Thursday, March 31, 2011

Of Pigs, Pearls & Prodigals by John Bytheway

 To me, the parables are compelling because they are puzzling. They force us to think, compare, contrast, and ponder. And in the process of our pondering, the Lord inspires our hearts and teaches us the things we must do in our own lives--John Bytheway

This is a great book to go along with the New Testament study. Your whole family will learn something from each parable as John Bytheway breaks them down and teaches from different angles like historical etc.

Rating: Family

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Page 69 test:
Chapter 11
The Parable of the Two sons
Matthew 21: 28-31
Who: "Chief priests and the elders of the people" (v. 23)
Where: "When he was come into the temple" (v. 23)
Why: The chief priests and the elders appeared to be very religious but they did not accept the authority of John the Baptist. Jesus thought this parable to affirm the authority and testimony of John the Baptist and to rebuke those who would not accept John's authority.

Matthew 21:28-31
But what think ye? A certain man had two sons and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.
He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.
Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

Dan North knows from early childhood that his family is different — and that the differences are secrets that can never be told.  This contemporary Urban Fantasy introduces the North family, a clan of mages in exile in our world, and their enemies who will do anything to keep them locked here.

This book is nothing like the other Card books I've read so far. Maybe because it's an adult book and the ones I've read are young adult. 
The Lost Gate felt like a filler novel and I skimmed a lot. I kept waiting for the story to begin. It seemed that the author wanted to build the world and the main character first then sprinkle the story throughout.
I did enjoy the storyline of the "gods" that walk amongst the drowthers (mortals). Card is excellent at creating believable worlds and magic. My favorite story was of Wad, who lived in a medieval castle and could slip in and out of locked rooms with no one knowing.
I won't finish this series.

Rating: Adult (max)
V: Fighting, nibbling off a thumb, 
L: Yes
S: references to sex, woman wanted to rape boy,

Page 69 test:
" do any kind of work, even if it were legal for people to hire a thirteen-year-old.
Clothes first. He ran into the first problem as he was coming into the store. An old man was greeting people at the north entrance. He took one look at Danny, pointed at his feet, and said, "Shoes."
"I'm not wearing any," said Danny.
"No shirt, no shoes, no service."
"But I have a shit on," said Danny.
"No shirt or no shoes, no service."
Danny stood there flummoxed, and nearly turned around to go back out. Then he saw a mother carrying a two-year-old who was wearing flip-flops on her feet.
"What about flip-flops?"
"Flip-flops count as shoes," said the old man. "Except that you're not wearing flip-flops."
"Because my little brother stole them. You saw him com in, didn't you? He was running and carrying my flip-flops. Do I have to wait out in the cold because my brother stole my flip-flops?"
"I didn't see anybody like that," said the old man.
"Come one," said Danny. "You aren't that old."
The man bristled, but then Danny grinned. "Come on, let me find my brother, then I'll have my flip-flops, he'll have an Indian burn on his arm, and everybody's happy."
"Except your brother," said the old man, a little bit amused now.
"Oh, he'll tell you, stealing my flip-flops and almost getting me kicked out of hte store was worth it."
"You're completely full of b.s.," said hte old man. "Just don't tell anybody you came in through this door."
Danny knew what he needed to get, and without anything on his feet, he knew he had to get it fast and get out. But he couldn't help wandering around Wal-Mat for a while just looking at things. the whole place was a fantasy of Christmas. Everything had holly or Santa faces or elves on it; everything was red and green.Christmas lights, phony-looking plastic trees, pre-stuffed..."

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Sydelle Mirabil is living proof that, with a single drop of rain, a life can be changed forever. Tucked away in the farthest reaches of the kingdom, her dusty village has suffered under the weight of a strangely persistent drought. That is, of course, until a wizard wanders into town and brings the rain with him.

In return for this gift, Wayland North is offered any reward he desires—and no one is more surprised than Sydelle when, without any explanation, he chooses her. Taken from her home, Sydelle hardly needs encouragement to find reasons to dislike North. He drinks too much and bathes too little, and if that isn’t enough to drive her to madness, North rarely even uses the magic he takes such pride in possessing. Yet, it’s not long before she realizes there’s something strange about the wizard, who is as fiercely protective of her as he is secretive about a curse that turns his limbs a sinister shade of black and leaves him breathless with agony. Unfortunately, there is never a chance for her to seek answers.

Along with the strangely powerful quakes and storms that trace their path across the kingdom, other wizards begin to take an inexplicable interest in her as well, resulting in a series of deadly duels. Against a backdrop of war and uncertainty, Sydelle is faced with the growing awareness that these events aren’t as random as she had believed—that no curse, not even that of Wayland North, is quite as terrible as the one she herself may carry.

Intriguing story with an interesting magic system, political intrigue and romance.
 I read this book a few weeks ago and don't remember a lot of it. That's not a good sign, is it? While I remember Syd's barren home, Wayland North and the queen, I don't remember a lot of details.Wait. I remember thinking the boy and girl fell in love too quickly. Hmm...

Rating: PG
V: Fights, magic
L: None
S: None

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Page 69 test:
"...say the least, and left to create their own communities where they taught themselves and one another. those women and their descendants never came back to proper wizarding society."
"What are the hedge communities like?" I asked.
"Tightly knit, highly secretive," he said. "Thought I've never seen one myself. I've only come across one male wizard who grew up within a hedge community, and he wasn't forthcoming with details."
"Who?" I asked.
"Who do you think?"
I stared at him. "Dorwan...?"
North nodded. "Explains quite a bit, doesn't it?"
"How do you know so much about him?" I asked. "He doesn't seem the type to share."
"I met him when we were both still young," he said. "Look, Syd, it's not something I'm proud of. I'd rather not talk about it."
"Did you train with him?" I asked. "Did he have the same magister?"
"No," he said. "When I was with my magister, Oliver was the only other student he had."
"Who in the world is Oliver?"
North gave me an exasperated look.
"He's the current second-in-command of the Wizard Guard, ranked number two just behind the Sorceress Imperial, who is ceremoniously ranked number one. He..."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Luck of the Draw by Rachael Renee Anderson

When Brighton's roommates bet him that he can't get three girls to go out with him at the same time, he has no doubt that he's up to the challenge. Besides, the prospect of an entire month of free laundry is just too enticing to resist. Of course, that's before he meets Dani--a girl who's never had a problem turning down a not-so-perfect guy. Soon Brighton realizes that winning the bet might mean losing what really matters most. This fast-paced modern romance is told with wit, sweetness, and a healthy dose of fun. It's a sure bet that Luck of the Draw will keep you laughing to the very last page.

Cute story!  Fun, quick read with lots of humor. Great LDS romance. I liked Dani because she is strong and believes in herself. There is irony in the story too but I can't say much about it here or it will spoil the surprises.
This book was a finalist for the Whitney Awards.

Rating: PG
V: None

Page 69 test:
"...would arrange to meet with a few orthopedic surgeons and find out what life was like for them and what it would be like for him. He prayed he would like their answers.
Brighton rubbed his dry, scratchy eyes in an attempt to being them some relief. Why was he even worrying about the future? He still had four years of medical school and five years of residency. Nearly a decade. No decisions needed ot be made about hte type of practice he would join or the hours he would work.
Instead, he should be overjoyed because he had not only won the bet, but come Monday, he could return to Rexburg free and clear from women, dating, and laundry. And he could forget all about Dani Carlson.
If only.
How could a girl be so aggravating and yet so likable at the same time? She'd gotten to him somehow, like pistachio flavored ice cream. One taste was all it took.
She had barged into his head, made herself at home, and signed a long-term lease. If only Katherine or Sandy had never happened.
Now he was caught in a horrible catch-22 with no idea how to extricate himself. If he wanted to keep seeing Dani, he had to tell her the truth--and then be prepared for her to hate him for all eternity. Either way, he lost. Because of a silly bet, he would lose Dani, and yet he would never have met her otherwise. How he hated the irony.
He snatched a black silky pillow from his bed and threw it hard against the wall.
Dani felt anxious, like a caged raccoon waiting to strike at the next finger that appeared through a hole in the wires. She needed a punching bag, she decided, to batter and pummel with her raw hands. If only Jeff and Nana would go to bed, she could escape and go for a long fun, except that it was freezing outside. she needed something, anything, to release her mounting apprehension and worry, to beat down the disgust she felt for betraying her..."

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull

Since ancient times, the great demon prison Zzyzx has protected the world from the most dangerous servants of darkness, including Gorgrog, the Demon King. After centuries of plotting, the Sphinx is on the verge of recovering the five artifacts necessary to open the legendary prison. Facing the potential of a world-ending calamity, all friends of light must unite in a final effort to thwart the Sphinx s designs and find a safe home for the five artifacts. To this end, Kendra, Seth, and the Knights of the Dawn will venture far beyond the walls of Fablehaven to strange and exotic magical preserves across the globe, where the end of every quest becomes the beginning of another. In this explosive series finale, allegiances will be confirmed and secrets revealed as the forces of light and darkness collide in a desperate struggle to control the keys to the demon prison.

This series got better and better with each book. Keys to the Demon Prison was a great book to end on though I wanted to see more of Kendra and Bracken's relationship :)
There are a few surprise characters that I wanted to know more about.
Mr. Mull did a fantastic job with character growth. Each one had their unique voices, talents, and weaknesses. Throughout the series, a weakness could become a strength.
I enjoyed the moral choices and natural consequences too! 
This series is worth your time and great to read out loud to your family.

Rating: G
V: None
L: None
S: None

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Page 69 test:
"...the weak link who begged for a slowdown. But from the way the others were panting, she judged she was not the only person running out of gas.
It was Tanu who finally called for a walk. Nobody complained. Kendra's clothes were now damp from sweat as well as from water. They walked for several minutes before attempting another jog. They hurried back and forth between dead ends, reaching intersections now and again. Trask, Berrigan, and Elise added comments as they recognized features in the passages or positions of the intersections, always deferring to Mara.
At length, Trask called a break to eat. Kendra sat beside Seth, munching a partly squished sandwich, her back to the cool wall. She wondered how much faster they would move if they could hear their enemies coming.
"The scary thing in her," Seth said around a mouth full of food, "is that we could lose ground with a wrong turn and run right into the zombies."
"We must be ready for that, "Trask said. "Let's hope Laura managed to slow them."
"Outside the sun is about to set," Mara noted.
"Then we;ll have the wizard joining the chase," Berrigan reminded them.
"Do you think we're getting close?" Kendra asked Mara.
"where the end may lie is hard to judge just yet," she replied. "We've eliminated several routes as dead ends or pointless loops. Time will tell."
"Time is what we lace," Elise grumbled."

Friday, March 18, 2011

MATCHED by Ally Condie

This is book #1
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Wow! What a great way to start out a series! Ms. Condie is an amazing world builder, building through out the story but never taking the reader away. I read this book on a road trip and every time I stepped out of the car I glanced around for evidence of Cassia's world. I had to stop myself from thinking someone was watching me, ready to control my decisions. I wanted to pull out a book of poems to make sure there more than a hundred inside. Or twist the radio dial to prove that more than one hundred songs were on it. The government felt there was too much clutter so they sanitized everything. A committee choose one hundred songs, books, poems, etc. Drove me crazy! Also, every member of Society is given there own special meals, with just the right nutrients and vitamins. They are told when to go to work, school, have free time and what it will be and when to die. Annoying! My blood is starting to roil so I'd better stop there. I think you get the idea.
Excellent world building.
I guessed what was happening with Ky and Cassia's relationship but that still didn't detract from the story. The characters grew and stretched just enough for more in the next book.
This book is worth the read. I hope the next one it too. And it was a totally clean read! Good job ALLY!

Rating: PG
V: None
L: None
S: None

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Page 69 test:
"Chapter 7
Today is Sunday. It is Grandfather's eightieth birthday, so tonight he will die.
People used to wake up and wonder, "Will today be the end?" or lie down to sleep, not knowing if they would come back out of the dark. Now, we know which day will be the end of the light and which night will be the long, last one. The Final Banquet is a luxury. A triumph of planning, of Society, of human life and the quality of it.
All the studies show that the best age to die is eighty. It's long enough that we can have a complete life experience, but not so long that we feel useless. That's one of the worst feelings the elderly can have. In societies before ours, they could get terrible diseases, like depression, because they didn't feel needed anymore. and there is a limit to what the Society can do, too. We can't hold off all the indignities of aging much past eighty. Matching for healthier genes can only take us so far.
Things didn't used to be this fair. in the old days, not everyone died at the same age and there were all kinds of problems and uncertainty. You could die anywhere-on the..."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Captivate by Carrie Jones

Zara and her friends knew they hadn't solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king's needs grow deeper every day he's stuck in captivity, while his control over his people gets weaker. It's made him vulnerable. And now there's a new king in town.

A turf war is imminent, since the new pixie king, Astley, is moving in quickly. Nick nearly killed him in the woods on day one, but Zara came to his rescue. Astley swears that he and Zara are destined to be together, that he's one of the good guys. Nick isn't buying it, though Zara isn't as sure -- despite herself, she wants to trust the new king. But it's a lot more than her relationship with Nick that is at stake. It's her life -- and his

I really enjoyed the first book of this series. That said, I probably won't finish the series. I have to admit, I didn't  finish Captivate. I skimmed the book and couldn't figure out why until I realized that I was tired of Nick and Zara's romance. It took up a lot of pages. I didn't feel the same intensity as the first book either.  Though the new king is interesting.

Rating: PG 14 (max)
V: Fighting
L: A few
S: Kissing, sexual intensity

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Page 69 test:
""Zara, sympathy is just a good excuse to buy greeting cards and make sorry eyes and secretly gloat over how glad you are that you aren't the person whose crap is hanging out there for the worlds to see," Betty says.

A check at the hospital reveals:
  • one sprained wrist,
  • a couple of minorly bruised but unbroken ribs, and
  • one small neck strain that does not require a neck brace.

Gram changes into her civilian gear at the hospital, putting on a flannel shirt and L.L Bean cords, and then drives us home in her truck. I'm in the middle seat leaning against Nick.
I push my thigh against his. "Well, thank God."
"Thank God what?" he asks. His hand slowly rubs up and down the place where my shoulder meets my arm. It makes me good shiver.
"That I don't have a neck brace. It's hard to rock a neck brace, especially if we're still gong to that dance."
He leans in and kisses my nose. "If anyone could do it, you could."
I tilt my head so our lips meet.
"Hormonal ones, I am right here. Me. The old lady otherwise known as your grandmother," Betty says.
"Sorry. He's just irresistible," I say, settling back against him.
"Well, try to resist the irresistible," Betty says knowingly as the as the truck bumps over a pothole. "Sorry! Didn't mean to jostle you."
"Wait," Nick says. What did that mean?"
"She said to resist the irresistible," I explain.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets √Čtienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.
As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

Interesting story. Like a few out in book-dom. Girl meets cute guy. Girl falls for cute guy. Cute guy has hot girlfriend. Cute guy likes girl. Girl can't believe cute guy likes her because she's not cute. Best friend also likes cute guy too. Missed cues, misunderstood words, hurt feelings. Um. That sorta sums up this book for me. One part of the story I did like was the main character didn't want to sleep with the cute guy because she was waiting for the right person.

Rating: PG 13 (Maxi)
V: No
L: Yes. *F* words in one chapter; potty language and humor
S: Sexually tense moments

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Page 69 test:
"Right." I pause. "And Ellie?"
He falls back, and now he's lying down on my bed. "Our plans fell through." He says this with a vague wave of his hand, in a way that keeps me from inquiring further.
I gesture at my pajama bottoms. "I'm not exactly dressed for it."
"Come on, Anna. Do we honestly have to go through this again?"
I give him a doubtful look, and the unicorn pillow flies at my head. I slam it back, and he grins, slides off the bed, and smacks me full force. I grab for it but miss, and he hits me again twice before letting me catch it. St. Clair doubles over in laughter, and I whack him on the back. He tries to reclaim it, but I hold on and we wrestle back and forth until he lots go. The force throws me onto the bed, dizzy and sweaty.
St. Clair flops down beside me, breathing heavily. He's lying so close that his hair tickles the side of my face. Our arms are almost touching. Almost. I try to exhale, but I no longer know how to breathe. And then I remember I'm not wearing a bra.
And now I'm paranoid.
"Okay." He's panting. "Here's the"--pant pant--"plan."
I don't want to feel this way around him. I want things to be normal. I want to be his friend, not another stupid girl holding out for something that will never happen. I force myself up. My hair has gone all crazy and staticky from the pillow fight, so I grab an elastic band off my dresser to pull it back."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cold As Ice by Stephanie Black

After five patient years, Abigail Wyatt's sisterly care is finally paying off: her younger brother, Derek, is abandoning his self-destructive lifestyle and seeking his parents' forgiveness, thus ending the painful estrangement that wounded the whole family. But just as the pieces are falling into place for the prodigal's return, a woman named Karen Brodie is murdered in a local park, and police name Derek as the prime suspect. Rather than standing firm and cemeting the positive changes in his life, Derek succumbs to his cynical fears and runs from the law, leaving Abigail with her hands tied. Literally. Derek's raw panic convinces everyone that he's the killer, everyone except Abigail, who doggedly maintains her brother's innocence. With the help of Kyle, a charismatic new friend she might be falling for, Abigail digs deep into Karen Brodie's troubled past in hopes of clearing Derek's name. But as she uncovers a sinister plot of greed, envy, and vengeance, this loyal sister must face the painful truth that things, and people, are not always as they seem.

Stephanie Black is awesome. She does a great job of building suspense and characters. I was almost sure who the bad guy was then Stephanie added a little twist and threw me off course.

Rating: PG
V: Tense moments
L: No
S: No

Page 69 test:
Chapter 8
"Hey, Abigail. There's a guy here who wants to see you."
Abigail looked up from the purchase order displayed on her computer scree. "Tell him unless he's six-foot-four, has biceps to die for, and is heir to the throne, I'm not interested."
Melissa Barry laughed, eyes sparkling behind retro cat0eye glasses. "His arms are pretty big. It taht enough? He says he has an important business deal going with you."
"A business deal?"
"Says he's an artist."
Wonderful. Chase McCoy. She might as well deal with him now. "Fine, send him on back."
Melissa disappeared. A moment later, Chase strode through the open door of the office. "Good to see you, Abby."
Abigail concealed her irritation. The nickname seemed over familiar coming from a man who barely knew her. "Hello, Chase."
Chase shrugged out of his coat. he was dressed in a striped Oxford shirt and Dockers. He looked--Abigail hoped--like he was on his lunch hour and was due back a the office very soon. "Nice store," he said. "Has that country-ish, hometown appeal."
"Thank you."
Chase settled in the chair facing her desk. "So have you had a chance to look at my paintings?"
"Yes." She stood and took the binder from where she'd stowed it on the top of the filing cabinet. "Your work is very unique, and I appreciate your thinking of our store. But as I said,I don't usually take things on consignment, and--"
"You can make an exception. You're the boss lady, right?"