Books I Have Read or Listened to in 2017

The Dark Unwinding and A Spark Unseen, by Sharon Cameron - (audiobooks) Lovely, british, set in the mid 1800's, clockwork critters, love of a young woman for her eccentric old uncle.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman - (audiobook) I loved this one about a grumpy old man who loved his wife. When I finished it it gave me that wonderful sighing feeling and I didn't want to move on to thinking about anything else. This book has quite a few swears in it, which I didn't mind too much because I too have loved a man who swore with affectionate and vehemence.

Glass Sword, by Victoria Aveyard; Red Queen Series, Red Queen Series, book 2 - (audiobook)

The Chemist, by Stephenie Meyer - (audiobook)

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld - (audiobook)

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman - (audiobook) - Dragons can appear in human form and are kind of like wizards and despised by humans.

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard; Red Queen Series, book 1- (audiobook) - There are regular people with red blood and special people with powers that have silver blood. The silvers are in charge. Then there are people with red blood that have unique, more advanced powers who have been unknown and they revolt to change the system, protect reds and live in freedom.

The Muse, by Jessie Burton - (audiobook)

The Fablehaven series, by Brandon Mull - (audiobooks, with my kids)

The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman - (audiobook)

The Jewel Series: The Jewel, The White Rose, The Black Key, by Amy Ewing: (audiobooks)

The Darling Ladies of Lowell, by Kate Alcott - (audiobook)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor - (audiobook) -

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume (audiobook) -

The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton (audiobook) -

Once We Were & Echoes of Us: The Hybrid Chronicles, books 2 & 3, by Kat Zhang - (audiobooks)

The Lunar Charonicles: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, & Winter - (audiobooks)

Books Laura Has Read & Listened To In 2016

The Heiress of Winterwood, by Sarah E Ladd - (audiobook) About a lady who's left in charge of her friend's baby after she dies and is left with the delemma of if she should marry her husband to make this possible.

Dragon Slippers, by Jessica Day George - (reading out loud to my children)

What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang - (audiobook) This felt like another take on Stephenie Meyer's The Host: 2 people in one body. This book takes that idea and twists it to be that every person who is born has 2 spirits in them and one is supposed to fade away into unconsciousness and the other is the "dominant" soul. It was a somber book and I'm not sure I'll listen to the last two in the series.

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry - (audiobook) I listened to this one with caution because it's by Lois Lowry whose The Giver really shocked and abhorred me - throwing the baby away, cringe! I can't take anything bad that happens to a baby in any form of media. Add that history to this book's subject matter of the holocaust and I was apprehensive. Anyway, this book was gentle and I am so glad I read it. It's the perfect introduction for a child to this harsh topic and a great way to start the conversation about what happened with one.

Wildflower, by Drew Barrymore - (audiobook) Another autobiography. There were quite a few f-bombs in this book and I realized part way in that the bulk of them came when she was talking about wild times she had had with her friends so I skipped those chapters. I adored hearing her talk about her daughters and her relationship with herself. Aside from the language, this book was really uplifting and once again it gave me another little colorful chip in the stained glass of my understanding of other people. After finishing the book I of course had to watch E.T. with my boys snuggled one on each side of me. How they didn't cry at the end still stumps me though!

Everybody's Got Something, by Robin Roberts - (audiobook) It was time to feed my love of autobiographies and this one didn't disappoint. I love having a peek into another person's life. I love how just like going on vacation to a different locale it expands my knowledge of what and who are out there. This autobiography was moving and what I took away was just how special it is to have the talent of being a positive, optimistic person. This story was based around her experiences facing Myelodysplastic Syndrome or MDS, a blood cancer where her only treatment was to have a bone marrow transplant. She had also beat breast cancer a few years before. Hearing her talk about that experience gave me expanded empathy for what that experience might be like and helped me understand the experience of having cancer just a little more. I'm grateful for it.

The Screaming Staircase, Lockwood & Co. Series by Jonathan Stroud - (audiobook) I was hooked by the first paragraph in! I loved this book and can't wait to finish the series. Picture teenage ghostbusters with rapiers in modern day London. LOVE it! So much fun.

Cinder, Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer - (audiobook) It took me two times of checking this out from the library to finish it all the way so it's not my favorite but by the time I reached the end I do want to know more so I'll be reading the next. This is basically a loose retelling of the Cinderella story where Cinderella is a Cyborg who lives on earth and there is a colony of semi-humans who inhabit the moon and want to control the earth.

Gadiantons and the Silver Sword, by Chris Heimerdinger - (Read out loud to my children) On to book two of the Tennis Shoes series! Kids say they like this one even better than the first. My kids said this book was more action packed and exciting than the first one but I think the first one helped them get excited about the scriptures more than the 2nd. All of my kids liked it. I want to remember that one night when Noah was particularly driving us all nuts I had them bring their blankets and pillows down to the living room and set up their own spot to snuggle in and I read this to them for an hour until it was time for them to go to bed. It settled them all down and made it possible for us to enjoy the rest of the night. I'm so grateful for books and the quiet, lovely moments my children and I share when I read to them and they are captivated by the story.

Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, by Chris Heimerdinger - (Read out loud to my children) Oh how I loved this book when I was a tween. My kids loved it too and it was extra neat because we finished it right as we got to that part of the Book of Mormon. 

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes - (audiobook read by "The Man in Black") - Oh how I LOVE this movie and how it used to - OK still does - make me swoon. It was so great to hear so many stories about the effort put forth in making this movie and the funny things that happened while on the set. Then, of course, I had to watch the movie again. 

The Matched Trilogy, by Ally Condie - (audiobook) I've read these before but listening to them was beautiful. Good heavens, her writing in this series is gorgeous!

The River Between Us, by Richard Peck - (audiobook) This is the perfect book for 5-9th graders who want to read a historical fiction book about the civil war and seeing as how I can't handle anything much heavier about war than a 9th grader it was good for me too. This book explores social views of racism and slavery during that time while giving a small picture of what the war was like. I liked it. Plus Richard Peck is a Newbery Award wining author.

Newt's Emerald, by Garth Nix - (audiobook) A tongue in cheek homage to Jane Austen period romances and the magical/fantasy genres in one book.

The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson (audiobook) - It's the summer before World War I in England and Beatrice Nash, a self proclaimed Old Maid who isn't really too old for marriage, moves to a quaint English town to be a small school's Latin teacher after her father dies. She becomes friends with a family composed of an Aunt, Uncle and their two grown nephews. One of the nephews is finishing school to become a surgeon and the other is an aspiring poet. WWI breaks out, the nephews enlist in the war and everyone else is involved in the war effort. It is very much like Downton Abbey, which is why I picked the book in the first place. I like it.

Landline, by Rainbow Rowell (audiobook) - Quite a few too many swears but I loved the premise of this book, being able to talk to someone back in time through a phone. I liked this book.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson (audiobook) - So fascinatingly written. The book version of It's a Wonderful Life over and over again in the same person's life. What a difference a choice can make in a person's life!

The Siren, by Kiera Cass (audiobook) - This was a nice fluffy, book that was fun to listen to when I went on solo walks in the evening. I didn't quite fall for the story though.

Seriously, I'm Kidding, by Ellen DeGeneres (audiobook) - Hollywood always makes me feel so hollow.

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (audiobook) - Oh how I love this man's voice and the way he writes a story. I loved this book.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson (audiobook) - One of the most entertaining and original books I've ever read. It had a definite style and made me laugh out loud.

Dad is Fat and Food: a love story, by Jim Gaffigan (audiobook) - These books were great to listen to while I did all kinds of chores. I laughed out loud all the way through Sam's Club as I shopped and listened and the people around me must have thought I was nuts. It was a great pick me up.

Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick (audiobook) - Not my favorite. I wanted more resolution between the different lives the characters lived but it was purposefully written in such vague ways. It felt really unfulfilling to me.

Splintered, Unhinged, Untamed, and Ensared, by A.G. Howard (audiobooks) - Delightful. Fluff. This series is a modern, slightly punk retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and I LOVE that story. It captivated my imagination and even made me cry a little near the end. Although I'd have to admit the Mad Hatter got on my nerves by the time the books were over.

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George - Read out loud to my kids. We got through most of it before school got out and we got to lazy to finish it. We may pick it back up again some time.

Nuts To You, by Lynne Rae Perkins: (Read out loud to my kids) - A cute story about the adventures some squirrels have when they are forced to move due to humans pruning trees around power lines.

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George: (read out loud to my kids) This is a slower book about a teenage boy who lives off the land on a mountain in what I guess is the 1950s. I was totally surprised when my kiddos absolutely loved it. They were captivated.

The Explosive Child, by Ross W. Greene (audio book) This book focuses on a parenting style called collaborative parenting and is what we are trying to incorporate into our lives, especially in regards to Noah. It was recommended to us by a therapist.

Dangerous, by Shannon Hale: (The FIRST book I have read for MYSELF in several years!) - I loved giving myself the gift of reading again. Reading is so deliciously quiet! Shannon Hale's writing voice was so fun and familiar that it felt like spending time with an old friend but this was an all new type of story to hear from her. Science fiction! It was wonderful.

The Selection, The Elite, The One, The Heir, The Queen, all by Kiera Cass: (Audio books) I'm a little ashamed to even admit that I listened to all of these romance novels, but come on! They were entertaining. These books are basically the literary form of the TV show The Batchelor. 36 supposedly random young women of all different social casts are selected to come to the palace to court the prince and win his hand in marriage. It's complete fluff, entertaining, and pretty clean. That made it perfect for listening to while I do my chores.

Life After Theft, by Aprilynne Pike: (Audio book) Aprilynne is a good LDS mom who wrote the Wings series that I love. Without giving things away the teens in this book face the consequences of illicit drug and alcohol use and I thought that was handled pretty well however I was so disappointed that these teens have sex in this book and it is treated as if that were completely normal and just fine. While it may be that teenage sex is normal now (cringe) just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean it is right and I was disappointed to have an author who is LDS write it that way. I've spent a lot of time recently looking for good books to read and MOST of them have illicit sex in them, even and especially in YA lit. I understand the use of media to help kids explore life choices and their consequences but when it glorifies wrong choices and leaves out the consequences of those actions we are doing a big disservice to those kids and helping to normalize sin. I was disheartened.

Nightfall, by Jake Halpern: (Audio book) This story completely captured my imagination from the very beginning and I loved it. It's spooky, original, and compelling. A brother and sister, and their best friend, live on an island on a planet where one side of the planet where day and night last 14 years. The story takes place at nightfall when the inhabitants of this island board ships that take them to the "desert lands" on the other side of the world for 14 years. Problems arise during that transition and that is all I will say so I don't ruin it.Although the relationship between the characters falls a little short. in my opinion, I really enjoyed it. I listened to in during happy moments of exploring Balboa park on vacation to visit my sister in San Diego, on the airplane, and while enjoying the sunshine outside while weeding my neighbor's yard. I really loved that there were two songs at the end of the book. I LOVE finding music that matches a book and this one had music written for it.

Books Laura Has LISTENED & Read To My Kids in 2015

I'm realizing that I don't have time to sit down with a book anymore, that I get interrupted by my kiddos too much to enjoy getting into a book, that by the end of the night I am too tired to do anything but watch TV, and that I get more done if I am listening to a fun book. So listening is what I do now. Most of these books I have read before in print. Just for fun I'm going to list what activities I did while listening to the book because I will forever have that be a part of my experience of the book.

  • Chime, by Franny Billingsley - Walking on the beach at La Jolla Shores, exploring Balboa Park on foot. (I listened to this book while visiting my sister Megan in San Diego and I learned SO  much from it. I had read this book a few years ago and this time I really internalized the message: love yourself, work at loving yourself, allow yourself to be loved. I flew home determined to make myself a priority again and it has made such an incredible difference in my life since then.)
  • Brisinger & Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini  - Painting my living room and family room.
  • The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater - Walking rounds around the park and repairing walls in my living room. (This one was new to me and super fun to listen to because I could listen to the reader and her fantastic accent. Whenever a character has an accent I can never translate that to an actual accent in my head.)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman - Mowing the lawn for the first time and doing weights at the gym for the first time. (I had never read this one either and it was a treat and surprise. So unusual and scary. The only weird thing about this was I didn't realize the book was ending because I was listening to it rather than holding it in my hand so when the climax of the book came I actually thought there was a tone left of the book left and was surprised when it started wrapping up and then ended. I liked it though and would recommend it to others. Also, this one was read by the author, which was FANTASTIC! He is so talented.)
  • The entire Beautiful Creatures Series, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - Painting my hallway upstairs and the stairs downstairs. 
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty & The Sweet Far Thing, by Libba Bray - Weights at the gym (This was my first experience with this author and I liked it. Once again listening to an accent is so much fun.)
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce - Mowing the lawn, weights, and chores around the house (This once was new to me and so touching.)
  • Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (Audio book) This one is great to listen to.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - One of my all time favorite books. It's really best read on the page but listening to it was fun. It's a book full of imagery so it is nice to read at your own pace so your imagination can be completely saturated.
  • Atlantia by Ally Condie - A dystopic book where people live in a colony in the ocean. I love Ally Condie.
  • Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant all by Veronica Roth (At the airport going to visit my sister, on the beach, walking around San Diego, doing laundry at home.)
  • Loser, by Jerry Spinelli (read out loud to my kids) One of the best books ever and my kids thought so too.
  • Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, book 1, by Jackson Pierce and Maggie Stiefvater (read out loud to my kids) Such a cute book! My kids devoured it and will jump up and down when the next one comes out. When it came out I took them to the book signing and they got to meet the authors. We had a fantastic time reading this together. It's perfect for a good reader in 3rd grade, and average 4th grade reader, and a struggling 5th grader. There are tons of awesome pictures in it.

Books Laura Has Read in 2014

Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs - 3.2 (I loved the way this ended, how we got to know the host of characters more in this one, and how creatively the pictures worked into the story.)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs - Re-reading before reading the sequel (I LOVE this book. Today the song Zombie by the Cranberries came on my iPod and I couldn't help but think that it fits the first third of this book perfectly. I love when my music and my books overlap. Creative happiness.)

The Dream Theives, by Maggie Stiefvater - 3.7 (I loved this book even more than the first. Fantastic!)

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater - 3.6 stars ( I loooove her writing and this book is exciting. It feeds my imagination.)

Turns out I've been watching a bunch of TV. Life has gotten so busy, and a bit stressful, that at the end of the night the TV is a lot less work than a book. I'm sure I'll turn back to books soon but until then there are seasons of Hoarders, 19 Kids and Counting, Alaska the Last Frontier, Top Gear, Breaking Pointe, and Downton Abbey to watch!

Books Laura Has Read in 2013

Tanith Low and the Maleficent Seven, by Derek Landy - didn't finish - That's just my life now.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern - Reread - One of my FAVORITE BOOKS ever!  Had to read something while I wait for my books to come in at the library.  ;)

Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare - 3.2 stars (This is the last book in the Infernal Devices Trilogy which is the PRE-quel to the Mortal Instruments series.  I loved both series but this one I will claim as my favorite because due to being set over 100 years before the other one there is less smut and no cuss words.  

I love Cassandra's books because they are fast paced, insightful, page turners.  The first 160 pages of this one though, I could have sworn was her version of a Jane Austen.  It was slow, somewhat boring, and felt to be only a back and forth over-examination of how each character felt when so and so looked at them or happened to brush their hand.  I was disappointed, ready to give the end of this series that I had loved a bad review.  

But then things picked up and we were back into the action-packed pages that I LOVE from her. 

And then end.  OH! 


I read the last hundred plus pages in bed next to my hubby as we were getting ready for bed and oh the sobbing!  He turned to me in disbelief, "Is that you crying because of your book or is that real?!"  BOTH!  I should have said.  I love that about books.  I LOVE falling in love with characters and having my emotional repertoire be enlarged and touched because of the things I experience with them. AND I love being touched by them when things they experience ring true because of my own life's experience.

My favorite part of this series was the idea of a parabatai - a best friendship with someone where they are part of your soul in a way that is foundational.   

The goodbyes in this book were incredible: the moment Will has on the road when his parabatai rune fades, Tessa fevering in bed until Jem comes to say goodbye, the final farewell between Jem and Will...heartbreaking!  If I had read this series when I was 17 it would have parroted my soul because I had felt that my parabatai had moved on in ways so similar to Jem.  When I was 16 my best friend since 5th grade became pregnant and got married.  I was unaware that any of that was happening, and she couldn't bear to tell me, until the day before her wedding when she couldn't post pone it anymore.  Just like Jem, when she got married she moved on from my life to a place where I couldn't follow.  She was still alive but it felt in many ways like she had died. Reading this brought all of those feelings back.

 "Ave atque vale, Will thought.  Hail and farewell.  He had not given much thought to the words before, had never thought about why they were not just a farewell but also a greeting.  Every meeting led to a parting, and so it would, as long as life was mortal.  In every meeting there was some of the sorrow of parting, but in every parting there was some of the joy of meeting as well.

He would not forget the joy." 

Destined, by Aprilynne Pike - Reread

Spells, by Aprilynne Pike - Reread

Heaven Is Here, by Stephanie Nielson - 4.5 stars (This autobiography of Mormon-Mommy-Blogger/Fiery-Airplane-Crash-Survivor has permantely changed my view of handling tragedy and fear and has strengthened my faith.  It was wonderfully written and her story will stay with me.  I can tell already that I will think about it for the rest of my life.)

Wings, by Aprilynne Pike - Reread (because it takes me back to the most relaxing moments of last summer spent in the hammock in my backyard after my kids were asleep and Marilyn was brand new.)

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green -3.1 stars (Praise: This book tackles a very difficult subject, kids living with cancer, in a way that I could actually handle.  It was quirky, funny and at the same time really touching.  I tried to hold myself aloof from it so it didn't touch me too much but I still cried.  I LOVED the author's descriptions of Amsterdam and I think so much of the richness came from him spending two months writing the book there.  It felt so authentic that I feel like I've been there on a quick trip.  I love that about books.  Cons: I haven't read any other books by this author so I don't feel like I can unequivocally state this, but it felt like the author's voice was so strong and unique that all the characters felt very similar to me.  Maybe it was just that it was told in first person from the main character and because the other characters were all colored by her and therefore didn't feel very different from her character?  I don't know.  I've read a lot of other books from the same POV/1st person and they didn't have that problem.  Also, I HATED that these kids were 16 and 17 and yet the author had them having sex.  I'm not niave; I know that happens in real life.  I still hate it.  I'd heard a lot of hype about this book and it didn't quite live up to all I'd heard; however I loved the theme that love is worth the loss you feel when you lose it.  That's something I need practice feeling/doing and that kind of "surrogate practice" you get when reading a book is the best part of literature.)

The Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick -2 stars (The book you read right after a fantastic read is always doomed, but this one would have been doomed anyway.  It was at best ok, and at least it held my attention, right up until I skimmed the last 5 pages because I just wasn't interested anymore.  Why does so much have to be filled with so much sex and so many f-bombs these days?  This is just another example of why I usually steer clear of books written for the "adult" audience rather than the YA books I love.  This book wasn't any better written than the YA books I love, in fact it wasn't as intelligent as half of them and there was way more smut.  I have a hard time understanding why the movie made after this got so many accolades.  In trying to find some praise to give it I can say that it did grab me from the first paragraph, give me some insight into the world of the mentally ill, and the main character had a very identifiable, concrete voice which was enjoyable.)

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern -5 stars (I LOVED this book.  It's been almost a week since I finished it and I still think about it every day.  When I finish a book, if it's a really good one, my mind won't let go of it and I can't start another book right away even if I have another one waiting that I'm excited for.  After an entire week I still can't bring myself to move on from the world Erin Morgenstern created onto a different one.  It was incredible, unusual, mysterious, vibrant, colorful and all in black in white. It is so out of the norm that it was completely written in vignettes, all in present tense, and some parts even in 2nd person - and it WORKED.  Amazing.)

Reached, by Ally Condie -3.3 stars (I love her lyrical, insightful writing in this series.  The characters live in the Society where they are not allowed to create and so one of the major themes of the books is the inherent value of self expression and creativity.  In a conversation with her mother at the end of the book Cassia thinks,

"I know what she means.  Writing, painting, singing - it cannot stop everything.  Cannot hold death in its tracks.  But perhaps it can make the pause between death's footsteps sound and look and feel beautiful, can make the space of waiting a place where you can linger without as much fear.  For we are all walking each other to our deaths, and the journey there between footsteps makes up our lives."

Books in the dystopic genre are written to make the reader think, and this one did. 

I remember disovering acting when I was in 9th grade.  I LOVED it.  It consumed me and it besides boys and friends, it was all I thought about.  I adored my drama teacher, Mrs. Richardson, but one thing she said greatly disturbed me and I've had that quote running through my head ever since.  She once told me she believed every creative thought had already been discovered; there would never be a creation of something new ever again and those already discovered wonders would only ever be put together in different ways forever after.  I don't believe her, but I do agree that most of our time is spent doing as she said because we aren't gods, but only aspiring to be.

However, the constant rearranging of already discovered genius is still valuable.  Mrs. Richardson's train of thought echo's the antagonist's point of view in Ally Condie's series:

" 'Yes,' said the offical, as if she knew my thoughts, as if she knew what everyone in the Society was thinking.  'Exactly.  You would write the same books that other people have written.  You'd write the same poems: they'd be about love.'

"She's right.  We would compose poems about love and tell stories that have been heard in some form before.  But it would be our first time feeling and telling."

Chris recently read me a related passage from a book he was reading, Bluebeardby Kurt Vonnegut, that struck me as so true. 

"...moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that.  A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but the world's champions. 

"The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness.  A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers.  We have a name for him or her.  We call him or her an 'exhibitionist'."

There is value in creation even, or maybe even especially, when a person is an amature at it.  We are all practicing.  The practicing and the admiration of the efforts of others practices gives life sweetness.

This is what President Uchtdorf had to say on it:

I've read every book Ally Condie has ever had published, have witnessed the evolution of her talent and it has enriched my life.)

Skullduggery Pleasant; Kingdom of the Wicked, by Derek Landy - 3.3 stars (These books are just so entertaining!  I loved the twists and turns in this one and at one point Chris made fun of me because I kept gasping out loud!)

Skullduggery Pleasant; Death Bringer, by Derek Landy - 3.2 stars (My cousin posted this picture of SP inspired cupcakes and I just have to repost it here:


I love how sarcastic, witty, and yes - violent, but not in a gory way, SP is.  This story goes on and on and on and on and I'm so glad it does.  It's just what I'm in the mood for.)

Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor - 3.5 stars (I've been SO looking forward to reading this book.  This year for New Years Eve we put the kids to bed early and read.  It may seem very prudish but to me it felt so decadent.  It was an extra treat for me because I got to start this book by one of my favorite authors; I couldn't have thought of a better way to ring in the new year! - After having read it, I didn't love this one as much as the first, but I still really, REALLY liked it and I can't wait for the final installment.  ***Spoiler: This book was sad, think a story written by Juliet after Romeo kills her whole family,  but had some great themes in it and was very well written.)

Books Laura Has Read in 2012

Princess Academy; Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale - 3.1 stars (This is the sequel to my beloved Princess Academy and I really liked seeing what happened in the next part of these girls lives.  I love Shannon Hale's writing.  This book was all about revolution and morality and I loved how it turned out. Reading it was poignant becuase the first one made me think so much of Marilyn while I was waiting for her and this one I read after just having spent our first Christmas together and just ending our first calendar year together.)

The Folk Keeper, by Franny Billingsley - 3.2 stars (She wrote Chime which has haunted my brain in such a great way that I wanted to read something else by her. This is a very short novel, more like a novella, published for elementary aged children. That being said, there were a few words she chose that even my word OBSESSED husband didn't know. I LOVE, love, love her word choice! The story started slow for me, which Chime also did, but by the end I was speeding through her beautifully crafted words to get to the ending! This book, and her excellent latest, have left me wanting to read every word she's published - and so I will. They are waitting for me on hold at the library!)

Days of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor - Rereading before I read her new sequel which is just out.  If you haven't read it - DO!!

Beautiful Redemption, by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia - 3.5 stars (The ending of this book was fantasticallty written.  It's one of those treasures in my mind now that I'll never forget.  It was perfect.  Without being spoilery my other favorite part of this book was that half of it was written from the first hand perspective of someone who had died.  That was original and awesome.  They write the Caster world so beautifully and specifically that it was especially interesting to have them create yet another world, heaven, and have it fit so seemlessly into it.  What amazing authors.  I loved this series.  It's going on my list of ones to read again someday.)

Skullduggery Pleasant: Mortal Coil - Book Five, by Derek Landy - 3.5 stars (This was my favorite SP book so far.  I'm not sure I've ever jaw dropped, gasped, said, "Oh my! Oh no! No way!" so much in one book ever.  I loved it.  And it was perfect for Halloween.  Too bad that in order to read it you'll either have to beg my sister to borrow her copy or order one to be shipped to you from England.  How come everything good comes from there these days?)

Edenbrooke, by Julianne Donaldson -2.5 stars (Predictable. Formulaic. Forgettable.  BUT a nice break.  I pretty much think that if you pick up a book that says, "A Proper Romance" on the front that you don't even need to read it to know how it turns out: Girl and Boy meet.  There is some obstacle/reason they shouldn't be together.  They fall in love. Obstacle is removed.  Happily ever after.  But we read them anyway, right?  Well, at least I did - and it was nice.  These types of books are formulaic because that's the way romances always happen, on the page and in real life. Sometimes it's nice to relive through a character the way you felt when those things happened to you. Especially when your dealing with kids all day.  So that's where I've been the past two nights: Swoonland.)

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George - Didn't finish...

Silksinger, by Laini Taylor -3.3 stars (I admire Laini Taylor's writing and imagination so much.  I don't think I will ever be a professional, published author but writing is one of my hobbies.  The more I write, the more I learn, the more I read, the more I appreciate the gift of other's and what a precious jewel each book is.  I really liked this book.  I devour every creative sentence and image she creates.  With as much as I admire her, it is amazing to me to know that her publisher dropped her after this second installment and so the third in the trilogy was never written.  I can't believe that happened to her!  She is one of YA budding stars.  What a shame, but also not.  Not because it adds to my admiration of her.  Since this happened she has published three other books unrelated to this series and has not given up.  These two were beautiful and the others since even more so.  The characters and world in these books were very well developed and unique like everything that comes from her.  I'll hang in there and wait 50 years to find out what happens to Magpie Windwitch!)

Destined, by Aprilynne Pike -3.3 stars (This was the perfect ending to the series and I loved it.  I read it right after returning home from China with my new daughter and I will forever remember escaping to my hammock in the backyard after the kids were in bed and reading until it was time to go to bed.  It was the perfect fluffiness to get me through a really intense time in my life and because of that this series will always be one of my favorites.  Thank you Aprilynne Pike for writing something that could help me through the ends of so many tough days.  What a priceless gift.)

Illusions, by Aprilynne Pike - Reread

Spells, by Aprilynne Pike - Reread

Seriously...I'm Kidding, by Ellen Degeneres -2 stars (Brought this with me to China and it helped me laugh through the plane ride over, helped Krista get through "poopy times" with Max, and helped me escape every now and then in the hotel lobby.)

The Clockwork Prince, by Cassandra Clare - 3 stars (I finished this one last night before bed and, granted I am very distracted by life as of late, this morning when I woke up I couldn't remember how it ended.  Cringe.  This is the second in her prequel and I rated the first 3.8 stars because I LOVED it.  This one was much more slow paced and I felt had a drastic lack of plot compared to how action-packed and thick-plotted her books usually are.  I still adore her use of language; she has an enormous volcabulary and is not afraid to use it.  Several times I was sitting next to my word guru hubby while reading and would ask what a word meant and he couldn't tell me.  That is RARE.  All in all, for a Cassandra Clare it didn't quite meet expectations, but I still liked it.  It was a perfect get away for my mind before my Tylenol PM kicked in!)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs -3.5 stars (As you would think by the cover, this was one of the most unusual books I've ever read.  It was fantastic.  Tim Burton is going to make this into a movie and I think that's a pretty good way to judge if you will like this book.  If you like Tim Burton movies then you will love it.  If you don't like his weird and twisted style then you will probably be disturbed and not like it.  I loved it.  There were a few times before bed that I had to put it down because I was so scared and needed to think about something else.  There were a few swears, but I'd recommend this book to just about anyone.  Chris is probably even going to read it, and that's saying something.  We'll see how he likes it.

Favorite quote:

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. the first of these came as a terrible shock, and like anything that changes you forever, split my life into haves: Before and After.")

Beautiful Chaos, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl -3.2 stars (It's really interesting when you make it all the way to the last page of a book thinking you are reading the final installment of a trilogy and your confusion about how in the world this could be the last one builds to a climax through to the last page.  13 pages to the end and I thought, "This is going to be the most clever wrap up ever!" because there were only 13 pages and about a dozen story lines to conclude.  These authors are so good though, I thought they had something amazing up their sleeves.  Nope.  Just a cliff hanger.  It was a pretty smartly written one, but still.  Oh well.  Guess I have to wait until October to figure out how Link, Amma, Lena, Macon, Liv, John Breed, and Ethan will save the world.  And just so it's said, Amma goes on my list of favorite characters.  I love the title of the next installment: Beautiful Redemption.  My favorite part of this series is the beautiful writing.  The titles are deserving: Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos...I'm convinced whenever I think of or visit the south in the future I won't be able to disassociate the actual experience from the time I've "spent" there in these books.  Love that.)

Blackbringer, by Laini Taylor -3.4 stars (She is one of the BEST story tellers in the world.  This is her first novel, and though not quite as good as her other two that I've read, it was still really wonderful.  To go along with being one of the best storytellers, she also has an incredible imagination and any time that I get to have a peek of what's inside it is a wonderful day.  This is a unique fantasy about a strong, spunky little faerie who is best friends with a pack of crows and she goes on to do remarkable things and that's all I will say about that.  I'm a big fan of Laini Taylor. 

I want to remember: Dreamdark, Magpie Windwich - 'Pie, Poppy, Bellatrix - the champion, "Jacksmoke!", Djinn, Snoshti - Magpie's imp nursemaid, Magruwen, Talon, skins.)

Chime, by Franny Billingsley - 3.5 stars (Dark, funny, bitter without being unpleasant, beautiful, well crafted, strongly voiced character, unique.  The language in this book was incredible.  At times I thought her word choice was a little over the top, but then again it created such a precise voice and tone that in the end I loved it.  Every page was loaded with beautiful sentences.  Here are a few paragraphs I particularly loved:

"Life and stories are alike in one way: They are full of hollows.  The king and queen have no children: They have a child hollow.  The girl has a wicked stepmother: She has a mother hollow.

In a story, a baby comes along to fill the child hollow.  But in life, the  hollows continue empty.  One sister continues lonely and unloved; the other coughs behind the door.  I sat in the hall.  I waited.  Father returned from the Alehouse.  I waited.  He sat before the fire in the parlor.  I waited.

Sometimes, of course, the sister's the wicked one, not the stepmother.

I'd lived in a hollow all the past year.  A Fitz hollow, a Brownie hollow, a Stepmother hollow.  When you live in a hollow, your life is small.  It's paper snips, and dust, and cold wax drippings, and the scab on leftover gravy. 

I waited.  Father went to bed.  No more waiting.  Time to go, little witch.  Your sister has the swamp cough."

I want to remember: Briony Larkin - wolfgirl - Briony Viony, Rose Larkin - Rosy Posy, Eldric - "the lion faced boy-man", Mucky Face, the Chime Child, Cecil Trumpington, Bible Ball, Hangman's Square, Swampsea, the Quicks, the Slough, the Snickleways, the Flats, witches, the Old Ones, the Boggy Mun)

Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale - 4 stars (I LOVED this book.  How much did I love this book?  This much.)

Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale - 3.0 stars (I'm in the middle of a Shannon Hale lovefest right now and her books are just what I've been needing.  Rich, carefully crafted words, light story, nice.  I loved the back and forth way that she started each chapter in this book and the ending was very satisfying.)

Book of A Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale - Reread -(Picked this up at her book signing for her new release Midnight in Austenland.  I'm having myself a little Shannon Hale love-fest right now.  This is the perfect book to share with your little girl, which is why I bought it.  And bonus, the heroine is Asian!)

Enthralled, Paranormal Diversions -2.5 stars (A collection of short stories by about a gazillion of today's popular YA authors including Ally Condie, who I adore.  I really thought I would like this book more than I did.  Probably most of it was a mood thing for me.  It's a lot of work to start a story and get to know the characters, etc. and I guess this is a time in my life when I just didn't want to do that every 30 pages.  It was really interesting to see in such a compact way how each author's voice was so clearly different from the others.  I'm just not living a short story kind of life right now.  I need something I can go to bed thinking about, then wake up thinking about, and then escape to without much effort, and go to bed thinking about it again.  You can't do that with a bunch of short stories because your mind has already moved on to the next one.  Also, I found myself finishing a story and wanting to really spend some time digesting what I just read, but not wanting to take a break from reading and so missing half of it because I had impatiently started the next one.  See?  Not the time in my life for that right now.)

Crossed, by Ally Condie -3.5 stars (Ally Condie shows the most growth of any author I've read in the past several years.  She had several books published by Deseret Book and then this dystopian series of hers, of which Crossed is the 2nd, was picked up by a major publishing group.  As a result this is being hailed as her debut series, but it really isn't.  I love that I've read all of her books because I can see how practice really does make the difference.  It inspires me and makes me appreciate all of the hours and hours and hours she has spent getting good at what she does; I can't wait to read what she writes next.  This is a dystopic society series that anybody can handle reading.  Compared to the Hunger Games series, this one is totally age appropriate for young teens and totally worth the read for everyone, adults included.  I loved it.  It was everything that I hope one day my writing will be like: beautiful, insightful, true to life, self exploratory, exciting, lyrical.  It fed me.  I'd recommend this book to anyone.  She did a wonderful job of turning the setting, which was inspired by the deserts I love in Southern Utah, into a real character and the Society and Rising were great characters too.  It was brilliant how now and then she wove the colors of the pills, green, blue, and red, into the themes running through the story.  I love her use of poetry. 

I want to remember: Cassia, Xander, Ky, Indie, Carving, Society, Rising, poems, "Do not go gentle", Pilot.  Songs Ally listened to when she was writing that totally fit and which I love too: Crossfire, by Brandon Flowers & Set The Fire To the Third Bar, by Snow Patrol.)

Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld -3.2 (I love the worlds that Scott Westerfeld builds with his imagination!  The story in this series is alright, maybe even pretty good, but by far the best part of these books for me is hearing about all the Clanker's walkers, "mechanikal" animals, and the way machinery is incorporated into just about every part of daily life.  Even better were the Darwinist's fabricated beasties!  I loved that Leviathan, the airship used during the Great War that most of the storyline takes place on, is actually a living being made from the "life threads" of a whale and several other animals.  I LOVED perspicacious Bovril.  Scott is so well practiced as an author that the voices of his characters are so clear that you know exactly what they sound like, move like, and look like in your mind.  To top it all off, there is a sweet love story with a very spunky girl and, not to give too much away, but the setting that all of the best romantic moments in the story take place in is WONDERFUL!  I also really like how cleverly this steampunk world was inserted seamlessly into historical events.  Aleksander and Deryn/Dylan.)

Books Laura Has Read In 2011

Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini - 4 stars (I loved this series.  Arya and Saphira go on my list of favorite characters ever.  I love Arya's determination, strength, loyalty, wiseness, insecurity, bravery and her long, flowing black hair - not to mention that she's an elf.  I love Saphira's spunk, vanity, confidence and the fact that she was an actual leading character in the story rather than just an animal sidekick.  She was fantastic; she made the series.  There are so many things to say ---SPOILER ALERT IF YOU DON'T WANT THIS SERIES RUINED--- I love so many things about this story.  Nothing will ever compare to the Lord of the Rings, but this was definitely in that style with the roaming travel of the characters to the detailed descriptions of the scenery, to especially how he takes 130 pages to wind the story down after the climax.  It did feel a little wordy at some points, but other parts of this book were so, so, so exciting and well crafted that every word was wonderful.  I love, love, love any time an author takes a character and has them grow and totally transform by the end of the story.  We get to experience that with Eragon and come to know him as he grows into who he's going to be throughout all of his adventures.  Alagaesia, and all the races that live there, are so real in my mind after reading this series that I feel like I've been there and these characters felt like my "friends".  So much so that I hated closing the last book after I was finished because it ended so bitersweetly.  I really wanted to see my favorite characters completely happy, and that didn't happen.  It almost kept me up last night!)

Message From an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Love and Loss, by Xinran - (Reading this book was like having the conversation with someone credible, honest, open, and knowledgable that I've been wanting to have for a long time.  I've had questions about the one-child policy, why and if the Chinese really do value males over females, and why they abandon so many children for a long time.  It was HARD to read the answers to those questions.  This book, written by a Chinese journalist, is a collection of interviews with women she met across China who either killed their babies because they were girls, abandoned their babies, or worked in orphanages.  Although a lot of the women's stories were from before 1990, this is a newly published book and the information in it is very relevant to today and the stories behind MY children's birth family history.  It really helped me understand Chinese culture more and gave me a more concrete understanding behind the social issues regarding children that Chinese people have faced.  They were heartbreaking stories.  This book was important for me to read.  When my children get older I can honestly tell them that the reasons they were abandoned were because their birthfamilies were desperate people in a very desperate situation and that yes, they were and are loved.  I am SO glad I am not Chinese!  I thank God that I was born in America.  

I was going to write the answers I learned in this book, but they are too terrible to write.  They are valuable to know, especially to anyone who has a vested interest in the life of a Chinese-adopted child, but if you want to know, you will just have to read the book.  It's that horrible.)

Brisingr, by Christopher Paoline - Reread

Eldest, by Christopher Paolini - Reread

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini - Reread

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor - 4 stars (You can't beat Laini Taylor for storytelling.  Her imagination is wild, brightly colored, and fantastical.  I LOVE it.  She is an artist. 

This is a book I will read again.  Partly because it's the first in a series and I'll want to re-read i,t like I do with all of my favorite series, when the next one comes out and also partly because I read most of it on vacation.  I've decided while it sounds like a good idea to read on vacation, I'm so distracted - by good things - that I only read bits and pieces here and there and the the whole reading experience is very disjointed.  I'm too busy living, breathing in, and absorbing everything around me on vacation that books are no good.  The best time to read a good book is when you want out of the world you are in and not the other way around like you should feel on a good vacation.  Times like when the kids are napping, after they go to bed, when you are on a plane (without kids) or driving in the car with kids (and wishing you weren't), and days when you spend the whole of it in bed sick.  Those are the best times for a book.  Oh.  And every once in a while when one of the best books come out, you've waited a long time for it, and your husband lets you escape to your room for the whole day with junk food to read all day long - THOSE are the best days for reading.  But this one I read on vacation and both were beautiful. 

I loved this theme in the book, and it was beautifully written so I'm going to copy it here for me to remember:

"It's a wishbone," she told him, holding it out.  "You hook your finger around the spur, like this, and we each make a wish and pull.  Whoever gets the bigger piece gets their wish."

"Magic?" Akiva asked.  "What bird does this come from, that its bones make magic?"

"Oh, it's not magic.  The wishes don't really come true."

"Then why do it?"

She shrugged.  "Hope?  Hope can be a powerful force.  Maybe there's no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic."

I love that...and it's so true.

A Love that Multiplies, by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar -1.5 stars (I still find this family, especially the mom Michelle, inspirational but this book is mainly just a repeat of the prior book but with the added detail of the story of their prematurely born newest daughter Josie.  I read every word of the first half and skimmed the rest.)

The Forgotten Locket, by Lisa Mangum -3 stars (I kept switching back and forth about how much I liked this book.  Some parts I thought were beautiful, creative, and wonderful and then other parts I found myself checking how many pages were left like a chore I had to finish.  Things I liked: I LOVED Valerie, her characterization and her whole story.  My favorite book in this series was book two just because there were some really creepy/awesome parts with her in it.  I liked how the characters had developed and changed so much by the end.  The writing was pretty in lots of parts.  Things I didn't like: the whole time travel concept was so abstract and she describes it in such a visual and abstract way that I found myself having to really work understand what was going on and to picture it.  Zo seemed a little flat and two dimensional which wasn't good because he was the main antagonist.  At the end of three books I still had a hard time picturing what the characters looked like other than their hair color.)

The Duggars: 20 and Counting!, by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar - 2 stars (This reads more like an autobiography than a parenting how-to book which I was glad about.  I've watched a few seasons of their show and really admire them and after reading their story I admire them even more.  When I first heard about them I thought they were crazy for having that many kids.  Now I feel like they should have several more because that's how well their family is run and how well each child in their family is taken care of.  They are just amazing!)

Forever, by Maggie Stiefvater -4 stars (I love Maggie Stiefvater.  For my birthday Chris bought me the whole Shiver, Linger, Forever trilogy SIGNED by Maggie.  Her writting is beautiful.  The story is pretty good, but the words she uses make it a treat.  She dedicates this book to "everyone who chooses 'yes' " and explains on her blog that what she wants for people to get away from reading this series is that you can choose to be the hero in your own life.  This was just what I needed to hear about and I loved it.  Here is a link to a really, really good blog post by Maggie where she talks all about that.  It is awesome.  My favorite character in this story is Cole.  I love that he isn't even in the first book, but that the message of the whole series would be so incomplete without him.  His parts were the most beautiful and true to me.  Loved it.) 

There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale, by Sean Astin -1.9 stars (This is his autobiography about his movie career and specifically his experience filming the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  LOTR is one of my favorite books ever and I think the movies are the most beautiful movies ever made.  The friendship between Frodo and Samwise is what makes it extraordinary for me.  When I watched the Return of the Kings and saw Sean Astin's performance of Samwise at the end on the volcano I was so impressed and moved.  How could you not be?  So it's been interesting reading about the actor's experience and learning more about him as a person.  I'm not sure I admire him as much as before I read his book though.  That will teach me.  Ignorance is bliss.  I'm left wanting to watch those movies again though!)

Skullduggery Pleasant: Dark Days, book four, by Derek Landy -3.3 stars (I have a slight crush on Skullduggery Pleasant, and how can you not - he's so charming.  Reading his exchanges makes me smile and sometimes even laugh out loud, and I'm not an easy laugher.  This was my favorite SP book yet. I was slow to pick this one up and convince myself to read it because although the characters in the previous three SP books were interesting, creative, witty, and charming I didn't really feel like they changed from one book to the next.  The plotline changed, although it sometimes felt that it was the same predictable sequence of events in each book, but I didn't feel like the characters changed much and that left the overall story flat for me.  HOWEVER this book was different.  Skullduggery and Valkyrie finally became more.  Skullduggery is beaten, more vulnerable, and because of his desparation he grows more powerful.  Valkyrie has something and someone to fight for and she uses that motivation to really grow into her own.  She becomes more than a sidekick in this book - she becomes important.  And the years of practicing magic, fighting alongside Tanith, and hanging out with Skullduggery have heightened her natural stubborness and given her confidence.  It was great.  Plus Skullduggery's cockiness has rubbed off on her, and that was fun to read.  All that equals more interesting.  I'll be begging my sister to let me borrow the next one right away and looking forward to when the 6th one comes out, albeit in the UK because they aren't released here, this Fall.)

Beautiful Darknes, Book Two, by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - 3.5 stars (This is a great series.  My only criticism is that it feels a bit long and wordy, but the words are pretty so I don't really mind too much.  This sequel was even more imaginative than the first one.)

Beautiful Creatures, Book One, by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl -3.9 stars (I really loved reading this book.  I was drawn in from the first page and 50 pages in I felt like I wanted it to go on and on forever.  The writing is fantastic.  They are so good at it that it feels completely effortless, although I'm sure it wasn't.  Everything was so well described, and succinctly at the same time, that the setting, the characters, the emotions all came so vividly to my mind.  I loved it.  This is a gothic romance/fantasy for teenagers book written well enough and with a good enough story that anyone who likes that genre would love it.  Turns out I did.)

The Golden Spiral, by Lisa Mangum - 3.2 stars (I liked this sequel better than the first.  I thought her writing had improved a notch, which is always fun for me to see an author progress, the plot was really fun, and there was less high school in it.  Now that the original concept had been introduced in the first book we got to really explore the complications of it in this one.  Time travel has been SO done, but she really pulled it off in an original and creative way.  I really liked it.  My favorite character was Valerie because she was complex, literally insane, and yet intuitive.  I love, love, love how Mangum uses her to move the plot along, create suspense, and depth to the storyline and the tone that all of her chapter's created was fabulous.  My favorite chapter was a Valerie one that I read late at night and had a hard time sleeping afterwards.  It really was amazing how she wrote it.  I loved that part.  There was also a scene I really liked at the end where Abby is deciding something important and I loved how Lisa showed that.  It's also fun for me that Lisa Mangum lives in the city that I grew up in.)

The Hourglass Door, by Lisa Mangum - 3.0 stars (Lovely fluff.  Just perfect for the end of a hard week or summer night spent reading on my hammock in the backyard.  It was just what I needed.  At the same time, this book is about a bunch of teenagers - again.  I guess if I want a book that doesn't revolve around the high school world I need to quit reading YA fiction.  The problem is, I want to read interesting, imaginative fluff without too much sex or violence.  Hmmm...There is nothing offensive about this book and it's quite entertaining, so I suggest reading it.  It's not a life changing book, but it was nice and the writing style was a somewhat lyrical.  The attraction between the two characters felt a bit forced at times though and the romance felt a little bit like it was ripping off Twilight.  It was perfect for relaxing on a summer night though and I'm so glad I have the sequel sitting on my counter.  I think I'll go start it right now!)   

The Beyonders, by Brandon Mull - 3.0 stars (This one of his took me quite a while to get into and didn't hold me like his others, but that being said I still liked it.  I had a lot going on while I read it so I got interrupted a lot too.  Also, I'm really interested in his writing style and how he crafts a book so I kept finding myself getting caught up in the mechanics of how he does what he does which pulled me out of the story so that may have contributed to me not being drawn in so much.  I love Brandon Mull though and I hope he just keeps on writing book after book.  I will be there to read them all!)

Illusions, by Aprilynne Pike -3.0 stars (I didn't like this one as much as I liked the one before, Spells.  I liked this book, I'm a big fan of hers, I'm excited to read the last one next year, but I didn't feel that the story was as entertaining as the last two and the chemistry between the characters wasn't as good either.  Part of the chemistry thing was that Laurel is finding out that she isn't mature enough to have a "true love forever" yet, which is age appropriate for her as a character and also for the audience it was written in, but it's not where I am right now in my life.  Also, it was missing a little of the magic for me.  The first book in the series you get to discover the whole faerie reality as it pertains to Laurel, in the second you get to explore the whole faerie world as it pertains to all faeries including Laurel and Tamani in Avalon, in the third?  Well, it felt pretty played out with not much magic to explore and so much of what happened was just normal high school stuff.  Not as entertaining.)

Matched, by Ally Condie -3.2 stars (It's really fun to watch an author grow.  I've read a few of her previous books and this is the first she's had published nationwide and in hardback.  I've checked out her blog and it is really fascinating to me to see bits and pieces of what it would really be like to be an author, more of what writing a novel would be like, and peeks into what the publishing world is like.  My secret?  I want to write a novel.  I'm actually in the beginning stages of doing it, and loving the experience so far, but I'm no where near being committed to the life of an author.  I'd kind of, sort of like to have my book published someday, but mainly because I'd like to hold it in my hands and I'd like to go through the editing process with it so it could be that much better.  However, I'm not sure I'd want a whole lot of people to read and judge it, I DON'T want to be famous or in the limelight, and I wouldn't want the pressure of feeling like I had to write one story after another which is what an agent would want if they chose to represent me.  But I've been blog stalking a bunch of the authors of books I've read lately and I'm loving getting a glimpse into that life.  Isn't learning wonderful?  That's one reason I love to read: it broadens my perspectives and gives me a fuller reality to experience.  Love reading.  Love it.  So other than that, did I enjoy this book?  I think so?  The quality of her writing was so much better than others of hers that I've read.  It's about a distopian society, which I'm finding I don't really find pleasant to read about.  It might be the Synesthesia in me.  Compared to the Hunger Games this one was really tame and I love a book for YAs that doesn't have an ounce of smut in it.  I would totally recommend this book to my mom's Jr. High students instead of Suzanne Collins.  Not that hers was smut, but this was so much more age appropriate.  So, I'm not sure if I really enjoyed it, but I thought it was pretty good and worthwhile and I'll be reading the sequel when it comes out.  I think.)

Song for Summer, by Eva Ibbotson -2.8 stars (I liked the book a whole lot more than I liked the story.  Let me explain.  The book: The somewhat lyrical and descriptive style it was written in was pretty good.  She used pretty clever literary devices.  I liked the way she often described an event from shortly in the future and, because it didn't really fit with the flow of the narrative, it caught my attention and then she'd follow it up placing the event back in sequence of the narrative with more description and explanation this time around so that it then made more sense.  I loved how it opens focused around her aunts instead of Ellen, the main character.  I LOVED the setting and the pictures she gave me of this time and place have forever stretched a part of my imagination.  I really liked how strong and precise of a picture the author gave me of Ellen.  I felt like I knew her.  Marek, the romantic interest, I liked and hated at the same time and because of that, and especially because Ellen who is almost perfect, wants him that made it interesting.  I wasn't sure if I wanted her to want him; I wasn't sure that he was worthy of her.  The story:  I didn't like quite so much.  It's hard for me to read a book where my morals are not a guiding force in the characters.  This story almost ends in an unhappy but resolved sort of way and when I saw that it was going there I kind of really liked it, but then she tidies it up in the end in just the way you were always hoping for but in a way that you don't like.  If I didn't have the morals I do I probably wouldn't have minded.  But I do, so I did.  It did give me a few minutes to think about how I prefer stories to end.  Are you someone who only likes a book that ends "happily ever after" or is that boring?  I realized that I do like books to end happily, even if it is a bit boring, but that every now and then I don't mind if the characters don't get everything I want them to have.)

On the Edge: My Story, by Richard Hammond - 3.5 stars (I've become quite the Top Gear fanatic.  I LOVE that show.  Why?  It's beautifully filmed, the chemistry between the three "presenters" is fantastic, it is SO funny, they do really wacky challenges so it's not just about which car is prettiest or can out perform the others, through these challenges you get a real glimpse into life in other countries so it's almost a travel show, oh yeah, and the biggest reason: it makes me laugh out loud and not a lot of things do that.  I just don't laugh like that very often.  Sad, but just the way I am.  When I watch that show my mind feels like I'm on vacation.  This is the story of my favorite of the three guys, Richard Hammond and his accident and recovery from a crash in a jet car.  His story is inspirational.  Written half and half by him and his wife, it is a love story at it's core and an incredibly touching one.  It expounded my ability to feel compassion for those who have suffered brain injuries and taught me quite a bit about what it would be like.  One of my friends had an accident and suffered major memory loss and bits and pieces of his story give me a glimpse, and even more sympathy and and compassion then I already had, of what she has been through the past few years.  My amazing friend has complete amnesia from before her car crash and has built her life all over again from scratch since.  I really admire her strength.  This book, even though the quality of the writing isn't stellar in my opinion, is worth the read.  I loved getting the extra glimpse into one of my favorite TV personalities and it was a beautiful, honest, heart wrenching, story to which I'm so glad there was a good ending for.  Read it!  But watch Top Gear first because it's awesome and you will laugh.)

Heist Society, by Ally Carter - (I didn't make it past the first 100 pages in this book.  The whole heist idea of this book was just too overdone.  The fact that it's a story about a heist doesn't need to be alluded to in every single paragraph to the point of ludicrously and tedium.  I don't know what's happened to me.  I used to love a good heist.)

Spells, by Aprilynne Pike - 3.4 stars (Oh, did I love this book!  So much better than the first one.  It was page turning, fun, creative, romantic, fluffy, interesting.  I loved, loved, loved seeing the world of Avalon and I'm a huge Tamani fan; I think I have a new book crush.  I really liked the depth that comes in to the story by Laurel being caught between these two worlds and having to make a choice.  Come on May, that's when the next one comes out, get her faster!)

Wings, by Aprilynne Pike -(See review from 2009.  I re-read it to get ready to read the sequel and the nexty book in this four-parter is coming out in May so when it does I'll be all caught up.)

Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson -3.5 stars (The sequel to Chains.  I so, so, so loved Chains - I liked this one.  Forge, named because most of the story is set in and around Valley Forge, was good but I missed hearing the story from Isabel's point of view.  I think I identified with Isabel more than Curzon because she's the same sex as me and because of that I was more interested in the types of trials her character went through.  I think I was also more dazzled by the idea for the story in the first book and the fascination had worn off a little by the second book.  Also, I REALLY loved Isabel.  She's one of my favorite heroines. 

This story is told from Curzon's POV and the first 40-50 pages were so vividly real that it was too horrible for me to read, but I did anyway.   During the first 50 pages you experience a brutal battle where Curzon if faced with huge moral dilemmas.  In order to protect himself and a Patriot soldier that he identifies with he kills a young, innocent soldier fighting for the British.   It was gory and heart wrenching, not gratuitous, but too much for me to take.  This is followed by yucky descriptions of amputations in the Dr.'s tent.  At that point I put it down and vowed not to read it.  After a long conversation with my sister Heidi who also read and loved Chains and Forge she told me I had read the worst and that it got easier and better from there on out.  So I picked it back up a month later and really liked the rest of the novel.  Chains was really so much more enjoyable and mind opening, but this was a good sequel, a good continuation of the experience, and I'm eager to read the conclusion when the third in the trilogy comes out in a year or so.)

Savvy, by Ingrid Law -2.5 stars (A sweet, cute, simple story about a family where each member has a super power, or savvy, and that power becomes active on their 13th birthday.  The themes of the story revolve around self discovery and being happy with your true self.  It was a nice story, it was pleasant to read, but I did skim the last 15 pages so I guess I wasn't that invested after all.  My favorite part was hearing about all of the different kinds of savvies and how each was discovered and mastered.)

The Kneebone Boy, by Ellen Potter -3.2 stars (Days later and I still can't quit thinking about this one.  Quirky, spunky, incitefull, thought provoking, fluffy, definitely not fluffy, creative, fun, mysterious, page turning.  I love the creative and unique way this book was put together.  It's a story driven by three great characters, siblings, Otto, Lucia (pronounced Loo-CHEE-a), and Max and the adventure they have that changes their lives.  As I shared the adventure with them Potter gave me the pleasure of getting to know her really lovely, distinctive characters; the author really knew who her characters were and for me they all had very specific, vivid voices.  I love that one of the siblings, they never say who but I think it was Lucia, told the story in first person.  I loved her spunk, charisma, and her thought provoking honesty. 

 ***spoiler alert ahead so don't read if you don't want the ending ruined***.  I wasn't prepared for how this book would make me feel or how it would end though.  I thought it was going to be total fluff, because the first 90% pretty much is, but the ending totally wasn't and it kind of slapped me in the face.  I'm not sure I liked it!  One thing I've thought about lately as I've read books is something Shannon Hale said on her website which was, "If you don't like a book or something that happens in the book, think about why you didn't enjoy it and what that teaches you about yourself."  So I've had one of those learning experiences as I've processed what I read.  

At first after having finished it I really didn't like how it ended.  I felt like the author "tricked" me into feeling like it was a fluffy book and then surprised me with bad news at the end.  I didn't like the bad news.  It turns out the mom isn't dead, the dad knew where she was all these years and the truth was that she was insane and living in a psychiatric ward.  Then ending worked on one hand but then it felt out of the blue on the other.  I wasn't surprised to read on her website that she wrote the whole first 205 pages without knowing what the big "mystery" was.  The ending felt sort of mis-matched to me, and maybe that's why.  But at the same time, the ending did work, was plausible, and added a lot of depth to the story.  One of my other pet peeves was that I didn't feel like the characters resolved their emotions at all about this shocking truth and yet the author left them somewhat smiling on the last page.  Was that on purpose?  Maybe.  Who knows.  As I've thought more about it I've realized that by the character's not having resolved their emotional situation on the page it has caused me to be even more drawn in to the story line because I keep thinking about them.  That's the thought provoking part and whether it was intentional or not, I find that clever and interesting.   Also to be fair to Potter and her characters I don't think pre-teens would be able to process what it meant to them quick enough to have it feel resolved enough for me by the end of the book.  I'm sure it would an experience that would take them the rest of their lives to process. 

What it all comes down to is this.  I loved the characters.  I loved sharing their adventure with them.  I didn't enjoy the ending, but I liked the book.  As I've thought through this storyline with Shannon Hale's advice I've realized the real reason why I didn't like the end of the book was because it hit too close to home to one of my personal fears.  Deep down inside the thing I worry about second most in the world is that something will happen that will prevent me from being capable of raising my children.  And that's what happened here, so no wonder I didn't like it!  See, I learned a lot about myself through this story.  

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman -3.2 stars (One of the most creative books I've read.  It's about a baby who is raised by ghosts and other assorted ghoulish creatures in a graveyard.  It was extremely well crafted, a bit slow in the middle, but very touching in the end.  I almost cried.  I loved his mother and it's no surprise I identified with her seeing as how she had longed for so long to have a child and finally got her opportunity through adoption.  Another neat thing about this book was that it was a retelling of the classic Jungle Bookby Rudyard Kipling and it was done in such a unique, completely different way.  It was pretty clever and I can see why it won the Newberry.  I liked it, but there have been books I've liked more.) 

Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare -3.8 stars (This is the first in the prequel to Immortal Instruments.  I was a bit wary about her doing a prequel because I really liked the first series so much and I was afraid she was taking a good idea, stretching it past it's limits, and ruining it.  I really liked Clockwork Angel though.  It's the same world I fell in love with in Immortal Instruments but set a century or so earlier and in London instead of New York.  I really, really liked how similar it felt, how true it felt to Immortal Instruments, but how clever and fresh it was at the same time.  I'm really glad she revisited this world and that I got to tag along.  The story line was clever and the problems were so different from the ones they face in Immortal Instruments that it could stand alone without the first series.  She is so good at writing a compelling, page turning story.  LOVE IT.  I also really enjoyed that, I guess, because it's set a long time ago the promiscuity and coarse language that was in the first series was missing in the second.  I'd recommend this series to anyone because of that.  My one complaint was that the characters felt very similar to the ones in the first series.  Strong female character introduced into the Shadow world, two male best friends who act a lot like brothers, uber beautiful and moody female side character, family member related to the heroine that brings major conflict to the story...Clary=Tessa, Jace=Will, Alec=Jem, Isabelle=Jessamine, Clary's Mom=Tessa's bro Nate.  There were some differences in the dynamics of the characters and their stories but a whole lot of similarities.  All of that being said, I loved it, didn't want to finish because I didn't want it to end, and hoped I'd dream about it after I went to bed last night.  The biggest drawback to reading this right now?  Having to wait years for the 2nd and then the 3rd to come out.

A quote I loved that I want to remember:  Jem - "Whatever you are physically male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy - all those things matter less than what your heart contains.  If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior.  Whatever the color, the shape, the design of the shade that conceals it, the flame inside the lamp remains the same.  You are that flame.")

Linger, by Maggie Stiefvater - 4 stars (The last few pages of Shiver were so beautifully written that when it came my turn to read the sequel at the library I made sure I'd have Shiver checked out too so I could re-read the last part before I started Linger.  I'm so glad I did because it beautifully set up the sequel and got me right back into the characters.  Most of the writing in Linger was just as good as the last few pages of Shiverand that's why I give this book 4 stars.  I loved her use of poetry and I especially loved how the title of the book came from one of the poems and was woven so well into the plot.  Her writing style is lyrical and beautifully descriptive in a simple way.    She's an expert at describing tiny elements true to life, like a specific look or how a person would hold their hands, to convey emotion and this gives her characters depth, life, and makes them so easy to imagine.  I really like the addition of Cole.  Once again, I love how some of her characters are fragile, broken, imperfect and redeemable.  I thought it was clever to have it written from her four main character's points of view first person, but at the same time I think it was a bit overdone and was switched so often that sometimes I'd forget who's point of view the story was coming from.)

Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld -3.4 stars (I love the worlds Scott Westerfeld creates and I love his daring, that he's not afraid to take and idea and stretch it to it's limit or take actual events and warp them to fit his story.  Love it.  And for me it's so believable.  I have really enjoyed seeing the world populated with Darwinist fabricated beasties and through Clanker eyes.  My favorite new character in this book was Bovril because he added depth and most of all foreboding in such a clever way.  Westerfeld is pure imaginative genius.)

Books Laura Has Read in 2010

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld - 3.4 stars (Steampunk baby!  This is a new genre for me and one I think I could really love, especially as written by Scott Westerfeld who I adore.  He's a great author and so, so, so imaginative!  Oh, Uglies how fondly I think of you...For those of you, including me, who didn't know what "steampunk" was this is what Wikipedia says: "a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc."  Sounds interesting, eh?  Well, to me it does! - Once again Westerfeld has created a whole new intriging culture/world that my imagination loved exploring.  One of the things I love most is how in both the Uglies and this series he creates jargon and new inventions to give his worlds depth.  In this one it was beasties, "barking spiders!", and Clankers.  Loved it.  Noah would totally be a Clanker.  He loves robots.  Speaking of, the illustrations of robots and beasties in this book were wonderful and I loved cuddling up w/Noah and showing him each one while telling him the plot.  It was fun to actually share what I was reading with him.)

Princess of Glass, by Jessica Day George - 2.5 stars (It took me till almost 100 pages in to realize this was a retelling of Cinderella so I guess either that tells us I'm a bit dense, wasn't paying too much attention, or she retold it in a pretty clever, unique way.  I think it's bit of both.  I liked it, but it wasn't anything spectacular.  Nice fluff.)

Found: Book 1 of the Hidden Series by Margaret Petersen Haddix - 3 stars ( Written for later elementary age kids.  The adoption point of view in this book was interesting, very human, and positive.  I think it's a great book for exposing kids to the topic and allowing children who are adopted to think through some of the elements of it without them realizing that's what's happening.  All of that is kind of going on as an undercurrent while the story has a really compelling plot.  I liked it.)

Ballad, by Maggie Stiefvater - 2.5 stars (Sequel to Lament.  Totally not as good or compelling as Lament and it had way too many swears in it.  However.  It was still imaginative and I loved the backstory and spunk of Nuala.  Actually, minus the swears I quite loved her.  Maggie Stiefvater has a talent for writing characters who are both brave and very vulnerable at the same time.  I love that about her writing.)

Lament, by Maggie Stiefvater - 3.5 stars (This is the first of a series she wrote before her Shiver series and I loved the creative bent she puts on faeries.  Loved it.  It wasn't as beautifully written as Shiver, but it was more compelling from the first page and I could hardly put it down.  I love the zinging rush of adrenaline and adventure I feel when a book is that fun to read, that good of an escape - like a vacation in and of itself.  I'm addicted to it.)

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George - 2.4 stars (Retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses story.  There were a few new details that made it ok fun to read.  Wasn't in love with it, but it was fluffy and alright.  It's never a good sign though when 60 pages from the end you don't really care about putting it down to go to bed.)

Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater - 3.5 stars (Ahhh, sigh.  I loved how this book was written from two different charachter's point of view in first person.  It was fun to hear the thoughts of both people falling in love and fun to hear first hand the thoughts of an animal/mythological creature.  I felt like the first half of the story was pretty slow in drawing me in and I didn't quite believe it, but by the end I was there and I almost cried.  Almost, maybe could have.  I really liked the ending and the way it was written was so creative and emotive.  It was hard to put down and I love that quality in a book.  Sam was my favorite character and I loved that he was so fragile for so many reasons, although it was hard to read about in parts.  It made him very believable though.  Loved both of the scenes in the bookstore, loved the smells in the chocolate store, loved the last few pages.  Can't wait to read the sequel!  Looks like I'll be waiting until Spring for the final one to come out!)

Lips Touch: Three Times, by Laini Taylor - 4 stars (I love when books surprise me.  This is 3 short stories that are completly unrelated in one book.  The thing that ties them together is that all three stories hinge around a kiss.  Also there seem to be some sort of demon or mythical creature in each.  There are really beautiful, interesting illustrations that tell a story in a very graphic novel kind of way at the beginning and end of each story and they are enough to make this book worthwhile on their own even if the stories were lame - and they weren't.  To make it even sweeter, after I got to the end of the book I realized the author and the illustrator were married!  What a great partnership.  I couldn't read the first story because the characters used waaayyy too many swears so I skipped it and just read the rest.  Even with not reading the first story I liked this book so much that I gave it 4 stars.  Beautiful.  Incredibly imaginative.  Unique.  I loved the strong heroine in the 2nd story and the last was so creative it opened my mind to a whole new relm of possibilities.  Really liked it.)

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith - Only got halfway through (What a great title for Halloween time! - It's been hit and miss with books for me lately.  I liked this one ok, but Noah was horrified by the back cover and begged, bothered, and hounded me on a continual basis not to read it and to take the "bad book" back to the library.  Since I was luke warm about it, it didn't take much to win me over.  I was half way through and the story just didn't seem to evolve much other than the fact that Lincoln got older.  He'd meet someone new/go somewhere new, find a way they were being influenced by Vampires, kill the Vamps, and repeat.  Especially when I got When You Reach Me in and started reading that mid-book, I just couldn't pick it back up again to finish.)

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead - 3.5 stars (I judged a book by its cover again and I shouldn't have.  I thought this book was going to be lame.  Well, it was the cover and also it was what was on the back cover: some raving praise about global warming and how this book was perfect for the times.  What?  Well, I read the book and it was fantastic and I have no idea why global warming was so relevant to the message of it all.  No idea.  Guess I missed something big - or something.  I'm betting on the something.  Anway, can't say anything about the plot but I loved the writing style, loved the cleverness of the storyline and the way it was crafted, loved how crystal clear the author's voice was and how that translated to a very real feeling for the characters only a few pages in...loved it.  I guess someone else did too because it won the Newberry Honor this year.)

The Chosen, by Carol Lynch Williams -3 stars (I read the first 3rd of this and then skimmed the rest so I could find out what happened.  Why did I stop?  I liked the characters, the story was interesting but once again my sensitivity took another casualty.  Fiction did it's job; my eyes are more open, my heart more aware.  This can be a sick world we live in and the events in this story can and I'm sure have happened before.  The story was a peek into the world of polygamy.  The heroine is 13 years old and shortly into the storyline finds herself being forced to marry her Uncle an "Apostle" to be his seventh wife.  The abuse portrayed was too much for my heart to handle.  Just because I couldn't handle it doesn't mean that I didn't think the story was valuable though.  I'm glad someone told it.  My mom teaches middle school and there are quite a few young teen polygamists erolled there.  She says almost without fail the boys are far behind where they should be academically because they have to work too hard on their farms to get much time for studying and the girls are very smart but somehow "disappear" from school after the 8th grade.  She's all but sure the girls are are married off.  That's just not the way God intended it to be.)

Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce -2.3 stars (So many pet peaves about this book.  It's a YA book, so why the swears especially the F-word?  The girls are way too young, 16 and 18, and it wouldn't have made one difference in the plot for them to be 18 and 20 instead but it would've been more believable and more appropriate.  The 16 year old has a relationship with a 21 year old.  I will freak out if my children do that.  When you are 16 you don't find the love of your lifetime and act like you are 20.  Their ages also didn't fit with the action of the book because these girls can supposedly kick butt and kill werewolves who are super strong and can run faster than any mortal.  At 16, really she's supposed to be strong enough to do that?  Yeah, right.  The romance felt contrived and so did the sister-bond that was so hyped.  This is a modern day re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood and I did kind of think that was clever and liked the basic idea and mythology.)

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson - 4.5 stars (It seems like most books I read are "3 star" books so when I get one that I feel deserves a 4 I really love it.  I would recommend this book to anyone.  I've been wanting to read one of her stories for several months now, but they are usually too heavey for me.  This one wasn't so I got a taste of her amazing author skills and enjoyed every bit of it.  I see what all the hype is about her.  She's good.  Great story.  Great characters.  Great chance to learn about slavery and the Revolutionary War.  It was touching, beautiful, heartbreaking, it expanded my mind, increased my empathy and compassion, and was a really interesting read.  Wonderful.  And the sequel comes out this October, so I hear.  I love when I'm late on the bandwagon and don't have to wait long.

A part I loved and don't want to forget (spoiler, don't read if you haven't read the book):

"Look at me," he said.  I bent down a little, bringing my face level with his.  He tilted my chin to the side so he could examine the brand on my cheek.  I tried to pull away, but he held fast.  "A scar is a sign of strength," he said quietly.  "The sign of a survivor."  he leaned forward and lightly kissed my cheek, right on the branding mark.

How many scars to do we each have?  Painful trials we have been through in life that have changed us forever and even left a scar.  They really are signs of survival, signs of strength.  I love that at the end of this book the girl has grown enough to embrace that and she becomes unashamed of her scar and says that instead of standing for Insolence, that it stands for her name, Isabel.)

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, by Jessica Day George - 3.8 stars (I love books that make me feel this way.  Happy.  Entertained.  Carried away.  One of the reasons I liked this book so much was that I'd never heard of this fairy tale before, but it is a real, honest to goodness, old fairy tale just as authentic as Cinderella.  Fairy tales are romantic, full of magic and happy endings and that's just what my heart needed.  She also rewrote the 12 Dancing Princesses and I can't wait to read that one too.)

Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan -3.2 stars (In Spanish the name Esperanza means hope so the title is really Hope Rising.  It was a beautiful, semi-biographical story based on the author's Grandmother.  Esperanza lives the beginning part of her life as a treasured only child of rich, doting parents.  Something happens and she learns throughout the rest of the book to rise above adversity.  It was a great message and I enjoyed reading it.)

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, by Winifred Watson - 1 star (I heard this book was charming, refreshing, funny, and quirky.  Written in 1938, it has come back into vogue and there was even a recent movie made about it.  I was so let down by my expectations when I got into the book and started reading what I just can't condone.  From the book's jacket, which I should have read, "Miss Pettigrew herself may be of unimpeachable virtue, but she learns to regret this, and to admire her mentor, Miss LaFosse with her several lovers."  About a fourth of the way through the book I found that to be what was happening and what was going to be the theme of the whole story.  I just can't giggle and smile about a virtuous woman who thinks her life has been a waste and read the narration which unabashedly promotes good choices because they are not glamorous, boring, or modern.)

Beauty, by Robin McKinley - 2 1/2 stars (This retelling of Beauty and the Beast was a really pleasant book to read and sometimes that's all I want.  My head was filled with fairy tales and daydreams while I read it which was nice because I've been sick and it was a nice little companion to have.  It was a great distraction and one of my favorite fairy tales.  The beginning was slow and the ending was kind of strange and far stretched but the middle was a lot better.  If the whole book had been as likable as the middle part I would've given it 3 stars.)

The Help, by Katheryn Stockett -4.8 stars (I really, really liked this book.  It was one of those that when I closed it after I read it I missed the characters, and even the setting - Mississippi in the 1960's.  I especially loved Aibileen.  It was really well written, bordering on beautiful at times, had warm feel good themes, and I learned a lot about what race relations were like back then.  the author was raised by a black maid in the south in the 1960's and she brought a lot of her own experiences into the novel.  It helped me think about what it would have been like to be an African American woman during that time.  I can't imagine someone not loving this book.  As a teenager I really liked the movie Corrina, Corrina and this book felt a lot like that but the book was able to explore the topic in even more depth.)

The Secret Diaries fo Charlotte Bronte, by Syrie James -3.5 stars (I really like biographies and this felt like one but with a novel like approach.  I really loved learning more about the Bronte family and am even bigger fan of their books than before.  It was fascinating and also a little bit like seeing the man behind the curtain to learn that a lot of the events and characters in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were inspired by events and people in their lives.  It is so interesting to see that both Charlotte - Jane Eyre - and Emily - Wuthering Heights - were inspired by the same events and people and yet they wrote such completely different novels as a result.  Emily was so dark compared to Charlotte!  I loved seeing their sisterhood and friendship portrayed because I can so relate to it.)

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak - 4 stars (This book is so beautifully written, but I cannot bear to finish reading it.  I'm just over 200 pages in and I don't think my heart can take it, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone.  Maybe I'll re-read it again at a different point in my life.  I read the first 200 pages but now I love these characters and suffering is coming for them.  I'd be able to get through it by just telling myself that it's all just pretend, except for so many people really did suffer during the Holocaust...)

The Second Short Life of Bree Tanner, by Stephenie Meyer - 3.5 stars (Well, of course I read it!  I love reading anything from her worlds.  It was fun to hear more about what it would be like to be a "bad" vampire.)

A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck - 2 1/2 stars (This would be the perfect book to read out loud to your 10 year old before bed.  It was charming.  A collection of stories of two kids from Chicago who visit their very strange Grandma every summer for two weeks and the adventures they have with her.  I loved the setting and the time it takes place in and the Grandma character.)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer - 1 star (I have to say, this book is really popular right now and because of that I built it up to be more than I think it is.  I'm not enjoying this nearly as much as I thought I would.  Hmmm...Didn't make it past the first third of the book.  Kind of surprised by that.)

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier - 4 stars (Ever since I discovered Stephenie Meyer's playlists for her books I've tried to match up songs I like to the books I'm reading.  This book, a "gothic romance", is unlike any other book I've ever read; it's kind of a spooky, F. Scott Fitzgerald tribute to Jane Eyre.  Since I LOVE F. Scott Fitzgerald and I LOVED Jane Eyre, I'm liking it quite a bit.  So far I have 42by Coldplay -you know, "Those who are dead are not dead they're just living in my head and since I fell for that spell I am living there as well." - Tempus Vernumby Enya, and Rinseby Vanessa Carlton on my "playlist" for this book.  Finished - Du Maurier was a master at foreshadowing and the characters in this book go through a total transformation by the end of the book.  There's not a single character you can admire by the end but somehow you like them anyway.)

I Just Want You To Know, by Kate Gosselin - 2 stars (Yes I did.  I read it.  I read her first one, so I guess I thought I should just read the second one too.  The first one focuses mainly on her pregnancy and through their kid's first year.  This one is ages 2-5ish.  It was - slightly - interesting and mainly just easy to read and about nothing important which is good for me right before I fall asleep.)

Skullduggery Pleasant, book two: The Faceless Ones, by Derek Landy - 3.3 stars (Attempt number two, and not because it wasn't good, and I've made it all the way through!  Reading just isn't the same with two kids as it was with one.  I read this in such a disjointed way, even though I started completely over from when I got half way through before China, that I had a hard time even keeping up with who all the characters were!  It was fun though.  And...drum roll please...I have decided on what my Skullduggery-Pleasant-alter ego-super-hero name is:  Temperance Fierce.  Just don't call me that to my face or I think I may just blush myself to death.  Yes.  I actually picked myself a super hero name!  Also, if I'm ever the lead in a rock band I WILL name my band Temperance Fierce!)

Eat Cake, by Jeanne Ray- 2 stars (My SIL gave me this book and promised me it would be about absolutly nothing and said that I didn't have to give it back to her.  That's pretty much what it was and it was nice!  The story is about a lady who experiences a lot of stressful life changes and to cope she bakes delicious cakes.  Thanks Chel!  In the spirit of the book I read it in the tub one night and didn't worry when it got all wet.  What a nice present.)

Fablehaven book Five, The Keys to the Demon Prison, by Brandon Mull- 5 stars for the series as a whole (I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this series.  Incredibly, vividly, imaginative.  Frightening.  Beautiful.  Funny.  Fluff.  I feel like my life seriously would've been incomplete if I hadn't have read it and I can't wait until my kids get old enough to share it with them.  Nuf said.  If you haven't read it, you are missing out.)

It's been an entire month since I read anything!  That feels like a really, really long time.  I'm almost forgetting what it was like to ever have time to myself.  Getting a shower is a feat and I fall asleep the minute I snuggle into my pillow.  Oh well.  I'm looking forward to reading the last Fablehaven soon though.

Twilight & HP and the Deathly Hallows - I brought two of my "best friends" with me on my trip to China and I was so glad I did.  They were such great escapes and I really needed someplace fun for my mind to go to.

Skullduggery Pleasant, book three; The Faceless Ones - Got 2/3s of the way through before I got to leave for China and had to take it back to the library.  Will have to try it again sometime.

Skullduggery Pleasant, book two; Playing With Fire - 3 stars (I love all the super-hero, alter ego names they give themselves in this book: Skullduggery Pleasant, Valkyrie Cain, China Sorrows, Ghastly Bespoke.  Awesome.  I'm trying to decide what name I would give to myself if I got to chose.  What super-hero name would you have?)

Books Laura Has Read in 2009...

Skullduggery Pleasant, book one - 3 stars (I haven't been in much of a reading mood lately because there have been so many other things to do, so it took me a bit longer to read than it would have normally even though this was a pretty good book.  My favorite thing about it were the charactes, especially Skullduggery and Stephanie.  I love their attitudes, Skullduggery's over confidence, Stephanie's innate but naive bravery, and yet how sensitive and vulnerable they both are.)

Extras, by Scott Westerfeld - 3 stars (I really enjoyed the first half and the second half was only so so.  This fourth book took the story from strange to out of control and I was loving it until the 2nd half of the book and it was kind of a let down where it was headed.  However, I just downloaded some new music and got Muse's new song "Uprising" and I decided this is the theme song for this series.  I LOVE IT!!!  I love it when I can find music to match my books.  All my favorites are colliding.)

River Secrets, by Shannon Hale - It just didn't hold my attention and I didn't get past page 150.  Mabye I'll try it again some other time.

Specials, by Scott Westerfeld - 3 stars  (That's right.  I caved and I'm read it.  Liked it, didn't love it.  Was entertaining though and although it does feel like the story is going on and on, it doesn't feel like the ONLY reason it's going on was so that he could write another book, aka. make more money like Mr. James Patterson's did.  What has surprised me is that in the first two books the conflict didn't seem so huge and now it is out of control, change the whole world - literally - huge.  Not sure if I like that or not because it is so different than how the storyline started out, but not inconceivable either.  It's entertaining fluff.  Liked the first two way more, but gonna read the last one.  It better be the last one.)

Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale -3 stars (Hmmm, not much to say about this one.  It was interesting to read more about the relationship between Enna and Isi and also see more into the Bayern world in this book.  Overall it was pretty fun to read and sometimes that's all you can hope for in a book.) 

The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale - 4 stars (This book was a surprise for me in a bunch of ways.  I didn't expect to like it so much as I did.  I didn't expect to cry.  I didn't expect to sigh when I turned the last page and closed the cover.  It was a really sweet, charming story written really well, I think better than any of her other books.  I've been reading a lot of her books lately, and it's fun because I think I've been able to see her writing style develop, get more sophisticated, and improve until this latest book of hers, which I think is her best book yet.  I loved the characters in it; I guess that's why reading about their lives touched me in a way that made me practically sob.  I love that she was able to do that, to connect her readers to fictional characters through real feelings.  That is talent.  This story was completely fantastical and yet true to life.  It also really made me think about fidelity, love, kindred souls, boundaries, and marriage.  It was a good one.)

Pretties, by Scott Westerfeld -4 stars  (Oh how I loved these books!  I felt like I totally lived in Tally's world while I read them.  They had all the elements that, for me, make a good story: a really interesting fantasy world, interesting moral dilemmas, characters that entertained me and sucked me in so that I wanted to hear all about them, and themes that gave me food for thought.  Excellent.  This story was like a fantasy version of the premise, "What if Satan had gotten his way and we lived under his plan?".  My only regret is that this is book two of three and I hear the third isn't worth reading.  I think I can be ok with that because although it didn't end happily or with everything resolved, I sometimes sort of like that and I loved how this book ended.)

Multiple Blessings; Surviving to Thriving with Twins and Sextuplets, by Kate Gosselin -3 stars (Ok.  So I love Jon and Kate plus 8.  I'm also not a very judgmental person.  A lot of people love to hate them right now.  So they got a divorce.  So that's disappointing.  Whatever.  I don't know them and either do you and I would love it if they were still together.  Divorce is a bad thing, but it's not the wrong decision in every case and I have no idea what their case is.  So.  I have loved reading this book!  I love autobiographies.  They are fascinating.  Basically this whole book focuses on from when they started trying for their 2nd pregnancy through the sextuplets first year.  It's amazing what their family went through and just how different life with that kind of a thing is.  They got pregnant with their 6 when she had 3 mature follicles in one of her cycles.  I had 3 mature follicles in a cycle once and specifically remember having a conversation with our fertility doctor about the chances of having multiples.  It was a scary thing for me to think about even if it was a one in a million type chance, but it happened to them and the way they handled it is amazing to me.)

On the Far Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George -3 stars (Another 4th grade book club book for "my students" in Linda's class.  Actually a good sequel to a classic and I'm sure my kids will love it.  I swear they squealed out loud when I told them there was a second book.)

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld - 4 stars (I should be sick more often.  I got a great present today; I started feeling the effects of the cold that Chris and Noah have each taken turns with in the past two weeks and today was my turn to be pampered.  I got to sleep in and spend the whole day reading this book in bed with a pile of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Feeling sick never felt so good.  I had a great time reading this book and would recommend it to anyone.  Can't wait to read the sequel.)

My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George - 3 stars (I'm helping out in Linda's classroom by leading a reading group a.k.a. "book chat" group and this it what we're reading.  It's fun to have a book group with a bunch of 4th graders!  This book is so good at capturing my imagination.  To think, I have a brother in law and family who live like this.  Amazing...)

Dreamquake, by Elizabeth Knox -  4 stars (So much to say about this book!  Creative.  Completely unique.  Well crafted.  Stephenie Meyer said, "Unlike anything I've ever read" and I whole heartedly agree.  I just finished this book and my mind is still reeling.  Holy.  Cow.  The concept and plot is amazingly creative - REALLY well done.  The first one, Dreamhunter, is slower and more drawn out than the second one.  There are a lot of details that you have to really pay attention to as you are reading along for the plot to make sense, but that made it feel like a fun challenge to me.  Definitely a story I could read again in a few years and enjoy because I would pick up on a ton of things I missed the first time around.  It's marketed to a YA age group, but I felt like it was a really mature book with events and themes in it that are at the limit of what "adult" themes I would want to read about.  The author normally writes adult books and you can tell.  There are some disturbing parts, but in the end I learned enough about what was happening that I wasn't so disturbed.  Hmmm...I'll be thinking about this one for a while and I can't wait for someone I know to read it so I can talk about it with them!  I have to write down this paragraph because I LOVED it:  "The look she gave him.  The doctor remembered it all his life.  She met his eyes, her expression icy and knowing.  It wasn't bravado.  She didn't strike him as brave.  Fear was there in her body, frank fear in her tremors and whitened knuckles.  But she looked like someone who couldn't feel her own fear, because it was being interfered with by faith.  Faith was pouring out of her face at him, bigger and louder than anything.  She looked like a saint."  To make this book even cooler, the main heroine's name is Laura and she is quite the heroine.  That was fun.) 

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale - 3 stars (This was straight out of my little girl, pre-teen fantasy world and the 12 year old inside of me was loving every minute of it.  It was great fluff, and I even stayed up until 1 am to read the end, so the 30 year old me must have liked it too.)

Dreamhunter, by Elizabeth Knox -  (I'm waiting to rate this until I read the sequel.  In my mind, it's only a sequel because it's a seperate book.  That sounds stupid.  What I'm trying to say is that the story in the first book didn't really have any conclusion and the second one starts instantly where the first leaves off, so it really feels like one book split between two covers.  So, I'm waiting to say how good it was or to even think about it more until I finish the second.)

The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff -(Didn't make it past my 100 page rule.  It is beautifully written.  Her use of language so reminded me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's, but when I could really tell where the story was leading, I lost interest.  I just don't care to spend my time figuring out which lascivious affair led to the main character's conception.  I just.  don't.  care.  So I'm done.  Too bad, the book started out so nicely...on to something better.)

Maximum Ride; School's Out Forever book two, by James Patterson - 2 stars (This author is just a money making, book producing machine.  You can definitely tell he's stringing along the story with an unnatural storyline arch for as long as his readers will hold out and keep buying books in the series.  I hate that.  Just tell the darn story.  And yet, I'm reading them.  They are entertaining and I don't have much else to read.)

Maximum Ride; the Angel Experiment book one, by James Patterson -2 stars (Complaints first or praise?  Complaints.  Save the best for last.  What REALLY drove me crazy about this book is that the chapters are seriously only 2 or 3 pages long!  Who does that?  Probably someone writing to a teenage audience that has about a minute and a half attention span and is turned off by books with "long" chapters.  Did you know publishers did that kind of thing?  I didn't until I went book shopping with my 4th-grade-teacher twin sister recently who said that kids lots of the time won't read a book if it looks too hard, aka has small print or a lot of words on a page and that publishers purposely will print books with big type and small pages to market to them.  ANYWAY.  I really like the 6 main characters in this book, the idea for the storyline, and by then end I was pretty well hooked and wishing I had the others in the series already sitting by my bed so I could already be reading them.)

Smiles to Go, by Jerry Spinelli - 3 stars (Not the "your life would be incomplete without having read it" book that Stargirl was, but still really nice to read.  It's message was that life is a good adventure and that you need to not be too wrapped up in knowing how it's going to end or worrying about how to control it that you miss out on enjoying it to the fullest.  A good message for me to read.)

Wings, by Aprilynne Pike - 3 stars (Really fun, fabulous fluff.  Just what I was in the mood for.  Now to her website to find out when the next one comes out; this better be a series or else it was a really unsatisfying ending!)

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli - 5 stars!!! (It's been over a year since I rated a book "5 stars - your life would be incomplete if you never read this" book.  I totally feel in love with the main character in this book.  I love it when that happens, when I close the pages at the end and feel a bittersweet loss that the person I've been reading about in the book isn't real, isn't my friend, and there is no more to their story.  This author is brilliant.  He also wrote Loser which I gave 4 stars.  His books are written on a 4th grade reading level, but the characters are so well written, the story so well crafted that they are beautiful, little, works of art.  What kicks this book into the 5 star category is all of that plus it has a really meaningful message about having the courage to be your true self.  LOVED IT.)

Ender's Games, by Orson Scott Card - 3 stars (I can see why this is a science fiction classic.  Stephenie Meyer says it is one of the books that has most inspired her writing style, and I can see that.  I really liked how it ended, and watching the development of his character throughout the book.  I had a hard time losing myself in this story though and I don't think I'll be reading the sequels.)

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages by Kristin Chenoweth - 2 stars (I love autobiographies and it's been a while since I read one, so it was fun to read this book.  One thing I love about autobiographies is finishing it and being glad that I'm me and not them and that I have my life that I love.  I'm so blessed.  It's always interesting to read about famous people; some of them are better than I thought - some are a lot worse.  I think it's always fascinating to learn more about life in someone else's shoes though.  The 9th grade, drama chick in me was really interested in her theater stories.  I love the character she created in Wicked and I loved, loved, loved Pushing Daisies.  So sad it got cancelled.) 

City of Glass, book three of Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare - 4 stars (Ok.  I really liked the first two books in this series, but I LOVED this last book.  It was action packed, had a more complex plot and character development than the first two, and as a bonus, I thought it also had less questionable content in it.  I read it while I was on vacation and I'd have to say, even without being on vacation, this book was a great vacation in and of itself!  One thing that was interesting about this fantasy series, especially this last book, was rather than just being entertaining there was actually a lot of depth to it.  One of the major themes of this book is that life doesn't go as planned, change is often very hard, there is pain and trial in life, but all the pain and change is valuable and life is worth the fight.)

The Kalahari Typing School for Men, by Alexander McCall Smith - 2 stars (Book #4 in the No. 1 Ladies' Dectective Agency series.  Only two stars, but yet perfect for my day today.  It was easy, pleasant, not overly important, and relaxing.  Nice.  Thanks Michelle!)

Loser, by Jerry Spinelli -4 stars (This is a very gentle, easy to read because-it's-written-for-elementary-school-kids, meaningful, life-lesson kind of book.  I loved reading it and was invested in it within the first couple of pages.  The author is a Newberry Medal winner, so his writting is top notch.  The whole book is focused around the world of a small boy who is written so well by the author that he really came alive to me.  I loved it!)

City of Ashes, book two of Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare -3 stars (This series is definitely imaginative and a page turner, but I'm sick of the language and the immorality.  Also the storyline seems a bit dragged out and every time a meaningful conversation happens which would advance the plot the characters are annoyingly and predicably interupted mid-sentence, literally, by a crash, emergency, or monster.  I liked Percy a lot more.) 

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5: The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan - 4 stars (I'm halfway through and lovin' every minute of it!  I gave the others in this series 3 stars, but this one is by far my favorite so it gets 4.  These books have a very clearly defined voice and style and it is incredibly polished at this point and so fun to read.  I get the feeling that the author knew his characters really well and he has the talent of being able to very specifically describe who they are.  It is definitely the grand finale of the series.  Love it!)

City of Bones, book one of Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare -4 stars (I had so much fun reading this book that I read it in two days.  It's been a while since I read a book that I didn't want to put down.  I've been reading it during dinner, while I make dinner, during nap time, falling asleep reading it at get the picture!  However, there is waaayyy too much profanity and some crudeness.  Could do without that!  I find that if I'm listening to some music for the first time I start to associate it with the book I'm reading.  I got a Killers cd for Mother's Day and I can't listen to them now without picturing scenes from this book.  It's kind of fun!  The Killers could do the soundtrack for this book.)

Inkspell, by Cornelia Funke -(I'm in the middle of reading this right now and there are things I really like about it, maybe it's just the time I'm having in my life right now, but I'm having a hard time getting sucked into it.  I LOVE how the characters feel about books though.  I feel the same way!  Here's one of my favorite quotes:  the dad, Mo, comments to his daughter, Meggie, "Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?  As if something were left there between the pages every time you read it.  Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar."   *I just couldn't finish this one.  I even got it from the library a second time and just couldn't even restart it.  I'm just not interested.)

Morality for Beautiful Girls, by Alexander McCall Smith -  2 stars (Book #3 in the No. 1 Ladies' Dectective Agency series.  This one seemed a little thin on the plot, but they are relaxing, pretty entertaining books to read so I'm still going to try to read the rest of the series.)

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke- 3 stars*** (The premise of this book was so imaginative and original.  That was what I liked best about it, but the author is a bit long winded and it felt slow.  It was erie how much I identified with Meggie's love of books and the comfort and escape she finds in them.  Like her I have favorite characters that are so familiar to me they are almost friends as well as places that I've liked to "visit" so much that they have been some of my favorite "vacations"!)

Fablehaven 4 -The Secret of the Dragon Sactuary, by Brandon Mull - 4 stars **** (I've waited since last summer for this one to come out and I LOVED every minute of reading it.  I literally gasped when I read the last sentence and now I can hardly wait for the last volume to come out.)

The Host, by Stephenie Meyer- Again.  I love Stephenie Meyer's imagination.  It's been about a year since I read it, so it was fun to re-read it having forgotten a lot of what happened in it.

The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Forester - 4 stars**** (Hooray!  I'm officially out of my book slump!  This is the best book I've read so far this year.  It's fun, so creative, an adventure, and filled with great themes.  Awesome!)

Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith - 3 stars*** (#2 in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.  I really liked the sweet message in this book, that everyone has something to give and they should give it.)

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith - 3 stars*** (This is the first in a series of 8 or 9 books that my friend loaned to me.  They are short little books, in the mystery genre, are pretty well written, written for an adult audience, are lots of fun but with some depth, and there isn't really any smut in them.  Hallelujah!  Thanks Michelle!  The main character is interesting; I feel like I could be her friend.)

The Tales of Beedle Bard, by J.K. Rowling - 3 stars***  (Well, it only took me seriously one hour to read, but it was fun and it took me back a little into the Harry Potter world that I love.  I'm not even going to explain what this book was because if you read the HP books it's just obvious and if you didn't you have 7 huge books to read before this one would make any sense!)

Reunion, by Allyson Braithwaite Condie - 2 stars** (It's the last book in the "Yearbook" trilogy.  Just more of the same as what I said before.)

Before the Dawn, by Dean Hughes - 2 stars**  (I'm half way through this and rating it already.  I loved the Children of the Promise and Hearts of the Children series that he wrote so I thought I'd give this single novel by him set in the great depression a try.  I don't know if it's making me feel better or worse about our economy right now though...I skimmed the last few chapters.)

First Day, by Allyson Braithwaite Condie - 2 1/2 stars**  (I'm in a reading slump right now.  I liked this sequel to Yearbook better than Yearbook mostly because I guess I really have grown up and I enjoy reading about grown ups more than teenagers.  This was about the teenagers from Yearbook who are in college now.  Still, it was a bit of a yawn though.)

Yearbook, by Allyson Braithwaite Condie -2 stars** (You can tell a book is only so-so when you speed read/skim through the last 30 pages and put it down right in the middle of the climatic ending for no particular reason.  Why did I start an LDS fictional series about teenagers in high school?  I don't know...  Most of the time I don't care for LDS fiction.  I'm so teenagered out; I guess I really am in my 30's.  But I didn't want anything heavy.  I guess that's the main reason I'm reading these.  The best part of this book is that it's got so many characters and the author weaves their stories together so well.)

The Titan's Curse, Percy Jackson and the Olympians book Three; The Battle of the Labrinth, Percy Jackson and the Olympians book Four, by Rick Riordan - 3 stars*** (I love how easily each of these books transitions into the next and I can't wait to see how the story ends in the next one due out in a few months.  These are easy books to read but really entertaining.  They are written for 6th-7th graders, but I thought they were great!)

Books Laura Has Read in 2008...

It's a new year, so I'm starting a new list.  These are the books I've read with the most recent on top of the list:

- The Sea of Monsters, Percy Jackson and the Olympians book two, by Rick Riordan - 3 stars*** (This one was even better than the first in the series and it left me wanting to start the third right away.)

- The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver 4 stars**** - (It's a slow read, but written brilliantly.  The author says about this book that she, "spent nearly thirty years waiting for the wisdom and maturity to write this book".  Wow.  You can really tell when you read it.  It's about a mother and her four daughters who go with their dad on a mission to the Congo in the 60's.  Each of those main characters is so different and the author rotates writing each chapter from one of their perspectives.  It's really interesting and one of best written books I've ever read.  That being said, it wasn't one of my favorite books of all time, but it was really good and definitely worth reading.)

- The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan - 3 stars*** (I really like the premise of these books but that's all I'll say so I don't give anything away.  This was a fun, really quick book to read.)

- Austenland, by Shannon Hale - 2 stars**  (This book was kind of boring me to tell you the truth.  I'm a little Jane Austen'd out and this is a book about a girl who is obsessed with the fantasy of Mr. Darcy.  I'm reading it because someone said it was good, although I read another book by this LDS author and it was so-so too.  Also, it's the only other book I have right now other than, ironically, Jane Austen's Emma.  Time for a trip to the library!)

- The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins- 2 stars **(Stephanie Meyer recommended this one on her website saying that it was so riveting she had to bring it to dinner with her and read it from under the table because she was so engrossed.  I have to admit, I read it in 2 days because I had to see how it ended.  Sadly, this was one of the most disturbing, unfulfilling books I've ever read.  It's basically about 24 teenagers that get picked/forced to participate in their demented government's "Hunger Games".  In these "games" they have to hunt down and kill each other with the only rule being against cannibalism.  The only reason I finished reading it was because I was convinced that the two main characters were going to be the last surviving "players" having somehow been able to band together, survive being hunted without damaging their morality by killing, and then rise up in rebellion against their government.  Well, it didn't happen.  They did survive to the end, but the killing was brutal, they faced and sometimes succumbed to awful moral dilemmas, and...well I could go on and on.  It was horrible.  To make matters worse, as I got to the end and turned to the last page I realized that the book was ending without resolving anything.  Anything.  It was like the publishing company ran out of ink for their printing presses and they had to pick a random chapter in the middle of the book to quit printing and then just add, "End of Book One" on the end of the last page.  That's right.  It's another series.  I didn't know it was going to be a series, and to tell you the truth, I'm kind of sick of the series thing.  Can't anyone just write a clever story with a beginning, middle, and end all in the same volume?  This book was similar in style to the bizarre worlds set forth in Lois Lawry and Ray Bradbury's writing styles.  I wouldn't recommend reading it to anyone, and I won't be reading the sequel.  All that being said, I didn't like the story, but it was written pretty well, so I'm giving it 2 stars instead of 1.)

-  Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini - 4 stars****(One of the reasons I love to read so much is because of how I feel when I finish a good book like this one.  When I get turn to the last page in a book like this, I always slow down and savor the last few paragraphs.  Then I sit there for a minute and let what I just read sink in before I close the book, sigh, and start to miss the characters.  It's always bittersweet so say goodbye to them.  My consolation is that there is always another book to start when I finish the one I'm on.  I love the ways that authors capture my imagination with the worlds and characters they create and I'm so grateful that God blessed them with a talent to capture it all on paper and to share it with me!) 

- Eragon & Eldest, by Christopher Paolini - 3 stars for the first book and 4 stars for the second (I want to read Brisingerbut I don't remember a lot of what happened in the first two books, so I'm re-reading them.  I really like the relationship between Saphira and Eragon and I like the way magic is described as used by them both.  Here's a quote from Eldest that I really like; I think it's so true.  "Live in the present, remember the past, and fear not the future, for it doesn't exist and never shall.  There is only now."  Saphira tells Eragon that.  She's my favorite dragon ever!)

- Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Meyer- 5 stars **** (STUPID, STUPID ILLEGAL COPYRIGHT BREAKERS!!!  Midnight Sun is the book S.M. was currently working on writting.  It is Twilight, the first in the vampire series re-written from Edward's point of view and I have so looked forward to reading it.  WELL, she got the first 12 chapters of it written and gave a copy to someone she trusted and somehow that copy ended up leaked all over the internet and even people I know have been reading it illegally.  Arghhhh.  Well, this hurt S.M. so bad and made her so mad that she's not going to finish writing Midnight Sun and get it published!  It feels like I'm in 3rd grade again being punished for something one stupid kid in the class did and the whole class ends up taking the heat.  I'm so mad and dissapointed!  Stephenie made the first 12 leaked chapters available on her website probably as a consolation prize to those of her fans who have been honest, so I've been reading that.  It's really good!  And I'm so upset because it ends right before my favorite part where it starts to get really good.  That'll teach us all a lesson I guess...Stupid dishonest people...)


- Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer- 5 stars *** (There were a lot of parts of this book that I really liked, and some that I didn't.  I loved the wedding, I loved watching how Bella and Edward's realationship matured, I really loved the whole end and how awesome Bella is.  I don't really want to say more because I know a lot of people are reading this and I don't want to give things away.  It's not so much that I didn't think Stephenie made good choices with her story line, as that in this time in my life it wasn't what I was hoping to read about.  Also, I hate the kids in peril thing in any kind of storyline or movie.  I loved how it ened though.)

- Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy  - 3 stars*** (I have been fascinated by classic literature lately, and having just been to the Shakespearean Festival with my mom and sister, I'm totally in the mood to read some more.  I'm only about 30 pages in, but so far it doesn't seem too difficult.  I love books that widen my horizon and challenge my mind.  I'm excited for this one.  ** Ok. So I just finished this book last night after having spent the last month or so working on it.  I love my mom, but why oh why did she give me such a depressing book to read right now in my life?!  I don't think I'd recommend that anyone read this book.  I can see why it's a classic.  It's beautifully written.  The characters are well developed and my favorite thing about this book was how authentic they felt.  He was so good at weaving in insights to their feelings in a way that I could feel and recognize as feelings that I had had before in my own life.  But it is so depressing!  After 800 pages of exploring in depth a few of the characters they all fall apart!  Anna Karenina goes crazy and kills herself by throwing herself in front of a train.  Her lover is destroyed by it and Tolstoy describes it in amazing clarity.  It's painful to read.  Here are a couple of my favorite beautiful insights/quotes from the book though:  

"As if tears were the necessary lubricant without which the machine of mutual communication could not work successfully, the two sisters, after these tears, started talking..."  I swear I can't have a meaningful conversation with anyone without crying!  I could so relate to that sentence, especially with my sisters.

About motherhood:  "...however painful the mother's fear of illnesses, the illnesses themselves, and the distress at seeing signs of bad inclinations in her children, the children themselves repaid her griefs with small joys.  These joys were so small that the could not be seen, like gold in the sand, and in her bad moments she saw only griefs, only sand; but there were also good moments, when she saw only joys, only gold.")

- Fablehaven, book three - The Grip of the Shadow Plague- 4 stars**** (This book was just what the Dr. ordered.  I really liked learning more about the magical abilities the kids had recieved, I loved Patton and Lena, and it's cool to me that the Grandparents are such a big part of the story.)

- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg- 2 Stars**  (I'm half way through this, but I keep picking it up and puting it back down not sure if I'm  wanting to finish it.  I loved the movie.  The book is ok.  I had no idea when I started it that it was going to have so many lesbian connotations in it. I don't remember that from the movie.)

- Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series...again, just in time for the 4th one to come out for my birthday.

- Fablehaven, book one; Fablehaven, book two - Rise of the Evening Star; by Brandon Mull- 3 Stars*** for book one and 4 Stars**** for book two (These are definately page turners and I love reading about his creative creatures.  It kind of drove me crazy that the boy in the story was always making reckless decisions, but I guess without that there wouldn't be a story.  I'm excited for book three.  Now I just have to borrow it from my SIL.)

- The Host, by Stephenie Meyer- 4 Stars ***  SPOILER ALERT!  A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE READING THIS BOOK, SO IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT, DON'T READ THIS.*** (My turn finally came at the library!  So, I'm a good ways into this book, I'm liking it, interested in what's going on, it captivated my attention from the first couple of pages, but it's really sad and making me feel sad.  I guess I'm just too empathetic.  The characters will (it seems) experience loss and grief no matter what decision they make and it's really getting to me.  Maybe my next book will be happier.  Maybe this one will end happily somehow.  I hope so! - I have a few comments after having finished this book.  I like Stephenie Meyer better after having read this book.  A lot of people are saying it's not as good as the Twilight books.  I think they are saying that because chemistry between the main characters isn't as developed or as strong.  I think she did this on purpose because it was true to what her characters were experiencing.  I think she's really good at humanizing completely impossible and far fetched story lines.  She is really imaginative, and I liked this story.  It gets high marks from me on the entertainment factor, and I love how she ended it.  I hope it really is the end though because I think too often people "sequel-ize" things just because there is the demand for it.  I think it's lovely when an author can leave the storyline a bit open at the end so that the reader has something to imagine too.)

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte - 5 Stars *****  (I'm only a few pages in but already I can tell that Charlotte Bronte was a masterful author.  It's been interesting reading this right after reading Persuasionto compare the two writing styles.  All of Jane Austen's books (I've read 3 now) have basically the same plot: upper-middle class girl with sisters looks for love, finds love, is jilted in love, and in the end just like Cinderella has all her dreams come true.  Don't get me wrong, I've liked Austen's books and I think the newest movie version of Pride and Predjudiceis the most romantic movie ever made, but Austen's books are two-dimensional compare to either of the Bronte sisters.  I can tell already that the characters in this book have lots of depth and her writing style is very complex compared to Austen's which is relatively simple.  Interesting!  I love to read!  *O.K.  I just finished this book and so I can honestly say I think it is one of the best "character" driven books of all time and a really unusual and great love story too.  Definately a classic!  My mom says it's her favorite book ever, and I can see why.  Those Bronte sisters were unconventional and brillant!)

Persuasion, by Jane Austen - 3 Stars ***  (For the past few months PBS/Masterpiece Theater has been showing their renditions of a Jane Austen book each week.  I have totally loved watching these, and so was inspired to read this book.  I'm really liking it.  It's about a guy and a girl who meet, fall in love, get engaged, break it off, and then meet again 8 years later and neither of them have married.  I'm pretty sure that they are going to realize that their initial feelings were so strong that they have lasted through years and years of not seeing each other and doing everything possible to make those feelings go away.  Pretty romantic.)

All Too Human, a Political Education, by George Stephanopoulos- 2 Stars **  (Again, another autobiography type book.  This guy was one of the senior aids in the White House to Bill Clinton.  It has been fascinating to read about the inner workings of a modern presidential campaign and then presidency.  Holy cow was Clinton a lier though.  He'd try to convince you that red was blue if he thought he needed to to save face.  Got about 200 pgs in; didn't finish.)

The Autobiography of Quincy Jones, by Quincy Jones - 3 Stars***  (I didn't know who he was until the other day when I read a bit about him in a magazine arcticle.  In a nutshell I found out that he's an incredibly accomplished musician, he was most popular in the 80's, he grew up on the Jazz scene with all the Jazz greats, has written tons of scores for movies, and the thing he's probably most famous for is producing 3 of Michael Jackson's albums including Thriller and Bad.  I'm (mostly) glad that I read (most of) this book, although I have to admit some of my innocence is gone after having read it.  He lived through an incredibly difficult childhood, which I didn't mind having my eyes opened to, but I wish I could've had that experience without reading all the rated R language and having to hear about his sex life.  Both are such an integral part of who he is, that I think the book would've had to have been written by someone else to accomplish that, and then it wouldn't have been so true. 

It was fascinating to hear about race relations back in the 40's and 50's.  When he and his first wife, his white high-school sweetheart, wanted to get married New York city officials wouldn't give them a marriage certificate because they were an inter-racial couple.  He says that he never saw a white person's home until he was 11 years old.  He grew up on the south side of Chicago where his father took jobs as a carpenter for leaders of the mob, and his brother and he carried switch-blades and ran with serious gangs.  His mother was mentally ill and was committed to an insane asylum against her will over and over again.  Let's just say I learned that mental institutions have changed a lot over the years and so has the treatment of minorities. 

This book gave me such an appreciation for how well I really have it and how blessed my childhood was.  He was physically and mentally abused as a child as well as being emotionally and physically neglected.  There was never enough food; he and his brother stole to be able to eat, and at times, his family even killed and ate rats to survive.  Music became his escape, his coping mechanism, and his way out of the painful world that was his childhood.  It was the reason he survived it all, and yet in many ways his music only took him further into a dysfunctional world.  He has contributed some incredible things to the world in the form of his music, has been incredibly "successful", and yet it seems that he still is very much a product of how he was raised.  I think he's a sex addict.  I think he was a terrible father.  I think he was an even worse husband.  His own children say that he put his work before them.  None of that is good or excusable, but I find myself feeling bad for him because I think the choices he made are a direct result from all he has suffered.  I took a class in college about Jazz and was amazed again as I read this book at how rough the Jazz lifestyle was with so much of it revolving around drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex; yet it's incredible to me what a renaissance it was for music.  Quincy is brilliant; really a child prodigy that I think could compete with Mozart.  In the middle of all the wickedness that surrounded him in his youth, God was aware of him and gave him such a beautiful talent. 

I thought a lot as I read this book and I had a sweet experience.  I worry so much about children who live the kind of horrible lives that Quincy did as a child.  All of those orphans around the world literally keep me awake at night and make my heart hurt.  I pray for them because I know that I don't have the capacity or ability to adopt them all and try my hardest to give them a better life.  I worry that they will suffer the kind of abuse he did and grow up with damaged perceptions and phyches that will hurt them for the rest of their lives.  (This is where my sweet moment comes in.)  In a way, this earth life is a bit like our childhood in the grand, spiritual scheme of things.  I believe that we will all die and continue to progress into our "spiritual adulthood", for lack of a better term.  I think one of the reasons why heaven will be great and that the Savior's Atonement is so incredible is that after we die we will be made whole from all of those things that have caused us to suffer here on earth.  That includes all the abused orphans throughout the world.  It comforts me to know that even though we are a lot like spiritual children now, the abuse some people experience in this life will not continue to torture them throughout their spiritual adulthood in the eternities.  Remembering the scripture in D&C to Joseph Smith that says that his afflictions shall be but for one small moment, it helps me think this is true and helps me to know that really and truly, "this too shall pass".  This was an important thing for me to learn, so I would have to say this book was worth it.)

The Rule of Four, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason- 3 Stars ***  (This book is in the same genre as The Davinci Code, and if you liked that, you'll probably like this one too.  I really like how well he/they write, however, it's been kind of distracting knowing two guys wrote this book.  I can't picture myself collaborating on something like that with someone.  It says on the dust jacket that they've been friends since they were 8 yrs old.  I find myself constantly be searching for stylistic signs showing me that one vs the other must've been writing this section and so on.  I can't help but wonder!  Anyway, in one part he/they write, "Adulthood is a glacier encroaching quietly on youth.  When it arrives, the stamp of childhood suddenly freezes, capturing us for good in the image of our last act, the pose we struck when the ice of age set in."  I think this is poignant and brilliantly written, and I agree.  When my glacier of adulthood captured me, I had just met Chris and my life will forever be defined by our relationship.)

A Labor of Love, an Autobiography, by Anne Geddes - 4 Stars**** more for the pictures than the words though, but if it were pictures alone it would be 5 Stars (I really admire her as a photographer.  To me her beautiful images are as good as you can get.  It was fabulous to read her autobiography and hear that she started out just like I am not knowing much about photography at all.  She included a lot of pictures that she has taken over the years and told the background stories to them including info about who was in the pictures, how she took the picture, how she came up with the idea, etc.  Very interesting!  She's amazing!)

Unveiled, by Francine Rivers - 1-2 Stars** (This is part one of a 5 part series about 5 of the women in the bible: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.  They are historical fiction novels and pretty interesting.  If you liked Sarai and Rebeccaby Orson Scott Card, you'll probably like these too.)

-Learning to Sing; Hearing the Music in Your Life, by Clay Aiken with Allison Glock - 3 Stars*** because I'm a big AI fan. (This is Clay's autobiography.  It's always nice to read about someone you are interested in and find out that you like them more than you thought he would.  He's had an interesting life, seems to be a really good person, has a good perspective, and I really liked reading about him.  One of the things I admire most about him is his passion for helping children especially children with special needs.  I think he has a squishy heart.)

- Hold On, the Light Will Come, by Michael McLean - 1 Star* (I can't even tell you how much I loved his music when I was growing up and went through my "I'm only going to listen to LDS music" phase of my life when I was 13.  Since then, my perception has changed a bit or should I say become more complicated.  I have a hard time with people making a living selling things that are supposed to help you be more religious, especially music.  But at the same time, they couldn't do it as much if they couldn't earn a paycheck doing it and my money is going to go towards some music so it might as well be something uplifting right?  Well, it turns out that Michael McLean has also felt some ups and downs in regards to his music.  He seems like a nice guy though and I've been to some fun parties at his house cuz Chris went to Law School with his daughter.  They seem a bit eccentric, but that's not always a bad thing.  Also, I have to admit, I only got 1/2 way through this book!) 

- China Ghosts: My Daughter's Journey to America, My Passage to Fatherhood, by Jeff Gammage - 2 Stars**  (I am so fascinated by adoption, for obvious reasons, and also I take it as my duty to research as much about it as possible because what I learn may lead our family down really important, unexpected roads.  For years now it's been a dream of Chris and myself to adopt a child (or two, who knows?) from China.  The more experience I gain in life, the more I realize that when it comes to our family planning it's not what I want, but what Heavenly Father wants that is most important.  I really want to adopt from China, but it hasn't felt like the right thing for our family yet, even though I keep hoping that it will.  It feels a little like I keep picking up a piece of a puzzle that looks like it should fit in our family puzzle, and I want it to fit and so I keep trying it, but every time I do, it doesn't fit.  It's so sad!  Anyway, this was a very personal and informative book about the true life story of a family who adopted two beautiful daughters from China.  I've learned a lot about adopting from China from reading books on adoption, foreign adoption, and toddler adoption.  I've been to China, and while there I talked to a lot of people about it.  I've joined online support groups and "talked" to people who have adopted internationally and from China.  All of these things I feel give me a piece of the picture of what it may actually  be like to adopt a Chinese daughter of my own.  It seems incredibly wonderful, overwhelming, and terrifying at the same time.  I'd really like the chance to have the experience myself!  But if we do, I want my mom to come with for the trip to pick her up.  Kind of like how a lot of mothers-to-be want their own mothers there in the delivery room, I want the support!)

What I Read During 2007 (starting in Sept.)...

READ! READ! (do some laundry) READ some more!

Here's a list of what I've read lately, most recent on top:

Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale - 2 Stars**  (This book is based on a fairy tale written by the Grimm brothers.  It was a cute book written for teenagers that I read because Stephenie Meyer said on her website that the heroine is one of her favorites of all time.  Hmmm...really?  It's a simple, sweet story which, probably due to it's fairy tale history, includes some valuable lessons about human resiliance and loving who you are that I thought made it worth while.  The second half was way more interesting than the first, and I'm glad I read it all, but I think I'll probably have forgotten most of this book in a year.)

-  Dragonhaven, by Robin McKinley - 1 Star*  (I decided that I was going to start a new rule with reading, and I'm calling it my 100 page rule.  Even with the best books it sometimes takes me 100 pages to really get into it, at least that's what I kept telling myself as I started this book.  I read to page 140 and then skipped to the end.  I just didn't like the way it was written in first perspective by a character who mildly irritated me and said "like" a lot, and I couldn't help but miss Sephira from Eragon the entire time.  So, this is my first casualty from my new 100 page rule.  It didn't make it.)

Letters, by Marjorie Pay Hinckley - 2 Stars**  (In a way this is an autobiography because it is a book made up of letters written by Sis. Hinckley to her family.  She is one of the people I admire most and, after reading these letters, she seems more human and the near perfection that I admire her for seems more attainable because although she was amazing, she was also an ordinary person.  I have a tendency to be too much of a perfectionist and too hard on myself.  It was comforting to read this and hear that she struggled as any young mother does, that she had Sundays when even she didn't make it to church, that she didn't always feel so comfortable giving talks, etc.  I admire her even more after reading this and I think I will be more compassionate to myself as a result of learning more about her life.)

Steve and Me, by Terri Irwin - 4 Stars**** (It's not like I was the biggest fan of the Crocodile Hunter, but I thought he was interesting and when he died I was surprised.  I remember watching the news coverage one morning right after he died and seeing his wife talking about it.  It was so heart-wrenching that I cried and then turned off the tv because it was too painful to watch.  Now it's been a year and she wrote a book about their life together and it is definately worth reading.  They lived an amazing life together completely different than mine.  I can't believe the talent he had and the things he was able to do so naturally.  Their love story is so beautiful; they were obviously made for each other and you can see the hand of God in bringing them together.)

My Life In France, by Julia Child - 3 Stars***  (I love autobiographies, and this has been a pretty interesting one.  This book is a detailed account of the few years she spent in France right after she was married that influenced who she was for the rest of her life and then and then she talks more about publishing her first cookbooks and how she started her cooking show for PBS.  I love learning about other people and their life stories.  People are so fascinating.  Julia was adventureous, open-minded, passionate, unconventional, and self-motivated.  She worked overseas for the government during WWII, spent time in China while working for the government (and courted her husbd there), didn't know how to cook when she was first married, and fell in love with french food as a newlywed when her husband was stationed by the government in France.  One of the other things I love about reading autobiographies is that I learn things about others that I admire that I have in common with them.  Julia and her husband were infertile.  I think that's interesting and especially to see how she handled that and what life choices they made as a result.  I love that she was best friends with her husband.  They were so involved in each other's lives and each other's passions.)

The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd - 5 Stars *****  (Two thumbs up for this one.  It was beautiful and inspiring.  I loved the messages of this book.  I love that we need to know that we can turn to the women around us to help us cope with life's trials and to enjoy life's pleasures.  This meant a lot to me especially because I have so many wonderful and supportive women that surround me.  I also loved the book's other message that we can look inside ourselves to find the strength and comfort we need during hard times because we are strong enough.  I also loved learning about bees from this book and about the south during the 60's.  After reading a few children's books, I enjoyed this book for grown ups.)

A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket - 2 Stars** (I really liked the movie and Bryan Skelton said that this series was one of his favorites, so I thought I'd read them too.  Hey, he's got good taste.  He married Tiffany after all...)

-  The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate Dicamillo - 2 Stars**  (My favorite parts of this book were the illustrations.  The rest was ok.  Her other book about the toy rabbit was sooo much better - me thinks.)

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne - 4 Stars****  (The classics really make my brain work hard, so I figured since I was in the groove having just read P & P, I would read this one too.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I have read and dissected The House of Seven Gables so many times I've lost count.  I love his style, even though it is ssslllooooww.  Maybe that's even why I love it.  The way he describes things is so incredibly rich and beautiful.  His use of symbolism is amazing.  He was an artisan.  Too bad he didn't write more than he did.  I'm also interested in this book because I haven't read it since high school and I'm intrigued to find out what my adult impressions are about a book that revolves around the main character having  an adulterous affair and the consequences of that choice.  They teach this book in high school?!) 

Pride and Predjudice, by Jane Austen - 4 Stars****  (I read most of Sense and Sensibility a few years ago and thought it was totally boring.  After that I decided Jane Austen was really overrated, and that I wasn't going to read anything by her again.  This was my opinion until I watched the new Pride and Prejudice movie with Kiera Knightley and decided it was my favorite love story EVER!  Since then, reading this book has been on my to do list, and seeing as I'm on page 47 as we speak, I guess it's made it's way to the top of my to do list.) 

- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate Dicamillo - 5 Stars  (A very simple, very sweet story of a toy rabbit who learns how to love despite the cost.  It was a beauty.  Thank you to my next door neighbor for giving our family this book last Christmas.  Sorry to my next door neighbor to because after last Christmas I promptly put this book on my book shelf with out reading it first and forgot that we had it until a few days ago.  What a pity, seeing as it really was a beautiful and inspirational story. ** It's 2010 now and the message of this book has stayed with me and will be an unforgettable part of my life.  This book helped give me the courage to love despite the cost which led me to try to adopt again which led me to Erin which led me to Cannon.  I needed the message of love being worth the cost more than I can explain during that time in my life and I remembered it because of this sweet story.**)

Pioneer Doctor - The Story of a Woman's Work, by Mari Grana - 2 Stars**  (This was a biography written in novel format - strange, but good I think to be written that way.  Anyway, I really prefer autobiographies because I find they are written with less of an agenda/slant.  This is a book written by a granddaughter about her grandmother, Dr. Mollie Babcock (Moore) Atwater.  "Dr. Mollie" was one of the very first ever female doctors, and although it's too bad that she hated SLC, didn't like Mormons, and never wanted to have kids because her career was more important to her, it was fascinating to read about her life.  I especially liked reading about feminism back in the late 1800's, what birth control was like and about the Comstock laws, and what a Dr. did to treat her patients way back then.)

 -  Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks - 1 Star* (Really not worth the time to read, however I did read it because my other books weren't in at the library yet and it was the first thing I saw on a trip to the library with Noah when he was being a handful, to put it mildly, and it was either grab it and go, or don't get anything.)

Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer; New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer; Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer - 5 Stars**** for the series as a whole 

I started this list in September of 2007.