust, but it also had something to say and was able to do it without being too in your face about it.  My only small complaint was that the DeWarenne men are an eclectic bunch, but they seemed a bit too good to be true in this book.  I am very much looking forward to the rest of their stories.

If you like historical romances there is no one better than Brenda Joyce.