Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Way Back Wednesday - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

For the last few months, I have been featuring Trixie Belden Mysteries on my Way Back Wednesdays. These were my favorite books as a child.

After receiving the Annotated Wizard of Oz for Christmas, I have decided to feature a few of the Oz sequels during these posts. Many people are not aware that there are 14 Oz novels written by L. Frank Baum. There are several dozen other Oz books written by authors after Baum's death.

So, welcome to Way Back Wednesday - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum has always been one of my favorite books. Most people are familiar with the MGM movie starring Judy Garland, but the fascination started for me the first time I read the book.

There are several things that were changed for the movie so there are many facts people get mixed up.

1.)There is no Ms. Gulch in the book. As a matter of fact, there is very little mentioned of the Kansas farm in the book - this was added for the film.

2.)We know the house dropped on the Wicked Witch of the East, the Wicked Witch of the West was melted, and Glinda is the Good Witch of the North, but the movie tells us nothing of the Good Witch of the South.

3.)In the book, Dorothy is protected from harm by the golden kiss the Good Witch of the North places upon her forehead.

4.)The origins of the Tin Woodman are glossed over in the movie, so we don't know that he actually a human who cut off his on arms and legs, and then tinsmith made replacements.

5.)There is no mention of the Golden Cap, the Hammer-heads, or the Kalidahs in the movie. Want to know what they are? You need to read the book!

6.)And the most significant difference between the book and the movie - Dorothy's slippers are silver, not red! They were changed for the movie to take advantage of the new technocolor.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Can't wait until March 24, 2009 - this is the date that Fablehaven #4 - Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary is supposed to be released. If you have not read the first 3 books in this series, I highly recommend them. Brandon Mull is a wonderful new young adult author. Here's a cool trailer for the new book:

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas one and all!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Santa's Elves

Santa's book elves have been very good to me!!


Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Annotated Wizard of Oz

Lost: the Companion Book

And just think, this is only Christmas Eve! Wonder what's to come on Christmas Day??!!

Way Back Wednesday - 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

I am again interrupting Trixie Belden Mysteries on Way Back Wednesday for another favorite Christmas book. This one should be familiar to everyone, because it has been around since 1823.

A Visit from St. Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas from its first line) is a poem first published anonymously in 1823. Authorship was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore and the poem was included in an 1844 anthology of his works. There is still controversay in the literary world as to whether Moore is the actual author of this classic poem.

A Visit from St. Nicholas is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United States to the rest of the Anglosphere and the world.

There are so many versions of this wonderful book on the market, it would be too hard to list them all. This cover is the closest one I could find to the actual book my family owns. This classic story is a "must have" for families with small children or grandchildren, or for adults who are still young at heart.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Fairy Chronicles - Marigold and Dragonfly

One of the book blogs I visit weekly recommended a series of children's books I was not familiar with, The Fairy Chronicles. Being a lover of fairies and fantasy, in addition to loving children and young adult books, I thought I would give these a try. Paul Samuelson from Source Books was kind enough to send me several review copies from The Fairy Chronicles collection. Thank you, Paul!

Marigold and the Feather of Hope, the Journey Begins (The Fairy Chronicles) by J. H. Sweet

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (April 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402208723
ISBN-13: 978-1402208720

Beth (aka Marigold) is a 9 year old girls sent to stay with her eccentric Aunt for a 2 week summer vacation. It is during this vacation Beth learns she is a Fairy - a Marigold Fairy to be percise. Her aunt is also a Fairy - a Monarch Butterfly Fairy - and she will be Beth's mentor in the Fairy World.

We also get to meet some other Fairies: Jennifer the Dragonfly Fairy, Grace the Thistle Fairy and Lenox the Firefly Fairy. In this first book, the Fairies must retrieve the Feather of Hope, which has gone missing. The Feather of Hope ...
"is the means by which all hope on Earth is replenished and distributed".
The Brownies are the keepers of the Feather of Hope, but they were careless and the Feather was accidentally picked up by a human. It is up to the Fairies to retrieve the Feather of Hope from the humans and Beth and her Fairy friends come up with a plan.

All my life, I have had a love of fairy tales, but as an adult I realized there were very few new fairy tales being written today. J. H. Sweet has written a wonderful introduction into the realm of fairy tales and her Fairy Chronicles are sure to be favorite books for the children in your life.

Dragonfly and the Web of Dreams (The Fairy Chronicles) by J. H. Sweet

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (May 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402208731

In this second book in the series, Beth and her Fairy friends meet the Sandman and begin the search for the missing Dream Spider. Some of the Fairies have started to have nightmares and they soon learn that the Web of Dreams has been destroyed. The Web of Dreams is spun by the Dream Spider and normally catches all bad dreams from sleep.

The Fairies will again have the assistance of the Brownies and several flying birds. We also meet a Troll, who manages to capture several Fairies in glass bell jar. Will the Fairies escape the Troll? Will they be able to find the Dream Spider to replace the Web of Dreams? This book is just as captivating as the first.

In addition to learning about plants, flowers, animals and insects, one of the best things I like about The Fairy Chronicles is the environmental issues each book tackles. Dragonfly and the Web of Dreams focuses on reducing, reusing and recycling. These environmental lessons are perfect for teaching children to be environmentally responsible.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Way Back Wednesday - A Christmas Carol

I am interrupting Trixie Belden Mysteries on Way Back Wednesday for another favorite Christmas Classic.

Originally entitled A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, the book commonly known as A Christmas Carol is what Charles Dickens described as his "little Christmas Book" and was first published on December 19, 1843 with illustrations by John Leech.

A Christmas Carol is a Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of one night, which if it doesn't change his ways he will end up like his friend Jacob Marley, walking the Earth forever, being nothing but invisible and lonely. Mr. Scrooge is a financier/money-changer who has devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth. He holds anything other than money in contempt, including friendship, love and the Christmas season.

Through the medium of movies and television, A Christmas Carol is a common holiday theme with numerous versions. There are also unabridged and abridged versions of the book, in addition to annotated versions.

This is a book I used to read to my children every Christmas. We would start a week before Christmas and I would read a few chapters every night. This is still one of my favorite books. As a college student in the late 1980s, I wrote a dissertation on Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tomato Girl

Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek

Hardcover: 298 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books (August 26, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1565124723
ISBN-13: 978-1565124721

Tomato Girl deals with difficult subject matter - mental illness, abuse, racial issues and criminal activity - but Pupek weaves a beautifully written story. The characters are so real you quickly become absorbed with their world and their story.

Written from the point of view of 11 year old Ellie Sanders, you instantly fall in love with the heart-wrenching tale of this poor little girl. You feel her pain, as well as her hopes and dreams.

The story takes place during the early 1960s in a rural town in Virginia. Julia Sanders is a beautiful, but troubled, wife to Rupert and mother to Ellie. All of Ellie's life, her mother has suffered from some sort of mental illness, many times requiring sedation. While pregnant with a second child, Julia suffers a deplitating fall, resulting in the need for someone to help around the house.

Rupert brings home Tess Reed, the teenage farm girl who supplies home-grown tomatoes to be sold in his general store, as a caretaker for his wife and daughter. It soon becomes clear Rupert is having an affair with Tess. Almost from the instant Tess comes to live in the Sanders' home, a cascade of horrible events changes the family forever.

Throughout the book we watch Julia deteriorate further into a delusional world of her own. We see Rupert transfer all his love and attention away from his daughter and wife, and onto the teenage tomato girl. And most saddly of all, we watch Ellie deparately trying to hold her family together, all the while holding on to deep, dark family secrets. Ellie is forced to bare burdens that would cripple most adults. I felt so much love and empathy for this poor little girl, praying she would finally have the happy life she deserved.

Although Pupek has written a truly dark story, Ellie is full of hope and unconditional love for her family. The tangled lives of all the characters is truly complex, but Ellie's voice keeps the story from becoming too difficult to read.

I have read over 100 books this year, and Tomato Girl is in the top 5. This is an unforgettable book from a first time author, and I look forward to reading more of Pupek's work in the future. She has a talent I'm sure we will all be hearing more about.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Way Back Wednesday - The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

This week I'm preempting Trixie Belden to share with you my favorite Christmas book.

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston; illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Dial; 1st edition (September 30, 1988)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 080370299X
ISBN-13: 978-0803702998

Although this book was published in 1988, I didn't discover it until 1995, when my youngest was 3 years old. We first read it from the Mercer Public Library, but we checked it out so many times, I finally had a local bookstore order it for us. The library was kind enough to laminate the dust jacket for us.

Ruthie has been waiting patiently for her father to return from the war. As Christmas approaches, Ruthie's mother begins to worry about the Christmas tree tradition in their small Appalachian town of Pine Grove. The Pine Grove Church chooses one family each year to supply the Christmas tree. Ruthie and her father were so excited, because their family had been chosen to provide this year's tree.

During the spring before Papa left for the war, he and Ruthie climbed to the top of the rocky ridge to pick out the perfect tree. To mark this tree from all the rest, Papa takes one of Ruthie's hair ribbons and ties it to the top of the tree. Ruthie is so happy, because as the provider for the traditional tree, she will also get to portray the "heavenly angel" in the Christmas pagent.

When Mama realizes her husband may not make it home for Christmas, she and Ruthie set out in the wee morning hours of Christmas Eve in search of the marked tree. The trip is long and hard, but Ruthie and her Mama stick together and after many hours of hard work, they are able to deliver the tree to the church.

Back at home, Mama settles Ruthie in for a long winter's nap. Exhausted herself, Mama can't sleep because she is determined to make Ruthie's wishes come true. Because her husband had not returned, there was no money to buy Ruthie a new dress for the Christmas pagent or to buy her the doll she asked for from Santa. But Mama has a plan.

All day as Ruthie slept, Mama was at work on a new dress. Taking her beloved wedding dress, Mama cuts it down to make Ruthie an angel costume. Then she takes her last pair of stockings and fashions an angel doll, using the rest of the wedding dress to cloth the angel just like Ruthie.

When Ruthie awakens on Christmas Eve night, she is overjoyed with her angel costume. When they arrive at the church, Mama and Ruthie are so proud of the beautiful Christmas tree. After the Christmas service and pagent, Santa arrives to hand out presents to the children. Santa hands Ruthie the beautiful angel from the top of the tree (Ruthie had no idea her mother made the angel).

But the best present was yet to come. Leaving the church happy and joyful from the pagent and the present, Ruthie sees her father waiting outside the church door.

No matter how many times I read this book - and I still read it yearly, even though my children are grown - I still cry. This book has such a good morale and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough - it is the perfect Christmas story.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Swallowing Darkness

Swallowing Darkness (Merry Gentry series #7) by Laurell K. Hamilton

Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (November 4, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345495934
ISBN-13: 978-0345495938

I have totally quit reading reading reviews of Hamilton's work because I don't think some people are actually reading the same books I am. I have enjoyed Hamilton's work since Kiss of Shadows - the first Merry Gentry book. Up until this time, I hadn't read anything by her, but his quickly changed. Although Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter is my favorite series, Merry runs a close second!

Swallowing Darkness picks up right where A Lick of Frost ended. Merry has been raped by her uncle, King Taranis, and her beloved Frost has been turned into a stag. I was shocked with the opening scene because my joy at having "Gran" reenter the picture was quickly changed to horror because of a vengeance spell.

I was not expecting the Wild Hunt so soon after the last, but with Merry's kin plotting her murder and her uncles sadistic actions, I guess it was an obvious conclusion.

I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around Merry's pregnancy with twins and the huge number of men who share paternity. This is my problem, not Hamilton's problem - her writing is up to snuff, I'm just having trouble with several issues. I am happy to see the "mother bear" instincts rise up in Merry - after spending 6 books trying to get pregnant, I was wondering how she would react to the pregnancy.

For me, Swallowing Darkness answered some major plot points, but there are so many more questions to be answered. This is NOT the last Merry Gentry book, as so many other reviewers have claimed. According to Hamilton's website and blog (which I read faithfully every day), Merry's story is not finished, so the series goes on. Yeah for us die-hard Hamilton fans!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Zig Zagging Down a Wild Trail

Zig Zagging Down a Wild Trail by Bobbie Ann Mason

I love Kentucky authors and Bobbie Ann Mason is one of my very favorites. She is the award winning author of Feather Crowns, Shiloh and Other Stories and In Country, to name a few. Her short story collection, Zigzagging Down A Wild Trail, contains 11 stories that will thrill readers of her works, as well as draw in new readers to her unusual writing style. Many of the stories are set in Eastern Kentucky, Mason’s native homeland.

In Tobrah, a single childless woman - Jackie - inherits her five-year-old half sister she didn’t know existed. Through the Tobrah, Jackie reconnects with her inner child and discovers a part of the father she never knew before.

In With Jazz, twice-divorced Chrissy is dealing with her adult children’s problems and the failures of her past relationships. Yet, Jazz offers an uncomplicated love with no ties and a lot of heart.

Three-Wheeler proves that freedom comes to people in many different forms. Mary inherits her uncle’s Kentucky home and works on her pottery. Two young boys in need of money offer to move a pile of dirt for her. The small chore grows and grows, till they discover the three-wheeler, which would make their job easier. Battling nosey neighbors and little boys, Mary takes the three-wheeler on the trail and dreams of her days in New Mexico.

In Charger a young man is in love with Tiffany, a girl in snake pants. Charger is battling depression, afraid that he and Tiffany will end up like his parents, who married young then grew apart. Charger’s father abandoned his family in Kentucky to run off to Texas. Believing he will only find happiness in Texas, Charger turns a short road trip into a journey of the spirit to Texas – only to become grounded in Tiffany’s love.

The Funeral Side has Sandra McCain returning to care for her father after he suffers a stroke. The family lived on the second floor, above a furniture store and the funeral home. The funeral side is closed until the death of a family friend. This event opens old wounds for Sandra of her mother’s death, but she awakens to her father’s love and the ritual of community as they celebrate death.

In Thunder Snow, Boogie, whose wife, Darlene, left home to serve in the Persian Gulf war, worries that she held herself separate from him so that there was an essential part of her he could never reach.

In Rolling into Atlanta, a young woman searches for the kind of authenticity she remembers from her rural childhood. In Proper Gypsies, Nancy deals with the shock of being robbed in London.

Mason's stories are not about unusual events, but she takes a different perspective on the normal everyday life. Her characters are generally people many will know some version of, and yet her descriptive prose makes you feel as though each character is new.

Bobbie Ann Mason won the PEN/ Hemingway Award for Shiloh and Other Stories, and the Southern Book Award for Feather Crowns (one of my favorite books) which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Zig Zagging is a good read and one I would recommend if you have a desire to read stories of a rural nature.

Post Script: This book was released in hardback in 2001, and I was fortunate enough to meet Bobbie Ann Mason at a book signing in Lexington, Kentucky. In addition to autographing my book with a personal message, she was also kind enough to autograph a rock for my rock collection. For regular readers of my blog, you know I'm a rock collector and I love getting rocks autographed.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Purpose of Christmas

The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren

Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (November 4, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416559000
ISBN-13: 978-1416559009

From the author who brought us The Purpose Driven Life, this holiday season Warren calls us to
“remember the reason for the season.”

This little book explains the birth of Jesus and offers inspiration regarding the salvation of man through the word of God. It also gives hope for the reconciliation of past deeds or dysfunctional lifestyles.

Although deeply religious in context, it does not delve too deep into Christian ideology. If you are caught up in the rat race that is life, this book will help to slow you down and refocus your energy on the things in life that are important.

The Christmas Purpose is a wonderful book to share with family and friends over the upcoming holiday season.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

O the Clear Moment

O the Clear Moment by Ed McClanahan

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Counterpoint (September 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1582434301
ISBN-13: 978-1582434308

This Kentucky authored book contains 9 short stories of autobiography from McClanahan’s past. Raised in Bracken County in the 1940s, we get a humorous look at life in a small town. These quirky, eccentric tales are reminiscent of stories I heard from my parents and grandparents.

“Hey Shoobie!” is one of my favorites because it reminds me of growing up with my best friend in a small rural subdivision. Although we never climbed the water tower, we did have some similar adventures.

Other favorite story titles include: “Another Great Moment in Sports”; “Dog Loves Ellie,” which reminds me of awkward high school dances; and “Fondelle or, The Whore with a Heart of Gold”, which chronicles his adventures while hitchhiking one summer on college break.

Coming from a small town I appreciate the rural humor McClanahan brings to his stories - his characters seem like friends because they are the same types of people I meet in my everyday life. I recommend this fun read as an insightful look into the mind of an eccentric author.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Way Back Wednesday - Trixie Belden #12

Trixie Belden #12 - The Mystery of the Blinking Eye - 1963

While on vacation, theBob-Whites are staying at the Wheelers' deluxe apartment in New York City, where they will meet their friends from Iowa - Ned, Barbara and Bob. When the gang goes to the Kennedy Airport to pick up their friends, Trixie helps out a mysterious traveler who hands her a strange written fortune. Leave it to Trixie to stumble into a mystery!

Later, while window shopping with Honey, Trixie finds an ugly wooden statue she just has to have. Soon after buying the curious little statue, Trixie is followed by menacing strangers. Do the fortune and the statue have anything in common? Read The Mystery of the Blinking Eye and find out!