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Monday, February 28, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Henry and Ribsy

TITLE: Henry and Ribsy
Ribsy Series, Book #1 (also catalogued as Henry Huggins Series, Book #3) 
AUTHOR: Beverly Cleary
ILLUSTRATOR: Tracy Dockray
PUBLISHER: Harper Collins
DATE OF PUBLICATION: March 1, 2000 (first published 1954) 
FORMAT: Paperback, 208 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction


Henry's father promises to take him salmon fishing if he can keep Ribsy out of trouble for the next month. But that's no easy task, especially when Ramona gets into the act.


I read this book aloud to my daughters.

Cleary was one of my favourite authors as a child. Even though this book was originally written over 50 years ago, it is just as enjoyable to today's children as it was back then. My elder daughter was amazed at how Henry was allowed to go to the store alone, stay back on land alone while his father went fishing, etc. It is certainly a different world today!! We chuckled when reading that Henry was excited that his allowance was raised to 40 cents a week.

It's hard to go wrong with a Cleary book. There is just one more book in the Ribsy series, and we will also be reading that one.
MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#11 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#7 for my What an Animal Reading Challenge IV
#4 for my 1st In a Series Challenge 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Quitter's Inc.
AUTHOR: Stephen King
NARRATOR: Eric Roberts
PUBLISHER: Phoenix Books
DATE OF PUBLICATION: January 1, 2006
FORMAT: Unabridged OverDrive MP3 Audiobook (43 minutes)
GENRE: Horror, Short Stories
ISBN: 978-1597770774


Dick Morrison tries the ultimate stop-smoking method, founded on the sternest principles of pragmatism. Just how important is another drag?


This is a short story by Stephen King, which was recently been released in audio format. The story was dramatized in the movie “Cat’s Eye” back in 1985, which featured three of King’s short stories.

It is a typical King story -- dark and twisted with a bit of dark humour – about a man who is a chain-smoker who runs into an old college friend who gives him the business card of a firm called “Quitters, Inc.” who he says helped him to kick the habit. The main character, Dick Morrison, decides to contact the firm, more out of curiosity than a true desire to quit...and the results are not quite what he expects!

I enjoyed it!

It was narrated by Eric Roberts. I found the jazz music playing at the beginning of the book to be a little distracting, making it difficult to hear Eric’s narration until the music faded into the background and then finally ceased.

4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#90 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge


AUTHOR: Amy Greene
NARRATOR: Emily Janice Card (as Myra Lamb), Lorna Raver (as Byrdie Lamb), and Jessie Bernstein and Rebecca Lowman (as Myra's twins)
PUBLISHER: Random House Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: January 12, 2010
FORMAT: Unabridged CDs (13 hours, 34 minutes)
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
ISBN: 978-0307713230


Bloodroot is that rare sort of family saga that feels intimate instead of epic. Set in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, it’s told largely in tandem voices that keep watchful eyes on Myra Lamb. She is a child of the mountain, tied to the land in ways that mystify and enchant those around her. There’s magic to Myra--perhaps because she has the remarkable blue eyes foretold by a nearly-forgotten family curse--but little fantasy to her life. Bloodroot is as much about the Lambs as it is about a place, one that becomes ever more vivid as generations form, break free, and knit back together. Its characters speak plainly but true, they are resilient and flawed and beautiful, and there's a near-instant empathy in reading their stories, which--even in their most visceral moments--are alluring and wonderful.


This is Greene's debut novel. I saw it recommended on a list as one of the Best Top 10 Debut Novels, so I decided it try it. It was also rated as one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month for January 2010.

It is a sad, touching story. The book is unique in the way that Greene uses six voices to tell the story through four generations, and it is set in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee. Greene did a great job in developing the characters, and I felt myself feeling their happiness and sorrow throughout the book.

I intended to give a higher rating of 4 stars to the book, but there was an animal abuse scene in the last quarter of the book that disturbed me so much that it almost ruined the book for me. I could have done without that. I am glad that I pushed on and continued the book because the ending is very satisfying.

The audiobook narrators were superb! 

MY RATING: 3.5 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#10 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#7 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#7 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge

Saturday, February 26, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Peter the Great by Diane Stanley

TITLE: Peter the Great
AUTHOR: Diane Stanley 
ILLUSTRATOR: Diane Stanley
PUBLISHER: Scholastic Inc.
FORMAT: Paperback, 32 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Nonfiction, Biography
ISBN: 0439226449


In this reissue of her acclaimed picture-book biographies, Stanley captures the fabulous world of tsarist Russia and the greatness of its larger-than-life leader whose spirit, impatience and vision brought Russia into the modern world. Full-color illustrations.


I read this book aloud to my daughters.

We really enjoy Stanley's biography series. This is the third one this month! The books are exquisitely illustrated, and the text is factual without being overwhelming for children.

We will look for more of Stanley's biographies.

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#71 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema

TITLE: Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England
AUTHOR: Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
ILLUSTRATOR: Diane Stanley
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins
FORMAT: Hardcover, 40 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Nonfiction, Biography
ISBN: 978-0688179618


She was a queen whose strong will, shrewd diplomacy, religious tolerance and great love for her subjects won the hearts of her people and the admiration of her enemies.

Elizabeth was born into an age of religious strife, in which plots and factions were everywhere and private beliefs could be punished by death. When she became queen, her counselors urged her to marry quickly and turn the responsibilities of governing over to her husband, But she outwitted them by stalling, changing her mind; and playing one side against another, as she steered her country to the glorious era of peace and security that would be called the Elizabethan Age.

Elizabeth's forceful personality, colorful court, and devoted subjects come vividly to life in this stellar picture-book biography. When it was first published, Good Queen Bess was named a Notable Book in the Field of Social Studies, an American Library Association Notable Book, a Booklist Editors' Choice, an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, and an IRA Teachers' Choice.

In this welcome reissue, celebrated author and illustrator Diane Stanley and her husband, Peter Vennema, paint an impressive portrait of the remarkable queen who loved her people so dearly and ruled them so well.


I read this book aloud to my daughters.

Another great biography by Stanley! We are really enjoying her books, which are richly illustrated. The historical information is just enough and not too overwhelming for young readers.

This would be a great addition to your history books!

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#70 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Michelangelo by Diane Stanley

TITLE: Michelangelo
AUTHOR: Diane Stanley
PUBLISHER: HarperTrophy
DATE OF PUBLICATION: May 1, 2003 (first published 2000)
FORMAT: Paperback, 48 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Nonfiction, Biography 

When he was born, Michelangelo Buonarroti was put into the care of a stonecutter's family. He often said it was from them that he got his love of sculpture. It certainly didn't come from his own father, a respectable magistrate who beat his son when he asked to become an artists apprentice.

But Michelangelo persevered. His early sculptures caught the attention of Florence's great ruler, Lorenzo de' Medici, who invited the boy to be educated with his own sons. Soon after, Michelangelo was astonishing people with the lifelike creations he wrested from marble—from the heartbreaking Pieta he sculpted when he was only twenty-five to the majestic David that brought him acclaim as the greatest sculptor in Italy.

Michelangelo had a turbulent, quarrelsome life. He was obsessed with perfection and felt that everyone—from family members to his demanding patrons—took advantage and let him down. His long and difficult association with Pope Julius II yielded his greatest masterpiece, the radiant paintings in the Sistine Chapel, and his most disastrous undertaking, the monumental tomb that caused the artist frustration and heartache for forty years.

With her thoroughly researched, lively narrative and superbly detailed illustrations, Diane Stanley has captured the life of an artist who towered above the late Renaissance—and whose brilliance in architecture, painting, and sculpture amazes and moves us to this day.

Children's Books 2000-NY Public Lib., Books for Youth Editor's Choice 2000 (Booklist), Lasting Connections 2000 (Book Links), Best Books 2000 (School Library Journal), Top 10 Youth Art Books 2000 (Booklist), and Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2001, National Council for SS & Child. Book Council

I read this book aloud to my daughters.

The book is beautifully illustrated, and it provided just enough biographical information to make it suitable for young listeners.

We plan to read more of Stanley's biographies.

MY RATING: 4 stars!
This book qualifies as:
#69 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge

Monday, February 21, 2011


TITLE: Alone
SERIES: Book #1 of the Detective D.D. Warren Series
AUTHOR: Lisa Gardner
NARRATOR: Anna Fields
PUBLISHER: Books on Tape
FORMAT: Unabridged WMA Audiobook (10 hours, 10 minutes)
GENRE: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller


Alone . . . Massachusetts State Trooper Bobby Dodge watches a tense hostage standoff unfold through the scope of his sniper rifle. Just across the street, in wealthy Back Bay, Boston, an armed man has barricaded himself with his wife and child. The man’s finger tightens on the trigger and Dodge has only a split second to react . . . and forever pay the consequences. 

Alone . . . that’s where the nightmare began for cool, beautiful, and dangerously sexy Catherine Rose Gagnon. Twenty-five years ago, she was buried underground during a month-long nightmare of abduction and abuse. Now her husband has just been killed. Her father-in-law, the powerful Judge Gagnon, blames Catherine for his son’s death . . . and for the series of unexplained illnesses that have sent her own young son repeatedly to the hospital. 

Alone . . . a madman survived solitary confinement in a maximum security prison where he’d done hard time for the most sadistic of crimes. Now he walks the streets a free man, invisible, anonymous . . . and filled with an unquenchable rage for vengeance. What brings them together is a moment of violence—but what connects them is a passion far deeper and much more dangerous. For a killer is loose who’s woven such an intricate web of evil that no one is above suspicion, no one is beyond harm, and no one will see death coming until it has them cornered, helpless, and alone. 


This is a new author for me, and it is also a book that is first in a series.

I had initially planned to give this one 3.5 stars. For me, the beginning of the book read too much like a police tactical how-to manual…way too much detail and my attention span was beginning to wane. But the action-packed ending upped my rating to 3.75. There are some disturbing issues in the book, so be forewarned.

The narrator, Anna Fields, did a good job.

I plan to read more of this series.

MY RATING: 3.75 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#9 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#6 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#6 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#3 for my 1st in a Series Challenge 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Meet Kirsten: An American Girl by Janet Beeler Shaw

TITLE: Meet Kirsten: An American Girl
SERIES: Book #1 of the American Girl Kirsten Series
AUTHOR: Janet Beeler Shaw
PUBLISHER: American Girl
FORMAT: Paperback, 61 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction, Chapter Books 

In the summer of 1854, after a long & dangerous journey on a small ship, Kirsten Larson & her family arrive in America. Everything in the new land is different from the small village Kirsten left behind in Sweden. The way people dress, how they talk, & the ways they travel all seem strange to her. Will she ever feel at home in this new place? Getting lost in a big city & parting with her best friend make her wonder. It is only when the Larsons arrive at a tiny farm on the edge of the frontier that Kirsten believes Papa's promise -- America will be a land filled with happy opportunity for all of them

I read this book aloud to my daughters.

This is the first book in the American Girls Kirsten Series. This is also our first book in any American Girl series and our first book by this author.

We love reading books that take place during the 1800s time period. In this book, Kirsten's family immigrates from Sweden to America in 1854. They are travelling to Minnesota to join family members already settled there. Along the way, they experience some difficulties. The series continues with five more books.

We really enjoyed the book! When I told my daughters that there is an American Girl website and that there is an historical Kirsten doll, they were so excited! They went from not knowing who American Girl was to now having American Girl dolls, catalogs, and playing games on their website! Smart marketing! We are hooked on the American Girl historical books and dolls. 

MY RATING: 4 stars!
This book qualifies as:
#68 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The School Story

TITLE: The School Story
AUTHOR: Andrew Clements
ILLUSTRATOR: Brian Selznick
PUBLISHER: Aladdin Paperbacks
DATE OF PUBLICATION: August 1, 2002 (first published 2001)
FORMAT: Paperback, 224 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction


Natalie's best friend, Zoe, is sure that the novel Natalie's written is good enough to be published. But how can a twelve-year-old girl publish a book? Natalie's mother is an editor for a big children's publisher, but Natalie doesn't want to ask for any favors.

Then Zoe has a brilliant idea: Natalie can submit her manuscript under a pen name, with Zoe acting as her literary agent. But it's not easy for two sixth graders to put themselves over as grown-ups, even with some help from a couple of real grown-ups who are supportive but skeptical. The next best-selling school story may be in their hands -- but can Natalie and Zoe pull off their masquerade?


I read this book aloud to my daughters.

The book was outstanding!! We all loved it! Zoe and Natalie were loveable characters, and the plan they concocted to get Natalie's manuscript published was very entertaining. The book was brilliantly written, extremely enjoyable, and very empowering for children.

I loved the warm, genuine friendship between Zoe and Natalie: Two friends who would do anything for each other and stick by one another.

We haven't yet read anything else by Clements, but we will definitely look into his other novels!

MY RATING: 5 stars!!

This book qualifies as:
#8 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


TITLE: "A" Is For Alibi
SERIES: Book #1 of the Alphabet Mysteries, aka Kinsey Millhone Mysteries
AUTHOR: Sue Grafton
NARRATOR: Mary Peiffer
PUBLISHER: Books on Tape
DATE OF PUBLICATION: October 17, 2006
FORMAT: Unabridged WMA Audiobook (7 hours, 39 minutes)
GENRE: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller


This first novel in the "Alphabet" series introduces the character of Kinsey Millhone, a twice-divorced private eye based in Santa Teresa, California. "A is for Alibi" covers the investigation by Millhone into the death of Laurence Fife. The investigation is initiated by his wife, Nikki Fife, who was charged and convicted of his death. Eight years later, and upon her release, she sets Millhone the task of finding the real killer. 


This is a new author for me, and it is also a book that is first in a series.

It was a quick, enjoyable, easy read for me. The detective is likeable. Pretty light stuff, nothing really disturbing or heavy. I plan to read more of the series.

The narrator, Mary Peiffer, did a nice job.

MY RATING: 3.5 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#7 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
#5 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#5 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#2 for my 1st in a Series Challenge 2011
#1 for my Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Clue of the Left-Handed Envelope/The Puzzle of the Pretty Pink Handkerchief by George E. Stanley

TITLE: The Clue of the Left-Handed Envelope/The Puzzle of the Pretty Pink Handkerchief
SERIES: Books #1 and #2 of the Third-Grade Detectives Series
AUTHOR: George E. Stanley
FORMAT: Paperback, 144 pages
GENRE: Juvenile Fiction, Chapter Books


Mr. Merlin's Third Graders are known as the Third Grade Detectives — with some hints from secret code clues and help from Mr. Merlin's friend, the police scientist Dr. Smiley, they help solve cases. This two-in-one flip book contains the full text and illustrations for the first two Third Grade Detectives books. In their first case, The Clue of the Left-Handed Envelope, the Detectives find out who has been sending Amber Lee anonymous letters. And in their next case, a dirty handkerchief provides a clue to who's been trespassing in Todd's tree house.


I read these books with my daughters. What is really cool about the book is that #1 is on one side of the book and, if you flip it over, #2 is on the other side! It is a great value!

This is a cute series called The Third-Grade Detectives. Their teacher is a former spy, and he gives the students code clues to help them solve mysteries. My elder daughter and I stop and work on the code and try to figure it out before moving forward in the book. Don't worry if you cannot figure out the code because the teacher will give you a clue in the following chapter to help you solve it!

We enjoy the series and plan to read more!

MY RATING: 3.5 stars! We liked these books!

This book qualifies as:
#67 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Angela's Ashes - A Memoir

TITLE: Angela's Ashes
AUTHOR: Frank McCourt
NARRATOR: Frank McCourt
PUBLISHER: Simon & Shuster Audio
DATE OF PUBLICATION: November 15, 2005
FORMAT: Unabridged WMA Audiobook (14 hours, 55 minutes)
GENRE: Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction


"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story.

Perhaps it is a story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner, and searching the pubs for his father, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness.

Imbued with Frank McCourt's astounding humor and compassion — and movingly read in his own voice — Angela's Ashes is a glorious audiobook that bears all the marks of a classic. 


I have wanted to read this book for a long time. It won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Biography & Autobiography.

The first hour was torturously boring. Sadly, the book became more interesting as the tragedies started occurring.

As a mom, I cannot fathom how Angela was able to get through the heartaches she had to endure. As a parent, I am equally appalled at how selfish Frank’s father was - how he could let his children go without because of his own selfish desires.

It was particularly poignant to hear the story narrated by the author. I felt as though he was in the room, sitting beside me, tell me his story.

I was not satisfied with the ending…I want to know what happens next! Frank had to beg, borrow, and steal to get to America; how did his behaviour change (or not) after he got there? Did he send money back to help out his mother and brothers? Did they stay in Ireland or come to America as well? Whatever happened to his father?

I realize now that there is a sequel called ‘Tis, which I feel compelled to read. I watched the movie after reading the book, and I thought it was very well done and lived up to how I had pictured things in my mind.

MY RATING: 4 stars!

This book qualifies as:
#4 for my 2011 Audio Book Challenge
#4 for my 2011 "Whisper Stories in My Ear" Challenge
#6 for my 2011 100+ Reading Challenge
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