Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lucky Me!

I was the lucky recipient of three different prizes in Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. Two of the prizes - both donated by Dewey herself - have future benefits, so I'll tell you about them later - when I reap those benefits ...

The third prize arrived in the mail last Friday from booklogged of A Reader's Journal. In connection with the mini-challenge she hosted, I was awarded some book darts (on the right-hand side of the card) and her favorite bookmark (on the left-hand side of the card).

I'm ready to put them to good use! Thanks, booklogged!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period
by Gennifer Choldenko

Published in 2007. 217 pages.

First paragraph: This is lame but I'm actually looking forward to school this year, because every day this summer was like crap: dog crap, cat crap - I even had a few elephant crap days. Trust me, it was bad.

Why I read this book: I heard about this book in September from a monthly email I receive from my county library system about new books arriving at the library. (I subscribe to the Best Selling Fiction, Mystery Books, Children's Books, and Teen Books lists.) The title intrigued me, and after reading the description and reviews, I put a "hold" on the book so I could read it. Shortly thereafter I was creating my list for Falling Into Reading 2007 and included this book.

This is the review I read from Publisher's Weekly:

The latest from Newbery Honor author Choldenko is an earnest contemporary story about race, set in a California middle school. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Kirsten, the overweight daughter of a doctor, and Walk (short for Walker), son of a striving single mother, the issues raised are spot-on for this age group. Kirsten's world, micromanaged by her overly involved mother, is battered by her parents' fighting and her best friend Rory's newfound chumminess with queen bee Brianna. Walk has been separated from his friends by his mother's decision to send him to private school on scholarship. One of only three African-American students at Mountain School, his outsider status makes him approachable to Kirsten, whose falling-out with Rory leaves her in dire need of lunch-hour companionship. This under-the-microscope examination of the often cruel, always dramatic dynamics of junior high will be enough to pull many readers through to the provocative if melodramatic revelation about the real connection between Walk and Kirsten. The humor that fueled much of Choldenko's Al Capone Does My Shirts is missing here, and her choice to tell Kirsten's story in first person and Walk's chapters in third person makes the narrative a little choppy. But the questions she raises about identity, race, prejudice and the true nature of friendship should provide ample food for thought. Ages 10-up.

What I thought about this book: I truly loved this book! In need of something easy to read but compelling, I started If a Tree Falls the day after the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. I wish I'd read it during the read-a-thon; I might have made it without falling asleep!

Who should read this book: The publisher marked this book at "ages 9-12" and Publisher's Weekly said "ages 10-up", but my library put it in the YA section. Based on the content, I think that I concur with that classification. I recommended it to my sixth-grade daughter who will be twelve in January, but I don't think I'd recommend it for younger children. I will also recommend it for adults who enjoy young adult stories, particularly about the experiences of outsiders and nonconformists.


The Letter by Richard Paul Evans

Published in 1997. 335 pages.

I read The Letter for the October meeting of our church women's group book club. It is the concluding book in The Christmas Box collection, but I didn't need to have read the other two books to understand this one. (I own a copy of The Christmas Box, but I have not yet read it.)

The woman who picked The Letter likes Evans' books because they're inspirational, "feel good" reads. This historical fiction novel - set in Utah (my home state) during the Great Depression - was that. Although Evans has a tendency, in my opinion, to overwrite - what my high school senior composition teacher would have called "purple prose" - the plot was not overly predictable nor was the sentiment too sappy. I wouldn't say I'm a big Richard Paul Evans fan, but reading The Letter was an enjoyable experience.


Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich

Published in 2006. 376 pages.

I can't say that NASCAR is my thing, but this second book in Evanovich's Alexandra "Barney" Barnaby series (which I started during the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon) is a wacky comedic-mystery novel in the same vein as her Stephanie Plum series. I found it to be nearly - but not quite - as fun.

This read was inspired
by Think Pink Dana.


Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Published in 2005. 370 pages.

This second book in the young adult science fiction Uglies trilogy - which now somehow contains four books - wasn't as good as Uglies, but I still enjoyed it. Like Uglies, it's fast-paced and easy-to-read, and I think the social commentary about our obsession with unobtainable standards of beauty is terrific.

Before I read Uglies and Pretties, Scott Westerfeld was an "unread author" for me. I plan to read the rest of the series - Specials and Extras - too. That'll be four of the six books required for the Unread Authors Challenge.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

My Picks for "In Their Shoes"

There are so many great possibilities for the "In Their Shoes" Challenge, which runs from January 1 through December 31. Because the rules allow me to pick the number of books I read, I've decided to list all the titles I'd like to read - and then we'll see how far I get!

Note: I will be cross-listing my "In Their Shoes" picks with the Triple 8 Challenge (in - surprise, surprise - my "In Their Shoes" category). Because I have to read eight books in each category to complete that challenge, I am committed to read at least eight of these titles in 2008.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Freedom Writers Diary
by The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell

Published in 1999. 292 pages.

I had heard good things about and planned to view the movie version of this book before I even knew that it was based on a book. It was when I discovered (through BookGal) the Book to Movie Challenge (hosted by Callista) that I learned about the book - and I definitely wanted to read the book and view the film for the challenge.

I am so glad I read this book! A compilation of anonymous diary entries, the book describes the successes newbie teacher Erin Gruwell had with a group of 150 students at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, following the Los Angeles riots of 1992. More than anything, I think the book is a testament to the power of words - both those read, such as when Gruwell's students read The Diary of Anne Frank, and those written, as these young people's lives were changed through the keeping of diaries, by being able to tell their stories.

I liked the movie too. I generally enjoy Hilary Swank - Iron Jawed Angels is an all-time favorite - and I loved being given some names and faces for the "freedom writers." I wish the movie had told more of the story - it ended after the student's sophomore year - and a subplot about Gruwell's husband was completely unnecessary (and was not part of the book). (By the way, Patrick Dempsey played the husband, and he also played a love interest for Swank's character in Iron Jawed Angels, a superfluous subplot, not based on the historical account of Alice Paul's life.) But I still was moved by the film, a tribute to the ability of one teacher to change the lives of a group of children.

I plan to read Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers next year for the "In Their Shoes" Challenge.

You might be interested to know that BookGal did not like either the book or the movie, and you can read her thoughts here.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Post-Read-a-Thon Survey

The 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, hosted by Dewey, has been over for more than twenty-four hours now, and although I've not yet completely recovered (boy, I sure need my sleep!), I wanted to post the end-of-event survey.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

I ended up asleep between 1:30 and 3:30, just not able to keep my eyes open another minute.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I think young adult books are maybe the best choice. The one I read (see no. 6) was easy-to-read and moved quickly. I actually started a new YA book yesterday before going to sleep after church that I wish I'd read during the read-a-thon: If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko. Note: I'm seeing that the publisher marked this book at "ages 9-12", but my library put it in the YA section.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Not that I'm complaining at all - because they were so much fun - but I think I would have fewer mini-challenges - or at least I'd force myself to participate in fewer of them, so I could actually read more.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

The "cheerleader" concept was brilliant. I didn't realize that I would get so much energy and will to continue by the comments that were left while I was reading. I loved that!

5. How many books did you read?

I read 100 pages in a novel I'd just started the day before. I read one entire novel. And I read 130 pages - about a third of the total - of a third novel.

6. What were the names of the books you read?

These books were The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Pretties by Scott Westerfeld, and Motor Mouth by Janet Evanovich, respectively.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

I liked Pretties a lot. It was light and fast-moving enough to keep my attention, and I also enjoyed the social commentary.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

I didn't dislike either of the other two books. The Historian is beautifully written, but I had to think too much while reading, so it didn't move quickly enough for a read-a-thon; I will get back to it, though, especially because the storyline is compelling. I'll also finish Motor Mouth, which is typical Janet Evanovich screwball-comedic mystery.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

Not applicable.

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

If my schedule permits, I will definitely be participating as a Reader in the read-a-thon again next year! My older daughter (currently 16yo) would also like to play along (as long as we can convince her dad).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Elapsed Time 24:00

Final report ...

Time Read: 11:45 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 601

Books Finished: 1 (Pretties by Scott Westerfeld)

Time Blogged: 8:15

Time Slept: 2:00

Frame of Mind: These last two hours were hard - especially the final hour. I've had a hard time focusing on my book, and I struggled putting together my book cover collage. My brain is seriously sleep-deprived - and that's with my two-hour nap! I will be back sometime before Monday evening to post Dewey's Post-Read-a-Thon Survey. A great big thank you to her for hosting such a fabulous event! And thanks, too, to all the readers and cheerleaders and other friends who stopped by! It's been oodles of fun! (By the way, I think I won three different prizes (Thanks, Dewey and Booklogged!), and according to SiteMeter, I had 131 visits to my blog on Saturday! Woohoo!)

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Read-a-Thon Collage

Elapsed Time 22:00

Progress report ...

Time Read: 10:45 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 532

Books Finished: 1 (Pretties by Scott Westerfeld)

Time Blogged: 7:15

Time Slept: 2:00

Frame of Mind: Since my last progress report, I haven't done any reading. Instead I tried to participate in the mini-challenges and make a few visits around the blogosphere. Now I'm going back to Motor Mouth. While I'm no longer too sleepy, I can tell that my brain isn't quite fully functional - but there are just two hours to go!

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Can I Write a Limerick at This Hour?

The challenge for Hour 21 is to write a limerick or haiku about a character we're reading about. I'm currently reading Janet Evanovich's Motor Mouth, so here is (an attempt at) a limerick about the main character Alexandra "Barney" Barnaby:

There once was a girl who liked cars,
A NASCAR career, in the stars.
With Hooker and Gobbles,
She had a few squabbles,
A dead man they had to take far.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Who Else Is Still Awake?

The challenge for Hour 22 is to find two more readers still awake and post about what they are doing!

Joy at JoyStory seems to be doing well, having recently read Don Quixote in Spanish!

3M at 1 More Chapter is reading Alexander McCall Smith's Tears of the Giraffe, which she says is delightful.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Who's Still Awake?

At the beginning of Hour 20 (when I had dozed off), the challenge was to find two readers still awake and post about what they are doing!

Eva at A Striped Armchair appears to be going strong, starting on Alexander McCall Smith's Sunday Philosopher Club series and visiting everyone who is still up and going. According to her profile, she's 21 - so I'm going to credit her youth with her stamina. I'm wishing I was still 21! :o) (By the way, I'm working on analyzing the series I read and want to read at a new blog, and I'm going to get The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series read, and then I'm going to read the Sunday Philosopher Club too.)

Debi at Nothing of Importance last updated almost two hours ago, but she'd had a nap and was back reading The Wright 3 - so I'm assuming she's still with us. She'd switched to this children's book from a book that had small print that she just couldn't continue reading at this time of night. (I have The Wright 3 in my TBR list. I absolutely loved Chasing Vermeer.)

Elapsed Time 20:30

Uh, I'm awake ... Progress report ...

Time Read: 10:45 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 532

Books Finished: 1 (Pretties by Scott Westerfeld)

Time Blogged: 5:45

Time Slept: 2:00

Frame of Mind: I started reading Janet Evanovich's Motor Mouth, and for an hour I was doing okay. Then I dozed off - and next thing I knew it was two hours later. I'm hoping this two-hour nap will now see me through to the end! Getting comments really, really helps! (Thanks, Eva, Alisia, Bonnie, and Katya, for the most recent comments!)

Elapsed Time 17:30

Progress report ...

Time Read: 9:45 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 470

Books Finished: 1 (Pretties by Scott Westerfeld)

Time Blogged: 5:45

Frame of Mind: Finishing a book is a boost to my energy level! But now that's it's getting past my regular bedtime, I'm afraid I'm going to start fading fast. I've gathered six books that might keep my attention, and I'm going to make some popcorn.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Read-a-Thon Readers of the Hour

I've just visited readers 3M and L-Squared!

3M is currently reading a book that I'm going to be reading in the next month or so, Tears of the Giraffe, and she just read, in one sitting, Lois Lowry's Gossamer, which I recently read and loved.

L-Squared has been distracted from reading by several things, including a possible missing snake! But she's got several possibilities lined up for getting back into the books.

Elapsed Time 15:15

Progress report ...

Time Read: 8:45 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 421

Time Blogged: 4:30

Frame of Mind: After getting back home from my two-hour break, I ate some pizza while continuing to read, and I also read through the many comments from well-wishers (Thanks, everyone!) and posted the mid-event survey. I'm feeling pretty good right now. I think things will be great for the next two or three hours - since this is the time of night I usually blog and read - but after that ... well, we'll see what happens.

Read-a-Thon Mid-Event Survey

Dewey has posted a survey for us to complete,
now that the read-a-thon is half over.

1. What are you reading right now?

Still working on Pretties by Scott Westerfeld.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I've read 100 pages of The Historian, and I'm nearly finished with Pretties.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Actually, I was just thinking about what I want to start when I finish Pretties. I'm thinking something light and fairly short, so that I can finish it by the end of the read-a-thon.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day?

Luckily, I didn't have too much on my calendar when I first heard of the event, and once the read-a-thon was on my calendar, I didn't schedule anything else. I enlisted my husband, WhiteRabbit, to make sure that the kids' travel needs were met.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

With four other people living in the house, there have been plenty of interruptions! For the most part I've just read through them. A couple of times I've had to remind my kids that they agreed to let Mom have this day for reading.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I was surprised that I was actually feeling sleepy just a couple of hours into the read-a-thon.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

I think that Dewey has done a fabulous job putting this whole thing together. I'm sure there are some things that she'd do differently, but from this side, it's been terrific!

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader, if you were to do this again next year?

One thing I would do is have some sort of scheduled outing for my husband and kids in the afternoon, so I can get some uninterrupted reading time. Another thing I would do, which I planned to do but didn't manage very well, is make sure that I had a good week's sleep prior to the event.

9. Are you getting tired yet?

I'm sleepy, but I'm still energized. (I think.)

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered?

Hmmm. The only thing I can think of is the having someone read to you (or maybe an audio book) for a change of pace (as I had Sugar Plum do for me).

Elapsed Time 11:00

Progress report ...

Time Read: 7:30 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 350

Time Blogged: 3:30

Frame of Mind: For one hour of my reading time since my last post, I did some household tasks while Sugar Plum (my 11yo daughter) read to me from Pretties. Getting my blood moving a bit was very good for me - and thanks to SP, I was able to keep "reading" too! I will also be taking a two-hour break in an hour or so for an event that was scheduled before I found out about the read-a-thon. I hope to be back strong for the last ten hours! (I hope.)

Elapsed Time 09:00

Progress report ...

Time Read: 6:15 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 284

Time Blogged: 2:45

Frame of Mind: I'm still working on Pretties, but I'm finding myself nodding off ocassionally. I guess this is the hazard of reading myself to sleep every night! An hour-and-a-half ago, I did enjoy a S'More prepared by my personal chef, my 8yo son Sugar Bear. I'd keep eating to stay awake, but I don't want this to be a weight-gaining exercise. I think I'm going to walk around while reading for a while (despite the warning against such a thing in the book The Thirteenth Tale). :o)

Read-a-Thon Readers of the Hour

I've just visited readers Jessica and Deb!

Jessica has just joined the read-a-thon, and she's working on Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. I'm not familiar with the book or the author, so I'll be eager to hear what Jessica thinks.

Deb is reading The Book of Vice: Naughty Things (and How to Do Them) by Peter Sagal. The chapter she recently finished is about gluttony and a 24-course meal. Phew!

Elapsed Time 07:00

Progress report ...

Time Read: 5:00 (give or take a few minutes for interruptions from kids and time spent preparing food)

Pages Read: 175

Time Blogged: 2:00

Frame of Mind: Scott Westerfeld's Pretties - a young adult novel - is just what I need right now. Fast-paced and easy-to-read, but not without some major social commentary, it's not requiring a lot of deep thought.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Reader's Advisory.

Kristin is hosting this mini-challenge, and as a librarian, she wants to know a little about what I'm reading and who I think might like it.

I'm currently reading Pretties, the second book in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy. I read Uglies about a month ago and really enjoyed the young adult dystopian tale. Both Uglies and Pretties are definitely written for young adults - my 16yo daughter enjoyed this trilogy as well as some of Westerfeld's other books - but adults who enjoy YA novels and/or stories about dystopian societies will enjoy it too.

I don't think that I know any other authors with which I'd compare Westerfeld, but the book is light, fast-paced, easy reading, similar to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, which I read this past summer and loved!

Elapsed Time 04:45

Progress report ...

Time Read: 3:45

Pages Read: 100

Time Blogged: 1:00

Frame of Mind: Taking a break from reading to read comments, visit a few blogs, and play along with a mini-challenge was very beneficial. I did not expect to be so tired this early in the day. I wanted to get a good start on The Historian today, as it is the last of my picks for the R.I.P. II Challenge. Despite how intriguing the book is, I did suspect that I wouldn't be able to stick with it all day. So, on page 120, ready to start chapter 17, I'm switching to Scott Westerfeld's Pretties. I'm also going to get some chips with beans and cheese.

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

Exploring the setting of The Historian.

Those of you who have already read this book know that it takes place in many locations, and that as the story within the story unfolds, even more settings are being introduced. At the point I currently am in the book, the narrator and her father are enjoying a spring vacation in the Cévennes. According to Wikipedia, here are five interesting facts about this location:

  • The Cévennes are a range of mountains in south-central France.

  • The word Cévennes comes from the Gaulish Cebenna, which was Latinized by Julius Caesar to Cevenna.

  • The region hosts a national park, the Parc National des Cévennes, created in 1970.

  • The average population density is 14/km².

  • Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes in 1879.

Read-a-Thon Readers of the Hour

I've just visited readers Athena and Becky!

Athena is reading the latest of the Thursday Next series. Like I commented there, this is a series I am not familiar with, but because I keep seeing it mentioned around the blogosphere, I just might have to give it a try.

Becky is reading an Ann Rinaldi book about Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley. I am familiar with Lincoln, of course, but not with Keckley. I told Becky that I'll be eager to find out what she thinks of the book.

Elapsed Time 02:15

A slow start ...

Time Read: 2:15 (although with the awakening of the rest of the family, plus my need to eat, I didn't read "solidly" during the entire time)

Pages Read: 55

Frame of Mind: I'm actually struggling already to stay awake! I'm enjoying The Historian and I'll continue with it for a while, but I suspect I'll pull out Pretties before long.

Elapsed Time 00:00

Off we go ...

Getting up on a Saturday morning before anyone else in the house - and before the sun - goes against my personal code of conduct, but I am here and ready to read and blog about reading. Up first: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. (I started this one yesterday, so I'm beginning on page 19 this morning.)

Mark Your Calendars Now!

NOTE: I've made this a "sticky" post,
so please scroll down for recent posts!

24-Hour Read-a-Thon

October 20
Hosted by Dewey
of the hidden side of the leaf

I'm hoping to actually read (and blog about my reading) for most of the 24 hours, but there are lots of ways to participate (without having to stay up all night). Check out all the details here!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The 24-Hour Read-a-Thon Is Almost Here

I think I'm just about ready ...

Among the Books I've Lined Up:

  • Pretties and Specials by Scott Westerfeld

  • Picture Perfect and Mercy by Jodi Picoult

  • Being Perfect by Anna Quindlen

  • Don't Know Much About the Universe by Kenneth C. Davis
Among the Food Items That Will Give Me Sustenance:
  • Tomato Sandwiches

  • Zucchini with Dip

  • Crab Cakes

  • Lucky Charms

  • Ginger Cookies

  • Tortilla Chips with Refried Beans and Cheese

  • Pizza

  • Diet Coke with Lime

  • S'Mores (prepared by my own private chef, Sugar Bear)
What I'll Be Wearing:
  • Sweatpants

  • Tshirt

  • Warm, Fuzzy Socks
Other Things I'll Need:
  • My Laptop

  • A Pillow and Blanket

  • A Watch
Things To Blog About When I Need a Break
(in addition to my regular updates):
Tips From Dewey That I Need to Remember:
  • Pick shortish books.

  • Choose something light, and save those for the end when you’re tired and sick of reading.

  • Give yourself permission to put a book aside and not finish it if it’s not holding your attention.

  • Just in general don’t be a masochist. This is supposed to be fun!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fashion Kitty by Charise Mericle Harper

Published in 2005. 89 pages.

What in the world? I will admit that this graphic novel for children is not my usual fare! An accident transforms a regular girl kitten into a superhero capable of dealing with fashion emergencies.

Why I read this book: This is the pick for October's meeting of the mother-daughter book club I attend with Sugar Plum.

My thoughts about this book: While fashion is of little importance to me, I do like the color pink. But is that enough to recommend the book? I did find it to be delightful! I like that Fashion Kitty is powerful, helps other people, and pokes a bit of fun at those who are obsessed with fashion, and I like that her parents encourage independent thought. Did I get all that out of 89 pages?! Well, I think it's there. (Maybe I'll check out the second in the series - Fashion Kitty versus the Fashion Queen - to see if those themes continue.)

Something else I learned: Graphic novels are shelved under 741.5 in the Dewey Decimal System. When I noticed the number on the spine of the book, I exclaimed, "This is shelved in the non-fiction section?!" Without missing a beat, Sugar Plum said, "That's because Fashion Kitty is real!"


Gossamer by Lois Lowry

Published in 2006. 140 pages.

I read this short young adult book earlier this week in two "waiting" periods - the first half while I was at the hair salon, and the second while waiting for my daughter to finish her clarinet lesson. Total, it probably took me just over an hour to read. Despite the length, however, it is full of emotion. I was glad I was sitting in my car during the second half hour, as I kept crying.

Gossamer is about the creatures that bestow upon us our dreams, some of whom go bad and deliver nightmares instead. The story revolves the training of a young dream-giver, who has been assigned to a house in which an angry young boy lives with his foster care provider. While much of the story, particularly the descriptions of the little dream-giver's personality, is comfortable and sweet - like a happy dream - other parts are heart-wrenching and even scary. I loved this book and highly recommend it!

This is the second book from my original R.I.P. II Challenge list.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

Published in 2001. 434 pages.

I started reading Salem Falls very late last Saturday night when I couldn't fall asleep. I sat down with it again on Sunday evening - and I had to keep reading until I finished!

First sentence: Several miles into his journey, Jack St. Bride decided to give up his former life.

Basic plot summary: Just released from prison after being wrongfully accused of the sexual assault of a teenage student, Jack St. Bride lands in the quiet town of Salem Falls, hoping to build a new life. Addie Peabody is struggling to rebuild her own life, following the death of her daughter. Together they face the ignorance and arrogance of those who live in a town where bad things just don't happen.

Literary connection: Picoult says she was looking to write an update to The Crucible, which I read in high school, "because so many of the themes in Arthur Miller's play are still so timely: the concept of a town excluding someone they don't believe to be fit; the way lies spread so much faster than truth."

Connection to other Picoult novels: Jordan McAfee, the attorney from The Pact, is back in action in Salem Falls. (He also plays a role in Nineteen Minutes, which occurs subsequent to Salem Falls, although I read it first.)

Contribution to the Reading the Author Challenge: This is the first of three Picoult novels I need to read for Reading the Author. It is the eighth of Picoult's books that I've read so far this year - so I definitely am "reading the author"! Luckily, I find her books to be compelling, so I'm sure I'll get at least two more read before the challenge ends.

Appropriateness for the R.I.P. II Challenge: This was not on my original R.I.P. list, but with a ghost and a coven of witches, I think it qualifies. I'm still going to try to read The Historian this month - and I've got to get a review of Gossamer posted - but I'm going to count this one for the challenge too. By the way, the book cover of the copy I picked up at the library (top left) helps create an atmosphere of creepiness better than other covers I've seen around the internet. Don't you agree?

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We Have a Winner

As promised, I have randomly selected one lucky person from those who left a comment on my review and will be passing along my copy of The Spanish Bow to her.

And the book goes to . . . Alix.
(Alix, if you'll email me your snail mail address,
I'll get the book out to you shortly!)

By the way, I'm currently reading Hooked for review and will be passing it along as soon as I'm done - so be sure to check back!

Live and In Person

  • Have you ever met one of your favorite authors? Gotten their autograph?

  • How about an author you felt only so-so about, but got their autograph anyway? Like, say, at a book-signing a friend dragged you to?

  • How about stumbling across a book signing or reading and being so captivated, you bought the book?
Last year, one of my favorite authors, Anne Perry, came to my local library branch to talk about her writing. I had never purchased one of her books before - even though I had read many - because I always get them from the library. Because I wanted to have something for her to autograph, I purchased the most recent in her William Monk series, Dark Assassin.

In our mother-daughter book club, Sugar Plum and I have had the opportunity to hear authors A. E. Cannon and Linda Bethers speak. Sugar Plum got their autographs in her copies of Charlotte's Rose and Christmas Oranges, respectively. By the way, both authors were an absolute delight!

Many years ago, the evening after I had presented a paper at a conference, my husband and I were leaving a restaurant when another diner stopped me to tell me how much she had enjoyed my paper. That diner was author Linda Sillitoe - and I tripped all over myself telling her how much I enjoyed her writing, particularly the novel I had just recently read, Sideways to the Sun. (I didn't have it with me, though, so I don't have her autograph.)

I do have an autographed copy of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Midwife's Tale, but I didn't make a fool of myself getting it. She's my aunt - my mother's sister!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Published in 2006. 406 pages.

I'd been reading good things about The Thirteenth Tale all over the blogosphere for a while, so it was already on my "someday" list when Kristin chose it for her "Something About Me" list. I, therefore, put it on my "second-tier" list of books to read for that challenge. Then, when I saw that Carl had suggested it for his R.I.P. II Challenge, cross-listing it seemed like a terrific idea - hopefully ensuring that I would get to it soon. I finished it today!

Setterfield is a terrific storyteller, and this is a very readable, engaging book. I read it much faster than I had expected. (It helped that I didn't have to work many long days this week.) Not really knowing anything about the plot, I hadn't anticipated the creepiness - at least not until I discovered that it fit the RIP Challenge - but it wasn't so creepy that I didn't like it. (I am a wimp about being scared and am wary of ghost stories.) Beyond the mysterious, dark atmosphere, it's a story about families and belonging, which I think we all can relate to - at least on some level - and, of course, it's also about books.

This is Setterfield's debut novel. There is a fabulous website about the book here.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

My Big Announcement

I've created another book blog!
The sole purpose is to keep track of the series I read.

Confessions of a Serial Reader

It'll take a while to get all the series posted,
but I'd welcome visitors during construction!

My thanks to booklogged for the idea!

Reading List

When I read So Many Books, So Little Time, I put sticky notes in some spots where author Sara Nelson mentioned books that I haven't read but that sounded interesting to me. I have to take the book back to the library tonight, so I thought I better write down those titles - then it occured to me that I could list them here for my future reference as well as your feedback on any of the titles that you have read. So, here they are, in alphabetical order:

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
    [I've loved those of Lamott's books that I've already read, but for some reason, this is one I haven't.]

  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

  • Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

  • Facing the Wind by Julie Salamon

  • Heartburn by Nora Ephron
    [This would be a re-read for me, as I read it many years ago - when I was in an entirely different place in my life.]

  • House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

  • Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering
    by Wendy Lesser

  • Personal History by Katharine Graham

  • Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue

  • Turning Japanese by David Mura

  • The Way Home by Henry Dunow

  • Whitegirl by Kate Manning
I do think a few of the memoirs on this list might make it onto my "In Their Shoes" Challenge list!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Originally published in 2003.
Unabridged audio edition published in 2004; read by Gerard Doyle.

When we saw the movie version of Eragon last Christmas, my daughters had already read the book. My sister Emily had also read it - and raved about it. So I decided that I ought to read it. I put it on my Spring Reading Thing list in March - but didn't get to it. Then several weeks ago, I started listening to the Book on CD version while commuting. I put Eragon on my Fall into Reading list - and today, on the way home from the office, I finished it!

Because I'd already seen the movie, as I listened to the book I had the pictures in my mind already created from the images on the screen. I think it would have been fun to read the book first and create my own mental pictures. On the other hand, I enjoyed the movie version, and I heard that many adults who had already read the book despised the movie. So - I guess you'll have to decide whether you want to read the book or watch the movie first! I'm not making a recommendation.

I do think that Gerard Doyle did a great job reading the book. His various voices for the many characters were excellent - except for the voice of Saphira, who is a female dragon, but who had a very deep, raspy voice.

I didn't love this book enough to go right out to look for Eldest - the second book in the trilogy - but I suspect that I'll get to it at some point - maybe by listening to it during my commute.

You can check out the trilogy's website here.


The Spanish Bow
by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Published in 2007. 554 pages.

When I was a child, historical fiction was a favorite genre of mine, one which my mom encouraged me to explore. I've read less historical fiction in recent years, but I was excited to return to the genre with a review copy of this debut novel by Andromeda Romano-Lax.

First line: I was almost born Happy.

Brief summary of the plot: Beginning with his birth in Spain in 1892 and following his life through the Spanish Civil War and World War II, this is the "autobiography" of a fictional cellist named Feliu Delargo.

Connecting to history: I am not familiar with the real cellist Pablo Casals whose life inspired this novel. Neither am I very familiar with the Spanish Civil War. But Feliu's life intersects with a number of famous historical figures, including Pablo Picasso and Adolf Hitler, and I certainly learned some things about the history of Spain in reading The Spanish Bow.

Something I loved about this book: Romano-Lax's prose is lyrical, perfect for the tale of a musician. This book is beautifully written.

Something I didn't like as well: Toward the end of the book, my progress was slow. While I will readily admit that a week of long days at work left me with little time or energy to read, I did struggle through a section of about 100 pages when the story was focused more, I thought, on the politics of war than on Feliu's story.

A favorite passage from the book:

But those are financial details. What I remember best from those times is the music itself. When it succeeded, we took hold of the audience's attention, working it from a distracted, unshaped mass into spun beauty, passing the fine strands back and forth until we wove together something grander, not only music but memory, too - the particulars of past and present, stretched taut across a loom of timeless ideals. Harmony. Symmetry. Order.

For more information:
Check out the author's website here and a discussion guide here.

To share in the joy of a good book: I would love to pass my copy of The Spanish Bow to another interested reader. Leave a comment if you'd be interested, and I will randomly pick one lucky reader from those who comment by Monday, October 8.