Saturday, September 20, 2008

Summer Reading Thing Wrap-Up

It's time to wrap up our Summer Reading Thing Book Challenge. The Mr. Linky is below.

Write a summary post on your blog and use the Mr. Linky below to link to it. In that summary post, tell us which book you liked best (and why), which you liked least (and why), any new authors you tried and if you'll read more by them, and what (if anything) you learned from participating in this challenge.

I will do one final prize drawing next week and everyone who finished the challenge and posted a link below will be eligible.

Also, the Fall Into Reading 2008 reading challenge, sponsored by Katrina over on Callapidder Days starts on Monday, Sept 22nd. I hope you'll all join me over there.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Summer Reading Thing Ends on Sunday

The Summer Reading Thing for 2008 ends on Sunday. I really do not know where my mind has been. I mean, when you sponsor a reading challenge and promise weekly prizes, you really should give out those weekly prizes on a weekly basis, right?

I am soooo sorry.

I actually have given out 7 of the 13 promised prizes. And here's your chance to win one of the remaining six. Remember, in order to win a prize, you . . .
  1. Must be signed up for the Summer Reading Thing 2008. (If you're not signed up already, it's too late now.)

  2. Must leave a comment on THIS POST before midnight on Sunday, September 21, 2008.

  3. Must have a shipping address within the U.S.

I will pick the winners of the following books at random. If you want to tell me which book you'd prefer to win, you can list that in your comment. First winner will get their first choice. Second winner will get their choice, if winner #1 didn't take it, etc. etc.

The prizes are:

Prey by Michael Crichton

In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles—micro-robots—has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive. It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour. Every attempt to destroy it has failed. And we are the prey.

Mass market paperback; like new condition.

The March by E.L. Doctorow

In 1864, Union general William Tecumseh Sherman marched his sixty thousand troops through Georgia to the sea, and then up into the Carolinas. The army fought off Confederate forces, demolished cities, and accumulated a borne-along population of freed blacks and white refugees until all that remained was the dangerous transient life of the dispossessed and the triumphant. In E. L. Doctorow’s hands the great march becomes a floating world, a nomadic consciousness, and an unforgettable reading experience with awesome relevance to our own times.

Trade paperback; like new condition.

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks comes the long-awaited follow-up to his classic tale of enduring love, The Notebook. After 30 years, Wilson Lewis, son-in-law to Noah and Allie (of The Notebook fame), is forced to admit that the romance has gone out of his marriage. Despite the shining example of his in-laws' 50-year love affair, Wilson himself is a man unable to express how he truly feels. With the distractions of his daughter's upcoming wedding he is forced to realize how close he is to losing his own wife Jane. But if Wilson is sure of anything, it's this: His love for his wife has only intensified over the years, and he wants nothing more than to make their marriage work. Now, with the memories of his in-laws' inspiring life together as his guide, Wilson pledges to find a way to make his wife fall in love with him. . . again.

Trade paperback; very gently read.

A New Song by Jan Karon

In A New Song, Mitford's longtime Episcopal priest, Father Tim, retires. However, new challenges and adventures await when he agrees to serve as interim minister of a small church on Whitecap Island. He and his wife, Cynthia, soon find that Whitecap has its own unforgettable characters: a church organist with a mysterious past, a lovelorn bachelor placing personal ads, a mother battling paralyzing depression. They also find that Mitford is never far away when circumstances "back home" keep their phone ringing off the hook. In this fifth novel of the beloved series, fans old and new will discover that a trip to Mitford and Whitecap is twice as good for the soul.

Trade paperback; very gently read.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined. A classic tale for modern times, Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.

This is the book that the movie Christmas with the Kranks was based on. Mine has a different cover. Hardbound, library copy; good condition.

Powers That Be by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Strange things were happening on the icy planet called Petaybee. Unauthorized genetically engineered species had been spotted, while some people were simply disappearing. None of the locals were talking to the company, so the company sent disabled combat veteran Yanaba Maddock to spy. But a strange thing happened. With her relocation to the arctic planet came a return of Yana's health and strength. And the more she got to know the people of Petaybee, the more determined she became to protect her new home....

Prize has a different cover. Mass market paperback; slightly used condition.

Mr. Linky for wrap-up posts coming tomorrow.

The Journey by J. Adams

The war between good and evil is as old as time itself–

so is the absolute truth that each choice is accompanied by a consequence.

Ciran is about to be faced with both.

Two roads lie ahead. Only one leads home.

Which will she choose?

If I've ever wanted to give a book a whole-hearted positive review, it would be this book, The Journey by J. Adams.

I met Jewel Adams years ago, although she probably doesn't remember me. I've heard her speak a couple of times. She is a lovely and gracious woman with many talents and strengths. I admire her very much and appreciate her dedication to LDS youth.

However (you knew there was a however coming, didn't you?), I can't quite give this book the glowing recommendation that I wish I could.

First, the positive things: The Journey is basically the Plan of Salvation set in a YA fantasy. I love that. Sometimes it's easier to teach concepts using allegory, metaphor and parables than to just teach it straight out—especially when you're trying to reach teens. I applaud Jewel's integrity and her desire to take on these truths, and to illustrate them in a way that teens will be able to see commonalities between Ciran, the main character, and themselves.

I love the message—that our choices have consequences. Everything we do makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Too many youth today don't quite make that connection and I think it's an important one. The Journey shows us how Ciran's choices make ripples all around her—some good, some not so good. By presenting this in a fantasy story, it allows the message to get through to the reader in a non-preachy, non-confrontational way.

The problems I have with this book are not with the message or the basic plot line, but with the presentation. Too much time is spent in description, in telling us what happened, rather than letting us experience it as it happens. Some YA readers won't care; others will not have the attention span to get through the slower parts of the story. Also, many of the characters are not fully developed and their personalities and dialogue are interchangeable. I like to see more uniqueness, more individuality.

Another issue I have is that this book was self-published. Don't assume that because I was once a publisher that I'm automatically biased against self-publishing. I'm not. In fact, I don't have a problem with self-publishing as a general rule. This particular book would have been better with tighter editing. Also, it's obvious in the layout of this book, the way the pages are set up and numbered, that the typesetter really did not understand how books are built. The cover is a disappointment—it's not very attractive or appealing and wouldn't catch the eye of the casual browser. This may be nit-picking on my part and perhaps you could make a case that the "average" reader wouldn't really notice these things, but I think they do, if only on an unconscious level. All things being equal, the look and feel of a book can influence the reader and/or buyer as much as the subject. When your book is competing with others that are professionally created and designed, a book like this is at a definite disadvantage. Which is a shame because the message of this book is so strong and so needed in today's world.

This is not to say that I think everyone will have problems with this book. There is definitely a target reader for The Journey, which would be young women between the ages of 12 and 15, who are familiar with the LDS version of the Plan of Salvation and who enjoy fantasy. I would just like to have seen this story polished a little more before going to press so that it would have reached a broader readership.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. There were some things I liked about it and other things that were distracting enough to pull me out of the story. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but I would definitely recommend it to the target reader described above. In fact, there are several girls in my neighborhood who I think would like the book very much, and I intend to tell them about it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Hate Seagull Book!

So I have this problem. When I'm feeling stressed, I need to treat myself. In my town, there is a Seagull Book and a Wal-Mart right across the street from each other. As I head for a treat, I have to make a choice. I can turn right to Wal-Mart and get Nouggies. Or I can turn left to Seagull and get myself a book. Wal-Mart and the Nouggies usually win because 1) they're cheaper, and 2) chocolate gets into my blood stream and changes my mood faster than a book does.

But today, I was feeling guilty because my Wii Fit says I'm up 2.2 lbs this week and I know it's because I've been eating way too many nouggies. So I turned left.

Never mind that I can't afford a new book and I should spend that $15 on paying down business debt.

Never mind that I already have 40 books on my dresser waiting their turn to be read.

Never mind that I don't have time to read right now.

I was going to get myself a new book, gosh darn it!

But I would be responsible in my irresponsibility—I would limit myself to just one.

Then I walked into Seagull and the stress level just exploded because now I had to make a choice. There were all these books that I wanted to read and they were just sitting on the Seagull shelves, mocking me with their bright yellow percent off labels.

Which one do I get?

Do I go for David Woolley's new book, Day of Remembrance? (He won't let Sandra loan it to me, the brat.) I already own volumes 1 & 2. They're sitting on my dresser waiting to be read. And volume 3 is on sale too, but it's in paperback and all my other volumes would be hardback. Hmmmn. . .

Or do I get The Nephite Who Loved Me (currently mistitled as Servant to a King) by Sariah Wilson? I really liked her first two books, Secrets in Zarahemla and Desires of Our Hearts, even if they do have a larger dollop of romance than I'll admit to liking. I forgive her because her heroines are feisty and don't put up with anything, even if they are married to prophets.

Do I get Farworld by J. Scott Savage, which I've already read? (Thanks for the ARC, J. Scott.) I really want the hardback copy with the map and illustrations in it because I want it to be available to my grandchildren (now ages 2, 1 & 10 mos.). But if I get a book I've already read today, that won't really satisfy my need to treat myself.

Or do I get Don't Cry Wolf by Clair M. Poulsen? I don't know anything about it but it has a really cool cover and the back liner notes sound interesting. I've read a few of his other books and liked them. Maybe if this one was about werewolves, instead of regular wolves. . .

Or do I get . . . Arrggg!!! Enough, already!

So I gave the saleslady at Seagull a full-on crusty and told her that I hated her store with its crowded bookshelves and mocking yellow discount stickers. She laughed, then rang me up and I walked out with . . .

Her Good Name by Josi Kilpack. Because Josi never disappoints. And we have our home mortgage with Countrywide. (Miss the news report? Click here.) But most especially, I picked this one because I wish I had a pair of gold shoes like the ones on the cover. Not that I could actually wear them, what with me being very old and having a bad back. But still. They would look lovely on my feet now that I wear sandals again.

Then, to help deal with the stress of leaving so many other wonderful titles on the shelf, I went over to Wal-Mart and got some Nouggies.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson

Shhh! Don't tell anyone, especially my friend Julie, who I have firmly convinced that I hate all things romantic and sappy. And I do, mostly. But I have a secret. I love Christmas stories—the kind that make you cry.

I get at least one new Christmas book every year. Usually it's a picture book because—well, just because. But I also like Christmas novellas, like The Christmas Box and The Christmas Wish. So I was thrilled to be asked to review The Santa Letters.

Here's the promo from the book liner:

One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died.For Emma, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband—he killed her joy in life itself.Now, as Christmas again approaches, Emma Jensen finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach; not her job, not her love for her children, and certainly not the season!Money is tight, emotions taut, and those realities are magnified tenfold by knowing that this year Christmas will be a meager, empty, and painful experience. Only six-year-old McKenna believes in miracles and the magic of Christmas. The rest of the family knows that Christmas can never be the same.But when a mysterious package and an ornate letter arrive on the doorstep, things begin to change.Each day, a package and a letter signed “Santa” arrive for the family, and together they come to understand that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever and that God’s love can heal any wound, . . . no matter how deep.The Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a journey through a Christmas experience that will have the power to heal them all.

I haven't had this same experience, but I did find myself in dire need one Christmas season. Secret Santas left several gifts of love and support and kindness—and toys for my children!—on our doorstep that year. I can tell you that the feelings and emotions described in this book are right on with my own.

I loved this book. It's a quick read—only 200 pages. I cried as I read it and I could feel my heart growing with that special Christmas spirit. This is definitely the Christmas book for 2008 at my house. I know a few people who will be getting it for Christmas this year.

If you're feeling the Christmas spirit (and if you're not, that's okay—you've got a few months to get in the mood), and you want to help spread the joy and cheer with a struggling family—or your own—Stacy has downloadable Santa letters and gift ideas that are free for you to use here.

You can read a sample from The Santa Letters here or here.

You can learn more about Stacy here, here and here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Meme

I saw this over on Summer's blog. She's seen it on Rocks in My Dryer—the originator and where you add yourself to the Mr. Linky.

Since having babies was the hardest work I've ever done in my life, I think it's a perfectly good meme for Labor Day.

How long were your labors?

Kid #1: 36 hours (yes, there is an entire horror story to accompany that number, but it's still traumatic for me to remember it, so I won't be sharing today.)

Kid #2: 5 hours

Kid #3: 5 hours

Kid #4: 12 hours

How did you know you were in labor?

Kid #1: Excruciating pain that would not go away. I had unusual contraction patterns, with pains only a couple of minutes apart and some as much as 5 minutes long. It's a good thing she was/is so cute!

Kid #2: Water broke.

Kid #3: Minimal back labor; I just had a feeling I should go to the hospital.

Kid #4: Induced for medical reasons.

Where did you deliver?

Hospitals! (What, you think I'm nuts?)




Thankfully, no.

Who delivered?