Thursday, June 28, 2007

Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton

soul-surfer.jpg   or_star_42.gif1/2  Great autobiography - inspirational story


Bethany had it all:  she was the all-American beautiful blonde teen who lived in sunny Hawaii.  To top it off, she was gaining recognition and awards for her surfing skills.  Bethany even had companies willing to pay her to sponsor their products. 


Everything in Bethany's life changes when she was 13 years old.  Bethany goes to the beach with her family and her best friend.  While surfing the waves, Bethany suddenly feels a tug and sharp pain.  She has been attacked by a shark!  Bethany looks down and sees her arm is missing.


Against all odds, Bethany survives the attack, but her arm is lost forever.  Despite the horrific accident, Bethany is determined she will surf again. 


     You will be greatly inspired by Bethany Hamilton's strength, positive attitude, faith in God, and perservance.  The book also includes several pages of color photographs of Bethany's friends and family; readers will consider her a friend by the end of her story.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

bound.jpg red-star1.jpgred-star1.jpgred-star1.jpgred-star1.jpgred-star1.jpg

I first read this amazing novel in October 2006 and could not stop singing its praises to everyone I knew.  This book is an amazing story.  Highly recommended!!!


Xing Xing is bound - a mere slave that is trapped in horrific surroundings.  She is bound to her late father's cruel second wife and selfish daughter. Xing Xing is bound to a life of servitude as a young girl in ancient China, where a woman is valued less than livestock and has no control over her life and her future. It would seem that Xing Xing is bound to be alone, with no parents to arrange for a suitable husband. 


     Xing Xing spends her days taking care of her half sister, Wei Ping, who cannot walk because of her foot bindings, the painful tradition for girls who are fit to be married. Even so, Xing Xing is content to practice her gift for poetry and calligraphy, and to dream of a life unbound by the laws of family and society.


But all of this is about to change as Stepmother, who has spent nearly all of the family's money, grows desperate to find a husband for Wei Ping. Xing Xing soon realizes that this greed and desperation may threaten not only her memories of the past, but also her dreams for the future.


   When Xing Xing discovers her mother's beautiful green gown and decides to dress up and go to the festival, her beauty and grace catch the eye of the handsome prince.  He must find the beautiful girl at the festival because he knows that she alone is his one true love. Soon Xing Xing's life will change forever.

This beautiful story has so many wonderful elements - rich details written in poetic prose, the Cinderella story combined with fascinating details about ancient Chinese culture, and Donna Jo Napoli's development of the main character Xing Xing.  Readers will admire and envy her strength and the simple contentment she seems to embody despite the unfair, harsh life forced upon her.  I admit I shed a few tears while reading this book!  Check it out - the story will touch anyone who reads it.

Hitch by Jeanette Ingold

hitch.jpg red-star.jpgred-star.jpgred-star.jpg 1/2  Provides historical information about the Civilian Conservation Corps established by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression.  Readers will want Moss to be successful and persevere (they won't be disappointed).

Moss Trawley had big plans - leaving his home, attending college, becoming a radio broadcaster,  and marrying his girl, Beatty.  During the Great Depression, however, even the best-laid plans go awry.  When Moss is laid-off from his job, he has to postpone all his goals for the future.  Right now he is concerned with his family's survival.  Moss knows he must locate his father, though he had deserted Moss and his family years ago.  They now need his father's financial support to survive.

     Moss does locate his father, but is disappointed to learn that his dad is a bumbling alcoholic who cares nothing about Moss or his mother.  Moss knows he must now become the man of the family.

Desperate for money, Moss signs up for the Civilian Conservation Corps.  Moss earns much more than free meals during his experience.  He learns true friendship, loyalty,  and leadership skills.  Moss finally learns to stand up for himself - no matter the cost.  He truly has become a man.

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury

 eyesofemperor.jpg  silverstar.gifsilverstar.gifsilverstar.gif  1/2  Fans of historical fiction will enjoy this novel


Eddy decides to join the US army although he is underage.  Not only does his father disapprove, he will no longer even look or speak to Eddy for this act of rebellion.  Eddy feels it is his duty , though, to show his loyalty to America by joining the United States military.  When the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurs, suddenly Eddy’s intentions are questioned just because he is of Japanese heritage.  Why are he and his friends treated so badly by their superiors just because their parents were born in Japan?  Isn’t it enough that they are all willing to sacrifice their lives for their American homeland?


Eddy expected to join the other soldiers in fighting against the Japanese and Germans when he suddenly learns he and the other American soldiers of Japanese heritage are assigned a secret mission.  They will live on an island, far away from friends and family, with little contact with the outside world.  Here they will help train dogs to attack their enemies – only Eddy and his friends are not the dog trainers.  They are the dog bait – “impersonating” the Japanese enemy so the dogs will learn to attack and kill.  Are their own lives in danger?


Graham Salisbury merges fact and fiction in this historical World War II novel.  Most novels for teens feature Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.  This is an interesting account that details the horrific treatment that many Japanese Americans had to face after Pearl Harbor - despite their allegiance to America.  Based on a true story, this book highlights the great courage and loyalty of the soldiers partaking in the "experiment" held on Cat Island.

The Cloud Chamber by Joyce Maynard

cloudchamber.jpg  blackstar.gifblackstar.gifblackstar.gif1/2  Realistic plot, characters you care about




I love realistic fiction.  Joyce Maynard writes about real life - including family problems that teens do face today.  She also manages to write a satisfying conclusion without trivializing what the characters experience – not a fake, unrealistic happy ending that occurs in some novels for teens and tweens.


     When Nate comes home from school, he is shocked to see the blue police light flashing in his driveway.  His father staggers from the back yard.  He has blood running down his face, and does not even seem to recognize his own son.  Nate is scared and confused, but his mother and remaining family will not give him any answers.  What has really happened to his dad?  Nate finally learns his father shot himself and though he lived through his suicicde attempt, he is never coming home again.  To make matters worse, Nate has so many other problems to deal with – including a mother who is bitter, angry, and unforgiving.  Nate feels like he has lost both of his parents at the same time.  Most people can rely on other family members and friends to help them get through tough times – not Nate.  His grandfather hates Nate’s father and does not mind criticizing him in front of Nate and his sister.  Nate’s best friends abandon him – who wants to be friends with someone who has a crazy dad? Nate’s mother cannot afford to pay the bills on the farm, and it seems that he will now lose the only home he has ever known.  Could things get any worse?  Unfortunately, yes.  Since the police are unable to find the gun Nate’s father used, suspicion has fallen onto his mother.  Could she be the one who actually shot Nate’s father?  This book is not for the faint-hearted.  Even though this family endures great pain and hardships, they do manage to survive.  Nate eventually learns acceptance over things beyond his control, and he will keep going and keep living – no matter what other obstacles he must face.



Monday, June 25, 2007

The Safe-Keeper’s Secret by Sharon Shinn

 safekeepers.gif   or_star_41.gif  Wonderful, magical story


Can you keep a secret?  Even if the secret is dangerous?  What if you had to keep secrets as part of your profession?  Fiona’s mother, Damiana is employed as a safe-keeper.  People travel far and wide to her home in order to unleash their burdens by telling Damiana their innermost thoughts and secrets.  Damiana, in turn, must keep their secrets safe.  Even when a mysterious stranger dressed as royalty appears in the middle of the night bringing a newborn baby and tells Damiana she must raise this child as her own, she does not reveal to anyone that the baby has been abandoned nor tells who the parents of the baby are – not even to her daughter, Fiona.


Fiona accepts her life, as unusual as it may seem to others.  She knows her mother must dedicate her life to listening to others’ secrets.  She also does not question who her father really is or where her brother really came from on that dark mysterious night.  All she knows is that she too will one day be a Safe-Keeper, guardian of secrets.  What Fiona does not know is that her mother has quite a few secrets of her own – secrets that will change the course of Fiona’s life forever.


This book (book one of a new series) combines mystery, love, magic, and fantasy to create a charming tale that will leave readers guessing up to the very end. 


The Safe-Keeper's Secret by Sharon Shinn

 safekeepers.gif   or_star_41.gif  Wonderful, magical story


Can you keep a secret?  Even if the secret is dangerous?  What if you had to keep secrets as part of your profession?  Fiona’s mother, Damiana is employed as a safe-keeper.  People travel far and wide to her home in order to unleash their burdens by telling Damiana their innermost thoughts and secrets.  Damiana, in turn, must keep their secrets safe.  Even when a mysterious stranger dressed as royalty appears in the middle of the night bringing a newborn baby and tells Damiana she must raise this child as her own, she does not reveal to anyone that the baby has been abandoned nor tells who the parents of the baby are – not even to her daughter, Fiona.


Fiona accepts her life, as unusual as it may seem to others.  She knows her mother must dedicate her life to listening to others’ secrets.  She also does not question who her father really is or where her brother really came from on that dark mysterious night.  All she knows is that she too will one day be a Safe-Keeper, guardian of secrets.  What Fiona does not know is that her mother has quite a few secrets of her own – secrets that will change the course of Fiona’s life forever.


This book (book one of a new series) combines mystery, love, magic, and fantasy to create a charming tale that will leave readers guessing up to the very end. 


Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer



sea_of_trolls_farmer.jpg star-trans1.gifstar-trans1.gifstar-trans1.gifstar-trans1.gifstar-trans1.gif  Amazing epic adventure

Jack lives in a Saxon village with a father who is always disappointed in him and a beautiful, slightly obnoxious younger sister who is the family's favorite.  It seems that Jack will be destined to live his days as a poor farmer, just as his bitter father was once forced to abandon his own dreams and accept a more simple life as a peasant.  Jack's fate dramatically changes, though, when he is asked to be become an apprentice to the revered Bard...Jack?  Why not the other town boys who seem much brighter and stronger?   Jack does not realize that the Bard foresees great promise in his character, and the Bard believes Jack is the only hope for their town's survival. 

Jack internship is violently interrupted when the wild r raid his home, capturing both Jack and Lucy and forcing them to leave their home far behind.  Soon Jack finds himself embarking on a mysterious, dangerous journey.  He must fulfill a seemingly impossible quest - and quickly!  If not, his beautiful, beloved sister will be brutally offered as a sacrifice.

This book provides great humor and spine-tingling adventures (dragons, spiders, and vicious trolls - Oh My!).  The greatest aspect to this book are the numerous life themes Nancy Farmer addresses - loyalty, faith, love of family, ambiguity of good and evil, and many more.  Jack emerges from this adventure as a true Bard in his own right.

Nancy Farmer is an amazing writer.  Hopefully the long length will not discourage any readers - once started, you will eventually wish the story had never ended!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith

cryptid-hunters.jpg   star5.gifstar5.gifstar5.gifstar5.gifstar5.gif Thought I was going to hate this book - but found myself actually, totally loving it!  No down-time at all in this nonstop action/adventure, mystery.

 When I first saw the cover of Roland Smith's Cryptid Hunters, I must admit I was not very enthused about reading this book.  The front cover has pictures of two prehistoric creatures.  Hmmmm....a dinosaur book?  Yes, prehistoric creatures are a subject of this novel - but it has so much more to offer and the information about cryptids (mysterious creatures whose existence has never been scientifically proven) is actually very interesting.

When twin siblings Marty and Grace find out their parents are missing and presumed dead, they find their world radically changing overnight.  Sent from their private boarding school to live with an uncle named Wolfe, whom they never even knew existed, the twins soon found themselves surrounded by multiple mysteries.  Why didn't their parents ever tell them about Wolfe?  Why does Wolfe get so nervous around Grace?  The house has very high tech security, and the twins are told to never leave Uncle Wolfe's compound unattended.  Will they ever learn Wolfe's secrets?

When Uncle Wolfe plans to go on a dangerous trip to the Congo to deter his arch enemy, Dr. Blackwood, from poaching cryptids, the twins are supposed to go back to their boarding school until he returns.  Due to a freak accident, Marty and Grace find themselves stranded in the Congo as well - fighting for their survival.  Contestants on the show Survivor have never faced such wild, dangerous elements as these 13-year-olds do. 

While waiting on her uncle to find them, Grace is surprised that she knows her way around the island, and all of her surroundings seem vaguely familiar.  She will soon learn that her past, and everything she thought she knew about her parents is not true.

You will be shocked when you learn all the secrets that this book holds!  Give this book a try - you won't be able to put it down!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach

  shakespearessecret.jpg  or_star_4.gif  Mystery, humor, suspense, and surprises until the very end.  Very enjoyable book

In Shakespeare's Secret, there's a great mystery that needs to be solved - the mystery of the missing diamond - a diamond once believed to be owned by British royalty - and, to make it even more interesting, it happens to be worth at least a million dollars!

The main character of this book, Hero, cannot believe her family has moved again, and now she has to start another new school.  It was hard enough for people to accept the name "Hero."  Having a sister who was very beautiful and popular no matter where they lived did not help Hero much either.  Soon Hero's life takes a dramatic turn.  She thought her old neighbor Miriam was nice - a tad boring, though, and not to mention OLD.  Suddenly Hero finds out that Miriam has many exciting stories to share, such as the story of the diamond necklace that was stolen and possibly hidden by the previous owner of Hero's new house.

Suddenly Hero finds herself trying to solve the mystery of the hidden diamond with only a short written clue left to guide her.  She doesn't have to solve this mystery alone, though.  Danny Cordova, the most popular, hot guy in 8th grade joins Hero on the hunt.  Together they find a prize that means more than a diamond ever could.

This book captured my attention from beginning to end!

Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach

  shakespearessecret.jpg  or_star_4.gif  Mystery, humor, suspense, and surprises until the very end.  Very enjoyable book

In Shakespeare's Secret, there's a great mystery that needs to be solved - the mystery of the missing diamond - a diamond once believed to be owned by British royalty - and, to make it even more interesting, it happens to be worth at least a million dollars!

The main character of this book, Hero, cannot believe her family has moved again, and now she has to start another new school.  It was hard enough for people to accept the name "Hero."  Having a sister who was very beautiful and popular no matter where they lived did not help Hero much either.  Soon Hero's life takes a dramatic turn.  She thought her old neighbor Miriam was nice - a tad boring, though, and not to mention OLD.  Suddenly Hero finds out that Miriam has many exciting stories to share, such as the story of the diamond necklace that was stolen and possibly hidden by the previous owner of Hero's new house.

Suddenly Hero finds herself trying to solve the mystery of the hidden diamond with only a short written clue left to guide her.  She doesn't have to solve this mystery alone, though.  Danny Cordova, the most popular, hot guy in 8th grade joins Hero on the hunt.  Together they find a prize that means more than a diamond ever could.

This book captured my attention from beginning to end!

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going

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Important lessons of tolerance, compassion, loyalty, and true friendship

My Greatest Fears:

1.  Fifth Grade

2.  Duke Evans

3. Frankie Carmen

 Gabriel King did not want to graduate.  He didn't want to go to 5th grade.  Why bother?  Attend 5th grade just to be beaten up by Frankie and Duke every day?  Gabriel's best friend Frita is determined to help Gabriel conquer all his fears.  She gets him to make a list of all his fears, and the unstoppable Fritaeven comes up with a few herself!  Each day, Gabriel finds the courage to overcome one of his greatest fears.  Soon Gabriel and Frita find that both of their greatest fears are not even included on their lists - fears they must both face with determination and strength.  Gabriel and Frita find the bravery within themselves  - even when confronted with racism, threatened violence, and deep hatred.  Would you be willing to risk everything in order to save your best friend?  Read The Liberation of Gabriel King to find out what tests their friendship, and the fear they both face  - one that will change the rest of their lives.