Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - The Secret of the Mansion

When I was a little girl, Trixie Belden was my hero. I loved reading these books over and over again. My babysitter's daughter was the one who got me hooked on Trixie Belden and I could lose myself for hours in the adventures of Trixie and the Bob-Whites (a club formed by Trixie, her brothers, and her friends). I owned the original 16 books, the Whitman 1970s hardcover editions, and these were my pride and joy as a youngster.

After I married, my collection of Trixie books was given to a neighbor girl. I had reservations about giving them away, but my neighbor was so excited to read them. When I had girls of my own, I really missed those books, so I started to buy the new paperback versions of the books.

As a surprise to me, my wonderful hubby found me the first 16 books, in the original hardback covers I had as a child. I was so exited to have these books in my possession again. Now, I can't wait to read them to my grandchildren.

Because of my love for Trixie, I've decided to start a new segment here on Bobbi's Book Nook and I'm calling it Way Back Wednesday. I'm going to do reviews of the Trixie Belden books from my past. Today I'm starting with the very first book in the series, The Secret of the Mansion.

The Secret of the Mansion - 1948
by Julie Campbell

The book opens with thirteen-year-old Trixie begging her mother for a horse. Her two older brothers - Brian and Mart - are away at camp for the summer and Trixie is stuck on the family farm with her younger brother Bobby. The Belden family - who live on Crabapple Farm - can't afford a horse, so Trixie is trying to save all her money. I could relate to Trixie because I wanted a horse so badly when I was younger, but never had the opportunity to go riding.

Trixie is excited when people start moving into the mansion on the hill - and a horse trailer is seen unloading horses! The Wheelers, a wealthy family from New York City, are moving into the mansion with their teenaged daughter, Honey.

At first, tomboy Trixie thinks Honey is a stuckup sissy, but they soon become fast friends. Trixie realizes that Honey really is a "poor little rich girl." Honey's parents are never home, and she has grown up in boarding schools, camps and with governesses. Trixie helps her new friend overcome these things.

Later in the book, we learn another of Trixie's neighbors has been taken to the hospital. Trixie uses this chance to explore the old man's rundown old mansion. Trixie and Honey climb inside an unlocked window to look around. They are shocked to find a tall, redheaded boy asleep on a mattress!

The boy turns out to be Jim Frayne, the old man's grand-nephew, and he is running away from his abusive stepfather. The three become friends, and the girls start smuggling food up to the mansion for Jim. Local rumors say the old man hid his money somewhere in the house. Honey and Jim are doubtful, but Trixie is sure the money is there somewhere, if only they could find it before Jim's evil stepfather comes looking for him. I can remember having strong feelings of dislike for this evil stepfather. Up until this point, I had only read about wicked step-mothers.

Eventually, the stepfather does come looking for Jim after a newspaper article appeared, telling of a jet crashing near Sleepyside-on-Hudson (Trixie's home town); the newspaper also features the legend of the old man's fortune.

The very night the article appears in the newspaper, Jim's stepfather shows up. Mysteriously, the mansion catches fire and burns to the ground. When Trixie and Honey go to the old house the next morning to visit Jim, they find him gone.

Jim has run away again ... this time with a half million dollars! The money had been hidden in the mattress Jim had been sleeping on all the time! Trixie and Honey are confronted by the stepfather's lawyer who asks them to track Jim down for him. This story is continued in The Red Trailer Mystery.

Full of thrills, chills and mystery, The Secret of the Mansion is the book that started my fascination with the world of Trixie Belden.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Raising Arizona

Raising Arizona is a 1987 comedy directed by the Coen Brothers. Now, before I start, I must say I'm not a fan of the Coem Brothers - mainly because of all the "potty humor" - but I do enjoy this movie and it always makes me laugh.

The movie stars Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, William Forsythe, John Goodman, Frances McDormand and Randall "Tex" Cobb. Although Raising Arizona was not a blockbuster at the time of its release, it has gone on to a cult following. The movie is ranked number 31 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Laughs.

Cage plays criminal Herbert I. "Hi" McDunnough who meets a policewoman Edwina "Ed" (Hunter) - the eventually get married, making a hilarious "odd couple." They soon learn Ed is infertile and find they are unable to adopt because of Hi's criminal record.

While watching the news one night, they learn about the "Arizona Quints," sons of locally famous furniture tycoon, Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson). Between Hi's criminal techniques and Ed's knowledge of the law, they kidnap one of the five babies - Nathan Junior.

From here on, the story is one funny ride. When ex-convict friends of Hi's decide to steal the baby from Hi and Ed and hold him for ransom from Arizona, the couple decides to return the baby to his family, where they hope he will be safe.

Favorite quotes:

[During Hi's mug shot]
Hi: What kind of name is Ed for a pretty thing like you?
Ed: Short for Edwina. Turn to the right.
Hi: You're a flower, you are. Just a little desert flower.

Hi: Biology and the prejudices of others conspired to keep us childless.

Hi: Need a beer, Glen?
Glen: Does the Pope wear a funny hat?

[Evelle is buying diapers]
Evelle: You know how to put these things on?
Grocer: Well, around the butt and up over the groin area.
Evelle: I know WHERE they go, old timer. I just want to know if I need pins or fasteners.
Grocer: Well, no, they got them tape-ettes already on there. It's self-contained and fairly explanatory.

Reporter: Mr. Arizona, do you have any messages for the kidnappers?
Nathan Arizona Sr.: Yeah: Watch your butts.

Ed: We finally go out with decent people and you break his nose. That ain't too funny, Hi.
Hi: His kids seemed to think it was funny.
Ed: Well they're just kids.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


CROWNED by Ellen Hagan

Publication Date: January 2010
Publisher: Sawyer House Press
Format: Paperback, 110pp
ISBN-13: 9780982156025
ISBN: 0982156022

I was first introduced to the work of Kentucky writer, Ellen Hagan, when my daughter had her as a creative writing teacher during the Governor's School of the Arts 2009. Hagan's words bleed off the pages and each one has a deliberate bite that makes you stand up and take notice.

Born and raised in Bardstown, Kentucky, this talented poet now resides in New York City. CROWNED is her debut collection of poetry and will be available January 28, 2009.

This slim volume is a powerful collection of poems spanning Hagan's life from birth to the present. One of my favorites is "Baby" - it is a painful look at the range of emotions a daughter can put a mother through. Being the mother of three grown daughters, this one struck me square in the heart.
"At one I made my mom exquisite ..."
In "Reign" she also gives the reader a raw look at a little girl becoming a woman - again, something I have copious experience with.
"A new luxury of woman, a new thing to own."
"IV" details how a life can change in an instance.
"I am different than I was five months ago."
Heartbreak can lead to an alien range of emotions you never thought you would feel.

Not all of her poems take on a personal tone, several actually touch on pop culture as in "Dear Chris Brown" and "Dis-Missle" (dedicated to Sarah Palin). She uses powerful words to sharpen her point and drive the meaning home.

Hagan is passionate when writing about the loves of her life, especially when writing about her mom. Many of the entries revolve around her maternal parent and the love oozes off the pages.

Hagan's writing is fearless and clear, truthful to a fault. She has done what many writers can never achieve in a lifetime - taken an imperfect life full of splinters and defects and turned it into a life changing experience. If you love raw, candid poetry, CROWNED is a book you should not miss.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

This week, I am reviewing my very favorite Christmas book. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

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.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorites of 2009

As 2009 draws to a close, I've been looking back on the books I have read this year - so far 141 books and counting!

But it's not the number of books I've read this year that has caught my attention, it is the type of book and the subject matter. For some reason, 2009 has turned into the year of escapism reading for me - nothing too in depth, with the bulk of my reading in the Young Adult category.

Here are my top 12 books of 2009:

  1. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

  2. Under the Dome by Stephen King

  3. **Graceling by Kristin Cashore

  4. The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

  5. The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

  6. **Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins

  7. **Prophecy of the Sisters (Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy, book #1) by Michelle Zink

  8. **Eli the Good by Silas House

  9. **The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

  10. **The Ruby Key (The Sun and Moon series) by Holly Lisle
  11. **Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Fablehaven #4) by Brandon Mull

  12. **Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman

As you can see, **8** of my 12 favorite books are Young Adults. Of the other 4, one is about magic, one is about vampires, one is about the witness relocation program and one is about the alien takeover of a small town. Just a little "light" reading to take my mind off my problems.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

KINDLE Giveaway


This is the last week to participate in Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesday before his big giveaway of a KINDLE. Get your book reviews linked up for a chance to win!

Way Back Wednesday - A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol (full title, A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being A Ghost Story of Christmas) is a novella by English author Charles Dickens

This book was first published in December 1843 and quickly became a commercial success and won critical acclaim. The story has been credited with returning the holiday to one of merriment and festivity throughout Britain and America. A Christmas Carol remains popular, has never been out of print - it has been adapted to film, opera, and other media.

Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly, cold, unfeeling, old man who denounces Christmas. In one last attempt to redeem his soul, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve seven years after the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley. The ghost of Marley is the first to appear before Scrooge and warns him that his soul will be bearing heavy chains for eternity if he does not change his greedy ways. Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by 3 more ghosts.

The first, The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to the scenes of his boyhood and youth which stir the old skinflint's gentle and tender side. The Ghost of Christmas Present, takes Scrooge to the market with people buying the makings of Christmas dinner and to the family feast of Scrooge's near-impoverished clerk Bob Crachit. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge his impending death.

I'm sure most of you have watched some version of A Christmas Carol on television or at the movies, but you are missing a treat if you have never read the book. Why not check it out this year with your family? It could be the start of a new Christmas tradition for your family.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Courtship of Reason

Sheri L Wright's new book by Finishing Line Press is available for pre-order - THE COURTSHIP OF REASON. According to Sheri,
"This is my quirkiest book yet, lots of fun and unusual characters."
You need to check out this wonderful Kentucky poet. The book will be available March 26, 2010.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Horrid Henry's Christmas

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

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Language: English
ISBN-10: 140221782X
ISBN-13: 978-1402217821

If you have elementary aged children, I'm sure you have heard of Horrid Henry. This best selling chapter book series comes from the UK and debuted in the USA earlier this year. The books each contain 4 short stories, all centered around a mischievous little boy named Horrid Henry.

This book has elements of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever as Henry tries to become the star of the school Christmas play. Outraged because his younger brother, Perfect Peter, was given the star role in the play - Joseph - Henry is unhappy with his one-word role of the Inn Keeper. He tries every way in the world to get Mrs. Battle Axe - his teacher - to expand his role, but she is not budging from her decision. Hilarity ensues on opening night, when Henry can't remember his one-word line and starts to improv by inviting Joseph and Mary into the Inn!

The other 3 stories in the book build off this first one, and they are just as cleverly written. In true Henry fashion, he works very hard to do all his Christmas without spending any money, because what is Christmas if you have to spend all your allowance? Henry also conceives a plan make Santa Claus give him more presents for Christmas, and then he has to live through the worst Christmas dinner in history. Oh, and did I mention, Henry manages to destroy the Christmas tree?

Although these stories of Horrid Henry may make some parents cringe, his actions are so over-the-top you can't help but be intrigued by his naughtiness. The stories are short, so they make perfect bedtime reading, and your children may actually be proud of themselves because they could never be as Horrid as Henry!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TIME's Top 10 Everything

TIME Magazine has announced its Top 10 Everything for 2009 list:

Top 10 Fiction Books

  1. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  2. The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
  3. Swimming by Nicola Keegan
  4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins ***
  5. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
  6. Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer
  7. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
  8. Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell
  9. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  10. The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

Top 10 Children's Books

  1. Duck Rabbit by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
  2. Guess Again by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Adam Rex
  3. Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth by Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner
  4. Crow Call by Lois Lowry; illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
  5. Elephants Cannot Dance! by Mo Willems
  6. Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman
  7. How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
  8. Pick a Pumpkin, Mrs. Millie! by Judy Cox, illustrated by Joe Mathieu
  9. The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Carson Ellis; music (accompanying CD) by Nathaniel Stookey
  10. The Snow Day by Komako Sakai

Top 10 Nonfiction Books

  1. The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes
  2. D-Day by Antony Beevor
  3. Lit by Mary Karr
  4. Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
  5. The Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed
  6. Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna
  7. Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
  8. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
  9. Cooking Dirty by Jason Sheehan
  10. John Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey

***One of my favorite books of the year.

I will be compiling a list of my favorite books of 2009, so be looking for that in the near future.

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 has remained one of my favorite children's books.
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 they 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 her little sister, 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.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hunger Games Ending in Sight

Hunger Games fans have just 8 more months to wait: the as yet untitled third and final book in Suzanne Collins’s dystopian fantasy trilogy will be released in English worldwide on August 24, 2010. Read the entire press release at Publisher's Weekly.

If you have not read the first 2 books in the Hunger Games trilogy, I highly recommend them both. Check out my reviews on The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.


Ardeur: Unauthorized Essays on Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series edited by Leah Wilson

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: BenBella Books (April 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193377147X
ISBN-13: 978-1933771472

I am a daily reader of Hamilton's blog, but this is the first time I've heard about this book. Hamilton blogged today that she is working on intros for the book, so I talked to my friend Google and found it is already listed on Amazon. Something good to look for this spring!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Way Back Wednesday - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book #4) by J. K. Rowling

Believe it or not, I have a love-hate relationship with this book. I think the part I didn't like was the other 2 schools of magic - I thought it was too long and drawn out. And I missed the Quiddich matches! But the graveyard scene with Lord Voldemort - purely awesome!

Goblet of Fire is the 4th book in the Harry Potter series and was published in July 2000. I can vividly remember waiting in line at Walmart to buy this book. Goblet won a Hugo Award in 2001 and it is the only Harry Potter book to do so.

This book shows the beginnings of teenage misery and indecision. Although Harry, Ron and Hermione remain best friends, throughout the first section of the book, Ron rages around in a jealous snit because Harry was chosen to participate in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Ron believes Harry is lying when he tells everyone he did not enter the contest. Later, Ron realizes the truth and he is once again at Harry side. Later in the book, the green-eyed monsters rears its head again as Ron becomes jealous of Victor Krum because he is Hermione's date to the Yule Ball. Poor Ron, he just can't catch a break. Rowling has a unique way of showing the teenage drama wouldn't being obvious.

The storyline with Professor Moody/Barty Crouch, Jr. was brilliant! Just as I was shocked to discover that Scabbers was actually Peter Pettigrew in the 3rd book, finding out the true relationship between these 2 men caught me totally off guard - I just didn't see it coming.

Goblet is also the book where we realize that Ron may actually have feelings for Hermione that go beyond being best friends. I think this was a little foreshadowing on Rowling's part for the last books in the series.

I was pleased with the way this movie turned out, considering this was the biggest book to date. The movie manages to capture all the major plot points of the book.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Free Kindle Giveaway

Check out what Cym Lowell is giving away through his Book Review Party Review - a Kindle from Amazon!

Here are the rules:
1. Add a permalink to your specific post, not the main page of your blog (only one review per blog).
2. List the name of your blog and then in parenthesis include a little information about your book review (title and/or author, genre etc.) Be sure to use spaces and limit characters to 75. For example, Cym Lowell (The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, Thriller).
3. Become a follower of my blog
4. Every week that you link up a blog review, you will be eligible for the monthly prize drawing (each week = 1 entry, for up to 3 entries this month). Friday, December 18th I will announce the winner of the Kindle.

Deliverance Dane May Come to TV

Katherine Howe's bestseller "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane"- a novel about a young woman who realizes she descends from a long line of witches dating back to 1692 Salem - is being written for a TV series. This is one of my favorite books from 2009 so I'm keeping my fingers crossed this will really happen!