Friday, August 31, 2007

Book Club Happenings

At the August meeting of the book club I've been with the longest, we celebrated a momentous event: all eleven of the current members were there! We were so excited about this never-before-seen occurance that my brother-in-law took our picture!

The book club of my church women's group discussed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in August. It was a good pick because it got several people to come who haven't participated before, just because they love Harry. I'm hoping they'll be back! The pick for September is Twilight, which none of the regulars (except me) have read yet. I think they'll like it though! (By the way, Jelly Bean went with me to the August meeting, even though she's two years too young for the women's group, because she's a Harry fan - and she wants to come in September too, because she's a huge fan of Twilight.) The tentative picks for October and November are The Locket and The Memory Keeper's Daughter, respectively, both of which I have already read - which is nice for me because I can participate in the discussions yet still keep reading other titles from my various and sundry to-be-read lists!

The mother-daughter book club that Sugar Plum and I attend at our local library branch - Great Reads for Girls - will be resuming in September, after taking the summer off. For that first meeting we are supposed to read about "amazing girls" in our "choice of journals, biographies, fiction or even in fairy-tales." When Sugar Plum looked at the display of possible picks, she just kept on saying, "I've already read that." Do you have any suggestions of something that would fit the bill?

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson

Subtitled A Year of Passionate Reading.
Published in 2003. 242 pages.

(This "Search Inside" image from the Amazon site
was the only decent image of the book that I could find.)

When I first heard that there was a book entitled So Many Books, So Little Time, I knew that it would only be a matter of time until I read it. (Especially since my blog has the same name!) Because both Vasilly and picked So Many Books as "Something About Me", my participation in that challenge was the perfect excuse to read the book. I suspect that most book bloggers could say that this book title relates to them! I certainly can!

Vasilly said that author Sara Nelson "is one of my heroes." She appreciated what Nelson wrote about how books fit into her life and the joy that reading brings. similarly liked this book because "I love books and reading, and I love books about books and reading." (Challenge participant Sally also read this book and reviewed it here.)

I also enjoyed this book, but I think I appreciated the concept - in which the author was going to read one book a week for a year and write about that experience - more than the actual implementation.

I read the book just a little at a time - it's easy to read in snippets - and I ended up with a number of possible additions to my own to-be-read list. I didn't ever feel personally engaged with Nelson, though, and a couple of times I found myself thinking that many of the book bloggers I know could have written this book at least as well, if not better. Still, it's a worthwhile read, especially for those of us who can relate to the idea of "passionate reading"!


"Reading Challenge Drop-out"

Go ahead and load that Grease soundtrack on Rhapsody to help you remember how it goes - and then sing along with me the words "Reading Challenge Drop-out" to the tune of Frankie Avalon's "Beauty School Drop-out."

Yes, that's me: Summer Mystery Reading Challenge drop-out! Today is the last day - and I just couldn't get into it. Yes, the "story's sad to tell." I guess the planets just weren't aligned appropriately - or something like that - so there's only one thing to do - "go back to high school"!

Going Back for 2nds

I have such a hard time passing up a great new challenge! Joy at Thoughts of Joy is hosting the 2nds Challenge. Running from October 1 - December 31, this challenge requires participants to read three books "by authors that you have only read one other."

Choosing my three books for this challenge was something of a challenge in itself because if I find an author I like, I often am obsessed with reading more of that author's work. And if there's an author that I'm trying to get around to reading, I most likely haven't yet read anything he or she has written. (But there's a different challenge to take care of that problem!).

I did finally come up with three authors that meet the criteria:

  • Jennifer Haigh - Baker Towers
    (I read Haigh's first novel, Mrs. Kimble, when it was published in 2003, and liked it a lot. Baker Towers is her second - and latest - novel, published in 2005.)

  • Alexander McCall Smith - Tears of the Giraffe
    (This second in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series has been sitting on my bedside table since I read the first book two or so years ago. Because it belongs to my mom, I haven't felt the same urgency to get it read that I have with library books, so still it sits. I found the first book to be delightful, however, so I'd really like to continue with the series - as well as consider some of McCall Smith's other work.)

  • Anita Shreve - TBD
    (I read White on Snow with my book club a while back but haven't yet read anything else Shreve has written. Since I'm still trying to decide which title to choose, if you've read one you liked, be sure to let me know!)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Celebrating Tales Gothic, Eerie, Creepy, and Dark

I first heard about Carl's R.I.P. II Challenge in comments left by Janet and Stephanie on my review of Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse. Despite my enthusiasm for the Twilight series and my love of mysteries, I wasn't sure if this challenge was up my alley. I generally steer clear of too much creepiness. As I visited Carl's post, however, and perused his lists of suggestions and a few lists of participants, I found several books that are already on my TBR list. Besides, as Carl said, "Some of you wonderful readers, or would-be readers, may have a tendency to shy away from this genre, thinking it is just not your cup of poisoned tea. However, it wouldn’t be a challenge if I wasn’t challenging you." So I guess I'm in!

The requirements for this challenge are very flexible. What I'm going to attempt to do is read three books, one a children's book and the other two fairly lengthy novels:

  • Gossamer by Lois Lowry

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (This was recommended to me several months ago by my Blokus friend amaretto.)

  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

  • (Both The Historian and The Thirteenth Tale are on my second-tier of picks for the "Something About Me" Challenge, so by cross-listing them, I'm sure to get them read! At least I hope so.)
This challenge runs from September 1 through October 31 - and if I'm not done before Halloween, I'm sure I'll be reading while answering the door to trick-or-treat-ers!

By the way, the full name of this challenge is the 2007 Readers Imbibing Peril Autumn Reading Challenge! Also, Carl created a blog just to post links to reviews of R.I.P. II picks: Yarns.

The Unread Authors Challenge

Pour of Tor is hosting the Unread Authors Challenge. Running from September 1 through February 29, this challenge requires that participants read at least six books by authors they have never read before. The list can take the form of either one book from each of six previously unread authors or several of the works of anywhere from one to five previously unread authors.

I have not yet picked my specific titles, but because the challenge starts on Friday, I wanted to get this post up. I plan to choose my list from among the following ten authors:

  • Avi
  • Elizabeth Berg
  • Nancy Farmer
  • Diana Gabaldon
  • Shannon Hale
  • Jane Hamilton
  • Carl Hiaasen
  • Alice Hoffman
  • Jennifer Weiner
  • Scott Westerfeld
If you have any favorites among this list of writers, be sure to let me know which titles you recommend I read first!

I Can't Help Myself

Yep, another one! This irresistible opportunity is Callista's Book to Movie Challenge, which runs from September 1 through December 1. The requirement is to pick and read at least three books that were made into movies. There are so many possibilities!

After almost a month of contemplation, I've decided on (at least) three of these four books:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Girl's Like Spaghetti by Lynne Truss

Published in 2007.
Subtitled Why, You Can't Manage Without Apostrophes!
I wasn't too successful getting Sugar Bear to read with me for the Read Together project (although he has been reading some Pokemon as well as a few science things on his own). I did pick up Lynne Truss' new children's book for us when I saw it at the library, though, because earlier this year we read Eats, Shoots & Leaves - which shows pictures of the differences in two sentences simply depending on the use of commas - and loved it.

This book does the same thing with apostrophes. I really enjoyed this sort of play with language when I was a child - and, by the way, I'm about half was through reading the grown-up version of Eat, Shoots & Leaves - and I'm glad that Sugar Bear enjoys it too.

His favorite set of sentences in this book:

Look, it's behind.
Children are watching a turtle race
and pointing to the turtle in the back of the pack.

Look, its behind.
Children are looking at some horses,
one of which is facing away from them.

To see what other Read Together participants read this summer, click here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Holes by Louis Sachar

Published in 1998. 233 pages.
Awarded the Newbery Medal in 1999.

I'm a multi-tasking fool with my reading of Holes, having first selected for the Newbery Challenge and then putting it (as well as several other Newbery Medal winners) on my Book Awards Reading Challenge. Finally, because I had purchased A Reading Guide to Holes a couple of years ago, I picked Holes to read and discuss with my eleven-year-old daughter as part of our summer Read Together project.

My daughter Sugar Plum had previously read Holes, and then we rented the movie as a family - and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So this was a re-read for her - and a post-movie-viewing for both of us.

After Part I of the book, I asked Sugar Plum to write a post about the book. You can see that here.

Now that we're done with the book, she and I are both writing about two questions (which we also discussed):

1. All of the children in this book are boys. Do you think that this is a "boy book"? Why or why not?

It actually didn't occur to me until I was finished reading that there were no female children in this book. To me that means that the story and the message are gender-less. While I have read an interview with author Louis Sachar in which he talked about writing for reluctant male readers, I do think that this book can appeal to everyone. Besides, I don't believe in "girl books" and "boy books" as a matter of general principle! One last thought: A long time ago, before I had children, I took a women's studies course at UCLA in which I did a small research project on the main characters of Newbery Medal winners to determine how stereotypically male or female they were. Not surprisingly, Newbery book characters are generally non-stereotypical, as I would expect from the best children's literature.

2. How do you think the book compares to the movie? Which did you like better?

I almost always like the book better than the movie. In this case, though, perhaps because I saw the movie before reading the book and because I saw the movie quite a while ago, I can't really say that I liked one better than the other. I did see Sigourney Weaver every time Warden Walker appeared on the page, and I pictured Khleo Thomas as Zero too.

You can read Sugar Plum's answers here.

By the way, you can find other "Read Together" reviews here.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


When growing up did your family share your love of books? If so, did one person get you into reading? And, do you have any family-oriented memories with books and reading?

I have been an avid reader since the day, when I was six, that I was home from school, sick in bed, and my mom got B is for Betsy from the library for me to read. I think that was the start of my obsession with series novels, as well as my discovery of how wonderful libraries can be.

Throughout my childhood, my mom - an avid reader herself - encouraged a love of reading and of books. Although we didn't have much money, she always found ways to buy books, especially as Christmas gifts. We also spent a lot of time at the public library, especially during the summers, participating in their reading programs. I remember my mom occasionally reading outloud to my sister and me before bed, too.

Even now, my mom encourages my reading - and that of my kids. This past Christmas we had an outing to a downtown mall, where we first visited a bookstore and each of us got to pick a book or two for her to buy us, and then we got ice cream cones.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Published in 2007. 629 pages.

First line: "All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain."

The third in the Twilight series, this novel was an eagerly anticipated summer read for me and for my daughters! Jelly Bean read it first, in less than two days. It took me three - I finished it at about two o'clock this morning. Sugar Plum read the whole thing today.

(For some background on this series, if you're not yet familiar with it, see my reviews of Twilight and New Moon, here and here, respectively.)

What I liked:

  1. This time around, Meyer gives us background into more of the secondary characters, like Rosalie and Jasper. Rosalie's story, in particular, is a powerful one.

  2. There were several points where I laughed out loud.

  3. There were also several points where I cried. I think Meyer continues to capture well the range of emotions Bella feels for both Edward and Jacob and about the choices she has to make. I certainly can relate - despite the fact that my teen years are well behind me.

What I didn't like:

  1. Some of Jacob's actions disturbed me, especially since this is the character that Jelly Bean likes best. I do want to like him, but sometimes it was hard.

I like that this series is something about which my daughters and I can all be equally enthusiastic. Eclipse was the perfect post-audit, end-of-week read for me!

Check out Becky's Book Reviews for "Stephenie Meyer Talks about Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse."

By the way, this was my fourth and final book for Beach Blanket Bonanza. Check out what other participants read here.


Thursday, August 16, 2007


One book at a time? Or more than one? If more, are they different types/genres? Or similar? (We’re talking recreational reading, here — books for work or school don’t really count since they’re not optional.)

I almost always have more than one book going at a time. Usually there are a couple on my bedside table, and depending on whether there is an impending book club deadline or not, I might focus on one or the other. Frequently I also have a book in the bathroom, something that works well for reading just a little at a time, with not a lot of continuity. I like to listen to a book on CD while commuting too.

I seldom will have two of the same genre - say two mystery novels - going at the same time. More likely it'll be a fiction and a nonfiction - or maybe two dissimilar book club picks.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sisterchicks on the Loose
by Robin Jones Gunn

Published in 2003. 274 pages.

This Christan chick lit novel is the pick for August's meeting of one of my book clubs. It was light and quick. I found it immeasurably more readable than Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral. While I doubt I'll read any of the others in the Sisterchick series, if you are looking for a "feel good" book about friendship, this might be the book for you.

P.S. I do think the cover is a bit strange.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral
by Kris Radish

Published in 2006. 331 pages.

I didn't much care for this novel. It had its moments, but I wouldn't have gotten past the first several pages if it hadn't been a book club pick (and one of the club rules is that everyone tries to read the month's pick) and I would never have finished it except that, because I told the group, when we met in July, that I didn't much like it (without having finished it), I felt obligated to stick it out to the end (in case it got better). I also wanted to finish reading it so that I would have a basis for comparison for this month's book club discussion - which, coincidentally, will relate to another book in the "chick lit" genre, Sisterchicks on the Loose.

Exactly what is "chick lit", you ask? Well, this is what Wikipedia says:

Chick lit features hip, stylish female protagonists, usually in their twenties and thirties, in urban settings (usually London or Manhattan), and follows their love lives and struggles in business (often in the publishing, advertising, public relations or fashion industry). The books usually feature an airy, irreverent tone and frank sexual themes.

By that definition, I guess Annie Freeman doesn't qualify, as the protagonists are more like 40-something. Perhaps, "chick lit" started with that basic premise, but it has expanded in recent years. Here's another definition, from a fan of the genre:
Chick lit is a genre comprised of books that are mainly written by women for women. The books range from having main characters in their early 20's to their late 60's. There is usually a personal, light, and humorous tone to the books. Sometimes they are written in first-person narrative; other time they are written from multiple viewpoints. The plots usually consist of women experiencing usual life issues, such as love, marriage, dating, relationships, friendships, roommates, corporate environments, weight issues, addiction, and much more.

One of the things I mentioned at July's meeting was a blog post I had just read berating "chick lit" as being to our generation what Harlequin Romances were to our mother's. (I cannot find that post again, or I'd link it here. If you know where it is, please let me know.) I don't necessarily agree with that thesis - and the group agreed - because although we need to read our protein and vegies, sometimes we want to read some chocolate. However, we also agreed that we cannot read only chocolate - and some chocolate is just better written than others.

Our book club has read - and enjoyed - a number of "chick lit" novels in the past, including The Nanny Diaries, Confessions of a Shopaholic (I've become a big fan of Sophie Kinsella!), and just last year, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. All of those are better written than Annie Freeman's Traveling Funeral.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Overlook by Michael Connelly

Published in 2007. 225 pages.

I have been a fan of Michael Connelly and his character Harry Bosch since I picked up a paperback copy of The Concrete Blonde at a check-out stand. That was Connelly's third novel, and I went back to the previous two and then have read every novel he has written since, many of them featuring Harry Bosch. (I haven't yet read Connelly's non-fiction collection, Crime Beat, published in 2006).

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest Bosch novel, Connelly's eighteenth work of fiction. Originally published, in a shorter version, as a sixteen-part serial in the New York Times Magazine, The Overlook is a well-written, intelligent detective story. I heartily recommend it!

You can find out more about the novel, including discussion questions and a trivia quiz, at Connelly's website here.

By the way, this is the third of my Beach Blanket Bonanza fun summer reads.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich

Published in 2007. 310 pages.

I just love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series! This is summer reading at its best: A little excitement, a little mystery, a little romance - and fun, lovable, eccentric characters!

Here's my question for other Plum fans: Are you a Morelli Cupcake or a Ranger Babe?


Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter

Published in 2006. 246 pages.

I read this young people's novel for the "Something About Me" Challenge, and you can read more about what I thought it on that blog.

By the way, tinylittlelibrarian also read Oh My Goth for the "Something About Me" Challenge. You can read her cross-posted review here.


Friday, August 03, 2007

The View from Saturday
by E. L. Konigsburg

Published in 1996. 163 pages.
1997 Newbery Medal Winner.

A favorite memory of third grade is my teacher, Miss Burns, reading aloud E. L. Konigsburg's Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, which was a Newbery honor book in 1968. This was the same year that Konigsburg was awarded the Newbery Medal for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. She is the only author to have received both the medal and an honor book award in the same year.

For some reason, I hadn't gotten around to reading The View from Saturday until now - having chosen it for my Newbery Challenge, "Something About Me" Challenge, and Book Awards Reading Challenge lists. (It's a good thing that cross-listing is allowed!)

I thoroughly enjoyed this children's novel about a sixth-grade quiz bowl team and their teacher/coach. The value of friendship is the overarching theme of the novel, which also suggests the importance of each of us telling our own stories.

I had expected that there would be an "edgy-ness" to this book, like there is to Konigsburg's Silent to the Bone (2000), but there was not. That is not to say that the characters are not unique, from diverse backgrounds, or without "real life" situations (such as divorce, bullying, and physical handicaps), but I would have no reservations about recommending this book to anyone.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

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

Published in 2007. 759 pages.

I didn't think that this final book in the series could possibly be satisfying to me - but I was wrong. My daughters, Jelly Bean and Sugar Plum, read it first - both of them in less than three days combined - but I didn't get to it until this week, and it took me four days to get through it. But I've just finished it - and I think J. K. Rowling did a great job concluding the story!

Dewey has created a blog for discussing Deathly Hallows, while keeping our own blogs spoiler-free - so that's where I'm headed next. (Click here to join me.)

By the way, this is the first of my four books for Beach Blanket Bonanza - books I'm reading this summer just for fun!