Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What I'm Going to Read

This was a hard list for me to create. First, there are just so many possibilities to choose from, and second, because the challenge lasts a whole year, I'm tempted to bite off more than I can chew but I'm forcing myself to be somewhat reasonable (one book a month, for a total of 12). Here's my list:

  • Margaret Atwood - Alias Grace (Giller Prize 1996)
  • Jung Chang - Wild Swans (British Book Award 1994)
  • Beverly Cleary - Dear Mr. Henshaw (Newbery 1984)
  • Karen Cushman - The Midwife's Apprentice (Newbery 1996)
  • John Grogan - Marley & Me (Quill Award in Biography/Memoir 2006)
  • E. L. Konigsburg - The View from Saturday (Newbery 1997)
  • Yann Martel - Life of Pi (Man Booker Prize 2002)
  • Susan Patron - The Higher Power of Lucky (Newbery 2007)
  • Louis Sachar - Holes (Newbery 1999)
  • Wallace Stegner - Angle of Repose (Pulitzer Prize in Fiction 1972)
  • Lynne Truss - Eats, Shoots & Leaves (British Book Award 2004)
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich - A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (Pulitzer Prize in History 1991)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Read Together

Jennifer at Snapshot is hosting a "reading together" program for parents and children this summer. When she invited me to join, I was all over the idea!

Sugar Plum (my 11yo) and I have already decided we are going to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Holes. We will most likely read these independently and then discuss them. I'm really looking forward to talking to her about these books, because she always has some great insights about the books she reads.

Jelly Bean (m 16yo) has to read one of a list of four books this summer in preparation for her English class this fall. One of the four is Frankenstein, which I have been meaning to read for many years, so I told her I'd read it too. She'll probably read three or four of the four - so I may as well. (The others are King Lear, Wuthering Heights, and Great Expectations.)

Sugar Bear (my 8yo) is not a big reader, so I'm hoping to find something that he and I can read together. Maybe we'll try Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but I don't really know yet.

If you'd like to read with your children this summer, head over to Snapshot and sign up!

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Published in 2005. 401 pages.

My friend Cynthia recommended this novel to me about a year and a half ago. I finally got to it (as part of my Spring Reading Thing list), and I'm very glad I did.

A heart-wrenching story, it is still a hopeful one. Relationships, secrets, choices, the power of love, and the politics of disabilities all play a role in this first novel by Kim Edwards.

The novel's website is here.


Friday, June 22, 2007

161 & 5 Book Meme

I "borrowed" this from Melody, who I visited via Kathy. I can't resist a good book meme!

1. Grab the book closest to you.
2. Open it to page 161.
3. Find the fifth full sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence to your blog.
5. Don't search around for the coolest book you have; use the one that is really next to you.
6. Tag five people to do this meme.

I'm currently reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.

The room's shabbiness surprised her.

I tag my daughters, CherryGal and Aoi Sakura, and any one else who'd like to play. (Be sure to leave me a comment so I can come visit!)

Coming This Summer!

Even with the various book challenges I'm participating in this summer, I'm going to make time for four new releases that I'm eager to read:

  • Lean Mean Thirteen
    Stephanie Plum is so much fun - just released on June 19

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
    I've got to see how it ends up! - to be released July 21

  • Eclipse
    my new favorite author/series! - to be released August 7

  • Love, Stargirl
    one of you told me about this one, a follow-up to an all-time favorite - to be released August 14

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Spring Reading Thing Wrap-Up

All good things must come to an end, and today is the last day of the Spring Reading Thing. This was my first blogging reading challenge, and I send a big thank you to Katrina for hosting it! I started in March with an optimistic 30 book list. I ended up reading a total of 15 books, and I have two others that I'm about half way done with. Although that's only a bit over a 50 percent completion rate, I'm still pleased. I read some great books, and I definitely read more non-mysteries during the challenge period than I probably would have otherwise. (It's good to be well-rounded!) These are the books that I read:

  • Ann Brashares - The Last Summer (of You and Me) (2007)
  • Chris Bohjalian - The Double Bind (2007)
  • Kim Edwards - The Memory Keeper's Daughter (2005)*
  • Lisa Gardner - Hide (2007)
  • Ken Grimwood - Replay (1986)
  • Ernest Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms (1929)
  • Kermit the Frog - Before You Leap (2006)
  • Sue Monk Kidd - Firstlight: Early Inspirational Writings (2006)*
  • Sophie Kinsella - Shopaholic & Baby (2007)
  • Betty Mahmoody - Not Without My Daughter (1987)
  • Stephenie Meyer - Twilight (2005)
  • Brandon Mull - Fablehaven (2006)
  • Rachel Ann Nunes - Winter Fire (2005)
  • Michael Palmer - The Fifth Vial (2007)
  • Jodi Picoult - The Pact (1998)
  • Mildred Walker - Winter Wheat (1944)
  • Stephen White - Dry Ice (2007)
*I've started reading this one.

These are some questions that Katrina suggested we use in our wrap-up posts:

What was the best book you read this spring?
I think it's a tie between Twilight and Replay. (The links are to my reviews.) This was a hard decision, though, because I read several really great books!

What book could you have done without?
Winter Fire, although, since it was the pick in one of my book clubs, I'm still glad I read it since one of the best things about a book club is reading books you wouldn't choose on your own.

If there were books you didn't finish, tell us why. Did you run out of time? Realize those books weren't worth it?
I ran out of time to read all the books on my list. In several cases, a book had been chosen for one of my book clubs, and when the group meeting came and went and I hadn't read the book (or in a few cases, had read just a few chapters), I just passed it by for something else on the list. I do think that eventually I'll get to everything on the list.

Did you come across a book or two on other participants' lists that you're planning to add to your own to-be-read pile? Which ones?
I discovered several books I'd like to read, including The Birth House, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, and My Story.

What did you learn -- about anything -- through this challenge? Maybe you learned something about yourself or your reading style, maybe you learned not to pick so many nonfiction books for a challenge, maybe you learned something from a book you read. Whatever it is, share!
I definitely learned to not pick so many books for a challenge; I'll make more modest goals in the future. But, more importantly, I learned how much fun these challenges are!

What was the best part of the Spring Reading Thing?
Finding so many other book lovers!

Would you be interested in participating in another reading challenge this fall?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Discussion Questions for Twilight

Jelly Bean says "this is the best book ever." What makes it such a good book?

Edward and Bella are, of course, terrific characters. But the secondary characters are also great. Who is your favorite?

What's the significance of the scriptural epigraph (Genesis 2:17) and the cover photo?

Did this book change your view of vampires? If so, how? Is it a positive or negative change?

Meyer says that the concept of "choice" is an important one to her. How does the book illustrate that concept?

Do you think that Bella is a strong or a weak woman? Is she a good role model for young women? How does she fit with your view of feminism?

What about Edward as a role model for young men?

Which character (main or secondary) do you relate to most? Why?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Published in 2005. 498 pages.

Jelly Bean says this is "the best book ever." She and Sugar Plum read it a week or so ago, and I finally finished it today (sitting in the San Diego airport waiting for our flight home). I have to say that I agree that it is an absolutely fabulous book! I knew it would be - because I'd been reading about it all over the web for some time and more recently got "real life" positive reviews from my sister Emily and my friend Leslie. I'm really glad that my book club was interested enough in it to allow me to choose it for this month's meeting!

I will be putting together some questions for our discussion on Thursday night, and I'll post those when they're ready. (Update: My discussion questions are posted here.) In the meantime, you can check out these sites:


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Spring Reading Thing
Second Progress Report

As the deadline for the Spring Reading Thing draws near, I've realized that I'm not going to meet my goal. Actually it was fairly clear just one month into the challenge that I'd been too optimistic about the time I could find (or make) for reading this spring. I'm still glad I made the selections I made, however, and since this was my first blog reading challenge, I figure I'm entitled to a learning experience. (I've signed up for a couple of other challenges to date, and I've set more realistic goals for those. At least I hope so.)

Of the original 25 books I listed, I've read 10, and I also read books for four of the five "wild card" spots. That's a total of 14 of the original goal of 30. I will be finishing at least one more before June 21, so that'll be half!

Here's the status of my list to date:

  • Chris Bohjalian - The Double Bind (2007)
  • Ann Brashares - The Last Summer (of You and Me) (2007)
  • Orson Scott Card - Sarah (2000)
  • Anita Diamant - The Red Tent (1997)
  • Kim Edwards - The Memory Keeper's Daughter (2005)
  • Lisa Gardner - Hide (2007)
  • Ken Grimwood - Replay (1986)
  • Shannon Hale - The Princess Academy (2005)
  • Ernest Hemingway - A Farewell to Arms (1929)
  • Jan Karon - In This Mountain (2002)
  • Kermit the Frog - Before You Leap (2006)
  • Sue Monk Kidd - Firstlight: Early Inspirational Writings (2006)
  • Sophie Kinsella - Shopaholic & Baby (2007)
  • John Lescroart - The Suspect (2007)
  • Gerald Lund - Fishers of Men (2000)
  • Gregory Maguire - Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (1999)
  • Betty Mahmoody - Not Without My Daughter (1987)
  • Stephenie Meyer - Twilight (2005)
  • Brandon Mull - Fablehaven (2006)
  • Rachel Ann Nunes - Winter Fire (2005)
  • Christopher Paolini - Eragon (2003)
  • Michael Palmer - The Fifth Vial (2007)
  • Jodi Picoult - The Pact (1998)
  • Alexander McCall Smith - Tears of the Giraffe (2003)
  • Caroll Spinney - Wisdom of Big Bird (2003)
  • Lisa Unger - Beautiful Lies (2006)
  • Mildred Walker - Winter Wheat (1944)
  • Gloria Whelen - Listening for Lions (2005)
  • Stephen White - Dry Ice (2007)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Last Summer (of You and Me)
by Ann Brashares

Published in 2007. 306 pages.

A big fan of Ann Brashares' series The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I was thrilled when a publicist working with Brashares contacted me about reading and reviewing her new adult novel The Last Summer (of You and Me). I'm slower getting it read than I had hoped - it was released on June 5 - but I finished it today and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it!

Like the girls of the Traveling Pants series, the main characters of this novel were both endearing to me and also each gave me something with which to identify. Two sisters, Riley and Alice, and their life-long friend, Paul, Alice was the one to which I related most - perhaps partially because of her name, and also because she was the "smart one" of the sisters. The plot also focuses much on Alice's feelings about growing up - and though I'm a bit older than 21 (okay, a lot older!), I could relate so well to much of her experience. One interesting tidbit was discovering that Alice liked Paul to call her by name, a "quirk" of mine that I never realized anyone else shared.

As with her young adult books, Brashares described well the point of view of each character, and I came to feel that I know them. I liked the switching of viewpoints, especially in seeing how more than one person viewed the same events, and I think Brashares uses this technique well. Another fun aspect of the book was the creative chapter titles, including "You'll Turn Out Ordinary If You're Not Careful" and "Cryogenics."

Brashares has a nice way of putting into words some great insights. Two of my favorites were these: Alice's realization, about half way through the book, that "unexpected things were not always bad" (p. 187), and Paul's observation, even later in the novel, that "the idea of love was always easier than the practice of it" (p. 274).

The Last Summer (of You and Me) is a great summer read - and, in fact, I read it while on vacation, partly on the beach. I'm hoping Brashares will write another adult novel.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hide by Lisa Gardner

Published in 2007. 375 pages.

The past few weeks I've been so tired that it seems I've done hardly any reading - which is not a good thing, since I'm trying to finish up the Spring Reading Thing and get started on the Summer Reading Challenge! Hide drew me in right from the very first chapter, so it wasn't the book that caused me to fall asleep at night without having read much more than a chapter - sometimes less. I'll blame work and the final days of school and other bits of "life." And I will recommend Hide to anyone who enjoys a good tale of suspense!

On Gardner's website, she says, "Everyone is always asking how such a nice girl like me can write such dark, twisted books. I honestly don't know. But eight New York Times bestselling crime thrillers later, I seem to have made a career out of it." I'm glad she has.

One funny note: I asked Sugar Plum to go upstairs to my room and bring me the book one day during lunch (so I could get another page or two read). As she walked back down with the book in hand, she said, in her own sarcastic way: "This person sure likes long book titles, doesn't she?!" (Gardner's two prior novels were Alone and Gone.)


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Random Things About Me

A while back I was tagged by meeyauw for the Seven Random Facts Meme. I've posted a couple similar lists on my "regular" blog lately (here and here) so this list will contain only book- or reading-related items.

  1. I learned to read in the first grade with Dick and Jane.

  2. My love affair with books started in the second grade, and I won the class competition for most books read during the school year. The prize was a copy of The Best-Loved Doll (which I still have).

  3. Growing up, I spent hours every summer at the Idaho Falls Public Library participating in their summer reading programs. (Interestingly, their program this summer has the same theme as the one that my kids and I signed up for yesterday at our local library. Apparently, libraries across the U.S. are using that theme! )

  4. The first book I remember reading that didn't have a happy ending was John Steinbeck's The Red Pony, which I read in my seventh-grade English class. I guess that coming-of-age story was part of my own coming-of-age.

  5. My younger sister Andrea introduced me to Mary Higgins Clark's suspense novels when I was visiting during a college break. I was so freaked out after reading into the dark of night that I couldn't sleep by myself on the sofa and went upstairs and laid on the bottom of her bed for the rest of the night.

  6. I read myself to sleep almost every night. I often fall asleep still holding the book.

  7. When Jelly Bean was a baby, I took some courses at Moorpark College to help keep my sanity. (I struggled with postpartum depression.) In one of the classes, we had to create a slideshow or video that described who we were - and I did a bunch of slides showing me reading at all sorts of times and in all sorts of places, including while driving (not really!) and while changing diapers by having Jelly "hold" the book.