Friday, September 28, 2007

You've Got Mail

This past week I got a package in the mail, thanks to Emma in Canada who hosted a book swap. These were the instructions:

Send a blogger one of your favourite books or a local author. Or if your blogger has children/grandchildren, you can send one of your favourite childhood books or a book your child likes. You can buy new, used, or send your own much loved copy. Don't worry about searching for something your blogger likes. The purpose of this is to introduce them to an author they may never have read or even heard of and to let them know a bit about you.

My package came from Frannie. This is the book she sent:

And this is what she had to say:

It's been many years since I read this book - and Jelly Bean hasn't read it - so I anticipate that it will be well read and well loved. I'll likely have to get the movie and watch it again too. Thanks so very much, Frannie!

(By the way, my package went to Ms. Porter. I don't know whether she's received it yet, so I won't spoil the surprise by telling what I sent - but it was one of my favorite reads this past summer.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fall into Reading

It actually feels a little like autumn today - after a long, hot summer. So it must be time for Katrina's Fall into Reading 2007. Not that I need another reading challenge, but I had such great fun with the Spring Reading Thing - meeting some nice people and getting new ideas for my to-be-read list - that I just can't pass up the opportunity to play along again. Thanks, Katrina!

Fall into Reading 2007 runs from September 23 through December 21. I've already got a bunch of books to read by the end of December for a bunch of other challenges, but I'm not going to cross-list any of those books. These are my six picks, in alphabetical order:

  • Don't Know Much About the Universe by Kenneth C. Davis
    (Non-fiction. My daughter Sugar Plum is also reading this, for a school project.)

  • Eragon by Christopher Paolini*
    (Young adult fiction. This has been on my to-be-read list since I saw the movie last December.)

  • If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
    (Young adult fiction.)

  • Killer Weekend by Ridley Pearson
    (Mystery novel, the first in a new series.)

  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
    (Children's fiction, recommended by my daughters' pediatrician.)

  • Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
    (Fiction, to follow up my recent read of Evening Class.)

*I've already started this one.

Happy reading!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Trying to Keep It Straight in My Mind

My sister Carrie is the queen of spreadsheets! If there is anything that needs to be mentally sorted out and organized, she will create a spreadsheet for it. One that I benefit from is her ongoing record of our book club reads (date, host, book title), going back to the group's inception in June 2002. I've decided that I need a spreadsheet to help me keep track of all the current and upcoming book challenges in which I'm involved or interested - but because school is back in session, Carrie is extremely busy, so I guess I'm on my own to sort it all out. This is my attempt!

Most but not all of the challenges in which I'm currently participating are listed in my sidebar. Those challenges are as follows, in order of completion date:

  • 2007 R.I.P. Autumn Reading Challenge, hosted by Carl.
    Links to reviews are posted here.
    Completion date: October 31.
    Current status: Reading first of three required.

  • Book to Movie Challenge, hosted by Callista.
    Links to reviews are posted here.
    Completion date: December 1.
    Current status: Contemplating four for three required.

  • Newbery Challenge, in memory of Nattie.
    Completion date: December 31.
    Current status: Finished two of six required.

  • "Something About Me" Challenge, hosted by Lisa.
    Reviews are posted on the challenge blog.
    Completion date: December 31.
    Current status: Finished five of planned eleven, with many, many more possibles.

  • Reading the Author Challenge, hosted by verbivore.
    Completion date: December 31.
    Current status: Contemplating three of the required minimum of three.

  • 2nds Challenge, hosted by Joy.
    Links to reviews will be tracked on Joy's blog.
    Start date: October 1.
    Completion date: December 31.
    Current status: Contemplating the required three.

  • The Unread Authors Challenge, hosted by Pour of Tor.
    Reviews are posted to the challenge blog.
    Completion date: February 29.
    Current status: Finished one, but still constructing the list of at least six required.

  • Book Awards Reading Challenge, hosted by 3M (Michelle).
    Reviews are posted to the challenge blog.
    Completion date: June 30.
    Current status: Finished two of twelve required.

  • "In Their Shoes" Reading Challenge, hosted by Vasilly.
    Reviews are posted to the challenge blog.
    Runs: January to December 2008.
    Current status: Brainstorming.

  • Cardathon Challenge, hosted by Becky.
    Reviews are posted to the challenge blog.
    Official starting date: January 1.
    Continuing for: "A year to whenever."
    Current status: Thinking about which of Card's books I've already read.

  • The Newbery Project, hosted by Alicia.
    Reviews are posted to the challenge blog.
    Current status: Trying to figure out which ones of the eighty-six (to date) I've read recently enough to count as "already read".

While I'm personally still not used to the idea that it's 2007, there are a lot of book bloggers out there who are already planning their various and sundry challenge lists for 2008. Because I definitely want in on the fun, these are several challenges I'm considering joining, in alphabetical order:

  • 1st in a Series, hosted by Joy.
    January to December 2008.
    Twelve books required.

  • Back to History Challenge, hosted by Shannon.
    January to December 2008.
    Twelve books required.

  • Celebrate the Author Challenge, hosted by Becky.
    January to December 2008.
    At least twelve books required.

  • Every Month is a Holiday, hosted by Kim.
    January to December 2008.
    One book per month, for a total of twelve.

  • Series Challenge, hosted by Kathrin.
    December 2007 to May 2008, with possible six-month extension.
    No set number of books.

  • Themed Reading Challenge, hosted by Wendy.
    January to June 2008.
    At least four books required.

  • Triple 8 Challenge (or 888), hosted by 3M (Michelle).
    January to December 2008.
    Eight books in eight different categories (with eight overlaps allowed), for a total of at least fifty-six books required.

So many books, so little time! I'm not kidding, am I?

We Have a Winner

As promised, I have randomly selected one lucky person from those who left a comment on my review (or on my link to the review from my "regular" blog) and will be passing along my copy of History Lesson for Girls to her.

Drum roll, please.

And the winner is Qtpies7!
(Lisa, 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 The Spanish Bow for review and will be passing it along as soon as I'm done - so be sure to check back!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sunshine and Roses

The reverse of last week’s question:

Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read . . .

What is it?

I'm having a hard time answering this question. I guess my biggest reaction is that if life is going so well, that must mean I have lots of time and energy for reading! Woohoo! So maybe I'd be off to the library or the bookstore to stock up with a great big pile of everything that looks good to me. I'm sure I'd focus on the latest releases by favorite authors as well as some of the bestseller/new releases I could find. I'd probably tackle some of the many books I've been meaning to get around to someday too.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Published in 2005. 425 pages.

First Line: The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.

Why I Chose This Book: My daughter Jelly Bean had read this young adult novel and recommended it to me, so when I saw it on Faith's List in the "Something About Me" Challenge, I jumped at the chance to "have to" read it. More recently I put Scott Westerfeld on my preliminary list for the Unread Authors Challenge, so reading this book counts "double."

What I Thought of This Book: This was a great read! Compelling and quick-moving, I had fun with this tale of a dystopian society. At the same time, I appreciated so much its message about beauty and body image - a particularly good topic for teens to think about.

For More Information: Scott Westerfeld's website is here. I particularly enjoyed the transcript of an interview he did about Uglies (find it here).

What Is Next: Uglies is the first in a trilogy - and it ends with a cliff hanger - so I've definitely got to read books two and three, Pretties and Specials. Jelly Bean also tells me that her favorite of Westerfeld's books is the Midnighters trilogy - so I'm going to have to put those on my to-be-read list as well.

FYI: As soon as I have time, I'll be posting about Uglies on both the Something About Me Challenge blog (click here) and the Unread Authors Challenge blog (click here) too.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Comfort Food

Okay . . . picture this (really) worst-case scenario: It’s cold and raining, your boyfriend/girlfriend has just dumped you, you’ve just been fired, the pile of unpaid bills is sky-high, your beloved pet has recently died, and you think you’re coming down with a cold. All you want to do (other than hiding under the covers) is to curl up with a good book, something warm and comforting that will make you feel better.

What do you read?

When I'm feeling down, I like something light and easy-to-read. I might choose a mystery novel - one that's fast-moving with lots of dialogue, such as James Patterson's Alex Cross series, or I might choose a light-hearted novel, like something by Janet Evanovich or Sophie Kinsella. I also might find a young adult novel appealing. In fact, I have a case of the blues this week, and I just finished reading Uglies. I'm not likely to re-read something I've read in the past - but if I'm lucky, something warm and comforting has made its way home from the "new releases" shelf at the library.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fun Monday

My Fun Monday post is on my "regular" blog (here). I was starting to wonder why no one had commented on it! I didn't realize that the link came to my book blog. Thanks for dropping in!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

History Lesson for Girls
by Aurelie Sheehan

Published in 2006. 352 pages.

I was not familiar with either this novel or the author when I was offered a copy of the recent paperback release for review. I was intrigued by the title, however, so I was pleased to have the chance to read and review the book.

First line: One day I saw them, our dream horses, and on that day I pulled over to the side of the road and cried.

Brief summary of the plot: Eighth graders Alison and Kate, both lovers of horses, meet when Alison and her parents move to a small Connecticut town. It's 1975, a time of social and political upheaval, as well as a time of preparations for the upcoming bicentenial celebration. Told by a now grown-up Alison, this is the story of a year of growth and change for both girls.

What I related to in this book: While never a horse lover, I was an eleven-year-old girl in 1975 and I could relate to much of what was happening in and around Alison's and Kate's lives. I was more insulated than Alison and Kate are from prevalent drug use and I was sixteen before my father moved out of our home, but I related to the effects the upheavals of society in that period have on the girls. I also related greatly to Kate's stand for social justice - and to her teacher's reaction to it. The preparations for the bicentennial are also something I remember well from my childhood, along with some references to popular culture. Beyond the time period, though, I also related to the need for belonging and the desire to understand who we are. I think those themes of "growing up" transcend time and place. (Obviously, I also related to Alison's name!)

Something I loved about this book: Each chapter of Alison and Kate's story is preceeded by a paragraph or two from an account of "the lost heroine" - a story they are writing as a school history project dealing with their town in 1776. I loved the juxtaposition of the tale of this character they've invented with the events of their own lives. I also loved the way that these paragraphs seemed actually written by thirteen-year-old girls.

Something I didn't like as well: Sometimes I felt a little lost as I read, as if the author had forgotten what she was actually trying to do. For example, the voice of the grown-up Alison, which appeared only occasionally, was sometimes jarring, as I'd forgotten that we were supposed to be looking back at the events of the book from the future. A little more focus, a little tighter editing could have strengthened what I see as the poignant message of the book.

A favorite passage from the book:

What is history? When does it begin? Surely it begins yesterday. But can that yesterday be really yesterday, not yesteryear, not back in the olden days when they wore lederhosen and said "ye" this, "ye" that, and smoked corncob pipes? And if yesterday can really be just yesterday, a day in the life of a thirteen-year-old girl, then what matters most - is it all about numbers? True enough, they had only twenty-one slaves in Weston, but there were - as Kate pointed out - only a thousand poeple total. If there are two people and one of them is miserable, or exploited, or destined to failure, or breathlessly excited, or beautiful, doesn't that still matter - statistically, I mean?

For more information: Check out the author's website here and the Penguin Readers Guide here.

To share in the joy of a good book: I would love to pass my copy of History Lesson for Girls 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, September 17.


Friday, September 07, 2007

"It was just right."

Are you a Goldilocks kind of reader?

Do you need the light just right, the background noise just so loud but not too loud, the chair just right, the distractions at a minimum?

Or can you open a book at any time and dip right in, whether it’s for twenty seconds, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or indefinitely, like while waiting interminably at the hospital – as long as the book is open in front of your nose, you’re happy to read?

While some books require more "ideal" reading conditions than others, I am definitely happy to read any time I encounter an open book!

In the past year, I have read while sitting in the dentist's office, while sitting in my car waiting for a cheeseburger at the Sonic Drive-In, and while sitting in my favorite, comfy chair in the family room, with my feet up on the ottoman. I've read for just a few minutes while waiting to take Jelly Bean to the bus stop, and I've read for several hours while waiting for a flight. During our vacation to San Diego in June, I read at SeaWorld and at Legoland, as well as on the plane, on the beach, and in the hotel. I've read a lot while lying in bed. I've read while eating lunch. I've read while waiting for my turn during an online Blokus game.

Too big? Too small? Too hot? Too cold? Too hard? Too soft? I'll read through it all!

Evening Class by Maeve Binchy

Published in 1996. 537 pages.

For some reason, this is the first Maeve Binchy book I've ever read. My mom has recommended some of her books to me in the past, and earlier this year, as we were discussing some of our favorite authors, several members of my book club praised her. Still, it took my friend Cynthia picking Evening Class for the September book club meeting to get me on the bandwagon. I didn't know what to expect - and I'm still not sure whether I can expect more of the same - but I found this novel to be a pleasure!

The characters of Evening Class remind me a bit of Anne Tyler's characters - interesting, even a bit eccentric, but definitely lovable - at least the "good" ones, as there are also some "villians" in the book. One of my favorite aspects of this novel comes from the fact that while it overall is the tale of the experiences of an Italian class as a group, it is divided into six or seven sections in which the story of one particular character is told - with insights into the other characters with whom he or she comes into contact over time, both before and after the class is formed - and then ending with the class taking a trip to Italy together. As I started the second section, it seemed to have no relationship at all with the first one, but when I saw the first tie between them, it was a delightful surprise. Throughout the book, I enjoyed so much how these various people's lives where interwoven. It could have seemed overly contrived, I guess, but it wasn't. Evening Class is storytelling at its best!

Some of the things that Binchy has her characters say also delighted me. Here are two examples:

Signora: "I'm not ever going to be interested in a man again."
Suzi: "Oh, I said that after the second-last fellow, but suddenly the interest came back."

Bill: "Do I look like an owl?"
Grania: "Of course not."
Bill: "It's not even as if I wore glasses. I suppose I have a round face and sort of straight hair."
Grania: "Owls don't have hair at all, they have feathers."
Bill: "Then what makes them think I'm like one?"

Finally, I enjoyed many of Binchy's decriptions of love and life. Again, two examples:

What part of the human mind or body was so inefficient that it could make you think you loved someone so wildly unsuitable?

She wasn't happy. Of course she wasn't happy. But then Connie thought that a lot of people lived like that, hoping that things would get better, and that lights would turn on, or the film turn into Technicolor. Maybe that's the way most people lived, and all this talk about happiness was for the birds.

What I'm wondering now - having seen a few random statements about Binchy's work on various sites as I searched for an image of the book cover - is which of her additional novels I should add to my to-be-read list. For one thing, I read a statement that Evening Class was her first novel set in contemporary times - and I suspect I might enjoy another time frame less. I also saw a reference to recurring characters from Evening Class in later novels; that possibility sounds fun to explore. If you've read Binchy, let me know what you'd recommend!

By the way, Evening Class was on raidergirl3's list for the "Something About Me" Challenge. I had not chosen it as one of my original "five plus five" - but I might as well post about it for the challenge too! (That post is here.)


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman

Published in 2007. 347 pages.

This is the twenty-first novel in Kellerman's Alex Delaware series. I've loved them all!

(I actually finished this a week or two ago, but I've been so obsessed lately with discovering new reading challenges and making lists for them that I forgot to make my post. By the way, this read would have qualified for Dana's "justforthehelluvit" challenge, if I'd known about it earlier.)

Check out Kellerman's website here.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Books Are Like Chocolate

Just what I need: another challenge! The Reading the Author Challenge, hosted by verbivore, starts today - and I just have to play along! (Like I just have to eat chocolate!)

The requirement of this challenge is to read a minimum of three books by a single author between the beginning of September and the end of December. I did a similar thing when I created my Summer Reading Challenge list - choosing five novels by Jodi Picoult. Although I've read seven of her books this year, she has published fourteen (to date). I'd like to read them all, so I've decided to use Picoult as my author for this challenge as well.

I will read at least three of the seven of Picoult's novels that I haven't yet read:

  • Harvesting the Heart (1993)

  • Keeping Faith (1999)

  • Mercy (1996)

  • Picture Perfect (1995)

  • Second Glance (2003)
    (This one looks like it'd qualify for R.I.P. II as well.)
  • Salem Falls (2001)

  • Song of the Humpback Whale (1992)
I'm thinking that the three I'll definitely read for this challenge are Harvesting the Heart, Picture Perfect, and Salem Falls - but I reserve the right to change my mind and I just may get to more than three. Off to the library I go!