"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

25 August 2010


Fog, like ivy, curls and grasps and reaches,
Curling tendrils around corners,
Stealing warmth and light by degrees.

Fog slithers stealthily as a garden snake
and oozes like snow drunk on spring sunshine.

Fog transforms familiar haunts to
silhouetted memories

And leaves no paw prints.

Vanishing Acts

Picoult, Jodi. Vanishing Acts. New York: Washington Square Press, 2005.

What would you do if you came home one day to find that your father had been arrested for kidnapping you twenty-eight years ago, and your mother, far from dead as you had been told, is alive and waiting to meet you? Delia Hopkins works with the police on search-and-rescue missions, but now she has to do some rescuing of her own, and she has to decide whom to trust and what to believe after so many years of lies.

I enjoyed the plot twists in this story, and Picoult's habit of telling a story from several points of view was not nearly as disorienting as it was when I read My Sister's Keeper. The subplots and layers of information enticed me to keep reading, and I found myself done with this book far sooner than I had expected. This book would be an excellent beach read or rainy day read.

23 August 2010


Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

Occasionally a child is born who develops two different colored eyes. These children, the Graced, are immediately given to the king as his property, as each Graced child will exhibit a different talent or special gift. Those whose gifts are useful to the king will serve him for the rest of their lives. Those whose talents the king finds useless will be sent back to their homes. In either case, their eyes and their gifts set the Graced apart from the rest of the world.

Enter Katsa, a young lady graced with amazing survival skills. She has been serving the Middlun king as his henchman since she was a child. But Katsa begins to realize that her Grace will allow her to do good as well, to fight the injustice in the world. Little does Katsa know that an ordinary quest to save an old man will turn her world upside down, forcing her to choose between what is right and what is easy as she helps those closest to her.

This was an excellently written fantasy story. I enjoyed the fantastic elements of the story, and I appreciated the concept of people "graced" with abilities above and beyond that of the average human being. The plot twists genuinely surprised me at times. I could barely put the book down, and I finished the last page definitely hungry for more.

HOWEVER ... I have to add one caveat. The LA Times likens this book to the Twilight series, and they had good reason to do so. The romantic subplot of the story is a necessary evil I may not prefer, but am willing to endure for the sake of the main storyline. However, every author or producer knows that it is possible to "shut the door," so to speak, on a particular scene and leave out any graphic details. Readers are not stupid people, and they can generally figure out what has happened once the curtain falls or the lights dim.

Sadly, on at least one occaion Cashore fails to do this. Just because teenagers are interested in, are thinking about, or are actively involved in sexual activity does not mean that the adults around them should expose them to such thoughts. This would have been an excellent book, a book to put on my classroom shelf, without that one scene. If only there were someone out there who would write clean, good fiction for teens, something not preachy, but with a good worldview.

20 August 2010

Captured By Grace

Jeremiah, Dr. David. Captured By Grace. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006

Using examples from the life and writings of the Apostle Paul and hymnwriter John Newton, Dr. Jeremiah explains the need for grace in the lives of believers. The book is separated into three sections - past, present, and future needs for grace - and each chapter is subtitled by a line from Newton's hymn "Amazing Grace." The reader learns more about the lives of Paul and John Newton through the historical tidbits scattered throughout each chapter, and each chapter also includes a thorough discussion of passages from the book of Romans. The chapters all end with a section for personal application.

It took me a while to get into this book. The first section contained a lot of information that I had heard or learned already, and it wasn't presented in a way that made me want to keep reading. The personal applications seemed very cheesy and Hallmark-y and not very productive. I appreciated the second section more, but only for the one - only one - thought I stumbled upon: "We fall for one of the devil's greates lies when we assume that our human limitations make any difference to the workings of God through us." This is a great thought, and I am still working on digesting it.

Overall, however, I was not that impressed with this book. I prefer Blackaby's book Putting a Face on Grace to this particular book. The applications were not that applicable, and the historical information could be more easily digested in other formats. If I were house sitting and had to choose between this book and a Janette Oke novel, I'd be torn. And that, my friends, is saying something.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review.

12 August 2010

The Language of Secrets

Dixon, Dianne. The Language of Secrets. New York: Double Day, 2010.

Newly married, Justin is bringing his wife and son back to visit his parents, whom he has not seen in many years. He follows a trail from the house where he grew up, to a nursing home, to his sister's home, where she slams the door in his face, and finally to a graveyard, where he sees three headstones: one for his father, one for his mother, and one for himsellf. Thus begins a journey were Justin searches for answers to the impossible: how could he be dead already?

This was an interesting story, with enough plot twists to keep me reading. I can relate to the protagonist's idea of seeing his personal history "like looking at a piece of black paper with holes punched in it." He only has a few scattered memories of toddlerhood and then his life as a college student. Everything else between is blank, until he begins to have flashbacks, flashbacks that don't add up, don't make sense, until he puts all the pieces together.

I enjoyed reading Justin's journey to discovery as his chapters, with a modern setting, alternated with chapters of his history. I also appreciated how Justin was able to disprove the theme of the story: "Home was the place in which you were rooted by your beginnings, in which you were locked by your earliest consciousness. It marked and branded you. And if it was a broken, desolate place . . . it would leave you hungry and dangerous, and punished, for the rest of your life" (218). Justin chose to break this cycle. He chose not to be hungry, dangerous, punished, or trapped for the rest of his life.

10 August 2010


Larkin, Allie. Stay. New York: Penguin Group, 2010.

I am a cat person, not a dog person, so I am not sure what initially attracted me to this book. Perhaps all this time staying in the house of two dog lovers has convinced me that dogs are worth the barking, the walks, the pooper scoopers, and the drool. Maybe.

In any case, this is a cute story. The main character, Van, falls apart after her best friend married Van had loved since the day she met him. In the middle of the night, after watching a marathon of Rin Tin Tin, she orders a dog online. She expect a cute, tiny puppy. What she got was a very large puppy who only responded to commands in Slovak.

The rest of the story is fairly predictable. She takes the overlarge puppy to the vet, discovers that the vet is a handsome single man, you get the picture. But it's a cute story, and it actually held my interest past the time I spent at the laundromat. Apart from the profanity spoken by angry or drunk characters, the story itself was enjoyable. This book would be a good airplane or beach read.

09 August 2010

Liars All

Bannister, Jo. Liars All. New York: Minotaur, 2009.

A tragic car accident. A missing necklace. A local mobster. An infant with an incurable disease. This book has enough twists and sub-plots to keep anyone's brain whirring. This mystery was more interesting than Laughed 'Till He Died. I enjoyed the British setting and the twists in the plot, especially toward the end. Many authors, myself included, have a wretched end game. It is very difficult to write the last chapter of a book - the problems are all solved, the characters are well-known, all the loose ends are tied up. But this book had a satisfying ending, and not one that dragged out long after the denouement, either. I will probably see if the public library has any more books by this author.

Laughed 'Til He Died

Hart, Carolyn. Laughed 'Til He Died. New York: William Morrow, 2010.

Two people have died. All the evidence points to the one person who could not possibly, would not possibly, have done it. So who's to blame?

This is a great beach read. A harmless mystery, not very suspensful, fairly free of anything objectionable. I like mysteries, but I usually appreciate a little more suspense than I found in this book. I probably won't read any of the others in the series, but it was a harmless enough book.

04 August 2010

The Best Kind of Different

Schilling, Shonda. The Best Kind of Different: Our Family's Journey with Asperger's Syndrome. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

I was drawn to this book because of the immense popularity of diagnoses in the autism spectrum recently. Similar to the ADHD craze of a decade ago, it seems many children are now being diagnosed with Asperger's or some flavor of autism. This is not to say that any of these diagnoses is ingenuine; I simply find it interesting that a disease no one knew about before is now so incredibly common.

Sections of this book were very interesting to me. I enjoyed reading about Grant and his behavior before and after the diagnosis. I enjoyed learning how the family chose to accommodate for Grant and how Grant related to his classmates and teammates. Other parts of the story were not as interesting to me, but would definitely be interesting to anyone who likes baseball, particularly if that person is a fan of the Boston Red Sox.

This book was a good read and a quick read. If I once again find myself in a classroom situation, I am certain I will need to use my limited knowledge of Asperger's to better understand the children I teach.

The Indifferent Stars Above

Brown, Daniel. The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride. New York: Harper, 2009.

Before I am attacked for reading a book about the infamous Donner party, let me start by saying this: this book is not gruesome, and it doesn't actually focus that much on the unfortunate choices the Donner party had to make when they were trapped. The focus is more on the trip itself, the culture of that time, the mistakes leading up to being trapped in the snow, the weather conditions that year, etc. etc. It is actually a very interesting read. I enjoyed the bits of letters and other original documents that were quoted throughout this book. It isn't a happy book, per se, but it is interesting.

02 August 2010

Streams of Babel

Plum-Ucci, Carol. Streams of Babel. New York: Harcourt, 2008.

In this novel, terrorists are planning an attack on the United States, but they must start small and test their methods. They inject a bioagent into the water supply to a small neighborhood. However, they didn't count on most people drinking bottled water, and they didn't count on two teen hackers catching on to their scheme.

This book is told from several different points of view and was an entertaining and interesting read. There are a few incidents of bad language, but it is not rife with obscenities like a James Patterson book. I especially enjoyed the chapters told from the point of Shazhad, a Pakistani teen who is sent to the United States to aid in catching the criminals. Overall, this is a good read, but don't drink tap water while you're reading.