What We're Reading

Note:  In order to preserve past reviews yet keep this page from getting out of control, all previous book reviews can now be found at  Hopefully this will also serve as a helpful database for our family, because as anyone who reads lots of books knows, it's too easy to forget exactly what you've read and what you liked about it.  Take a look!


(Blogger appears to be having some formatting problems right now, so ignore the wonky text and picture layout, please.  I'll fix it as soon as possible.)

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

 Grandma suffers from dementia, Dad left months ago, and Mom works way too hard barely making ends meet for her family.  Gregor's life is pretty tough these days; he does what can to make things easier on his mom and two little sisters, but it's hard, with a sick grandma and a dad who disappeared.  But one day, a new twist is added to his life when he and his baby sister fall through an opening in the basement laundry room of their NYC apartment building, and discover a whole new world- the Underland.
There's so much to love about this series, but perhaps my favorite thing is Collins's (who is also author of the Hunger Games trilogy, by the by) unique ability to create characters that, in reality, you would treat with revulsion, but in her fantastically crafted world, you come to care about deeply.  Anyone who can make me love and cry over cockroaches must be brimming over with talent.  While I think is a wonderful series for any middle grade reader, I think it would be an especially good hook for young boys who haven't shown major interest in books in the past.  They're that good.  (Adults should read them, too!  Perfect escapist literature!)

Odd Interlude by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas- the lovable fry cook who sees dead people, but then, by golly, he does something about it- is back in this installment that reaffirms my love for this series.  Odd and his new, enigmatic friend Annabelle happen upon a small coastal hamlet, and although everything appears to be normal, his supernatural radar is on high alert.  He quickly discovers just what this small town is hiding- then determines to do everything in his power to save its traumatized citizens.
This was actually first published as an e-book released in three separate installments, and came out between books 4 and 5 in the series.  I reviewed book 5 awhile back, and while it was a bit dark for my taste, Odd Interlude renewed my love for the Odd Thomas series.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake  by Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen- journalist, novelist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and now, memoirist- touches on everything from marriage to friends to this strange life stage she's currently inhabiting, where her friends and colleagues are reluctant to retire but her twenty-something year old children are desperate to find room in the workplace.  I loved reading about how her perspectives have changed and matured toward a wide variety of topics: a woman's place in this world, the importance of girlfriends, what it means to be a parent.  I had trouble identifying with her at certain parts, not so much because of the age gap, but the socioeconomic.  On one page she writes about how frightening it can be meeting with her financial advisor- what if something terrible happened and they lost it all?  Then also speaks of her house in the country and her house in the city and the necessity of Botox.  Boohoo, Anna Quindlen.  Yes, you're obviously brilliant and I can't help but be entertained by your thoughts on life in general, but I also have trouble relating to you and the stratospheric caste you and your family live in.  If you're rich and writing a book, think twice before complaining about financial woes- especially when there's a chance the rest of us- you know, the peasant-folk- are going to be reading it.

And wow.  I hadn't realized what a strong reaction I'd had to this book until I wrote the review.  It's really a pretty good book; she just had the misfortune to stumble upon one of my pet peeves.


The Holy Bible

He highly recommends it.


Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud is a ten-year-old boy trying to survive the Depression-era foster care system when he finally decides to run away in search of a jazz musician whom he believes to be his father.  When he finds said musician and supposed father, he receive quite the welcome he'd anticipated.  Fortunately, the band surrounding this man take him under their collective wings, making Bud feel that he just might have finally found his family.
I was expecting Adelaide to perhaps be a little subdued during and after reading this book- it is rather dark and gritty subjective matter- but she spent much of the book giggling away, and afterward said she really liked the book.  Winner of the 2000 Newbery Medal and the 2000 Coretta Scott King Award.

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" by Michael O. Tunnell

Gail Halvorsen, a US Air Force pilot, took a motor tour of bombed-out Berlin immediately after the end of WWII and was so saddened by the plight of the children there (themselves recovering from the war and still being cut off from food and provisions by Stalin, who was trying to starve the Germans into Communist acquiescence) that he- along with friends and funded by the USAF- spent two years dropping candy by tiny parachutes to the children waiting below.
Adelaide loved this book, and took great satisfaction in correcting me. ("So did they drop big boxes of food with regular parachutes, or what?"  "NO, MOM, they dropped individual candy bars with these little parachutes, see?")  The book is full of photos and includes letters written to "the Chocolate Pilot" from the children he helped.

The Hive Detectives:  Chronicle of a Honeybee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns/ Illustrated by Ellen Harasimowicz

Heavy on text but punctuated by color photographs and vivid diagrams, I thought perhaps this book would be a little too dry for Adelaide, but she seemed fascinated by the subject matter: honeybees, the inner workings of a hive, and the recent decline of the honeybee and its far-reaching, dire potential consequences. I will say she didn't read it all in one sitting, like she does most books anymore; instead she read about 30 minutes a day from it before setting it aside for lighter fiction.  This was another find from our public library's "Best Juvenile Nonfiction" list.


Squids Will Be Squids:  Fresh Morals, Beastly Fables by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

I loved this book.  Adelaide loved this book.  It was way over the boys' heads, however.  It's text-heavy, and the humor is found in short fables ending in morals like, "You should always tell the truth.  But if your mom is out having the hair taken off her lip, you might want to forget a few of the details."  Quirky, off-beat humor and silly illustrations make this a fun book for the middle-elementary crowd and their parents. 

Dino-Football by Lisa Wheeler/ Illustrated by Barry Gott

The boys loved the whole concept of this book- apparently there's nothing cooler than dinosaurs playing football in the biggest game of the year: The Mega Bowl!  I, however, found the book to be boring the same way I find real-life, human football play-by-play to be mind-numbing.  I also didn't find the winner of the game to be much of a surprise:  what did the Redscales expect?  When you make a T-Rex, with his tiny arms and tinier brain, the quarterback, you're bound to lose. 


  1. I just have to share (since I share your appreciation for "The Book Thief") that you *must* read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which is also set in WWII and is a historical narrative. As I wrote in my review, it's a "riveting tale that's marvelously told". :)

  2. Oooh, I love book recommendations! Thanks!

  3. Ummmm, I suggest you start doing posts about what you're reading because I (gasp!) almost missed the change here! :) I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Duggar book as well, and actually enjoyed their more recent book (Love that Multiplies or something like that) even more than the first one! I appreciate their humility most, I think.

  4. I'm sort of stressed that I might have missed a review of a great book--how weird is that? Do you just *erase* the previous books??!!! Anyway, I understand what you're saying with The Map of Time. I haven't read that particular book, but I've certainly read books (and watched movies) that gave me the same feeling. (The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo comes to mind--don't waste your time or pollute your mind! shudder)

  5. Phew! You have *no* *IDEA* how relieved I am that you are preserving your book reviews so I don't have to worry that I've missed a change on the "books we're reading page".

    Deep breath


  6. I'm giggling over your Stephen King attempt--he really is a little *too* talented, isn't he? And I love that your young lady is reading James and the Giant Peach and Dahl--so fun!

  7. I feel like a bit of a freak or a stalker or something since I am the only one who comments on this page. . .but I am intrigued by Little Bee and adding it to my "want to read" list (bwah, ha, ha, the list that just keeps growing because I add 2-3 titles for every one I manage to cross off! Maybe I'll get them all read when I'm a-hem in my 50s and all my kids are out of the house.)

    We read the first two of the Eragon series, but maybe should read 3 and 4 this summer, hmmmm? And I looked at Kingsolver's book back when I read The Poisonwood Bible but it didn't look interesting to me at all. (cheeky grin) Thanks for the reviews, as usual. :)

  8. Okay, you're the second person to review The Language of Flowers and I am putting it on my "July hope-to-read list". :) And you've persuaded me on These is My Words. GWTW is such a fun, take-me-away book, even though Scarlett is so selfish, spoiled, immature, etc. Sounds like a fun summer read!

  9. Well, your review of Graceling sucked me in --I've just downloaded it to my Kindle, although I have several other books I have to finish first.

    I really love this idea of a way to keep track of books, and might create my own list. I just wanted you to know that I'm stealing your idea :-)

    1. Hahaha, steal away! I'd love to see what you're reading- plus, I've been seriously thinking of stealing one of your ideas and taking pics of various flower beds so that I can remember just what I planted there.

  10. It's me again, Margaret. (Did you get THAT quote?! lol)
    I guess we can't be best friends for life b/c I had to google your around the world snap thing and am STILL not sure I got it. And I'm so glad Loving the Little Years made your highly selective list. :) I think it's funny we had the exact same complaint (too short) in our reviews.

    1. Judy Blume! I like this game! And I don't blame you for not getting the snap thing- it's one of the products of being allowed to watch very inappropriate television as a child, something my sisters and I question to this day.
      Shayla and I laughed over the fact that we both paid extra attention to the sections of the book where you had made notes in the margins. It was fun to read a book that way!

  11. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that "Still Missing" intrigues me. I think it was the contrast you set up between "sensitive" and "enjoy this genre". Dare I admit I'm in the latter category?

  12. "Drop everything you're doing and go read this book"--oh yes, I need to hang around with you more often! Those are the kinds of words I like to hear. :)

    1. Sometimes I get a little carried away when I'm talking about books.

  13. Sigh--are you not reading anymore or WHAT?!

  14. The Rook--I wish I had it right here, right now. Sounds like a great escape for me this evening!

  15. 1) Doing the happy dance that your hubby read Unbroken. I hear Jon read it too. (I keep telling people they HAVE to read it, lol).

    2) The Warded Man--um, sounds weird. And I would think it would give you nightmares. grin

    3) The Art of Racing in the Rain really sounds interesting--like the premise.

    4) Had to chuckle at your growth in reading taste, and your eye rolling to the point of getting a headache. But seriously, that is so annoying to read a book and then reflect on how horrible it was and thus such a waste of time.

    1. The Warded Man didn't give me nightmares. I have a pretty high tolerance for 'weird,' it's the out-and-out 'scary' that gets me.

      And thanks for commenting on the Books page- I'm glad I'm updating this for somebody other than me!


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