Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mailbox Monday - March 1

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. To see this weeks list of participants go here.

I can't remember whose mailbox Monday I saw this on, but using a goodreads bookshelf was a great idea and really easy for me on busy weeks like this.  So here's my Mailbox Monday for this week (and if you are the blogger who had this idea, let me know and I will credit you):

Three more with covers unavailable on Goodreads are:

Eat the Cookie...Buy the Shoes: Giving Yourself Permission to Lighten Up  Mommy Power: Discovering Your Mommy Strength  Heart of My Heart: 365 Reflections on the Magnitude and Meaning of Motherhood A Devotional

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Review: The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter

Publisher: Dial
Publish Date: April 1, 2010
Hardcover, 224 pages

My rating: 9.0/10.0

I received this book through Other Shelf Tours.

This is a really cute and fun read. Abbie is a witch in a family of witches who live in the world with mortals. And the mortals, of which one of them is Abbie's best friend. Being a witch in the mortal world is hard especially when your little brother is just learning to harness his powers and you keep rescuing him. It kind of makes you stand out at school. On top of that Abbie's dad has brought home a kitten who they eventually figure out is more than just a cat and the book becomes about finding out who the cat really is and helping him become himself again. Lots of funny blunders and a mystery to solve make this the perfect middle grade book. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to more in this series. I enjoyed all of Abbie's family and the antics they get themselves into.

Rating Breakdown:
Characterization:    1.5/2.0
Plot:                      1.5/2.0
Writing:                 1.75/2.0
Attention-holding:   0.75/1.0
Ending:                  1.0/1.0
Believable:             1.0/1.0
Genre:                   1.0/1.0    
Rating:                9.0/10.0

About the Book:

Abbie Adams and her family come from a long line of witches, and she’s having a tough time keeping it a secret from her best friend and the rest of her school, especially the day her little brother morphs into a wolf and tries to eat his teacher. That’s also the day her father brings home a kitten.

But when Abbie looks into the kitten’s eyes, she realizes there’s a boy in there! He’s under a spell and soon the whole family bands together to rescue him.

They are shocked to realize he’s none other than the young Thomas Edison, and if they don’t save him fast, he’ll never change the world with his inventions.

Weekend Wondering

On the note of last week, see this post with Hank Phillipi Ryan talking with Smart Bitches about branding. It's really a great post. I think I subscribe to her thoughts of just wanting a good story - I don't care what it's labeled as and I won't worry as much with it in the future - just something to keep vague stats on in my reading spreadsheet.

Also for last week the winner is:

Sweet Vernal Zephyr

For this week - I have no topic - it's been a crazy busy week with my birthday yesterday, my 85-year-old grandmother in the hospital ICU with a broken hip, we're waiting on her to stabilize so she can  have surgery and just the general mayhem of everyday life.

So discuss amongst yourself something  you would like to see discussed here in weekend wonderings, and that you can participate in the discussion with.  What is on your mind.  Comment and you'll get a chance to win a book from my book vault.  The winner from this week gets to choose one of the books, but other than that the rest will be available and as soon as I have her choice I'll update my bookshelf.  I will probably also add some more this week.  You can find the bookshelf here.

Crystal's bookshelf: giveaway

Power PlayAbigailThe Marriage Project: 21 Days to More Love and LaughterThe Things That Keep Us HereOut with the In CrowdGetting Revenge on Lauren Wood

More of Crystal's books »
Crystal's giveaway book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Have a good week.  This week's discussion giveaway runs through next Friday the 5th.  I'll draw and post the winner next Saturday and will be able to post on some of the great ideas that you give me.

Additional entries for following, tweeting, posting on your blog.  Just let me know what you do. 

Have a great week everyone and if you pray - please lift up my grandmother - she can use all the prayers/good thoughts she can get right now (and also for our family - this is tough)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Out with the In Crowd by Stephanie Morrill (Book Tour & Review)

From a talented new voice in YA fiction:

Out with the In Crowd (The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt Book #2) by Stephanie Morrill
Publisher: Revell Books
Publish Date: January 1, 2010
Paperback, 252 pages

My Review:
Rating: 9.0/10.0

From what I read in the beginning of this book, it takes up pretty much where book #1 leaves off.  Sklar is returning to school after Christmas break facing her last semester of high school with her wonderful boyfriend and without the in crowd of friends she has hung out with for the last four years.

Skylar's uncertainty seems very true of high school girls or anyone who goes back into a situation with friends who aren't friends any more.  Nothing is glossed over and Skylar's emotions and uncertainties are shared throughout the book.  On the outside Skylar looks very put together, but on the inside she is a typical unsure teenager.

In this book she is also coming to grips with her refound faith and what it means to truly forgive people and trust people.  Her life hasn't exactly been perfect for the past few months and with her parents dealing with problems too, her trust level is way down.  Conner, her boyfriend is one of those people you want to be.  Understanding, forgiving and just friendly no matter what the circumstances and while Skylar wants to be like him, she has a hard time giving up her own wants and whims.  Though some of the things her and Conner start to fight over are what she believes, getting Conner to believe them is another story.

The book keeps you turning pages and even without reading the first book in the series, I felt like I knew Skylar within the first ten pages.  You get enough backstory in this book to understand what has gone on without feeling like you missed much and I am guessing it's not too much backstory if you read the first one.  I do plan on going back and reading the first one and I can't wait until the next one.

As a Christian book, this one pulls no punches and does not show ideal life.  Skylar's younger sister is pregnant and Skylar herself has lead an interesting life before turning back to the Lord.  The situations in this book feel real along with the characters and that is what make this a great read.

Rating Breakdown: 
Characterization:     1.75/2.0
Plot:                       1.75/2.0
Writing:                  1.75/2.0
Attention-holding:   0.75/1.0
Ending:                    1.0/1.0
Believable:               1.0/1.0
    Genre:                      1.0/1.0    
Rating:                9.0/10.0

About the Book:

Teens have embraced Skylar Hoyt, the title character in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series by debut author Stephanie Morrill. Skylar is a character readers can relate to, as she struggles with popularity, fitting in and figuring out what really matters in the midst of it all.

In the second book of the series, Out with the In Crowd, Skylar is struggling with her circle of friends: She’s vowed to change her partying ways, but it's not so easy to change her friends and her old life is constantly staring her in the face. Add to that two parents battling for her loyalty, a younger sister struggling with a crisis pregnancy, and a new boyfriend wishing for more of her time, and Skylar feels like she can't win. After all, how do you choose favorites among the people you love most?

With style and grace, Stephanie Morrill delivers another compelling story that addresses teen issues in Out with the In Crowd.

Romantic Times reviewed the first book in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, with praise:
“This is a good start to a promising new series. Morrill introduces a strong, relatable character to root for.”

About the Author:

Stephanie Morrill is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and the Teen Lit writers' group. Morrill is the author of Me, Just Different and Out with the In Crowd, and she also serves in youth ministry. She lives in Kansas with her husband and young daughter.

Photo courtesy Amy Hoskins Photography

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

**Available January 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.**

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing  for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.


I am finally going to try and be good about posting awards I receive and giving them away.  So I'm sorry if I haven't accepted your award in the past - there was no real reason behind it besides not finding the time.  From now on I will do better - if you are kind enough to give me an award I will be thankful and post it on here.

So here goes my first one:

I received the Sugar Doll award from Katrina at Bloody Bad, whose blog I love, if you haven't checked her out - please do. She received the award from Pinkilili at Sandals and Snowshoes, who is new at blogging so head over there and say hi, remember what it was like when you were new?

The rules are list 10 things about yourself and you can pass it on or just paste it on your blog.

10 things about myself:

  1. I still love to eat hot dogs and macaroni and cheese
  2. I like to sing Cowboy by Kid Rock with my kids on the way to school in them morning (and they love it too - we use the edited version of course)
  3. I love to sing when no one is around, when others are around I don't like to as much except with my kids in the car.  Right  now my favorite band is Daughtry.
  4. I threaten my oldest son with blaring songs from a Veggie Tales CD when dropping him off at school in the morning (he's in third grade).  I know I'm evil.
  5. I love young adult books and it's all the book bloggers' fault - I didn't read YA until I started reading blogs.  (seriously I'm glad they turned me on to it)
  6. I love living on the coast of NC but rarely go to the beach.
  7. I have happy meal toys on my desk at work.
  8. I love NASCAR and pull for Tony Stewart (and anyone who doesn't drive for Hendricks motorsports)
  9. I have a new Kindle that I never get to read from because I am busy reading books for review.
  10. I love living near enough to my parents that they can be a part of my boys' life.  I love watching their love for their grandparents'.  It's special.
Five bloggers whose blogs I enjoy. Those who received this award can pass it on or just paste it on their blog.
  1. A Reader's Respite
  2. Ms. Bookish
  3. What Was I Reading?
  4. The Printed Page 
  5. At Home With Books

Thank you Katrina for the award!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Value Fiction for your Spring Break - offered by Waterbrook Multinomah

Value Fiction For Your Spring Break
Waterbrook Multinomah Publishing Group
Fiction lovers don't need to budget to travel this spring break with Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's six full-length novels by beloved Christian authors (WaterBrook, February 16, 2010). At the low cost of only $5.99, these well-read "get-aways" provide quality entertainment at a price that any reader can afford.

Secrets by Robin Jones Gunn - Jessica has moved to a new town to start a new life. But a friendly fire-fighter and a suspicious boss both want to know what she's hiding. 

Beneath a Southern Sky by Deborah Raney - Daria Camfield is expecting her first child when her husband Nate is reported dead on the mission field. Devastated, she returns to the States and soon marries again. But two years later Nate is found alive in the jungle. How can Daria possibly choose between he two men who love her? 

The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell Hunt - Aidan O'Connor may be a poor barmaid but she's also a gifted artists. When a famous cartographer takes her on as a student, Aidan is swept into an adventure that will bring her back to her heavenly Father, and into marriage with the love of her life. 

Deep Harbor by Lisa Tawn Bergren - Tora, Elsa, Kaatje, and Karl face trouble, tragedy, and treachery across the Wast, Hawaii, Japan, and the high seas. These four immigrants from Bergen, Norway, each grow closer to God and learn afresh the value of faith, family, and coming alongside each other in times of need. 

Faithful Heart by Al and Joanna Lacy - The adventures of certified medical nurse and dedicated Christian Breanna Baylor continue as she travels by wagon train to visit her sister, Dottie, in California. Little does she know that her most dangerous encounter might be with Jerrod, her brother-in-law, who's suffering from dementia caused by combat fatigue. 

Yesterday's Promise by Linda Lee Chaikin - Rogan Chantry faces danger from tribesmen, ruthless politicians, and his own family as he searches for gold in South Africa. In England, his beloved Evy is injured by a mysterious assailant. The greed and intrigue surrounding the diamond mines could very well drive them irrevocably apart.
Yesterday's Promise (East of the Sun)   Secrets (Glenbrooke)
For my part of the tour I received Secrets by Robin Jones Gunn and Yesterday's Promise by Linda Lee Chaikin.

I have just started reading both of these due to a very busy schedule at the moment, but I can say from what I have read so far that these titles are great values.  So far they contain wonderful stories that entertain and uplift.  I look forward to reading more of both books and then adding more of the spring value titles from Waterbrook Multinomah to my shelves.

I truly enjoy books that focus on the diamond mines in South Africa and all the dangers that surround this part of history so I am enjoying Yesterday's Promise.  And I adore those leave an old life behind and start a new life books like Secrets.

Looking for a taste of some popular Christian writers at great prices - then these books are for you.  Perfect for a spring break weekend, each of these books will provide hours of entertainment for just $5.99.

Thanks to Liz Johnson at Waterbrook Multinomah for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and for sending me these books for review.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Desert Fire by Shannon Van Roekel

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Kregel Publications (September 22, 2009)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Shannon Van Roekel has volunteered on the mission field in both Africa and Mexico and much of this novel is influenced by her experiences. She published works in Guideposts 4 Teens and The Upper Room and now lives with her husband and five children in British Colombia.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (September 22, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825439221
ISBN-13: 978-0825439223


Dear Julia,

I want to die better than I’ve lived. So I ask you, please read this letter to the end.

It’s the only one I’ll send.

Cold, fluorescent light shone down on the metal desk where Fred Keegan sat. His hair was closely shaven along a massive neck between a pair of muscle-bound shoulders. He hunched over white notepaper, his right hand engulfing the pen.

A sigh escaped him, a moment passed, and then the pen scratched its way across the paper again:

If you receive this, it will mean I am gone from this world—so you can relax, I won’t come and disturb your life.

There are some things, however, that I’d like you to know about me.

One is that I’ve always loved you. I guess your mama didn’t spend much time talking about the father you probably had no trouble forgetting. I don’t blame either of you for having nothing to do with me. I was a real jerk. I was guilty, as charged, for the crimes I committed. That life, I am ashamed of, and I paid a high price. Thirty years in the slammer. And counting. I won’t bore you with the sorry-old-me stuff. Mostly, I want to tell you about the last eight years. Something important happened, and you should know not just who I was, but who I got to be and the Treasure I found. This is why I write to you.

I’ve got a picture of a cute kid taped to my wall. You’re missing your front teeth and have two of those pony things. You’re a cute gal and no mistake. Pretty, like your mama. The picture came in the last letter with the divorce papers.

Fred stopped, head bowed, eyes squeezed shut. The memories of that day still filled him with remorse. The rage he’d felt and his inability to control it. Two guards had taken the brunt, both of whom still carried scars marking the event. Two weeks in solitary was his punishment. Regrettably, not long enough to cure him of his anger-management problem.

Picking up his pen again, he gazed at the photo. The tape had yellowed with age. The girl never aged. She smiled back with sweetness and youth.

I guess you were seven in that photo. That means you’d be thirty-three now. I wonder if I’d know you if I saw you today. Can a man walk past his own kin and not feel the bond of blood that connects them? Recognize the spirit in the other who shares his same history, ancestors, and perhaps God? Maybe that’s why we get goose bumps. Maybe I’m a crazy old fool who’s had too much time to think about the inner workings of this thing we call life.

“Keegan, you got a visitor.”

Fred looked up as the guard unlocked the steel door and stepped aside, allowing a tall man access into his cell. His frown at being interrupted from his writing smoothed immediately into a grin when he recognized his guest.

“Mr. Lawyer, good to see ya.”

“Good to be seen, Keegan. How are you feeling today?” Joel Maartens returned Fred’s grin with one of his own.

“Feeling? I guess I’m fine. I’ve got things to do, and that helps keep my mind off the pain.” Fred tried to ignore the pity in Joel’s eyes.

“Let me guess, you’ve got new books?”

Fred followed Joel’s gaze as he glanced at the bookshelf on the opposite wall. His cell was compact: bed, desk, chair, toilet, sink. But the bookshelf reaching from floor to ceiling was the focal point.

“Nah! Not books this time. I’ve got a letter to write, and it’s not an easy thing to do, Mr. Lawyer.” Fred folded his large frame into a sitting position on the edge of his bed so Joel could take the chair. “That’s why I asked to see you. I need some help with its delivery.”

“You need a letter mailed?” Joel asked.

“Not mailed, delivered,” Fred explained.

“Got an address, Keegan?”

“Well, no. No, I don’t. But it’s to my daughter.”

Fred watched Joel, wondering how his lawyer would respond to his proposal. They had known each other for the last five years, and during that time, he had learned to value the man’s opinion. Joel seemed less like his lawyer and more like a nephew.

Joel leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees and his fingers laced together as he spoke.

“I wouldn’t think it should be too difficult. There’ll be a marriage certificate if your ex remarried—would she be the type to remarry?” As Fred nodded and grimaced, Joel continued. “And of course, school registration forms. Maybe with some help from the Web, I could find an address or addresses where you can send the letter—”

“No,” Fred interjected. “I don’t want to mail it. It’s taken me a long time, Joel, but now that I have something of value to offer her, I want to know that it’ll get put into her hands. I don’t know who else to ask. I thought this thing through till my head feels like I’ve got two tumors, not one, and I keep coming back to you. I need you to do this.

“My daughter, Julia, will be my only heir, and you will be the executor—if you agree to it, that is. This search shouldn’t be complicated, but if it is, you can take any funds you require for it from the inheritance provision that you will write up with my signature and a third-party witness. I’m not a rich man, but I’m not a poor one, either, thanks to some of the investments you’ve helped me with.” He stopped. His outburst had winded him.

Fred prepared himself for disappointment as he watched Joel struggle with the ramifications of his request. Things that should be simple and straightforward were sometimes the opposite. For a lawyer to take on the unknown with no guarantee was a leap, and Fred knew it.

Joel hesitated for a moment, then gave a quick nod.

“I’ll do it, Keegan,” he told him.

As they shook hands over the agreement, Fred sighed with relief. He knew Joel would see it through. It was enough.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Want to listen to a great mystery? For Free?

I just found out from the author that today one of my favorite books of the year, Deadly Codes has been released as an audio book at podio.  So you can check it out and listen to a really great mystery book.  I loved this book - it's full of mystery and has great characters and an interesting relationship.  You'll quickly find yourself rooting for Gallagher in this book and turning page after page to see what happens next.  It's the second book in the series, but can be read alone, you just get a better feel for the relationships reading them together.

So check out the free audio book here.

Check out my reviews of Deadly Codes and Fatal Gamble.

Also - want a chance to win a set of these books from the author (he's also giving away a Amazon GC)?  Check out my post on raising money for the CF Foundation - you don't have to donate to enter, see the post for more information.

Check out JP O'Donnell's website.

About Deadly Codes:
In the thriller, Deadly Codes, Daniel Cormac Gallagher, Jr., a Boston private eye, is hired to investigate the death of Jennifer Clark, tragically killed in a car bombing in her own driveway.
Gallagher has been commissioned by Jeanne Campbell, Jennifer's twin sister, to find a mysterious woman-Jennifer's secret lesbian lover who vanished immediately after the bombing. While the authorities continue to pursue their suspicions that the terrorist act may have been intended for Jennifer's husband, Bill, who holds a top-secret position in the counter-intelligence division of the National Security Agency, Jeanne reveals intricate details to Gallagher that intrigue him enough to take on the case. While Gallagher begins searching for the missing woman, he has no idea that a bounty has been placed on his own head-two hired gunmen are plotting to kill him. Gallagher's search takes him to Washington DC, where he discovers that the car bombing is only a backdrop to a complex, treasonous scheme to sell code-breaking formulas to a hostile enemy nation.
As the violent mystery unravels, Gallagher finds himself under deadly attack from two shocking but powerful forces-one he knows and another he never expects.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: The Cougar Club (TLC Tours)

The Cougar Club by Susan McBride
Publisher: Avon
Release: February 1, 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
My Review: 

Rating: 9.0/10.0
The Cougar Club is an absolutely delightful book.  I was pulled into the lives of Kat, Carla and Elise from the very first page and by the end of the book I felt like they were my friends.  That's how well I felt I got to know them.

It's funny going from reading a lot of young adult novels to one about more mature women (which incidentally are only slightly older than me - and I'm feeling it since my birthday is Friday).  But truly there is little difference between teenage girls and older women, mainly the age and some maturity level.  Essentially though all women love men, great shoes and friends.  That is the epitome of Kat, Carla and Elise who are there for each other in some tough times.  Coming back together after quite a few years, these three high school friends act just like they just left each other.  As they catch up and guide each other through new stages in life, the main thing is they are there for each other.

The Cougar Club is a wonderful feel-good friend book that inspires and entertains.  The characters are well developed and the plot moves smoothly.  So smoothly in fact that the pages just flew by.

Women young and old can enjoy this book and I highly recommend this wonderful read.

Rating Breakdown:
Characterization:   1.75/2.0
Plot:                     1.75/2.0
Writing:                1.75/2.0
Attention-holding:   1.0/1.0
Ending:                   1.0/1.0
Believable:            0.75/1.0
Genre:                    1.0/1.0  
Rating:              9.0/10.0
About the Book:

Meet three women who aren't about to run and hide just because the world says they should be on the shelf and out of circulation.
Her life seems perfect until she loses her high-powered advertising job and catches her live-in lover in a compromising position—with his computer!
This sexy TV news anchor is in danger of being replaced by a twentysomething blond bimbo. Wasn't it just yesterday that she was the up-and-coming star?
A married dermatologist, Elise thinks her plastic surgeon husband is playing doctor with someone else.
Kat firmly believes that aging gracefully isn't about giving up; it's about living life with your engine on overdrive. So this unofficial "Cougar Club" quickly learns three things about survival of the fittest in today's youth-obsessed society: True friendship never dies, the only way to live is real, and you're never too old to follow your heart.

About the Author:

Susan McBride is the author of The Cougar Club (January 2010, from HarperCollins/Avon) about three 45-year-old friends who happen to date younger men. She has also written three books in The Debs young adult series (Random House/Delacorte) set in Houston, including The Debs; Love, Lies, and Texas Dips; and the forthcoming Gloves Off. In addition, she’s penned five Debutante Dropout Mysteries (HarperCollins/Avon) set in Dallas: Blue BloodThe Good Girl’s Guide to MurderThe Lone Star Lonely Hearts ClubNight of the Living Deb,  and Too Pretty to Die (HarperCollins/Avon).
Once called “The Lou’s Whodunit Queen” by Sauce magazine in St. Louis, Susan was named one of the city’s “top singles” in 2005 by St. Louis Magazine, but is single no more. She tied the knot in February of 2008. Susan was the cover girl for the February 2009 issue of St. Louis Woman magazine, where she was featured in the article “Paperback Princess.”
Susan has won a Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, a Romantic Times magazine Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Amateur Sleuth Mystery, and was twice nominated for Anthony Awards for Best Paperback Original, and was one of three finalists for the William Rockhill Nelson Award for Literary Excellence (for Kansas and Missouri Authors). She lives in Brentwood, Missouri, with her husband.

Susan McBride's website
Susan McBride also blogs at The Book Belles and at The Stiletto Gang 

Susan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS

Monday, February 1st: Cindy’s Love of Books
Thursday, February 4th: The Winey Mommy
Monday, February 8th: My Overstuffed Bookshelf
Wednesday, February 10th: The Book Zombie
Monday, February 15th: This That and the Other Thing
Wednesday, February 17th: Stacy’s Books
Thursday, February 18th: All About {n}
Monday, February 22nd: Clever Girl Goes Blog
Tuesday, February 23rd: Simply Stacie
Wednesday, February 24th: My Reading Room
Thursday, February 25th: Write Meg


Guest Post with Author Bill Walker of A Note From an Old Aquaintance

I was quite unprepared for love when first it came to me. I was fifteen and attending a new boarding school in Western Massachusetts, renowned as much for its high academic standards as it was for its bucolic location nestled in a horseshoe of the Berkshire Mountains. It was my first day there and after meeting my roommate, stowing my gear and making my bunk, I decided to take a walk around the campus. The grounds were alive with students. You could tell the new ones. Like me, they strolled around in a semi-catatonic daze, trying to get their bearings.

It was later in the afternoon when I saw Claudia for the first time. I literally stopped in my tracks, watching her stride up the walkway toward the main building, where the new students were to meet for a brief orientation. The spun gold of her light blonde hair caught the rays of the September sun as it swayed across her shoulder blades, and the air grew thick around me, my breath catching in my throat. Her Caribbean-blue eyes shown with an inner light, set into a face while not supermodel beautiful, nonetheless struck me with its knowing innocence. Her body, however, was far from innocent, shaped in curvaceous ways no fifteen-year-old body should have been. I was captivated. And I had no idea what in hell to do.

You see, I'd always been very shy, and while I'd had crushes on girls before, none of them hit me with the primal force of nature that was Claudia. The emotions rushing through me every time I caught sight of her were so intense—so powerful—my heart raced and my tongue seized in my mouth, rendering me mute. Eventually, I worked up the courage to speak to her and we became friends, but I wanted so much more and lacked the courage to say or do anything about it. I watched, in agony, as she took up with another boy, their attraction to each other a palpable thing.

When she broke up with him a month or two later, I was hopeful again, but those fleeting aspirations were dashed, when one of the "big men on campus" swept her off her feet. He broke her heart shortly thereafter and I tried to be of solace to her, to be the friend she needed, in the hopes she would at last see the love brimming in my heart. I ached to declare myself, but feared ridicule, or worse, the dreaded "we're just friends" speech. Alas, she found romance with yet another boy and after a few dark nights of the soul I finally realized she and I would never have that kind of relationship.
I only spent a year at the school, as my family moved from Connecticut to Florida that spring, where I attended a private day school. The truth was I could never go back to that school nestled in the mountains, could never walk those ivied halls again without being reminded of her. I still think of Claudia every now and then and wonder how her life's turned out. I hope she's happier now than she was then.

If you're out there, Claudia, now you know the truth....

Monday, February 22, 2010

A good look at teenage pregnancy: Blog Tour and Review for Anything but Normal by Melody Carlson

A Gripping Novel That Showcases the Other Side of Teen Pregnancy:
She was smart, well-liked and about to start her senior year.
But now she has a secret to keep hidden and a broken heart in need of healing.

My Review:
Rating: 9.0/10.0

Teen pregnancy, we all have an opinion on it.  Whether we believe it's from teens with totally lax values, to teens who make a one-time mistake we all have feelings on this heated subject.  I know I had certain ideas going into this book and after reading it I have definitely been rethinking where I was coming from.

Sophie is a good girl, she attends church and has made her purity vow and despite all the wishing to the contrary she is pregnant.  What Anything But Normal gives the reader is her story.  We see the world through her eyes from her own beliefs about pregnancy and the girls who are pregnant at her school to how others begin to see her.  We see all the sides.  Should we cast out a pregnant girl or should we support her.  If we support her are we supporting looser morals.  All of these questions are looked at and handled in a wonderful way.

Whereas this subject is heavy (and the book definitely treats it as a heavy subject), the book reads quickly and I could not put it down.  It was interesting seeing it from Sophie's angle and how not everyone fits into our slots that we decide to put them in.  Sophie struggles quite a bit and her struggle is fascinating to watch.  The reactions of those around her are too.  I absolutely loved the character of Wes and how he is a great male character.  This book doesn't make either gender out to be the bad one.  All make mistakes and like in life - we all make mistakes, just some of them are seen more than others.

The Biblical basis behind Ms. Carlson's work stands true and her message is one of love and forgiveness just as Jesus did.  It's also one of responsibility which is something that often gets shuffled out of the way these days.

All-in-all Anything But Normal is an amazing read.  Sophie, her parents, and her friends make great characters and hardly any character is the book remains the same at the end as they were in the beginning - there is growth and learning in all of them.  Don't expect preachiness in this book at all - it's straightforward and believable without being over-the-top with the message - I truly believe the message you come out with from this book is what you make of it.  I took a lot away from it - especially the you need to walk a mile in someones shoes to understand what they are going through.  Another one that comes through is how wrong it is to judge others.  These are wonderful messages that should control our life more.  And again responsibility is also a big part of this book so it is not lost amongst the lessons of love and forgiveness.

I think my only real problem with this one was things were a little hurried at the end, I would have liked to have known more, but everything was tied up really well, so the ending is left completely up in the air.

Read it and see, but I think Anything But Normal will not disappoint if you want a thought-provoking and entertaining young adult book dealing with a tough subject.  Good for parents and teens alike - I can see a lot of good discussion points that can come out of this one.

Favorite Quote:
"I don't see why people have to label everything." Wes sighed. "I mean, instead of just being one thing or another, maybe we need to be better informed--and come to our own conclusions."
Rating Breakdown:
Characterization:   1.75/2.0
Plot:                     1.75/2.0
Writing:                 1.75/2.0
Attention-holding:  1.0/1.0
Ending:                  0.75/1.0
Believable:             1.0/1.0
Genre:                   1.0/1.0    
Rating:                9.0/10.0

About the Book:  
Melody Carlson is able to write to teenaged girls in ways that tap into their greatest hopes, fears and struggles and, through the tales of her beloved characters that quickly become like BFFs, help readers make sense of the confusing and complicated world around them.

This is no less true than with Carlson’s latest release,  Anything But Normal:

Sophie is your normal, average high-school girl who attends church and gets good grades. The summer is wrapping up and while she should be counting down the days to the start of her senior year, she’s anything but excited. What Sophie’s in need of right now is a fresh start.

While her best friends are worried about what to wear and the cutest guy in school, Sophie’s got bigger concerns—like the secret she’s keeping about what happened this summer. She’s about to find out that she won't be able to keep things under wraps much longer.

In this page-turning novel, Carlson offers readers a realistic and heartwrenching vantage point into the messy and emotional world of teen pregnancy. Readers can relate with Sophie who just wants to be normal and loved, but now must figure out how to deal with the consequences of what has happened.

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus. She also writes many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon.

Available from Revell Books in January 2010
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What are you Reading Monday - February 22

Come post weekly and see what others are reading too just so you can add to your tbr - I always do! For more information see Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books and join in!

Books Completed Last Week:

  • Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens
  • The Mark by Jen Nadol
  • Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner
  • The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
  • Anything But Normal by Melody Carlson
Reading Now:
  • The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter
  • Evernight by Claudia Gray (Kindle)
  • Absolute Power by David Baldacci (audiobook)
  • Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith
  • The Cougar Club by Susan McBride
  • Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham
  • Desert Fire by Shannon Van Roekel
  • Secrets by Robin Jones Gunn
  • Yesterday's Promise by Linda Lee Chaikin
  • Out With the In Crowd by Stephanie Morrill

Reviews Completed this week:

Reviews to do:

  • Don't You Forget About Me by Cecily von Ziegesar
  • Let Them Eat Fruitcake by Melody Carlson
  • Smash Cut by Sandra Brown
  • Invitation Only by Kate Brian
  • Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris (audiobook)  
  • Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens
  • The Mark by Jen Nadol
  • The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
Summary -
Good week for finishing books, not so good for getting reviews done.  I will catch up.  I read some very good books this week and I'm looking forward to another interesting week.  I still haven't touched my own bookshelf this year, but eventually will.  It's hard when publishers keep coming out with more and more great books.  
Make sure to check out the sidebar for my giveaways.  Have a great week everyone.