Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wrapping up LDS Fiction

This month has been fun while I read as many novels by LDS authors as I could get my hands on for the Summer Book Trek, hosted by LDS Publishers blog. I just finished my last book last night, and am anxious to get all my reviews listed. Here's my final list:

Freefall by Traci Hunter Abramson - read Aug 9th
Crossed by Ally Condie - read Aug 21st
Austenland by Shannon Hale - read Aug 17th
Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale - brand new & offered on Kindle for $1.99 - read Aug 26th
Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson - read Aug 28th
Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack - read Aug 23rd
Dead Running by Cami Checketts - read Aug 7th
Michael Vey: the Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans - read Aug 24th

I've  got a lot of reviews to list here. As always, I review every book I read on Goodreads.

Crossed (Matched, #2)

Crossed by Ally Condie

I enjoyed this one a little more than the first, but maybe it was because I read it myself, rather than listening. I always like that better. There was also a lot more action, but you still get to hear all of Cassia's thoughts - and now we get Ky's thoughts also. It starts to explain some of the background, but leaves plenty for the 3rd book. I still love Cassia & Ky's relationship, the pull they feel towards each other, but Xander isn't out of the picture yet. This love triangle has more to tell I think.

Austenland by Shannon Hale

I'd give this book 3.5 stars. It was just the kind of easy-reading book that I like sometimes. Romance, British characters & historic literature, some American humor, and a happy ending. It was clean and good for teenagers. Still plenty of kissing though.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

3 stars. I read this right on the heels of Austenland, so the same plot device wasn't exactly novel for me. I did like having a heroine that was quite a bit different than the 1st, who was there for different reasons. The whole real mystery and nod to Northanger Abby was great (especially since I just read that one recently) and the happy ending wasn't so bad, since that's how I like them.

Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson

2 stars. I wanted to like this book as much as I liked the main character, but I just didn't. The plot was cliche but still has some potential. I really felt for Jessie and some of the situations she ended up in. But the main conflict with Ben felt contrived and then wrapped up all too quickly. And despite the fact that Jacobson can obviously write decently, it was the writing that ruined this book for me. I rolled my eyes and practically threw the book down every time a million details of the setting came out. I really don't care about the colors of the walls, and the couch, and the accent pillows. Or the plates & flatware, the table runner, and on and on! Not to mention the clothes, which I don't mind quite as much, but are still a huge departure from the actual story. It was so distracting! (I was not surprised when I read Jacobson's bio & found out she was in the fashion industry.) The same thing happened with so many details of Jessie's work life. Even though it was a bit more important to the story, we still didn't need so much. But if all of the excess details had been taken out, it would have been a very short book.

Lds fiction is hard to write as any kind of decent literature. I hope Jacobson keeps it up and I'll try another of hers in a few more books

Lemon Tart by Josi Kilpack

3 stars. I didn't expect a lot from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It certainly fits in with its genre of culinary mysteries - the recipes look delicious and I will be trying them soon. And the mystery has a few more plot twists than I expected. It ended with the expected confrontation with the killer, but I still liked it. The heroine was new to me, so she doesn't drive me crazy yet and I'm interested in getting to know her. I'll pick up a few more of these.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25Michael Vey: the Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

4 stars. This book is like X-men for teenagers. The premise wasn't super original, but still very fun and exciting. The hero is very likable and his band of merry men totally grows on you. The action was great, without being violent or gory at all. There was no langauge or sex - totally clean for pre-teens but adults will enjoy it too. I think I'll have my son read it in about a year when he turns 9. (The characters are 15 so it's a little old for him.) I really liked it, and sometimes Richard Paul Evans is a little hokey for me, so I was very pleased with Michael Vey. I will look for the next in the series soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Funnest Back to School Party Ever!

We were thrilled to receive some more fun party materials from Mom Select - this time from Gutzy Gear! I was a little worried that the kids wouldn't be thrilled with the product - they are velcro patches that attach to your gear, particularly with covers that go around your kid's backpack straps. No sewing required! Why can't scout uniforms be so easy? But I don't know why I was worried - they were a huge hit! They all tore into the packages of the straps and were thrilled to get them on their own backpacks. I helped my 4 year old a bit, but otherwise all my 1st and 3rd grade guests had no problems with them. And there was such a great assortment of patches that we didn't even have fighting over them. That's always a plus at a party.

We played a couple games that were including in our packet  - bingo, and a super fun scavenger hunt game. I taped up pictures of the Gutzy patches all over the house and the kids had to race to find them, in a specific order. There were two sets, one for each team. They really loved it and ran around crazy for about ten minutes. We will have to play that game again sometime. Here are my two teams:

Here's a video with a little taste of the scavenger hunt and some up close footage of the kids' choices.


What else can you ask of a party? Yummy snacks, fun games, good company, and awesome Gutzy Gear products made for our funnest back to school party ever! We will be keeping our eyes open for these patches in stores. Our set incuded basic patches, but they have super hero ones that my boys will love (in their stockings at Christmas). The patches retail for $6 for a two-pack and are available online or at Kmart, Walmart, or Toys R Us.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Book Trek

I finished my first two books for the Summer Book Trek, hosted by LDS Publisher blog. I altered my list a bit for what I was able to quickly get my hands on, and here's the update:

Freefall by Traci Hunter Abramson - read Aug 9th
Crossed by Ally Condie - currently reading
Austenland by Shannon Hale (found out Palace of Stone doesn't even come out for a few weeks)
Twitterpated by Melanie Jacobson (The List sounds more interested but a friend loaned me this one)
Lemon Tart by Josi S. Kilpack (my friend loaned me this one too)
Dead Running by Cami Checketts - read Aug 7th

The exciting news is that I won a prize before I even finished my first book. I look forward to receiving Dispensation in the mail. It is an anthology of short stories by LDS authors, compiled and edited by Angela Hallstrom. And in choosing my prize, I found Dead Running, which I finished quickly. More points! Maybe I'll win another prize. Here are my reviews:

Dead Running by Cami Checketts
Dead Running
Goodreads Summary:
Cassidy Christensen is running.
Running from the mercenaries who killed her parents.
Running from a scheming redhead intent on making her life miserable.
Running from painful memories that sabotage her dreams of happiness.
With two very tempting men competing for her attention, she hopes she’ll finally have someone to run to, but can she trust either of them? When secrets from her past threaten her family, Cassidy decides to stop running and fight for her future.

My review:
I might give this 2.5 stars. It was quick and kind of fun, in a spy mystery/all the bad guys are chasing her kind of way. There was some fun romance and I was a bit inspired by the heroine's drive to train for the St. George marathon. The plot wasn't original and the writing wasn't anything special. I did like the main character, even if I thought her reactions were unrealistic sometimes.

I got this as a 99 cents Kindle download from Amazon, and found it through the blog I am participating in their Summer Book Trek to read books by LDS authors. The church isn't mentioned anywhere in the book, but it was completely free of language and sex. There is just kissing and mentions of violence. Not explicit or gory, or even scary.

Freefall (Saint Squad, #1)Freefall by Traci Ambramson Hunter

Goodreads Summary:
Lieutenant Brent Miller arrived in the Middle East with one objective--get seven hostages out of a hostile country. The plan almost worked. But now he has been left behind--with one of the hostages. It's up to Brent to get Amy Whitmore, a US Senator's daughter, across miles of desert to safety. What he doesn't know is that to survive, he needs her as much as she needs him.

My review:
This book was enjoyable and nostalgic for me. I used to read stuff like this in junior high. The spy thriller/terrorist type of book, with some LDS people thrown in. It is good, clean fun for me. I liked the format of action, romance, action - not too intense, but not boring. I was glad that both of the main characters were LDS, otherwise it gets a too unrealistic to me. This book was neither original, or fabulously written, but I liked it and will read more of the series.

There was no sex or language, and the violence was minimal and completely vague.