Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Column No. 10 January 18, 2012

            I always judge a book by its cover. I am horrible that way. When I go into the library, I go to the new release section and pick up the books based on what the title font looks like, what kind of picture is on the jacket, and the color of the letters in the title.
            I am usually a pretty accurate judge about whether or not I will like a book just by looking at it. I don’t even have to look at the description of the book. This week’s book was one I never would have chosen if I had gotten it at the library.
            My cousin Melissa messaged me about this book. Growing up, Melissa and I had one thing in common: books. We both could read an arsenal of books within a week. And we had the same taste in books. We would pass books back and forth like other kids would interchange mix tapes. While Melissa and I did not have much else in common, we could always count on each other for a good book recommendation.
            Now we are older. We are both married. We both have kids. Melissa lives in Wisconsin. We don’t talk on the phone. We don’t email each other about our daily activities, but I can always count on her for a great book idea. I am always looking for a good book. So when she told me about “The Shape of Mercy” by Susan Meissner, I knew I needed to read it right away.
            I ignored my personal 99-cent e-book rule and spent full price to download this book that I knew would be great, just because Missy told me it would be. I was not disappointed.
            The cover of this book is lame. It makes the book look like it is going to be a really sappy Christian romance novel. I am not knocking Christian romance novels. They have their place in the world of literature, or at least in the world of quick, fun reads. But I was definitely not in the mood for that kind of book this week. I wanted something that would grip my soul and not let go. I wanted something that I would not be able to put down until the end. I found it!
            Lauren, the main character of the book, is a girl of privilege. She has never needed anything. But in an effort to escape the clutches of materialism, she decides to take a job. When she meets an elderly woman who needs someone to transcribe the diary of Mercy, a girl her age who lived during the Salem witch trials, she jumps at the opportunity.
            Lauren gets more than she bargained for as she becomes attached to Mercy, and she races to the end of the diary to find out what she knew was inevitable.
            In her journey through Mercy’s diary, Lauren learns not only Mercy’s story, but about her own life and how to accept who you are and the life you are given.
            I loved the way the story includes excerpts from the seventeenth-century diary. I am always a sucker for anything that has to do with Salem, Massachusetts. But this did not have anything supernatural or unbelievable in it. It seemed like it could be true. And it taught me a little about being happy in my own skin and with my own circumstances.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Have you heard about World Book Night?

I just learned about something called World Book Night. It is an excellent idea! People throughout the world, on April 23rd will be giving away free books in their community to people who do not read or who read very little. There is a list of books from which to choose and it is really hard to choose just one, believe me! The books are donated by this organization and shipped to the "givers" who will give out the book on that night.

I have signed up to be a giver. At least I have applied to be a giver. I think this would be so awesome! They provide you with 20 books to give out to people. I would love to just stand outside of the Paramount Theatre and hand out free books to people! Wouldn't you love to do it too? Check out this link
world book night and see if this is something you might want to do!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Column No. 9 January 2012

            Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby were two of my closest friends growing up. I moved a lot, which meant that I was constantly making new friends and trying to find a new place in each neighborhood and school where we would make a home.             Few things were constant in my childhood friendships, but I always knew that I could count on books. At a young age, I found the books of Beverly Cleary to be especially comforting. Reading the antics of Ramona, Henry, and the gang on Klickitat Street was my anchor, in a way. I always knew that while reading those books, that those kids would not judge me. The characters were full of fun, and they were always up to new adventures.
            Recently, as I read about the childhood of Beverly Cleary in her memoir, “The Girl from Yamhill,” it was like coming home. It has been many years since I have opened the pages of those well-worn books from my childhood, but when I opened this memoir, memories of the adventures that I experienced in Cleary’s books came flooding back. I remembered the comfort I felt when I would reread a book about Ramona. I also remembered the thrill I got when I discovered other Cleary books for the first time.
            One of my favorite books as a fourth and fifth grader was “Emily’s Runaway Imagination.” Emily is a girl who lives on a farm in Oregon in the 1920s whose small town cannot afford a library. Emily uses her lively imagination to help bring a library to Pitchfork. Little did I know that this was a childhood experience for Cleary herself! Living on a farm in Yamhill, Oregon, young Beverly was prone to getting into scrapes because of her own runaway imagination. And her mother was the one who brought a library to their small town during a time that books were considered a luxury, especially among farmers.
            When the Great Depression hit, Beverly’s family was forced to leave the farm of her young childhood and move to the city of Portland. This is where a lot of the stories of Ramona and Beezus got their roots. Beverly had no shortage of adventures of her own that she whipped into tales of our young friends like Mitch and Amy, Ellen Tebbits and Otis Spofford, and of course, Henry Huggins.
            Reading about the childhood of Beverly Cleary endeared her to me even more than her books did when I was a child. Cleary’s mother was not a warm woman. Yet despite the lack of compassion and love Beverly received from her, Beverly was able to grow up and write the Ramona books about the kind of mother every child wants to have. Her father was hardworking and wise, but rarely present. Beverly Cleary overcame so many hardships to become the positive, optimistic writer that molded many children into compassionate and loving young adults.
            “The Girl from Yamhill” is the first of two installments by the Newbery medalist. It covers her childhood from living on the farm in Yamhill through her high school years in Portland. I am excited to read her second installment, “My Own Two Feet,” the story of her adventure leaving Oregon to attend junior college in California. This book takes us from her college years during the Depression, through various jobs she had, her marriage, and the publication of her first book.
            Whether or not you are a fan of Beverly Cleary, you will find her childhood fascinating and be uplifted by her strength and character. I will be forever grateful for her imagination that brought me my best childhood friends and continues to bring comfort and happiness to my own children.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Natural Reaction

The sixth in the Mary O'Reilly Paranormal Mystery series, "Natural Reaction," by Terri Reid picks up where the fifth book left off. Mary had just been through a horrible kidnapping and experienced, through hypnotism, everything a woman who had been previously kidnapped had endured.

I love these stories. My only complaint is that they are not long enough. But Reid is great about writing and publishing her books regularly, so I never have to wait too long for the next installment. My love of the paranormal is always fed when I get to read what happens next in the life of Mary O'Reilly who is an ex-cop who can see and talk to ghosts. I love that she helps the ghosts to move on to their next life after resolving any unfinished business in this life.

This story revolves around a chemistry teacher who was killed in an explosion caused by an experiment gone wrong many years ago. Or was it? There has to be a twist, right? Was the chemistry teacher murdered. and if so, why?

These questions are answered in this great story as well as the furthering of Mary's personal life with the police chief. Questions are answered about his past as well. If you are not familiar with Mary O'Reilly, it is time to get to Amazon and download her first book for a very reasonable price for your Kindle!

A Marked Past

"A Marked Past," Mercer Legacy Book 1 by Leslie Deaton is a great story of witches and modern day Salem. Lyla Mercer's life changed the day her dad dies. Her mom takes her from her comfortable home in Chicago to an old historical family house in Salem, Mass.  It is when she moves to Salem that Lyla finds her true roots and that she is part of a legacy dating back hundreds of years.

Lyla Mercer is a witch. She finds her powers are unlocked when she moves into the family home and talks to her uncle who insists that the death of Lyla's father was not an accident. He was murdered. It is up to Lyla and her cousins to stop this man who has killed numerous members of her family over the span of hundreds of years, from killing the rest of the Mercer Clan.

The story was fun, and unpredictable. I did find it a little manipulative to read in the beginning. I was not excited about the first two chapters. I thought the book was going to be sappy and sentimental, but I am glad I hung in there and continued to read because it got a lot better! I loved the plot and story line. The end did leave me hanging! What a cliff hanger! But I just can't wait for the next installment.

I am a sucker for anything witchy that takes place in Salem. And this book was one that was perfect for a quick read. I am really excited to see what Deaton will bring us next!

Rae of Hope

You know how I love a good YA paranormal book! This one did not disappoint. "Rae of Hope," by W.J. May is a story of a young girl whose parents died when she was a little girl. As a teenager she is sent to a boarding school in England where she finds all of the students have special powers and tattoos that show up the night of their sixteenth birthday. Rae discovers not only her powers, but also the history of her parents and finds that she has an original tattoo and powers that are unlike any other.

Of course, the story is not terribly original. There have been books written that are similar, but the writing style was gripping and the story and characters sucked me right in! I could not put this book down. There is a lot going on in this story. We have a lot of characters to meet, as well as the different powers that they have. There are going to be romantic plots and twists. As well as a little mystery.

The book was reminiscent to Harry Potter, but more for the YA set. Not as much detail about the school itself, as the Hogwarts books, which moved the story along quickly. But I loved that everyone had different powers and that everyone was just getting to know what these powers were and how to use them.

Rae's roommate was quirky and fun. Her love interest was the perfect boy, of course. And Guilder, the school, was a place that any teenager would be happy to attend.

With the magic and mystery that this book provides, it is a must-read for fans of YA paranormal romance!