Thursday, May 31, 2007

Summer Reading Challenge

I'm currently trying to finish my Spring Reading Thing list by the June 21 deadline.* But the seasons start to change, whether we're ready for it or not, and the Summer Reading Challenge starts today! I have posted my list over at the SRC blog, where I will also be periodically posting about the things I'm reading. (By the way, if you're not already participating, you can still sign up through June 7.)

In attempting to create my SRC list, I considered several possibilities for a theme: biographies/autobiographies, time travel books (since i've been interested in those lately), and selections from my piles of books purchased from the local library surplus sales, among other ideas. I finally decided to pick five novels by one author - Jodi Picoult. You may have noticed that I've read two of her books already this year - My Sister's Keeper and The Pact - and I'm very interested in reading more of her - so my Summer Reading Challenge list is as follows:

  • Vanishing Acts (2005)
  • Nineteen Minutes (2007)
  • Plain Truth (1999)
  • The Tenth Circle (2006)
  • Perfect Match (2002)
Like I said, for the next 20 days, I'll remain focused on the SRT list, and then on June 22 I'll start to tackle my SRC list.

*I doubt I'm going to succeed, as I realize now that the goal I set was a bit too challenging!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Published in 1986. 311 pages.

After I read The Time Traveler's Wife - which reminded me how fascinated I am with the time-space continuum - I googled to find some other novels about time travel. This was one of the ones I found. I'd never heard of it, but I decided to put it on my Spring Reading Thing list. I am so glad I did!

The basis of this novel is the concept of living one's life over again. The main character dies in his early forties and finds himself back in his college dorm room with his life to "replay" - a process he ends up repeating a number of times.

The impact of "replay" on the time-space continuum is a fun one to contemplate, but the significance of this book goes far beyond that. There is an spiritual exploration of the meaning of life that deeply moved me, and there's a love story too - so it's all good!


Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Pact by Jodi Picoult

Published in 1998. 389 pages.

I read My Sister's Keeper a few months ago and wanted to read more of Jodi Picoult's novels. Several people recommended this one, and I finally got to it. (I've been down with the stomach flu this week, and the upside was that after the first 18 hours or so, I felt well enough to read!)

The Pact was a difficult book to read. Especially as the mother of a teenage daughter with perfectionism issues, I found much of it heart-wrenching. I'm glad I read it though, and I definitely want to keep reading Picoult.

At the back of the copy of The Pact that I borrowed from the library is an article Picoult wrote in 2005 in response to a challenge that this book is inappropriate for a high school curriculum. She says:

While I can appreciate a good beach read as well as the next person, I also think there is a place in modern fiction for the sort of book that exercises one's moral compass and asks questions that cannot - and maybe should not - be answered. For the record, I'm not the first commercial fiction writer to try to address social issues through the vehicle of fiction: Charles Dickens was a master of the technique. He realized that most people shy away from difficult issues, which is why nonfiction about these topics rarely attracts an audience. However, write a book with compelling characters and a driving plot, and readers won't notice that a serious moral or ethical issue is being served up, too. They are swept along for the ride and wind up examining big questions almost by accident.

This type of book is definitely one I enjoy. I look forward to reading many more of Picoult's books. (By the way, Chris Bohjalian is another favorite author in this genre.)


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella

Published in 2007. 359 pages.

This fifth book in the Shopaholic series was just as enjoyable as the others. My sister originally introduced me to Becky Bloomwood, and although I wasn't quite sure what I thought at first, I've come to enjoy these light-hearted, somewhat satirical novels. Not a shopper, I don't relate much to Becky, but I did relate to the main character in Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess.


Dry Ice by Stephen White

Published in 2007. 402 pages.

The latest in the Alan Gregory series, this one did not disappoint me in any way.

The significance of the title comes into play in two ways, one of which I was recently reading about with my eight-year-old son: the process of sublimation, whereby something goes from a solid state to a gas without melting down - like dry ice does. It's an interesting metaphor to explore.

Check out Stephen White's website here.


Update: Dewey interviewed me about this book - which was great fun. You can read the interview here.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Winter Fire by Rachel Ann Nunes

Published in 2005. 311 pages.

Entirely by coincidence, I read this book - Winter Fire - after reading Winter Wheat. There is actually some similarity between the books, both about a young woman trying to find her place in the world. But I wasn't intentionally looking for a literary comparison; Winter Fire was the pick for my church women's group book group. I ended up not making it to the discussion this past Tuesday night, as I was frantically preparing to attend and present at a convention this week (from which I just returned home), so I don't know what they talked about. I don't think that there is much in the book to stimulate dialogue, although it was a light, enjoyable read.

LDS romance is not a genre I visit frequently. Actually I don't think I'd read one since I was a teen. (I don't usually read romance novels of any kind, except for Janet Evanovich's screwball comedies and maybe a few other writers - Sophie Kinsella, for example - that might be classified as romantic comedy.) I did enjoy this novel, however - reading most of the book last weekend while on a short road trip to Moab. I sat at the hotel pool and read while my kids swam, and I laid on the bed in our room and read while they watched the Disney Channel. A couple times I found myself laughing out loud, and I did shed a few tears too. On the other hand, there were several times I had to just roll my eyes, such as when the female protagonist choose a beautiful green shirt for her date, one that brought out the color of her eyes, and fitted but not so tight as to be immodest. "Oh brother," I thought.

Apparently this is part of a series, but I doubt I'll be looking for the others. As a book club pick that I didn't know about when I made my Spring Reading Thing list, I will be counting it as one of the "wild cards".


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Another Day, Another Challenge

As if I need something else to keep me reading . . .

Nattie is hosting the Newbery Challenge, and since I love children's books, I just can't resist! My six picks from the Newbery Medal Winners:

  • Katherine Paterson - Bridge to Terabithia (1978)*
  • Beverly Cleary - Dear Mr. Henshaw (1984)
  • Karen Cushman - The Midwife's Apprentice (1996)
  • E. L. Konigsburg - The View from Saturday (1997)
  • Louis Sachar - Holes (1999)
  • Susan Patron - The Higher Power of Lucky (2007)
*This will be a re-read from my childhood.

"Booking Through Thursday" Times Two

Booking Through Thursday has moved to a new location. I didn't get a chance to participate last week, but because this week's question is a sequel of sorts, today it's a "two-for-one" special:

No, not THAT kind of R.I.P. Reading. In. Public. Do you do it? Why or why not?

Of course I do it! I read on planes, at the dentist office, waiting for the kids' carpool, at the swimming pool, in the park. On the few occasions I've eaten alone at a restaurant, I've even read there.

Ask Not Where, But Where Not?
So, judging by last week’s answers, apparently the question I should have been asking was "Where DON’T you read??"

  • We have a family rule that no one reads at the dinner table. (Sometimes, though, if WhiteRabbit isn't home and I'm in the right mood, the kids and I will all read through dinner.)

  • When I was a kid I'd often take a book to church (and my kids do it sometimes now), but I don't read during worship services anymore.

  • I get carsick when I read on road trips, but I've listened to some great books that way! (I often listen during my commute too.)
  • Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker

    Originally published in 1944. 306 pages.

    Winter Wheat was the April pick for one of my book clubs. I was not familiar with the book or the author, and because of my mild aversion to "classics", when I discovered that the book had been published in 1944, I was a little apprehensive about it. I always try to read book club picks, though - after all, what's the point of belonging to a book club if it doesn't broaden your horizons a little?! - so I started it about a week before the group meeting.

    I ended up helping Sugar Bear with his school project on giraffes that night and it took me longer to read the book than I would have liked - I just finished it this week, mostly because I have been so busy at work and too tired to read more than a few pages before falling asleep at night - but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.

    The metaphor of "winter wheat" itself is one worth contemplating, but, for me at least, the impact of the book goes far beyond that.

    In the introduction, James Welch said, "Mildred Walker's success is in creating a keen psychological portrait of her main character. We see through Ellen Webb's eyes." While I'm certainly not a ranch girl, I related to Ellen Webb's experiences in discovering who she is and what matters to her. As Welch wrote, this novel is "a story about growing up, becoming a woman, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, within the space of a year and a half. But what a year and a half it is!"

    I also loved that this is a book about the American West. Set in Montana, where Walker lived for much of her life, it explained to me something I'd never understood - that is, why Montana is called the "Big Sky State". I grew up not far from Montana (in Idaho) and for all but a short period of my life have lived in the West. I'm definitely a Western States girl!

    By the way, I think this one might make it on my Something About Me Challenge list. I'll be using it for one of my "wild card" spots on my Spring Reading Thing list too.


    Saturday, May 05, 2007

    Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

    Published in 2006. 351 pages.

    After the first six or seven pages, during which I considered abandoning it, I found this to be a delightful children's fantasy novel. It was the pick for one of my book clubs, which is why I persevered beyond those first pages, and we had a great discussion about the personality types of the two main characters and about choices and consequences. A sequel is due out this year.