Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lovey Dovey Books

So I always get requests from friends and family to make a personalized list of books for them that they would like. Though I enjoy doing that, I hesitate sometimes to make that type of call for them simply because what if my suggestion backfires? I can't handle that pressure! (Just kidding) Anyway, of course most of my friends are still reeling after finishing the Twilight series and need some happy romance in their lives, no strings attached. I'll try and post summaries about all the books I list, but to satisfy their (and your) needs right now, here's a list of romantic books to fulfill all of your romantic needs:

For Juvenile/Teen Readers:
Boston Jane series
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
The Percy Jackson series (it's there but it may take until the later books to show)
Dragon Slippers series
The Sisters Grimm series (again, it'll take a couple books to show)
Alanna series
Ella Enchanted
Once Upon a Time series

For Teen Readers:

Twilight series (obviously)
Blood and Chocolate
Dairy Queen series
Notes from the Midnight Driver (subtle, but it's there)
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series
Graceling (I'm not a huge fan of this book, but you might be)
The Hunger Games
Keturah and Lord Death (who doesn't want to date Death?)
The Year My Life Went Down the Loo series (hilarious!)
Eyeliner of the Gods series
All of the Avon True Romance series (the teen versions of "romance novels"- there's nothing bad, I swear!)
The Raging Quiet
Georgia Nichols series (they're British and HILARIOUS!)
The Princess Diaries series
Waiting for Odysseus- Clemence McLaren
Troy- Adele Geras
A Great and Terrible Beauty series

For Adult Readers:

Practical Magic
Hannah Swensen mystery series (Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, etc.)
Stephanie Plum mystery series (One for the Money, etc.)
Jayhawk- Dorothy Keddington (it's a Mormon book and it may be out of print, but it's good!)
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation series
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Emilie's Voice
The Women of Genesis series- Orson Scott Card
The Virgin Blue
The Other Boleyn Girl
Memoirs of a Geisha
Jemima J

Don't feel limited by the age groups that I've grouped them in. Feel free to read any book from any age group, though of course if you have a child that's in middle school, you're not really going to want them to read the adult group books. However, if you're a teen feel free to read whatever- I know that I read most of the "adult" books when I was in high school.
Also, a lot of these books aren't specifically "romance" books, but have substantial enough romance in them that they can qualify as romances. Enjoy!

Dragon Slippers

So I just finished reading Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George. Wow! What a great read! I've been meaning to read it for a while now, but never seemed to take the chance to sit down and read it. (I'm sure that attending the Provo Children's Book Festival helped me finally kick the bucket and start it because I met Jessica Day George and remembered how great of a writer and storyteller she is). I was slightly skeptical of the story just because there are so many kids of books out there that have to deal with dragons (and I've read a lot of them) and just reading the inside flap kind of turned me off. Yet I pushed through my prejudices and discovered a little jewel of a book.

Creel is an orphan that lives with her aunt and uncle in a poor farming town. To cut the costs of all the children her family has to take care of, her aunt decides to give Creel to the local dragon in hopes that she can then have the wealthy lord's son rescue and then marry Creel. Plans don't go exactly as her aunt had mapped out for Creel, and the next thing you know Creel has made a friend in the local dragon and has decided to make her way in life by becoming an apprentice in The King's Seat (the country's capital). Unlike other dragon stories, George has created dragons that have hoards of unique objects, and not of gold- some dragons hoard stained glass windows, tapestries, shoes, and even dogs. Before Creel leaves the dragon she's just encountered, she ends up with a pair of odd blue sippers from his personal hoard. Through a series of events Creel learns just how magical these slippers are and what she can do to use their power to save their country.

This was a really fast read, and an enjoyable one to boot. I've loved all of George's books so far, and Dragon Slippers didn't disappoint. To tell you the truth, as Mormon children's authors go, I like her a lot better than Shannon Hale; I'd take Dragon Slippers (and most definitely Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow) over The Goose Girl any day. I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, and the "trequel"as well. (Alright, so I made up a word. What I really mean is that I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel to the second book, or the third in the series thus far).

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Boston Jane Series

The Boston Jane Trilogy:
An Adventure
Wilderness Days
The Claim

I love these books. I can't tell you how much I love them, but I do. A lot. And the funny thing about them is that I never planned on reading them until a fellow staff member (thanks Sheila!) recommended them to me. This has to be one of my all-time favorite series simply because it's filled with romance and history and a main character that's full of sass and adventure.

The storyline for all three books is that Jane (who is actually from Philadelphia and not Boston) leaves her father and Philadelphia in the hopes of marrying a man that she has had a crush on since he apprenticed with her father, a doctor. He leaves her to become a doctor in Washington (state), and Jane, being the "dutiful" girl that she is, believes that she should follow him to become his wife. What ensues is a fun adventure for Jane of a ridiculously long ship ride to the other side of the country (we're talking going around the base of Southern America!), crazy climate, and a fiance that is nowhere to be seen. I don't want to tell you anything about the other two books because what I write will give away the plot that is set up from the first book, Boston Jane: An Adventure. These books are amazing and too much fun. I definitely stayed up late into the night reading all of them.

Just a note of caution: if you find yourself having a hard time getting through the first book, DO NOT DESPAIR! The first book took me a while to get into, but once you get to the part where Jane is on the ship traveling to Washington, things pick up. Also, the first book was my least favorite- they become better with each new book. Another side note: the second and third books are out of print, so try buying them from a second seller on or through a used bookstore.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Provo Library Children's Book Festival

So yesterday I attended the Provo City Library's Children's Literature Festival which was a ton of fun. The library has had this event for two years now (I believe), and each year has been a smashing success. I had a blast meeting lots of new authors, yet I still didn't have enough time to go to the selected readings and forums that some of the authors were giving, which was disheartening. Hopefully there's next year, right? Anyway, I got these authors to sign my books (among my friends' relatives' and co-workers'):
Shannon Hale
Brandon Mull
Brandon Sanderson
Mette Ivie Harrison
Jessica Day George
I had met Shannon and both Brandon's from last year's event, but Jessica and Mette were new. I had thought of meeting them both last year but thought I should have actually read both of their books prior to getting them signed. I still didn't have time to read Mette's book, but I have the ambition to read it! I swear! Hopefully next year I can meet James Dashner and let him know that I actually have read his books and enjoyed them. All in all, it was a successful event with tons of crazy and hyper children running about with loud ear-piercing cries (which we all know equals a hit).
It was cute though-- Darcie and I met these two kids, a brother and sister ages 13 and 16ish, who were excited to meet Brandon Mull. The boy was so excited to meet him, and was asking aloud whether Brian Jacques was going to be here, and even Tolkien. We sadly had to tell him that we were pretty sure Jacques lives in Scotland and that Tolkien was signing books for fans on the other side. We let him know that this event was for local authors; his sister was slightly embarrassed, but we reassured them both. They were both adorable, and hopefully we run into them both next year.
Oh, this is totally random, but while I was in line waiting to meet Jessica Day George, there was a woman behind me that looked really familiar. I was trying to remember where I remember seeing her and after I second of contemplation realized that she was the one to host Rick Riordan here last February ('08). (Her name is Mrs. Moody from Dixon Middle School). I told her that I was so thankful that she was able to get him out here and that his presence in the greater Wasatch area seriously made my life. She then told me the story of how she got him to come out here: she randomly sent him an email asking if he would be at all available to visit her school/area to do a book signing and presentation for her school because her kids love him and would love the chance to meet him. He wrote back saying he would be available at such and such a time and gave her the price of what it would cost to host him. She responded and said there would be no way she could afford him but he said that yes she could. He asked her what she could afford to spend to have him out for 3 days, she let him know, and he said that he would love to come- he said he was excited to come-he had never been to Utah before.
I was floored when I heard her story- it was seriously a fluke that I ended up seeing a flier that told of his coming to the Barnes and Noble in Orem. I was volunteering for one day at Dixon Middle School for my American Heritage class and while I was waiting for an assignment I was examining my surroundings in a classroom and saw the flier for his book signing. I seriously started jumping with joy (on the inside). I couldn't believe my luck. If I had not signed up for volunteering that day I would never have met him. It was fate, I swear. It was awesome. And I love Mrs. Moody from Dixon Middle. She has some great ideas for her students- she was getting a ton of hardback books signed by authors there at the event because if her kids meet their reading goals by the end of the year she would try and get a signed copy of one of their favorite books, or give them a book of their choosing. That's dedication right there.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech

Books Written: Absolutely Normal Chaos, Bloomability, The Castle Corona, Chasing Redbird, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, Hate that Cat, Heartbeat, Love that Dog, Pleasing the Ghost, Replay, Ruby Holler, Walk Two Moons, The Wanderer
Notable Awards:
For Absolutely Normal Chaos: 100 Best Books for Reading and Sharing in 1995 (New York Public Library), YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults in 2001
For Bloomability: Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award in 1998, Chicago Public Library Best Books in 1998
For Chasing Redbird: ALA Best Books in 1997, Finalist for the Parent's Choice Award Silver Honor in 1997
For Love that Dog: Christopher Award, Claudia Lewis Poetry Award
For Ruby Holler: Carnegie Medal in 2002
For Walk Two Moons: Newbery Medal, Children's Book Award in 1995, UK Reading Association Award in 1995
For The Wanderer: Newbery Honor Award in 2001, ALA Notable Book in 2001, Christopher Award in 2001, Parent's Choice Award in 2000, Child Magazine Best Book of the Year 2000
Her Niche: A lot (if not all) of her stories deal with the coming of age of her main characters. Usually there is a big adventure for the main character that propels them into knowledge, or to say it differently, into a more enlightened and wise-end state.
Why I like her (a lot) and why I think you should too: I just love her books. They're refreshing and highly enjoyable to read. I know that whenever I read one of her books I'll be settling down for the afternoon- the sunlight will stream through my window, I'll be perfectly comfortable in my chair, and I'll think to myself, "If only my childhood was like this...". It's interesting, but every time I read something by her I'm always reminded on my childhood and early adolescent years because her books produce a form of nostalgia that is hard to beat with any other author.
Which of her books I've read: Bloomability, Chasing Redbird, Heartbeat, The Wanderer. On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being "This book was sent from the gods for us mere mortals to read" and 1 being "This book wouldn't even make good toilet paper") here's how they rate:
Bloomability: 5
Chasing Redbird: 5
Heartbeat: 4
The Wanderer: 4

The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler was somewhat of a delight to read. I've always seen this book in the library yet had never thought to pick it up because it's for adults and didn't seem too interesting at all. However, after I watched the movie and LOVED it, I thought I'd give it a try.

The book club is made up of 6 members (5 women and 1 man) who all come together and form the club as a pick-me-up for Sylvia, a member, whose husband has just left her for another women. The other members think that the club will be a good distraction for her and help her move on with life. The basic structure of the club is to read all of Austen's six novels (Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma), one a month, with each book club member hosting the book discussion at their own house. As you read on you realize that each character has an Austen novel that pretty much describes their life and that with each novel they present you find out more about them and how each member is connected to others in the group.

I thought this book was okay and was really only interested in one of the story lines (Prudie's). I loved the movie and found that watching the movie prior to reading the book really helped me visualize the characters and the story line because I could see the real-life representations in my mind. I thought the book was okay, but definitely prefer the movie to the book when it comes to this one. I loved that the author is from Davis, CA. and set the novel in the San Fransisco Bay Area. Other than that, I found the group's discussion hard to follow because the language was tough to work through as well as their lofty thoughts. I had to really concentrate to get through their gatherings and found myself skipping ahead somewhat. It's sad, but by the time I got to the last 100 pages or so I just skimmed and only really read the parts that stuck with the movie. I'm horrible, I know, but sue me. It was hard and my brain hurt sometimes!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green was interesting to say the least. I enjoyed the original format of the story, the witty characters, and the humor that was laced throughout the framework of the book. The main premise of this book is that in one way or another, the entire story revolves around the character Margo Roth Spiegelman. So to get things started, the story is told from the point of view of Quentin Jacobsen, a senior in high school who has been in love with Margo since they were kids, who just so happens to live next door to him. After recounting stories of how odd Margo is, she shows up in the middle of the night outside Quentin's window asking him to join her in a night of revenge filled escapades. What follows is an interesting evening where we get another perspective of Margo that even Quentin didn't know existed.

Once Quentin and Margo both go home after their joyous evening of fun, Quentin can't help but think if Margo will talk to him at school tomorrow, share their inside secrets, or even acknowledge his presence (she is a popular girl after all). Once Quentin gets to school he realizes that Margo isn't there- no biggie, he'll just wait to talk to her later at home. Hopefully she has another night of madness planned. However, four days pass and no one has seen any signs of Margo. The cops are called but her parents aren't worried seeing as this is her 6th or so attempt to run away. They think she'll come home when she wants to, but Quentin isn't so sure- especially when he finds a clue that references the night that they both spent together, which seems to be left specifically for him. What follows next is Quentin's attempt to find Margo, along with his best friends, through the chain of clues that she's left him, hoping that he can bring her back to him when she's seemed to fall off the face of the earth.

I really enjoyed reading the first half of this book, and parts of the second half as well. There were a lot of hilarious parts where I found I had to reign back my laughter because my roommate was asleep in the next bed. The middle of the story, the part where Quentin is trying to connect the clues and find Margo was a little slow, and parts of the story where he's looking for a specific clue could have been edited- it took too long to find Margo through her clues. I know the story is supposed to be somewhat realistic, but Quentin is seriously obsessed with finding her- it would have been nice if Green would have sped up the process to either make it seem like Quentin isn't obsessing over Margo, who seems really odd and wacky, or have him give up at some point.

The ending was not what I expected at all, and looking back, wished that Green could have come up with another ending. Once you find out what happens, it's kind of a letdown. Other than that, the story is enjoyable, and worth reading.

Practical Magic

Practical Magic has entered the realm of books on my favorites list. I just finished reading it a week ago and loved it even more than I would have if I had read it at another time during the year because it's a good summer read. The subject of magic and love and the descriptions of the East Coast surround you and transport you to the Owens' front yard.

To try to sum it up, this book is about the Owens women who have been branded by their little town as witches (which is not entirely untrue)- Gillian and Sally Owens were forced to live with their two Aunts when their parents were killed in a fire that destroyed their home. Though the girls are sisters, they could not be more unlike each other (in all things except for their beauty). Sally is dependable, rational, and cautious while Gillian is hell on wheels, a flirt and lazy. Through each girls' experience we learn about the Owens women and why it seems that trouble is always just around the corner for them. The girls quickly learn that in the Aunts' home, as long as they are kept alone to do their work, they can do whatever they want, which launches Sally into the role of a homemaker and Gillian into her role of spoiled brat (who leaves a wake of exes in her path).

The ideas of magic and love are tossed around throughout the novel, and as the book goes on we read how each sister approaches love: Gillian is stuck in an abusive relationship that she can only get out of with the help of her sister, and once Sally's husband dies, leaving her alone with two daughters (who just so happen to be mini-replicas of herself and Gillian), she bans any form of love that comes her way. If anything, this novel teaches us about love and magic, and what happens when we refuse to recognize either. I loved this book, and I loved it so much that I'm definitely considering reading it every year at about this time.