"Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars, points of light and reason. ...And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason, for anything."

~ Edward Cullen

Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: The Thorn Birds

Title: The Thorn Birds
Author: Colleen McCullough
Pages: 673
Rating: 5/5

One of the most beloved novels of all time, Colleen McCullough's magnificent saga of dreams, struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian outback has enthralled readers the world over. The Thorn Birds is a chronicle of three generations of Clearys—an indomitable clan of ranchers carving lives from a beautiful, hard land while contending with the bitterness, frailty, and secrets that penetrate their family. It is a poignant love story, a powerful epic of struggle and sacrifice, a celebration of individuality and spirit. Most of all, it is the story of the Clearys' only daughter, Meggie, and the haunted priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart—and the intense joining of two hearts and souls over a lifetime, a relationship that dangerously oversteps sacred boundaries of ethics and dogma (Cover Blurb).

I've let the size of this book intimidate me for much too long.  Coming in at just under 700 pages, The Thorn Birds is one of the most amazing pieces of literature I have ever read.  Chocked full of dram intrigue and scandel, it has consumed my life for the past week and a half.  I've been fighting sleep at work because I can't put this book down to go to bed at night.  The story of the Cleary family draws you in, making it difficult to think of much else.

The Thorn Birds is told in seven parts and covers a bit more than 50 years of the Cleary family's life.  Most of the story centers around Meggie, the only daughter of Fee and Paddy Cleary.  Meggie is only a young girl when the family first moves to Australia, and it then that she meets Fr Ralph de Bricassart.  Ralph is a young Catholic priest struggling to find his place in the church and among men.  The reader watches as Meggie continues to grow into a beautiful young women and her relationship with Ralph also grows.  To tell more would almost be a sin, as all readers should experience this tale themselves.

At it's time of publication, The Thorn Birds created quite a scandel within the United States, especially with Catholics.  Catholics found huge scandel in Fr. Ralph and the journey he choice to take with his life.  Also, this book was seen to be a bit racy for the times, especially around the "older" generation who first read it.  In fact, I can remember when the mini-series was first on TV, that my mother banned me from the room when it was playing.  She said it was nothing that I needed to be seeing.  However, it did not stop her from watching it...lol.  Now as an adult, I understand her misgivings, especially considering the fact that we come from a very strong Catholic family.  My Great Uncle served under the Pope in Rome for almost 30 years, and my younger brother is currently in seminary studying for the priesthood.  I talked to him about The Thorn Birds, and he still finds it to be very scandalizing to the Catholic Church. 

To me The Thorn Birds is one of those books you can sink your teeth into.  The pages take you away to a far off country, to a time when life was slower and almost seemed to have more meaning.  I often found myself lost in the pages, loosing track of time and reality.  This book is most definitely one of my top ten favorite books, if not my favorite book of all time.  I am so glad that I took the time to experience this story for all that it is worth.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Audio Review: The Replacement

Title: The Replacement
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Listening Time: 10 hrs 34 mins
Rating: 2.5/5

Mackie is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess.
He is a Replacement - left in the crib of a human baby 16 years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world.
Mackie would give anything to live among us. He just wants to play bass guitar and find out more about an oddly intriguing girl named Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the slag heaps and find his rightful place - in our world, or theirs (theaudiobookstore.com).

In one word, this book was just - WEIRD.  I had high hopes for this one.  The cover was creepy as could be and the description sounded amazing.  I haven't read any books on changelings and the idea was quite new to me.  I figured with Halloween right around the corner, this would be a great read for the week.  I was wrong.

The audio for this book was good - having it read to you with different voices made it all the more creepier.  However, despite all this, I thought the book was boring and much too long.  I just felt like it took forever in between things happening and then the ending was extremely drawn out.  A few times, I almost felt like stopping the audio and moving on to something else, but the reader in me just wouldn't let it go.  I guess I kept hoping it would get better.

One of my main issues with the story was the language.  While I'm not a prude, I just felt like The Replacement had an overwhelming amount of the F word mingled among its many "pages."  I think if I hadn't been listening to this on audio, I probably wouldn't have noticed it as much, but I found it to be distracting and out of place on the audio.  I also found the few sexual situations to be a bit disconcerting.  Again I just found them to be a bit awkward and unjustified.  They almost seemed to be used as a bit of a filler.  It bothered me how front and center they seemed to be in a book aimed at young adults.

I do feel that what the book lacked in action, it definitely made up for in creepiness.  That's why I did rate it at least 2.5 stars.  I definitely didn't want to listen to this one after dark.  The narration helped emphasize this fact, and I found it to be very chilling.

All in all, this book as gotten pretty good reviews around the blog world.  It may have just been the wrong type of book for me, I'm not sure.  Has anyone else read this, and if so what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Audio Review: Twisted

Title: Twisted
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Listening Time: 6 hrs 25 mins
Rating: 4/5

High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn't believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father's boss's daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler's secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world. In Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. Fans and new readers alike will be captured by Tyler's pitchperfect, funny voice, the surprising narrative arc, and the thoughtful moral dilemmas that are at the heart of all of the author's award-winning, widely read work (penguingroup.com).

This was my first experience with audio books and I have to say I'm extremely pleased.  I was able to listen to this all day at work, and managed to finish a book in one day, and still got all my work done! 

Laurie Halse Anderson is quickly becoming one of my favorite young adult authors.  I finished Speak last week, and was completely blown away.  Twisted was almost as powerful.  The only reason why I didn't rate it quite as high as Speak was because I didn't connect with the main character as much as I did Melinda.  This was probably due to the fact that in Twisted, the main character was male, and being female some of the things didn't connect as well with me as they would a teenage boy.

Again, Anderson tackles some tough topics in Twisted including emotional abuse, bullying, and suicide.  One difference though, I feel, is that the issues where handled a bit more roughly in Twisted than they were in Speak.  This again, is mostly due to the difference in characters.  Also, the language and situations in Twisted are a bit more "vulgar," or rough around the edges.

My favorite character in the novel was Yoda, who is Tyler's best friend.  He's super obsessed with Star Wars, and has a habit of quoting Yoda and talking like a true Jedi Warrior.  I just thought he was cute...and a little dorky.  I've always had a bit of soft spot for guys like that :).

Audio book wise, I thought the narrator of this was amazing.  He was one of the reasons why I continued to listen to the book all day, rather than shutting it off here and there to listen to something else.  I felt he truly brought the characters and the situations to life.  I'm extremely glad I started with this particular novel as my first audio.    I look forward to see if I can find more audio books read by this same narrator.  I can see now why narrators can make all the difference in an audio book!

Next up for me is The Replacement.  I've heard great things about this particular book and I'm excited to see how it is for me :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

What are you reading (18)

It's Monday! What are you reading this week? is a weekly event now hosted by One Persons Journey Through a World Of Books. It's helpful way to take a look at what you have read and what you want to read!

It's been a few weeks for me since I last posted about what I'd be reading.  Since the last time I posted, hubby and I have been busy busy busy!!  The past two weekends, we worked and worked in the nursery and have it almost all finished aside from a few things that need hung on the walls.  I posted about it here, and you can see all the pictures.  I am so happy about how it turned out!  It's adorable :).

During that time, I also developed a bit of sciatica on my right side.  It comes and goes, but it's not nearly as bad as it was at the beginning of the week.  I can now sit relatively comfortably on the couch or in a chair.  It makes work a little easier too...there's nothing like feeling like I'm going to collapse every time I stand up.  Plus, my belly is really starting to pop.  I'm pretty sure I am beginning to waddle...:).  February will be here before we even know it.

Reading wise, I did finish Speak which was amazing.  My review is here.  Right now I'm 342 pages into The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough and CANNOT PUT IT DOWN!  In fact, it pained me to stop reading for the bit of time it took me to write up this blog post.  I only have 331 pages to go and hope to finish it in the next day or two.  It is beautifully written and oh the drama.  If you haven't read it yet, don't let the size intimidate you.  The book flows incredibly well, and you soon forget you're reading a huge chunkster.

Also this week, I discovered something new...audio books!  I've never really had much of an interest in audio books, and I don't have much of a commute to work (6 minutes if I hit all the lights red..) so I never looked into them for the drive.  However, once the baby is born and my maternity leave is finished, I have to drop him off each day at my mom and dad's.  That's a twenty minute drive down and a twenty minute drive back to work, sometimes twice a day depending on hubby's schedule.  That could add up to a lot of reading time.  Because of this, I got on the library's website and checked out a few for free (I love the library) to see if they were something I would really enjoy.  Today as I was cleaning up the house and picking up I started listening to Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson.  It's really good, and I'm already 13 chapters into it.  All while getting my bathrooms sparkling clean...lol.  The great thing is, I can listen to these while I'm at work rather than just listening to the radio.  That's like six more hours of reading a day (can you tell how excited I am about this).  Why I didn't look into this idea sooner I have no idea.  However, I have a few questions for you:  Where do you get your audio books?  and Do you have any recommendations of really good audio books?  I looked into audible.com but they don't support my Sony Walkman Mp3 player so I don't think that will work for me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Finally...We have a nursery

I had made it my goal that we would have an actual working nursery by the end of October, and I'm pretty sure we are there!

Last Saturday, my mom and dad came over for the whole day to help me and hubby out on the rest of the big things that needed completed. I can't thank them enough. They are truly a huge blessing and we never would have gotten done without them! Dad got to the house at about 8 am and him and hubby started hanging the new border paper. I had finished all the painting up the weekend before.

The before picture

The Room After Paint

Once the border was up, we ran the sweeper and brought in the boxes for the furniture. The crib was the first to be assembled and it looks great. Then we assembled the changing table and unpacked the dresser. At that point, mom and I told my dad and hubby to go and watch TV and we hung the curtains, put together the bed linens, and did up the shelving. And here's the final product:

The crib and bedding

The shelving and changing table

The dresser and his books :)
The cute little window valances and the comfy rocker

I couldn't be more in love with the room and more happy with the results.  There's just a few more things that need done before it will be completely finished but we're definitely ready for the baby!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Speak

Title: Speak
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Pages: 198
Rating: 5/5

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country (Cover Blurb).

 I've been pretty quiet for the past two weeks, and my reading has certainly been suffering.  The baby shifted and is sitting on my sciatic nerve making it painful for me to do much of anything, especially sitting and reading.  However, despite that, I pushed on and finished Speak late last week.  I am so glad that I did.  This book was breath taking.  Never, in all my years reading, has a book made me truly "feel" like Speak did.  In my life, I've never experienced anything nearly as traumatic as Melinda.  I've never been forced into doing something I didn't want to do.  However, despite this disconnect with the situation, I was able to fully connect with Melinda and every feeling she had.  I felt her separation, her fear, and her loneliness.  I understood her pain, and I wanted to take it away from her.  That's how powerfully this book was written.

I originally started this book due to Banned Book Week.  Speak has been all over the Internet lately due to an article written by Dr. Wesley Scroggins.  You can read the article here.  Personally, I think the article is a bunch of donkey doo.  I'm beginning to wonder if this Dr Scroggins and I read the same book, because in the book I read, the rape scenes were written with great care so as not to be disturbing but instead show how emotionally devastating the act of rape can be.  This book is an excellent tool to teach young girls to speak up, speak out, and to be heard when things happen to them.  If I ever have daughters this is definitely a book I would want them to read!

This is the first book I've read by Laurie Halse Anderson, but it most certainly will not be my last.  I've had Wintergirls sitting on my shelf for months now and I look forward to picking it up and giving it a try.  Thank you Banned Books Week for showing me another wonderful book and author!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

What are you reading (17)? And what an awesome exciting week!!

It's Monday! What are you reading this week? is a weekly event now hosted by One Persons Journey Through a World Of Books. It's helpful way to take a look at what you have read and what you want to read!

Last week was banned book week.  In celebration of the week, I read and reviewed three books from the banned book list.  I still have a few more on my end table I hope to read in the coming weeks.  I really enjoyed reading these books, and was absolutely blown away at the reasons for banning these books.  It was a real eye opener!

Then, on Friday, hubby and I had our BIG ultrasound.  Baby is doing super well, weighing in about 1.2 lbs.  All the correct number of arms, legs, eyes, and nose were there.  We were thrilled.  We also found out we are having a little....


We really did not care what we were having, we just wanted a healthy, happy little one, but hubby is super excited about having a little one to teach to hunt and shoot and all that other manly stuff.  I just want him to grow up to be kind and caring and a reader!!  I immediately went to the store after work and picked out a few new boy outfits including the cutest little sleeper.  It's green and chocolate brown with a monkey...I'm not a huge fan of blue, so I'm sticking to more greens and browns and grays.  There is so much cute stuff out there now in those colors!!  We had a ton of girl names picked out but no boy names.  I think we finally came up with one that we all agree on, but I'm keeping that a secret until February.

Ok, back to the books.  Here's the links to my reviews this past week:
  1. James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl
  2. Bridge to Terabithia - Katherine Paterson
  3. A Light in the Attic - Shel Silverstein
This week I'm going to continue to read from the TBR read shelf.  I'm hoping to read Trust by Kate Veitch and maybe The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  I'm also about half way through Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, another book I'm still reading from BBW.  It's amazingly good and really well written.  If I get time I'd love to continue to read from my banned books pile...maybe reading a banned book a week until year end.  It'd be an awesome way to keep readers aware of the different banned books out there.

So those are my plans for the week...what's yours?

Banned Book Review #3: A Light in the Attic

Title: A Light in the Attic
Author: Shel Silverstein
Pages: 176
Rating: 4/5

Here in the attic of Shel Silverstein you will find Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, the Meehoo with an Exactlywatt, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. You will talk with Broiled Face, find out what happens when Somebody steals your knees, get caught by the Quick-Digesting Gink, hear a Mountain snore, and see Them Put a Brassiere on the Camel.

From the creator of the beloved poetry collections Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up, here is another wondrous book of poems and drawings (goodreads.com)

Attempts have been made to ban the book from some libraries, parents claiming that the poem "How Not To Have To Dry The Dishes" encourages messiness and disobedience.  The poem "Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony" led to more criticism for describing the death of a girl after her parents refuse to buy her a pony. This led the book to be banned by the Fruitland Park Elementary School in Lake County, Florida.  The decision, however, was later reversed by an advisory committee of parents and teachers. Other complaints included the mention of supernatural themes, including demons, devils, and ghosts.
Growing up, I loved Shel Silverstein's books.  I borrowed both A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends from the library so much, I'm surprised anyone else ever had a chance to read them.  I always found the illustrations to be funny and the poems always gave me the giggles.  Reading them again this past week, had the same affect.

I've always felt that Shel Silverstein has one of the most creative minds I've ever seen.  The way he writes his poetry and illustrates really pulls the reader in, plus I think it opens a doorway for younger children to be introduced to different genres of literature.  Do I think some of the illustrations are maybe a bit inappropriate for younger readers?  Maybe...there is a few pictures with bare butts...but then again, we all have butts.  I certainly don't see this as a reason to take these books away from our children.  Furthermore, I found it absoultely hilarious that parents were blaming the poems in this book for causing and encouring "messiness and disobiendence.  I know I read these books a ton during my developing years, and I never knew them to stop me from having to do the dishes or keeping a messy room (I wish it would have been that easy!).

After re-reading A Light in the Attic, I'm super excited to re-read Where the Sidewalk Ends.  I also have a copy of Silversteins Falling Up that I'm looking forward to taking a peek at.

Banned Book Review #2: Bridge to Terabithia

Title: Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
Pages: 163
Rating: 3/5

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits (goodreads.com).

The novel's content has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 at number eight.  The censorship attempts stem from death being a part of the plot; Jess' frequent use of the word "lord" outside of prayer; concerns that the book promotes secular humanism, New Age religion, occultism, and Satanism; and for use of offensive language.
I chose this book to read for BBW because I was positive I had read it as a child.  After reading it, I'm positive that I never read it as a child and this was the first time!!  That having been said, I thought it was a good book, but not a favorite.  I can also see why a lot of the kids reviews on Amazon stated it was "boring." 

The story itself is very character driven, definitely not plot driven like most books written for younger audiences.  This book also dealt with some rather heavy emotional issues, that would be tougher for some kids to handle (do I see this as a reason to ban the book...ummm most certainly not).  I do think that this book is an important book for older children and young adults to read.  It definitely should have its place among required reading in schools, as it does show children that life is not always roses and lollipops.

I'm definitely glad I read the book, especially for banned book week.  It was interesting to read the books, and then see why they were banned.  Some of the reasoning is completely asinine.  Also, it helped me to reacquaint myself with books that I haven't even thought about in years!

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