Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Will I Ever Learn?

Fourth Updated Post: December 31
(44 of 52 books completed; 2 titles and 6 authors unread).
Third Updated Post: December 13
(38 of 52 books completed; 5 titles and 9 authors to go).
Second Updated Post: July 14 (29 of 52 books completed).
First Updated Post: March 18 (17 of 52 books completed).
Original Post: December 31.


I've got to stop visiting Joy! Every time I stop by, she's got something else going on that I can't resist joining. (It doesn't help that she is such an absolutely fabulous host, who makes me feel so welcome!) This is my latest find:

Click on the button to find out all the details!
I'll be filling in my authors and titles as I read them!

Closing the Files

With only a few hours to go in 2008, there are a bunch of reading challenges that I'm just not going to finish. (There are a couple that I'm going to stick with until they're complete - even though it'll be past the deadline. More on those later.) Here is a final status report on those I've leaving behind me:

    342,752 Ways to Herd Cats - 1/3. (I loved the quirky concept of this challenge, but it just didn't really work for me.)

    Chunkster Challenge - 3/4.

    Back to History Challenge - 11/12. (I almost finished this one.)

    Every Month is a Holiday - 10/12. (This one - which I understand is now going to be a perpetual challenge - was a lot of fun. I didn't finish either August's or December's picks. I am tempted to try it again in 2009, but I'm resisting - at least for now.)

    1st in a Series - 2/12. (So many series, so little time!)

    Celebrate the Author - 4/12. (This was a fun idea but difficult for me to implement.)

    Printz Award Challenge - 3/6. (I'm definitely coming back to some of these titles.)

    Graphic Novels Challenge - 5/6. (It was a lot of fun to explore this genre a little. I'll definitely be reading more graphic novels in the future.)

    Man Booker Challenge - 0/6. (This seemed like a good idea at the time.)

    Reading Full Circle Challenge - 7 completed. (The best part of this one was making the lists.)

    Suspense & Thriller Challenge - 8/6 for 2008. (Although I love suspense thrillers, this challenge wasn't really working for me. It's continuing into 2009, but I'm done with it.)

    Cardathon - 4 completed.

A big thank you to all the hosts and other participants of these challenges!

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

Published in 2007. 369 pages.


A difficult book - emotionally - for me to read, in the same ways that The Deep End of the Ocean and Place Last Seen were difficult reads: bringing to surface my mother-feelings of fear, of guilt, of doubt, of blame. But it was a satisfying experience too - very much a page-turner as well as presenting some wonderful information and metaphors about memory and photography.

Other book bloggers' reviews of The Year of Fog: If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


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Monday, December 29, 2008

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published in 2007. 271 pages.


Unique premise, highly readable, a happy ending - and some thought-provoking moments too. What more could my inner-teenage girl ask for?!

I love the "table of contents" page:

    I was . . . . . . . 5
    I am . . . . . . 111
    I will . . . . . . 229

(By the way, this was book eight of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year. My seventh book was The Zookeeper's Wife. I'm officially nine books behind.)

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story
by Diane Ackerman

Published in 2007.
368 pages (including footnotes, bibliography, and index).
Orion Book Award Winner in 2008.


I loved this historical account of a Polish atheist zookeeper and his Christian wife who helped save over 300 Jews during World War II. I learned some things about the war that I didn't know before, such as the Nazi's pursuit of Aryan perfection in the animal kingdom (in addition to among humans). I enjoyed a few laugh-out-loud moments about the absurdities of the crazy combinations of human and animal existence in the zoo. Most of all, I was moved - often to tears - by the small acts of heroism related in the book that ultimately made the defeat of the Nazis possible.

A good deal of the book is based on the diaries of the "the zookeeper's wife." Here are two of my favorites of her reflections:

During this time of seismic upheaval, more and more Ghetto dwellers washed up on the deck of the villa, arriving weather-beaten, "like shipwrecked souls," Antonina wrote in her diary. "We felt that our house wasn't a light, flimsy boat dancing on high waves, but a Captain Nemo's submarine gliding through deep ocean on its journey to a safe port." Meanwhile, the war storm blew violently, scaring all, and "casting a shadow on the lives of our Guests, who fled from the entrance of crematoriums and the thresholds of gas chambers," needing more than refuge. "They desperately needed hope that a safe haven even existed, that the war's horrors would one day end," while they drifted along in the strange villa even its owners referred to as an ark. [pages 208-209]
Why was it, [Antonina] asked herself, that "animals can sometimes subdue their predatory ways in only a few months, while humans, despite centuries of refinement, can quickly grow more savage than any beast"? [page 239]

I discovered that The Zookeeper's Wife recently received the Orion Book Award, which is "conferred annually to a book that deepens our connection to the natural world, presents new ideas about our relationship with nature, and achieves excellence in writing." (I am, therefore, including this book on my Book Awards Reading Challenge list.)

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9 for '09 Challenge

Hosted by Isabel
at the Challenge Blog
from 12/27/08 to 12/27/09

One Book From My Bookcase or Storage Area
in Each of Nine Categories:


Long
(For me, "long" is longer than 500 pages.)
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

Free
(Sent to me by other book bloggers.)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (from Becky)
or The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad (from Susan)
or Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah (from Florinda)
or
(Sent to me by a publicist or publisher.)
The Mercy Rule by Perri Klass
or The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham
or
(Awarded to me by the local public lbrary.)
Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson
or The Collectors by David Baldacci

Dusty
(Sitting on my shelves for at least 15 years!)
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Used
(Previously owned by the local public library,
and I paid 25 or 50 cents for it.)

Daddy's Girl by Lisa Scottoline
or The Effects of Light by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
or How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward
or Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston

Letter
("A" from my name in the title of the book.)
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Strange
(Classics - especially really long ones - are definitely out of my comfort zone.)
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Distance
(Author's birthplace - China - is way more than 1000 miles from my home.)
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Alive or Not
(Author awarded the Newbery Medal in 1994 for The Giver.)
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Cover
(A book with a pretty cover.)
Sea Glass by Anita Shreve


Note: Three of these books can be used in other reading challenges.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

In the Pub 2009


3M (or Michelle) is
keeping The Pub open
for a second year!


The challenge requirement is to read at least nine books published in 2009 - but no children's or YA titles, since we're "in the pub". The challenge blog (with more information) is here - and since this is one of the few challenges I actually finished in 2008 (although I never wrote a completion post), I just have to play along!

I have noted several 2009 releases by favorite authors that I'll want to get my hands on. I'll add more titles as I discover them.

  • The Associate by John Grisham

  • The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine

  • Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

  • Second Opinion by Michael Palmer

  • Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

What's in a Name? 2


I was a dismal failure with this year's What's in a Name? challenge, hosted by Annie, completing just two of the six books. But Annie is at it again for 2009, and I'm going to give it another try.

The six selections for the challenge must again contain a specific element in the title (but these are different elements than for 2008):

  • A book with a profession in its title

  • A book with a time of day in its title

  • A book with a relative in its title

  • A book with a body part in its title

  • A book with a building in its title

  • A book with a medical condition in its title

These are my tentative picks:
  • The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

  • Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

  • Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
    or The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

  • Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson
    or I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

  • House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III

  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dewey's Books Reading Challenge

In Memory of Dewey

Hosted by Chris
at the Challenge Blog
January 1 - December 31

The challenge requires that participants read either one book from each of the years Dewey archived (2003 through 2008) - for a total of six - or else five books from any that Dewey reviewed. Here are some possibilities for me:

She's All That! Poems About Girls
Selected by Belinda Hollyer

Illustrated by Susan Hellard.
Published in 2006. 128 pages.



Why I read this book: This anthology was a 2007-2008 Beehive Award Nominee in Children's Poetry.

From Hollyer's introduction:

If you asked 100 young women what being a girl is all about, you'd probably get 100 different answers. ... The girls in these poems are all that - and so are you. Whatever interests you most in your life, there's a poem in this book that will speak directly to you.

Among the poets included in the book: Ogden Nash, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Jack Prelutsky, Alice Walker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Judith Viorst.

Two of my favorite poems: "What Are Little Girls ..." by Adrian Henri and "Poem for Two Voices" by Carol Diggory Shields.

(By the way, this was book six of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year. I'm officially eight books behind.)

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2009 TBR Challenge

I didn't do particularly well with the 2008 TBR Challenge. I read just three books from my main list and four from my alternates list, for a total of seven of the twelve required. That's not going to dissuade me from signing up for the 2009 TBR Challenge though. Maybe this year I can make a dent in my massive TBR pile!


Basic Idea of the Challenge
  • Pick 12 books - one for each month of 2009 - that I've been wanting to read (that have been on my "To Be Read" list) for six months or longer.

  • Create a list of 12 "alternates" (books I could substitute for my challenge books, given that a particular one doesn't grab me at the time). (Optional.)

  • Then, starting January 1, 2009, read twelve books from my lists, ending December 31, 2008.
Additional information and a sign-up Mr. Linky
can be found at the challenge blog.


My Main List
(alphabetical by title)
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

  • Bellwether by Connie Willis

  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

  • The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  • Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

  • Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

  • Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian

My Alternates List
(alphabetical by title)
  • The Birth House by Ami Mckay

  • Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood

  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel

  • Light from Heaven by Jan Karon

  • Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis

  • Loser by Jerry Spinelli

  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

  • The Woods by Harlan Coben

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wait for Me by An Na

Published in 2006. 172 pages.


In trying to select an "N" author for the A ~ Z Reading Challenge, I reviewed my goodreads to-read list for something short and hopefully quick. I settled on Wait for Me, although I knew very little about it. Luckily for me, it was a good pick!

An Na's prose is lyrical; I found her words to be simply beautiful. Although the characters are not all fully developed1 and the ending too vague for some readers' comfort2, for me those things added to the dream-like, almost symbolic nature of the book.

I will definitely be looking for Na's other young adult novels about Korean-American girls, A Step from Heaven and The Fold.

The Wait for Me page on Na's website includes a music playlist.

(By the way, this was book five of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year. I'm officially six books behind.)

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1This was one complaint in several reviews I read.
2This was another complaint.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fall into Reading 2008: The End



A big thank you to host Katrina at Callapidder Days!


My original goal was to read 26 books - a two-a-week pace. I ended up reading 14 books for this challenge. That's closer to one-book-a-week, but I enjoyed it anyway!

What I Read (alphabetical by title):
  • The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

  • Bronte's Book Club by Kristiana Gregory

  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

  • Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

  • InterWorld by Neil Gaiman

  • Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

  • Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

  • Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West

  • A Simple Plan by Scott Smith

  • A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen

  • Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from the Freedom Writers by Erin Gruwell

  • To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

What I Thought: There wasn't a book that I didn't enjoy. (Well, I didn't like The Chocolate War that much.) Looking back at the list, I realize that there is a wide range of genres - and I love that: fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels; a first in a series; young adult, a couple of children's books; recently published, and not so recent; even one re-read of an all-time favorite. Reading sure is fun!

Escape by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer

Published in 2007. 413 pages.


Reading Escape, the memoir of a former polygamist wife in the FLDS Church - the cult formerly led by Warren Jeffs - is a bit like driving past a bad car accident on the freeway: one isn't sure that she really wants to see what happened but she can't help staring anyway.

A compelling read - I read nearly the whole thing in one day - Jessop's account illustrates the evil of a religion that teaches that women and children are a man's property and that discourages education and individual thought. The book could have used some better editing, as it sometimes rambles and repeats itself, but it's worth a look. Escape was a Salt Lake County Library's Reader's Choice pick for the second half of 2008.

(By the way, this was book four of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year. I'm officially four books behind.)

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Published in 2001. 374 pages.
2003 Alex Award.


Filled with clever wordplay, literary allusion and bibliowit, The Eyre Affair combines elements of Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking and Butty the Vampire Slayer. But its quirky charm is all its own.
          - The Wall Street Journal

I'm definitely going to continue reading this series. I'm also having some fun at Jasper Fforde's quirky website.

Other book bloggers' reviews of The Eyre Affair: If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!

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The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Originally published in 1974.
Unabridged audio book published in 1993;
narrated by George Guidall.


This book has been described as "a brilliant, unflinching portrait of vicious mob cruelty and conformity in an exclusive prep school."

I think my expectations of The Chocolate War were too high. Although I found parts of the novel to have been brilliantly conceived - particularly the idea that something as banal as chocolate could be the cause of so much violence - the whole thing just didn't come together for me. I wanted to go away with some new insight or having been changed in some way. That just didn't happen.

The book has been widely challenged over the years. The book is second on the American Library Association's list of the 10 most challenged books of 2007. The reasons given are as follows: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence.

While I didn't find The Chocolate War to be all I wanted it to be, I'm still glad I read it. First, I think it's worthwhile to read books that are considered to be "classics." Second, it's important to me that I be allowed to judge a book for myself and not let those who would decide what is "good" or "appropriate" for me - and the rest of us - to do that.

Other book bloggers' reviews of The Chocolate War: If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!



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Thursday, December 18, 2008

InterWorld
by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

Published in 2007. 240 pages.


I adore tales about time travel and parallel universes and alternate realities. I also adore sweet male teenage characters with a bit of quirkiness. I adored InterWorld.

Joey Harker isn't a hero.

In fact, he's the kind of guy who gets lost in his own house.

But then one day, Joey gets really lost. He walks straight out of his world and into another dimension.

Joey's walk between the worlds makes him prey to two terrible forces—armies of magic and science who will do anything to harness his power to travel between dimensions.

When he sees the evil those forces are capable of, Joey makes the only possible choice: to join an army of his own, an army of versions of himself from different dimensions who all share his amazing power and who are all determined to fight to save the worlds.

Master storyteller Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award-winning science-fiction writer Michael Reaves team up to create a dazzling tale of magic, science, honor, and the destiny of one very special boy—and all the others like him.

All Neil Gaiman titles qualify for the Cardathon, and when I read Becky's review of InterWorld last December, I put it on my Cardathon list. I'd not read anything by Gaiman before - although I plan to read more in 2009. My 12yo daughter read InterWorld before I did - and she enjoyed it too.

(By the way, this was book three of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year. I'm officially four books behind.)

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott

Published in 2007. 257 pages.


I read Anne Lamott's previous compilations of personal essays on faith - Traveling Mercies and Plan B - in 2006. (I posted some thoughts here.) I liked Grace (Eventually) about as well as Plan B but not as well as Traveling Mercies.

What I love most about Lamott's writing is that her spirituality is so "real." She takes her everyday struggles - with things like body image and her teenage son and "forgivishness" - and finds God in them. She shares her vulnerabilities with us, her readers, and we are strengthened as we realize that we, too, can receive God's grace.

Here are a few of my favorite passages:

Sometimes grace works like water wings when you feel you are sinking. [page 50]
When Jesus was asked about beauty, he pointed to nature, to the lilies of the field. Behold them, he said, and behold is a special word: it means to look upon something amazing or unexpected. Behold! It is an exhortation, not a whiny demand, like when you're talking to your child - "Behold me when I'm talking to you, sinner!" Jesus is saying that every moment you are freely given the opportunity to see through a different pair of glasses. "Behold the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, and yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." But that's only the minor chord. The major one follows, in his anti-anxiety discourse - which is the soul of this passage - that all striving after greater beauty and importance, and greater greatness, is foolishness. It is untimately like trying to catch the wind. Lilies do not need to do anything to make themselves more glorious or cherished. Jesus is saying that we have much to learn from them about giving up striving. He's not saying that in "Get over it" way, as your mother or your last, horrible husband did. Instead he's heartbroken, as when you know an anorexic girl who's starving to death, as if in some kind of demonic possession. He's saying that we could be aware of, filled with, and saved by the presence of holy beauty, rather than worship golden calves. [pages 79-80]
The best way to change the world is to change your mind, which often requires feeding yourself. It makes for biochemical peace. It's almost like a prayer: to be needy, to eat, to taste, to be filled, building up instead of tearing down. You find energy to do something you hadn't expected to do, maybe even one of the holiest things: to go outside and stand under the stars, or to go for a walk in the morning, or in such hard times, both. [pages 252-253]


(By the way, this was book two on day three of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year. Fortunately, I'd previously started reading this one, so I was able to finish it in the time I had today. I'm officially one book behind.)

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Quickie
by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Published in 2007. 357 pages.


I am a fan of James Patterson. His Alex Cross series is a favorite, and I've enjoyed what I've read so far of The Women's Murder Club series. I've been less enamored of some of his stand-alone books, but others have been great. (For example, the love story Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas is one of my all-time favorite reads.) Michael Ledwidge, the co-author of The Quickie, was also Patterson's co-author on Step on a Crack, a promising new series.

Although I've had The Quickie on my to-read list since last year, I hadn't been enticed to make it a priority. (After all, I do have over 1000 books on that list!) But since I needed a "Q" title for the A ~ Z Reading Challenge, I decided that now was the right time to read it.

Reading James Patterson is a lot like riding a roller coaster. With short chapters and a lot of dialoque, it's quick - but it's also a thrilling experience. Going into it, you know that you'll be manipulated, but still you want to go along for the ride. That's exactly what The Quickie was for me!

Other book bloggers' reviews of The Quickie: If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!



(By the way, this was book one for day one of my dream to read a book-a-day to the end of the year.)

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Friday, December 12, 2008

If I Could

If I could read a book a day for the rest of the year, this is what I'd read (listed alphabetically by title):

  1. Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

  2. Behind the Smile: My Journey Out of Postpartum Depression by Marie Osmond

  3. Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voight

  4. Escape by Carolyn Jessop

  5. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
    by Melanie Rehak

  6. Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott

  7. Interworld by Neil Gaiman

  8. The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

  9. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

  10. The Quickie by James Patterson

  11. The Rhyming Season by Edward Averett

  12. She's All That: Poems about Girls by Belinda Hollyer

  13. Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet
    by Xinran

  14. Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh

  15. Undone by Brooke Taylor

  16. Wait for Me by An Na

  17. The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera

  18. The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives
    by David Bainbridge

  19. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond

  20. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

You may have guessed from some of the titles and authors' names that I'd like to finish the A ~ Z Reading Challenge. I'd also like to finish the Triple 8 Challenge - although I don't have quite enough books listed to do that.

It's not going to happen. I do have to work at least a few days between now and December 31, as well as prepare for and celebrate the holidays - and maybe get a little sleep. But still. A girl can dream, can't she?

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Published in 1999. 306 pages.

Original cover.

Movie tie-in cover.


Chocolat was the pick for my book club's November/December meeting. We met last week - but I just finished the book today. I found it to be magical! Now I want to watch the film version. I'm also interested in the recent sequel The Girl with No Shadow.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

The House of the Scorpion
by Nancy Farmer

Published in 2002. 380 pages.
2002 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
2003 Printz Honor Book.
2003 Newbery Honor Book.


What it is about (according to the description on the Newbery site): Farmer tackles the provocative topics of cloning, the value of life, illegal immigration, and the drug trade in a coming-of-age novel set in a desolate futuristic desert.

Why I read it: I'd been eyeing this book for quite a while, so when it was thrown out as a possible read for my church women's group book club, I enthusiastically agreed. I also included it on my Book Awards Reading Challenge list.

What I thought (and what the book club thought): I found this to be a thought-provoking read. I believe that the best science-fiction is commentary on current society - and The House of the Scorpion has a lot of say about many current "hot" topics. Of those who attended our book club meeting, two seemed to have liked it but the other two really disliked it. I hadn't finished the book at that point; I did find it to be a much slower read than I had expected. But in the end, I thought it was worth my time!

Other book bloggers' reviews of The House of the Scorpion: If you have read and reviewed this book, I would love to link your review here. Please leave me a comment or email me your link!


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A Hole in Our World

Earlier this week, when I found out about the death of
book blogger extraordinaire Dewey of The Hidden Side of the Leaf, I sat at the desk in my office and cried. Dewey's absence is being - and will continue to be - felt throughout the book blogging community. I really don't have the words to express my condolences to her husband and son, nor can I adequately explain the impact Dewey had on me. I didn't know her "in real life," but I certainly considered her a friend.

I miss you, Dewey!

(Button courtesy of Bethany.)

  • One of my first interactions with Dewey was an interview she did of me about a novel I'd recently reviewed. (Click for Dewey's post.)

  • Seventy-two hours of the most fun I've had in the past two years were spent participating in the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon Dewey hosted three times. (I'm so pleased that some of the co-hosting helpers plan to continue this tradition as a legacy to Dewey.)

  • It was through Dewey I first discovered the powerful young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, and Dewey is the one who sent my daughters and me the graphic novel The Plain Janes (and she helped build my appreciation for the genre).

  • I've sporadically participated in others of Dewey's many book blogging projects too, including Weekly Geeks and the Bookworm Carnival. I've always enjoyed the community building she promoted! (And, again, I'm happy to know that others will be continuing these projects.)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel
by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel

Published in 2006.
64 pages (according to amazon.com, as the pages aren't numbered).
Robert F. Sibert Honor Book in 2007.


To Dance, a children's graphic novel recommended to me by my goodreads friend george, is a delightful look at the life of an aspiring ballerina.

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Janes in Love
by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Published in 2008.
176 pages (according to amazon.com, as the pages are not numbered).


From the back cover: The coolest clique of misfits plays cupid and becomes entangled in affairs of the heart. People Loving Art In Neighborhoods (P.L.A.I.N.) goes global once the art gang applies for a grant from the National Foundation for the Arts. And the Janes will discover that in art and in love, general rules don't often apply.

What I thought: I loved The Plain Janes, and I loved this sequel. Maybe it's just my inner teenage-girl - but I truly hope for more episodes in this Minx graphic novel series.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lucky Man: A Memoir by Michael J. Fox

Originally published in 2002.
Unabridged audio book read by Michael J. Fox and Scott Brick.


A big fan of Michael J. Fox back in the Family Ties days, I enjoyed reading an excerpt of his memoir in Reader's Digest a number of years ago. Recently I had to take a short road trip by myself, so I picked up a few audio books from the library to keep me occupied and entertained. One of those was Lucky Man.

The first of the nine CDs was read by Fox himself. As I started the second disc, at first I was disappointed to hear the new reader - but Fox's personality quickly came through. Smart, honest, and funny, this was a great read. Or perhaps I should say "great listen"?

For information about Fox's work to fight Parkinson's disease, visit The Michael J. Fox Foundation Website.

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We Have A Winner

As promised, I have randomly selected (using random.org) one lucky person from those who left a comment on either my give-away notice or my review and will be passing along a paperback copy of Andromeda Romano-Lax's The Spanish Bow to her.

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


By the way, I've currently got several books in the review queue and will be passing them along as soon as finish them - so be sure to check back!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Wall by Eve Bunting

Illustrated by Ronald Himler.
Published in 1990. 32 pages.


The principal of my son's elementary school is conducting a "Principal's Book of the Month" program this year. Each student is given a selected book to take home for one day during the month to share with his or her family and then return to school for another student. November's book is The Wall by Eve Bunting.

This beautiful picture book tells the touching story of a boy and his father who visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to find the name of the boy's grandfather. It's about remembering. It's also about the sorrow of war.

2008.69

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Weekly Geeks No. 23



This week’s theme: Fun Facts About Authors.

Since I'm currently reading The Truth About Forever, I have decided to choose Sarah Dessen as the writer about whom I'll post.

(Collage from a post on Dessen's "latest news" blog.)

  • Born June 6, 1970.

  • Lives in North Carolina.

  • Graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, with a degree in English.

  • Mother of Sasha Clementine, who was born September 2, 2007.

  • Her ninth YA novel to be released June 2009.

  • Enjoys shopping at The Gap.

  • Fan of UNC basketball.

  • Voted for Barack Obama in the recent election.

  • Official site.

Other Weekly Geeks' author fun facts:

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bronte's Book Club by Kristiana Gregory

Published in 2008. 149 pages.


I wanted to love this book. I really did. I had read Jeanette's review, and I thought that both my daughter Sugar Plum (who is 12) and I would enjoy the book. So I picked it up from the library.

Sugar Plum read it first, and she did say that she liked it. When I got to it - in the early morning hours of the recent read-a-thon - maybe I was just too tired, but it just didn't come together in a way that made me really love it.

Some of the things I did love:

  • The fun, colorful cover.

  • The main character Bronte - whose parents named her after Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre.

  • The choice of the book that Bronte's book club discusses over the course of several meetings - Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell - which was a childhood favorite of mine.

  • The section at the end of book on "How to Start a Book Club," including a recipe for Bronte's Brownies.

2008.62

Mermaids in the Basement
by Michael Lee West

Published in 2008. 291 pages.


First sentence: If I had not read the cover story in the March 2, 2000, National Enquirer, it's doubtful that I would have gone to Alabama and ruined my daddy's engagement party, much less sent the bride-to-be into a coma.

From the book jacket: The beloved bestselling author of Crazy Ladies returns with a funny and poignant tale that explores the complex bonds between a daughter and her father.

Why I picked up this book: I first saw this book at my local library branch in March. Both the cover and the title caught my eye, but I had a pile of things to check out already so I decided to leave this one. That very night I discovered that tinylittlelibrarian had read and enjoyed the book, and I added it to my to-read list. In July the Salt Lake County Library included Mermaids in the Basement on its Reader's Choice list for July through October 2008. Since one of my categories for the Triple 8 Challenge is "Salt Lake County Reader's Choice," I decided that this was a perfect time to check out the book. I finally got to it in October - and I'm glad I did!

The source of the title: The epigraph of the book is a poem from Emily Dickinson.

I started Early - Took my Dog -
And visited the Sea -
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me -

Final thoughts: The overall book reminded me of Divine Secret of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. (I'm actually referring to the movie because I haven't - yet - read the book.) I haven't read any of West's other novels, but I definitely enjoyed this one.

2008.58

Running Behind Schedule

Since starting this blog in January 2007, my posting of reviews has pretty much kept pace with my reading. Over the past several months, however, I have been getting further and further behind. There are now nine books that I have read but have not yet posted a review. In chronological order, those books are as follows:

  • Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky

  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

  • Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West

  • Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

  • Bronte's Book Club by Kristiana Gregory

  • To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel
    by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel

  • The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

  • A Simple Plan by Scott Smith

  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I could use some help!

Have you read any of these books? Have you posted a review to which I could link? Do you know of any discussion questions or related information to which I could also link?

If you haven't read one or more of these, are there some questions you'd like me to address in a brief review?

Please let me know.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Books Awards Reading Challenge II


August 1 to June 1
Hosted by 3M

As seems to be the way things go around here lately, I'm just a little late getting myself organized for this challenge. (Actually I'm three months behind. Sigh.)

The challenge requires ten award-winning books in at least five different award categories. These are my current picks (although, as allowed by the challenge, I reserve the right to make changes at any time):
  • Alex Award (named for young adult librarian Margaret Alexander Edwards and given each year by the Young Adult Library Services Association to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18)

    • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (2003)

    • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2007)

  • Michael L. Printz Award (named for a Kansas school librarian and awarded to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature)

    • An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (2007 Honor Book)

    • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2007 Honor Book)

  • National Book Award for Young People's Literature (one of four categories of National Book Awards given to celebrate the best of American literature)

    • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002) (The House of the Scorpion was also a Printz Honor Book in 2003.)

  • Nebula Award (given annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for the best science fiction/fantasy fiction published in the United States during the two previous years) and Hugo Award (named for a magazine editor and given annually by the members of the World Science Fiction Society for excellence in the world of science fiction and fantasy)

    • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2002)

  • Newbery Medal (named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery and awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children)

    • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1978)

    • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt (1983)

    • The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (2007)

    • The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman (1996)

342,752 Ways to Herd Cats


With just one month left to go in Renay's quirky challenge, I've been browsing the master reading list to decide what three books I'm going to read. There are 632 titles on the list, and although I've read quite a few of them, there are so many that I could choose from - including a lot that are already on my to-read list!

In case you're curious, among those I've already read and liked (besides the ten I recommended myself):


The three books I've decided upon for this challenge:
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    (recommended by J - and also by one of my high school English teachers very long ago, so I figure it's about time I read it)

  • Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
    (recommended by booklogged)

  • The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
    (recommended by Becky - and also by my daughter Jelly Bean)

Friday, October 31, 2008

I Have a Book to Give Away!

Last year I received a review copy of Andromeda Romano-Lax's debut novel The Spanish Bow. After posting my review, I gave the book away to one of those who had commented on it.

I now have a copy of the paperback version of The Spanish Bow, and I'd like to pass it along to someone else who will enjoy it!


If you are interested, please take a look at my original review and leave a comment either there or here. I'll randomly choose one of those who comments by November 15 to receive the book.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Teach With Your Heart by Erin Gruwell

Subtitled Lessons I Learned From the Freedom Writers.
Published in 2007. 265 pages.


Last year I read The Freedom Writer's Diary by The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell and also watched the movie based on the book, Freedom Writers. At that point I planned to read Erin Gruwell's memoir of that same experience - and I got to it this month.

I enjoyed this just as much as I did the first book, and it added some information about Gruwell's personal life (including her marriage), a run she made for Congress, and how the film came to be. I think it was good for me to wait for a while after reading The Freedom Writer's Diary before reading this book. That way I got to experience the emotions I felt all over again.

I'd recommend this book to teachers and parents and anyone else who enjoys a powerful story.

2008.59

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.
Published in 2006. 48 pages.


Library Lion is a delightful picture book about libraries and friendship and rules. It was a Children's Literature Association of Utah (CLAU) Beehive Award Nominee for 2007-2008.

First line: One day, a lion came to the library.

My favorite lines: Sometimes there is a good reason to break the rules. Even in the library.

2008.61

Read-a-Thon End-of-Event Survey


1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Just after 4:00 a.m. my time (elapsed time 22:00), I just couldn't hold out any longer, and that was the end of my participation.

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

Reading two graphic novels (see no. 6) during the early morning hours was great for me!

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

This was my third time to participate, and I think it's just getting better and better!

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

I suspect (or at least I hope) that having co-hosts sharing her responsibility helped Dewey enjoy the experience more than in the past. A big thank you to Hannah, Trish, Nymeth!

5. How many books did you read?
and
6. What were the names of the books you read?

I finished a total of five, one of which I'd already started: Teach With Your Heart (a memoir), Janes in Love (a YA graphic novel), Library Lion (a picture book), Bronte's Book Club (a children's novel), and To Dance (a children's graphic novel memoir). I also read about half of The Eyre Affair (the first of the Thursday Next series) and listened to part of The Rules of Survival (a YA novel).

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

I'd been really enjoying Teach With Your Heart, so it was great to finish it. The Eyre Affair is a fun, quirky novel that had me laughing out loud several times. Janes in Love, which is a sequel to The Plain Janes, is really good.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

I didn't love, love Bronte's Book Club like I'd hoped - although I did enjoy it and would recommend it to girls ages 8-12. The Rules of Survival is dark - not a light, happy read - but I'll definitely be finishing it.

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 at all possible, I will participate in the next read-a-thon! I'd like to be a reader again - but if my schedule is too busy, then I'll be a cheerleader (or some other type of helper).

Elapsed Time 24:00



Final report!

shortly after my 22:00 progress report, i found myself re-reading the same sentence over and over, and i decided that enough was enough. i laid down, and i was out. i slept for about 3 1/2 hours, then got up and showered and went to church. i'm now home - and making my final report.

Time Read: 11:45 (including 1:30 spent "reading" The Rules of Survival by listening to it on CD while doing chores)

Pages Read: 729 (the latest addition of pages cames from Linda Fairstein's Killer Heat)

Chapters Heard: 13 (i'm on disc 2 of 5)

Books Finished: 5 (during the first half of the read-a-thon, i finished Teach With Your Heart, which i started a week or so ago; since the midway point, i've read the graphic novel Janes in Love, the delightful picture book Library Lion, the children's novel Bronte's Book Club, and the children's graphic novel To Dance. i also read about half of The Eyre Affair)

Time Blogged: 9:15

Prizes Won: in Meryl’s "Quote From Your Book" mini-challenge, i won a “Muggles for Harry Potter” button and a beaded bookmark made by Heather.

Time Sleeping: 2:00

Time Doing Other "Stuff": 1:00

Frame of Mind: while i would have liked to make it through to the end, i did last longer than in my two previous read-a-thons! i had a lot of fun - and i'm already looking forward to april!

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 6

Other Food Items Consumed: two hard-boiled eggs and a bagel with provolone cheese; some Chex Mix; two S'Mores (prepared by my personal chef, my 9yo son Sugar Bear); some taquitos with guacamole; a box of Good and Plenty; part of a grilled steak salad with some chips and queso from Cafe Rio; a Heath candy bar; ice water; some microwave popcorn

Elapsed Time 22:00



Progress report ...

Time Read: 11:45 (including 1:30 spent "reading" The Rules of Survival by listening to it on CD while doing chores)

Pages Read: 729 (the latest addition of pages came from Linda Fairstein's Killer Heat)

Chapters Heard: 13 (i'm on disc 2 of 5)

Books Finished: 5 (during the first half of the read-a-thon, i finished Teach With Your Heart, which i started a week or so ago; since the midway point, i've read the graphic novel Janes in Love, the delightful picture book Library Lion, the children's novel Bronte's Book Club, and the children's graphic novel To Dance)

Time Blogged: 9:15

Prizes Won: in Meryl’s "Quote From Your Book" mini-challenge, i won a “Muggles for Harry Potter” button and a beaded bookmark made by Heather.

Time Doing Other "Stuff": 1:00

Frame of Mind: i don't think i can keep my eyelids open much longer.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 6

Other Food Items Consumed: two hard-boiled eggs and a bagel with provolone cheese; some Chex Mix; two S'Mores (prepared by my personal chef, my 9yo son Sugar Bear); some taquitos with guacamole; a box of Good and Plenty; part of a grilled steak salad with some chips and queso from Cafe Rio; a Heath candy bar; ice water; some microwave popcorn

Elapsed Time 20:15



Progress report ...

Time Read: 11:00 (including 1:30 spent "reading" The Rules of Survival by listening to it on CD while doing chores)

Pages Read: 649

Chapters Heard: 13 (i'm on disc 2 of 5)

Books Finished: 4 (during the first half of the read-a-thon, i finished Teach With Your Heart, which i started a week or so ago; since the midway point, i've read the graphic novel Janes in Love, the delightful picture book Library Lion, and the children's novel Bronte's Book Club)

Time Blogged: 8:15

Prizes Won: in Meryl’s "Quote From Your Book" mini-challenge, i won a “Muggles for Harry Potter” button and a beaded bookmark made by Heather.

Time Doing Other "Stuff": 1:00

Frame of Mind: with less than four hours to go, i'm trying to decide whether i think i'll make it. i'm starting to get a headache that the Advil doesn't seem to help.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 6

Other Food Items Consumed: two hard-boiled eggs and a bagel with provolone cheese; some Chex Mix; two S'Mores (prepared by my personal chef, my 9yo son Sugar Bear); some taquitos with guacamole; a box of Good and Plenty; part of a grilled steak salad with some chips and queso from Cafe Rio; a Heath candy bar

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Elapsed Time 17:00



Progress report ...

Time Read: 9:00 (including 1:30 spent "reading" The Rules of Survival by listening to it on CD while doing chores)

Pages Read: 452

Chapters Heard: 13 (i'm on disc 2 of 5)

Books Finished: 2 (i finished Teach With Your Heart, which i started before the read-a-thon, and i just now read the graphic novel Janes in Love)

Time Blogged: 7:00

Time Doing Other "Stuff": 1:00

Frame of Mind: i'm actually not feeling too tired. i guess we'll see how things go in the next few hours.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 6

Other Food Items Consumed: two hard-boiled eggs and a bagel with provolone cheese; some Chex Mix; two S'Mores (prepared by my personal chef, my 9yo son Sugar Bear); some taquitos with guacamole; a box of Good and Plenty; part of a grilled steak salad with some chips and queso from Cafe Rio

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge


softdrink (aka Jill) is hosting a mini-challenge right now. Here's my feeble attempt to channel David Letterman:

Top Ten Things Alison Is Missing
By Participating in the Read-a-Thon

10. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning.

9. Playing Blokus.

8. Singing in the shower (since she was listening to a book on CD at the time).

7. Watching last night's episode of Sanctuary on DVR.

6. Watching Stargate: SG-1 on DVD.

5. Wasting time on Facebook.

4. Having an afternoon nap.

3. Watching tonight's episode of Saturday Night Live.

2. Making dinner for the family. (Not!)

1. Catching up on the work she didn't finish on Friday. (Actually she's not missing that at all!)

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge


Sharon is hosting a mini-challenge about Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. Here are my answers to her questions:

1. The library cat who lived closest to my home was also named Dewey. It lived in the Weber County Library, Ogden Valley Branch, in Huntsville, Utah, from 1995 to 1997.

2. The Dewey of the book lived in the Spencer (Iowa) Public Library.

3. Dewey starred in the documentary Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat.

4. Dewey's full name was Dewey Readmore Books.

Elapsed Time 12:30



Progress report ...

Time Read: 6:30 (including 30 minutes of "reading" The Rules of Survival by listening to it on CD while i showered, dressed, and sorted laundry)

Pages Read: 277 (i read from page 160 to the end of Teach With Your Heart: Lessons I Learned From the Freedom Writers, and i'm currently on page 172 of The Eyre Affair)

Pages Heard: about 30 minutes worth :)

Books Finished: 1 (but i was already more than half way through it before the start of the read-a-thon)

Time Blogged: 5:15

Time Doing Other "Stuff": 0:45

Frame of Mind: i'm hanging in there. i do think i need to switch to some quicker reads, just to get more sense of accomplishment.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 5

Other Food Items Consumed: two hard-boiled eggs and a bagel with provolone cheese; some Chex Mix; two S'Mores (prepared by my personal chef, my 9yo son Sugar Bear); some taquitos with guacamole; a box of Good and Plenty

Read-a-Thon Mid-Event Survey


Now that we're nearly halfway through, we have a survey to complete.

1. What are you reading right now?

I've been working on The Eyre Affair, the first book in the Tuesday Next series by Jasper Fforde.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I finished one that I had started prior to the read-a-thon (Teach With Your Heart by Erin Gruwell), and then I started The Eyre Affair. I've also listened a little to The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin on CD.

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

Among my quick and easy reads for the second half - as I get more and more sleepy - is the graphic novel Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, which is the sequel to The Plain Janes.

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

I tried to get through my to-do list yesterday - although I didn't really get everything done, so I'll likely be doing a few things later while listening to a book on CD. Fortunately, I didn't have any major commitments already on the calendar when I found out about the read-a-thon.

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

My entire family has been in and out of the house all day. The hardest to keep from interrupting me is my 9yo son Sugar Bear. But mostly I've just kept muddling through.

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

It really has flown by this time - at least this first half.

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

This is my third time participating in the read-a-thon. I thought it was fabulous the first time, and it's just getting better and better.

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

I definitely need to go to bed earlier the night before!

9. Are you getting tired yet?

Just prior to taking a break from reading to do this survey, I was getting pretty sleepy. But I'm mostly doing okay at this point.

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?

I can't think of anything right now.

Elapsed Time 08:30



Progress report ...

Time Read: 4:45 (including 30 minutes of "reading" The Rules of Survival by listening to it on CD while i showered, dressed, and sorted laundry)

Pages Read: 199 (i read from page 160 to the end of Teach With Your Heart: Lessons I Learned From the Freedom Writers, and i'm currently on page 94 of The Eyre Affair)

Pages Heard: about 30 minutes worth :)

Books Finished: 1 (but i was already more than half way through it before the start of the read-a-thon)

Time Blogged: 3:30

Time Doing Other "Stuff": 0:15

Frame of Mind: it's hard to believe that it's already more than one-third over. i've had quite a few distractions with the kids - and i'm trying to get some laundry done too - but mostly i'm happy about what i've been able to do so far.

Cans of Diet Coke with Lime Consumed: 3

Other Food Items Consumed: two hard-boiled eggs and a bagel with provolone cheese; some Chex Mix; two S'Mores (prepared by my personal chef, my 9yo son Sugar Bear)