Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Just the Two of Us by Will Smith

About the book: "Just the two of us, Building castles in the sky; Just the two of us, You and I." Will Smith--- musician, actor, and father--brings us a moving celebration of fatherhood. Smith's heartfelt lyrics and Kadir Nelson's vibrant paintings capture the beauty and intensity of a father's love as his child grows from a boy into a man. This poignant portrait will resonate with fathers and sons everywhere.

My thoughts: After I read "Love You Forever" to my class one of my students brought this to me to read. It is a sweet book
about a father's love for his son. The father prays that he will be a good dad, knows it will take time and work. He encourages his son to live with "Dignity, integrity, honor..." and "Always tell the truth, say your prayers, hold doors, pull out chairs, easy on the swears..." I liked it and like it even more now that I have viewed the youtube video of Smith singing it. It felt awkward to read, but I see now that is is due to it being a rap. Maybe next time I read it will come out better.

See the author sing the story on youtube. I'm not a rap fan but I like this.

children's literature, children's book

Night of the Loving Dead by Casey Daniels

Book info: Introducing sleuth Pepper Martin...
And now, in her fourth hip, quirky mystery, she's all ours.
Pepper Martin, heiress-turned cemetery- tour-guide, often has her hands full with two hotties and the ghosts who won't let her rest-or work, or shop-in peace.
Now the spectre of a young woman in a lab coat wants Pepper's help. Before the woman died, she worked with a sexy, mysterious doctor who coincidentally once saved Pepper's life-and who the woman claims is now in danger. But Pepper doesn't know that there's more to the story, including a devious doctor-and an obsessive, crazy love.

My thoughts: This is the fourth book in the Pepper Martin series and it as advertised: quirky. I've read the other three and enjoyed them so expected no less of this one. Pepper is a different kind of hero, reluctant and highly fashion conscious.Her job as a cemetery tour guide brings her into close contact with the ghosts she can see since she fell and hit her head on a tombstone. This time she is in Chicago on business when she is waylaid by a ghost for help. There are 2 or 3 good little twists in this story. A plus for me was that I got to know the mysterious Dan better. Dan has saved Pepper's life a couple of times in the first 3 books then just disappeared. I quite enjoyed this light paranormal book and will read the next one that comes out!

Visit the author's site here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Publisher Comments:Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose thoughtful companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. But with the unexpected return of Claude, Edgar's paternal uncle, turmoil consumes the Sawtelles' once peaceful home. When Edgar's father dies suddenly, Claude insinuates himself into the life of the farm — and into Edgar's mother's affections.
Grief-stricken and bewildered, Edgar tries to prove Claude played a role in his father's death, but his plan backfires — spectacularly. Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who follow him. But his need to face his father's murderer and his devotion to the Sawtelle dogs turn Edgar ever homeward.
My thoughts: This book is breath taking, the characters developed so they were friends, it was stunning, extraordinary, beautiful. The development of the dogs and their awareness sparked my imagination and caused me to look at my dogs in a new light. There was evil, betrayal, love, trust, friendship, & mourning. There was even a little of the supernatural. I loved this book all the way till the end then I wanted to cry and throw it across the room. My heart crashed and burned with the barn. How can a book that is so wonderful end so badly?
See and interview of the author on the Today show.
Read an interview with the author here and here.
Read about the real Hachiko here.

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

From the cover: According to legend, the Jersey Devil prowls the Pine Barrens and soars above the treetops in the dark of night. As eerie as this might seem, there are things in the Barrens that are even more frightening and dangerous. And there are monkeys. Lots of monkeys.
Wulf Grimoire is a world wanderer and an opportunist who can kill without remorse and disappear like smoke. He's chosen Martin Munch, boy genius, as his new business partner, and he's chosen the Barrens as his new playground
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has Munch on her most-wanted list for failure to appear in court. Plum is the all-American girl stuck in an uncomfortable job, succeeding on luck and tenacity. Usually she gets her man. This time she gets a monkey. She also gets a big guy named Diesel.
Diesel pops in and out of Plum's life like birthday cake - delicious to look at and taste, not especially healthy as a steady diet, gone by the end of the week if not sooner. He's an uber bounty hunter with special skills when it comes to tracking men and pleasing women. He's after Grimoire, and now he's also after Munch. And if truth were told, he wouldn't mind setting Stephanie Plum in his crosshairs.
Diesel and Plum hunt down Munch and Grimoire, following them into the Barrens, surviving cranberry bogs, the Jersey Devil, a hair-raising experience, sand in their underwear, and, of course . . . monkeys.
My thoughts: This story, like all the other between the numbers stories about Stephanie and Diesel, is a tad on the scifi side. It is a quick funny read, as are all Plum books. That's why I like them. I found the character Elmer the Fire Farter just a little too much but I laughed at the men's reaction to him. As Morelli points out, all guys wish they could fart fire. There were other equally silly characters populating the barrens. This book was meant to entertain and it does. I laughed out loud at several points.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Adam by Ted Dekker

From the back: It takes an obsessive mind to know one. And Daniel Clark knows the elusive killer he's been stalking.
He's devoted every waking minute as a profiler to find the serial killer known only as Eve. He's pored over the crime scenes of sixteen young women who died mysterious deaths, all in underground basements or caverns. He's delved into the killer's head and puzzled over the twisted religious overtones of the killings.
What Daniel can't possibly know is that he will be Eve's next victim. He will be the killer's first Adam. After sixteen hopeless months, the case takes a drastic turn on a very dark night when Daniel is shot and left for dead. Resuscitated after twenty minutes of clinical death, Daniel finds himself haunted by the experience. He knows he's seen the killer's face, but the trauma of dying has obscured the memory and left him with crushing panic attacks. Nothing--not even desperate, dangerous attempts to reexperience his own death--seems to bring him closer to finding the killer.
Then Eve strikes again, much closer to home. And Daniel's obsession explodes into a battle for his life . . . his sanity . . . his very soul.

My thoughts: This is a very dark, scary, & at times gruesome book that will make many uncomfortable. It is a psychological thriller with a Christian message. It's not just a book about a serial killer. It explores how he became a serial killer. Abuse, fear, evil, and victimization all were part of his making. After being lead at breath taking speed through the story I really was dissapointed at the ending. It didn't seem to be completly finished to me. It led me right to the edge, to the salvation of Daniel, then stopped. The final chapter, an article that was part of the story, indicated little of what became of the main characters. I listened to this, I love listening to books, but thought a couple of times that I might have enjoyed reading this one more. I found out through reading reviews, that an extra chapter was added to books that were sold in Christian bookstores. Now I'll have to find one of those and see what I have missed.

I have read three of his books so far and his book Thr3e is my favorite. What a twist in it at the end.

Ted Dekker talks about his book Adam:

Here is Dekker's site.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I read this book to my class every year in February and always tear up at the end. This book is a simple and poignant story that shows life as a circle and you get back what you give. It is about the lifelong bond between parents and their children.

It ties in nicely with the character word Love, which our counselor presents to the school in Feb. for the love family members feel for each other. Second grade teachers at my school (all 7 of us) have built a unit around this story including vocabulary, comprehension, character building, etc. The kids always enjoy it and laugh at the antics of the boy.

I was frankly shocked earlier today when I read some reviews at Amazon to find lots of people who didn't like this book. If they take this story as literally as they seem to, then I feel that the joy of lots of other children's books must be lost to them as well.

Read here to see what the author has to say about this book & why he wrote it.
Listen to the author TELL this story (& several others)
See a preview of the book here.

children's literature, child, children, children's book

The Memorist by M. J. Rose

From the cover: The Dreads are back. As a child, Meer Logan was haunted by memories of another time and place always accompanied by the faint strains of elusive music. Now the dreads are back. The past has reached out again in the form of a strange letter that sets her on a search to unlock the mystery of who she once was. With the help of her father – a Kabbalist, known as the Jewish Indiana Jones – Meer attempts to learn the meaning behind her hauntingly vivid memories. What they discover could reveal a frighteningly powerful secret hidden for generations by one of the greatest composers of all time. With each step she comes closer to remembering the connections between a clandestine reincarnationist society, a lost flute linked to Ludwig van Beethoven and David Yalom, a journalist who understands all too well how the past affects the future. David knows loss firsthand – terrorism is a reality that cost him his family. He's seen every solution promised by security experts around the world – and he's seen every solution fail. Now in a concert hall in Vienna, he plans to force the word to understand the cost of those failures in a single violent act. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

My thoughts: The Memorist is a complected story with its combination of past and present, history, mystery and suspense. At times I found it tedious. The number or characters to keep track of, plus who they were in the past (this near the end of the book) was challenging for me. Even so, I enjoyed this book. The story hooked me just enough to keep me going. I don't believe in reincarnation, personally so it read like sci-fi for me. I liked the way Rose gives readers little glimpses into Meer's past lives to share those stories and bring more meaning to the present. The sub-plot add suspense to the overall story.

Visit the author's site here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Long Way Gone Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

From the book jacket: This is how wars are fought now by children, hopped up on drugs, and wielding AK-47s. In the more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But it is rare to find a first-person account from someone who endured this hell and survived. In" A Long Way Gone Beah," now twenty-six years old, tells a riveting story in his own words: how, at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he' d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

My thoughts: This was not an "enjoyable" book to read. It wasn't meant to be. I was left with a feeling similar to the one I had after reading Elie Wiesel's Night. A sense of depressed wonder at what humans can do to other humans. I thought it would be filled with descriptions of gore. Even though it tells some horrific things, the book is much more than that. It tells of his life before the war, how he ran from it and how he was caught up in it, and finally how he was saved. I read other's reviews and found many that said there were a lot of inaccuracies in this book. I haven't researched it, but feel if even a fraction is true, if he spent only a few months in the army as a child soldier instead of two years, that is still a few month too many for a child to be used like that. This will hang heavy on my heart.

Go here to watch a video of an interview of the author on Nightline.
Go here for links to more info about the author & his cause.

The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson

Translated from the swedish by Reg Keeland

Book Jacket: It's about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden ... and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder." "It's about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet's disappearance ... and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age - and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it - who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism - and an unexpected connection between themselves. It's a novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a cast of characters, all of them forced to face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives.

My Thoughts: This was not an edge of your seat thriller for me (except near the end) but it was a compelling read. I liked this book. The characters were likable (or hate-able as the case may be) each with their own flaws. The heroine was very different, asocial but sympathetic. I enjoyed the setting, Sweden, and the social comment I found here. It could have been a thinner faster read if those things had not been written in or had been edited out, but then the feel of reading about another country would have been lost. I found some of the relationships strange, especially the open relationship of two of the main characters. The main mystery was wrapped up well before the end of the book. The rest, closing a corporate mystery that began at the beginning of the book, was a little anticlimatic but rewarding for the characters sake. I did not love the very end, but assume it will be resolved in the next book. I will be reading the sequels.
Here is a trailer for the book.