Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

I am very picky about children's books. I used to do children's programming at a public library and I am very passionate about juvenile literature. When I initially heard about this new series, I was intrigued and I am so happy that I was able to get an advance copy of the first book.

Miss Penelope Lumley (a cross between Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre) leaves the Swaburne Academy for Poor Bright Females in answer to an advertisement for a governess for three children at Ashton Place. The advertisement stresses that the governess must be good with animals.  Upon arrival, Penelope finds three naked wild children found by Lord Ashton in the woods upon his property. They have been raised by wolves.  Being a tenderhearted individual with a particular affection for animals, Penelope undertakes the challenge of socializing and enculturating Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia. 

I found this book to be very charming.  It is set in the mid-1800s and has a very old-fashioned feel to it.  Penelope is plucky and no-nonsense with a good heart.  I love her as a protagonist and role model for young girls.  I was disappointed that the author didn't spend a bit more time on Penelope's socializing of the children. It seems they went from naked wild things to clothed poetry-appreciators too quickly.  Wood missed out  on a lot of opportunities for humor there.  The book sets up several mysteries that will unfold in the series:  where did the children come from? Who are their parents?  What is the source of the secret howling at Ashton Place?  What is Old Timothy up to?  It would have been nice to have at least one questions answered in this first book but it definitely leaves you wanting more.

PARENTAL ADVISORY:  (*possible spoiler alert*)

This book is very clean. No foul language or questionable content. The children are naked at the beginning of the book but it is entirely appropriate and innocent.  The book does have some sinister content.  It is hinted that Lord Ashton intended his hunting buddies to hunt and possibly kill the children. A little horrific for a children's book but the whole thing was vague enough not to unsettle a reader too much.

BOTTOM LINE: A charming new children's book with a great heroine and lots of potential for the series.  Probably a better fit for girls and those who like classic children's books such as THE SECRET GARDEN.


This could be a difficult book to review because I love A.S. Byatt so much. I may be a bit biased.  Byatt is one of those gifted writers who has a wonderful grasp of classic writing styles from prose to poetry. Reading her books often feels as if you have pulled Thomas Hardy or Charles Dickens off the shelf. If you didn't know any better, you would think you were reading a book written in the mid to late 1800s.  THE CHILDREN'S BOOK is no exception.

THE CHILDREN'S BOOK follows the lives of a number of children in several families at the end of the Victorian age.  Many of these families are bohemian aristocrats with socialist-style world views.  Everything is art and free love.  These ways of thinking serve to shape each of the children in different ways. The book follows the lives of the children through World War I and its devastating consequences on all of their lives.

This is a difficult book to describe because of its scope.  The reader not only comes to know these individuals intimately and thoroughly but also views the effects that this tumultuous period of time in history. The detailed and old-fashioned style of writing may be cumbersome and tedious for some.  However, I found I couldn't put the book down. I had to know what would happen with each storyline. Sadly, there are some individuals in the book that simply disappear at the end so the reader does not learn their fate.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  Well written and incredibly detailed and well-developed. This book is not for everyone, however.  You have to enjoy this style of writing as it often requires a slower reading pace.  While it did not replace POSSESSION in my affection, it was still a great read.

Maybe Next Year

I would like to tell you that I had a magical Christmas with my family. I'd like to tell you we enjoyed each other's company and made merry while watching Noodlebug tear into his packages. I'd like to tell you Christmas was everything I had hoped it would be.

I can't tell you that.

This was the worst Christmas I can remember having.  Fighting, negativity, disappointment. I knew the holiday was crashing down around my ears when I couldn't muster any enthusiasm to go view Christmas lights which is one of my favorite holiday activities.  My tradition is to put up the Christmas decorations on the day after Thanksgiving and take them down on New Year's Day.  The decorations have been put away for days now because I cannot look at them.

I received many wonderful and generous gifts.  Things that I will enjoy for a long time.  But the only gift I really wanted was a merry Christmas.  On the upside, Noodlebug reveled in the attention of three uncles and one aunt. He was beside himself with excitement and happiness at having so many people to play with. He was appropriately spoiled and the big hit of the holiday was a mini basketball goal that his uncle gave him.  His father and uncles are grooming him to be the next Kobe Bryant.  I think Noodlebug is shell-shocked now that the house is so empty and quiet.

This has been a tough year for my family. Many challenges that I still haven't figured out yet.  I can only continue to hope for a happier future.  New Year's is right around the corner and it is a time for new beginnings.  I return to work on Monday so in the interim I will enjoy my last few days as a temporary stay-at-home mom.

I wish you all the happiest of New Years and hope for a better tomorrow.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Secret Santa Found!

I wanted to extend another thank you to my wonderful Book Blogger Holiday Swap Santa, Susan of YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS!  She revealed herself and now I am enjoying getting to know her through her blog.  Find it here.

I so enjoy meeting new bloggers!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Notes in the Margin

I have decided to introduce a new feature into my blog called "Notes in the Margin." These will be brief updates on my current progress when I don't have anything to post. Just so you know I'm still here!

I am feverishly working on Byatt's CHILDREN'S BOOK and I'm about halfway through Kingsolver's LACUNA.

Here are the next books in the pile:

ELYNIA by David Michael Belczyk

GREEN BRONZE MIRROR by Lynne Ellison (Young Adult title)

THE KINGDOM OF OHIO by Matthew Flaming

DUG DOWN DEEP by Joshua Harris (Christian title)

THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin


So excited about THE PASSAGE!!! I've read lots of good buzz about it. It's a chunkster at 703 pages but it won't be published until June so I have a little time to get it read.

I have also started added genre labels to my book review posts so if you are looking for Young Adult or Christian titles, you can search for them that way.

Happy reading everyone!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!!

You know what is even better than having a book blogger as a Secret Santa?  Having a book blogger from CANADA as your Secret Santa!!!

I just got the most AMAZING package from the Book Blogger Holiday Swap!  My Secret Santa REALLY REALLY REALLY spoiled me!

Look at all of this bounty:

A mini-Christmas tree, a sweet snowman, some hot chocolate (Yum!!! It's something off my wish list!)  some yummy bell-shaped candies, a lovely bookmark, a mystery by a Candian writer and a special children's book for Noodlebug ALSO by a Canadian author. 

So much thoughtfulness and generosity went into this package and it really made my day! While my Secret Santa did not reveal him/herself, I hope they are checking my blog so they know how much their wonderful gift is appreciated!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Giveaway Winner!

Congrats to :

Amy Thompson!

You are the winner of 40 LOAVES. Please e-mail me your mailing address and I will get it to you ASAP. It will be a great tool for starting off the new year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I have mentioned in previous years how this is my favorite Christmas song. I'm picky about the version, though. Many versions of this song change the words to make it more peppy. In its original version from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, it is a wistful song about life changes and hoping for better days ahead. The line "until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" always gets me. So, as I begin my holiday vacation, I want to leave you with my favorite version of this holiday classic.

I'll still be checking in over the holidays so don't you worry! But I want to take this moment to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the happiest of new years. I know the past year has been particularly rough for many people. In spite of that fact, I have seen more acts of courage, faith and generosity than I can remember in recent years. You are all amazing people and this is a blessed life indeed.

"Next year all our troubles will be miles away!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Secrets of a Christmas Box by Steven Hornby

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.

I have been saving this book because I felt it would be the perfect holiday read. The premise is wonderful and original.  Each year, after the Christmas tree is decorated, all of the ornaments come to life at night. On this particular year, Larry the Snowman "wakes up" to discover that his brother is missing. Larry and his friends break the laws of the Tree-Elders in order to try and find his brother as they escape the tree and adventure into the house.

Something was missing in this book for me.  The book lacked the whimsy to make it truly successful and it was surprisingly dark.  Bad things happen and some of the characters are too scary for little ones.  I think that is one of the main problems of the book. It sets itself up to be a family read with 24 chapters for each night of the holiday season. But it is too scary for little ones and I was baffled by Hornby's constant use of the word "flippin'" in place of a more obvious and less savory word.  It just wasn't necessary. 


I think this book would have been more successful if it had stuck to the night-time adventures of Christmas ornaments and their origins. The complication of Larry the Snowman searching for his brother and subsequently finding him "dead" was unpleasantly surprising. This, along with murderous Christmas lights and jealous killer ornaments, made the book much darker and unpleasant than a Christmas story should be.


BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. This could have been a truly original Christmas story that families could enjoy every year together. Instead, it was too dark and not whimsical enough. Perhaps with retooling, this could become a holiday favorite.

Mission Accomplished

Whew! Another thing marked off the Christmas list!  My Book Blogger Holiday Swap partner received the package I sent her. See the details here at her blog. I'm so relieved that she likes everything. I want so much to make people that I swap with happy and it can be hard to pick just the right items.  I think one of the best things about doing a swap like this is that it helps you discover a new blog and I have been enjoying reading Carrie's Books and Movies blog and getting to know her.  I have not yet received my Book Blogger Holidays Swap package but I promise to post about it when I do!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gonna Make It

It seems that my entire household is sick. Noodlebug has croup and husband has stomach flu. I am trying to employ mind over matter not to get sick.  This scene from THE THREE AMIGOS sums up how I feel right now:

If I can just make it until Friday at 3:30pm PST, I will have two blissful weeks off to rest, recuperate and READ!!!  Hope you are having a happy, healthy holiday season!

Monday, December 14, 2009

40 LOAVES by C.D. Baker and GIVEAWAY

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

I am always on the lookout for a good devotional.  I often start them and never finish them because they seldom offer me what I need. There are plenty of books that address the needs of Christians who are content and comfortable in their faith. There aren't many that feed those who may have a "hungry spirit."  I was drawn in by 40 LOAVES immediately after reading the Note to Reader.  Baker begins this devotional by pointing out that it is okay to have questions and doubts about our faith. As he points out, "Questions invite authenticity."  It is so refreshing to hear someone say that!!!  40 LOAVES offers a series of bread crumbs (or more nourishing loaves) for those of us who feel a bit lost in our faith.  It challenges us to ask the tough questions.

I especially loved the sections on sin and feeling disconnected and angry.  Baker allows us to explore these feelings that many Christians want simply to sweep under the rug. For those of us who struggle with issues of faith and doubt, this book allows us a safe place to ask the tough questions.  Each section is only a few pages long and includes thought questions and a prayer.  This would make a great holiday gift to help those who wish to explore their faith in greater depth a great way to start the new year.  It also has forty chapters which would make it a good read for Lent as well.

You may purchase a copy of this book here.

I have a copy of this book to give away.  It would make a great companion book to start the new year with. If you are interested in winning a copy, please leave a comment here.  The contest will be open until Friday, December 18!

Friday, December 11, 2009

WILD THINGS by Dave Eggers

When I first saw the preview for the new Spike Jonze movie version of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, I squirmed in my seat with excitement.  I couldn't wait to see how Jonze reimagined Sendak's classic book.  When I finally saw the film, my response was a mixed bag.  While I appreciated the beauty of the film and the fact that it accurately presented some of the difficulties and pain of childhood, I didn't seem to emotionally connect to it.  Jonze collaborated with Dave Eggers on the screenplay so I was interested to see how Eggers fleshed out the story in his book THE WILD THINGS. The fact that I saw the movie first may have colored my impressions of Eggers' book. He didn't add much to what I had already seen on the big screen. 

Max is a troubled 10-year-old boy with a single divorced mother  and anolder sister who is starting to drift away as she concerns herself with "grown up" things.  Max feels lost and alone and confused by all the emotions running through him.  After a confrontation with his mother, Max runs away and take a boat to the island of the Wild Things where he becomes their king. But he learns that being a king isn't everything he thought it would be.

The Wild Things represent different side to Max's personality and, perhaps, of those of the people in his life. It is surpising how menacing and frightening these creatures can be. They are not the whimsical creatures of Sendak's book. This is both a good and bad thing. Eggers does a great job demonstrating the complexities of childhood and all the confusing feelings that come with it. However, it left me feeling disconnected and impatient. I never really felt engaged by the book or the movie.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended.  See the movie instead.  At least there you will get the beauty of the visuals. The book is simply a watered down version of the film.

RIP Kirkus Reviews

I began my day today by reading the announcement that Kirkus Reviews is ceasing publication.  What?!!  For years, when I have looked for reviews on books, I have always gone first to the Kirkus Review because I respect their opinion.  If they gave a book a good review, I knew I would probably like it.  This is just so sad.  First my favorite parenting magazine goes under and now my favorite book review publication.  What is this world coming to?

In other news, I am reading like a madwoman! Trying hard to finish about 4 books so I hope to post some new reviews soon.  Happy reading everyone!!!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What a Weekend!

Well, we completed our Dallas trip this weekend and made it back in one piece.  My little one was a champ!  He is such a good little traveler. I wish I could say the same for the other travelers we ran into. I was shocked at how rude and nasty people were. As I struggled to get my child onto the plane and into our seats, people were just nasty.  Their reactions ranged from eye-rolling to unpleasant comments.  And not one person every offered to help when they saw me struggling. Not even a flight attendant on any of the four flights we took.  It crushed my holiday spirit a bit but I rallied. 

I grew up in Dallas and I miss it a lot.  It felt so good being home again. We stuffed ourselves with Mexican food, German food and barbecue. We drove around the Park Cities looking at holiday lights and stopped by NorthPark to see the decorations and my very favorite Santa Claus. (see above)  Noodlebug was very brave and even cracked a smile for the Santa photo.

I also discovered a fantastic travel tip I would like to pass on. I was worried about carrying so much baby gear with me on the plane so I opted to not bring a stroller or any toys. Instead, I rented a stroller and toys through TravelBabees.  They were fantastic!!!  Not only are they affordable but they delivered the items to our hotel. The stroller was a BRAND NEW Peg-Perego and the toys were also new and age appropriate.  It gave Noodlebug lots of great things to play with in the hotel room without me having to lug around a bag of toys from home. Such a great affordable service! I highly recommend it if you are traveling with little ones. 

(I am not associated with nor paid by TravelBabees. I just wanted to recommend a great service)

After all the hustle and bustle, it is great to be home. If I can just get hubby to put the lights outside, I think we will be ready for Christmas.  I'm looking forward to it!

(photo borrowed from and owned by NorthPark Center)

Monday, December 07, 2009

Value Gifts for the Holiday Season

These books were provided for review by the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books Program.

I had the chance to read and review some books from the Waterbrook Multnomah value non-fiction line and from their 99 Ways line. I think the folks over at Waterbrook Multnomah must know me better than I think they do because they chose this title from their 99 Ways line to send to me:

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this little book.  The 99 ways are broken into 7 sections full of little bits and pieces of wisdom: Lean on Your Friends, Guard Your Rest, Write it Down, Dream a Little, Find the Humor, Pursue Healthy Diversions and Dive into Truth.  I find myself nodding my head many times throughout the book.  I especially liked the "Guard Your Rest" and "Dive into Truth" sections.  I'm not very good at guarding my rest and Colopy gives good examples of how to do this such as giving yourself a time-out.  The final section gives suggestions on how to deal with worry and fear.  Something I really need right now. This inexpensive little book provides a priceless trove of good ideas.

Buy a copy of this book here.

I also received this title from their value non-fiction line:

While I am a married gal now, I was a single gal for a long time. I didn't get married until I was 31. I probably could have used this book once upon a time. The book starts with the practical premise that the only thing we can change or control about our relationships is ourselves.  It then moves from taking charge of your own life and knowing what you want to understanding what HE wants so that you don't choose the wrong person.  I really appreciated the fact that this common sense book offers good advice from a Christian perspective.  Most everything that Hammond and Brooks say in the book is dead on. 

I felt that the best part of the book covered becoming a complete individual FIRST before seeking out a relationship.  God made us whole.  We aren't missing any pieces or better halves.  Your life can be complete without a romantic relationship. I think that people in that state of mind become far more successful when they DO enter a relationship.  If you are a Christian women looking for some solid dating advice (or know one who NEEDS some Christian dating advice), I would recommend picking up this book instead of something like THE RULES.

You can purchase this book here.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

On Deck

These will be my next reads unless someone has anything to warn me about (wink):

THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo
ETERNAL ON THE WATER by Joseph Monninger