Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This Challenge Starts Tomorrow!

The Books "About Me"

At first I had no clue what books I could pick that somehow represented me - but then I had a hard time keeping it to just five! These are the ones I settled upon:

  • Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    One of the few books I've read over and over, this classic non-fiction book was given to me by my mother after I had graduated from college and taken a job in another state. The issues Lindbergh explores are just as pertinent to women today as it was when it was first published in 1955.

  • All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
    I am the oldest in a family of seven daughters and no sons, so I grew up in an "all of a kind family" like the one in this novel. I also think this children's book, read to my sisters and me by our mom, was the beginning of my interest in the Jewish culture.

  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
    I read this book a few years ago when it was required reading in my daughter's middle school English class. I immediately fell in love with this celebration of nonconformity. The girl called Stargirl is my hero!

  • Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
    This young adult novel is a spin on the Cinderella story that takes place after Ella has been whisked off to the castle by the prince and she finds that both he and life as a princess is not all she had hoped. As a feminist, I believe that, like Ella, girls need to find out who they are as individuals before they become somebody's wife.

  • Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker
    This classic novel is a recent discovery for me, and I decided to pick it partly because it's set in the Western United States - and I'm definitely a Western States girl. I also picked it because it is about a young woman growing up and figuring out who she is. (You can read my review of the book here.)
I guess there's a bit of a recurring theme here - but maybe that was the point!

The Books I'm Reading

So which of the books about other participants have I decided to read? That's been even more difficult to decide! Our host Lisa has said that she originally thought she'd choose one book from each participant's list - but she greatly underestimated the popularity of this unique reading challenge. (I count over sixty participants at this point.) I wish I could read one book from each list - but I've settled on five that I will definitely read by the end of the challenge (on December 31) and five more that I will hope I can get to. All the other great suggestions will have to go on the "someday" list. Here are my two sets of five:

  • So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson
    (from the lists of Vasilly, A Book in the Life, and Sally) With the same title as the name of my blog, how can I pass this one up?

  • Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter
    (from Stephanie's list)

  • The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
    (from Sarah Miller's list)

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
    (from Becky's list)

  • Marley & Me by John Grogan
    (from Lynne's list)

  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
    (from Kristin's list)

  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
    (from Juli's list)

  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
    (from Faith's list)

  • Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
    (from Raidergirl3's list)

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
    (from the lists of A Book in the Life, Maryanne, and Heidijane)

Summer Reading Challenge Complete

With the posting of my "challenge complete" summary on the Summer Reading Challenge blog, this challenge is officially complete! It was a great challenge, and I had a lot of fun! A big thank you to Amanda of Amanda's Weekly Zen!

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Published in 2000. 405 pages.

Stephanie suggested that my low expectations of Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle lead to my overall satisfaction with the book. (My review and her comment are here.) Unfortunately, I think it was the reverse with Plain Truth: I had heard so much good about it that I ended up being disappointed.

This novel still had Picoult's successful character development with various viewpoints to tell the story. The storyline, as those she always chooses, was not a particularly easy one to consider - in this case the murder of a newborn baby in an Amish community - but yet compelling. As a fan of mysteries, I thought I would enjoy that aspect of this novel too. And yet I can't say that Plain Truth was one of my favorites of the seven Picoult novels I have now read.

As a whodunit and a courtroom drama, it had a few holes. But more significant, I think, was that it wasn't as emotionally engaging for me as her other novels have been.

As I was reading Plain Truth, my husband looked at the cover and said, "That doesn't look like a Jodi Picoult book." This cover is definitely different from those of the others I've read. Perhaps that should have been a sign that the book would be different too.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Published in 2006. 387 pages.

Reading a Jodi Picoult novel is not easy. She always deals with difficult topics - and sometimes as a wife and mother, they are topics I'd rather not face. The Tenth Circle - with date rape, and adultery, and suicide - was, obviously, no exception.

To date I've not found anyone who particularly liked this novel. In fact, several people have commented to me that they've liked all the Picoult novels they'd read except this one. I thoroughly planned, therefore, to not like it. Because the time remaining in the Summer Reading Challenge is nearly over and I had two Picoult novels left on my list, I even contemplated reading Plain Truth, which lots of people have said they liked, and skipping The Tenth Circle all together. Last night, however, after I finished Vanishing Acts, I decided to start The Tenth Circle because Plain Truth hasn't yet come in at the library (there are lots of holds on it) and I own a copy of The Tenth Circle (I bought it at a fundraising auction at Jelly Bean's school last fall). Then today, because it's a state holiday here in Utah and Jelly Bean and Sugar Plum have been spending the day reading Harry Potter, I read the rest of The Tenth Circle.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. The topics were difficult, of course, but I found the novel to be extremely well crafted, except for the somewhat slow and predictable ending. I loved the use of Dante's circles of hell and comic book superheroes - which were the basis of the careers of the parents in the story - for the numerous metaphors they suggest. I also enjoyed the insights into the Eskimo culture in which the father was raised. Despite the ending, I would recommend The Tenth Circle - but it is not comfortable reading.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Published in 2005. 418 pages.

I've completed another Jodi Picoult novel, one of the five on my Summer Reading Challenge list. (That's three down, two to go - with seven days left in the challenge!)

Picoult continues to impress me with her ability to address difficult social issues with a compelling plot, written from the viewpoints of many of the characters and with liberal use of metaphor. Of the five of her novels I've read so far, I think I'd rank this one second or third. (My Sister's Keeper is still my favorite.) This one tugged on my heartstrings, too, even bringing me to tears while I was sitting at the optometrist's office waiting for Sugar Plum.


Friday, July 20, 2007

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Published in 2006. 563 pages.

After finishing this second teen vampire novel by Stephenie Meyer, I'm still completely enamoured of her writing - and of her character Edward Cullen!

Both of my daughters read New Moon before I did, and Jelly Bean especially is obsessed with this series. She heartily recommends the Twilight Lexicon website to find out more. (By the way, School Library Journal labeled New Moon as "Grade 9 Up". Sugar Plum, who is in sixth grade, is a fantastic reader, so the reading level wasn't beyond her ability. I didn't find any of the content inappropriate for her either.)

I'd promised my daughters that as soon as I finished New Moon, I'd take them out to lunch and we'd have a Read Together book discussion. Knowing that I had a day off work today and that Sugar Bear would be at Kidz Kamp this afternoon, I'd been trying all week to get the book finished. I finally read the last of it this morning, and we went to Food for Thought for lunch and had a great discussion! I asked each of the girls to come up with two or three discussion questions, and they did a great job.

This sequel to Twilight picks up right after Twilight ends, and I'm anticipating that Eclipse, due out next month, will continue where New Moon ended. I love the characters of this series, and while I am not aware of the existence of any vampires in my life, the story lines seem plausible nonetheless. I was on the verge of tears at several points in New Moon as I struggled along with Bella about her feelings for Edward and for Jacob.

I do think I liked Twilight better than New Moon, but I whole-heartedly recommend this series! All three of us - mother, 16yo daughter, and 11yo daughter - are great fans of Stephenie Meyer!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Beach Blanket Bonanza

Yes, I've joined another challenge! Hosted by Sarah at Puss Reboots, Beach Blanket Bonanza was designed to remind us to have fun while reading. The requirement is to read at least three (3) books "just for fun." My picks will include the following:

  • The Overlook by Michael Connelly

  • Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

  • Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
Now I'm off to read!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bookworms Carnival Debut

The first ever Bookworms Carnival is now up at the hidden side of a leaf! I had intended on getting something of my own submitted, but this month has been so crazy that the carnival arrived before I got my act together. I will be going to check out all the great posts about "novels" - the theme of this month's carnival. I hope you'll join me!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult

Published in 2002. 353 pages.

I've just completed another Jodi Picoult novel for the Summer Reading Challenge. This is the fourth of her books that I've read, and while I did enjoy it, I think that I'll rank it fourth in that short list. The things I like about Picoult's writing were there - well-developed characters, telling the story from varying points of view, and, of course, addressing difficult social issues - but for some reason this one just wasn't as compelling for me.

One of the things that I did particularly enjoy about Perfect Match was the use of metaphor to explore some of the themes, including relationships and truth. For example, the father/husband of the story builds stone walls as a profession and part of the story takes place on Halloween.


Summer Mystery Challenge


The idea of the Summer Mystery Challenge is to read six mystery novels by authors that you haven't read before. When I mentioned this challenge to my husband, he responsed, "Are there six authors that you don't already read?" Well, of course there are - despite the very many that I currently enjoy!

The following, in alphabetical order, are the six I've decided upon. I decided to try one of Dean Koontz' because both booklogged and chris have backed up my sister Cathy's claim that they are good. The other five are all novels I have picked up at the library's surplus sales over the past several years but haven't yet gotten around to reading.

  • Jennifer Apodaca - Dating Can Be Murder

  • Robert Barnard - The Bones in the Attic

  • Amy Gutman - Equivocal Death

  • Susan Kelly - Killing the Fatted Calf

  • Jonathon King - The Blue Edge of Midnight

  • Dean Koontz - To Be Decided Upon
    (chris recommended Odd Thomas, Fear Nothing, and The Good Guy, while booklogged has From the Corner of His Eye on her Something About Me list.)
  • Firstlight: Early Inspirational Writings
    by Sue Monk Kidd

    Published in 2006. 227 pages.

    The Secret Life of Bees is one of my favorite books, so when I saw Firstlight, I knew I just had to read it! A compilation mostly of things Kidd wrote for the interfaith, inspirational publication Guideposts, this book is organized into thematic chapters such as "Awareness," "Solitude," and "Letting Go." One of my favorite chapters was "The Sacred Ordinary," where Kidd wrote:

    If I am intent on centering my life in the presence of God, then I must understand what I believe about where this presence can be found. Had I limited God's presence to what I perceived as sacred - to holy places and church-sponsoered moments? Had I assumed the material world was more or less empty of God? Had I separated common things from spiritual things, and routine moments from holy moments?

    What does a running vacuum cleaner have to do with God? The question seemed important, crucially important. ... God, I realized, is not partial to stained glass."

    This book was on my Spring Reading List list, and although I started it during the spring, I didn't finish it by June 21. I read it just pieces at a time, often on early Sunday mornings when I wasn't yet ready to get out of bed, so that I could savor the beauty of the words and contemplate their meaning in my life.


    Friday, July 06, 2007

    Woo-Hoo! 1000 Visitors!

    I've reached a milestone! So happy to have you visiting!

    Thursday, July 05, 2007

    From the Basement

    Note: I've cross-posted this from my "regular" blog where I frequently participate in Thursday Thirteen. Come visit me there too!

    When we built our house almost thirteen years ago, we had just one small daughter. At that point our house seemed quite large, especially coming from apartment living. Now we've got three ever-growing children, and the house is somehow a lot smaller. We need to create a bedroom or two in our unfinished basement space, but the problem is that we've been using it for storage for thirteen years! Even if I clean out one box every day or two, it's going to take ages to clean out the whole basement. But I guess I have to start somewhere!

    Thirteen Books in the Basement
    That I Need to Read and/or Give Away

    1. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
      I think this is a Pulitzer Prize winner, so maybe I can add it to my Book Awards Reading Challenge list.

    2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
      My "classics aversion" has kept me from this one in the past. Maybe it's time?

    3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

    4. Three-in-One Edition (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, An American Childhood, and The Writing Life) by Annie Dillard
      Pilgrim is another Pulitzer Prize winner.

    5. Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
      I liked Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale so much that I've been hesitant to read any of her others for fear they'll suffer in comparison.

    6. Three-in-One Edition (A Room with a View, Howards End, and Maurice) by E. M. Forster
      I've not seen the Oscar-winning movie version of A Room with a View either.

    7. The Women's Room by Marilyn French
      I really ought to read this classic feminist novel, published in 1977.

    8. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
      I think my mom sent me this one after my gallbladder surgery - but with a two-month-old baby, I just really didn't have the luxury of a restful recovery.

    9. Conversations with Eudora Welty edited by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw
      A birthday gift from my mom in 1991 (same year as that gallbladder surgery).

    10. Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

    11. Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
      Published ten years after Mrs. Bridge.

    12. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
      Yes, more "classic aversion"!

    13. Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life in School - But Didn't by John-Roger & Peter McWilliams
      Maybe there's something here for the next time I have to give a motivational or inspirational thought at a meeting.

    Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

    Published in 2007. 455 pages.

    This is Jodi Picoult's latest novel, and like those I've already read (and the others I'm planning to read for the Summer Reading Challenge), it deals with difficult topics. The focus of this one is a high school shooting, not unlike Columbine. My son Sugar Bear was born the day of the Columbine shootings, so in some way that'll always be part of my consciousness. The connection between Nineteen Minutes and Columbine is even more evident for me because during the week that I was reading the book, I saw a presentation by Rachel's Challenge - an organization that spreads the message of kindness and compassion espoused by Rachel Scott, the first person killed at Columbine.

    Picoult's books are not easy to read from a emotional standpoint - maybe especially for a mother. But her characters are well-developed - and "real" - and she presents the reader with a view of the world through the eyes of many of them. In Nineteen Minutes, this enables us to relate to everyone from the detective to the shooter to his parents. There is not much that is black and white - which, in my opinion, is an accurate depiction of the world.

    Here, on Picoult's website, is more information about Nineteen Minutes, including a Q&A with Picoult about the novel and book club discussion questions.

    By the way, readers of some of Picoult's other novels might like to know that Nineteen Minutes features the return of two characters - defense attorney Jordan McAfee from The Pact (which I read earlier this year) and Salem Falls, and Patrick DuCharme, the detective introduced in Perfect Match (which is up next for me in the Summer Reading Challenge).