Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Books-Vacation Connection

Today is the last day of our family vacation. Within an hour or two, we will be back on the road, and I'll be sleeping in my own bed tonight. (I've been blogging about our road trip over at my "regular" blog, if you're interested in the details.)

Although I was hoping that vacation-time would equal reading-time, I've not made huge strides in my reading goals, partly because of the large amounts of time we've spent driving (and I can't read in a car without getting sick) and also because of the many activities we've been packing into our days. (In a couple of weeks, I'll be vacationing again - at the Utah Shakespearean Festival, where the pace will be much slower and I expect I'll have more time to read.)

I have had a few moments of books-vacation connection, though, and here is a summary:

  • Finishing The Host the night we slept in Portland, Oregon.

  • Reading - and loving - Just Listen, which I carried around in my bag to Bainbridge Island and all through the museums at Seattle Center.

  • Visiting the Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island, and supporting the local economy and independent booksellers by leaving with a bagful of books. I had everyone in the family pick something - and I intend to read nearly all of them myself! The titles we purchased are The Broken Window, Just Grace, The Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook, Tomorrow's Magic, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little, and When It Happens.

  • Visiting the Science Fiction Museum, which has the goal of "promot[ing] awareness and appreciation of science fiction literature and media while encouraging visitors to envision new futures for humanity."

  • Starting a re-read of Doomsday Book, which is my IRL book club pick for July. (Do you think I can finish it before Tuesday?)

  • Visiting a few sights related to a certain popular book series, since we were in the area anyway. (I'll be posting more about this later, and my daughter Jelly Bean will be too.)

  • Listening to part of Hoot on CD in the car.
I will continue to wish that I could read faster, since July is nearly over and I am nowhere near the eight-book goal I'd set. But I guess any good read is better than none!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Subtitled The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.
Published in 2003. 209 pages (including Bibliography).
British Book Award Winner in 2004.

I started Eats, Shoots & Leaves last summer, when Sugar Bear and I read Truss' children's book The Girl's Like Spaghetti. I got sidetracked for some reason in the intervening months, but I have now finished it.

As one who is disturbed by the improper use of punctuation marks, I found Truss' book - especially her sense of humor - to be delightful. As she writes, "If there is one lesson to be learned from this book it is that there is never a dull moment in the world of punctuation" [page 125]. Although I suspect it won't appeal to everyone, if you've ever wanted to take a marker to an advertisement or if you think you'd enjoy learning about obscure points in punctuation history, I think you'll enjoy this book.

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!


The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Subtitled Murder, Magic, and Madness
at the Fair That Changed America
Published in 2003. 447 pages (including Notes and Index).
National Book Award Finalist in 2003.
Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime in 2004.

I'm getting terribly behind on my reviews. I finished The Devil in the White City - which was June's pick for Book Buddies - at the end of last month. I had been wanting to read it for some time, and I had borrowed a copy several months ago from my sister Elicia. I'm glad I finally got to it!

In the interest of getting a review (any review!) posted, I'm just going to say that I greatly enjoyed this non-fictional account of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair intertwined with the tale of a serial killer who was operating in that area at the same time. The juxtaposition of these events is brilliant - the contrast between those who were building and creating and one who was cunningly ending life. One especially fun story for me was the creation of the first Ferris Wheel, designed in an attempt to outdo the Eiffel Tower from the previous World's Fair. Well-researched but written more like a novel, The Devil in the White City is a great read!

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!


Monday, July 07, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge

A year ago I posted a list of the twelve award-winning books that I planned to read for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. I ended up reading four of those - and another seven award-winners - which is almost the twelve books of my goal. These are the books I read:

  • American Born Chinese

  • Call It Courage

  • Dear Mr. Henshaw

  • The Devil in the White City

  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves

  • Flowers for Algernon

  • The Giver

  • Holes

  • The Hours

  • Speak

  • The View from Saturday

Host Michelle (3M) is now gearing up for Book Awards II. Of course, I want in on that too. Among the rules:
  • Read ten award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.

  • Include at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.
Choices don't have to be posted right away, and lists can change at any time.

Around August 1, I'll post a list of some of my possible choices. I'll be keeping track of my progress in my sidebar.

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Published in 1983. 134 pages.
Awarded the Newbery Medal in 1984.

I read quite a few of Beverly Cleary's books when I was a child, but since I graduated from high school in 1982, this is one I'd not read until now. It is a sweet story told partly in a series of letters from a young boy to an author and partly in journal entries the boy writes. It's fun to be able to share an author I read as a child with my own children.

Celebrating the Author

Cleary, who has written more than 30 books for young adults and children, celebrated her 92nd birthday on April 16. I'm slow joining in the celebration, but I wish her a wonderful year! You can visit "The World of Beverly Cleary" here.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

42 Challenge

Becky is hosting another fun challenge, one that might include some reading but that also includes other activities, primarily - to my mind, at least - some DVD viewing. The theme is science fiction, and practically anything sci-fi counts: short stories, poetry, novellas, novels, episodes of TV shows, episodes of radio shows, movies, comic books, graphic novels, audio books, essays or articles about science fiction or science fiction writers, biographies of science fiction authors.

The challenge requires participants to read/watch/listen to and review 42 sci-fi items. The challenge officially starts January 1, 2009, and runs for 42 weeks and 42 days (to December 3, 2009). Unofficially, it starts now - and I think many participants have already started. I told Becky I wanted in on Friday, and I watched my first two items last night!

I started working on DVDs of Stargate (both Atlantis and SG-1) last November. (My first post about it is here.) I'm caught up on Atlantis through Season 3 - but Season 4 is being released this coming week. I'm only in Season 2 - of a total of 10 - on SG-1.

In addition to making some major progress on my Stargate viewing, I've got several sci-fi books on my radar screen, including The Host (which I've already started), The Adoration of Jenna Fox (which I've heard such good things about), Interworld, and The Accidental Time Machine. (Yes! So many books, so little time!)

I will be keeping track of my overall progress on the challenge blog: Alison's 42. I will post reviews of the books I read on this blog and, to follow up on my previous Stargate posts, reviews of the episodes of Stargate I watch on my "regular" blog.

Cross-posted to my "regular" blog.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Series Challenge - Once and Again

In December 2007, I committed to catch up on five of the series I read by reading six books by May 31. I ended up only catching up on three series (by reading three books):

Luckily, challenge host Kathrin announced Season 2 of the Series Challenge! The rules are the same - no set number of books, but participants have to get up-to-date on one or more of the series they are reading - and it runs June 1 through November 30.

How many books and/or series do you think I should attempt this time? I think I'll list four series (with one book to go in each) - but I can always hope to get to more:

Keeping Busy in July

Mrs S at Blue Archipelago is hosting a "Book Blowout" for July. Basically, the point is to read as many books as possible in July! Each participant sets a goal for July's reading and then posts a list of the books read by August 7. I think I can do this! (The full details here.)

Before I set my goal, I want to think through what I've got going in July. I have just started The Host by Stephenie Meyer (which is the July pick for Becky's Online Reading Group). The Book Buddies read for July is Jim the Boy, which I have on hold at the library. In my IRL book club, we're reading Connie Willis' Doomsday Book; this is a book I've already read - and loved - but I'm hoping to re-read it before our meeting on July 29. My church women's reading group has David McCullough's 1776 on the schedule; I have the abridged audio book, and I'm trying to decide if "abridged" is enough. The Goodreads YA Book Club pick for July is Coraline by Neil Gaiman; I've got that on hold at the library too.

In addition to those specific titles, I need to make some progress on the many challenges in which I am behind - as well as on my overall goal to read 104 books this year. (As of today I've read 41 - three of which I've not yet reviewed. Obviously, that's well off the two-books-a-week pace I'd hoped to have this year. If I'm going to actually achieve 104 books, I'm going to have to read nearly two-and-a-half books a week for the rest of the year.)

Work will be quite busy this month - especially this coming week - but I am going to be on vacation later in the month. I'm hoping that vacation time will equal reading time - at least some - although since this is a road trip and I can't read in a car without getting sick, there will likely be some days that I won't read much (unless I do some listening while sitting in the car).

I do wish I read more quickly than I do. (I think my daughters read almost twice as fast!) I also spend more time than I should playing games on the computer. One other thing I'm hoping to do this month is make some progress with my Stargate: SG-1 DVD viewing.

So, after all is said and done, I'm going to set a goal of eight books for July!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Published in 2007. 288 pages.

I had heard good things about Jay Asher's first novel, and I was thrilled when it became available at BookMooch earlier this year. When it arrived, Jelly Bean read it, but I put it off because reading a book I own doesn't have the same urgency that reading a book I have to return to the library does. Last weekend's read-a-thon, however, seemed a good time to give it a try. It was the perfect read-a-thon book, and I absolutely loved it - that is, despite the sadness.

First sentences: "Sir?" she repeats. "How soon do you want it to get there?"

Last sentences: Two steps behind her, I say her name. "Skye."

Basic concept (from the book jacket): Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name of it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice explains that there are thirteen reasons she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.

For more information: Visit the novel's official website!

Other book bloggers' reviews of Thirteen Reasons Why: 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 book is my twelfth of twelve for the Young Adult Challenge. That's one challenge I had no problem completing! (It runs until December 31.)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Published in 2008. 310 pages.

This is the fourteenth book (not including the three novellas) in Evanovich's wacky Stephanie Plum series. Light and fun, this was a perfect read for the 24-hour read-a-thon last weekend!


Dark Assassin by Anne Perry

Published in 2006. 308 pages.

Dark Assassin is the fifteenth book in Perry's William Monk series, which is set in Victorian London.

I read my first Anne Perry novel in about 1995 on the recommendation of my mom. It was one of the Thomas and Charlotte Pitt books, which are also set in Victorian London. I was immediately taken by that series and went back to the beginning to read them all in sequence.

For the same reason that I frequently avoid reading a second book by an author who wrote a book I absolutely love - that is, for fear of disappointment - it took me a little while to decide to also read the William Monk books. I think I like Monk even better than Pitt, though - although it's pretty close to a tie.

I bought Dark Assassin when I had a chance to meet Anne Perry, so I'd have something for her to autograph.

Having read Dark Assassin, I'm up-to-date with this series! Now I need to read Buckingham Palace Gardens to get up-to-date with the Pitt series.

First sentence: Waterloo Bridge loomed in the distance as William Monk settled himself more comfortably in the bow of the police boat.

Last sentence: He had never meant anything more in his life.