Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's a Mall World After All

Review by Emily, Head Mama of Deliciously Clean Reads
Emily's other blog: Whimsy Books

There's a good chance you read the title of this book and had similar thoughts to mine...sounds like cheesy chick lit. Well, maybe it kind of is, but it is written well, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable. In fact, I read it in about a day.

I strongly recommend IT'S A MALL WORLD AFTER ALL if you like clean teen romances. Similar movie flicks would include A Cinderella Story, High School know, the fun, innocent high-schoolish romances.

Charlotte, a tall-and-pretty klutz, works at the mall as a perfume spritzer for Bloomingdale's. From the entry of Bloomingdale's, she watches life at the mall, often spying on classmates. However, sometimes spying can get you into trouble. A funny series of events unfolds. I honestly laughed out loud, which I rarely do, while reading.

Besides being an active member of NHS (the National Honor Society), Charlotte loves to head up service projects, but being a klutz, something always goes wrong. During the course of the story, she finds a way to help disadvantaged kids for a Christmas project.

It is pretty obvious who Charlotte likes and how the story will end, but does that matter? Most chick flicks are predictable. That certainly doesn't stop me from loving them. If you don't like predictability, IT'S A MALL WORLD AFTER ALL may not be for you. However, if you love a quick-n-funny chick flick now and then, like I obviously do, read this one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark

Great mystery. It keeps keeps you on your toes with all the twists and turns. Very enjoyable read.

Ten-year-old Liza Barton shoots her mother while trying to protect her from her violent husband — Liza's stepfather. While the death is ruled accidental, the tabloids still compare Liza to the child murderess Lizzie Borden.

Liza's adoptive parents change her name to Celia and try to erase all traces of her past. Widowed after a brief marriage in which she had a son, Jack, she remarries a young lawyer. Celia is happy until, on her birthday, he presents her with a gift — the house where she killed her mother. On moving in, they find the words LITTLE LIZZIE'S PLACE - BEWARE painted in red letters on the lawn. When the real estate agent who sold the house to her husband is murdered, she becomes a suspect. As she struggles to prove her innocence, Celia and her little son are being stalked by the killer.

Nothing to Regret by Tristi Pinkston

I love a well written historical fiction novel and this did not disappoint. From the eyes of a Japanese American we see what it was like to live in America during a time of hatred and people being scared. I hate racial prejudice (I have an Asian son and a Black son) so his book hit home with me.
Ken Sugihara was a student at Berkeley at the time of Pearl Harbor. He is shocked to hear about the attack, but even more shocked when he discovers that all people of Japanese ancestry in the United States, especially those living on the West Coast, are now considered suspects in the attack. He and his parents are taken from their home and sent to a relocation center in the Utah Desert.

While living in Topaz, Ken's old friend Colonel Beaumont comes to see him, and asks him if he will go on a mission of espionage to Japan to hunt down information on Japanese aircraft. Ken is reluctant at first to serve the country that wrongfully imprisoned him, but realizes that he has a chance to make a difference, and agrees to go. The experiences he has change his life forever.

This is a story of prejudice and acceptance, dignity under the worst conditions, and the power of the Atonement to heal us all.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull

This was a fun read with some very important messages. While this is a children's chapter book I really enjoyed reading it. It is a book I would like all my children to read as the message about who you can trust was very good. Also, the children in the book were able to correct their mistakes. The cover of this book was an added bonus - it sparkles!!
What if there were a place where you could get magical candy? Moon rocks that made you feel weightless. Jawbreakers that made you unbreakable. Or candy that gave animals temporary human intelligence and communication skills. (Imagine what your pet would say!) Four young friends, Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon, are befriended by Belinda White, the owner of a new candy shop on Main Street. However, the gray-haired, grandmotherly Mrs. White is not an ordinary candy maker. Her confections have magical side effects. Purposefully, she invites the kids on a special mission to retrieve a hidden talisman under Mt. Diablo Elementary School. However, Mrs. White is not the only magician in town in search of the ancient artifact rumored to be a fountain of youth. She is aware that Mr. Stott, the not-so-ordinary ice cream truck driver, has a few tricks of his own.

Towards the Promised Land by H.B. Moore

This is the third book in H.B. Moore's Out of Jerusalem series. It was a wonderful book that gave me some real insights into what life must have been like for Nephi and his family in the wilderness. I had never realized just how long eight years in the wilderness could be. I am looking forward to getting the forth book in this series.

Every muscle in Nephi's body tensed. Now was the time to tell his brother-regardless of Laman's certain temper. Nephi took a deep breath. "A ship," he said, almost inaudibly, then his voice gained strength. "I'm making tools to build a ship."

The ends of Laman's mustache twitched, but his eyes remained devoid of any real surprise. "You plan to fish in the deep swells?"

Exhaling, Nephi shook his head. "The Lord has commanded me to build a ship to take us to the Promised Land."

Laman stared at Nephi. "A ship to take us where?

It is time for Lehi's family to leave the place Bountiful for the Promised Land. But Nephi's older brother, Laman and Lemuel, believe they are already living in a promised land. Why should they leave their newfound abundance? Challenged with following instructions from the Lord while keeping peace within the family, Nephi forges ahead to build a ship that can cross oceans-but storms at sea are nothing compared to the turbulent relationship between Nephi and his older brothers.

With characters you will both love and loathe, H.B. Moore streams one suspenseful scene after another as she weaves well-researched facts with a wealth of imaginative detail. More than any other work of fiction, Out of Jerusalem brings the journey of the prophet Lehi's family to life in a way that will forever move your soul.

After Goliath by Liz Adair

I really enjoyed this book. Liz Adair writes a great mystery that keeps you turning the pages.


A property dispute between two brothers takes a deadly turn in After Goliath. Money and fame may have bought prestige for country music star Rocky Ridge when he moves his family back to Panaca from Las Vegas, but they can't keep him from being murdered. Can Spider find the killer before he becomes a victim himself?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

Review by Emily from Deliciously Clean Reads and Whimsy Books
I'm a little bit torn about this book. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. It's funny, meaningful, creative, compelling, thoughtful, realistic, and hopeful. It's a teen version of the "miracle books" I've talked about before, like The Wednesday Letters, Letters for Emily, and the Blue Bottle Club.
There is a difference, though...and, despite how wonderful Jeremy Fink is, and how well written, I admit that this difference is bothering me a bit.
The adult miracle books I have mentioned all incorporate God into the meaning of life. To me, God and the meaning of life go hand-in-hand and cannot exist without the other.
There are a couple brief mentions of religion in Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life...but these almost make it worse. I think the story would have been better without addressing religion at all than the way it was done. Jeremy and his best friend, Lizzy, have some time to kill and wander into a church where they are healing people. They leave more confused than ever but don't really talk about what was confusing.
Anyway, the book was wonderful. I just feel like it is missing something. God. It still has a great message (enjoy every moment of life), but, in my opinion, lacks the bigger picture. I certainly don't think all novels need to talk about God. I read more regular fiction than Christian fiction, but I feel that talking about the meaning of life without God is a little bit...empty.
So, you may be wondering why I am reviewing it at all since I don't review books I'm not excited to share...well, I AM excited to share this one. I just want to be upfront about what you are getting into.
Jeremy Fink is almost thirteen when a package arrives for his mother. Encouraged by his best friend, Lizzy, he opens the box to find another box. A beautiful wooden box engraved with the words, "The Meaning of Life, For Jeremy Fink to open on his thirteenth birthday." The ornate box is accompanied by a note that says the four keys (one for each side) have been lost.
As you can imagine, an adventure begins. Jeremy, who is afraid of subways, has a mutant candy collection, and sweats peanut butter, is the ultimate fun character. Wendy Mass has nailed his voice. He takes us on his quest to understand the meaning of life. He wonders what is wrong with himself that he never pondered the meaning of life before.
The journey takes Jeremy and Lizzy to a fortune-teller, a Natural History museum, a comic shop, an abandoned law firm, and even to a makeshift police office.
Despite my one minor reservation about it, I am recommending Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life. Check it out. I bet you'll love it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Review by Emily, Head Mama of Deliciously Clean Reads
My other blog: Whimsy Books

I believe Princess Academy was my first experience with Shannon Hale's books. I expected a typical novel about a normal girl who falls in love with a prince, becomes a princess, and lives happily ever after. I was wrong.

What I discovered, instead, was something fresh and unique, something different than all the other princess books I had ever read.

Miri wishes to be helpful in her small mountain community, but her father will not let her work. Miri assumes it is because she is so small. The people of her community work very hard in the quarries to make a meager living.Soon, their whole world is turned upside-down. The king's priests determine that the prince's bride will come from their little town of Mount Eskel. All eligible girls are sent down the mountain to a makeshift princess academy, where they are to learn how to become princesses. At the end of their training, the prince will choose a bride from among them.

Miri has mixed feelings about the whole thing. Does she want to be the princess? Fierce competition ensues, but Miri is still battling with herself as well. At the academy, Miri finds herself, and, at the same time, is able to save the girls and the whole village.

I think what makes Princess Academy so different is the setting. A beautiful world of light fantasy that feels completely realistic. You won't find mystical creatures in Princess Academy, but you will find magic, magic that stems from the people of Mount Eskel and the mountain itself.

Miri is a well-developed strong female character. She is small in size, named after a tiny mountain flower, but big in heart and inner strength. Her relationships with her father, a mountain boy, her best friend, and the prince are complex and realistic.I recommend this Newbery-honor book to readers of all ages. It was a pleasant surprise for me, and I have become the kind of fan that reads each new Shannon Hale title as soon as it is released.

At my blog, Deliciously Clean Reads, we are celebrating our 100th review by talking ALL Shannon Hale ALL week. Today I posted an interview, which you can find RIGHT HERE.

PS...Don't forget to leave a comment on any (or all) of the Shannon Hale posts this week at Deliciously Clean Reads to be entered into the drawing for one of two signed Shannon Hale books!

Friday, November 2, 2007

The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me: About Life and Wealth

I've read a lot of financial planning books and I consider myself pretty well-educated in matters of finance. I've even published articles on managing finances. So I wondered if this book had anything new to offer. In concept, it doesn't, but in presentation it does. And any time you take a moment to evaluate the health of your finances, I think it's time well spent.

Of course knowing that Richard Paul Evans is a self-made successful author and businessman, I was even more intrigued.

I read a couple of chapters, then went in search of a pencil. Doing that means there are things I don't want to forget. One of my favorite chapters is titled, "Keep a Portion of Everything You Earn." I tell my kids constantly. "Do you want to spend your birthday money on making the PlayStation2 Executives even richer by purchasing a $50 game? Or do you want swap games with your buddies?"

One of the quotes in the book really struck me. "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." I'm raising my hand, because I am guilty.

I also loved Evans' example of how to win within the margins. I think that's what impressed me the most. Of course we all want to use our talents and skills we already have to expand our financial net, but Evans gives some excellent examples of how to do exactly that.

I highly recommend this book because of its simplicity, its undaunting brevity, and its structure based on tried and true principles.