Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Snowbound with Betsy

Snowbound With Betsy by Carolyn Haywood was the first book in the Betsy series I read as a child and it remained one of my favorite books until I reached adulthood.
The week before Christmas, a terrific snowstorm hits, and Betsy, Star, and their parents are snowbound, much to the girls' delight. There are snowmen to be built, Christmas presents to be made, and a tree to be decorated.

Not only was Betsy's family snowbound, but that also took in a mother and her little boy who became stranded in the neighborhood.

I can remember making birdfeeding cups out of orange rinds and peanut butter just like Betsy and Star. I laughed so hard reading about the popcorn they tried to "dry out" in the oven, only to have popped corn all over the kitchen. I also remember making snow angels for the first time after reading how Betsy and her friends made them.

And when Christmas finally arrived, everyone received homemade gifts because it was impossible to get to the store to buy gifts. The children made new objects out of old objects they found in the attic. This has always been my inspiration for making homemade gifts every year for the holidays.

Snowbound with Betsy was written the year I was born 1962. When my older girls were little, I bought the newer "paperback" version of this book, but I really missed the original cover. When my youngest daughter was four, I was able to find a vintage copy of Snowbound on eBay - with the cover I remembered and loved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Ruby Key

The Ruby Key (Moon & Sun series) by Holly Lisle

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Orchard Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545000122
ISBN-13: 978-0545000123
Mankind is Sunkind
And rules by the light;
Sunrise to sunset,
No less, and no more.
Nightlings are moonkind
And rule in the night;
Sun's set to sunrise,
Or there will be war.

This is Lisle's first youth fantasy fiction and I was hooked from the first chapter. This book is a mixture of humans, who live by the sun, and nightlings, who live by the moon.

Two human children, Genna and her young brother Dan, set out on a journey to help save their mother, who is very sick. In searching for the “tree sap” that will cure her illness, they meet the nightling, Yarri, who is trying to save her people from slavery.

Different from the Harry Potter books, but in the same vein, I recommend this to children and adults alike. The world Lisle has created is truly believable and full of enchanting characters. The next book in the series is The Silver Door.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Stoneheart (The Stoneheart Trilogy #1) by Charlie Fletcher

Reading level: children/young adult
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Hyperion Book
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1423101758
ISBN-13: 978-1423101758
"On a school trip to the Natural History Museum in London, a 12-year-old loner named George is banished for something he didn't do. Angry, he lashes out and breaks off a dragon's head carved onto the wall of the museum. Next thing he knows, a pterodactyl carving comes to life and begins to chase him."

And so begins George's adventures in "unLondon." He is soon chased by many fanciful creatures come alive from stone statues. He first encounters Gunner, a statue of a World War I soldier, who helps to save the boy from the pterodactyl. The pair soon meet up with Edie, a "glint" with the power to see the past.

In order for George to go back to the London he knows, the London where stone statues don't come to life, he must return the broken dragon's head to the Stone Heart. Gunner and Edie, plus a cast of other characters, help George in achieving his objective.

In the beginning of the book, George is feeling sorry for himself because his father is dead and his mother barely has time for him. Edie is portrayed as a cold-hearted survivor who has always looked after herself. But during the course of their adventures through the unusual streets of London, their characters start to evolve.

Some of the other interesting characters from the book are the Sphinxes who only give answers in riddles, the Clocker who continually marks the time, the Black Friar who tells them where the Stone Heart is, the Walker who is pure evil incarnate and the Minotaur who is part bull, part human and all bad. We also get glimpses of dragons and gargoyles. Fletcher has turned a collection of the actual statues around London into an astonishing assortment of personalities and monsters.

Although marketed to children and young adults, I don't think I would recommend this for younger children mainly because of some of the scary and dangerous situations George and Edie encounter, but I highly recommend it for older children and teenagers, as well as adults like me who love young adult books. This is the first book in the Stoneheart Trilogy and as soon as I put the last period on this post, I'm ready to start Ironhand, the next book in the series. The final book is entitled Silvertongue.

Charlie Fletcher is a British author and screenwriter. Stoneheart was shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award in 2007. There is a movie in development for release in 2010.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Stolen by Vivian Vande Velde

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 158 pages
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corp
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0761455159
ISBN-13: 978-0761455158

This is the first book of Velde's I have read and I found myself enjoying the story line. Isabelle is a young girl who has no memory of who she is. The story begins with Isabelle running in the forest with a pack of hunting dogs tight on her heels. Just when she thinks the dogs will be the death of her, she pulled into unconsciousness. Then she awakens she finds she has been taken in by a peasant family - Avis and Browley - and their young daughter, Ravyn.

Ravyn is a six year old who is determined Isabelle was a Princess stolen away by the legendary witch from the forest. Apparently this witch has been stealing away young children for many years - the children are never seen or heard from again. Ravyn enjoys weaving a new life for Isabelle out of her curious imagination.

Just when Isabelle is starting to feel comfortable with the peasant family, another family appears, claiming she is their daughter who was stolen away six years earlier. This poor family had recently has a second child stolen away, a newborn only one months old. The mother is determined that the young girl is her daughter, Isabelle, but the oldest daughter, Honey, is convinced this girl is not her long lost sister.

But all is not what it seems with Isabelle's "supposed" family and she begins to wonder if they are claiming her in order to gain an inheritance from a rich aunt, whom Isabelle is named after.

This book has a happy ending, but not the ending I was anticipating. Just when I thought I knew how the story would end, Velde gives the story an unusual twist.

This small book - 158 pages - was a different kind of young adult book and I read it in one sitting. Not your normal young adult fantasy book, this story is more along the lines of the wonderful fairy tales I read as a child. Stolen has increased my desire to read other books by Vivian Vande Velde.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Fablehaven #4) by Brandon Mull

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606410423
ISBN-13: 978-1606410424

The long awaited 4th book in the Fablehaven series has finally arrived and I practically gobbled it up in one sitting. While at home for winter break, Kendra finds herself in mortal danger from the evil Spinx - the leader of the Society of the Evening Star.

Kendra and Seth soon find themselves back with their grandparents at Fablehaven - an animal perserve for magical creatures. Because Kendra is "fairykind" - kissed by the fairies - she is the only one who is able to decipher the clues from Patton's secret jounal that will lead them to a hidden artifact the Spinx is determined to steal.

Will the Knights of the Dawn be able to safely enter the dragon sanctuary to recover the artifact before the Spinx? Does Seth continue to disobey the rules? Has Vanessa really changed her ways? Is there really a spy at Fablehaven?

This book is full of non-stop action and children of all ages will enjoy this fantasy adventure.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (March 19, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 067001110X
ISBN-13: 978-0670011100

"I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through."

Anderson’s lyrical prose sets the stage for an uncomfortable “teenage” topic – the world of anorexia and eating disorders.

Lia had a very competitive relationship with her best friend, Cassie, until Cassie died from anorexia. But not even Cassie’s death could stop Lia’s downward spiral into the dangerous world of eating disorders.

Full of low self-esteem and shallow self-worth, this may be a hard book for some to read, but I think it is an important book because it shines a light on the destructive world of eating disorders. Written in a "diary" format - with crossed out words and sentences - parents should feel free to read and discuss this book with their teenaged daughters.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Hardcover: 944 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0684824906
ISBN-13: 978-0684824901

For a political junkie, reading Goodwin’s books are like reading poetry and Team of Rivals is no different. This is not just another book on Abraham Lincoln – this book focuses on Lincoln’s leadership style and his insightful understanding of human behavior and motivation.

Goodwin shows us Lincoln’s political genius by looking at three men in his cabinet – all of them opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860 – William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. All three men had been humiliated by losing the election to a “backwoods” lawyer from Illinois.

Lincoln was able to persuade these men to join his administration and he eventually earned their admiration and respect. Seward became Secretary of State, Chase became Secretary of the Treasury and Bates was the Attorney General.

At over 900 pages, this book is not for the faint of heart, but if you love reading political history, it is an excellent view into an often ignored component of the Lincoln administration.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Betsy's Little Star

Betsy's Little Star by Carolyn Haywood was first published in 1950.

One of my favorites of the entire series, it was difficult to find a "vintage" cover of the book I remember. Betsy's Little Star has been out of print for many years, but the newer paperback books are still readily available.

This story features Betsy's little sister - Star - who at four years old is too young to go to school. Illustrated with black and white drawings by the author, Star has to deal with her emotions of being much younger than Betsy. But soon Star will turn five years old and will be heading off to kindergarten.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Lost Symbol

Random House' Doubleday imprint will release THE LOST SYMBOL, the long awaited next novel from Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, on Deptember 15th. The book will have a five million-copy first printing. Read the entire article at Publishers Weekly.

The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes #1)

The Family Trade (#1 in The Merchant Princes series) by Charles Stross

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765309297
ISBN-13: 978-0765309297

The Merchant Princes series are alternate history, science fiction stories. Miriam Beckstein is a journalist whose mother died when she was a baby. Now an adult, her adoptive grandmother has given her a box of heirlooms which once belonged to her birth mother. A family locket transports Miriam to a parallel world that never developed beyond the Dark Ages.

This book had a truly unusual concept and it was a pleasure to read, but you don’t have to love science fiction to enjoy this read. The next two books in the series are: The Hidden Family and The Clan Corporate.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - "B" is for Betsy

When Carolyn Haywood (1898 - 1990) published "B" is for Betsy in 1939, she probably didn't think that 70 years later, several generations of children would have enjoyed - and are still enjoying - a little girl named Betsy. I loved Betsy - she is the reason I love to read because I got started with all her books. Betsy lived a very normal life, and I tried hard to mimick her very action.

In this first book, Betsy is scared about going to first grade, but it turns out school is a great place. She learns about tadpoles and the true meaning of Thanksgiving, makes new friends, and has more fun than she'd ever imagined.

I was 7 years old and in the second grade when my favorite librarian, Miss Gash, recommended "B is for Betsy". After I finished the book, I proceeded to check out the other books in the series. Even though the stories are slightly outdated, the appeal of Betsy and her friends transcend time. I read these books to my daughters, and I plan to read them to my grandchildren as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Lake That Stole Children

The Lake That Stole Children: A Fable by Douglas Glenn Clark

Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1438243588
ISBN-13: 978-1438243580
"The Lake That Stole Children blends the magic of Disney's Pinocchio with the magnificent quest of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. It begins with a sensitive boy's deep yearning for adventure. It concludes only after his fierce and protective father has gone to battle with a frightening force of nature - and himself."

This tiny book was a very quick read - less than an hour - but it was reminiscent of fables and stories I remember from my childhood. The story is about a Fisherman who is somewhat harsh with his son and daughter - heavy on the discipline, light on love and emotions.

When the Lake steals the Fisherman's only son, his zeal and determination to rescue, not only his son, but all the children captured by the lake, shines a different light on his character and his heartfelt emotions come shining through.

Full of descriptive and delightful prose, this fable begs to be read aloud. Although marketed to young adults, children of all ages will enjoy will enjoy hearing this story and will marvel at the important lesson the Fisherman learns.

**Douglas Glenn Clark has been the subject of feature stories in various New England and Midwestern newspapers. He has also written for the theater and his plays have been produced at the Old Globe Theatre, as well as the Chester Theatre Company in the Berkshires. He has received writing awards from the Massachusetts and Michigan arts councils and his journalism has been published in daily newspapers, and online publications.**

Amazon Fail

I hate censorship! I don't think a certain group of people have the right to tell other people what books to read, what music to listen to or what television shows or movies to watch. Now, censorship has come to Amazon.Com - oh, the shame!! Amazon has started deleting books from the Amazon Rank database, which is going to make it much harder to find certain books on an Amazon search.

Amazon seems to be stripping the sales figures and accompanying rankings from GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) books, erotica, and romance novels, particularly those with what they term “adult content.”

I learned of this problem while reading Neil Gaiman's blog (a daily read for me). Here is his link plus two more:

Neil Gaiman

Making Light

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Although I love buying books on Amazon BECAUSE of their huge selection, if this problem isn't corrected soon, I will have to look elsewhere for my books.

Until Amazon corrects this problem, I will no longer be using the Amazon Assoicate Links for the books and movies I review.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Courage in Patience

(Edited to add: To read the first chapter of Beth Fehlbaum's wonderful book, Courage in Patience, check out her blog at Courage in Patience.)

Courage in Patience: A Story of Hope for Those Who Have Endured Abuse by Beth Fehlbaum

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Kunati Inc.
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601641567
ISBN-13: 978-1601641564

Although this book is a story about surviving sexual abuse and the traumatic outcomes, there is more to this book than meets the eye. It is a story of healing and self-acceptance and empathy in a sometimes cruel world. I like how Fehlbaum used the town of Patience, Texas as an inspirational theme for the title of the book. We truly learn how one character courageously persevered in Patience.

14-year-old Ashley Asher endured six years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from her stepfather before having the courage to confide to her mother about this dark secret. But instead of loving support, her mother turns her back on Ashley, and chooses not to believe what is happening right before her eyes. When Ashley then confides in a teacher, the teacher arranges to have the traumatized girl sent her to live with her estranged biological father.

Surprisingly, although the father is full of guilt for abandoning Ashley as a child, it is the stepmother who accepts Ashley with open arms and tries to ease her transition into a new family. I like the way Fehlbaum uses the stepmother's summer English class as a template for healing. Using Chris Crutcher's book, IRONMAN, emotional issues like fear, racism, bullying, censorship and intolerance are discussed and dealt with in present day terms.

This book is a fast-paced read and I literally devoured each page. Fearing this would be another one of the "abuse books" dealing with the physical implications of abuse, I was surprised and delighted when Fehlbaum's focus was more on the emotional turmoil of abuse. She has given us believable characters and addressed them in a thoughtful caring manner.

I highly recommend this book, not only to victims of abuse or even family and friends of abuse victims, but to anyone wanting to read an inspirational story of survival and tenacity.

Beth Fehlbaum, an experienced English teacher, drew on her experiences as a teacher and as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to craft the fictional story of a teen girl's first foray into recovery from sexual abuse. Visit her official website @ Beth Fehlbaum

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Horrid Henry Redux

Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy by Francesca Simon; illustrated by Tony Ross

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402222750
ISBN-13: 978-1402222757
"When Perfect Peter's tooth falls out, Henry gets a great idea. He will steal the tooth and put it under his own pillow so that the Tooth Fairy gives him the reward instead of Peter. Will the Tooth Fairy fall for it?"
Horrid Henry is a fictional character created by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross. The first Horrid Henry was written and published in 1994 and as of the end of 2008, there have been sixteen titles published, as well as numerous collections, activity books and joke books.

Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy is the 3rd book in the continuing tales of Henry and his family and friends. This book contains the following stories: "Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy," "Horrid Henry's Wedding," "Moody Margaret Moves In," and "Horrid Henry's New Teacher."
Margaret spying on his treasures, sleeping in his bed, playing with his toys while he had to share a room with Peter ...
and so begins my favorite story of this book. Moody Margaret lives next door to Horrid Henry and she will be spending two weeks with Henry's family while her own family is on vacation. Will this be the beginning of World War III? Moody Margaret does not like Horrid Henry and Horrid Henry does not like Moody Margaret. But Henry's parents soon learn that Margaret and Henry are cut from the same cloth.


Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb by Francesca Simon; illustrated by Tony Ross

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Language: English
ISBN-10: 140221779X
ISBN-13: 978-1402217791
Horrid Henry and Moody Margaret are a perfect pair. Henry has a secret club tht doesn't allow girls in. Margaret has a secret club just for girls. And both Henry and Margaret love to play pranks. But with Perfect Peter and Sour Susan acting as spies, which secret club will win?
Horrid Henry’s Stinkbomb has the following stories: "Horrid Henry Reads a Book," "Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb," "Horrid Henry's School Project," and "Horrid Henry's Sleepover."

In my favorite story, "Horrid Henry's Stinkbomb", Henry uses a stinkbomb as a toxic weapon in his war with Moody Margaret. When Perfect Peter is "fired" from Horrid Henry's secret club and Soar Susan is "fired" from Moody Margaret's secret club, the two ban together to seek their revenge. Typical childhood pranks, this story had me laughing out loud.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Horrid Henry

Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon; illustrated by Tony Ross

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1402217757
ISBN-13: 978-1402217753
"What are we going to do about that horrid boy?" sighed Mom.
"How did two people as nice as us have such a horrid boy?" sighed Dad.
And so begins the horrid tales of Henry. As a mother who enjoys reading "The Adventures of Captain Underpants," I jumped at the chance to read this funny children's series. A #1 best-selling chapter book series in the UK, "Horrid Henry" is written by an American author, Francesca Simon, and is illustrated by Tony Ross.

Each Horrid Henry book contains four funny short stories about Henry and his friends and family. Stories in this first book include: "Horrid Henry's Perfect Day," "Horrid Henry's Dance Class," "Horrid Henry and Moody Margaret" (my favorite story in the book) and "Horrid Henry's Holiday."

With people like Moody Margaret, Perfect Peter, Spotless Sam, Goody-Goody Gordon, Soar Susan, Tidy Ted, and Horrid Henry's favorite teddy bear, Mr. Kill, children will identify with these characters and see themselves with new eyes.

The first 4 books in this wonderful series are being released this week in the United States and are expected to be as popular as they are in the UK. Elementary school age children, and their parents, should love these books, and the easy to read print and words make these the perfect first reader chapter books.


Horrid Henry and the Mega-mean Time Machine by Francesca Simon; illustrated by Tony Ross

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1842550691
ISBN-13: 978-1842550694
Horrid Hentry invents a time machine and promises to send his brother, Perfect Peter, to the future (as soon as Peter puts on one of Mom's dresses). But when Peter gets there, it isn't exactly what he had in mind In fact, evertying kind of looks the same ..."
In the continuing tales of Horrid Henry, this second book contains the following stories: "Horrid Henry's Hike," "Horrid Henry and the Mega-mean Time Machine," "Perfect Peter's Revenge," and "Horrid Henry Dines at Restaurant Le Posh."

Following the tale of Horrid Henry's little brother, Peter, I was laughing out loud at both boy's antics. Poor Perfect Peter, having to put up with a brother like Horrid Henry. This time he swears Henry will never trick him again.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thirst for Knowledge

My youngest daughter has a thirst for historical knowledge like no other 16 year old I've ever met. She must have inherited this gene from her dad, because despite the random knowledge crowding my brain, I've never had an intense desire for history.

Last night she came home from a shopping trip to Lexington with a friend and she literally bounced through the front door.

"You'll never believe what book I found!" Well, of course, I could have guessed all night because her wish list of books is probably twice as long as mine.

"I found "Mein Kampf" - can you believe it?" For those of you who don't know, "Mein Kampf" is a book dictated by Adolf Hitler. The title translates to "my struggle" and it is an autobiography of Hitler's political ideology. She has been wanting this book for over a year now.

"You don't think I'm a Nazi, do you?" I had to laugh because she was so serious.

"No, I don't think you're a Nazi. I know you just want to learn more. What did ******'s mom say when you bought it?"

"Oh, I told her I wasn't a Nazi, but she did look at me funny."

My daughter, she is truly a unique individual.

Maybe I can talk her into doing a review after she reads the book...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Anita Blake Comes to Television

Yessssssss - I'm squealing like a little girl and I just can't help it. My favorite fictional author, Laurell K. Hamilton, is going to have her famous Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter book series adapted on the small screen!!! Happy Dance, Happy Dance!!!

IFC announced:
" has greenlit its first original event telefilm, “Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter,” based on Hamilton’s series of best-selling paranormal fantasy novels and produced by Lionsgate and After Dark Films. Adapted by Glen Morgan (X-Files, Final Destination), who also serves as executive producer, the movie begins production this summer... Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter marks the first time in IFC tv’s history that we have created a fictional feature film for the network."