Book Review: A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indianawas a sweet memoir of Haven aka Zippy and how she experienced life growing up with her quirky parents and her gorgeous older sister. Zippy experiences everything, including terrifying neighbors who kill rabbits for fun or who may or may not be evil witches trying to kill her, with childish belief and witty writing.

I loved how everything seems to happen through a child's eyes. Things that as adults we wouldn't possibly believe are true. It was like looking back at all the funny things I thought and did as a child and feeling that nostalgic remembrance.

Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
other memoirs like The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohioby Terry Ryan (which is on my to-read list)

s-factor: !

A few scattered throughout.

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

After an embarrassing number of days having this book review up without being complete, I decided to post it again, only with my ratings. Apologies for the mix up (I've been pretty busy at work - so busy I didn't check up on my blog :)

Book Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew Itwas pretty good - then everything changed. So, it's the end of the world and it's the moon's fault (well, ok, there might have been a meteor involved) - do you have your food storage?

When I read this, I pretty much started freaking out. It was so exciting and realistic that I started to panic and stock up on food (which, I already do, incidentally). The story was gripping and the characters were very real. This is hands down one of the best dystopian apocalyotic books I've ever read. It even made me run out and check on the moon. I had a few minor astronomy issues with it, but most people wouldn't be bothered by them.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
also a bit like The Giver(and its companions) by Lois Lowry


A couple, but not overwhelming.

mrg-factor: X
References, but nothing happens.

v-factor: ->
Not violent, but definitely scary!

Overall rating: *****

Book Review: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

The Hero and the Crowngives us the backstory of Aerin, the original wielder of the blue sword. Despite being the daughter of the king, she is unaccepted as the heiress of the throne and struggles to deal with the rumors of her mother's ignominous past - but is she prepared to save the people who don't want her as queen?

As the prequel to The Blue Sword, I was really excited to pick this up (The Blue Sword was actually published first and then she published this one). I was not disappointed. McKinley created another stunning heroine struggling with her own past and trying to understand her own future. I have to admit, though, that I did not like this one quite as much as The Blue Sword. But it is definitely worth picking up for another beautiful and exciting fantasy - one that gives us the background story of the legendary blue sword.

Of course The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Other books by McKinley, like Chalice
Also a bit like Crown Duel and Court Duelby Sherwood Smith (review still in the works)

s-factor: !

Very few.

mrg-factor: X
One or two rather surprising scenes, without details.

v-factor: ->
Fighting, of course.

Overall rating: ****

Well, read.

I saw this on another blog (oops, forgot to write down which one) and thought I would post it. Several years ago, I was trucking down every "classics" list I could find and crossing them off methodically. (You may have noticed I'm not really doing that anymore.) Apparently, I still have a ways to go though. This is a list of books for the college bound. (Hm...guess it is a little late for me, since I am bounding away from college.)

Key: read, started (or tried), * = on my perpetual TBR list:

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
A Death in the Family, by James Agee
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

The Stranger, by Albert Camus
Death Comes for the Archbishop, by Willa Cather
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekhov
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper
The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
Inferno, by Dante*
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe*
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass
An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

Selected Essays, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford
Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe*
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
The Iliad, by Homer*
The Odyssey, by Homer*
The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley*
A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka
The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London*
The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
The Crucible, by Arthur Miller
Beloved, by Toni Morrison
A Good Man is Hard to Find, by Flannery O’Connor
Long Day’s Journey into Night, by Eugene O’Neill
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
Selected Tales, by Edgar Allen Poe
Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon
All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque
Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand*
Call it Sleep, by Henry Roth
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
Macbeth, by William Shakespeare*
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Antigone, by Sophocles
Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles*
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift*
Vanity Fair, by William Thackeray
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau*
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Candide, by Voltaire*
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut*
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
Collected Stories, by Eudora Welty
Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman*
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams
To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
Native Son, by Richard Wright

Totals: 48 read (just under half - 101 total books), 7 started, 15 *TBR

So, how do you measure up? Or how do you feel about "classics" lists in general (and being required to read from them specifically)?

Book Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Studyis more a study of Yelena's struggle to deal with her past and find out who she has become. After she is offered the chance to become the Commander's food taster instead of being hanged, Yelena deals with intrigue, doubt, attempted murder, love, and the complicated feelings involved in learning to trust again; all this with the constant threat of assassination by poisoning.

I really enjoyed this intriguing and original fantasy story. The plot was interesting and the twists, while some were obvious from early on, were still pretty good. I didn't quite see how Commander Ambrose's interesting past fit in with the story, but I really thought it was a great book. I was really surprised at how the fantasy elements, which I thought would dominate, ended up not being the main emphasis of the story. It was really about Yelena and her path to recovery and self-discovery. This was published for adults, but will appeal to older teens who love fantasy. I'm already looking forward to the next one in the series.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
also like Crown Duel and Court Duelby Sherwood Smith (review in the works)
the imaginary world reminded me of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

s-factor: !@

Regularly throughout, but mostly mild words.

mrg-factor: XX
A few scenes, not descriptive.

v-factor: ->->
Several fighting sequences, mainly in self-defense.

Overall rating: ****

Book Review: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

The Blue Swordis introduced to Harry after she is abducted from her home by Corlath, the king of the mysterious Hillfolk. While adjusting to the strangely familiar customs of the country, Harry begins to train as a warrior without quite knowing why - until she wields the blue sword.

If ever there was a classic fantasty story that every person should read, this is it! When I discovered this book, I was blown away by the story, McKinley's beautiful writing, and the character Harry. She is the perfect sword-wielding tough fantasy heroine and I haven't forgotten about her since. While the prequel The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery and this only got an honor, I love this book a lot more than its prequel. But, once you pick either of them up, you won't be able to put it back down. *note: not all of McKinley's books are written for kids and teens - she has some adult titles as well that may contain content for more mature audiences*

Definitely pick up the prequel The Hero and the Crown(watch for my review coming soon)
Try Chalice, Rose Daughterand Spindle's Endby McKinley
A little like the Abhorsen Trilogyby Garth Nix (which has a pending review as well)

s-factor: none

(that I recall)

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->

Some fighting, but not graphic.

Overall rating: *****

Book Review: Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld

Touching Darknessreveals many secrets tangled among the five midnighters of Bixby, Oklahoma. Melissa and Rex have a strange new relationship, Dess learns an astonishing secret that she tries to keep to herself, and Jessica is blown away as she begins to see the kinds of secrets her friends are keeping. And all this on top of a horrifying new threat to the midnighters very survival.

The second book in Westerfeld's Midnighters series is just as compelling and filled with adventure as the first (reviewed here). The story is full of secrets and misunderstandings, not to mention a horrible midnighter past that is revealed. I love this new-to-me series where I don't have to wait years for a sequel (yet). I'm not sure if the revealed secrets really cleared up anything or just produced more mysteries. This is an intriguing and pretty original series. The only part I found frustrating was the seeming lack of technology - a lot of problems would have been solved with cell phones. I wasn't sure if the characters were just really behind the times or if the book was set in an earlier decade.

A little like the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan with a darker feel (and no Greek gods)
And also The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Foster

s-factor: !@

They swore regularly, but not overwhelmingly

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->->

Some fighting and injuries

Overall rating: ****

Book Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gablesthe talkative, whimsical, accident-prone, imaginative heroine of L.M. Montgomery's series is so lovable and aggravating that everyone she meets in her new life as adopted daughter of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert is at once charmed and shocked.

I have adored Anne since I was very young. Admittedly, I first fell in love with her from the classic TV miniseriesstarring Megan Follows (who I think is amazing in this role). From her multitude of "scrapes" to her overactive imagination, Anne is one of my favorite characters in all fiction-dom. Montgomery's writing is a perfect fit for this dream child, filled with gorgeous descriptive language. I listened to this one on audio (sequel reviewed here), but I found it was still just as lovely as when I read it many years ago.

Emily of New Moon books by none other than L.M. Montgomery
Little Womenby Louisa May Alcott
Big fans will also want to read Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

Quotificent # 5

Following that excellent book review for The Last Olympian praising Percy's sense of humor, I had to pick just a few lines from the book to illustrate. Riordan's writing is just too good not to share.

"A blade was supposed to reap my soul. As a general rule, I preferred not to have my soul reaped." p. 56

"He seriously needed to keep a pack of Aloe Vera Kleenex in his armor pocket, because that nose was wet and red and pretty gross." p. 186

"If you're heading downtown from Central Park, my advice is to take the subway. Flying pigs are faster, but way more dangerous." p. 250

The books are chock full of that kind of fun. Nothing like a dry sense of humor to make you snort in public. (Not that I would ever snort anywhere - I'm much to classy.)

Bloggiesta: Too Bad It's Over...

Oh, I got some good things done this weekend. I'm actually really happy with how my new template worked out! I also managed to get at least a few posts ready for rainy days (like yesterday) and some of the other things on my to do list. I participated in some of the mini challenges as well and found them very helpful (and eye-opening), including:
Total time spent working: ~15 hours

Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to Natasha at Maw Books Blog for getting this challenge going and doing all the work to organize it! I definitely want to meet her (and may get the chance at a Utah Blogger get together...yeah!)

Construction Demons

As you can probably tell, things are a bit crazy right now. New template = interesting new problems. Unfortunately, my eyes are about to pop out of my head and I must take some time to sleep now.

I haven't done that well on the bloggiesta list today, nor have I spent nearly enough time (total time right now about 6 hrs 45 min). Hopefully tomorrow will be rainy and I will not be lured outside by the blue skies, sunshine, or vegetables. Until then!

Bloggiesta: Late Start

Um, oops. I managed to sleep in a bit later than I expected.

Anyway, here is my list of things to work on:

  • reviews for rainy days (lots!) (only about six)
  • widgets on the sidebar (blogroll update, other changes TBD)
  • tags (change some, add some, remove some)
  • layout (I'm thinking a new background and maybe three columns?)
  • a review policy (hopefully I can manage to get some books for review!)
  • consistency (all my book review titles should be similar, tags)
So, there is the preliminary list (open to expansion and suggestion too).

Good luck to me and everyone participating!

Book Review: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

The Last Olympianconcludes Percy Jackson's fight against the Titan Lord Kronos and is filled with excitement from giant flying pigs to invincible fighting drakons. Will Percy and his half-blood friends be able to find enough allies to defeat the overwhelming forces of Kronos or will Percy blow it all with one bad choice?

I have been waiting for this book since it first came out in May (cliffhanger from the last book). That's a long time to wait, but it ended up being worth it. The book is jam-packed with adventure and Greek god humor. I love Percy's wry sense of humor and also the underlying morals in the story. There were several twists in the story that I didn't grasp until they burst upon me, despite my efforts to understand the Great Prophecy. This series is really well written, interesting, teaches mythology, and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat (if you don't fall off laughing, anyway). A great pick for reluctant readers, especially adventure-loving guys.

For the mythology aspect, I enjoyed Goddess of Yesterdayby Caroline B. Cooney
It's also a bit like Harry Potter (prophecy and all that)

s-factor: !

Not too many, but some.

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->

Definitely a lot of action, but it isn't detailed or really gory

Overall rating: ****

Bloggiesta (gotta love the name)

I've officially signed myself up for the Bloggiesta event (hosted by the lovely and talented Natasha of Maw Books Blog). I'm pretty excited about it. It is not quite the same as the 24 hour read-a-thon, because instead of piling up more books for review, we are working "on blog content, improving/cleaning up your blog or working on your social network profiles." I'm definitely in need of some work on these areas. We'll see what actually happens, but I signed up because I want to kick myself in the bloggin pants and fix things up around here. I haven't formed a list or anything yet, but I think I'd better before the challenge starts on Friday morning. While I won't have a lot of time to put into this, I think I will be able to accomplish some useful stuff (especially if it keeps raining here)!

And on a completely unrelated note, I just wanted to mention a few excellent contests I've discovered, mostly for my own selfish reasons (another entry, bwa-ha-ha) but also for your benefit. In case you didn't know about them.

The Demon's Lexicon, which I've heard much about, at ReviewerX
Twenty Boy Summer, which looks interesting, at Abby (the) Librarian
The Host, which I loved, at Today's Adventure (the Host Blog Tour will be there on June 25th) and also on My Friend Amy's blog

So, go! Win books!

Book Review: Schooled by Gordon Korman

Schooledis the quirky story of Capricorn Anderson, who has been home schooled all his life - until his grandmother, Rain, must spend weeks in physical therapy recovering from a broken hip. Eighth grade can be hard for any kid, but if you are from a hippie commune and have no clue about the outside world, it's definitely going to be a challenge.

This was a fun middle grade read with themes on tolerance and acceptance. I enjoyed the different perspectives from several different characters throughout. All of the kids seemed quite believable (well, except perhaps Cap himself) in their emotions and reactions to someone different. The ending was pretty neatly tied up, but I couldn't imagine one that would fit better into the story.

Stargirlby Jerry Spinelli

s-factor: !

There might have been one or two.

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->

One kid gets punched and trampled, but no details.

Overall rating: ***

You Know You're Behind When... are checking out more library books than you are returning.

But the books are such winners, I don't even mind feeling behind. I just wanted to get my hands on them. Look at these library treasures (added to my previous pile of books):

The Actor and the Housewife: A Novelby Shannon Hale (finally!)
Poison Studyby Maria Snyder (which I have heard much about)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesby Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (couldn't resist)
The Brothers: A Novelby Chris Stewart (at my husband's insistence...)
Just One Wishby Janette Rallison (yeah!)

So, I can't feel bad about my ever-growing and never-shrinking pile of TBR books!

(So it was more like two weeks since I last did a Library Loot, but who's counting?)

Book Review: The Trouble Begins at 8 by Sid Fleischman

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild Westis a humorous biography of Samuel Clemens' early years spent in Nevada and California. Clemens formative years were spent working as a printing apprentice, a steamboat pilot, a gold digger, a newspaper man, and a traveling correspondent before ever publishing under his famous pseudonym.

Fleischman is the perfect biographer for Twain's humorous view on life. The way Fleischman writes is brilliant - his phrases are hilarious and make the simplest details interesting. Twain had such an awesome sense of humor and coined about a million one-liner phrases that I wanted to quote. This is the perfect book for kids who need to do a report but loathe reading boring biographies. This is such an interesting story that I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Twain or just wants to read a funny book.

A sample of Fleischman's awesome writing:

"He changed literature forever. He scraped earth under its fingernails and taught it to spit. He slipped in a subversive American sense of humor. He made laughing out loud as respectable as afternoon tea." p. 6

And a favorite Twain one-liner:

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug." qtd p. 172

Such a unique book, I would stick with stuff by Twain and Fleischman:
I recently enjoyed A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and the classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnwhich has a lot of autobiographical elements from Twain's childhood
Also I enjoyed The Whipping Boyby Sid Fleischman

s-factor: !

Twain tended to use some mild cuss words.

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****
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