For those of us who are frequent visitors to Discworld, or those who have never had the chance to visit I found this.  It isn't really necessary to read the books in chronological order, but just in case I had to post this.  Thanks to Kryzsztof K. Kietzman of www.lspace.org for putting this together.
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Rating: 3/5
Genre:  YA, Fairy Tale Retelling
Reading Challenges:
Book 2 for 100+ in 2009

I have always been a lover of fairy tales.  One of my favorites from childhood has always been the story of the 12 Dancing Princesses.  So, I was excited when this book caught my eye during a recent trip to Barnes and Noble.  

The story begins as Galen, a lifelong soldier despite his youth, 
is returning home after the completion of a war which has lasted 12 long years.  Orphaned and alone, he seeks out his Aunt and Uncle.  Galen's uncle is employed as the royal family gardner, and offers the hard working youth a position in the family firm.  It is in the gardens that Galen first meets Princess Rose, the eldest of 12 royal princesses, and finds himself swept up in an unexpected adventure as he tries to free Rose and her sisters from a powerful curse.

There are many things to like about this book.  Galen, the hero, is a charming character, and not just because he is an accomplished knitter.  I was rooting for him to succeed after the first few pages. I found Galen's history particularly interesting.  The author also did a nice job of including many of the details from the original fairy tale that I know and love.  The story flows along quickly, and there really never is a lull in the action.  Young adults will likely appreciate this retelling as it provides a handsome and dashing, yet kind and sensitive hero, and some wholesome romance.  The character of Princess Rose is also no fainting blossom waiting to be rescued.  She and her sisters all seem to be doing their best to save themselves. 

I did find the writing at times a bit disjointed.  At some points, I found myself noticing particular sentences that didn't seem to flow very well.  For example the author described a character as, "he was so very much not happy."  I'm not usually such a picky reader, as I prefer to lose myself in the story, but at times the authors voice seemed a bit unrefined.  All that being said however, I found this a very pleasant read, and one that I would recommend for fans of fairy tale retellings.

You can read more about the official challenge at the challenge homepage here.  I'll be tracking my progress below.  I am going for: Do These Chunksters Make My Butt Look Big?

1.  The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles - Completed April 2009, 656 pages
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To learn more about this challenge, you can visit the homepage here. I'll be tracking my progress below. The books I've selected are:

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas - To be read
2. Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter - Completed
3. The Four Feathers by Alred Edward Woodley Mason - Completed May 2009
4. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - Completed April 2009
5. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - Completed October 2009

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This is a personal reading challenge that I threw together because I love all things Pratchett. I'll be tracking my progress below. This challenge might stretch into next year, but as all Pratchett fans know, Discworld isn't really about conforming to the rules!

Rincewind Novels and Short Stories
1. The Color of Magic - Completed March 19, 2009
2. The Light Fantastic - Completed April 3, 2009
3. Sourcery
4. (Faust) Eric
5. Troll Bridge (Short Story)
6. Interesting Times
7. The Last Continent
8. The Last Hero

The Witches Novels and Short Stories
1. Equal Rites - Competed May 19, 2009
2. Wyrd Sisters
3. Witches Abroad
4. Lords and Ladies
5. Maskerade
6. The Sea and Little Fishes (Short Stories)
7. Carpe Jugulum

Death Novels and Short Stories
1. Mort- Completed January 2010
2. Reaper Man
3. Soul Music
4. Hogfather
5. Thief of Time

Watch Novels and Short Stories
1. Guards, Guards
2. Theatre of Cruelty (Short Story)
3. Men at Arms
4. Feet of Clay
5. Jingo
6. The Fifth Elephant
7. Night Watch
8. Thud

Ancient Civilizations Novels and Short Stories
1. Pyramids
2. Death and What Comes Next (Short Story)
3. Small Gods

Industrial Revolution Novels and Short Stories
1. Moving Pictures
2. The Truth
3. Monstrous Regiment
4. Going Postal (Moist Von Lipwig 1)
5. Making Money (Moist Von Lipwig 2)

The Unseen Academicals (October 2009)

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You can learn more about this challenge by visiting War Through the Generations. Below are the books I'm counting towards completion of this challenge for 2009.

1. Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
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Yesterday I discovered the Classics Challenge 2009.  I've decided to have a satisfying classic entree, just because I am already committed to a few challenges.  My reads for this challenge will be:

1.  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
2.  Persuasion by Jane Austen
3.  The Four Feathers by Alfred Edward Woodley Mason
4.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
5.  North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I actually have only read one of the above, "Persuasion", prior to this challenge, so I think it is going to be great!

I have also decided to join the War Through the Generations challenge for 2009.  I find this a fascinating time in history, and am looking forward to learning more.  I haven't selected my books as I will probably pick whatever meets my fancy.  I missed my chance for entrance into the prize drawing, but reading good books is enough of a reward for me.  Luckily, Tallgrass will fit the bill, so I already have one down for this year.

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Rating 5/5

This clever picture book tells the story of Dexter Bexley, a boy with lots of good ideas, who runs into an ominous looking beast one day while riding his scooter.  Of course, the beast's first thought is to quickly gobble him up, but Dexter Bexley and his big ideas not only save the day, but lead to some great adventures with a new friend. What I really like about this book is that it teaches in a very subtle manner the power of good ideas and creative solutions.  It also stands up very well to multiple readings.  I can't even begin to count how many times I have read this book, and I still haven't thought about hiding it behind the couch!
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Rating:  5/5

Perhaps no one appreciates an excellent picture book more than a parent who is forced to read it multiple times.  That is why this book stands out, because even after countless reads I still find myself smiling right along with my toddler at the antics of this unfortunate poultry.  This fabulous picture book details the adventures of Pauline Poulet, a brave chicken, as she struggles to save herself from becoming someone else's main course.  The illustrations are beautiful, the writing is clever and catchy.  I was very impressed by the authors ability to find just the perfect rhyme.  My daughter especially loves to shout out "Pauline, Prevail!" along with the main character.  I think this book is destined to become one of my gifts of choice for birthday parties of one or two year olds.
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I'm catching up on old posts from my favorite blogs today, and came across this list of New Classics from Entertainment Weekly in a post by my blogging buddy Corinne.  This list is Entertainment Weekly's top picks for the best 100 reads spanning from 1983 to 2008.  I'll bold the ones that I've read.  I am amazed at how many I have missed.  Frankly, I'm also a little surprised at some of their choices!

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006) 
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000) 
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

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I recently discovered reading challenges.  What a great idea!  I love the idea of feeling like I'm accomplishing a personal goal while savoring a good book.  So, I've decided to create my own.  I may have missed January, and most of February, but beginning March 1, I am aiming to read the entire Discworld series (as of the present) from cover to cover.  I'll start with The Color of Magic, and finish with Pratchett's newest Discworld novel, The Unseen Academicals (scheduled for release this October.  Yippee!).  I won't be including the YA novels, although I adored Maurice and the Amazing Rodents, and I think Tiffany Aching is a great character.  A year of Discworld, what could be better?
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Rating:  4/5
Reading Challenges:
Book 1 for 100+ in 2009
Book 1 of 5 for War Through the Generations

Prior to reading Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas, I had never really reflected on the plight of Japanese Americans who were placed in internment camps during World War 2.  I found myself drawn into this story initially by the strong voice of the narrator, Rennie Stroud.  Several reviews I read compared Rennie with the famous character Scout from, "To Kill A Mockingbird."  I felt that this comparison was merited as I was frequently reminded of Scout while reading this novel.

Tallgrass is really the story of Rennie beginning to question the world around her.  She comes to a better understanding of her parents and their limitations.  Rennie finds herself having to question the beliefs and actions of those whom she has always admired, including the Jolly Stitchers, the local group of quilters who include Rennie's mother in their ranks.  Dallas created some memorable characters in the Stroud family, all of whom were individuals I would love to meet in real life.  She also did an excellent job of illustrating the fear and paranoia that some members of the white population of a small and isolated town would feel in such a situation.  I enjoyed this book thoroughly, although I did feel that the primary antagonists of the novel, the Stroud family, were in some ways too much the stereotypical cartoon villains

This book was especially thought provoking to me as I reflected on the state of our nation since 911, and the new found fear with which we seem to approach those of Middle-Eastern descent.   
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